Nine Reasons Why Low Oil Prices May “Morph” Into Something Much Worse

Why are commodity prices, including oil prices, lagging? Ultimately, the question comes back to, “Why isn’t the world economy making very many of the end products that use these commodities?” If workers were getting rich enough to buy new homes and cars, demand for these products would be raising the prices of commodities used to build and operate cars, including the price of oil. If governments were rich enough to build an increasing number of roads and more public housing, there would be demand for the commodities used to build roads and public housing.

It looks to me as though we are heading into a deflationary depression, because the prices of commodities are falling below the cost of extraction. We need rapidly rising wages and debt if commodity prices are to rise back to 2011 levels or higher. This isn’t happening. Instead, Janet Yellen is talking about raising interest rates later this year, and  we are seeing commodity prices fall further and further. Let me explain some pieces of what is happening.

1. We have been forcing economic growth upward since 1981 through the use of falling interest rates. Interest rates are now so low that it is hard to force rates down further, in order to encourage further economic growth. 

Falling interest rates are hugely beneficial for the economy. If interest rates stop dropping, or worse yet, begin to rise, we will lose this very beneficial factor affecting the economy. The economy will tend to grow even less quickly, bringing down commodity prices further. The world economy may even start contracting, as it heads into a deflationary depression.

If we look at 10-year US treasury interest rates, there has been a steep fall in rates since 1981.

Figure 1. Chart prepared by St. Louis Fed using data through July 20, 2015.

Figure 1. Chart prepared by St. Louis Fed using data through July 20, 2015.

In fact, almost any kind of interest rates, including interest rates of shorter terms, mortgage interest rates, bank prime loan rates, and Moody’s Seasoned AAA Bonds, show a fairly similar pattern. There is more variability in very short-term interest rates, but the general direction has been down, to the point where interest rates can drop no further.

Declining interest rates stimulate the economy for many reasons:

  • Would-be homeowners find monthly payments are lower, so more people can afford to purchase homes. People already owning homes can afford to “move up” to more expensive homes.
  • Would-be auto owners find monthly payments lower, so more people can afford cars.
  • Employment in the home and auto industries is stimulated, as is employment in home furnishing industries.
  • Employment at colleges and universities grows, as lower interest rates encourage more students to borrow money to attend college.
  • With lower interest rates, businesses can afford to build factories and stores, even when the anticipated rate of return is not very high. The higher demand for autos, homes, home furnishing, and colleges adds to the success of businesses.
  • The low interest rates tend to raise asset prices, including prices of stocks, bonds, homes and farmland, making people feel richer.
  • If housing prices rise sufficiently, homeowners can refinance their mortgages, often at a lower interest rate. With the funds from refinancing, they can remodel, or buy a car, or take a vacation.
  • With low interest rates, the total amount that can be borrowed without interest payments becoming a huge burden rises greatly. This is especially important for governments, since they tend to borrow endlessly, without collateral for their loans.

While this very favorable trend in interest rates has been occurring for years, we don’t know precisely how much impact this stimulus is having on the economy. Instead, the situation is the “new normal.” In some ways, the benefit is like traveling down a hill on a skateboard, and not realizing how much the slope of the hill is affecting the speed of the skateboard. The situation goes on for so long that no one notices the benefit it confers.

If the economy is now moving too slowly, what do we expect to happen when interest rates start rising? Even level interest rates become a problem, if we have become accustomed to the economic boost we get from falling interest rates.

2. The cost of oil extraction tends to rise over time because the cheapest to extract oil is removed first. In fact, this is true for nearly all commodities, including metals. 

If costs always remained the same, we could represent the production of a barrel of oil, or a pound of metal, using the following diagram.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Base Case

If production is becoming increasingly efficient, then we might represent the situation as follows, where the larger size “box” represents the larger output, using the same inputs.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Increased Efficiency

For oil and for many other commodities, we are experiencing the opposite situation. Instead of becoming increasingly efficient, we are becoming increasingly inefficient (Figure 4). This happens because deeper wells need to be dug, or because we need to use fracking equipment and fracking sand, or because we need to build special refineries to handle the pollution problems of a particular kind of oil. Thus we need more resources to produce the same amount of oil.

Figure 4. Growing inefficiency

Figure 4. Growing inefficiency (Notice how sizes of shapes differ in Figures 2, 3, and 4.)

Some people might call the situation “diminishing returns,” because the cheap oil has already been extracted, and we need to move on to the more difficult to extract oil. This adds extra steps, and thus extra costs. I have chosen to use the slightly broader term of “increasing inefficiency” because it indicates that the nature of these additional costs is not being restricted.

Very often, new steps need to be added to the process of extraction because wells are deeper, or because refining requires the removal of more pollutants. At times, the higher costs involve changing to a new process that is believed to be more environmentally sound.

Figure 5

Figure 5. An example of what may happen to make inputs in physical goods and services rise. (The triangle shape was chosen to match the shape of the “Inputs of Goods and Services” triangle in Figures 2, 3, and 4.)

The cost of extraction keeps rising, as the cheapest to extract resources become depleted, and as environmental pollution becomes more of a problem.

3. Using more inputs to create the same or smaller output pushes the world economy toward contraction.

Essentially, the problem is that the same quantity of inputs is yielding less and less of the desired final product. For a given quantity of inputs, we are getting more and more intermediate products (such as fracking sand, “scrubbers” for coal-fired power plants, desalination plants for fresh water, and administrators for colleges), but we are not getting as much output in the traditional sense, such as barrels of oil, kilowatts of electricity, gallons of fresh water, or educated young people, ready to join the work force.

We don’t have unlimited inputs. As more and more of our inputs are assigned to creating intermediate products to work around limits we are reaching (including pollution limits), fewer of our resources can go toward producing desired end products. The result is less economic growth. Because of this declining economic growth, there is less demand for commodities. So, prices for commodities tend to drop.

This outcome is to be expected, if increased efficiency is part of what creates economic growth, and what we are experiencing now is the opposite: increased inefficiency.

4. The way workers afford higher commodity costs is primarily through higher wages. At times, higher debt can also be a workaround. If neither of these is available, commodity prices can fall below the cost of production.

If there is a significant increase in the cost of products like houses and cars, this presents a huge challenge to workers. Usually, workers pay for these products using a combination of wages and debt. If costs rise, they either need higher wages, or a debt package that makes the product more affordable–perhaps lower rates, or a longer period for payment.

Commodity costs have been rising very rapidly in the last fifteen years or so. According to a chart prepared by Steven Kopits, some of the major costs of extracting oil began increasing by 10.9% per year, in about 1999.

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

Figure 6. Figure by Steve Kopits of Westwood Douglas showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel. CAGR is “Compound Annual Growth Rate.”

In fact, the inflation-adjusted prices of almost all energy and metal products tended to rise rapidly during the period 1999 to 2008 (Figure 7). This was a time period when the amount of mortgage debt was increasing rapidly as lenders began offering home loans with low initial interest rates to almost anyone, including those with low credit scores and irregular income. When debt levels began falling in mid-2008 (related in part to defaulting home loans), commodity prices of all types dropped.

Figure 6. Inflation adjusted prices adjusted to 1999 price = 100, based on World Bank

Figure 6. Inflation adjusted prices adjusted to 1999 price = 100, based on World Bank “Pink Sheet” data.

Prices then began to rise once Quantitative Easing (QE) was initiated (compare Figures 6 and 7). The use of QE brought down medium-term and long-term interest rates, making it easier for customers to afford homes and cars.

Figure 7. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

Figure 7. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

More recently, prices have fallen again. Thus, we have had two recent times when prices have fallen below the cost of production for many major commodities. Both of these drops occurred after prices had been high, when debt availability was contracting or failing to rise as much as in the past.

5. Part of the problem that we are experiencing is a slow-down in wage growth.

Figure 8 shows that in the United States, growth in per capita wages tends to disappear when oil prices rise above $40 barrel. (Of course, as noted in Point 1, interest rates have been falling since 1981. If it weren’t for this, the cut off for wage growth might even be lower–perhaps even $20 barrel!)

Figure 8. Average wages in 2012$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2012$. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the CPI-Urban, divided total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

Figure 8. Average wages in 2012$ compared to Brent oil price, also in 2012$. Average wages are total wages based on BEA data adjusted by the CPI-Urban, divided by total population. Thus, they reflect changes in the proportion of population employed as well as wage levels.

There is also a logical reason why we should expect that wages would tend to fall as energy costs rise. How does a manufacturer respond to the much higher cost of one or more of its major inputs? If the manufacturer simply passes the higher cost along, many customers will no longer be able to afford the manufacturer’s or service-provider’s products. If businesses can simply reduce some other costs to offset the rise in the cost in energy products and metals, they might be able to keep most of their customers.

A major area where a manufacturer or service provider can cut costs is in wage expense.  (Note the different types of expenses shown in Figure 5. Wages are a major type of expense for most businesses.)

There are several ways employment costs can be cut:

  1. Shift jobs to lower wage countries overseas.
  2. Use automation to shift some human labor to labor provided by electricity.
  3. Pay workers less. Use “contract workers” or “adjunct faculty” or “interns” who will settle for lower wages.

If a manufacturer decides to shift jobs to China or India, this has the additional advantage of cutting energy costs, since these countries use a lot of coal in their energy mix, and coal is an inexpensive fuel.

Figure 9. United States Percentage of Labor Force Employed, in by St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Figure 9. United States Labor Force Participation Rate by St. Louis Federal Reserve. It is computed by dividing the number of people who are employed or are actively looking for work by the number of potential workers.

In fact, we see a drop in the US civilian labor force participation rate (Figure 9) starting at approximately the same time when energy costs and metal costs started to rise. Median inflation-adjusted wages have tended to fall as well in this period. Low wages can be a reason for dropping out of the labor force; it can become too expensive to commute to work and pay day care expenses out of meager wages.

Of course, if wages of workers are not growing and in many cases are actually shrinking, it becomes difficult to sell as many homes, cars, boats, and vacation cruises. These big-ticket items create a significant share of commodity “demand.” If workers are unable to purchase as many of these big-ticket items, demand tends to fall below the (now-inflated) cost of producing these big-ticket items, leading to the lower commodity prices we have seen recently.

6. We are headed in slow motion toward major defaults among commodity producers, including oil producers. 

Quite a few people imagine that if oil prices drop, or if other commodity prices drop, there will be an immediate impact on the output of goods and services.

Figure 10.

Figure 10.

Instead, what happens is more of a time-lagged effect (Figure 11).

Figure 11.

Figure 11.

Part of the difference lies in the futures markets; companies hold contracts that hold sale prices up for a time, but eventually (often, end of 2015) run out. Part of the difference lies in wells that have already been drilled that keep on producing. Part of the difference lies in the need for businesses to maintain cash flow at all costs, if the price problem is only for a short period. Thus, they will keep parts of the business operating if those parts produce positive cash flow on a going-forward basis, even if they are not profitable considering all costs.

With debt, the big concern is that the oil reserves being used as collateral for loans will drop in value, due to the lower price of oil in the world market. The collateral value of reserves works out to be something like (barrels of oil in reserves x some expected price).

As long as oil is being valued at $100 barrel, the value of the collateral stays close to what was assumed when the loan was taken out. The problem comes when low oil prices gradually work their way through the system and bring down the value of the collateral. This may take a year or more from the initial price drop, because prices are averaged over as much as 12 months, to provide stability to the calculation.

Once the value of the collateral drops below the value of the outstanding loan, the borrowers are in big trouble. They may need to sell some of the other assets they own, to help pay down the loan. Or, they may end up in bankruptcy. The borrowers certainly can’t borrow the additional money they need to keep increasing their production.

When bankruptcy occurs, many follow-on effects can be expected. The banks that made the loans may find themselves in financial difficulty. The oil company may lay off large numbers of workers. The former workers’ lack of wages may affect other businesses in the area, such as car dealerships. The value of homes in the area may drop, causing home mortgages to become “underwater.” All of these effects contribute to still lower demand for commodities of all kinds, including oil.

Because of the time lag problem, the bankruptcy problem is hard to reverse. Oil prices need to stay high for an extended period before lenders will be willing to lend to oil companies again. If it takes, say, five years for oil prices to get up to a level high enough to encourage drilling again, it may take seven years before lenders are willing to lend again.

7. Because many “baby boomers” are retiring now, we are at the beginning of a demographic crunch that has the tendency to push demand down further.

Many workers born in the late 1940s and in the 1950s are retiring now. These workers tend to reduce their own spending, and depend on government programs to pay most of their income. Thus, the retirement of these workers tends to drive up governmental costs at the same time it reduces demand for commodities of all kinds.

Someone needs to pay for the goods and services used by the retirees. Government retirement plans are rarely pre-funded, except with the government’s own debt. Because of this, higher pension payments by governments tend to lead to higher taxes. With higher taxes, workers have less money left to buy homes and cars. Even with pensions, the elderly are never a big market for homes and cars. The overall result is that demand for homes and cars tends to stagnate or decline, holding down the demand for commodities.

8. We are running short of options for fixing our low commodity price problem.

The ideal solution to our low commodity price problem would be to find substitutes that are cheap enough, and could increase in quantity rapidly enough, to power the economy to economic growth. “Cheap enough” would probably mean approximately $20 per barrel for a liquid oil substitute. The price would need to be correspondingly inexpensive for other energy products. Cheap and abundant energy products are needed because oil consumption and energy consumption are highly correlated. If prices are not low, consumers cannot afford them. The economy would react as it does to inefficiency. In other words, it would react as if too much of the output is going into intermediate products, and too little is actually acting to expand the economy.

Figure 12. World GDP in 2010$ compared (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014).

Figure 12. World GDP in 2010$ (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014)

These substitutes would also need to be non-polluting, so that pollution workarounds do not add to costs. These substitutes would need to work in existing vehicles and machinery, so that we do not have to deal with the high cost of transition to new equipment.

Clearly, none of the potential substitutes we are looking at today come anywhere close to meeting cost and scalability requirements. Wind and solar PV can only be built on top of our existing fossil fuel system. All evidence is that they raise total costs, adding to our “Increased Inefficiency” problem, rather than fixing it.

Other solutions to our current problems seem to be debt based. If we look at recent past history, the story seems to be something such as the following:

Besides adopting QE starting in 2008, governments also ramped up their spending (and debt) during the 2008-2011 period. This spending included road building, which increased the demand for commodities directly, and unemployment insurance payments, which indirectly increased the demand for commodities by giving jobless people money, which they used for food and transportation. China also ramped up its use of debt in the 2008-2009 period, building more factories and homes. The combination of QE, China’s debt, and government debt together brought oil prices back up by 2011, although not to as high a level as in 2008 (Figure 7).

More recently, governments have slowed their growth in spending (and debt), realizing that they are reaching maximum prudent debt levels. China has slowed its debt growth, as pollution from coal has become an increasing problem, and as the need for new homes and new factories has become saturated. Its debt ratios are also becoming very high.

QE continues to be used by some countries, but its benefit seems to be waning, as interest rates are already as low as they can go, and as central banks buy up an increasing share of debt that might be used for loan collateral. The credit generated by QE has allowed questionable investments since the required rate of return on investments funded by low interest rate debt is so low. Some of this debt simply recirculates within the financial system, propping up stock prices and land prices. Some of it has gone toward stock buy-backs. Virtually none of it has added to commodity demand.

What we really need is more high wage jobs. Unfortunately, these jobs need to be supported by the availability of large amounts of very inexpensive energy. It is the lack of inexpensive energy, to match the $20 per barrel oil and very cheap coal upon which the economy has been built that is causing our problems. We don’t really have a way to fix this.

9. It is doubtful that the prices of energy products and metals can be raised again without causing recession.

We are not talking about simply raising oil prices. If the economy is to grow again, demand for all commodities needs to rise to the point where it makes sense to extract more of them. We use both energy products and metals in making all kinds of goods and services. If the price of these products rises, the cost of making virtually any kind of goods or services rises.

Raising the cost of energy products and metals leads to the problem represented by Growing Inefficiency (Figure 4). As we saw in Point 5, wages tend to go down, rather than up, when other costs of production rise because manufacturers try to find ways to hold total costs down.

Lower wages and higher prices are a huge problem. This is why we are headed back into recession if prices rise enough to enable rising long-term production of commodities, including oil.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,163 Responses to Nine Reasons Why Low Oil Prices May “Morph” Into Something Much Worse

  1. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Full Disclosure: My Personal Crystal Ball is Very Cloudy

    I copy this recent comment by BW Hill merely as an example of someone who is ‘thinking different’.
    Don Stewart

    The Etp Model informs us that the world will never again be able to consume all the oil that it extracts. Oil can no longer power enough economic activity to generate the demand for all that is produced. It is called the energy half way point, and we reached it in 2012. The situation will only worsen going forward:
    A cherished hypothesis is that the world will go to war over scarce resources; oil being the major one. That will not be the case; the world is more likely to go to war to shut in excess, and now unusable supply. Like most wars they will be exercises in futility. War can not reverse the impact of depletion. Soldiers will die fighting the shadows of the Laws of Nature.

    • edpell says:

      Don, I find Hill’s wording confusing. I can understand if it takes some much labor and resource to produce one barrel of oil that it is not worth the effort. I can not understand the idea that lots of oil is being produced and nobody finds it useful. Why “shut in excess”. If you are saying the market demand at price say $45/barrel is below the market supply and the owning class is going to kill each other and destroy each others wells to corner the market that I can understand.

      • Don Stewart says:

        I’ll give you my interpretation. Many companies and national oil companies have committed capital investments to produce expensive oil. Now they find that the equation in Hill’s model which determines the maximum price that society can pay does not permit them to recover life cycle costs. But they find themselves helplessly competing against each other, chasing cash flow. Until the price falls below lifting costs (which Hill thinks is close for a significant number of wells), production will not decline. But regardless of any future decline in production, the price won’t go above 77 dollars in 2015, with lower ceilings each year thereafter. Consequently, the oil producing companies and national oil companies are on a very distasteful treadmill.

        Hill’s view contrasts with the optimistic price forecasts which came from the Exxon/Rosneft partnership, economists who believe in textbook supply and demand curves, shale boosters, and people like Art Berman who think that if the shale people would go away, prices would recover and all would be well.

        What makes Hill different is, at bottom, I think:
        Hill considers that energy is required to produce energy, and the net energy is the main thing.
        Hill’s model, fit to historical data, yields a very distinctive curve, which allows precision statements such as ’77 dollars this year’…doubtless giving a false impression of accuracy, but making good talking points.
        Hill also considers that oil (as representative of transportation and doing work) is a sine qua non for the monetary economy. As the net energy declines, the economy has less net energy to turn into GDP. As the GDP declines, then the ability of the economy to push up the price of oil vanishes.

        An obvious ‘escape hatch’ is that IF we could restructure the economy away from oil, without reducing GDP, THEN the second equation would no longer hold. Hill finds no evidence that we can, or are, moving away from oil.

        Don Stewart

        • edpell says:

          So the oil companies invested money into a business model that no longer exists. They are stuck with no solution. As are we all.

          • Don Stewart says:


            Couple of things.

            First, see TED talk by Dame Ellen MacArthur

            Second, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation issued a report analyzing some ‘once through’ problems. They analyzed motor vehicle fuel from the pump to the wheels. About 98 percent of the energy in the fuel at the pump never makes it to the wheels. Now if you combine the energy inefficiency identified by BW Hill from the reservoir in the Earth to the pump, with the MacArthur Foundation analysis from the pump to the wheels, and believe anything at all about what Nicole Foss (or Gail) is saying about how we have blown an enormous bubble using the money illusion and debt…then what are your conclusions?

            If debt collapses to approximate the true collateral (as Nicole thinks it will), and if oil is being used in an enormously inefficient way, then what do you think our prospects look like?

            The fact that oil can be enormously useful and productive to move rocks that happen to be impeding real work gets lost in the shuffle;. For quite a long time, we just suffer from the elimination of very wasteful activities, which take whole industries down. Whether there is enough oil to ever recover after the collapse remains to be seen. But it is pretty clear from BW Hill’s work that the energy return on the energy invested would have to be pretty high—not at all like using oil to turn the wheels of a 2 ton vehicle to move a 125 pound human from Point A to Point B.

            Don Stewart

  2. Fast Eddy says:

    Civilization and Its Discontents

    It stands as a brilliant summary of the views on culture from a psychoanalytic perspective that he had been developing since the turn of the century. It is both witness and tribute to the late theory of mind—the so-called structural theory, with its stress on aggression, indeed the death drive, as the pitiless adversary of eros.

    Civilization and Its Discontents is one of the last of Freud’s books, written in the decade before his death and first published in German in 1929. In it he states his views on the broad question of man’s place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individual’s quest for freedom and society’s demand for conformity.

    Freud’s theme is that what works for civilization doesn’t necessarily work for man. Man, by nature aggressive and egotistical, seeks self-satisfaction. But culture inhibits his instinctual drives. The result is a pervasive and familiar guilt.

    Of the various English translations of Freud’s major works to appear in his lifetime, only one was authorized by Freud himself: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud under the general editorship of James Strachey.

    “In it he states his views on the broad question of man’s place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individual’s quest for freedom and society’s demand for conformity.”

    Sounds like an interesting read…. how civilization is all about trying to smash Mr DNA in the mouth?

    Imagine a world without police and prisons…. Mr DNA would be running wild….

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Christian Clarke
      Apr 03, 2010

      Christian Clarke rated it 4 of 5 stars

      This book explains why the average man–someone like you–is always pissed off, as if there is a cauldron of anger boiling just beneath his–and your–clothes.

      This book explains why you will be standing behind that douche bag in the checkout lane at the grocery store and suddenly feel the urge to lunge at him and with your bare hands tear the larynx out of this throat, but don’t. Instead you grit your teeth and check your smartphone for NFL score updates and then later, in your Prius, you shudder. Where did that impulse come from, you wonder. The answer: you’re an animal, buddy.

      That fancy Master’s degree can’t conceal the truth: you’re a bloodthirsty, sex-crazed animal.

      A status-seeking primate. Go on, if you dare, look inside yourself. You’ll see the truth. Just try to keep your clothes on.

      Christian ‘gets it’

    • “Imagine a world without police and prisons…. Mr DNA would be running wild….”

      However, Mr DNA abhors anarchy as much as civilization does. Mr DNA makes ruthless Alpha leaders, loyal guard dogs, and meek followers. People will rapidly reorganize into pack-like units. The difference is, without the abundant resources to squander on prisons, those who step out of line will be exiled or executed.

      • edpell says:

        Yes Matthew, humans are more nuanced then say lions. In the state of nature human males do not endless rape human females. I image in a small group a male who does that will be killed by the females of the group, as a group activity. The males of the group will not come to his aid because he might rape my woman. They in fact may aid the killing. That is basically what Freud says in Civilization and its Discontents. I am extrapolating from is analysis of the question why don”t young males kill their father. His answer is they are able to think about the day when they will be the old male and decide that they do not want to be killed and so retrain themselves for that self serving reason.

        • xabier says:

          Jared Diamond examines this in the context of New Guinea tribes: why don’t the young warriors and hunters knock off the old boys who garner all the best resources (best cuts of meat, the young breeding females) and take them for themselves?

          Because, as these things are the enviable privilege of old age and wealth, they all hope to enjoy them someday.

          So they bide their time, and have sex with the young wives of the chief when they get the chance……

          Inequality is reverenced by those who hope to one day benefit from it.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        See my earlier post addressing this

  3. Fast Eddy says:

    Unraveling…. anyone think they will be left alone to till their fields after watching this?

    The shocking video shows Tensing, standing outside the driver’s door, with 43-year-old Sam DuBose at the wheel.

    The two men talk calmly and politely for about 90 seconds. Tensing repeatedy asks DuBose to produce a driver’s license. DuBose says he has a license but he doesn’t have it with him, and he apologizes.

    “I just don’t. I’m sorry. I’m just going to go in my house,” DuBose says, with his car facing south on Rice Street in Mount Auburn.

    “OK. Where do you stay at? Down here?” Tensing asks. DuBose: “Right around the corner.” Tensing: “OK, as far as I can figure out if you have a license or not, go ahead and take your seat belt off.”

    Tensing pulls the door latch and opens the door a few inches. DuBose pulls it closed with his left hand and uses his right hand to reach for the car key in the ignition. “I ain’t even do nothing,” Dubose says.

    “Go ahead and take your seat belt off,” Tensing says again. DuBose turns the key and revs the engine, but the car hasn’t moved. Tensing pulls his gun, shouts, “Stop! Stop!” and shoots DuBose in the head – at point-blank range – through the open window.

    The car jumps forward and rolls down the street about 100 yards until it runs into the curb and stops.

    Tensing runs after the car and yells, “Shots fired! Shots fired!” into his radio.

    Showing the video publicly for the first time, Deters called it an “asinine, senseless shooting,” and announced that a grand jury had indicted Tensing for murder. Tensing turned himself in and UC fired him after the indictment.

    READ the complete dialogue between Tensing and DuBose…

    • edpell says:

      I did not have the stomach to watch the video. I am glad you recapped it for us. I get a different conclusion. The police have always been tasked with keeping the under class in line and in their slum area. Now the police have been tasked with killing the under class that leave their designated area. We are still in the contraction phase. The useless eater at the periphery of society are to be killed. It has not reached us yet.

    • Artleads says:

      Maybe edpell has a point. I doubt that it was really quite this extreme before. Let’s say some billionaire gave money to get all the cars in the hood up to spec, how would the police behave then?

  4. Michael Jones says:

    Some will find this of interest
    It’s called depletion, and it occurs when the rate of water loss outstrips recharge (the water coming back into the system).
    Another USGS study that looked at aquifer depletion levels across the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii from 1900 to 2008, also found the process of depletion is speeding up. The water loss between 2000 and 2008 represents about 25 percent of the total loss of 1,000 cubic kilometers that has taken place in the 108-year span. The amount of water we’re talking about could fill Lake Erie twice. A lot of that water pulled from the ground eventually ends up making its way to the oceans, since more water is coming in than can go out through evaporation and other means. This raises global sea levels.
    So what are farmers to do when their well runs dry? Generally, they can dig more wells or deeper wells, but that means shelling out money. Eventually, they could find that the cost of trying to get water to irrigate their crops outweighs what they could get for those crops at market.
    If and when it gets to that point—a 2013 study forecasted that the High Plains Aquifer would be 69 percent depleted by 2060—the options for farmers are more limited and could include switching from irrigation farming to dry farming or substituting more drought-resistant crops for what they are currently growing.

    The law of dimishing returns

    • Rodster says:

      As the saying goes “you can’t sustain the unsustainable”.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      That’s an excellent article – thanks

      Only one criticism — I get the sense that the author believes that we had a choice in the matter…

      As Interguru posted the other day — we have done exactly what yeast would do if you dumped them into a bowl full of sugar….

      We’ve behaved exactly as one would expected.

      The only difference between us and the yeast (or the rats on Rat Island) is that we are able to analyze our behaviour and they cannot — so we get to understand why we are extincting ourselves — but are powerless to do anything about it.

      Kind of like looking into a mirror while you hang yourself….

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Some of you may find this YouTube interesting. It is an interview with Dr Steven Porges of the Dept of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. The subject is Polyvagal theory. The theory helps either a person who is self-medicating or caring for others deal with threatening situations.

    Briefly, and in my non-technical language. We have two vagus nerves. One we inherited from our reptile ancestors, and it causes us to react to threatening situations by shutting down…playing dead. The newer vagus we share with other mammals, and it helps us reach out to our fellow humans and jointly regulate our nervous systems so that we can work together in times of stress. The mammalian vagus, for example, regulates our tone of voice and our facial expressions so that they are accurate representations of the status of our nervous system. Our fellows can then accurately determine what we are feeling.

    Problems arise when, for example, the reptile vagus reacts to the involuntary assessment that we are in danger, and shuts us down. We are incapable of taking defensive actions, and we are not communicating with our fellows who might help us. Dr. Porges gives a pretty extensive list of actions which can calm the reptilian vagus. The simplest is taking deep breaths and releasing the air slowly. But singing and playing wind instruments causes the same physiological response.

    Dr. Porges compares the actions of a basketball player about to take a free throw, deep breathing with slow exhalation, with the actions of a sprinter preparing to run, shallow inhalation with sharp exhalation. The basketball player is seeking calm, while the sprinter is looking for fight or flight.

    Many trauma patients have unhelpful reptilian responses. They are frozen and cannot help themselves and cannot communicate clearly with other humans.

    Don Stewart

  6. Fast Eddy says:

    U.S. labor costs in the second quarter recorded their smallest increase in 33 years as workers earned less in commissions and bonuses, in what appeared to be a temporary wage growth setback against the backdrop of diminishing labor market slack.

    The surprisingly smaller rise reported by the Labor Department on Friday did little to temper expectations that the Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates later this year. The job market is fast approaching full employment.

    “Labor market fundamentals are improving, job openings are at record highs, and slack on a steady downtrend. This is precisely how the Fed will interpret this report, even if the numbers here are atrocious,” said Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

    The Employment Cost Index, the broadest measure of labor costs, edged up 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the Labor Department said. That was the smallest gain since the series started in the second quarter of 1982 and followed a 0.7 percent rise in the first quarter.

    The Ministry of Truth is hard as work convincing the Idiocracy that 1+1 = 4…..

    A temporary setback? I suppose if you were looking at this in the context of wages from the period covering the Roman Empire to present — then 8 years could be considered a temporary setback … a blip…..

    U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51,939 in 2013 versus $51,759 in 2012, statistically unchanged. In 2013, real median household income was 8.0 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the latest recession.

    Fast approaching full employment?

    All we need is for another 10 million to give up and move under an overpass and roast dogs over plastic bag fires and we will be there!

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        it’s about a 4% decline in 7 years.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          And the trend is sharply down…. but we are approaching ‘full employment’

          The thing is … most people actually believe this bs… I suppose it keeps them sane… but it doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table…

          The only thing that is worse than not being 75+ is being under 25… how depressing must it be to have no future….

          Look to the third world for coping mechanisms…

          • Rodster says:

            “The only thing that is worse than not being 75+ is being under 25… how depressing must it be to have no future….”

            That’s exactly how I see it as well. I would not trade places with someone who is a teenager and I’m not rich by any means. The future certainly isn’t bright for them and it’s pretty easy to see if you just pay attention to what’s happening all around the world. But as the saying goes “if you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it eventually people will start to believe it”.

          • daddio7 says:

            My youngest son turned 24 last week. He is still in college. He is enjoying being young and really has not a care for the future. My youngest daughter and her husband moved into their own home 8 months ago. She will be 28 next week and is actively planning to start a family.

            Forty five years ago my father was telling me the same you are saying. My two forty something children are enjoying their professional careers even though my dad said they shouldn’t have been born.

            The end may be closer now than it was then but most will just carry on. We old folks have enjoyed our lives and now we want to shut theirs down.

  7. Rodster says:

    Here’s another article which shows that low wage workers are here to stay and if you threaten mgmt for a raise they could replace you with a ROBOT.

    Excerpt:”Previously, there were 650 employees at the factory. With the new robots, there’s now only 60. Luo Weiqiang, general manager of the company, told the People’s Daily that the number of employees could drop to 20 in the future.

    The robots have produced almost three times as many pieces as were produced before. According to the People’s Daily, production per person has increased from 8,000 pieces to 21,000 pieces. That’s a 162.5% increase.

    The increased production rate hasn’t come at the cost of quality either. In fact, quality has improved. Before the robots, the product defect rate was 25%, now it is below 5%.”

    • doomphd says:

      All we need now is robot consumers and the cycle is complete! Humans to the sidelines.

      • interguru says:

        How about robot commenters for this blog?. It would save some of us a a lot of time to devote to more productive pursuits.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        I’ll know we’re up sheet creek when the greeter at Walmart says robotically, “Welcome to Walmart!” From a management point of view there’s nothing more difficult to deal with than humans and nothing (as long as it has good programming) easier to deal with than a robot. It has no relatives, no where else it would prefer to be, always shows up on time because it never leaves the premises, takes no holidays, does not spread false or true rumor about management, always has a positive attitude, never colludes to get higher wages and is absent all emotions. Things get quiet and relaxed for management and as long as that’s true, humans are on the way out the door.

        This goes to something I’ve written about on here before, and that is there is from here on out on the slope down collapse, built in diametrically opposed positions between the .01ers and the 99.9ers. Because of diminishing returns there will be increasing animosity between the two. Somewhere along the line it becomes all too apparent that millions must go. How that plays out is the big question.

    • kesar0 says:

      One of my potential business partners from Greece told me, that the first question in many greek stores is something like “three, five, seven” or something similar in greek language. It means in how many installments you want to repay the purchase. And it doesn’t concern the big stuff like fridges, computers or washing machines. It is for daily grocery shopping or even 20€ goods.

      This habit is coming to your/mine neighbourhood in a couple (ten maybe?) of years, I guess. It’s scary.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        That is definitely the face of collapse. It may not have happened globally yet, but it’s a constant financial downward pressure being applied via diminishing returns. It is most evident on the periphery so far in countries like Greece, Venezuela, Brazil, Ethiopia as well as many other countries to one extent or another, and even with the middle class of the US falling behind. It’s winding its way from the periphery to the core. Get those ducks in a row folks.

        • kesar0 says:

          It is happening everywhere. The core still maintains BAU, the periphery is getting hammered: Middle East, North Africa, South America. Immigration from those places is knocking at the door of the First World. We all know the next stage. It’s just a matter of time.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Like taking a sledge hammer — and racing about the glass tower that is the world of Koombaya — and swinging wildly…. until one is panting and exhausted … and standing amongst piles of shattered delusions…

        Absolutely outstanding!

      • interguru says:

        Ecology 101
        Take a few yeast cells in a bowl of water. They will just float around. Now put a cup of sugar in. Suddenly the yeast have an energy source, and they multiply many times over. Finally the sugar runs out, and the bowl is contaminated with their waste products ( alcohol in this case ). The yeast population crashes.

        Now take a few hundred million humans. Introduce a new energy source — fossil fuels. Suddenly our population multiplies and their waste products accumulate. …. need I say more?

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        E of M, below is a good link on phantom capacity, relating to what is pasted below from your article.

        From your article: “If an apartment block or shopping mall costs $10 million to build, then that is the ‘value’ of the building on the ledger of national prosperity. If it stands empty for years, the ‘value’ is somehow retained. In China, the motivation is different to that in Saudi Arabia or Greece, but there is the same determination to spend money on projects that are intended to deliver infinite commercial prosperity based on the imagined value of the building itself.”

        Tainter referred to it famously as, “Phantom Capacity”, and that really says it all because like you write about, that is the underlying mindset of modern civilization. If people are going to draw on resources like there is an unlimited supply, and continuously grow but at the same time the obvious eventuation of finite resources dictates limits, then in effect civilization is accelerating towards a brick wall. Instead of reading the obvious tea leaves offered up by simple math, and I mean the type in which you don’t fool yourself by thinking new technology will always extract more at an affordable cost – no, it’s going to dip off like it already has in Greece and others not much different at this point, and once it does people will begin to see quite clearly of course through hardship that we are accelerating when we should be slowing down, leveling off and finding ways to conserve. That’s why I keep saying we have pushed the pedal to the metal. Our myopic insistence on growth (a form of greed) is apparently an unchangeable human trait. The slippery slop down or slam into the brick wall should make for fascinating entertainment in a macabre manner.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          “The slippery slope down or slam into the brick wall should make for fascinating entertainment in a macabre manner.”

          Very much so… in some respects how lucky are we to be able to witness the end of civilization…

          Given the choice …. I’ve always thought the best way to go if one had to would be an airline crash… 60 seconds or so of pure terror…

          Far better than rotting away in a cancer ward… or falling to pieces as described in this outstanding article

          As there is no choice — then this is far far better than going down in an airliner…

          If only I were 75+ … it would be such a wonderful way to finish up…

          The stupid beast that has ruined the planet tearing itself to pieces… makes one almost believe in karma

        • Thanks for that link Stilgar—really is one to add to my ‘save’ pile to read over again

      • You have written a very fine piece. Thank you very much for sharing it.

        One thing that you point out is a fine point that people often miss. If an economy is producing surplus energy, the government has the ability to tax the economy to provide the resources for an army and for other things, including repairing the inevitable decline of infrastructure that has already been built. Once this surplus energy declines, there is a huge problem.

        Recently, some researchers are depending on EROEI calculations that are interpreted by some to mean that intermittent renewables can replace fossil fuels. However, the real test is whether these intermittent renewables can provide the energy needed for a high level of taxation. Oil that can be extracted inexpensively clearly can provide a lot of revenue for oil exporting countries. It can be taxed at a high level, if oil prices can be far above the cost of extraction.

        Intermittent renewables are not in the same category as oil that can be produced very cheaply. They seem to require huge subsidies, even when fossil fuel costs are high. If they require subsidies, how can we expect them to change into something that will somehow be able to provide an economy that can be taxed at a high level to support the government? They also can’t be scaled up. In fact, they can’t even be made without fossil fuels.

        • thank you Gail—praise from you makes the pain from banging my head against a brick wall slightly more bearable.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          “Intermittent renewables are not in the same category as oil that can be produced very cheaply. They seem to require huge subsidies. If they require subsidies, how can we expect them to change into something that will somehow be able to provide an economy that can be taxed at a high level to support the government? They also can’t be scaled up. In fact, they can’t even be made without fossil fuels.”

          I would like to hook electrodes to the brain of a solar energy groupie and analyze the activity that occurs when they read the above.

      • xabier says:


        Truly excellent.

        The point about people not understanding the basis of things anymore is well made: very now and then I drop something about the weather and crops into conversation, and get only blank looks, even when it’s raining heavily at harvest time: total disconnect, minds focussed only on tax rates and the empty promises of politicians re ‘Building the Future’.

        And these are nearly all people whose grandparents or great-grandparents were peasants, miners or fishermen, busy with the process of wealth extraction, the hard way…..

        These are the people who believe that their pension money is somehow there, stored up for their retirement.

        Another point is perhaps that it is not so much that our ancestors were not contented with the merely sufficient, but that aiming only for the sufficient is a very dangerous and short-sighted option where growing seasons are short and weather uncertain and cruel: next year, the harvest fails,and maybe the year after that; so a huge surplus, well guarded, would have determined survival or extinction.

  8. kesar0 says:

    During the summer of 1973, the U.S. economy was booming. We were all whizzing down the highway at 70 miles per hour, the legal speed limit. Gasoline was about 39 cents per gallon, and the posted price of Gulf crude oil was $2.59 per barrel. That year, my wife Lea and I had purchased a lovely old Vermont farmhouse, heated by a coal-stoking boiler that had been converted to oil. The base of this monster boiler was about three feet by six feet, and when it fired, it literally shook the house. We tapped our domestic hot water directly off the boiler, so we had to run the unit all four seasons: Every time we needed hot water, the boiler in the basement fired up. We were burning about 2,500 gallons of fuel oil each year, and in the coldest winter months, it was not unusual to get an oil delivery every two weeks.
    Since we had no other way to heat our home, we were entirely dependent on the oil-gobbling monster, and on our biweekly oil deliveries to survive the Vermont winter. Our only alternative source of heat was an open fireplace. Though aesthetically pleasing, the fireplace actually took more heat out of the house than it gave off.
    At that time, I was the vice president and general manager of a prefabricated post-and-beam home operation. Like others, I shared the industry opinion that the heating contractor’s job was to install the heating system that the homeowner wanted. As designers and home producers, we were not responsible for that part of new home construction. Home building plans were typically insensitive to the position of the sun. Our prefabricated home packages were labeled simply “front, back, right side, left side,” not “south, east, west, north.” We offered little or no advice on siting, except that we needed enough room to get a tractor-trailer to the job site.
    To give you an idea how little energy efficiency was considered in 1973 in house design (an area of home construction that has since received enormous attention), our homes had single glazed windows and patio doors; R-13 wall and R-20 roof insulation were considered more than adequate. (“R” is the thermal resistance of any housing component; a high R-value means a higher insulating value. Today’s homes typically have much higher R-values.) Homeowners in the 1970s rarely asked about the R-values of their home components, and our sales discussions were less about energy efficiency than about how the house would look and whether it would have vaulted ceilings.
    The point is, we were not yet approaching the task of design and construction in an integrated, comprehensive way. We had not yet recognized that all aspects of a design must be coordinated, and that every member of the design team, including the future resident, needs to be thinking about how the home will be heated from the first moment they step onto the site.


    In 1973, an international crisis forever changed the way Americans thought about home heating costs. After Israel took Jerusalem in the “Six Day War,” Arab oil-producing nations became increasingly frustrated with the United States’ policy toward Israel. In the fall of 1973, these oil-producing nations began to utilize oil pricing and production as a means to influence international policy. In October 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) met and unilaterally raised oil prices 70 percent. The impact of this price hike on U.S. homeowners who heated with oil was spectacular. Fuel oil prices soared.
    Then the oil embargo hit. In November 1973, all Arab oil-producing states stopped shipping oil to the United States. By December 1973, the official OPEC member-price was $11.65 per barrel—a whopping 450 percent increase from the $2.59-per-barrel price of the previous summer. Iran reported receiving bids as high as $17.00 per barrel, which translated to $27.00 per barrel in New York City.
    In addition to giant price increases, oil supplies became uncertain and the United States, which depended on foreign oil for fully half its consumption, was facing the real possibility of fuel rationing for the first time since World War II.
    Richard Nixon was president, and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, spent most of that winter in what was termed “shuttle diplomacy,” racing from country to country attempting to bring a resolution to the crisis. He didn’t succeed until March 18, 1974, when the embargo against the United States was lifted. It had lasted five months.
    As the international oil crisis was played out over those five months, every oil delivery to our home was marked by a price increase, invariably without notice. Worse, our supplier could not assure delivery. My wife and I had two small children, an energy dinosaur of a house, and no other way to keep warm but to burn huge amounts of oil. We couldn’t even “escape” to a warmer climate, because there were long lines at the gasoline pumps. We had never felt so dependent on others as we did that winter. It was plain scary!

    First paragraphs of “THE PASSIVE SOLAR HOUSE” by James Kachadorian.
    And this is how we all arrived at this point…

    • Artleads says:

      And the community and egress/ingress/circulation issues are important to home construction too. Where people work as well.

      I’m very interested in issues of land development, and look forward to hearing more about your past work.

      Have you heard of Form Based Planning?

      • kesar0 says:

        I watched the video. The urban planing is not my area of interest. City as a high energy-intensive structure is a dead end of civilization. As energy will be scarce in near future, it doesn’t make sense to invest there from the personal point of view. Cities will be dangerous places IMHO, either due to military attacks or due to hunger and epidemics.
        I deal with rural life-boats – community or family-habitats.

        • Artleads says:

          🙂 If people desert the city for the country, the country will soon get very crowded.

          • kesar0 says:

            True. I don’t see any other option.

            • Artleads says:

              Make the city safer, healthier and much, much more green.

            • kesar0 says:

              If you want to invest your/world energy, invest in something resilient. Cities are fed by huge amounts of energy (food and all other resources) from the periphery. One day it will end. Quite soon IMO.
              If you want to preserve culture and civilization (all those wise and noble things in your life) find a place to do it. Cities are not the good choice in the long run.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            That is a crucial point for anyone setting up a ‘life boat’

            What will the people in the cities and towns do when the SHTF?

            Will they jump into their cars and head to the countryside hoping that there will be more chance of surviving — or just to flee the chaos of the city?

            Will they stay put — in a state of utter disbelief at what is happening – assuming the government will come to the rescue — then just weaken, curl up in a corner and die?

            Will the government implement martial law (while petrol reserves hold out) not allowing anyone to leave the cities?

            I suspect that quite a few people will be heading for the farms — it would not take that many people to consume all that is growing (assuming the SHFT when a crop is ready….) — they’d be shooting everything that moved and putting it in a pot….

            The countryside may not be any better than the cities… finding food will be a problem regardless of where you end up.

            • kesar0 says:

              FE, I would love to implement your scenario – moving to the best climate, where I can find friendly and skillful people to co-operate with. Unfortunately this is not in my financial range, my children are starting the university studies and I still have family and friends here.
              In addition to the above, between your Fast Apocalypse scenario and worldofhuman slow collapse taking real impact in 2025-2030 I’m with WOH. In support of my intuition skills I can offer you a bet with quite easy to test condition: when the Internet is shut down…. and we can no longer have our fascinating disputes 🙂
              Say the date…

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I wouldn’t be too concerned about where you end up — my decision probably will do nothing more than prolong the suffering…

              As for a date — no idea — watch the bankruptcies and layoffs and as those begin to snowball you’d know the end is near….

              Falling consumption will wreck BAU…. and once that starts it cannot be anything but a quick process… like a snowball down Everest…

            • kesar0 says:

              I understand your perspective, but have different opinion. BAU will be maintained till the final global conflict for the last drop of oil in Middle East. We are close, but not there yet. It will take some time 10-15 years, IMO.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I remain in the Gail camp on this — the economy will collapse long before we extract the last drop of cheaply extractable oil.

        • Artleads says:

          Thanks for watching the video.

    • Artleads says:

      Form Based Planning

      I was very impressed at the speed and efficiency with which the local Target store remodeled while maintaining most of the store’s normal function. They cut through walls and ceiling like they were nothing, exposing interesting innards. I’m wondering what it would take to add small residential condos on top of such structures. Instant live/work. Maybe using the same building techniques…

  9. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Scholarly article showing that a richly diverse ecosystem is the best pesticide. More evidence of the wisdom of Nature, the stupidity of governments, and the nature of Overshoot.

    A richly diverse ecosystem means that 99 percent of the land is not devoted to a monocrop. It means that the land will look pretty ragged, rather than conventionally tidy. These points have been driven home to me in the current ‘Save Our Pollinators’ series at the Botanical Garden. Many pollinators are plant specific, and only live for 4 to 6 weeks as flying insects. Therefore, they have to pick up the right cues from the season to mature to the flying stage just at the same time the plant they pollinate is blooming. Climate change may well upset that age old pattern. Furthermore, the insect needs the proper plants and many need bare ground during the life stages when they are not flying insects. We have about 600 bee species in North Carolina, as well as thousands of other pollinators. Many of these bees have their own requirements. A solid field of corn treated with pesticides and herbicides simply won’t support many pollinators. Yet the EPA is currently considering a requirement that E85 gasoline with more ethanol from corn be required. Despite the evidence that ethanol is energy inefficient. The US government is one of the more destructive forces on our sad planet….Don Stewart

  10. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    I have made the point that ‘you are not your genes’. The way our genes express themselves (e.g., make proteins) is subject to complex controls. If you are interested in learning about how life in a community affects expression of genes, you can tune into this Monday evening. Maybe even ask if singing Kumbaya might help improve your own gene expression 🙂 Don Stewart

    Tune in to the Functional Forum on Monday evening, August 3, for the second installment in The Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM) exciting new collaboration with this monthly web show. Read below for details about the free broadcast!

    Live From IFM: The Future of Functional Medicine

    8:00 PM EST ON MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 2015
    How do social relationships and community influence gene expression?
    How can Functional Medicine address these sorts of concerns?
    Who are the new players taking Functional Medicine forward and disrupting the current standard of care?
    George Slavich, PhD
    “Social Genomics” — How community and relationships influence gene expression.

    Mark Hyman, MD
    Rangan Chatterjee, MD
    Shilpa Saxena, MD
    Tom O’Bryan, DC
    and many more!

  11. James says:

    Rather than continue to scroll up the comments for issues to agree/disagree with, I think I’d just like to sum it up and add that Fast Eddy, from what I’ve read so far, seems to encapsulate everything I believe in as well, although he, apparently being a man of rather more affluent means than I, seems to have taken an opposite tack on how to respond to it, at least for now. Which is all fair enough, I think I would have certainly done the same given half a chance, so more power to his and “hisn’s.”

    In the end, I think all this “wailing and gnashing of teeth” about the end of human civilization, especially of the Northern European variety from which most of us hail and which has led us to our current predicament in the first place, is much ado about nothing. Most of us conflate our own pitiful deaths, which will almost certainly occur all too soon either way, with that of our civilization’s. Which, unfortunately, will likely live on along a while yet inspite of us.

    But MUCH MUCH MORE than THAT even, we conflate our own pitiful deaths – individual and species’ – with that of the Earth’s, which we have been so busy ignoring and shitting all over these past 3 centuries or so, and THAT is going to end the way it ALWAYS does when such environmental “tragedies” unfold. Elimination of the offenders by natural means and a gradual reversion to the mean. We won’t be missed



    • Artleads says:

      Worse than that, the earth could get like Venus. I understand that we’re just barely on the edge of the life-supporting distance from the sun, and we’ve been pushing to get beyond it.

      • James says:

        Not that that will affect US much, and we’ll be long gone by then anyway. But granted, too bad for all the other species of life we’ll have taken down with us in the process.

        Kind of ironic that US and the acronym for the United States is one and the same, isn’t it?

      • Artleads says:

        ‘Kind of ironic that US and the acronym for the United States is one and the same, isn’t it?’

        Either the US stands for (represents) unselfishly the global US, or we are really and truly screwed.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        “Worse than that, the earth could get like Venus. I understand that we’re just barely on the edge of the life-supporting distance from the sun, and we’ve been pushing to get beyond it.”

        True enough, Artleads. The Arctic ice hit a historic low in 2012 then rebounded somewhat in 13 & 14. 2015 won’t set a new low, but it is chomping away on multi-year ice accumulated the past two seasons. Any year now when the weather conditions are right will push the September minimum down to yet another record low. What we don’t know is when the arctic sub-sea methane will begin releasing en masse, particularly from the ESAS (Eastern Siberian Arctic Sea) which is shallow enough for much of it to release directly into the atmosphere. Once we get to those kind of feedbacks there will be a quick transition from very concerning to downright life threatening.

        It seems like a race to see what happens first; economic collapse from diminishing returns or runaway AGW. There’s also a 3rd possibility which is they dovetail and we face both disastrous situations simultaneously.

    • James says:

      Oh, forgot to add, perhaps the most ironic thing of all is just what in the hell do any of us actually intend to do about any of this in the first place, other than as Fast Eddy is evidently doing, plan a South Pacific hideaway to perhaps prolong the misery? But of course, very appropriately (and thankfully!), few of us are able to entertain such notions in the first place. Better question, how many of us would, even if we could?

      But back to the original question. How many of us are going to significantly alter our lifestyles, assuming it would do any good anyway? How many of us reasonably could in the first place, given all of our current cultural constraints? Better still, how many believe it would make a difference either way? How many of us would just plain rather continue to live our lives as they are regardless and let the chips fall where they may, while continuing to tell ourselves lies of perpetual technological progress as cheap pseudo-intellectual solace? And lastly, how many of us all will just grow tired of it all and say “fuck it!” in the end, and resort to any or all that regardless of any pseudo intellectual/philosophical justification or not?

      In the end, we’re just human animals, that’s what we do!


      • Don Stewart says:

        Ten years ago I began a pretty serious project to make my wife and myself more resilient. I won’t bore you with the details, but they involved redesigning our yard to grow quite a lot of food, getting a community garden plot, working on a small farm part time, and making some investments with local farmers. I worked on the farm until I was 73, when the stoop labor got to be too much for me (a common complaint among elderly farmers). I also developed a pretty good network of relationships with local people who do things which are useful.

        Now, when I stopped working at the farm, the network began to disintegrate because I was less involved in economic relationships. I’m less useful to other people in the neighborhood than I was 3 or 4 years ago. At the age of 75, some of the options that I had even 10 years ago are no longer realistic, such as buying and improving land. Some of the things I thought about doing 10 years ago just never worked out, such as becoming a financial partner in a small farm.

        Everybody has to make up their own mind whether they are ready to just accept whatever the collapse offers up. A 90 year old with no money and poor health doesn’t have many alternatives beyond moving in with relatives who are stronger and younger than they are. But certainly a healthy middle aged person can do a lot. And it doesn’t have to involve the South Seas and mountains of money.

        The rewards also come quickly. I met dozens of wonderful young people who worked at the farm, seeing every day how those who post comments here talking about the shiftlessness of the young are simply BS. My yard which began as a ‘low maintenance desert’ now buzzes with life and gives me leafy greens and many kinds of fruits. I still go to the annual farming and gardening conferences and meet old friends.

        You should try it..

        Don Stewart

      • Don Stewart says:

        Consider this report from the establishment of a worm bin composting operating in Fiji. Have you built a worm bin to recycle your waste? If not, why not?
        Don Stewart

        Mr Kim said there are many microorganisms in the soil and the more, the better.

        “Micro-organisms absorb the nutrition from the air and other surrounding environment to make the soil healthier,” he said.

        “The earthworm creates castings (vermicompose) through decomposing food waste, animal manure and water sludge and so on.

        “The earthworm’s body is the best incubator for microorganism cultivation. When the earthworms eat food, microorganisms are bred inside.

        “After that, the earthworms excrete feces including propagated microorganisms as much as the worm’s weight.

        “This vermicompost is ‘an extraordinarily powerful growth promoter in crops and five to seven times more nutritious than ordinary compost and significantly higher over chemical fertilizers.

        “This is while also repelling crop pests and suppressing diseases protecting the soil, restoring and improving its natural fertility.”

        The owner of Davo’s Worm Farm, David Davidson, said: “Worm Castings generally make available 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more Phosphorus and 11 times more Potassium than the surrounding soil.

        “This effectively eliminates the need to ever apply NPK fertilisers again.”

        He said the environment can be protected by reducing waste amount as the earthworm eats food waste and water sludge. Moreover, we can reduce waste disposal costs.”

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        The thing is James, most of us are constrained by life’s demands. We have to work to make money to pay for ongoing bills and long term debt. So most of us will simply keep doing what we’ve been doing right up until shtf. To one extent or another we’re all in the same boat. Those that prepare the most will also have to defend what they have so carefully put together against angry, jealous, hungry hordes and in many cases lose the vestiges of those many years of preparation in a few chaotic moments.

        If it could all be captured on digital film and made into a documentary in the future after collapse (provided that type of technology still works somewhere) it would make a fascinating look back and help solidify lessons hopefully learned. And probably it will have been a one time only event, since the oil age will not happen again considering all the easy fruit has been picked, the technology to get at the harder to reach stuff would be too expensive and complex for a simplistic post collapse society. The documentary could be called ‘The Disastrous Conclusion to the Oil Age’.

  12. Carlos Valero says:

    Gail, I just want to thank you for the job you’re doing since so many years. It sems more necessary than ever to shed light on the complicated nature of the problems we’re facing. It is not easy for most people to get to connect all the dots that made them capable of changing their mindsets and building estructures, in and out of thier minds, to cope with such challeging future.
    Good job, Gail. Thank you.

  13. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    For those who think we are captives of our DNA:

    For those who think warlords are in our future.
    (Note: we are more likely to be in the hunting and gathering or the horticultural phase than in the agrarian phase (e.g., Roman Empire))

    Don Stewart

    • James says:

      Good stuff Don! As I know you’re trying so hard to keep the “stiff upper lip” and that, I won’t linger long in raining on your parade.

      Articles which attempt to attribute human’s imagined “warm and cuddly” human values onto other species are always attractive aren’t they? Alas, if only warm and cuddly feelings could save us at this point, I’d be right there with you. I’ll just leave it at that.

      As to your second point, I found it odd that you posted that article in support of it, as it seemed to do just the opposite. Severe inequality, in particular, IS the new social norm, although the capitalist west in which you and I both live and post, works harder than ever to deny it. As do we, apparently.

      Not that I don’t believe in a little optimism when it’s appropriate. But that time is not now. To the contrary.



      • Don Stewart says:

        The point of the first two references is to disabuse anyone of the notion that DNA is destiny. If baboons can change behavior, then so can humans. As I have said before, behavior is a complex manifestation of relationships…not DNA.

        As for the expected inequality in, let’s say, two decades. If we have no fossil fuels, we will probably be living in either a hunter-gatherer or a horticultural society. There will be very little surplus energy, and not much in the way of hierarchy. Therefore, the scenarios which get batted around here about warlords and despotic rulers are probably just fantasies. Those societies might be violent, as the Plain Indians were violent, but there isn’t likely to be much in the way of hierarchy. Leaders are likely to lead from personal example.

        Don Stewart

        • James says:

          Thanks Don. I don’t believe that DNA is necessarily determinant of behavior either myself, and I’m likewise even less likely to project that tendency on humans in the first place. I guess I missed the original context there, my bad.

          As to violence in “primitive” societies, you’re one step ahead of me there, all other things being equal (and KUDOS to you my friend!).

          Of course, all that assumes that a thoroughly indoctrinated and perverted first world industrial society can seamlessly walk itself backward to a pastoral, native society it brutally replaced, all the while forcibly reducing its population along the way with no additional civil strife to that which it has already caused, all on land that the current current industrial will continue to RAPE until its dying breath.

          Do you NOT agree that that’s a recipe for disaster?

          • Don Stewart says:

            There are 7.3 billion humans on Earth. Guess what? 7.3 billion of them are going to die. Is that a tragedy?

            Maybe its because I have been around now for three quarters of a century. I have no illusions about immortality. If I were 20, I might look at things differently. But, no, I don’t think it is a tragedy that most people alive today will not survive the end of fossil fuels. It’s just one of those things that happens.

            Somebody told a story about their grandmother. The grandmother lived in Germany in the spring of 1945. The Americans and British were approaching from the west, and the consensus in the village was that they would all be killed. Nevertheless, his grandmother took the sow to the boar, and in due time some piglets were born, and life went on.

            I think that it is a mistake to become frozen in the headlights. Take the sow to the boar and things just might work out OK. 1946 did not turn out to be a time of milk and honey, but there were some children born, and the sun and moon continued to rise and fall.

            I think that listening too much to those who say that we are doomed by our DNA or that, even if we survive, it will be horrible because we will be ground down by a heartless class of overlords, is just an excuse to fail to take the sow to the boar. Do what you can, while you can.

            Don Stewart

            • James says:

              Wise advice Don, and I agree wholeheartedly!

              That said, I don’t think “doom” has anything to do with it. But then again, neither do I believe in undo “hope” where none is warranted. How about we agree on “steely-eyed pragmatism” for now and leave it at that?

              You’re a good man Don Stewart, whoever else you are!


            • kesar0 says:

              Wise words.

            • kesar0 says:

              My Grandmother, who is currently 94 years old now and remembers the WW2 told me recently, that in her village every one was afraid of poisonous gases used in WWI on western front. My grandmother was responsible for sawing the gas masks. Some old lady from neighbour asked her for the gas mask for the cow, but my Gm refused saying the the masks are necessary for people first. So the old lady left insulted saying: if my cow dies what is the sense in living further.

      • Artleads says:

        Where I feel the S is H-ing TF is not in the obvious breakdown of BAU; it is in increasing inequality and diminishing of privileges. It seems to be happening so gradually and selectively as to be like the frog in boiling water. It feels a bit like airline flights, where you go from getting decent food to getting cheap biscuits. You go from normal, to removing your belt to removing your shoes… It gets to be horrendous, but there is no sudden rift. I believe the security apparatus has it all figured out.

        • James says:

          Agreed. That is indeed how it plays out. First as subtle, then increasingly gross differences among humans based on social status, then ever-widening from there. None of this is hard to figure out, nor is it hard to observe in our day to day lives.

  14. Adam says:

    “To avoid falling into the mine it grew up around, Sweden’s northernmost city is knocking down 3,000 homes, schools and a hospital, and starting a redesigned centre a safe distance away.”

    (And it will all be finished by 2040. Splendid! Anybody want to move there?)

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

  16. Fast Eddy says:

    Oh an btw there is a reason why some countries try to keep the modern world away from the remote untouched tribes…. because they know from experience that the tribes DNA will want what we have…

    You are aware that the native tribes traded entire islands for sacks of beads….. now imagine what they’d have given for a shipload of food tools and weapons….

  17. Fast Eddy says:

    An international construction giant has some depressing news about the global economy

    In its second quarter earnings report released Thursday morning, Caterpillar, a $US48 billion international manufacturer of construction equipment and other heavy machinery, said that the global economy is “stagnant.”

    Wednesday morning, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) released its monthly retail sales report before markets opened. Coming just one day ahead of the company’s scheduled earnings report, the company reported that total sales were down by 2% to 50% in all sales regions.

    Read more:

    Deflationary collapse — headed our way….

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Against the prior year, revenue was down 13%.

      • interguru says:

        Off Topic. As I look out of the coffee shop window, sipping coffee, I see at a construction site across the street a humongous Caterpillar backhoe. As rough guess I estimate that it would take 100 men with wheelbarrows and shovels to replace it.

        Just a thought when BAU hits the wall.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          We had a mid-size digger in here for 5 days installing water tanks … flattening some garden areas… removing rocks … clearing barbary… etc…

          Then the digger left…

          And we started to bolt together the raised beds and trench for the irrigation pipes… and we ran into a … rock…. a rather big rock…

          And it took 3 of us with pry bars the better part of an hour to get that rock out …

          And I was thinking… the digger could have flicked that out of the way like a grain of sand….

          My darling BAU … how will miss you … just as I am missing the digger…

    • James says:

      Nothing depressing about CAT losing business at all, unless you’re in the business of profiting from human business. Let the great extinction continue!

      • I discovered that Caterpillar Company is very much in the oil and gas drilling equipment business too. Part of the drop in production relates to the drop off in equipment for that business.

  18. Michael Jones says:

    Timing in life (especially the stock market) is everything

    The phenomenon has prompted analysts and traders to try to figure out what has been driving the late-day jolts. For now, they have identified two key factors: afternoon margin calls from lenders, which often prompt a wave of selling, and the looming presence of Chinese authorities. China has vowed to support the market by buying stocks, but investors have figured out that they often won’t move into the market until later in the day.

    The Shanghai stock market opens at 9.30 a.m. each day and closes at 11.30 a.m. for a lunch break before opening again at 1 p.m. and closing at 3 p.m.

    It is common for Chinese brokerages to impose margin calls on their clients at 2 p.m., in addition to once in the morning session. That is when brokerages ask investors who have borrowed from them to either add more money to

    The second margin call tends to be more significant because brokers base the money they are requesting on the current day’s trading
    The exact timing of margin calls can vary from broker to broker. But the apparent grouping of several such calls at around 2 p.m. “has definitely played a part in the intensifying selloffs in the last hour of trading on many days, including Monday’s,” said one Chinese executive at a midsize brokerage.

    Another theory for the postprandial surge in market action relates to the way Chinese investors have been trying to make money following the stock-buying patterns of government-related entities.

    The Chinese authorities have made it clear that they would try to support the overall market by buying shares in blue-chip stocks, particularly banks and brokerages. That followed a market slide that saw the Shanghai Composite Index lose around one-third of its value in less than four weeks, beginning June 12.I

    Hope we time it right, the place, date and hole in the bottle

  19. MG says:

    The most decadent countries in the world (based on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling):

    No. 1: Czech Republic
    No. 16: USA

    • MG says:

      The picture of the Czech president, who graduated and worked in the area of prognostics inside:

      When somebody knows the harsh reality, it is no wonder that he becomes an addict…

      • MG says:

        As regards the drug use in total according to the given table by Bloomberg:

        No. 1: USA
        No. 2: Czech Republic

    • I’m a bit surprised to see such a huge difference between Czech Republic and Slovakia.

      • MG says:

        Dear Matthew Krajcik,

        in the 19th century, before they were united into Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic was an industrial heart of the Central Europe thanks to its coal, Slovakia was an agrarian country.

        (Anyway, Krajcik sounds like Slovak surname, also in our village, there are people with such surname, it is pronounced “crycheek” and written “Krajčík” in Slovak. The people from my area, that emmigrated to the USA around 1900, went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.)

        • My paternal ancestors at some point crossed the Danube and lived in an area that is I think Croatia now.

          Interesting to see the differences between industrial and agrarian subcultures, within a group of people with very similar language and culture, similar ethnicity, etc. It seems environment and lifestyle have more effect on people’s vices than anything else – genetics, climate, language, religion.

        • interguru says:

          I have spent time in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia , Slovenia and Poland, 50 years ago. I never understood why Czechoslovak disassembled itself. Given the industrial nature of the The Czech Republic and the agrarian nature of Slovakia, I expected the Czechs to do much better. Apparently I was wrong.

          • MG says:

            Dear interguru,

            I had the same opionon about the Czech Republic, until I have realized that due to the resource depletion, they have bigger problems than Slovakia, that was less industrialized.

            The breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1992 was the logical outcome of the resource depletion and energy decline of the Czech Republic. As the Czech Republic lost its easy to extract and cheap energy resources, the Czechoslovakia imploded into the Czech Republic. It was neither the will of the Slovaks, nor the Czechs, but the inevitability of the implosion of these two nations.

    • dolph9 says:

      Eastern Europe seems to score high in both alcohol and tobacco which puts them at the top. Wondering if they are drowning out all of the sorrows they have endured through the years, and the harshness of the climate.

      U.S. and Canada quite high in cannabis. Nothing unexpected there.

      • “U.S. and Canada quite high in cannabis. Nothing unexpected there.”

        I was surprised at how high Italy is.

      • MG says:

        More energy resources in case of Canada, USA or also the Czech Republic (besides coal, it mined quite substantial amounts of uranium, which were exported to the Soviet Union) at the disposal may mean higher and faster extraction rates of mineral resources combined with pollution.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      I wonder what the preferred method of growing is in the Czech Republic. New Zealand with 14.6 are taking some serious bong hits, with out of the blue, Zambia even on the list at 9.5 and oh way to go Spain at 10.6, Even Israel at 8.9 Israel? Are those cafe’s serving more than we know about?

      • xabier says:

        Lots of drug addiction in Spain among the young, with a high level of infection with sexual diseases following on from that. Nearly all of my little cousin’s friends had the clap or an abortion by the age of 15 – all stemming from dope and drink, truly lamentable. She, fortunately, is far too clever for that nonsense and wishes to become a police officer!

        All the old social restraints have gone, and public drunkenness is common too – in the past they used to say that they made and exported ‘wine for drunkards (ie the British) but were sober themselves. No longer.

        Although the northern provinces – Basques, Asturians, used to be known for heavy drinking,and the people of the Rioja region notorious for drunkenness and stabbings.

        I have to say, when one surveys mankind with a clear eye, the end of ‘civilization’ is not too worrisome a prospect: we do very little with our wealth except harm ourselves in enjoying it, and others in getting it.

    • Thanks! Yes, we do have a problem that is getting worse.

      Here in North Dakota, the people are happy that the state government is using its accumulated tax revenue from the past to help provide jobs for laid off workers. They are busy fixing roads, sewers, and other infrastructure. This has added more jobs in other sectors of the economy. Also, some of North Dakota’s laid off workers are two week on, two week off workers, who keep their residence in other states. So the loss of employment appears elsewhere.

      Jobs seem to be plentiful, at least in the Grand Forks area. The group I am with will be driving into the Bakken area today.

      • Artleads says:

        “Here in North Dakota, the people are happy that the state government is using its accumulated tax revenue from the past to help provide jobs for laid off workers. They are busy fixing roads, sewers, and other infrastructure. ”

        So this CAN work, at least for now. Always thought it could. 😉 My state should try it.

        • “My state should try it.”

          Did your state build up a wealth fund? You have to save during the boom, if you want to off-set the bust. The trouble is, it is hard to have the discipline not to spend as much as you can, all the time.

  20. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    John Michael Greer’s current post includes a theme that I included in my quotes from Toby Hemenway in The Permaculture City:

    ‘Civilizations are far and away the most spectacularly creative form of human society. Over the course of its thousand-year lifespan, the inhabitants of a civilization will create many orders of magnitude more of the products of culture—philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions, works of art and the traditions that produce and sustain them, and so on—than an equal number of people living in non-urban societies and experiencing the very sedate pace of cultural change already mentioned. To borrow a metaphor from the plant world, non-urban societies are perennials, and civilizations are showy annuals that throw all their energy into the flowering process. Having flowered, civilizations then go to seed and die, while the perennial societies flower less spectacularly and remain green thereafter.’

    JMG is a good writer, and it’s easy to become convinced that he is right. However, this time might really be different. I can construct a scenario involving a Seneca Cliff in terms of our society’s ability to do work followed by a very rapid die-off. The dominant civilization does indeed collapse, but there may be people with Lifeboats who survive and keep alive certain aspects of what we know how to do today that is not fossil fuel intensive. Aggregations of people in places such as Gobekli Tepe and small cities such as Athens more than 2000 years ago may play a key role in whatever civilization those survivors manage to construct out of the ruins of this one. Mother Nature may use the Selection Event to good purpose.

    Don Stewart

    • xabier says:

      Dear Don

      It seems to me that the Archdruid has a deep emotional need to believe that ‘things are no different now’, ie just another stage in the cycle of rise, plateau, decline and fall exhibited in so many civilisations.

      His conclusions do not often harmonise very well with his reasoning, which implies that immense destruction and population decline are imminent, and the loss of nearly all civilised -and uncivilised – life.

      And yet his call to ‘do something positive’ and not sleep-walk -which you share – is very valuable: psychologically, it is better to be active and hopeful, better to learn practise skills, better to attempt to engage in real community, to keep fit, to do one’s duty, than to sit shivering in one’s burrow while the Death Hounds dig and snuffle and bay, waiting to be dismembered.

      A bottleneck does seem to await us, in the very near future, but we should surely face it with as much bravery and as much resourcefulness as we can muster.

      Personally, and as trivial as it sounds, I have taken a renewed interest and delight in watching the sunrise on clearer days (not so often on this cloudy island!), and painting it – such a beautiful variety of cloud formations. My bird dog also gets to chase rabbits at dawn, so happiness all round at the start of every day!

      But I am a simple-minded person and delight in very simple things, I can see that wouldn’t work for everyone, or even most people.

      • Don Stewart says:


        Consider this from a doctor:
        ‘The stress response causes us to:
        • feel anxious to spot danger more quickly.
        • store body fat in case there is no food tomorrow.
        • sleep more lightly, so predators won’t catch us.
        • become less fertile because babies take a lot of energy.
        • feel more tired, so we conserve our fuel.
        • create inflammation in case there is trauma.
        • feel hungrier than normal in order to store food.

        Any of this sound familiar? These are the biggest symptoms modern humans struggle with on a regular basis.

        When our ancestors were safe and had plenty of food, they rarely spent their time in the stress response.’

        (My note. Chronic inflammation is behind all chronic diseases.)

        So…you spent one less day in the stress response. Good for you!

    • Artleads says:

      Don and Xabier,

      I VERY much hope you’ll take a listen to this video. Toward influencing the ‘shape’ of the place where you live, I’ve come across no better, more ‘professionally couched’ methodology for planning than this. Despite its glaring blind spots, it strikes me as a vast improvement to how land planning is conceptualized in nearly every ‘civilized’ corner of the globe.

      This seems most promising as a means of integrating city and county developments of great variety.

    • Artleads says:

      As of now, I don’t believe in Lifeboats. IMO, we live in a global system, which must stand or fall on global thinking. To me, global thinking means inclusiveness–we’re all in it together, one for all and all for one.

      What approach would I recommend for such a scenario? I would recommend a revolution in land use thinking, tentatively looking into the concept of ‘form based planning.’ (This may tie in with the thinking of ______ Bejan too.)

      It appears that form based planning focuses on deliberate and specific flows of form-functions, while conventional planning allows form to happen by default, based on those ‘blind’ memes of civilization which JMG discusses. Blind faith is put in these memes, despite their increasingly obvious destructive results.

      If we don’t focus on the physical forms of our civilized world, we can’t manage the flow or adequate supply of resources. We can’t assure that gray water gets to gardens, that people can walk safely, that food trees and wood trees are planted, that passive solar is employed, and so forth.

      I don’t think JMG has dealt adequately with nuclear threat. A universal dark age (that is not nuanced and planned in its specifics) will ensure that 400+ nuclear plants explode. Some form of complex life might survive this, but I fail to see how. I would propose here that most of civilization becomes disconnected from the nuclear energy it uses, and that nuclear issues be confined to the periphery of nuclear plants. Maybe using nuclear energy to leverage other safer forms and better-to-distribute energy is possible. I don’t know. Most of all, a nuclear-fringe civilization would have to be perpetuated, even if everywhere else reverted to hunter gathering. The nuclear fringe civilization would have to perpetuate the means to be educated about and manage the safety of nuclear plants for as long as it’s possible to think that humans will survive. This will be essential to any life surviving on the planet, IMO.

      • Don Stewart says:

        I am skeptical that either TPTB or a majority of the general public will ever agree to do anything except some variation of what they are doing now. I think that is why we tend to experience Seneca Cliffs. Only disasters get people’s attention.

        If we look at evolution, we find that populations need to become isolated (e.g., on an island) so that they are separated from the related population. Then the two can evolve separately. Typically, one or the other goes extinct, but sometimes both survive. For example, bonobos and chimps are generally seen as descendants of a common ancestor. But the bonobos behave completely different than the chimps. If the bonobos had not become isolated from the chimps, it is doubtful that their behavior could have diverged so radically. Robert Sapolsky at Stanford has studied tribes of animals of the same species which are physically separated which adopt very different behavioral patterns.

        Consider this note from a farmer friend:
        ‘Our 80 year old neighbor used to say about farming and living in the country “It’s nothing but a maintenance job!” and there are times that I think he was completely right. We have so many buildings and machines and miles of fences and irrigation to keep up that it seems that I can just go from one repair to the next and never run out of things to work on. Another farmer friend told me that he had 80 tires alone to keep air in and rolling (we only have about 40).

        We also have an “aging infrastructure” that makes it all the more likely that work will have to be done on it. The thing that you have to hope for is that multiple things don’t break down all at the same time, not so lucky this week. The main mower for the tractor has been at the tractor dealership for weeks now because I did not have the right tools to do the repair and because it is 20 years old it took some time to get the correct bearing for it. That is OK because we have multiple mowing machines to work around it being missing, that was until the riding lawn mower deck needed to have some welding done on it, fortunately that repair only took a day.

        The big issue right now is our big tractor drawn rototiller is out of commission until a part arrives from California (hopefully today). We are busy planting for fall and cannot be without it for long. A 25 year old Italian made tiller makes the availability of parts more difficult but the good thing is because we bought heavy steel and a well-built machine this is the first time we have ever had to work on it. There is always a learning curve the first time you take something apart but after many hours it is all back together just waiting for Fedex to arrive with one last piece. We should be back up and tilling by Friday!’

        Many of us think that having 80 tires is not a good plan for farm survival over the next decades. But how does a farmer get himself or herself disconnected from the system, while remaining part of the system? I like to reassure myself that my farmer friend could produce food with nothing but hand tools if necessary, but he would produce a lot less and he wouldn’t be able to distribute it very far from the farm.

        If we combine the problems of the blindness of both our ‘leaders’ and also the ‘citizens’ with the practical issues of ‘degrowthing inside a fossil fueled system’, then it seems to me one has to look for some way to construct an island on which we can become bonobos rather than chimps.

        I could be wrong, and would love to see demonstrations that I am indeed wrong.

        Don Stewart

        • Fast Eddy says:

          “I am skeptical that either TPTB or a majority of the general public will ever agree to do anything except some variation of what they are doing now.”

          Don – why would you be anything but skeptical? When have we ever done anything but want ‘more’ throughout history?

          There is no choice in the matter — I would have that our actions provide ample proof of that…

          I will go you one further — I absolutely guarantee you we will not change. It is impossible to change.

          And I might add — I am quite pleased that we will not be able to override our master program — because doing so at this stage would be catastrophic.

        • SimonJamesNZ says:

          I have talked with a few successful (in this economic system) farmers – beef, dairy and sheep who have been on the land a couple of decades or more (some are intergenerational). These are people who have had some experience of using horses – though not as pack or draught animals, but just as transport for themselves around the farm.
          I ask them how they would cope if they had to go back to horses, oxen etc. instead of quad motorbikes, tractors etc Without exception they say they would fail. On average they reckon if they were lucky they could manage about 1/10 of the area they presently have – “but that wouldn’t be economic!”
          I leave it that, knowing that to take it further would lead to resistance/dismissal of anything other than BAU – but I hope that I have at least sown the seed.

          • Don Stewart says:

            The farm in question is around 20 acres, but most of it is in woods. The woods serve as a watershed, a source of firewood and miscellaneous building materials, lumber for building, and timber for sale. They actually only intensively farm 4 acres. At the present time, 3 people plus some part time help make their livings on those 4 acres. So they are farming it very intensively. For the last 20 years, they have not imported any fertility.

            Roughly half the acreage that is intensively farmed is in flowers, which are very profitable. The rest is vegetables, which break even.

            Their primary markets are restaurants and farmer’s markets. They were some of the founders of one of the best farmer’s markets in the US, about 35 years ago.

            If everything just crashed tomorrow, they would do fine as a subsistence farm. They would cut the flowers to a much smaller acreage, expand the diversity of vegetables, add some small grains, and possibly add some small animals. Initially, they would farm year round with their current season extension equipment. As that plastic and supporting structures wear out, and if they could not get more plastic, they would move into more food preservation. They could trade some of their veggies with other nearby farms which grow fruit and animals. Irrigation would be a problem, as the climate here has become much less dependable.

            What is left out is the people who, today, shop at the farmer’s market. They would have, essentially, repurposed their land to subsistence farming, and would not be supplying the city. For one thing, they are about 20 miles out of town, and would have no way of moving vegetables that far.

            The people in town would have to learn gardening really quickly. Actually, gardening supplies such as transplants are a big seller at the farmer’s market, so the clientele there today is probably better off than many people.

            Don Stewart

            • SimonJamesNZ says:

              Thanks Don, that’s a really nice solution – works in the present system, but geared for the future.
              Exactly the kind of scenario I am looking at when I get under way with the village notion next year.
              (Won’t be flowers, but will be stuff that works here and now).

        • tagio says:

          Don, I agree with the sentiment, but unless the lifeboat is at least the size of a village THAT IS WORKING TOGETHER, I don’t see the lifeboat itself as having much of a chance. (Still, there may be no better thing to do.) I liked you other recent post resonding to Fast Eddy about the different models we could follow, the worst being the Frontier model used in this country – everyone spaced far apart along a highway, made possible by the fact that our country “came of age” largely with the railroad and canal system. I think Kunstler harps on restoring the railroad because as a practical matter, it is the only way to connect most people and deal with our flawed historical development and land use model – the alternative being stranding tens of millions to death, mass migrations, etc. The fact that it would be a good idea doesn’t mean it can or will be done, of course.

          There are still small towns and villages in America that were the hub of farming. I grew up in south central PA, and there are many many small towns and villages there – IN TERRIBLE SHAPE ECONOMICALLY with a lot of old people and a fair supply of meth addicts – and surrounded by farms. The people who live there (including some of my relatives) are in terrible shape from eating cheap processed food with zero nutrients for decades, and have no idea what to do about their predicament, still trying to get and keep jobs in the nearby cities and commuting 30 minutes to an hour by car for a job. These places could “live again,” if they had the leadership to make themselves into “transition towns.” They could eat good food grown locally instead of crap from supermarkets. Many of these towns have control over their own water (local reservoirs) and sewer systems. There are things that could be done, people who live there with nothing but drugs to deal with the despair days could have somehting positive to do, etc. We nead leaders, people who can get people to cooperate and work together in a cause, but unfortunately all we get is government. (See Bertrand de Jouvenel’s work, On Sovereignty, where he discusses the distincition and its significance.)

          Were I filthy rich, I would “adopt” one of these places and set myself up as the unofficial lord of the manor and benefactor, and set to work building up the library, localizing food production and consumption, localizing clothing production, localizing low-tech health services, securing control and storage of water, preserving and reestablishing forests, etc., instead of using absolutely all of my wealth to make yet more wealth (Motto of the Rich but also, unrotuantely, almost all Americans: Too Much Ain’t Enough). But of course if I were filthy rich I would likely not have the mindset to even think this thought. It’s the eye of the needle and getting to heaven problem.

          ALL THEORETICAL, OF COURSE. It is a beautiful dream, but almost certainly only a dream because Americans are mesmerized dolts, complete suckers for the modern lifestyle, and will go to their graves still dreaming the dream of livin’ large.

          • Don Stewart says:

            What you are describing is one reason I am going to the Southeastern Slow Money gathering, which happens to be in my home town.

            Not too many people realize the destruction wrought by meth. My wife and a friend just drove the West Virginia Turnpike, and my wife says there are signs at the rest stops warning about drug dealers. An astonishing number of people in West Virginia are meth producers and users.

            Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:

          Your separation theory is interesting. I’ll keep it in mind…although it may be skipping ahead of a huge period of time where globalism of some sort still prevails. My intuition suggests that BAU will last for the near future (in a quite controlled and restrictive fashion) before “we” drift apart (if we ever get that far). 🙂 There are an awful lot of catastrophes that could strike at any time, it seems.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        “I would recommend a revolution in land use thinking, tentatively looking into the concept of ‘form based planning.”

        That’s like trying to convince the rats not to plunder the ship of grain that has washed up on Rat Island.

        Look around you — you are screaming into the wind….

        • Artleads says:

          The present has almost nothing to do with the past. A small sample of unprecedence:

          – humans living with over 400 PPM of atmospheric CO2.
          – humans aware of the full geographic form and scope of Earth.
          – 400+ nuclear plants, and as many other non-plant nuclear facilities.

          Humans have never experienced this level of atmospheric carbon before. Neither can they believe there are unlimited places to run to escape catastrophe. And, for all practical purposes, lethal nuclear waste is never ever going away.

          This small sample of unprecedented developments suggest reasons for human brains to develop a new wrinkle or two. Running into a brick wall like this has forced all kinds of species to evolve or die. If billions of species had not evolved, life over billions of years would not have existed.

          But let’s say that humans are stupider than other species which have evolved. So nothing can be done with them, there are perhaps other reasons to scream into the wind.

          Like fear. Leave the pilot-less, brake-less train to run its course and be absolutely 100% certain it will go, over the cliff. Or throwing things onto the tracks and screaming at unlookers to help (pardon the poor analogy). I think the latter course is at least more human. The virtues of the alternative escape me.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I will also assume that you shop in grocery stores — use electricity — drive a car — go to Wally’s World — buy ‘stuff’

            Just the fact that you are using the internet means you too are on the train — screaming at the other people on the train.

            If you are not willing to get off the train – why should they?

          • Artleads says:

            Throwing off all vestiges of IC is NOT the answer to anything. The US is not even the main contributor to GHGs any more. IMO, it is not the FF use at all levels that is the problem. It’s the scope and intensity of its use worldwide, the blindness and recklessness of its use that is the problem. The problem for me is global capitalism as exclusive driver of society. If society is too much driven by money it can’t address our predicament, even if some versions of the money society appear superior (strategically, in relative terms, in the present) to others. Some interventions in the capitalist system are actually quite wise (in the present context) and appear to set up systems that are far more resilient and pertinent for a tough future than current BAU. That is what my screaming is about.

            I don’t agree with everything Don says, although he often contributes to the direction I’m pointing to. Food stalls and public baths could be convivial and healthy, while saving energy. Whoever said everyone must jettison ALL aspects of civilization in order to ensure better survival odds? FF society is declining *gradually* right NOW, and causing mayhem for all the wretched of the earth right NOW. Maybe for you, the day will come, when like a switch, everything switches from day to night. But for the poor, or for the lions and tigers, the death and carnage is happening NOW. Maybe you think we should all speed this up by sitting on our tails and waiting till your turn comes to be concerned, but that is not the way I see it. The whole of creation is mired in catastrophe NOW. That is what i’M SCREAMING ABOUT. I don’t have to be concerned about YOU, and others like you who are doing quite well. You have the means to ride out the storm in comfort, even as everything else drowns. You can take care of yourself, but the land and its creatures can do no such thing.

            My “form based planning” ideas would (conceptually) greatly *increase* building. I don’t see how in the short run it would destroy economic ‘growth’ and bring down universal mayhem. The issue for me is not civilization vs no civilization. The issue is common sense vs rampant stupidity. Gail has a great example of how N. Dakota put away money in boom times, and is now spending it very productively for the economy and general wellbeing. Other states were too thoughtless and greedy to do the same, but nothing was stopping them. They had a choice and they blew it. For me, though not for you, choice matters.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Again – go live in the forest – otherwise you are as much a part of the problem as everyone else.

              You use the roads – you use the internet – you use the medical system – I assume you have a job…

              Are you telling me that if I offered you the luxury cars and houses and jet and 10M per year salary — you would so no thank you.

              Everyone wants to live large — its just that most of us do not have the means to live like this ….

              So we hypocritically take pot shots at those who are ‘living the dream’

              Maybe some people wouldn’t want the cars and other stuff on offer — but I guarantee you there is not a person the planet who would say no to the 10m salary for life

            • “but I guarantee you there is not a person the planet who would say no to the 10m salary for life”

              Go take your offer to the Sentinelese and see if anyone takes it. 60,000 years on an island and they haven’t screwed it up yet.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I guarantee that if I offered them a shipload of food and tools and weapons every year — they’d be more than happy to take them…

              Case Study – I was watching a history documentary on New Zealand recently — did you know that the Maori tribes were more than happy to accept weapons and other gifts from the first Europeans who arrived here

              There was a fixed rate of rifles ammo etc… the European was given the ‘use’ of a Maori woman for a specific number of weeks…

              Mr DNA is no different in a primitive tribe than in a modern society …. he wants to survive … he is adaptable to all environments.

            • “I guarantee that if I offered them a shipload of food and tools and weapons every year — they’d be more than happy to take them…”

              Maybe if you put it on a barge and let it drift ashore. Or maybe they would just burn or sink it all. If you ever decide to go make an offer in person, please film it for posterity.

              I wonder how they have managed to persist when so many other tribes eventually took a missionary hostage and were eventually converted, then exploited by Western ‘civilization’. Or maybe no sustained effort was ever made to convert them.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Oh come now Matthew — if I sailed into port with a barge piled high with things such people would value — they’d be all over it…

              Why is it you think that just because people live in remote places that they are somehow superior to us?

              I have been to remote villages — in Africa — in Irian Jaya — I lived in a fairly remote village in Bali and have been on my bike to very remote places on that island.

              Trust me — they are exactly the same….

              Actually a white face means you pay many times more than a local… they badly want what we have — they just don’t have the means…

            • They kill every outsider that comes on their island. They fired arrows at a helicopter that came to check on them after the tsunami. From what I can see, they did not loot the fishing ship that wrecked on their island; they did not take any tools or weapons or materials from it.

              “Why is it you think that just because people live in remote places that they are somehow superior to us?”

              They have not depleted their island, in ~60,000 years of habitation. It is still covered in trees and has animals. Whether by DNA or culture, there are people that are different, that do not cut down the trees and burn them or use them as material. They don’t destroy their habitat. This indicates that it is possible for humans to exist without expanding as fast as possible and consuming everything in sight. And without being invaded – although I suspect it has to do with no useful resources being discovered on their island.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I believe that they shoot at people who try to come to these untouched villages because they are aware that the white man never comes offer shiploads of free gear no strings attached …

              Rather word is out that the white man brings disease and intends to steal their land and resources…

            • Artleads says:

              “If you dump BAU and run off into the forest and become a hunter gatherer — then you can scream at the people in the train.

              Otherwise you are in no position to criticize.”

              I’m not criticizing. I’m gesticulating madly that they’ll die unless they change something. That isn’t criticism, just concern. For them. For me. For everyone. You seem also to have missed the part where I said it isn’t industry which is killing us so much as the misapplication of it.

              Forcing junk onto people so you can profit, even if those people are thriving without it, and even if they accept it out of misguided regard for you, IS the problem. It doesn’t explain anything except your suicidal lack of humanity or wisdom.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              What you are failing to recognize is that the moment you participate in BAU YOU are part of the problem.

              Perhaps you buy less ‘junk’ than another person — but that’s like being the driver of the getaway car in a bank robbery claiming innocence ….

              You are complicit. You are not innocent

              You are also failing to recognize that our model requires infinite growth — it either grows – or it collapses…

              If it collapses not only will you not have your junk — those other people you are pointing the finger out will have none of their junk either (one mans junk is as they say — another man’s treasure…)

              If the economy does not grow we get a deflationary spiral to hell — the financial system busts — the supply chains bust — the food production system goes tits up…. and you starve and die…

              It took me a long time to figure all of this out — I used to rail at the system as you do…

              But then I realized — the Rubicon is so far behind us we can’t even see it in the rear view mirror —- we have no choice now (we never really did because Mr DNA made that choice for us) — we must push forward — even though we know there is no winning….

              As much as I find it distasteful to say this —- we must shop — we must buy more junk — we must run up our credit cards….

              If we stop — or even stagnate — we collapse — and we die.

              I do not want to die — well actually Mr DNA does not want to die — he dreams of immortality and he insists that I play along….

              Which begs the question — is my consciousness separate from my DNA — or is it one and the same….

              So Mr DNA is forcing me to build a farm (I am his slave it would appear) — he is forcing me to go to Wally’s World to buy bulk chicken feed this morning — then finish installing the taps for the raised bed irrigation…

              Even though I know all of this is likely to be futile…. but Mr DNA does not have a suggestion box….

              If not for Mr DNA I would relax and read more of The History of the Renaissance World … if it were not for Mr DNA I would be in Uzbekistan now wandering about the ancient cities…

            • interguru says:

              “The problem for me is global capitalism as exclusive driver of society.”

              If anything pollution and inefficient FF usage were worst under Communism.

          • Artleads says:

            Maybe it’s hidden good fortune that I absolutely despise the computer. I told the studio tour coordinator today that I won’t use it in the future to fill out forms or post images. Email and blogging is all I’m comfortable with. I’m psychologically prepared to do without it, or without the car I drive once every two or three weeks. I believe in holding on to these things for as long as possible, however. They will be gone when they are gone–and creativity could keep them around far longer than one might think–and my whole life has been a preparation for doing without stuff. How I live is not the problem.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              You are on the train — screaming at the other passengers to get off — they don’t want to — and neither do you.

              If you dump BAU and run off into the forest and become a hunter gatherer — then you can scream at the people in the train.

              Otherwise you are in no position to criticize.

  21. Fast Eddy says:

    Was Kyle Bass Wrong About Japan?

    This sounds like the holy grail of economics…. what we have in Japan is akin to a PERPETUAL ECONOMIC MOTION MACHINE…. aka A Prosperity Machine.

    Like all great inventions that look so simple after the fact — the leaders of Somalia, and Ethiopia and Chad … and the rest of the world must be scratching their heads right now and saying — damn – we’ve been living like dogs when we could have been living LARGE like the Japanese…

    All we need is our own currency and a printing machine.

    For all you tin pot dictators and Banana Republicans out there… go to

    We’ve got a special offer on one of the old Japanese machines that wasn’t able to print yen fast enough — but it will be plenty good enough for a smaller bankrupt country … limited time offer while supplies last…

  22. Danny Myers says:

    Hi Gail,
    Such very informative post. Thanks for sharing valuable information to us…I appreciate your efforts in gathering resources.

  23. Andrew of Taupo says:

    Thought it was time I posted to thank Gail and her community for such an informative, entertaining and frustrating read. Thanks to Fast Eddy especially for his ‘whack-a-mole” function, where he tirelessly deals with the renewable energy acolytes. How many times and in how many places must the message be repeated. Belief dies hard.

    As for me, I believe we already have the most amazing, multi-functional, adaptable, essential and self-reproducing solar devices available here and now. They are called trees, and boy do they have and do things that we desperately need. If they had been invented by industry/business the shares in them would be priceless. And then there is apple….

    My advice to anyone with an eye to the future, whatever it may bring, is to get planting, and make it a diverse selection.

    Good luck to all, and thanks to all for making this such a go-to-blog.

    • Planting trees is a good idea. The catch is that they take a while to grow. Also, if they produce nuts, other animals like them as well.

      I planted a few trees a few years ago. I have discovered that (a) some died needed to be replaced (b) I am not getting much food from them yet.

    • Artleads says:

      I like the notion of trees. The previous owner of my suburban-size property planted more trees than average for this community, and I’ve tries to maintain them. No food trees. I believe it’s possible to buy apple trees that are already sprouting apples, but “the spirit” hasn’t moved me to get about buying fruit trees so far. It’s got to be something that somehow fits the web of “how I function.”

      I’d also like to see wood producing trees planted along RR right of ways and supported by swale (sp) systems–no irrigation. And fruit trees along city streets–watered by gray water from the buildings.

  24. Fast Eddy says:

    China markets stabilized last few days….

    The punters are being taught a lesson — do not fight the central banks — they will do ‘whatever it takes’

    If punters unload a trillion dollars worth of stocks — the central banks will buy 1.5 trillion….

    Markets will not be allowed to correct — because correction means implosion.

    Spare cash into an index fund is not such a bad idea….

  25. kesar0 says:

    Wall Street Journal: Some Small Drillers Are Faring Well
    “since last summer… […] …index of 21 U.S. energy companies, almost all of them oil-and-gas producers, has declined 52.3%…”

  26. Orval Kidd says:

    According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, demand is good. Prices are low because of increased supply.
    Thanks for sharing this amazing analysis! Such a brilliant post, Gail.

  27. B9K9 says:

    The last sanctuaries will be NYC, DC, LA & SF. You can take that to the bank.

    My wife is from NYC, and we go back to visit every year. 99.9% of the time, I keep topics related to reality off-line and instead enjoy the good company of discussing the newest restaurants, plays, fashions, etc.

    Every now & then though I’ll let slip, and typically the observation is something like this: you’ll know the end has come when NYC and/or DC gets nuked. Until then, the US will pursue every possible military/economic/financial/political advantage available via conventional means until it must sacrifice either/both the dollar standard and/or the institutional capital (ie Mordor).

    Until then, party on like a mofo; news of our imminent deaths are vastly exaggerated. We are still a long ways before the Fed devalues 10:1, martial law is imposed, forced servitude is required, and we launch our last wars against the east (ie China/Russia).

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Hopefully that moment is years not months or days out…. (checking that China market and the plunge protection boys are on it this morning…)

      And live your life as if you just went to the doctor and he said I’ve got good news and bad news:

      Good news is you are perfectly healthy

      Bad news is you are gonna die much sooner than you would expect but it’s difficult to put a time on this — maybe a year — two at most…

      You might consider that a gift rather than a curse — rather than going through the motions like a cow in a field — then dying —- this could be the thing that motivates you to actually do all those things you’ve been putting off for another day ….

      • Darksideoftheboom says:

        Facts are facts. We arr done. Sooner or later. Probably sooner! But what causes the talkativeness of us doomers.
        Is this also MR. DNA?
        How can we generate positive energy for dailiy life from our knowledge besides talking about doom?

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I’m not sure but I suspect it’s driven by the same fascination people have with attending auto racing expecting a massive crack up….

        • B9K9 says:

          Doomers are smart; smart people sometimes need to communicate. However, everyone is subject to environmental conditioning where the senses become dulled to the topic being addressed.

          Consider the opening passage to “All Quiet on the Western Front”, where the humble narrator sardonically recalls they were once sensitive boys. Or, prostitutes, who after thousands of dicks no longer care what’s going on. Or, cancer specialists who see dying people by the droves day in & day out during the course of their careers.

          The true nature of the subject tends to fade, yet the fascination with the actual process remains. That’s what is bandied about by “those who know”.

        • Unfortunately, I think a person almost has to have religion be part of the way of generating positive energy.

          Whether or not it is truly “correct,” it has the possibility of overcoming the huge psychological negatives of our current situation.

          • edpell says:

            I agree.

          • edpell says:

            If one has some standard of right and wrong then one can go and do right even if it is a loosing situation and still feel satisfied and happy.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              i don’t think it is so much that … rather it is an issue of hope… most people do not function well if they believe ‘this is all there is’

              Religion is another manifestation of cognitive dissonance (a very powerful one) created by Mr DNA to keep the beast happy.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            I am not a religious person. I would never attend church or kneel to pray to a god.

            Yet I do not understand how something can come from nothing.

            I do exist. The earth does exist — whether this is real or not is uncertain (as we all know you can change reality quite easily with chemicals… a poke to the brain … a dream…)

            Where did this all come from? If some entity made it where did that come from?

            Those questions cannot be answered.

            Therefore I cannot rule out that there is something else out there — beyond our understanding and comprehension.

            Perhaps we are all just part of a very high level computer game called Earth… and the makers have determined its time to end the game…

            The end of this game is going to be far more dramatic than say … Lost.

            • Darksideoftheboom says:

              That is also my point. “Nothing can come from nothing”!
              And this is also my focal point for “god” and for hope.
              There is no futher need for concretion. I (must) leave it open.
              It helps me, to accept!

              By the way, I live in Germany in the so called “Sauerland” (near Dortmund).
              My english knowledge is not outstanding. I have read this blog since 2013.
              It is the best I know. Thanks to Gail.
              FE, you put in a nutshell, what I was nebulously thinking about a for al long time:
              It is Mr. DNA. We have no choise. We are faced to a seneca cliff. We shoild be happy and thankful for “extra time” and so on ….

              Thanks also to all the other contributors oft this fantastic blog!

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Let’s put a face to the name


              The world is a very simple place to understand once one recognizes who is in control….

              Also when one comes to terms with this — the layers of frustration that build up trying to change the world …. peel off quickly leaving one at peace….

              How I wish someone would have pointed this out to me when I was 15…. decades spent making a fool of myself…. barking up wrong trees… screaming at the wind … trying to stop the tides… pushing against mountains… oh the waste… the waste….

    • Sorry. These towns, with probably the exception of LA, can be fortified and last for quite a long time.

      We have enough tech to grow food on the rooftops of the skycrappers. No need to worry about starvation for those who have the means.

      • “We have enough tech to grow food on the rooftops of the skycrappers. No need to worry about starvation for those who have the means.”

        Just how many square feet of production do you think it takes to feed one person?

        If the capacity was developed while there is still abundant fossil fuel energy, vertical farming might work; it would be quite difficult to build from scratch without fossil fuels.

        Let’s do some quick back-of-the-envelope here. It takes approximately 4000 sq feet to feed a person:

        There are about 8.5 million people in New York City:

        so 4 * 8.5 = 34 billion square feet of gardens. From the same article, we see there are 305 square miles in New York City. There is 27,878,400 square feet per square mile:

        So if 100% of the surface area was garden, that would be 8.5 billion square feet. So, if 100% of the city surface was garden, by covering every road, building, everything, it could only feed 2 million people. I think feeding 500,000 would be pretty optimistic.

        • Unfortuately, the 500,000 who will be fed will probably the richest and the most powerful of them.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I am wondering how you get water to the top of the skyscraper …

          • I think the dream of NYC being a fortress and feeding itself is pretty funny in the first place. Once the place is depopulated severely, it would no longer be a power. If 90% of the people are gardeners, that isn’t going to leave a lot of rich and powerful people free to do anything. It would certainly be difficult for them to wall themselves in at that point and keep out the hordes.

            NYC gets a decent amount of rain, so catching that would really help. A lot of New York gets water gravity fed from the hills, but I don’t think they have pressurized lines to gravity feed water all the way to the top of skyscrapers. If there is enough food energy, people could hoist water using pulleys. It may be possible to use some south-facing floors of skyscrapers with open skyline as greenhouses, to extend the growing season.

            Still, I think 250,000 is more realistic than feeding anywhere near 8 million, with ~225,000 of those working full time just to feed everyone. Then there is the 6 reactors in New York State to deal with …

            • Artleads says:

              If rope and buckets can be procured in a timely fashion, so perhaps could hand pumps. You simply (serially) pump water from the bottom to the level above.

        • Artleads says:

          Not sure when I’ll get motivated to track this down, but I believe John Jeavons of Ecology Action Biointensive Minifarming has put the ratio of land for feeding an individual humungously lower than that. No more than 100 square feet per individual.

          • “No more than 100 square feet per individual.”

            That would be amazing to see, a family of four surviving healthily on only a 400 square foot garden, all year round. I suppose if they were in the tropics, they might make it. Would also be nice to see if this is a closed system, or dependant on constant inputs from outside the garden.

            • Artleads says:

              I don’t have consistent information for what he added or didn’t. I’ve seen writing about adding minerals, etc. (a subject that went over my head at the time). And I’ve either heard (from a talk) or read of a rigorous study to ascertain whether the loop could be closed. After much trial and puzzlement, they figured that all remaining to close the loop were the human bodies themselves.

          • The number of square feet per person varies hugely depending on fossil fuel and other energy inputs. I have a chart somewhere with hectares per person required, and how this drops as we move from hunter-gathering, to early agriculture, to later agriculture, to current energy intensive agriculture. There is also a difference whether the acreage is near the arctic circle, in Saudi Arabia, or in some place with good weather.

            • Let’s start of looking at optimal conditions, a controlled greenhouse with shade cloth, gravity fed irrigation with unlimited fresh water, in the tropics. Using only renewable fertilizer inputs – seaweed, recovered material from your own sewage, etc. Using only hand labour – food as the only other energy input besides sunlight. No electricity, no fossil fuels. At least 2200 calories per day, meeting all minimum recommended macro and micro nutrients. Start at that as to how many square feet are required per person, than adjust for less optimal conditions afterwards.

            • Another variable I have run into is how much of the food is eaten by other species. Are you able to put up fences with hand labor, and materials, and labor available.

              Another variable as well is natural variability of weather conditions. A group cannot aim for the average condition, unless the group can somehow store up food from year to year–using buildings, temperature control, and other things likely not available without fossil fuels. Without storage, a group is pretty much limited to how much food the land can produce in the worst years, considering the natural variability of weather. (Trade might work as well, but then the group would need to have another group producing surpluses, and some way of trading those surpluses.)

            • Don Stewart says:

              Looking at horticulturalists or at farmers, not at hunter-gatherers.

              The issue of fences can involve both large animals as well as very small animals such as insect pests. I recently posted some scholarly research which identified a very diversified ecosystem as the best defense against insects.

              In terms of larger animals, the methods can include hunting them to reduce their number, and building fences to keep them out. Particularly in Great Britain, one can still find specialists who build fences out of saplings, and specialists who plant trees and weave them together so that they create a solid fence. On the Great Plains, farmers used hedgerows with lots of impenetrable plants such as Osage Orange, which both keep unwanted livestock out and also provide the diversified ecosystem which is ideal for insect control.

              In terms of famine, the best defense is a highly diversified cropping system. The diversification not only aids with pest control, it also insures against drought, early and late freezes, hot or wet weather, and other threats. In short, thinking like a homesteader rather than like a profit maximizing cash crop farmer.

              While such practices can reduce risk, they can never eliminate risk. The people in the American Southwest survived for hundreds of years, but may have been reduced to a very few by a long period of drought. There weren’t very many natives in New England when the Pilgrims landed, and I believe the evidence is that New England never supported a large population…which is indicative of the difficult conditions there.

              Don Stewart

            • Don;

              The practices you mention sound mainly geared toward people with acreages. What we want to know is, what is the least possible amount of square feet in a garden a person needs to live?

              The numbers I found suggest 4000, while it has been suggested it is possible to live on as little as 100 square feet.

              The context was originally a claim that New York City, and other cities like it, could survive with rooftop gardens.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Matthew Krajcik
              The question has no simple answer. The amount of space required in Las Vegas is clearly different than the space required in some well watered loam in a sub-tropical area. (I’m assuming you want a ‘self sufficient’ mini-farm…not one that needs a lot of inputs). Just how ‘self-sufficient you want it to be is also important. Is the gardener allowed to buy metal fencing, or does he have to have space to grow bamboo? Is the gardener allowed to use water which runs onto his garden from elsewhere, or does the garden have to depend entirely on rainfall on the property? Does the property have to be large enough to grow hay or to make compost? Does the property need to be large enough for a wood-lot to provide fire and building wood and also leaves for mulch and compost?

              Obviously, if you allow lots of input imports, then a small lot will do…but then you have to have more property in order to grow more stuff to sell so you can buy the inputs.

              A group at Cornell studied the question of whether New York State could feed itself, and also the question of whether New York City could feed itself. I believe the answer to the State was ‘Yes’, but the answer to the City was ‘No’. I assume that they dealt with seasonality using lots of industrial solutions such as grain storage and food processing, and all those may require imports from rather far away and the use of fossil fuels.

              I live in North Carolina. I think we are about the northern limit of the ‘year round’ garden for home gardeners. Our farmer’s market is open all year. But production in the winter requires the extensive use of plastic hoop houses, some of which are pretty elaborate. They also require plastic irrigation tapes and pumps and wells. It is possible for skilled farmers with more capital investment to garden in the winter in Maine. But they don’t get any growth in their plants from about November 1 until March 1, because there is just not enough sunlight. They distinguish between ‘growing season’ and ‘harvest season’. If you can grow a hardy kale plant in your plastic house to be mature by November 1, you can harvest it in January during the coldest, darkest days.

              I don’t mean to befuddle the issues. But do you see the complexity involved in trying to give a categorical answer?

              Don Stewart
              PS I tend to not read all the ‘aquaponics’ and ‘skyscraper farming’ articles because I just doubt that they can ever be energy sources, rather than sinks. I could be wrong. Similarly, gardening in Brooklyn on a flat roof looks to me like an energy sink. Trying to take a hugely energy negative thing like farming and restore it to a bona-fide source of energy is a challenge.

        • edpell says:

          I have a book “Five Acres and Independence” that is for a family of four. So NYC about 750,000 assuming you could remove the concrete and get to the soil.

  28. edpell says:

    Here in New York State new natural gas pipelines are being laid all over. In the city to the west of me and in the city to the south of me. Natural gas is the plan for electric and heat and cars and buses. Gail, maybe it is time for an update on natural gas? I just read some MSM article that says we have 141 years of natural gas. I think by 2020 it will be clear natural gas is in decline.

    • Let me think about it. Right now I am in North Dakota. A group of us, including some of the folks I know from China, will visit the Bakken oil field tomorrow.

      Ih the past, much of the natural gas in the Bakken has just been “flared” (burned on site). Because of new rules to reduce flaring, the folks here are making an attempt to collect the natural gas. The process isn’t really economic. North Dakota is so far away from where natural gas is needed that the price is very low. Furthermore, the gas is mixed with a lot of other things (water, SO2, heavy hydrocarbons) so needs processing to be used as natural gas. The wells decline very quickly, so pipelines aren’t very economic either. They are working on ways to use the gas on site, so that they don’t have to transport it anywhere. One idea is to use the gas which would otherwise be flared to boil away water from the “flow back” water after fracking, so not as much material needs to be trucked away.

      • Artleads says:

        “They are working on ways to use the gas on site, so that they don’t have to transport it anywhere. ”

        That brings to mind the reported ‘cut and fill’ method of highway construction. They use the ‘cut’ from where roadbed is to be constructed to ‘fill’ in somewhere nearby that needs to be built up. So no transporting fill over long distances.

  29. edpell says:

    Wax containing so much hydrogen makes an excellent neutron shield for your spent nuclear rod perpetual fireplace.

  30. Michael says:

    Fast Eddy said: Candles.

    How many people amongst our 7.3 billion know how to make a candle from scratch?

    I recall doing that as a Cub Scout long ago; both tallow and bees wax. My mother was not to keen on me rendering fat but buying wax from the Hardware store, melting it down and pouring into molds was OK. I wonder if there are any kids who do things like that anymore and if scout books still have the instructions for such?

    • doomphd says:

      (from memory) something about a twine string, preferably made of cotton.
      use a small rock (pebble) or nut/washer for a weight.
      dip string and weight in hot wax.
      dip hot wax coated string in cold water.
      stop at desired candle width or weight.
      length of string and depth of hot wax container determines height of candle.
      wax scent and coloring optional.

  31. Joachim says:

    Hey, thank you!

  32. dolph9 says:

    You know I had a revelation. Nobody in this world is hated more than doomers. We are the outcasts of this world.

    Try talking about any subject in real life or online, and the one thing that immediately gets you booted out, and your freedom of expression denied, is doom. People will tolerate just about any opinion in everything imaginable, politics, religion, business, science, art, race (yes, even race, although they will only tolerate a narrow range of ideas).

    But the one thing you are never allowed to be is even mildly negative or cynical about the world or the state of industrial civilization. You must be optimistic, all of the time, without exception.

    Interestingly enough, this makes me even more of a doomer, since I’ve realized how collectively invested in BAU everyone really is.

    • Victor says:

      Thank You dolph9, it’s exactly what i feel when i’m speaking about issues of industrial civilization. Nobody wants to hear me and often they reach what I call “retrograde point” (like the godwin point but for doomers like us) when they say that I want to go back to the Middle Ages and live by candlelight. If only they understood that even the medieval period would be a luxury compared to what awaits us … Nobody wants the truth. It wiil be so mentally difficult for them.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Good points.


        How many people amongst our 7.3 billion know how to make a candle from scratch?

        How many of the people with that knowledge will not be wiped out in the massive cull that is coming?

        How many of the books that would explain how to make a candle will survive when people need paper to start fires to keep warm and cook?

        One of an infinite number of problems with making assumptions that we could just return to living like people did in the 1700’s

    • doomphd says:

      Please let me share this with you, fellow doomers. In about 2007, I was invited to our new VP’s conference on campus sustainability. There was an open mike. The young female, upwardly-mobile and perky VP was interested in ideas on making the campus (and by extension, state) more energy efficient and sustainable. She had a panel of experts, including reps from the local power company. They were droning on about how to better allocate the building air conditioning, shutting it off on weekends and after hours, etc.

      Meanwhile, I’m looking at the fine wood laminate paneling that extends from the floor up about 25 feet to the ceiling in the large meeting room. So I’m musing to myself, in a few more years to decades, we won’t even have enough energy to replace those panels, let alone keep the air conditioning running on campus. If you announce such thoughts as warnings, the group will turn on you like you’re a leper. In fact, I think lepers might actually get better treatment and care.

      So I said nothing and stopped attending the conference.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        doomphd – good choice, because for some sociological reason one must always be positive, no matter how obvious it may be that something is amiss. I think it’s that most people are followers, and to be a good follower one needs to paint a rosy picture of their fellow comrades present and future. The opposite is being a leader, which doesn’t necessarily mean leading others, but does include leading one’s self in independent thought, positive or negative.

        I’m looking forward to that point in time when the followers get angry with the leaders because collapse occurred. How dare the leaders let something negative occur and spoil their myopic blind carefree joy? In some sick way it will be laughable when they are forced against their will to face a huge obvious and long lasting negative. Reality bites. Time for the followers to find new leaders to try and take them through the bottleneck.

      • Exactly! I know I was sent a Green Book to review that had a discussion regarding which kind of mobile home was better–one with its own engine built into it, or the kind pulled by a truck. It was hard to imagine that either kind was “green.”

    • It is a very difficult topic. Not many can even think about the problem.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        People don’t much want to talk about death — but end of world doom is totally unacceptable I reckon because your death is not of much significance because most people have passed on their DNA….

        However when you speak of the end of the world that implies a high probability of the end of the line for your DNA….

        DNA abhors that — and he trots out Mr Cognitive Dissonance to prevent any damage to his beast…

        And if someone attempts to throw a sucker punch at Mr Cognitive Dissonance (i.e. a few facts that Mr CG cannot deal with because CG does not do logic) … you will generally notice that facts rattle DNA’s cage….

        And he then orders the beast to respond with anger — or to simply walk away (usually with fingers in ears shouting na na na na na I can’t hear you).

        DNA is truly a primitive thing …

        If you want to get a better handle on how he operates check out a very young child…. that gives you a look at the true nature of DNA before he’s had time to understand how to operate in the environment into which he has been inserted…

        Oh and btw — DNA is immortal (unless we are extincted) don’t you reckon?

        There surely must be a way to leverage these insights… perhaps a new religion …. one that offers never ending life — which can be supported by actual science….

        Fast Eddy (pause) God?

        And since DNA naturally aspires to join with a few strands of the God’s DNA…. Fast will be in huge demand at the disco parties.

  33. Stilgar Wilcox says:
    If you go to that link it shows the DOW for different time intervals. Click on 1 year and you’ll see the dow has hovered right around the same range since 2/6/2016. On that date it was 17824. and today 7/29/2015 it is 17,728. virtually the same for 5 months and 3 weeks, call it half a year. Since the rebound from 08’s lows it hasn’t leveled out for anywhere near that long, suggesting a plateau has been hit. This really isn’t news to anybody here, but just thought it deserved a closer examination of the actual numbers.

  34. Michael says:

    Danial Hood said “Civilization is doomed – We can’t support 7.3 billion people.”

    I agree with the second part of your statement and the first part with some qualification and balance with the second. How about this? “Civilization will change to support 1/2 billion people.”
    The number I picked was arbitrary, my point is humans lived with much less energy and resources in the past and had some sort of civilization.

    I don’t envision a future of weekend get a ways to visit the family on Mars but maybe a nice bowl of porridge in the morning followed by communal work activity of some beneficial purpose and fresh deer burgers with wine at the end of the day could be in the cards.

    Nothing to sneer at within the context of the last 10,000 years. I do believe human civilization will be doomed when the heliosphere of the sun expands to earth orbit in a couple billion years and deep fry’s the the globe into a tasty morsel for the gods.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, human numbers will bounce up and down over time. Perhaps new species will evolve and we will die off.

    I’m not trying to make light of what seems to be very rough times now and ahead over the near future (30 – 500 years) I expect a great many people will die far sooner than necessary were it possible to re-engineer our social and material order on a dime to optimize resources towards long term life support.

    The only way adaptive change is possible now is the way it is happening now, slowly and painfully as BAU slams into reality.

    Cheers! Michael

  35. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    I wrote some stuff about Complex Adaptive Systems in response to Fast Eddy.

    I think that perhaps some more extensive quotes from Toby Hemenway’s book The Permaculture City may be helpful. I will make selections which are not necessarily about cities, but are also applicable to rural villages or intentional communities or small towns, as well as larger cities. They are also applicable whether you plan to be a primary producer of food, operate a food stall in a city, or be a carpenter. Even applicable if you plan to be the Ruler of a Kingdom. Mostly from chapters 2 and 3.

    When a permaculturist sees words such as ‘function’ and ‘synergy’, it sets off light bulbs in his or her head. Function indicates a relationship, a connection between two or more elements….Thinking in terms of functions, then, is a powerful leverage point, because it identifies needs, yields, relationships, and goals, and it helps us spot blockages, missing elements, buildup of waste, and inefficiencies in the various flows and linkages that are part of that function’s workings.

    Functions of cities: gathering places; security; trade

    The ability of large numbers of parts to interact dynamically is what gives complex systems their responsiveness and ability to behave in unpredictable, novel ways. That is why cities spur creativity: simply interacting with other people and being influenced by their ideas stimulates the emergence of creativity

    Researchers who study complex systems have learned that certain critical functions, such as adaptability or creativity, aren’t carried out well, or at all, in systems until a certain threshold of complexity is reached. That tipping point holds for cities, too: Individual farms and households not only lack the organizational horsepower to perform some of the functions that towns and cities do until they cluster into larger settlements, but they don’t have the diversity of functions that, by their sheer ability to combine in immensely flexible ways, can generate a rich set of novel possibilities….By gathering in large numbers, people and groups can probe the huge space of novel, unexplored opportunities that emerge from the combinatorial explosion erupting from many autonomous parts that are able to interact in diverse ways…Besides, the elements we find in cities—people, knowledge, customs, ideas, skills—are not static but dynamic, learning and evolving themselves, so not only can they combine in many configurations because of sheer numbers, but their malleability and responsiveness means they can combine in particularly rich ways that can adapt and change. Their ability to learn and grow generates even more novelty, even more possibilities.

    (Notes from me. Gobekli Tepe, the first ‘city’ we know anything about, was apparently not a permanent place of residence for a large number of people. It may have served as a gathering place for a large number of people to celebrate religious holidays. So limiting ourselves to the size of permanent cities which can be supported by the thermodynamic realities of a post-fossil fuel world may not be the deadly limitation it might seem to be at first. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, the height of the social season was the two weeks when a visiting preacher came to the village and everyone from miles around came…similar to Gobekli Tepe.)

    Requirements for a Complex Adaptive System (one capable of learning):
    *Composed of autonomous agents
    *Agents interact with each other, frequently using very simple rules, which may generate very complex patterns
    *The new behaviors are examples of emergence
    *The agents respond to feedback
    *Usually homeostatic far from equilibrium
    *Systems maintain themselves between rigidity and randomness on ‘the edge of chaos’.
    Thus, urban design methods that provide enough organization in the form of simple rules but create the conditions for spontaneity to occur can take advantage of the ways that cities behave as Complex Adaptive Systems.

    (Notes from me. Joel Salatin’s concept of the farm as a land base from which numerous relatively independent businesses are operated works on the same principles.)

    A social fabric is not created or maintained by laws, police, and officials. The public life of cities ‘is kept by an intricate, almost unconscious network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves’.

    (My note. This is easier to do in a local economy, where people are actually dependent on each other. If local interdependence has been traded for Global Capitalism, we might expect to see the erosion of self-governance.)

    This is the genius and elegance of natural systems design. It offers just enough order to create a functional framework but plenty of room for variation, spontaneity, and adaptation to the context. In a sense, this is design without design.

    (My note. Dave Snowden talks about the difference between an eco-skeleton and an endo-skeleton. An insect with a hard eco-skeleton is limited in many ways. A mammal with a hard endoskeleton but a malleable body on top of that skeleton has more degrees of freedom. Think of the difference between a top-down plantation maintained by overseers and whips and executions versus the Edo, Japan model of ‘you have to pay your taxes, but how you farm is up to you’.)

    In conclusion:
    *If you find yourself in a position of power post-collapse, try to get an endoskeleton constructed which will permit a complex adaptive system which is both highly productive and a learning machine to emerge.
    *If you find yourself as a primary producer of food, look for ways to become part of a larger community of producers (fellow farmers, manure haulers, food-stall operators, water transport carriers, etc.)
    *If you find yourself as an artisan, follow the same general strategy as the primary food producers.

    Don Stewart

  36. Don Stewart says:

    Fast Eddy
    This is a response to your reading of Dave Pollard’s article. Your response indicates to me that you still believe humans have a ‘hard wired, DNA based’ set of responses which doom us to repeat certain types of ultimately destructive behavior. I have previously suggested that you read the section in Capra and Luisi with the title ‘You Are Not Your Genes’. If you will read that (or a comparable article elsewhere), you will find that the route from genes to behavior is anything but straight, just as the route from genes to health is anything but straight.

    What about the route from genes to Mind? Dave Snowden talks extensively about how situations and relationships have a heavy influence on minds. Snowden first notes our tendency to get caught up in the Hawthorne Fallacy. Almost a hundred years ago some researchers found that if they increased the level of lighting in a plant, the productivity of the workers increased. But then they decreased the level of lighting, and the productivity went up even more. The conclusion is that any change within some tolerance limit may very well have an impact. So some Management Consultant comes in, implements some change, measures a positive response, claims he has the key to perpetual motion, and walks away and peddles his solution around the globe. But, of course, its really the Hawthorne Effect at work, and it doesn’t work for long because we become habituated to whatever is.

    Snowden says that if you want to change an environment by changing minds, you have to work on changing the relationships people have to each other. (And, I would add, to Nature.)

    I have previously commented that Global Capitalism has been the greatest force for cooperative behavior the world has ever seen. We cooperate daily with people on the other side of the world that we have never met, because global capitalism rewards us all with money. As Global Capitalism collapses for thermodynamic reasons (or monetary reasons, if you prefer that explanation), then the cooperation will collapse along with it.

    In his book The Permaculture City, Toby Hemenway makes a brief foray into the Systems Science of mind and cooperative behavior. He advises that anyone thinking about surviving Peak Everything needs to identify particular people they need to cultivate a closer relationship with. That closer relationship is only tangentially related to whether you like them or not…it’s really about cooperating to produce things you both need in a pretty hostile world.

    Snowden explores relationships and culture in a modern organization such as a company in great detail. These webs of relationships have more to do with productivity than any formal organization chart. Capra and Luisi make the same points.

    When Dave Pollard reflects on his wasted career as a management consultant, he is reflecting on many of the failures pinpointed by Snowden. Meeting Snowden is one of the turning points in his life that Pollard reflects upon.

    In your own situation, you are disappointed to learn that chickens have to be fed in order to produce large quantities of eggs. This shouldn’t surprise you, if you understand biology. It hints to me that you may need to do some hard thinking about your strategy.

    As Toby Hemenway discusses at some length, a self-sufficient homestead is hard to do. I have referred to Philip Ackerman-Leist’s book as reinforcing that message based on his decades of homesteading. As a counterweight I have recommended Will Bonsall’s book Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening. I will just note that Bonsall doesn’t keep animals. But if you don’t keep animals, and if you live in a climate like Maine, you are going to have to spend a considerable amount of work preserving your harvest for the winter. I have also referred to Marjorie Wildcraft’s plan for self-sufficiency in central Texas, where mid-summer is the lean season. Marjorie integrates plants and small animals, but she grows her own feed if the animals need grains or corn. Marjorie has pretty strong ‘survivalist’ leanings.

    In terms of the layout of your property and the application of Permaculture principles, you should consider some models. These models may be appropriate in some climates and situations, but not in others. A traditional model is the rural village. The farmers walk to their fields each day, but get some synergies out of the small village. Another model is the estate with a rich owner growing a cash crop which can be traded (frequently by water transport) but populated with a large number of artisans and farm laborers, many of whom have a garden plot of their own. Then there are models of small towns surrounded by farms which bring food into the town every day. Probably the least satisfactory model is the ‘frontier America’ model where each farmhouse is placed as far away from a neighbor as possible. (But that is the Bonsall model, so it can work…but it’s a lot of work.) Other possibilities are intentional communities with strong governance.

    If you set out to construct any of these models, you need to think very hard about the ‘relationships determine minds’ theory. Don’t just fail and blame it on faulty DNA.

    I’d also advise to get over your Kumbaya fixation. It’s not helping you.

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      Lovely post, Don. I’m having some glimmer of encouragement with my no till, no weed, drip watering, no animals project. The growing medium is integrated with the mulch. I had started checking it three time a day, but with more established growth, I’m taking liberties with that routine.

      It’s personal, built around my individual rhythms–what I like to do when. One of my two little beds is stabilized by huge green onions that survived the winter and later grew exceedingly tall. I nested the tomatoes (and a couple other things) in the middle of it, and let the tomato vine on top of the spread of onion leaves. I like that process a lot. Lots of cherry tomatoes so far. The beefstakes are taking much longer, but are sprouting. It’s all very small-scale and augmentive, which is OK for now and the current state of affairs. But you can feel change in the air. The food industry seems to be reeling…

      I had never thought of global capitalism that way. Interesting.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Don – I am a history buff.

      And ayone who knows anything about history knows that from day one up until present humans have been at each others’ throats…

      It is not that there is something wrong with us — it is that we have an uncontrollable urge to multiple (exponentially) and survive.

      You’d really have to be in some sort of ivory tower koombaya land to dispute the above…

      The inevitable problem you run up against is one of a Finite World.

      Try caging 5 cougars in a 10km square area (which I understand is roughly enough territory to support one) — they will tear each other to pieces because there is not enough for all of them.

      We are no different.

      Now you and these eminent authors can trot all sorts of anecdotes about how we didn’t tear each other to pieces so therefore we were not predestined to do so….

      And I – a person with no fancy degrees — will rip these anecdotes to shreds and I will make a laughing stock of these very serious men.

      When we get along it is because:

      – we have enough (see western countries in recent times)

      – because getting along within a society means following rules — there are benefits to following the rules — by playing by the rules you generally get a better job – you get a healthier mate — your chances of surviving increase — your chances of having children increases — your DNA demands this of you… it demands that you work within the environment into which you were born…. and optimize for breeding and surviving…

      But ultimately you only have peace and love because you have torn other countries to shreds.

      Your little koombaya world is built upon heaps of stinking dead bodies… it’s built upon the infliction of torture and chaos

      Your poetry and educational institutions and your refined manners and all that hoo haw that we call ‘civilization’ are ONLY possibly because your armies have pillaged the world.

      I can hear your protests ‘but I did not agree to that – I can’t stand what America has done and is doing’

      Fantastic. But remember — you have time to recite poetry and live a refined life and shop in grocery stores and drive a car — instead of living desperately in Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan because you are on the winning side.

      There is a fair bit of contradiction in saying I do not support that — while enjoying the spoils of war…. no?

      Notice how the winners in history always paint the losers as ‘barbarians – uncivilized’ –

      When your legions have gone out and overrun others taking their lands it is easy to sit back and be cultured… superior (supreme irony of course – civilization via brutality)

      You are confusing cause and effect

      Ciivilization is 100% based on brutality — your ‘kindness’ anecdotes are possible only because of brutality — which you absurdly oppose because you clearly you do not want to admit that the koombaya world you are enjoying is a product of mass murder.

      Enough from me — let’s see what Jack Nicholson had to say on this topic:

  37. Fast Eddy says:

    Remember how George Papandreou scurried off into the night soon after his threat to call a referendum?

    Replaced by a dictator which Goldman Sachs credentials

    Recall how billionaire mafia king Berlusconi tucked his tail between his legs and disappeared?

    Replaced a by a dictators with Goldman Sachs credentials

    “I care not what puppet is placed on the throne of England to rule the Empire, … The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire. And I control the money supply.” Nathan Rothschild

    “Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws. … Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.” — Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister 1935-1948.

    Nothing has changed. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

    You do not mess with these people. You do not taunt them. You do not oppose them. There is no winning.

    You kiss the ring. That is the wise choice.

    • Rodster says:

      “Nothing has changed. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

      The one thing that has changed is the internet and little by little people are starting to wake up. All you need is a flash point and it’s game on at that point. It’s the reason the US Govt have purchased billions of rounds of hollow point ammo. They know eventually it will go up in flames and people will come after them with pitchforks. They are getting ready for that day.

    • edpell says:

      It is surprising no one has tried killing them.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        If necessary they would … but so much better (enjoyable?) to demonstrate power by thoroughly destroying someone …

        No need to kill because JFK’s head is already on a metaphorical stake forever — if any politician began to believe he was anything but a stooge … an actor …. he’d be sat down for a screening of

        This brings to mind:

    • Michael Jones says:

      Yep, even Fidel Castro is even kissing their ring now.

  38. Fast Eddy says:

    But as for the impact on Beijing’s credibility, not everyone is pessimistic.

    “Chinese intervention in markets has been much criticized, but is actually little different from that done by G4 countries during previous panics,” Mark Tinker, Head of AXA Framlington Asia, said in a report on Monday.

    “Aside from the obvious irony that Quantitative Easing (QE) across the West has been distorting markets for the last six years, the criticisms look a little harsh, especially if one recognizes that in contrast to the accepted wisdom, China was trying to prevent a bubble, not stoke one up.”

    Every market is being propped up by QE — he’s got that right

    • Rodster says:

      “But as for the impact on Beijing’s credibility, not everyone is pessimistic.”

      As I’ve been saying all along that there are Chinese cheerleaders out there who think China will somehow walk away from this all the better. What the idiots are actually wanting is more Bankster corruption this time from the East to keep BAU going.

      • “What the idiots are actually wanting is more Bankster corruption this time from the East to keep BAU going.”

        Why does wanting BAU to continue make them idiots? It seems like a sane and rational desire, to postpone judgement day.

        • Rodster says:

          Because those don’t realize that the East is just as crooked and corrupt as the West. There are no good guys in what’s coming which is contrary to what Orlov thinks. He believes China and Russia are the good guys and will right all the wrongs of the current Bankster Cabal. What they fail to see is that all of them from East to West are playing “Three Card Monte” and the dealers aka the Global Banksters have rigged the table and the Russians and the Chinese are dealing as well.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            It’s amusing how people support the underdog… and whenever the underdog wins he does the exact same things as were done to him – often worse.

            I can imagine that is very frustrating …

            It would not be — if one were to recognize that this is what is expected— there is no choice — there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – kill or be killed

            And it is again a perfect example of how kindness will only result in the yoke remaining around your neck.

            The meek will inherit jack shit

  39. Fast Eddy says:

    We’ve recently welcomed a dozen chooks on board… so I am familiarizing myself with how to keep them healthy…

    Red mites and lice appear to be the big problem…. with BAU produced anti-mite, lice solutions….

    I am wondering what I do when the solutions are no longer available?

    Also they require fairly high protein feed in order to lay…

    Where will I get the high protein feed when the shop that sells the large sacks is no longer operating?

    Just another in a long list of things we take for granted — that won’t be available post collapse.

    It really is disheartening when you think these things through.

    • Diatomaceous Earth, or when you are totally without BAU, wood ash is supposed to be a safe and effective solution;

      Insects are a good natural source of protein for chickens. I don’t know what you have there. Here, just turning over a rotten log will give them wood bugs, so a bunch of old rotten rounds can provide a decent supply.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Free ranging chooks will eat bugs to supplement their diet — but they will lay very few eggs if that’s all they get.

        You can combat the lice and mites by providing a dust bath (basically a place where they can muck around in the dust kinda like elephants do to deal with biting insects)…. however that’s not likely to get rid of the problem… it is more a way to control it

  40. This is such a brilliant must-read analysis provided by you, Gail.
    About the article, personally, I think we are at the point where consumers are paying off debt and living. Not much else.
    If debt were the answer, we should all be swimming in money right now. Maybe the Gov. can change the laws so we can all run our finances like them. In case we can’t afford the payments, we can borrow more. That would stimulate the economy for sure.

    • Thanks! All of the debt does get to be a problem, doesn’t it.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Agree — and that is why lower commodity prices are not kick starting the economy — as they historically would have….

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        That’s called painting thyself into a corner:

        Post mortgage meltdown/147 a barrel oil:
        – Growth was too low because of diminishing returns from depleting oil
        – So CB’s borrowed, QE printed and Zirped our way to small growth
        – But debt has reached outrageous limits
        – So the amount being borrowed is dropping
        – In lock step commodities prices are dropping
        – But without the willingness to risk borrowing beyond stretched limits
        – The world economy edges into stagnation
        – With recession looming in a cold Winter foggy haze
        – Oh what to do then? Blame Winter cold on low GDP?

  41. Fast Eddy says:

    For those who are unsure whether collapse – when it comes — will be fast or slow — see the following:

    Greek Economy Faces Total Collapse As Doctors Flee, Retail Sales Plunge 70%

    One needs to keep in mind when reading this….

    Greece is still able to export products to the rest of the world — it is able to purchase oil and coal and generate electricity … it is still welcoming hordes of tourists…

    Greece has not yet collapsed… it is on life support but this is not yet collapse.

    Now imagine what the world looks like when things get to the point where they are in Greece …. Everywhere…. there will be nowhere to ‘flee’ to …

    That is when the real collapse will happen. And it will not take very long once it gets going.

    • Thanks! I am afraid the Greek situation may be the direction other countries will go in as well.

    • Steve says:

      This has been going on in Greece though since at least 2008. 7 years. Their economy has shrunk by over 25% (and thats probably a huge underestimate). In fact its been in ‘trouble’ for as long back as you wish to look.

      It just makes you wonder how long all this can go on for. I really thought that Greece would have left the Euro and re-introduced the Drachma by now but I was naive. The PTB couldn’t let that happen.

      At least not yet.

      I think the next recession worldwide may be covered over and the cracks not allowed to grow. Look at what China has been doing. Until physical limits in energy reserves really start to show up throughout all levels of the system the government, media etc will just pretend its nothing to worry about. A slow decline that started in 2008 will continue into the 2020s until oil reserves just can’t keep up with the (limited) demand that is out there.

  42. Rodster says:

    I think this article dovetails with Gail’s post regarding the problem trying to sustain and grow an economy with low wage workers.

    “Subaru’s secret: Marginalized foreign workers power a Japanese export boom”

    • dolph9 says:

      At the end of the day Subarus are still cars, and not particularly efficient ones at that. Americans go into debt to buy them and then consume massive amounts of oil to drive them all over the place.

      Call me crazy but I don’t see how that can continue.

    • Yes, you are right. They are doing the same kind of thing I was writing about. The world ends up with more and more low-paid workers.

      • this is the only era when workers expected and got more than low pay

        previously, the lord of the manor–as here in uk for example— lived on land of say 20k acres, inherited from his ancestors 500 years back, who took it by force in the first place.
        That land produced energy–meat, grain, timber, and so on which provided the means to support the castle in the centre of it. You probably had 1000 peasants working that land on subsistence wages, giving them just enough physical strength to provide manual labour and exist in hovels. Average lifespan was 40/50 max.
        Their real earnings supported the Lord of the Manor, and the local clergy who ran their lives, one way or another. (the 10% tithe to the church was legally enforceable in some parts of UK until the 30s) Some were benevolent and looked after their slaves (because thats what they were) some were quite the opposite.
        But there was never enough material wealth extracted from that 20k acres to provide everyone with a castle/mansion of his own.
        Unfortunately this is the expectation we now have. That everyone can be rich–forever.
        Oops—sorry guys.
        Serfs ye were—and sans oil— to that status ye will return
        let’s hope the next masters will be benevolent, though why do I have my doubts about that?

        • Fast Eddy says:

          And there will continue to be those who will ignore this and will believe that they will be permitted to squat on their 20 verdant acres and be left alone to live out their days in peace and harmony…

          And they’ll continue believing that right up until the point when the yoke is fitted around their necks — and the sharp sting of the whip wakes them up to how the world really works.

          Of course they cannot see that because they live in a civilized state — the only people who are under the yoke and starving are the ones we have pillaged…. (but they generally do not understand nor agree with that statement)

          Essentially we in the west are lords of the manner… hundreds of millions of lords…

          That is about to change.

  43. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Some random and very general observations about the dark wood where we find ourselves.

    First, Dave Pollard on his journey with Complex Systems and the turning points in his life:
    I recommend clicking through on his links to Pollard’s Law of Complexity and Pollard’s Law of Human Nature.

    Dave also links to Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge:

    Pollard and Snowden are both singing from the Complex Systems songbook, so there is considerable overlap, but their specific approaches are a little different.

    Both of them would agree that deciding you are going to change someone else’s life is fraught with difficulty. Snowden emphasizes that you must change relationships, and then let people figure out how they need to change their own lives. Snowden emphasizes that a corporation which is running ‘by the book’ will generally be maladaptive…unless it is an organization for launching nuclear attacks, in which case money is no object and there is massive redundancy built into the system. So, in ordinary organizations, surprise and intelligent response is the order of the day, rather than responses which are predetermined.

    If you look at some of Snowden’s talks, early on you will see a picture of a gorilla. He then informs you that radiologists, when confronted with the picture, don’t see the gorilla. That is because a radiologist is looking for some particular patterns which are very much smaller. In short, we see what we expect to find. There are good evolutionary explanations for looking for what we expect to find, rather than disinterestedly scanning the world for facts.

    Second, I want to extend that ‘expect to find’ sentence into the oil situation. Boone Pickens, to pick on a specific person, has been quite confident that the price of oil will go up. Because oil is so valuable and can do so much work and the world is running out of high quality sources. But along come people like Gail and BW Hill who claim that Boone is a radiologist who is not seeing the gorilla. Gail and BW are not exactly on the same page in terms of the nature of the gorilla, but close enough for government work. BW Hill thinks that a vast amount of the current ‘reserves’ will never be produced. (I can’t find the exact quote, but a diligent Google search would surely turn it up.)

    Third, I suggest that looking at reserves plus price for oil may be instructive.

    Consider a shale company with 1000 units of oil reserve, currently valued at $100 for financial statement purposes. That is a value of $100,000. If we simple-mindedly revalue the reserves at $50, then the value falls to $50,000.

    But the SEC also requires that the amount of ‘reserves’ claimed must reflect some relationship between price and the determination of whether a resource can be called a reserve. Suppose that BW Hill is correct and that shale oil is seldom worth producing. Let’s be generous and suppose that the 1000 units of reserves shrinks to 300 units. At $50 each, they are now worth $15,000. The value of the reservers has shrunk by 85 percent.

    This is a Seneca Cliff. Probably few companies could survive an 85 percent shrinkage in the value of their reserves. They will run out of money, and can’t raise enough by borrowing against or selling their remaining reserves.

    I believe that the oil business and the investors are so accustomed to looking for cancer cells like radiologists that they have been unable to see the gorilla.

    Fourth, I will talk just a little bit about Toby Hemenway’s book Permaculture City. Toby expects fossil fuels to become very scarce. But he assumes that renewables will be able to provide enough work capacity to keep cities going.

    Toby spends some ink telling us how much more inventive cities are. A city of 5 million will be 3 times more creative than a city of 100,000. 96 percent of innovations come from cities. Simply moving people closer together greatly increases their creativity.

    But is the gorilla in the room that we simply won’t be able to thermodynamically support cities of that size? If 85 percent of the population is engaged in primary food production, then there won’t be cities of 5 million people. Instead, we will have to look in one of two places:
    *The sorts of innovation stimulation which was practiced in Edo, Japan. Pamphlets, promotion of literacy, literate forms of recreation, and groups of five to help each other out and promote the spread of good practices.
    *Possibly an information economy might survive. Microsoft’s current strategy is apparent to move everything to the Cloud. The Cloud might radically reduce the amount of hardware required by the individual (e.g., no PCs or routers). These kinds of things we might call ‘Ellen MacArthur Foundation’ type solutions.

    Don Stewart

    Some recent random posts from BW Hill on the economics of producing what oil is left.

    “We are in a printing press balancing act called the economy.”

    The shale industry has amassed more than a $trillion in debt to produce $360 billion per year in finished product. That $trillion came from the FED’s printing press, and was handed out at almost zero percent interest. These are companies that can not produce their product for what it cost to produce; they are companies that are producing a product for which there is insufficient market to buy. They are energy companies that after extracting, processing, and distributing their product have no energy remaining to sell. That is truly a “printing press balancing act economy”.

    Penury, Yea the world oil consumption rate is projected to slow from 1.2 mbpd to 1.4.”

    As oil becomes more expensive, and energy intensive to produce, it consumes a larger and larger portion of its own production. At 93 mb/d that is now growing by 2.3 mb/d per year. Consumption by the rest of the economy is now going down by 1.1 mb/d per year. With the general economy unable to absorb all the oil produced, and consumption by the industry increasing the industry must assume greater and greater debt to keep pumping. Inventories will continue to build, and price will continue to fall. The entire process now depends on one “female hobbit” running the printing presses at the FED.

    The energy to produce petroleum is increasing, just as the Second Law says that it must. The Etp Model informs us as to how much of an increase is occurring.
    The shale industry is trying to make a go of it in the energy industry. When you have a product that doesn’t supply any energy after the energy cost to produce it is factored in, you go broke.

    In our report “Depletion: A determination for the world’s petroleum reserve” we demonstrate that it takes 28% more energy to refine Mayan API 21° than it does conventional (API 37.5°). That is why heavy crude is heavily discounted. It is also why the world will never run on heavy crude. The percentage of its energy content delivered to the economy is too small to power that economy. Only oil that lies in the 30 to 45° API range can supply a net positive amount of energy. Extraction of non conventional relies on the energy supplied by conventional to support its production. Once conventional is gone, non conventional will become unprofitable to produce. The barrels produced concept, rather than the energy supplied concept has disguised the true depletion state of the world’s reserves

    • whiskeyinthejar says:

      “We are in a printing press balancing act called the economy.”

      The shale industry has amassed more than a $trillion in debt to produce $360 billion per year in finished product. That $trillion came from the FED’s printing press,”

      We are eight years into the occurrence of the widespread use of “printing press” as a phrase and I think the term has severe structural flaws. Printing press has the connotation that physical notes are being printed. Physical notes have the connotation that the imaginary zeros and ones in your bank account have reality. I think a much more accurate term is credit creation. Credit creation is in essence a loan. Yes all loans are credit created on the spot also. If you get a loan on your house is that $ mine? No . so to a unquantified extent credit creation $ stays where it is placed, especially when the players realize that the expectation is that they do so. The use of very exact terms that are expressions of metrics combined with words that are structurally flawed and emotionally loaded is omost guaranteed to produce a inaccurate model.

      “The shale industry is trying to make a go of it in the energy industry”
      I dispute this. The shale industry is a artificial construct funded by credit creation to extract oil.

      “When you have a product that doesn’t supply any energy after the energy cost to produce it is factored in, ”

      I dispute this. Net energy is entering the economy from the shale industry. Much of the energy used to process the heavy crude comes from nat gas that no pipeline exists for to get to industrial civilizations use. As wasteful as the heavy muck is it still provides net energy because the wastefulness is with energy that would not get used by industrial civilization.

      “you go broke.”
      No one who has a credit line goes broke. This idea is also presented heavily emotionally loaded with propaganda of the free market illusion. This is very foundational propaganda in that it denotes emotional loading that our society has basis in natural law. Most all would rather demonize a portion of the apparatus rather than admit emotionally that none of it has basis in natural law. Without a justification for our predatory actions the apathy can exist. That uncomfortable feeling that results in the thing we negatively label apathy is in fact the only chance our species has.

      • Don Stewart says:

        The issue of using surplus energy from some other source to produce and process the oil has been extensively discussed here previously.

        The inescapable point remains that, if Hill’s ETp model is an accurate representation of the thermodynamics of oil production, we are losing one of our main sources of the ability to do work. We may be able to eke out some more GDP by juggling all of our energy sources, but the trend will be evident.

        Don Stewart

        • whiskeyinthejar says:

          “The issue of using surplus energy from some other source to produce and process the oil has been extensively discussed here previously.”

          Avoidance of issue – implication im ignorant

          “The inescapable point remains that, if Hill’s ETp model is an accurate representation of the thermodynamics of oil production, we are losing one of our main sources of the ability to do work. We may be able to eke out some more GDP by juggling all of our energy sources, but the trend will be evident.”

          avoidance of issue- citing Acronyms as ultimate authority

          I think you missed your calling Don – you should have been an economist. 🙂
          That we are heading for collapse is in dispute. The means is not that important to me. What is important to me is that some very basic premises of our paradigm are fundamentally incorrect.. I addressed these in my reply to you and you have dismissed them. Im not surprised you basically have no interest in listening – only broadcasting. broadcasting is a activity that is habit. It is comfortable only in its familiarity. I would expect attack from you now as I am the source of some uncomfortableness. This is what we are. My hope is some understanding of that might serve some purpose. I am no different I suppose. Sincere best wishes whiskyinthejar

          • Don Stewart says:

            If you object to ‘the ETp model’, you can call it ‘BW Hill’s model using thermodynamic equations’. or whatever generic language you prefer.

            If you object to the way I have characterized the work of Gail, Dave Pollard, Dave Snowden, Toby Hemenway, or BW Hill, then you have a legitimate gripe with me.

            If you object to the way that those individuals are interpreting the evidence, then your best bet is to take it up with them directly. If your complaint is about BW Hill’s models, I have given you plenty of direct quotes and a quick Google search should get you to the post itself. All of the quotes are from the last few days.

            Don Stewart

      • Fast Eddy says:

        “The shale industry is trying to make a go of it in the energy industry” I dispute this. The shale industry is a artificial construct funded by credit creation to extract oil.


        The thing is … what cannot continue will not continue (Stein’s Law).

        To think otherwise would imply a perpetual economic motion machine exists…. it does not.

        The PTB can create a false industry in order to get energy out of the ground (note – we need oil — not so much gas — as gas does not and cannot replace oil to run the economy )

        But directing surplus energy into harder to extract oil takes those surpluses away from other parts of the economy…

        Which results in the slow disintegration of the general economy (which we are witnessing) which eventually results in the total collapse of the general economy.

        Of course that means BAU ends — oil extraction ends — civilization as we know it ends.

        • Actually, natural gas is probably more vital, since it is the means of making synthetic nitrates to fertilize crops with industrial agriculture. A decline in natural gas is a decline in food production. That is a sure-fire way to bring about riots and collapse of government.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            See Gail’s previous articles on natural gas…. also see

          • China makes nitrogen fertilizer using coal, so I don’t think the situation is as bad as you describe, as long as coal is around.

            • That is pretty fascinating, with the USA using its cheap natural gas to make fertilizer, and China using coal. As long as China is standing, coal can be sent there to make fertilizer if needed, whereas shipping natural gas is quite a bit more difficult. I doubt anyone will have the resources to switch over from one type of input to the other if there is a supply chain disruption.

          • Steve says:

            Maybe thats why the relations with Iran have got better recently? They have the 2nd largest gas reserves on the planet – also large oil reserves although I’m not too sure what the EROI is on their oil. I’ve heard that its getting increasingly expensive to extract their oil reserves – kind of like everywhere else really.

    • Artleads says:


      Although this doesn’t fit here, I’m wondering how what you’ve said about food stalls and organization might relate to it. I posted the following elsewhere.

      “Isn’t nuclear-facility security largely a land use issue? All nuclear facilities fit into one state or another, and must be governed by that state’s land use regulations. The same can probably said for counties.

      I can see how counties might include their nuclear facility into their General Plan. General Plans comprise elements–like a conservation element, a safety element, a noise element and so on. I can’t imagine them not having a nuclear-facility element either, where that would apply. Since all the elements of a general plan should be integrated while also separate, nuclear-facilities would be integrated with other elements as well. A nuclear-facility element would provide room for specific, coordinated safety measures for the local community and beyond. And it certainly ought to spur the sort of coordinated regional planning that is all too often absent.”

      Now I wonder, just as with food stalls, there might be more energy efficient ways to apply hazmat suit technology. Like “hazmat suit” corridors that a lot of people can walk through to get from one place to another, ultimately helping with evacuations that can be slower and better coordinated. Underground passages could perhaps be used to similar effect?

      • Don Stewart says:

        I’m missing something. Are you saying that hazardous locations should be clustered? I need a little more explanation of what you have in mind.
        Thanks…Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:


          The quote and the last paragraph probably don’t go together. The latter was stuck on to try and make it relate to this blog’s conversations. I was trying to say that a more affordable way to deal with nuclear hazard would NOT be to buy hazmat suits for each person in a community. Instead, many people could share a sort of zippered hazmat corridor to get from place A to place B, the latter being a huge underground space like the British WWII bomb shelters, etc.

          But I almost immediately thought better of it. Why go to all that trouble to save people, while the rest of the web of life gets irradiated? It doesn’t even seem morally defensible. That would leave plan A: Set up a management system of all power plants, encased in a county’s General Plan. All counties already have General Plans. So why not put something worthwhile in them where they apply? That seems like the path of least resistance. Experts visit all relevant communities and explain what the issues of management are. And all relevant communities either participate in management thinking, or move away. They do the best they can with the human and other resources they have. The government helps them, based on what they need, what they ask for, and what it can afford.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      So I decided to have a sip of kool-aid and see what was happening in Koombaya land — and clicked a link…

      “It also made me realize that most of what we try to do in our work lives, in our lives as activists, and even in our personal lives, will really change nothing”

      “It’s still hard to reconcile with my outrage over the destruction and suffering this collective ‘doing our best’ has wreaked on us and on our planet, but I understand it.”

      Actually Pollard does not understand it.

      What he fails to grasp is that we are not where we are because we did something wrong — that there was another way — that there is another way.

      We have done EXACTLY what was expected of us as an organism. We responded to our environment EXACTLY as we were programmed to do.

      As a species to the individual we have competed for more — because normally more simply means a slight positive balance in the energy we take in vs what we use to generate that energy (I speak of calories here).

      That is why you will never see an obese animal in the wild…. they are either healthy and robust — or they are sickly and starving. The line is fine.

      If you want a culprit then look no further than fossil fuels.

      It is these that have thrown the balance off when it comes to energy. Starting with the use of fire — through to the burning of oil.

      Our DNA is a primitive thing — (eat, fornicate, fight, flee >>> survive >>> procreate) — it does not recognize the implications of burning a tree or a barrel of oil.

      It only knows how to survive and procreate — and it will use anything at its disposal to do so.

      We never had a choice as to where this was going to end up — fossil fuels like an enchantress in a bikini dragged DNA by the nose to where DNA wanted to go…

      Note Pollard’s comment about not being able to change anything. He is exactly right.

      You cannot change DNA — the desire to eat and fornicate are built in. That is why when we try we fail — that is why religion fails — they are trying to change the very essence of the beast.

      They are in fact trying to change what has made us survive and put as at the top of the food chain.

      Perhaps if you were to take those who do not display the extremes of human nature and breed them then over generations you might change our DNA…

      For instance you could have Joan Baez as the queen bee — and breed her with some of the pacifists on this site — you might be able to head us in the right direction …

      But no doubt this would lead us towards extinction — because making us docile would surely reduce our status as head predator — we’d probably starve because taken to the logical extreme a vegan lifestyle would be rejected — we’d be left to gnawing on dead tree branches ….

      And if someone were to suggest what I have suggested above — these types would not be very accepting of such ideas:

      The kool-aid was nice…. but I prefer a single malt…. straight up….

  44. High prices – low quality

  45. Fast Eddy says:

    Global Plunge Protection Team Rescues Chinese Stocks Back To Unchanged At Break

    This is beginning to smell like the last stand…..

    If this analysis is correct — there is a concerted, desperate effort by various central banks to stop the bleeding in the China markets…

    If China goes — everything goes — this takes ‘anything it takes’ to new heights…

    I doubt the owners of the Fed and their minions are getting a lot of sleep these days….

    • Rodster says:

      As the saying goes: “You cannot sustain the unstainable”. And this, as we all know is a global issue.

  46. Fast Eddy says:

    Needless to day, the Wall Street shills and touts are so oblivious to this fundamental reality that they can not even see the obvious facts about China—-to say nothing of the macro-quick sand upon which the entire global economy is poised.

    The meme of the day—–that China doesn’t have so many gamblers—-is hilarious. From stem to stern, China’s version of red capitalism has evolved into the greatest gambling den in history. The whole thing is a giant punt—from 60 million empty high rise apartments, to ghost cities and malls, to endless bridges, highways and airports to nowhere, to laying down more cement in three years than the US did during the entire 20th century.

    But today’s Wall Street admonition to move along because there is nothing to see in the plunging red bourses really takes the cake. In fact, yesterdays 8.5% plunge on the Shanghai market—–mostly in the last hour and in the face of $1 trillion of state buying power and several thousand paddy wagons thrown at sellers, malicious or otherwise—-is merely a foreshock; it’s a fateful warning about the global-scale financial temblors heading at the incorrigible army of dip buyers in New York, London and their farm teams elsewhere.

    In the first place, upwards of 90 million households are in the Chinese stock market, most of them buried under margin debt. Among them, they hold exactly 258 million trading accounts and a significant fraction of these were opened in just the past year by Chinese pig farmers, bus drivers and banana vendors, among millions of quasi-literate others.

    The country went nuts speculating in stocks just like it has in empty apartments, coal mines, expensive watches, Macau slot machines, fine wines, copper stockpiles, and almost anything else that can be bought and sold. So when the Beijing overlords go into full panic mode about the stock market plunge, they actually have a reason: There are more trading accounts in their red casinos than there are people in Japan, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, combined!.

    Do they fear the wrath of the tens of million of newly affluent Chinese that they have lured into the stock market. Yes they do, and for good reason. Namely, if the stock market comes crashing back to earth—–then what is at stake is not merely several trillion in paper wealth, but the essential credibility of the regime itself.

    After all, even in China’s fevered gambling halls the people would surely notice the $7 trillion elephant missing from the room, and wonder about its implications for the rest of the Beijing Ponzi. That is to say, at its June 13 peak the Shanghai index was trading at 70X the reported LTM earnings of its constituent companies. Were these nosebleed valuations to be re-rated to a merely bubbly 30X, the Shanghai index would plunge back to its level of one year ago, vaporizing the aforementioned $7 trillion in the process.

    The truth is, the Chinese stock market is not even worth 30X because the entire Ponzi is unraveling. The Chinese economy is bloated with monumental malinvestments and stupendous excesses—–the likes of which have never previously been visited upon a modern industrial economy.

    Accordingly, while it is impossible to gauge the magnitude and timing of the hard landing now imminent, one thing is certain. Namely, the virtual impossibility that an economy flushed with a helter-skelter debt expansion from $2 trillion to $28 trillion in just 14 years—-especially one that has no rule of contract law or even semblance of honest capital markets—- can avoid a thundering deflationary collapse.


    • xabier says:


      If one builds on sand, there is no sense at all in looking down. Just pretend it’s good solid bedrock. Delusion is a nice comfortable couch: a keen sense of reality is always like walking a a tight-rope over a chasm.

      One wonders when this will manifest in violent political struggles at the top in China: coups d’etat and assassinations?

      I suspect the mass people can be easily pacified with the threat of force: after all, they know the government won’t hesitate to use it.

      And after the horrific experiences of the 20th century, they know and fear what Chinese are capable of doing to their fellow-countrymen, maybe this will keep the lid on things.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        From what we have seen from Cairo to Occupy — the PTB will absolutely no tolerate mass unrest… they will blast them with pepper spray — or shoot them dead if necessary.

        The Chinese people are just recently emerged from dire poverty — so I can imagine they will fight like wild cats against the people who they perceive as having taken away their budding prosperity…

        If the people do rise when the economy tumbles and the government rolls out the tanks (again) this could result in epic bloodshed.

        One other slight problem — China is the most important player in the global supply chain — unrest and chaos do not fit well with a just in time system…

        China is a 500,000 kilogram black swan.

    • xabier says:

      Really, Stockman is mistaken if he thinks the Chinese leadership fear the wrath of the little people. They are already despised, and are quite comfortable with that.

      What they really have to fear are their fellow rulers, and the stab in the back, the death by poisoning, or the show trial.

      Or not getting the hell out of it all with enough cash and assets abroad. Now that must make them really sweat………

      • Fast Eddy says:

        My understanding of the Tianamen Square massacre was that is was not so much about democracy rather it was about the failure of the Party to deliver prosperity.

        28% inflation was the trigger

        Having lived in Hong Kong for many years and a year in Shanghai I am certain that the government is reviled — Party members are thoroughly corrupt and the Princelings (their children) are despised.

        The peasants — like peasants the world over — do not care so much about democracy (who really had democracy anyway) so long as they have opportunities to prosper.

        The Party most definitely fears mass revolt — see the history of China …. when the mandate from Heaven is lost the pitchforks come out… and the Emperor is removed

        All mention of Tiananmen Square is blocked in China — any sort of group that could potentially be used to organize against the government (e.g. Falun Gong) is banned —- anyone who speaks against the government is persecuted.

        These measures indicate that the Party fears the masses…

        The Party actively encouraged its people to ‘invest’ in the stock market which is the reason for this mega bubble.

        Stockman: “upwards of 90 million households are in the Chinese stock market, most of them buried under margin debt. Among them, they hold exactly 258 million trading accounts and a significant fraction of these were opened in just the past year by Chinese pig farmers, bus drivers and banana vendors, among millions of quasi-literate others.”

        When this market crashes – as it surely must — two problems:

        1. The total fraud that is the Chinese economy will almost certainly unravel creating chaos
        2. Not only will the punters be furious — there will be mass job losses — and when prosperity is no longer delivered the people will be looking for someone to blame…

        In 2008 there were numerous riots as factories were shuttered – in this case they murdered the manager (there were many instances of this — hushed up by the Party)

        More recently there were violent protests when property prices dropped

        When the financial crisis started factories shed jobs because exports slumped — they made up for this with the mother of all infrastructure build-outs (ghost towns etc) in order to create jobs — when the ghost towns had to be tapered (you can only pour so much concrete and build so many project that have no ROI causing a credit crisis) — the Party then turned to the stock market as a way to help the fickle masses get rich quick and keep them happy…

        Each step took along the way brought them closer to the cliff edge…. they had to know that this was going to end badly — but they had no choice…

        Big Picture — not only have the policies kept China growing — they have kept the world growing since 2008 — without China we would have collapsed years ago…

        China clearly has reached the end of its rope…. and it does not appear that there is another region or country that will be able to step in to be the new driver…

        And that is why we are headed for a deflationary collapse.

        • Rodster says:

          I sense someone put the kettle on the stove and it’s beginning to heat up.

          “How A Chinese Farmer Lost More Than Everything Trading Stocks”

          Excerpt: “I don’t know what to do… I trusted the government too much…” he exclaims, adding “I won’t touch stocks again, I have ruined everyone in my family.”

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            This farmer is blaming the govt., but stock markets are gambling casinos, buyer/player beware. Anything can and will happen. Unless he’s too big to fail he won’t get bailed out so whining about losses is a waste of time. Fortunes are to be made and lost. It’s a roll of the dice and any other cliché’s that apply.

        • xabier says:

          It all depends on how irrational people get: anger at the corrupt and incompetent Party, at sudden total impoversihment, versus fear of the consequences of chaos (always deeply unpleasant there).

          It’s a live experiment in China: I just hope not to get dragged into the lab cage myself…….

    • Fred says:

      Fast Eddy-
      We love reading your posts. A silent majority hopes you never grow tired of composing those. Great stuff. Thank you.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        When I stop posting that means the electricity has gone off — permanently 🙂

  47. Fast Eddy says:

    China losing control as stocks crash despite emergency measures

    Margin debt on the Chinese stock market has reached is $1.2 trillion. ‘We suspect that it’s a matter of time before banks may have to face the music,’ Bank of America says

    Mark Williams, chief Asia strategist at Capital Economics, said the Chinese authorities appear to have been testing the waters to see what would happen if they stopped intervening. The market verdict was swift and brutal.

    “They have got themselves into a very difficult situation. They have put a lot of credibility on the line to shore up prices and this credibility has been badly damaged,” he said.

    The Chinese media reported on Monday night that the state regulator is ready to intervene with yet more stock purchases. It has already bought an estimated $250bn of equities and has borrowing lines for a further $450bn if necessary.

    Western banks say they are coming under heavy pressure from Chinese officials to refrain from negative comments. They are effectively gagged if they wish to do business in China.

    “Large parts of the market are closed, and those stocks that are still trading are selling off regardless of support measures. Clearly something very serious is happening,” said one economist.

    The long-standing assumption that the Chinese authorities know what they are doing has been shattered.

    The government’s heavy-handed measures include a ban on short sales and on new share issues, as well as pressure on the 300 largest companies to buy back their own stock, and forced purchases of stocks by brokerage houses.

    Many investors are effectively trapped with margin debt used to buy the stocks. These liabilities cannot be covered without selling the stocks. The longer the market remains partially frozen, the more likely it will lead to extreme stress.

    The debt to GDP ratio has already doubled to 260pc since 2007, reaching $26 trillion, more than the US and Japanese commercial banking systems combined.


    Let’s see what today holds for the China markets… I suspect people are coming around to the fact that it is now when rather than if … china falls to pieces

    • Rodster says:

      The Eastern Banksters are NO different than the Western Banksters.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        China off 3% already …. reminds me of the original Star Trek series when the captain was berating Mr Scott for not giving him more power for fear of burning out the engines…

        As the market tumbles the head of the PBOC screams for more funds to sop up the deluge of shares that are being unloaded…


        • Gregory machala says:

          If China falls apart we can kiss many high tech goods goodbye. Cars would not be built many have chinese sourcing for transmissions and rear axle assemblies. Major components that will halt production. Computers and electronics would grind to a halt.

          • “Computers and electronics would grind to a halt.”

            iThings. RoC (Taiwan) is separate from PRC. Intel makes a lot of stuff in USA, Costa Rica, Germany, etc. There is a great deal of overcapacity in manufacturing, for both cars and computers, that losing access to the factories in China would be fairly negligible.

            Losing access to the rare earths would probably be a bigger problem, until Congress passed a bill to make corporations completely immune from prosecution for contaminating ground water with radioactive substances.

            • Rodster says:

              I’m in the auto repair business and most of the replacement parts (80-85%) come out of China and even the OEM’s like GM, Ford, Chrysler etc use China to produce an overwhelming percentage of their parts.

            • If China completely collapses, I suspect demand worldwide for cars and parts will fall faster than supply.

              The financial shock would hit much faster than the supply chain shock.

              On the upside, the cars will last a lot longer with such a sudden decline in miles driven daily.

        • Gregory machala says:

          If the Chinese government is that desperate you can be sure the situation is very dire. This is scary Shit! Unpredictable and unprecedented.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            The Fed is doing something similar – just more subtle – they loan cash to companies at ZIRP and the companies buy back their shares… that props the share prices up.

            The Chinese government loans money to intermediaries who must buy and hold shares — apparently the PBOC is going to skip that step and directly buy shares…

            That said — who knows if the Fed isn’t doing the same — they will never disclose…

        • Rodster says:

          Reuters is now reporting that the Chinese government is buying stocks to try and stabilize their markets and their Central Bank is doing EXACTLY what Helicopter Ben decided to do and that is throw cheap money at the problem.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Agree. What they are doing is absurd/desperate as actually dumping pallets of $100 bills out of choppers.

            The central banks are the buyers of last resort for the stock market…. that is end of rope policy….

            I cannot see how anyone who is in the finance industry can possibly not understand that this is a complete and utter disaster waiting to happen.

            • Do you still believe it is unlikely that the Chinese government will simply end up owning all the companies in China? It seems to me, that unless something changes, that is the inevitable end result. What happens after that, no idea.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Just look to other instance of nationalizations of economies to see what happens….

              Russia… Cuba…

              The economy for all intents and purposes collapses when you do that — because market economies by nature do not respond to central planning…. they are more like living organisms (fed by cheap energy) … they are far too complex to be planned…

              The world will not like it’s second biggest economy going primitive…. nor will the global supply chain….

            • “The world will not like it’s second biggest economy going primitive…. nor will the global supply chain….”

              Whether it likes it or not, it seems one of the more probable outcomes. Better than allowing riots and burning cities, and risk the grid going down.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              To be clear – I am not pointing to Russia as the ultimate outcome — because Russia was an island of collapse in a sea of BAU — they still had energy to sell — the world still functioned …. they still had a future

              If Russia were the worst case scenario then we should be relieved…

              This is far worse — because the collapse will be the result of the end of the life-blood of BAU — cheap oil.

              There is without question going to be mass riots – no electricity and very little food.

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