2017: The Year When the World Economy Starts Coming Apart

Some people would argue that 2016 was the year that the world economy started to come apart, with the passage of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Whether or not the “coming apart” process started in 2016, in my opinion we are going to see many more steps in this direction in 2017. Let me explain a few of the things I see.

[1] Many economies have collapsed in the past. The world economy is very close to the turning point where collapse starts in earnest.  

Figure 1

Figure 1

The history of previous civilizations rising and eventually collapsing is well documented.(See, for example, Secular Cycles.)

To start a new cycle, a group of people would find a new way of doing things that allowed more food and energy production (for instance, they might add irrigation, or cut down trees for more land for agriculture). For a while, the economy would expand, but eventually a mismatch would arise between resources and population. Either resources would fall too low (perhaps because of erosion or salt deposits in the soil), or population would rise too high relative to resources, or both.

Even as resources per capita began falling, economies would continue to have overhead expenses, such as the need to pay high-level officials and to fund armies. These overhead costs could not easily be reduced, and might, in fact, grow as the government attempted to work around problems. Collapse occurred because, as resources per capita fell (for example, farms shrank in size), the earnings of workers tended to fall. At the same time, the need for taxes to cover what I am calling overhead expenses tended to grow. Tax rates became too high for workers to earn an adequate living, net of taxes. In some cases, workers succumbed to epidemics because of poor diets. Or governments would collapse, from lack of adequate tax revenue to support them.

Our current economy seems to be following a similar pattern. We first used fossil fuels to allow the population to expand, starting about 1800. Things went fairly well until the 1970s, when oil prices started to spike. Several workarounds (globalization, lower interest rates, and more use of debt) allowed the economy to continue to grow. The period since 1970 might be considered a period of “stagflation.” Now the world economy is growing especially slowly. At the same time, we find ourselves with “overhead” that continues to grow (for example, payments to retirees, and repayment of debt with interest). The pattern of past civilizations suggests that our civilization could also collapse.

Historically, economies have taken many years to collapse; I show a range of 20 to 50 years in Figure 1. We really don’t know if collapse would take that long now. Today, we are dependent on an international financial system, an international trade system, electricity, and the availability of oil to make our vehicles operate. It would seem as if this time collapse could come much more quickly.

With the world economy this close to collapse, some individual countries are even closer to collapse. This is why we can expect to see sharp downturns in the fortunes of some countries. If contagion is not too much of a problem, other countries may continue to do fairly well, even as individual small countries fail.

[2] Figures to be released in 2017 and future years are likely to show that the peak in world coal consumption occurred in 2014. This is important, because it means that countries that depend heavily on coal, such as China and India, can expect to see much slower economic growth, and more financial difficulties.

While reports of international coal production for 2016 are not yet available, news articles and individual country data strongly suggest that world coal production is past its peak. The IEA also reports a substantial drop in coal production for 2016.

Figure 2. World coal consumption. Information through 2015 based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Estimates for China, US, and India are based on partial year data and news reports. 2016 amount for "other" estimated based on recent trends.

Figure 2. World coal consumption. Information through 2015 based on BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Estimates for China, US, and India are based on partial year data and news reports. 2016 amount for “other” estimated based on recent trends.

The reason why coal production is dropping is because of low prices, low profitability for producers, and gluts indicating oversupply. Also, comparisons of coal prices with natural gas prices are inducing switching from coal to natural gas. The problem, as we will see later, is that natural gas prices are also artificially low, compared to the cost of production, So the switch is being made to a different type of fossil fuel, also with an unsustainably low price.

Prices for coal in China have recently risen again, thanks to the closing of a large number of unprofitable coal mines, and a mandatory reduction in hours for other coal mines. Even though prices have risen, production may not rise to match the new prices. One article reports:

. . . coal companies are reportedly reluctant to increase output as a majority of the country’s mines are still losing money and it will take time to recoup losses incurred in recent years.

Also, a person can imagine that it might be difficult to obtain financing, if coal prices have only “sort of” recovered.

I wrote last year about the possibility that coal production was peaking. This is one chart I showed, with data through 2015. Coal is the second most utilized fuel in the world. If its production begins declining, it will be difficult to offset the loss of its use with increased use of other types of fuels.

Figure 3. World per capita energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2016 SRWE.

Figure 3. World per capita energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2016 SRWE.

[3] If we assume that coal supplies will continue to shrink, and other production will grow moderately, we can expect total energy consumption to be approximately flat in 2017. 

Figure 5. World energy consumption forecast, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy data through 2015, and author's estimates for 2016 and 2017.

Figure 4. World energy consumption forecast, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy data through 2015, and author’s estimates for 2016 and 2017.

In a way, this is an optimistic assessment, because we know that efforts are underway to reduce oil production, in order to prop up prices. We are, in effect, assuming either that (a) oil prices won’t really rise, so that oil consumption will grow at a rate similar to that in the recent past or (b) while oil prices will rise significantly to help producers, consumers won’t cut back on their consumption in response to the higher prices.

[4] Because world population is rising, the forecast in Figure 4 suggests that per capita energy consumption is likely to shrink. Shrinking energy consumption per capita puts the world (or individual countries in the world) at the risk of recession.

Figure 5 shows indicated per capita energy consumption, based on Figure 4. It is clear that energy consumption per capita has already started shrinking, and is expected to shrink further. The last time that happened was in the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Figure 5. World energy consumption per capita based on energy consumption estimates in Figure 4 and UN 2015 Medium Population Growth Forecast.

Figure 5. World energy consumption per capita based on energy consumption estimates in Figure 4 and UN 2015 Medium Population Growth Forecast.

There tends to be a strong correlation between world economic growth and world energy consumption, because energy is required to transform materials into new forms, and to transport goods from one place to another.

In the recent past, the growth in GDP has tended to be a little higher than the growth in the use of energy products. One reason why GDP growth has been a percentage point or two higher than energy consumption growth is because, as economies become richer, citizens can afford to add more services to the mix of goods and services that they purchase (fancier hair cuts and more piano lessons, for example). Production of services tends to use proportionately less energy than creating goods does; as a result, a shift toward a heavier mix of services tends to lead to GDP growth rates that are somewhat higher than the growth in energy consumption.

A second reason why GDP growth has tended to be a little higher than growth in energy consumption is because devices (such as cars, trucks, air conditioners, furnaces, factory machinery) are becoming more efficient. Growth in efficiency occurs if consumers replace old inefficient devices with new more efficient devices. If consumers become less wealthy, they are likely to replace devices less frequently, leading to slower growth in efficiency. Also, as we will discuss later in this  post, recently there has been a tendency for fossil fuel prices to remain artificially low. With low prices, there is little financial incentive to replace an old inefficient device with a new, more efficient device. As a result, new purchases may be bigger, offsetting the benefit of efficiency gains (purchasing an SUV to replace a car, for example).

Thus, we cannot expect that the past pattern of GDP growing a little faster than energy consumption will continue. In fact, it is even possible that the leveraging effect will start working the “wrong” way, as low fossil fuel prices induce more fuel use, not less. Perhaps the safest assumption we can make is that GDP growth and energy consumption growth will be equal. In other words, if world energy consumption growth is 0% (as in Figure 4), world GDP growth will also be 0%. This is not something that world leaders would like at all.

The situation we are encountering today seems to be very similar to the falling resources per capita problem that seemed to push early economies toward collapse in [1]. Figure 5 above suggests that, on average, the paychecks of workers in 2017 will tend to purchase fewer goods and services than they did in 2016 and 2015. If governments need higher taxes to fund rising retiree costs and rising subsidies for “renewables,” the loss in the after-tax purchasing power of workers will be even greater than Figure 5 suggests.

[5] Because many countries are in this precarious position of falling resources per capita, we should expect to see a rise in protectionism, and the addition of new tariffs.

Clearly, governments do not want the problem of falling wages (or rather, falling goods that wages can buy) impacting their countries. So the new game becomes, “Push the problem elsewhere.”

In economic language, the world economy is becoming a “Zero-sum” game. Any gain in the production of goods and services by one country is a loss to another country. Thus, it is in each country’s interest to look out for itself. This is a major change from the shift toward globalization we have experienced in recent years. China, as a major exporter of goods, can expect to be especially affected by this changing view.

[6] China can no longer be expected to pull the world economy forward.

China’s economic growth rate is likely to be lower, for many reasons. One reason is the financial problems of coal mines, and the tendency of coal production to continue to shrink, once it starts shrinking. This happens for many reasons, one of them being the difficulty in obtaining loans for expansion, when prices still seem to be somewhat low, and the outlook for the further increases does not appear to be very good.

Another reason why China’s economic growth rate can be expected to fall is the current overbuilt situation with respect to apartment buildings, shopping malls, factories, and coal mines. As a result, there seems to be little need for new buildings and operations of these types. Another reason for slower economic growth is the growing protectionist stance of trade partners. A fourth reason is the fact that many potential buyers of the goods that China is producing are not doing very well economically (with the US being a major exception). These buyers cannot afford to increase their purchases of imports from China.

With these growing headwinds, it is quite possible that China’s total energy consumption in 2017 will shrink. If this happens, there will be downward pressure on world fossil fuel prices. Oil prices may fall, despite production cuts by OPEC and other countries.

China’s slowing economic growth is likely to make its debt problem harder to solve. We should not be too surprised if debt defaults become a more significant problem, or if the yuan falls relative to other currencies.

India, with its recent recall of high denomination currency, as well as its problems with low coal demand, is not likely to be a great deal of help aiding the world economy to grow, either. India is also a much smaller economy than China.

[7] While Item [2] talked about peak coal, there is a very significant chance that we will be hitting peak oil and peak natural gas in 2017 or 2018, as well.  

If we look at historical prices, we see that the prices of oil, coal and natural gas tend to rise and fall together.

Figure 6. Prices of oil, call and natural gas tend to rise and fall together. Prices based on 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

Figure 6. Prices of oil, coal and natural gas tend to rise and fall together. Prices based on 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

The reason that fossil fuel prices tend to rise and fall together is because these prices are tied to “demand” for goods and services in general, such as for new homes, cars, and factories. If wages are rising rapidly, and debt is rising rapidly, it becomes easier for consumers to buy goods such as homes and cars. When this happens, there is more “demand” for the commodities used to make and operate homes and cars. Prices for commodities of many types, including fossil fuels, tend to rise, to enable more production of these items.

Of course, the reverse happens as well. If workers become poorer, or debt levels shrink, it becomes harder to buy homes and cars. In this case, commodity prices, including fossil fuel prices, tend to fall.  Thus, the problem we saw above in [2] for coal would be likely to happen for oil and natural gas, as well, because the prices of all of the fossil fuels tend to move together. In fact, we know that current oil prices are too low for oil producers. This is the reason why OPEC and other oil producers have cut back on production. Thus, the problem with overproduction for oil seems to be similar to the overproduction problem for coal, just a bit delayed in timing.

In fact, we also know that US natural gas prices have been very low for several years, suggesting another similar problem. The United States is the single largest producer of natural gas in the world. Its natural gas production hit a peak in mid 2015, and production has since begun to decline. The decline comes as a response to chronically low prices, which make it unprofitable to extract natural gas. This response sounds similar to China’s attempted solution to low coal prices.

Figure 7. US Natural Gas production based on EIA data.

Figure 7. US Natural Gas production based on EIA data.

The problem is fundamentally the fact that consumers cannot afford goods made using fossil fuels of any type, if prices actually rise to the level producers need, which tends to be at least five times the 1999 price level. (Note peak price levels compared to 1999 level on Figure 6.) Wages have not risen by a factor of five since 1999, so paying the prices that fossil fuel producers need for profitability and growing production is out of the question. No amount of added debt can hide this problem. (While this reference is to 1999 prices, the issue really goes back much farther, to prices before the price spikes of the 1970s.)

US natural gas producers also have plans to export natural gas to Europe and elsewhere, as liquefied natural gas (LNG). The hope, of course, is that a large amount of exports will raise US natural gas prices. Also, the hope is that Europeans will be able to afford the high-priced natural gas shipped to them. Unless someone can raise the wages of both Europeans and Americans, I would not count on LNG prices actually rising to the level needed for profitability, and staying at such a high level. Instead, they are likely to bounce up, and quickly drop back again.

[8] Unless oil prices rise very substantially, oil exporters will find themselves exhausting their financial reserves in a very short time (perhaps a year or two). Unfortunately, oil importers cannot withstand higher prices, without going into recession. 

We have a no win situation, no matter what happens. This is true with all fossil fuels, but especially with oil, because of its high cost and thus necessarily high price. If oil prices stay at the same level or go down, oil exporters cannot get enough tax revenue, and oil companies in general cannot obtain enough funds to finance the development of new wells and payment of dividends to shareholders. If oil prices do rise by a very large amount for very long, we are likely headed into another major recession, with many debt defaults.

[9] US interest rates are likely to rise in the next year or two, whether or not this result is intended by the Federal reserve.

This issue here is somewhat obscure. The issue has to do with whether the United States can find foreign buyers for its debt, often called US Treasuries, and the interest rates that the US needs to pay on this debt. If buyers are very plentiful, the interest rates paid by he US government can be quite low; if few buyers are available, interest rates must be higher.

Back when Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters were doing well financially, they often bought US Treasuries, as a way to retain the benefit of their new-found wealth, which they did not want to spend immediately. Similarly, when China was doing well as an exporter, it often bought US Treasuries, as a way retaining the wealth it gained from exports, but didn’t yet need for purchases.

When these countries bought US Treasuries, there were several beneficial results:

  • Interest rates on US Treasuries tended to stay artificially low, because there was a ready market for its debt.
  • The US could afford to import high-priced oil, because the additional debt needed to buy the oil could easily be sold (to Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations, no less).
  • The US dollar tended to stay lower relative to other currencies, making oil more affordable to other countries than it otherwise might be.
  • Investment in countries outside the US was encouraged, because debt issued by these other countries tended to bear higher interest rates than US debt. Also, relatively low oil prices in these countries (because of the low level of the dollar) tended to make investment profitable in these countries.

The effect of these changes was somewhat similar to the US having its own special Quantitative Easing (QE) program, paid for by some of the counties with trade surpluses, instead of by its central bank. This QE substitute tended to encourage world economic growth, for the reasons mentioned above.

Once the fortunes of the countries that used to buy US Treasuries changes, the pattern of buying of US Treasuries tends to change to selling of US Treasuries. Even not purchasing the same quantity of US Treasuries as in the past becomes an adverse change, if the US has a need to keep issuing US Treasuries as in the past, or if it wants to keep rates low.

Unfortunately, losing this QE substitute tends to reverse the favorable effects noted above. One effect is that the dollar tends to ride higher relative to other currencies, making the US look richer, and other countries poorer. The “catch” is that as the other countries become poorer, it becomes harder for them to repay the debt that they took out earlier, which was denominated in US dollars.

Another problem, as this strange type of QE disappears, is that the interest rates that the US government needs to pay in order to issue new debt start rising. These higher rates tend to affect other rates as well, such as mortgage rates. These higher interest rates act as a drag on the economy, tending to push it toward recession.

Higher interest rates also tend to decrease the value of assets, such as homes, farms, outstanding bonds, and shares of stock. This occurs because fewer buyers can afford to buy these goods, with the new higher interest rates. As a result, stock prices can be expected to fall. Prices of homes and of commercial buildings can also be expected to fall. The value of bonds held by insurance companies and banks becomes lower, if they choose to sell these securities before maturity.

Of course, as interest rates fell after 1981, we received the benefit of falling interest rates, in the form of rising asset prices. No one ever stopped to think about how much of the gains in share prices and property values came from falling interest rates.

Figure 8. Ten year treasury interest rates, based on St. Louis Fed data.

Figure 8. Ten year treasury interest rates, based on St. Louis Fed data.

Now, as interest rates rise, we can expect asset prices of many types to start falling, because of lower affordability when monthly payments are based on higher interest rates. This situation presents another “drag” on the economy.

In Conclusion

The situation is indeed very concerning. Many things could set off a crisis:

  • Rising energy prices of any kind (hurting energy importers), or energy prices that don’t rise (leading to financial problems or collapse of exporters)
  • Rising interest rates.
  • Defaulting debt, indirectly the result of slow/negative economic growth and rising interest rates.
  • International organizations with less and less influence, or that fall apart completely.
  • Fast changes in relativities of currencies, leading to defaults on derivatives.
  • Collapsing banks, as debt defaults rise.
  • Falling asset prices (homes, farms, commercial buildings, stocks and bonds) as interest rates rise, leading to many debt defaults.

Things don’t look too bad right now, but the underlying problems are sufficiently severe that we seem to be headed for a crisis far worse than 2008. The timing is not clear. Things could start falling apart badly in 2017, or alternatively, major problems may be delayed until 2018 or 2019. I hope political leaders can find ways to keep problems away as long as possible, perhaps with more rounds of QE. Our fundamental problem is the fact that neither high nor low energy prices are now able to keep the world economy operating as we would like it to operate. Increased debt can’t seem to fix the problem either.

The laws of physics seem to be behind economic growth. From a physics point of view, our economy is a dissipative structure. Such structures form in “open systems.” In such systems, flows of energy allow structures to temporarily self-organize and grow. Other examples of dissipative structures include ecosystems, all plants and animals, stars, and hurricanes. All of these structures constantly “dissipate” energy. They have finite life spans, before they eventually collapse. Often, new dissipative systems form, to replace previous ones that have collapsed.

The one thing that gives me hope is the fact that there seems to be some type of a guiding supernatural force behind the whole system that allows so much growth. Some would say that this supernatural force is “only” the laws of physics (and biology and chemistry). To me, the fact that so many structures can self-organize and grow is miraculous, and perhaps evidence of a guiding force behind the whole universe.

I don’t know precisely what is next, but it seems quite possible that there is a longer-term plan for humans that we are not aware of. Some of the religions of the world may have insights on what this plan might be. It is even possible that there may be divine intervention of some type that allows a change in the path that we seem to be on today.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,607 Responses to 2017: The Year When the World Economy Starts Coming Apart

  1. Greg Machala says:

    Reading all these comments got me wondering: how unique is our situation in the universe?
    If technological civilization is a common outcome of evolution then there should be evidence of it elsewhere in the universe. So, I started poking around and from the following link I found an interesting observation:
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alien-supercivilizations-absent-from-100-000-nearby-galaxies/

    “After examining some 100,000 nearby large galaxies a team of researchers lead by The Pennsylvania State University astronomer Jason Wright has concluded that none of them contain any obvious signs of highly advanced technological civilizations. Published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, it is by far the largest of study of its kind to date—earlier research had only cursorily investigated about a hundred galaxies.”

    So, out of 100,000 galaxies each with about 200 billion stars, there is not another technologically advanced civilization. This is a very very stark reality. It seems to me that either one of two things is going on: either technological civilizations are very short lived (and we can’t detect them) or, we are the only one in 20 quadrillion stars (if my math is correct). Either way folks we are a big time oasis in a very vast desert. It gives The Earth Battery Paper a whole new perspective. If you havn’t seen it here is the link: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/31/9511.abstract

    • That’s some interesting observations there Greg. Thanks for bringing it up and expanding upon Gail’s questions about the “miraculousness of system complexity”. If one reads George Mobus one might take the view that the arc of evolution (or complexity) can only be explained by a teleological assumption . i.e. that there is a goal ‘we’ are being driven towards.

      For my money the evolution of consciousness is something beyond linearity. Consciousness created the means to create itself. We – as godheads of consciousness – play a part in the creation of the ‘interstitial fabric’ which binds time and space into coherence. This is not a idealist proposition. We do not simply wish the universe into by our awareness of it. Rather the universe needs consciousness to reach it’s terminus so that it can be at it’s beginning. This is tied to the idea that at the other end of a black hole is a big bang. The sense of time that consciousness allows is the sand, the grit that gives the space-time flux it’s coarsity. Without consciousness there is no ‘gap’ between the instance of big bang and black hole singularity.

      As to the “lack of life out there” are a couple of books on the subject I’ve read I can recommend – the basic argument is: our planet’s particular path of becoming and remaining a planet that can sustain complex life within what is not necessarily a common type of solar system is highly improbable to have ever been achieved elsewhere.

      Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe
      Ward, Peter Douglas,

      If the Universe Is Teeming With Aliens Where Is Everybody?
      Seventy-five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
      Webb, Stephen

      • Just some thoughts says:

        Are you suggesting that consciousness exists within the singularity (in which the universe exists in all of its states “all at once”) and that consciousness gives time its linearity in which consciousness “comes to be” within the linear progression?

        Temporal linearity may exist only within the mind that exists within the singularity? The mind has a linear temporal structure in which it perceives the singularity as the “history” in which itself comes to be? I am not sure that the singularity would itself need to cease to be singular and to become linear just because the mind within the singularity perceives it as linear.

        It seems to come down to the question of Schopenhaur’s interpretation of Kant, the noumena retains its singularity, linearity is a transcendental structure that gives structure to our perception (phenomena) not to the noumena. But the noumena is here conceived not as the Will but as the universe itself in its singularity.

        Of course it leaves the question of “where” the singularity “came from” or “how” it “got there” or whatever. The same can be said of God, who created him? The point is likely that those concepts dont apply to the noumena, only to phenomena.

        I have my doubts that anything could be “proven” about noumena, even that it exists. Proof likely applies only to phenomena, the extra-mental is radically beyond comprehension.

        • Christian says:

          I find FSA’s view very interesting, but I’m not sure about yours. I don’t see much difference between singularities and noumena

          • Just some thoughts says:

            The point is whether the singularity ceases to exist as a singularity, as FSA seemed to imply, once consciousness gives time its linearity. That is one reason why I equated the singularity with noumena so that question could be discussed and expanded upon.

            By the way, do you think that your good manners may have slipped in that comment? lol Sorry but I found that quite funny. Thanks for your input.

          • Just some thoughts says:

            For further clarity, FSA *seems* (one has to try to interpet) to take a monist view that the singularity contains the consciousness that ontologically gives linear form to the singularity itself and makes the universe itself linear. I was questioning whether a singularity that contains consciousness could not rather remain in its singularity while it appears linear to consciousness. The former is more akin to the monist telological ontology of Hegel and it is not really noumenal, the latter is more dualist.

            • Christian says:

              Excuse me, my english is too rough

              I see your point now. I’ve always preferred the Kantian way, but it’s true teleologism is also attractive. But the later should not necesarily be related to an Earthian monism: perhaps we only get a part of the telos

            • Thank you JST!

              Are you seeking to claim as Ayer did that ‘metaphysics is non-sense? I’ve rejected that claim (temporarily?) myself. If our awareness is the mechanism by which the “stuff” of phenomenon are given form then does it not follow that the awareness has agency? If this agency is the prescriptor of phenomenon how can it also be relied on as an accurate verifier of what is or what is not? In the process of constant creation is there an ability to judge that creation in the same moment? Can we look inwards and outwards simultaneously? I’m reminded of T.S Elliot – “I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where”

            • To answer your questions which I understand are these: Should we consider that consciousness creates an ‘actual’ linearity or just a perceived one? Is the singularity transformed into parts by consciousness or is consciousness a state experiencing temporality just for itself?

              My shorthand answer is found in my first stated proposition: the evolution of consciousness is beyond linearity. Consciousness has the properties which we ascribe to the singularity – it is a point in which all states exist. It is not a ‘container’ in which a segmented temporality is created. It is an agent in the same way we view space and time as agents. We could consider space and time and consciousness as ‘the three illusions of the interstitial’. It is only by the confluence of these three agents that the gaps between beginning and end take shape.

              The expansion of this argument, if we would like to interrogate it further, will likely take a deist course…. to prove the gods are dead we may just have to invent a G-o-d….

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “we may just have to invent a G-o-d….”

              Or as some people say, “There are no gods–yet.”

      • Kurt says:

        Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean that they are not there. I think the idea that they have to consume massive amounts of energy is wrong. Probably they are just highly advanced AI with infinite life spans that roam around their galaxies. They would be undetectable. Kind of like brilliant birds that fly around in space. Increasing population and using lots of energy is very much a biological thing.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “very much a biological thing.”

          I am aware of the people who spend a lot of effort on this. To the best of my knowledge they are as baffled as the rest of us. The working assumption is that technological life would have a range of behaviors. It would take only one of them that stuck with biology and spread out to make a visible splash. Take travel for example. One of the more obvious ways to travel between stars is to use stars to power a big lasers and ride the beams with light sails (Forward’s method). The light spill from such a transport system would be visible as obviously unnatural far across the universe.

          “The mediocrity principle suggests, given the existence of life on Earth, that life typically exists on Earth-like planets throughout the universe.[4]” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediocrity_principle

          So far, we have conflicting information. I don’t have a solution.

          • The question being – are there really any Earth-like planets? The term gets bandied around too loosely. E.G. Do they have a Van Allen belt? Are they protected from constant bombardment by the unique gravitational patterns that exist in our not-so common solar system arrangement? Do they approximate our various rhythms – circadian, tidal, seasonal and orbital? At the moment anything just exhibiting ‘rocks’ and ‘water is termed earth-like, a far-cry from Earth if the other multitude of factors are not determined also.

    • hkeithhenson says:

      “obvious signs”

      I know Jason Wright through email. He is one sharp guy and deeply involved in the Tabby’s star research. He cites my work on anisotropic (directional, out of our line of sight) IR radiation from thermal power satellites. He isn’t the first one to look at a mess of galaxies, Eric Drexler of nanotech fame did the same after he understood that nanotechnology would let us reshape the visible universe. What Drexler was looking for was an expanding civilization that was englobing stars and shifting their visible light to IR. This would show up as a galaxy that looked like Cookie Monster had taken a bite out of it. Drexler didn’t find anything either.

      This is inordinately bad news for us if technological life is common. If it is, then something eats every one of them before they can make a visible mark on the universe. I have speculated that humans might upload and speed up, making the stars recede (in travel time) beyond reason. https://web.archive.org/web/20121130232045/http://hplusmagazine.com/2012/04/12/transhumanism-and-the-human-expansion-into-space-a-conflict-with-physics/

      It’s a major mystery. What makes Tabby’s star so interesting is that we could be looking at aliens who have installed low temperature heat radiators a substantial fraction of the size of their star.

      It just seems wrong that every single technological life form would take a route where their works were not visible, but that’s what we seem to have.

      Assuming, that is, that we are not the first. I hope we are not because if we are it puts a crushing burden on humanity.

      • ejhr2015 says:

        I wouldn’t be concerned. In say another 200 million years the planet will have recharged and can afford another attack of intelligent life forms. Rinse and repeat until the sun gets old.

        • How in the world do you think that the planet recharges? More oil, coal and natural gas in suitable locations? We would need to repeat the climactic conditions that allowed the first accumulation of fossil fuels.

          More mineral deposits that are easy to extract as well? How do you think we are going to get those? The tendency is toward more and more dispersal, as complexity gives rise to uses that use greater and greater mixtures of materials. It would take huge energy amounts, to attempt to put minerals back together in the form needed.

          You are asking for an awfully lot.

          • ejhr2015 says:

            I would have thought 200 million years was adequate time for the planet to recover the losses we caused. Continental drift, mountain building and erosion, etc will bring new mineral supplies to the surface and taken away the exhausted rocks. It is still a finite world but given time it will recover a loy of resources. There will be time for new coal beds and oil supplies to form. Anyway if 200 million years is not enough make it 400 my[?] The point is another intelligent species can have its turn.

            • Our supply of fossil fuels takes an extremely unusual combination of circumstances.

            • Artleads says:

              Someone on another blog suggested that we don’t quite have a billion years before the sun gobbles up earth, and things start getting untenable for life in half that time. And it’s not that I follow Guy McPherson too much these days, but he probably would put the prospect of earth being a lifeless zone in a much, much shorter time span than that. Which is to suggest that we think more about the present and less about the fantasy of life in 200 mil years hence.

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            Techno Narcissists are often extremely scientific illiterate, on most levels, but specialists on a micro level.
            I used to attend Long Now events, and was horrified with the delusion.

          • common phenomenon says:

            ejhr2015 is asking for an awful lot in terms of our current scientific theories. But how often have our scientific theories been overturned, so that a respectable theory became pseudo-science, and what was considered pseudo-science became respectable? How exactly did all these metals and minerals and elements from, and are all our theories about them correct? Nobody knows what the Earth will be like in 200 millions years – which is an awfully long time, after all.

            Just look at the things that are still argued about: the Giza pyramid was supposedly constructed in 20 years – just how did the ancient Egyptians manage the logistics of that? When you work out how many tons would have had to be moved and worked every hour for 20 years, quite apart from feeding and providing living space for the workers, it beggars belief. And how did the mega-dinosaurs support their weight? Scientists and engineers cannot prove how they did it – it ought to be impossible. You can google the controversies. Some think the Earth had to have been only 55% of its current size, and that the planet is expanding. After all, how do we know what exactly is happening at the very centre of the core of the Earth? We don’t have people there monitoring it.

            We don’t even understand ourselves. There is no agreement on what consciousness is or even how memories are stored. One man gets a nasty bump on the head and discovers he can speak fluent Italian – a language of which he previously had no knowledge. Another such man, after another such accident, discovers he can play the piano – but only without using his little fingers. As Gail points out, most experts work with blinkers on and cannot even link the disparate factors of our human economy together. So I think a little modesty is in order. Admittedly, we will not be around in 200 million years’ time, so we need not worry about it. But will there be divine intervention meantime, to put us back on track, as Gail appears to hope? I don’t know. I can’t rule it in or out. If it did happen, the atheists who believe we are in the Matrix would just say it proved their theory, and the arguments would continue anew.

        • would you like to buy a season ticket to Jurassic park—just to check how things are progressing?

        • Greg Machala says:

          I don’t think I can even think on time scales of 200 million years. It is futile to predict anything that far out.

          • ejhr2015 says:

            Well it has to be a guess. But “they” can forecast what the land masses will look like in x hundred million years. It’s not too far fetched to reckon the planet still has a lot of life sustaining ability in the 4 billion years it has before the sun turns into a red giant. My main point was that there’s oodles of time for other “civilizations” like ours to rise and fall. Our demise is not the end of intelligent life even on this little blue marble.

            • “oodles of time”

              Not really. Complex life might take about 750 million years to evolve following the predicted climate cataclysm.

              The series of events that led to the laying down of fossil fuels are not necessarily repeating themselves in the same manner again either. If there is but one significant difference in climate variables or mass extinctions you could be looking at 2 billion years for some sort of resources base and intelligent life around to harness it.

              These developments will also have to take place with a completely different ‘environment’ – a less efficient Van Allens belt or almost non-existent tidal flows given that the moon will be significantly further away, and the sun’s radiation will be of a different magnitude within even a billion years.

              Your assumptions are ‘cute’ but need examining.

        • bandits101 says:

          The Sun is already old. It’s brightening and getting hotter. The Moon is moving away. The Earths ability to recharge the atmosphere is waning. Intelligent life was a one shot affair, evolution will be severely hampered by time and conditions. Diversity and time was evolutions’ mainstay, both are severely curtailed.

          Within about 600 more likely 400 million years the Earth will be uninhabitable for much more than the most basic forms of life.
          More than likely we have blown our chance to exist for even a fraction of the time that the dinosaurs held sway.

          • Thomas Malthus says:

            By then we will have learned to turn Mars green and we can just move back to Earth and do same sarc

          • ejhr2015 says:

            Your guess is as good as mine no doubt. I haven’t seen any recent evidence to not support the theory we are half way through the planets life cycle, which means 600 million years will still be in the viable zone. Anything can happen of course, as has done. It was only 250 mya that the Permian extinction occurred, with a 95% loss of life. There’s bound to be more of those big events. I dunno about the “old ” sun. It’s also at its halfway point as far as what I have understood is concerned. ‘I’m not resiling from what I said.

            • bandits101 says:

              You don’t know enough. The Sun is a common variable star. It does not get born, stay constant and fade away after ten billion years. There is much on our planet and within the Solar System that has made up and supports the conditions for life as we know it. I’ll list you some books to read if you like.

            • ejhr2015 says:

              I did have a 24 volume encyclopaedia on Astronomy, but I gave it away when I downsized to fit into a flat. I read it all but you may be more up to date, as the science does change all the time. I get updates on Science Daily but I’ve not seen anything against that idea that the sun is halfway through it’s current cycle, before it exhausts its hydrogen.

            • bandits101 says:

              Like beating my head against a wall…..half way through its cycle does not mean the Earth has been habitable for the first half and will remain habitable through the second half.

      • Van Kent says:

        Keiths comment there got me thinking about Apex predators..

        In general predators are often more intelligent than their prey. It’s harder to hunt another thinking animal than it is to hunt grass. Think of lions versus antelopes. But like most biological trends there are significant and important exceptions, like elephants, parrots, etc. 

        A strong selective force for intelligence is sociality, stronger it seems than the force exerted by predation. Many predators are solitary. But most social predators are probably going to be higher up in the intelligence ranks than most of their prey (wolves, dolphins, orcas, humans).

        Therefore intelligent life on other planets would most certainly be social predators. But.. how do you restrain predators from their prey/resources. That simply isn’t possible.. predators kill, multiply, harvest resources untill all resources are dead, killed, used. Predators are killers, even the social predators. An intelligent social predator species would therefore necessarily cause its own demise by overshoot and collapse. Dead planets are plentifull. Maybe all the dead planets we see are the traces of the ancient ones that came before us..

        Keiths comment got the silly idea in my head that the only possibility of having a intergalactic civilization would be that there are some Super- Apex predators harvesting resources from the social predators (permanent nobility vs. plebs dynamic). Otherwise its always the same overshoot and collapse story again and again. And through generations of genetic manipulation the Super-Apex predators would have become really really nasty manipulative, psychopatic superkillers.

        So if we are to meet visitors from another world, by all likelyhood they are despotic, tyrannical, elitistical, Super-Apex predators coming to enslave you and take all your resources from you. That would be the only kind that could keep the planets original social predator species from going towards their overshoot and collapse cycle..

        But.. if there isn’t any Super-Apex predators out there.. (to ‘save’ us), and all is in the hands of our own silly little species.. then we must evolve in to a species with a Super-Apex predator group inside our own species, or we collapse and die.

        Any manipulative- tyrannical- psychopatic- super killer volunteers here to take the job of global slave master ??

        • ejhr2015 says:

          Somewhat on line with your apex predator topic comes this video about Tropic Cascade effects..
          There are two videos on the topic here. One is about wolves the other about whales.

          http://www.flixxy.com/how-wolves-changed-an-entire-ecosystem.htm

        • psile says:

          I don’t like this*

        • Stefeun says:

          Van Kent,
          Thanks for your amusing and mostly true comment. I say “mostly” because I disagree from the moment you introduce this species of Super-Apex Intergalactic Predators.

          Even if they’re able to enslave us and “garden” planet Earth (and likely other ones) for their own profit, what tells you that they’re a united species, or that they didn’t have to fight internally amongst themselves before deciding to cooperate and assault their neighbors? Also assume they still must have enough resource (matter + energy) in order to withstand the continuity of their BAU and at the same time the transition towards the new way of life;
          Maybe the perspective of a big and rapid increase of their Carrying Capacity Line, thanks to those extra-inputs from outspace? Note these extras would be only temporary, because they’d quickly adjust their population, and other needs to this new line (just as we did with FF). I can’t see how this could prevent any collapse, neither here nor there.
          IMHO, the only way to delay (not even prevent) the deadly cycles of overshoots & collapses is to have a Carrying Capacity as stable as possible, together with an as-bigger-as-possible reactivity from ourselves (that never happens, see r, K strategies, we always fall into the normalcy bias that makes us think nothing will ever change).
          Not to mention all of the entropy issues…

          Secondly, don’t we already have something very similar on Earth?
          I won’t describe this class of ruling super-predators, I think everyone has lots of images coming to mind.
          NB: I say “class” because it isn’t a sub-species yet. Anyway, most of the selection today happens on the socio-cultural level, which is much faster than the biological one (don’t forget we’re in a race!).
          Why do we always tend to rely on “somebody from outside” when we aren’t able to stop fighting each other? Because we need to maintain some level of inequality to have the whole circus go ahead, or…? Well, this wasn’t supposed to be a bitter rant, thanks again Van Kent.

  2. InAlaska says:

    Here is a very recent article in the “New Yorker” entitled, “Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich.” Lots about missile silos turned into condos and hedge fund managers buying farms in New Zealand. The wealthy, educated elite of America are starting to figure out that things are not going so well. Here’s the link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

    • The New Zealand reaction is that these rich nobs are sneakily buying their way into paradise and that we should start marketing ourselves that way to goose certain property markets.

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/88768571/editorial-is-new-zealand-citizenship-for-sale

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/88705064/super-rich-americans-buying-land-in-new-zealand-as-bolthole-from-apocalypse

      Of course N.Z ‘s ability to ride out systemic collapse is exaggerated BUT with 650 kilograms of meat person currently sitting on four legs, 80% electricity from hydropower and oil reserves available for domestic consumption there is some potential to battle on through the first year or two of depression. I’m especially happy with my choice of location as it is a city used to hardship and relies on a good store of artesian water that doesn’t need treatment before distribution.

      • Note: I do recognise the potential for absolute chaos and the end of global supply chains yada yada …

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I was speaking to a friend the other day … he was in banking for years and converted to tech entrepreneur ….

          I am sure he thought of me as chicken little when I warned that collapse was coming…

          He has changed tune — and is no looking for a bolt hole in Canada.

          What he – and these other people who have enough cash to have options do not realize is that their luxury bolt holes will be useless (actually all bolt holes will be pretty much useless)

          They seem to believe the collapse that is coming is financial in nature – they do not understand that the cause is the end of cheap to produce energy….

          They seem to believe after the financial calamity -which they intend to ride out in New Zealand — there will be a reset….

          They are in for a very big surprise.

          Thiel;s house in Queenstown

          • ejhr2015 says:

            Somewhere recently I saw a blog about suitable places to escape to when the SHTF time comes. New Zealand did not figure very highly in the pecking order. I cannot recall the link now, but I do recall that bit. Some of the world’s “first peoples” may survive because they still have knowledge of living their basic lives in known environments. But even they will be stressed as climate change will inflict changes they will have to adapt to and there won’t be much in the way of low hanging fruit around either.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Totally agree.

              Spent fuel ponds aside… the best places to be would be those that are completely unplugged from BAU — where people have no electricity — no modern tools — where everything they eat they provide for themselves.

              They are already living the Fast Eddy Challenge.

              I have been to two such places – the Amazon — and Irian Jaya…. I stayed in a nice hotel in the tree tops in the Amazon so had only fleeting contact with the natives — and did not get anywhere near natives who do not have contact with tourists…

              But in IJ — I went to the heart of darkness — not even a plastic bottle was to be had… trekkers almost never make it to such places…

              Historically these tribes have engaged in frequent and intense wars — as to be expected when there are few resources available….. they have been known to eat each other…

              These remote places are — needless to say — not ideal bolt holes for outsiders… the tribes will not welcome Peter Thiel post BAU —- well — they might welcome him …. with garlands of garlic and other spices — then put him in a pot…..

              If anyone is to survive the apocalypse — spent fuel aside— it would be tribes that are completely cut off from the world

            • that always allows me much hilarity here

              when londoners say they’ll head for wales

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            “They seem to believe after the financial calamity -which they intend to ride out in New Zealand — there will be a reset….”

            There have always been resets throughout history after disasters. The only difference this time is the collapse will be global, the reset/s localized and the level of tech afterwards will be far less. But of course those making it through the bottleneck will come together here and there to begin anew. It will be a harsh life compared to this peak oil tech extravaganza, but nonetheless life goes on for those that can endure.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              There will be no energy post BAU — because BAU is collapsing for the lack of cheap energy.

              Therefore there will be no food — and there will be no way to stop spent fuel ponds from poisoning the world

              There will be no reset. A reset requires energy

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        I would imagine the hydro plants and grid will not last very long due to spare parts being unavailable…. also the hydro plants are in remote areas which will be difficult to get to to service without petrol for cars and helicopters.

        I came in very easily under the skilled worker option — I had to demonstrate in front of a gov’t panel my ability to heft large objects held by my teeth — and I had to demonstrate that I could find employment in a circus for at least a year…. the PTB were very impressed – to say the least.

        As for selling citizenship I have no problem with that — so long as it is not sold to gangsters — if someone with loads of money like Thiel are willing to slap many millions of dollars on the table for a NZ passport —- in the belief that they have purchased a slice of heaven — I am all for it.

        The more the merrier — because that will help ensure that NZ remains prosperous — till the last moment.

        Hopefully Thiel does not find FW — it would be bad for NZ if he were to discover the spent fuel problem

        • FE – can’t agree more re the NZ situation – as i said – we MAY battle through a year or two of depression IF depression continues in the global economy before the ….CRACK.

          However that’s not a recipe for lasting success or a solution to the Korowicz style collapse we see coming.

          I will split hairs with you (again) and reiterate that given preventative maintenance programs and the very fact that hydro plants don’t now routinely stop operation due to waiting for a valve from Japan – that their operation could continue for months post a global supply chain failure.

          The distinction I’m attempting to make here is that we may see things grind down bit by bit and we may see major elements of the global trade be disrupted for a period and THEN see the complete HALT. You’ve seemed to maintain that we see ‘normality’ in trade and finance until an overnight crisis. That’s is a very reasonable position to take. I’m of the same mind. However, would it be equally reasonable to assume that a period of desperation and serious recession could precede the crisis point?

          Why the sudden animosity to gangsters?

          • Pintada says:

            Dear Fast Eddy;

            “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
            By any other name would smell as sweet.”

            First, an analysis from Sandia Laboratories

            “These results should be considered in context with the fact that according to current practice, decay times as short as 30 days in reactor-sited pools and 11 year in away-from-reactor pools are possible.”

            So, a significant proportion of the spent fuel rods have been used as much as possible in the reactor, and then have been stored safely for many years. The fuel that has been stored for more than five years can be dry casked. It doesn’t need water cooling at all. Since it can be stored in a dry cask, it can also be stored in the racks in the pool without overheating. Stated another way, that fuel is safe regardless of the existence of water in the pool. From the book:

            “For most of the cases considered, a 3-year decay period is sufficient to keep the clad temperatures within safe limits even when there is no ventilation at all.”

            The cases where fuel that has been stored for 3 years, and is unsafe, are due to tighter placement of the fuel, and smaller holes that restrict air circulation. The 3 year number is for spent fuel from a Pressurized water reactor (PWR) for fuel that was used in a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) the time required is less. (There are more PWR reactors than BWR reactors.)

            “… the amount of heatup occurring in the unventilated or underventilated away-from- reactor storage pool is considerably lower when the pool is filled with BWR fuel than when it is filled with PWR fuel.”

            For spent fuel stored outside, or in a room with an open door and roof vent the study concluded that:

            “1. Considering a complete pool drainage, the minimum allowable decay time for PWR spent fuel in a well-ventilated room varies from a best value of about 5 days, for open-frame storage configurations, to a worst value of about 700 days, for high-density closed-frame configurations with wall-to-wall spent fuel placement. Other storage configurations fall between these limits. The minimum allowable decay time is defined as the lower limit of safe decay times, such that shorter decay times would produce local clad failures due to rupture or melting.”

            “2. The minimum allowable decay time for BWR spent fuel in a well-ventilated room varies from a best value of 5 days to a worst value of 150 days for the cases considered. A high-density storage rack design for BWRs would result in a somewhat higher value of the allowable decay time than presented here, but not as high as for PWR spent fuel.”

            That is ALL fuel that has been stored for 700 days after BAU would be safe. Some fuel stored only 5 days would be safe. Interestingly, the author goes on to say that by making a few modifications to the racks, that 700 day number could be reduced to 80 days at no expense to the utility.

            If the fuel is stored in a closed room with no ventilation, the spent fuel would need to be stored as long as 4 years before it was safe.

            The author calculated that it would likely not be wise under any circumstances to stand at the edge of the pool after the water was gone. Just as obvious, the idea that all of the spent fuel known to exist would – as a matter of course – burn, melt, go critical and scatter radiation over vast areas is simply ridiculous, as I stated several days ago.

            The second study from Brookhaven National Laboratory was charged with determining the damage that would be caused by the spent fuel that did overheat per the study at Sandia. In the “Consequence Evaluation” section of the Brookhaven study one finds:

            “Because of several features in the health physics modeling in the CRAC2 code, the population dose results are not very sensitive to the estimated fission product release. A more sensitive measure of the accident severity appears to be the interdiction area (contaminated land area) which in the worst cases was about two hundred square miles. While the long-term health effects (i.e., person-rem) are potentially large, it is important to note that no “prompt fatalities” were predicted and the risk of injury was also negligible.”

            In the later portions of the text, the author notes that the reason that there are no prompt fatalities, and the risk of injury was small is that the model used assumes what I would call BAU mitigation. So, yes their would be major health effects in the 200 square mile area if the fire happened post BAU.

            Regarding their review and update of the Sandia work:

            “Based on the previous results we have concluded that the modified SFUEL code (SFUELIW2) gives a reasonable estimate of the potential for propagation of self-sustaining clad oxidation from high power spent fuel to low power spent fuel. Under some conditions, propagation is predicted to occur for spent fuel that has been stored as long as 2 years. The investigation of the effect of insufficient ventilation in the fuel building indicated that oxygen depletion is a competing factor with heating of the building atmosphere and propagation is not predicted to occur for spent fuel that has been cooled for more than three years even without ventilation.”

            Recall that under the worst conditions possible, the Sandia study found that spent fuel stored only 3 years might cause a large issue. The Brookhaven folks showed that fuel stored only 3 years might overheat, but would not create the worst fire possible.

            Yup. The spent fuel will not be moved, it will not all be dry casked, it will be radioactive for centuries and dangerous for decades. It is entirely possible that every nuclear reactor that is in operation today will have a fire in the spent fuel pool(s) and it is entirely possible that the fire will be the worst possible. Assuming the worst happens at every facility, there will be roughly 1000 areas with a 15 mile radius that will be unsafe for the foreseeable future. If the population density in those 200 square mile area is high, millions will die or wish for death. Millions.

            Spent fuel pools cannot:
            1. Explode
            2. Spread radiation uphill more that 20 – 30 miles
            3. cause human extinction

            Spent fuel pools will:
            1. Contaminate surface and groundwater including the oceans
            2. Make a terrible mess in the immediate area

            Tell your tribe where the nukes are, and make sure the young ones know that it is crucial that their decedents never forget where those unsafe areas are. Do not live anywhere near one. No hysteria or histrionics are necessary, but FE lives for histrionics and hysteria, so please FE ignore the facts again. I will post this later.

            Glowingly Yours,
            Pintada

            U.S. Government; Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (2011-03-16). 2011 Nuclear Power Plant Sourcebook: Spent Nuclear Fuel and the Risks of Heatup After the Loss of Water – NRC Reports – Crisis at Japan’s TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant (~200 pages). Progressive Management. Kindle Edition.

            • I think you have posted this before.

            • Pintada says:

              Dear Ms Tverberg;

              Yes, I have posted it before. Here’s the thing. Fast Eddy (or whatever) has the time and is obsessed enough to post – with ever creative new phraseology – that “the spent fuel ponds will kill everyone post BAU”. His obsession with that obvious absurdity allows him to spend a crazy amount of time spreading the lie, while I, being sane, have very limited time for debunking the lie. So yes, I post the same truth over and over without changing it.

              Thank you for letting me debunk the silliness, every time he posts the lie.

              Sincerely,
              Pintada

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel’s volatile fission product, including 30-year half-life Cs, would be released.

              The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.

              http://science.time.com/2011/03/15/a-new-threat-in-japan-radioactive-spent-fuel/

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              As I have been saying — Sandia recommendations were not followed through on — spent fuel is stored in dense pack formation.

              Based on your continuous posting of the Sandia rubbish…. it is clear that you and the spent fuel ponds have a descriptor in common….

              dense
              dɛns/Submit
              adjective

              1.
              closely compacted in substance.
              “as the storm cleared, a dense fog came down”
              synonyms: thick, heavy, opaque, soupy, murky, smoggy, impenetrable; More

              2.
              informal
              (of a person) stupid.
              “Am I being dense? I don’t quite understand”

            • InAlaska says:

              Pintada,
              Excellent work and thank you. The situation is dire enough without histrionics. The combined sum of all of the forces acting against our survival are serious enough that we needn’t go looking for other sources of disaster. Well said.

            • Thanks, Pintada for your efforts to present evidence on the subject.

              I’m not sure that you can claim as strongly as you do that the spent fuel problem is as ‘negligible’ as those two studies claim (there have been studies making contrary claims after all). Neither do I believe that FE should be as convinced as to their extinction level threat. As this point in time I don’t believe there has been enough research done to come down firmly for either assumption. However I commend you for presenting what evidence is available to those of us who have not yet seen it – even if it has been posted before.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              The thing is….

              I have not seen a single piece of information that demonstrates that spent fuels can be managed without BAU —- and I have not seen a shred of evidence that when all spent fuel ponds are left to their own devices — will not catch fire and release epic amounts of radiation.

              Not a single shred. Nothing. Nadda.

            • Ed says:

              Yes we have at least three schools of thought on the spent nuclear fuel rods post BAU.
              1) we all die
              2) local damage not too bad
              3) even local damage can be mitigated by spreading the fuel rods out to low density

              As this is not a nuclear engineering site I am more interested which countries/regions are going down now and which are next and when do we go down?

              I’d say several countries in Africa are post collapse, Yemen, Cuba, areas of Indonesia never rose up they just stayed per-industrial.

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              There is only one school of thought on the spent fuel issue — they other ‘schools’ are for the severely mentally retarded individuals who would have trouble tying their shoe laces.

              Spent fuel fire on U.S. soil could dwarf impact of Fukushima

              http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/spent-fuel-fire-us-soil-could-dwarf-impact-fukushima

              A fire from spent fuel stored at a U.S. nuclear power plant could have catastrophic consequences, according to new simulations of such an event.

              A major fire “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident,” says Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. “We’re talking about trillion-dollar consequences,” says Frank von Hippel, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University, who teamed with Princeton’s Michael Schoeppner on the modeling exercise.

              ….the national academies’s report warns that spent fuel accumulating at U.S. nuclear plants is also vulnerable. After fuel is removed from a reactor core, the radioactive fission products continue to decay, generating heat. All nuclear power plants store the fuel onsite at the bottom of deep pools for at least 4 years while it slowly cools.

              To keep it safe, the academies report recommends that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear plant operators beef up systems for monitoring the pools and topping up water levels in case a facility is damaged. The panel also says plants should be ready to tighten security after a disaster.

              At most U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk. NRC has estimated that a major fire at the spent fuel pool at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania would displace an estimated 3.46 million people from 31,000 square kilometers of contaminated land, an area larger than New Jersey. But Von Hippel and Schoeppner think that NRC has grossly underestimated the scale and societal costs of such a fire.

              Multiply this by 4000….

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Look at Mr Pintada … the star pupil of the School for the Mentally Challenged… nice effort but if you could only read you would stop posting the same rubbish over and over…

              The Sandia solution requires that the fuel rods NOT be packed in dense formation …. unfortunately their recommendations were ignored because it is much more cost-effective to store spent fuel in dense packed formations:

              It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool.

              Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel’s volatile fission product, including 30-year half-life Cs, would be released.

              The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.

              http://science.time.com/2011/03/15/a-new-threat-in-japan-radioactive-spent-fuel/

              Repeating the same lie over and over again is a sign of severe mental impairment. Ignoring the facts must be construed as a form of extreme psychosis.

              Have you considered checking yourself in?

              There are medications available that can assist you with escaping your make-believe world.

              In the meantime, I highly recommend you stay well away from knives, hammers, loaded weapons and cliff tops.

            • Tim Groves says:

              “For most of the cases considered, a 3-year decay period is sufficient to keep the clad temperatures within safe limits even when there is no ventilation at all.”

              Pintada,
              Does this mean the fuel rods at Fukushima Daiichi can be considered safe now, as even the newest ones have been kept cool now for six years come March 11?

          • Thomas Malthus says:

            I am basing my expectations on a few things:

            – CTG and the gal in Ontario (name escapes me) have explained the JIT supply chain — virtually nothing is stockpiled

            – after Lehman global trade completely stopped for a few days — due to no trust between the banks of the suppliers and customers – if the central banks did not agree to back stop the entire global economy would have collapsed soon after

            The metaphor I prefer is fingers in the dam….. the men in charge stick fingers in holes as fast as they can — at some point the holes overwhelm them — and the dam bursts…

            My expectation is that it will happen that quickly …. up until that moment things will no doubt get progressively worse — with some places degrading faster than others – more join Greece and Venezuela and Libya and Syria — but at some point a breaking point is reached.

            I continue to struggle to work out what the trigger will be.

            • ITEOTWAWKI says:

              “CTG and the gal in Ontario (name escapes me) have explained the JIT supply chain — virtually nothing is stockpiled”

              Are you talking about Nicole Foss from The Automatic Earth?

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              Definitely not her heheheh — the last time I saw something from Nicole Foss I think she was advising one of her kids to learn a percussion instrument ‘because entertainers will always be needed in a post BAU world’

              I hear that she enrolled her in a Bang a Drum Dance Around the Fire crash course http://www.BADDATFC.com

              My suggestion would be to sign up for a course that offers training in hand to hand combat with knives… small arms training and ambush tactics… I’d strongly recommend a specialist course in how to attack a static target like say … an organic farm…

              http://www.killthemofooker.com

            • Siobhan says:

              TM,
              She posts as SymbolikGirl.

            • Thanks for recognising the idea that we could be (and are) seeing a period of disintegration in some locales (for a year or two?) before the actual ‘Lehman-type’ trigger.

              However i still think the ‘overnight crisis’ scenario while the major economies ‘pretend and extend BAu is the more likely scenario. I would agree with you that a long-lasting depression preceding the crisis point is the less likely scenario given what we understand about global interconnectedness, the lack or resilience in the system and the ways in which global finance is currently goosing the system. However a period of depression here in NZ – my particular selfish concern – i don’t rule out entirely. it’s still not a pretty picture. Either chaos descends quickly or misery for a while then chaos.

  3. Thomas Malthus says:

    Peaks Cheap Safe Water

    The poisoned places on this map stretch from Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River where 36 percent of children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning. In some pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent.

    Like Flint, many of these localities are plagued by legacy lead: crumbling paint, plumbing, or industrial waste left behind. Unlike Flint, many have received little attention or funding to combat poisoning.

    To identify these locations, Reuters examined neighborhood-level blood testing results, most of which have not been previously disclosed. The data, obtained from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracks poisoning rates among children tested in each location.

    A variety of pressures ranging from climate change, to sanitation and water quality, to infrastructure upgrades, are placing increasing strain on water prices. Estimates of the cost to replace aging infrastructure in the United States alone project over $1 trillion dollars are needed in the next 25 years to replace systems built circa World War II, which could triple the cost of household water bills…

    Over the next few decades, water prices are anticipated to increase to four times current levels. Prices could go higher if cities look to private providers for water services, who have a tendency to charge higher rates than public providers. These pressures on water systems, combined with the fact that water is a vital necessity to sustain life, place this issue at the forefront of 21st century infrastructure challenges. While studies have found that Americans are willing to pay more to maintain and ensure access to water resources, this willingness to pay may conflict with their fundamental ability to pay for water.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-25/americas-water-wars-conflict-coming

    Poor people cannot afford purified bottled water …. which means they end up with lower IQs from drinking lead…. ensuring they remain poor.

    Overheard at a high flying dinner party in Manhattan …. ‘quelle problem? I see no problem. Let them drink lead’

    • APOCALYPSE SOON says:

      This is a little curious for a Monsanto lover.

      Have you had a change of heart?

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        Not at all. Whatever it takes to feed 7.5 billion people we must do. Grow or collapse and die.

        I prefer to take my collapse later — and in the meantime as a good mate of mine put it ‘Whole Foods has got this problem covered for me’ — essentially too bad for those who have to eat this shit — I don’t

        As for the poisoned water — the point I am making is that the end of cheap energy is not the only problem we are facing —- who knows — perhaps continued drought in California triggers global collapse….

        The system is ultra fragile — a puff of wind from any direction could topple BAU over the cliff….

    • Greg Machala says:

      “When you have close to 1.2 million miles of lead pipes for water delivery in America — pipes that only have a lifespan of about 75 years and many are reaching that age — you have a recipe for disaster that experts warn will cost close to $1 trillion to fix.” – This is insane. You can never “fix” the problem. In 75 years all the pipes will need replacing yet again. What a mess technology has gotten us in to. It was good at first when technology was making our lives easier. Now, we are working harder and harder to maintain the technology. We seem to be shifting into reverse.

      • doomphd says:

        Red (lead) Queen Effect. You just have to stop those hungry getto kids from eating the old leaded paint chips. As for lead plumbing, I’m not so sure it’s all that harmful. Most of the leaded pipes were and are used for the drains, not for the water feeds. Those are usually made of copper or steel alloy. Copper usually lasts much longer than steel. Lead is like almost forever. BTW, copper is also toxic at high concentrations. It’s used as a marine anitfoulant.

        The richer Romans ate off leaded plates and drank acidic wine from leaded gobbets. Archeologists have noted the rise and fall of Roman lead posioning by analyzing the lead in their bones. Some have suggested that this poisoning may have contributed to the fall of the empire, as the leader class became lower in IQ over time.

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        Apparently Donald is going to replace all these trillions of dollars of infrastructure that were built when energy was cheap….

    • They should remain poor. It is the way which was intended.

      The Great War killed too many valuable people and replaced them with American cornhuskers, which led the world to this direction.

      Norman Borlaug, son of Danish immigrants in Iowa, would have continued farming maize instead of becoming a scholar if the Great War ended in 1915.

  4. Rodster says:

    I think i’ve found Fast Eddy! He’s really John Michael Greer in disguise. 🙂

    Here’s what he wrote in his latest post:

    “This is what the decline and fall of a civilization looks like. It’s not about sitting in a cozy earth-sheltered home under a roof loaded with solar panels, living some close approximation of a modern industrial lifestyle, while the rest of the world slides meekly down the chute toward history’s compost bin, leaving you and yours untouched. It’s about political chaos—meaning that you won’t get the leaders you want, and you may not be able to count on the rule of law or even the most basic civil liberties. It’s about economic implosion—meaning that your salary will probably go away, your savings almost certainly won’t keep its value, and if you have gold bars hidden in your home, you’d better hope to Hannah that nobody ever finds out, or it’ll be a race between the local government and the local bandits to see which one gets to tie your family up and torture them to death, starting with the children, until somebody breaks and tells them where your stash is located.

    It’s about environmental chaos—meaning that you and the people you care about may have many hungry days ahead as crazy weather messes with the harvests, and it’s by no means certain you won’t die early from some tropical microbe that’s been jarred loose from its native habitat to find a new and tasty home in you.”

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2017/01/how-great-fall-can-be.html

    • Maybe JMG has been reading OFW.

      • FE isnt old enough to have grown a beard that long

        though it would explain his absence over Christmas

      • Rodster says:

        His latest post sounds more like an Easter Island scenario although if you read the whole thing he kinda says it doesn’t mean the end for humans but it’s an ugly, ugly scenario and deviates from his previous writings that we would be looking at a gradual collapse (slow burn scenario) and more towards Fast Eddy’s world.

        • Rodster says:

          What I meant to say was he’s gone from a semi optimist view that eventually we’ll work things out to a more dire tone which gives us a Mad Max world.

    • Does anyone else pick up on the contradictions uses to justify his ‘staircase collapse’ view? (He regards ‘fast collapse’ as the fetish of an ideologically aberrant doomerism)

      The way he has to tie himself in knots to defend this view can be seen in this recent post:

      rule of law disappears YET local government remains

      bandits will steal everything of value YET somehow you are still feeding yourself

      the diseases that ‘might’ kill you are exotic microbes YET it’s more likely that dysentery, cholera and severe malnutrition will accompany an ‘economic implosion’

      everything associated with civil society will disappear YET if you read his hopes for the near future civil societies created on state secessions will persist.

      I’ve taken a few cheap shots at someone i consider to be an accomplished counter-culturalist but his erudite musings on what’s wrong with modernity do not necessarily give him authority on collapse scenarios.

      I

      • Pintada says:

        I couldn’t agree more. The echo chamber that he has created through draconic site administration let him get away with deluding himself. Hopefully, the latest post indicates that he has begun to rethink his unreasonable ideas.

      • Artleads says:

        Great points. Thank you.

      • doomphd says:

        i’ve often used the summary word “blowhard” to describe the writings of JMG. he does have a nice beard. there, i said something positive about him.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          I agree.
          The Druid thing is embarrassing.
          He is a talented writer, but science is not his education, writing is.

      • Generally I agree, and not trying to defend JMG here, lets acknowledge that “collapses” as unfolding processes with their bubbling social, economic, historic plains, which are complex issues, so often times you can have one set of emerging trends and other set of dying trends rolling together, both cohabiting the same time space.

        I guess some years ago I re-posted here the ~historical accounts from the Western Roman end days (actually more like span of decades). It was full of rather anecdotal stories, even like good one “invading hoards” no longer pillaging around, but more interested in grouping along with the old roman apparatus remnants to setup some basic law and order at specific geographic(nodes) space, hence origins of proto – feudal order etc.

        As often mentioned at OFW, due to the energy leverage of our time, we can assume some(most) collapse processes will take shape of expedient action globally. But obviously, that’s another dogmatic position in itself, we have to leave some (tiny?) space allowing for regional condition adaptations, of what longevity and substance that’s another matter.

        So, it’s not that simple to proclaim “end of debate – staircase position” is invalid, because I simply said so – believe so, or because I limited the debate into a specific sandbox and conditions.

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        Stupidity on an epic scale…. plenty of that on display from about 5 regular ‘contributors’ to Finite World as well. Without naming names.

      • ITEOTWAWKI says:

        I stopped reading him years ago…at first when you’re discovering about the mess we are in, you like what he has to say…but then as you go deeper into the rabbit hole, and you read Norman’s book, follow this site, read David Korowicz Trade-Off and so on….you realize his stupid catabolic collapse scenario is…stupid…add to that his know-it-all attitude (very annoying) you just stop following JMG and his little delusional commenters who have quit their jobs and are trying to live off the land (his “collapse now and avoid the rush”)

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          There are a number of people on FW who subscribe to the theory that there will be no sudden collapse… that there will just be a gentle slope downwards ending in a global ‘Scott Nearing’ like scenario.

          Yes I agree — it makes no sense.

          There is no point in reading any of the other doomsday blogs — the authors either do not get it — or they get it — and but they feel the need to create a happy ending so as to increase readership — and sell something.

          • jeremy890 says:

            Not naming names?…..Fast Eddy seems you or. whatever name you hide with didn’t last too long away…too bad…that challenge of yours didn’t last too long…maybe you went on one of your bucket list trips….because you won’t last too long with that 20 foot container…
            LOL…Just Saying…

            • Jeremy, about FE/TM/.. yes it’s always a bit rich when someone daily preaching consistency of thought in the realm of collapsnik studies/FW issues is demonstrably acting as a child on a public forum.

              The only possible thing to his credit is the revealing of the supposedly true personal story, how one prematurely acting doomer relocated to NZ, where he suddenly realized it’s all badly timed and futile prep anyway. We should be honest with ourselves, namely for example in my case I fell into the “second gen” resource/PO doomerism roughly emerging since the late 1990s again (first being the Limits to Growths folks), the restated message of the late 1990s was clearly very much not correct analysis for the western world by decades. From that time we learned much about system dynamics, inertia, demographics, triage and so on..

              The historical record is clear the collapse is not spatially uniform process, that being said, there seems to be little advantage in remaining, positioning in one of the likely pockets of slower variety (delayed phases) of collapse by the means of forcing-pushing it beyond already set conditions (nationality, race, real skillz background, ..). For instance, how many generational NYorkers or suburbanites would fit as replants on the Russian countryside let say around 2025-40, most likely it would be good opportunity only for few outliers out of sheer millions.

              Understandably there will be pockets of stretching it for some time on lower complexity around the globe, even such pockets emerging deep inside North America. One just has to come to realistic terms of the possible continuum of such change, for some ~15-17th century like conditions in many respects might be seen as god send positive outcome to rest and sort of plateauing on for some time, for others and today’s majority this would present not appealing hell on the earth to begin with.

            • jeremy890 says:

              World…as far as FE is concerned, it ain’t about what you posted at all…just ATTITUDE!
              Capisce…what goes around, comes around. FE has a little following here that is entertained by it…putz.👐

            • Yap… Yap….Yap

              Anyone reminded of one of those little jumped up dogs that does nothing but nip at your ankles?

            • Thomas Malthus says:

              A mentally retarded jumped up dog….. crossed with an exceptionally stupid donkey….

            • jeremy890 says:

              Keeps things moving along…NEXT

          • psile says:

            There are a number of people on FW who subscribe to the theory that there will be no sudden collapse… that there will just be a gentle slope downwards ending in a global ‘Scott Nearing’ like scenario.

            That would be a dream come true for my kids…

            • jeremy890 says:

              Living the Good Life…psile….

              It don’t happen just writing poetry and sunning on the beach

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      Were people hardier then? Absolutely. Just look how people responded to Katrina, falling down from exhaustion, passing out, heart palpatations, heart attacks etc. That same Russian family caught up in Katrina would walk through the floodwaters and probably not even complain.

      • that russian family story was interesting

        but its important to remember that they, and others link them were living under conditions we would see as harsh privation before—so they were only moving gradually into someting slightly harshe on their terms

        so on that basis i dont think you can compare them to our current survival situayion

    • i1 says:

      She hates the city. Pure human.

    • Yorchichan says:

      “people were much hardier then.”

      A couple of weeks ago I got my car stuck in a muddy field at a caravan site. After a few minutes looking around for something to put under the wheels, I decided it was too cold (around 2C) and my feet were soaked so I decided it was better to wait an hour in the car for the field owner to come pull me out with his tractor.

      Contrast that with this guy who survived 52 hours down a well at -20C.

      Who is more likely to survive collapse? There are some tough people still around, but pampered westerners such as myself are not included.

  5. adonis says:

    Happy Austalia Day my fellow finite worlders

  6. psile says:

    One for you FE…

    Caterpillar Posts Record 49 Consecutive Months Of Declining Retail Sales

    “But it is on a global blended basis, where the headwinds facing CAT refuse to go away, and after the latest, December, decline in retail sales of -12%, we find that the company has not reported a single monthly uptick in sales for record 49 consecutive months, or just over 4 straight years, a period which is now 2.5x longer than the far more acute 19 month drop observed during the post-financial crisis period.”

    • This is quite a record! A lot of companies would have folded, or sold themselves out to someone bigger, by this time.

      • Greg Machala says:

        Wonder what their actual sales numbers are right now vs where they were in 2000-2008? Who would buy CAT? You could say the same of shipping companies too. Who would buy them out? If growth is over, it makes no sense to buy any of these insolvent companies.

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          All that graph does is compare retail sales for different time periods. Even though the graph shows retail sales below the average, they may still be high enough to make a profit and one might easily conclude that because how else does CAT remain viable unless there is sufficient revenue? This is a perfect example of how graphs can be misleading.

        • Volvo740 says:

          Stock market is at all time high! Maybe it will double from here while the bottom falls out of the economy?

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I would imagine CAT has been designated a too big to fail company — the Fed will keep it alive…

          Or perhaps Donald will pour trillions into upgrading US infrastructure …. which would bail CAT out.

      • doomphd says:

        I wonder…can you keep a business going by selling spare parts when those big machines break? Usually, the spares cost a lot more than the original parts. Then there’s on-site service, too. CATs are major investments and don’t rely upon fashion changes to sell new products. I would guess companies would want to keep existing inventories working, that against all the wear and tear of construction work.

        It makes sense that eventually, with no further growth on a finite planet, their business model would fail, and a good thing in the sense that their products are used to terraform the planet and devour the ecosystem.

  7. dolph says:

    Despite the political breakdown, you have to remember North America is still the best place to be during this collapse.
    It has a large amount of habitable land, resources, it is protected by the oceans from world calamities, and is powerful financially and geopolitically, with the world reserve currency and a global military.
    This is what gives people in America their naive, optimistic character. They simply don’t know any better. Of course, this will change, but the rest of the world will be worse.

    Mind you, in no way does this mean I’m optimistic on America. If anything, I have been consistently more pessimistic than those here.

    • Volvo740 says:

      Yes and no. In Sweden if everything gives up on you, you may still survive and someone could find you some place to stay. At least it used to be that way. In the future, who knows.

    • common phenomenon says:

      Maybe you should take a cue from your name, dolph, and move to Germany, to take leadership of those fierce, warlike Germans – those Teutonic Knights, those pure Aryans:

      Who was it said that opulence eventually leads to decadence? 🙂

  8. Kurt says:

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  9. Rainydays says:

    I don’t believe in a sudden global BAU collapse, it will rather be a “stairway to hell” imo. I have some issues with the sudden collapse scenario.

    Financial. There hasn’t been any real growth for ages. So we will have fake growth. The debt numbers are going from million to billions to trillions to zillions, doesn’t matter how high this number is. Money is sort of infinite as long as people believe. There seems to be just too many wizards in the financial industry for this scheme to fail entirely. TBTF companies will be propped up as needed.

    Diminishing resources vs rising population. An increasing share of the population gets ever less resources. Eventually there will be enough starvation/sickness/pollution/war to turn population growth negative. There will be a correlation between affordable oil and population numbers here.

    I think this can drag on for quite some time, probably 20-50 years (as Gail has in her “secular cycle” graphic) until we get to a platou of either 0 humans or a few millions. Length and shape of the die off will depend heavily on how severe climate change will hit us and how well we can mitigate the nuclear waste problem.

    • DJ says:

      “Money is sort of infinite as long as people believe.”

      Do people really have to “believe”? Is not needing to spend money on a daily basis in order to survive enough? It is impossible to live without money.

      • Greg Machala says:

        “Is it possible to live without money” – Yes, if only a few have no money and others have plenty of money and give you stuff to survive. No, if the financial system collapses and no one has access to money.

        The problem comes in when you consider we are a global economy of massive scale (and leveraged a lot). Most of the world’s population depends on the industrial output of food, water and shelter. If money disappeared quickly, so to would industry. Then, shortly after that people would begin to die. Then billions would die and chaos would ensue before any replacement policy could be implemented to replace what money does.

    • ARBP says:

      I’m going to pipe in to repeat something that should be self-evident.
      “Slow collapse” or a “stairway to hell” is not collapse.
      “Slow collapse” or a “stairway to hell” is DECLINE.
      Decline is gradual enough that people can adapt to it.
      Detroit, Michigan is undergoing economic decline.
      Venezuela is undergoing economic collapse.

      Collapse is sudden. Fast. Quick.

      Collapse is sudden. Since most people here have never, ever lived through any sort of collapse whatsoever, they assume change will be gradual, and perhaps manageable.

      There’s also no such thing as a single collapse that ends everything but given how complex and interconnected and interdependent the various nation-states are in the world, collapse in one place could bring collapse in other places.

      • Speaking of the near-mid term outlook, meaning next ~3decades, the fracturing/dividing lines between the options of decline, phased collapse, straight collapse would come on many fronts, chiefly:

        – resiliency of the public and their subsistence both for urban-city nods and rural areas
        (potable water, food, health, animal husbandry, .. )

        – skills and resiliency of the govs structure for given geographic area
        (incl. performance of NOCs and other key industries to run or can kick a bit more, military, ..)

        Based on that, it’s not that impossible to estimate on a napkin scribbling fashion general odds where best to land and watch the spectacle to unravel.. By that I mean to even have a chance to contemplate briefly on the events unfolding, not to be swept immediately by chaos and death. Go figure..

        • ARBP says:

          No offense, but that was a whole lot of nonsense…
          especially the scribbling on the napkin part.

          Are you and Keith scribbling buddies? You two should get together and have scribbling sessions where you map out your plans of how to survive the oncoming extinction event.

          • What, wait a sec, historic patterns of collapses are now a nonsense over here? chill out, read it again.

            There is no word about “surviving oncoming extinction event” only hints how the trajectory and progression of collapse will likely differ as seen/experienced from quite diverse places of the globe, that’s it at least for the near-mid term window, which in my definition here roughly spans next 2-3decades from now, some might get flushed early 2020s others a bit later.

            I didn’t put any probabilities list out there, apart from that one trend seems looming now that jettisoning peripheries like Venezuela, Greece, perhaps now shaping up India case, .. won’t mean much from reaching certain deeper threshold. So, if there will be no meaningful plateau to be reached and sit on for several of the top dogs with their sheer consumption, the big guys will sooner or later most likely nuke out each other just on this premise not allowing the others the silly theoretical chance of rebound.

            And even that’s likely not the ultimate terminal bottle neck in terms of extinction level, since thermo nuclear armageddon still allows for at least some tiny fraction of current global population pass through short term, but I’m certainly not discussing or planning for that stage or even the preceding one.

            Seems, too much people frequenting here with no personal/family history of total war, revolution, expropriation, natural calamity swings. If the overall FW narrative is correct, this will drag on for decades at the minimum.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” not discussing or planning for that stage”

              I agree. Chances are not high that anything you can do now will appreciably affect your individual survival. There may be things we can do to keep civilization going, among them to tap solar energy out in space.

            • The “overall FW narrrative” or should we say ‘Gail’s essential message’ doesn’t seem to be much related to your ‘demographics, demographics, demographics’ fixation.

            • Demographics would not be a problem if people could/would work every day of their lives. The problem is that back when fossil fuels started becoming abundant was that we promised people “pensions” and “retirement.” These are unsustainable concepts, in a world without rapidly growing energy supplies.

          • Worldofhanumaotg is right. His observations, based upon human experience, is true.

          • Thomas Malthus says:

            Idiocracy is alive and well here on FW.

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        I believe in Santa Claus … and the Tooth Fairy …. I believe that the oil is replenished by muchkins who turn a crank on an oil making machine in the centre of the earth …. i believe that man can live on Mars….. I believe that solar and wind power can keep BAU roaring …. I believe that Elon Musk is amazing and that Tesla is a game changer… I believe that Donald Trump will make america great again

        To be consistent — I must also believe that collapse cannot happen …. that we can have no growth yet continue to operate BAU Lite …. that the graph is a gentle slope to zero.

        If I believed all of the above — what would that make me?

    • Tango Oscar says:

      After trillions it’s quadrillions.

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      ‘There hasn’t been any real growth for ages’

      Define real growth.

      Are you saying that there has been no job growth for decades?

      Are you saying there has been no growth in commodity consumption for decades?

      Are you saying there has been on growth in the consumption of energy for decades?

      Are you saying the growth we have seen is fake? If so – please explain.

      • DJ says:

        I believe the blog owner repeatedly says there has been no real wage growth in decades for the 90 %.

        If that is true there should not have been growth in jobs, commodity usage or energy, for the 90 %, in US and EU.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Growth means GDP growth — not wage growth. Wage growth for most of the world has not budged for decades —- check out the third world — most people wold be happy to just find a job making enough money to buy a bit of rice and a few scraps of rat meat.

          Nothing new here.

          GDP has been increasing — if it were not increasing then we would have collapsed by now.

          Debt has always been the catalyst for economic growth — the only difference now is the scale of the debt required to create economic growht

          The global economy either grows — or it dies.

          You will quickly know when growth has stopped — soon after you will lose your job … your pension … your food supply…. your electricity feed…. and finally your life.

          • Rainydays says:

            I guess China, which was driving world GDP growth, has stepped on the brake pedal. So now we will have collapse?

            I don’t think so. People are getting by with less. But the change in each individual life(style) comes in such small decrements so people accept this. You seem hellbent on the idea that we must consume as yesterday or just lie down and die. There is plenty of wiggle-room in between. In modern economics, it’s all about the length of your wand…

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