Increased Violence Reflects an Energy Problem

Why are we seeing so much violence recently? One explanation is that people are sympathizing with those in the Minneapolis area who are upset at the death of George Floyd. They believe that a white cop used excessive force in subduing Floyd, leading to his death.

I believe that there is a much deeper story involved. As I wrote in my recent post, Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament, the problem we are facing is too many people relative to resources, particularly energy resources. This leads to a condition sometimes referred to as “overshoot and collapse.” The economy grows for a while, may stabilize for a time, and then heads in a downward direction, essentially because energy consumption per capita falls too low.

Strangely enough, this energy crisis looks like a crisis of affordability. The young and the poor, especially, cannot afford to buy goods and services that they need, such as a home in which to raise their children and a vehicle to drive. Trying to do so leaves them with excessive debt. If the affordability problem changes for the worse, the young and the poor are likely to protest. In fact, these protests may become violent. 

The pandemic tends to make the affordability problem worse for minorities and young people because they are disproportionately affected by job losses associated with lockdowns. In many cases, the poor catch COVID-19 more frequently because they live and/or work in crowded conditions where the disease spreads easily. In the US, blacks seem to be especially hard hit, both by COVID-19 and through the loss of jobs. These issues, plus the availability of guns, makes the situation particularly explosive in the US.

Let me explain these issues further.

[1] Energy is required for all aspects of the economy.

Energy is required by governments. Energy is required to operate police cars. Energy is required to build schools and to operate their heating and lighting. Energy is needed to build and maintain roads. Tax revenue represents available funds to buy energy products and goods and services made with energy products.

Energy is needed for any type of business. Operating a computer requires electricity, which is a form of energy. Heating or cooling a building requires energy. Growing food requires solar energy from the sun; liquid fuel is used to operate farm machinery and trucks that transport food to the locations where it is sold. Human energy is used for some of these processes. For example, human energy is used to operate computers and farm machinery. Human energy is sometimes used to pick the crops, as well.

Wages paid by governments and businesses indirectly go to buy energy products of many kinds. Food is, of course, an energy product. The heat to cook or bake the food is also an energy product. Metals of all kinds are made using energy products, and lumber is cut and transported using energy products. With sufficient wages, it is possible to buy or rent a home, and to purchase or lease an automobile.

Interest rates indirectly reflect the portion of goods and services produced by energy products that can be transferred to parts of the system that depend on interest earnings. For example, banks, insurance companies and those on pensions depend on interest earnings. If interest rates are high, benefits to pensioners can easily be paid and insurance companies can charge low rates for their products, because their interest earnings will help offset claim costs.

Interest rates are now about as low as they can go, indicating a likely shortage of energy for funding these interest rates. The last time interest rates were close to current levels was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Figure 1. Ten-year and three-month US Treasury interest rates, in chart made by FRED.

[2] When there is not enough energy to go around, the result can be low commodity prices, low wages and layoffs.

This is not an intuitive result. Most people assume (low energy = high prices), but this is the opposite of what actually happens. The problem is that the amount workers can afford to pay for finished goods and services needs to be high enough to make production of the commodities used in making the finished products profitable. When affordability falls too low, the system tends to collapse.

We are really dealing with a two-sided problem. The prices of commodities such as oil, wholesale electricity, steel, copper and food tend to fluctuate widely. Consumers need these prices to be low, in order for the price of finished goods made with these commodities to be affordable; producers need the prices of these commodities to rise ever-higher, to cover the cost of deeper wells and more batteries, to try to partially offset the intermittency of solar and wind electricity.

Most people assume that the situation will be resolved in the direction of commodity prices rising ever higher. In fact, commodity prices did rise higher, until mid 2008. Then, something snapped; commodity prices have been falling ever-lower since mid 2008. In fact, ever-lower commodity prices have been a world-wide problem, causing huge problems for countries trying to support their economies with export revenues based on commodity production.

Figure 2. CRB Commodity Price Index from 1995 to June 2, 2020. Chart prepared by Trading Economics. Composition is 39% energy, 41% agriculture, 7% precious metals and 13% industrial metals.

Even before the lockdowns, low commodity prices were leading to low wages of those working in commodity industries around the world. These low prices also led to low tax revenue, and this low tax revenue led to an inability of governments to afford the services that citizens expect, such as bus service and subsidized prices for certain essential goods/services. For example, South Africa (an exporter of coal and minerals) was experiencing public protests in September 2019, for reasons such as these. Chile is a major exporter of copper and lithium. Low prices of those commodities led to violent protests in 2019 for similar reasons.

Now, in 2020, lockdowns have led to even lower commodity prices. At times, farmers have been plowing their crops under. Oil companies are laying off workers. The trend toward lower commodity prices had been occurring for a long time; the recent drop in prices was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” If prices stay this low, there is a danger of falling production of commodities that we depend on, including food, metals, electricity, and oil. Businesses producing these items will fail, and governments with falling tax revenue will be unable to support them.

[3] Historical energy consumption data shows that violence often accompanies periods when energy production is not growing fast enough to meet the needs of the growing population.

Figure 3 shows average annual growth in world energy consumption, for 10-year periods:

Figure 3. Average growth in energy consumption for 10 year periods, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects (Appendix) together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent.

Economic growth encompasses both population growth and rising standards of living. Figure 4 below takes the same information used in Figure 3 and divides it into (a) the portion underlying population growth, and (b) the portion of the energy supply growth available for improved standards of living. During most periods, increased population absorbs over half of increased energy consumption.

Figure 4. Figure similar to Figure 3, except that energy devoted to population growth and growth in living standards are separated. A circle is also added showing the recent growth in energy is primarily the result of China’s temporary growth in coal supplies.

There are three dips in the Living Standards portion of Figure 4. The first one came in the 10 years ended 1860, just before the US Civil War. Most of us would say that was a period of violence.

The second one occurred in the 10 years ended 1930. This is the period when the Great Depression began. It came between World War I and World War II. This was another violent period of our history.

The third dip came in the 10-year period ended 2000. This was not a particularly violent period; instead, it reflects the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union, leaving the member republics to continue on their own. There was a huge loss of demand (really, affordability) on the part of countries that were part of the Soviet Union or depended on the Soviet Union.

Figure 5. Chart showing the fall in Eastern Europe’s materials production, after the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991.

[4] The world is facing a situation in which total energy consumption seems likely to drop by 5% per year, or perhaps more.

If we look back at Figure 3, we see that even in very “bad” times economically, energy consumption was rising. In fact, in one 10-year period, the average increase was more than 5% per year.

If the world economy is reaching a point in which we consumers, in the aggregate, cannot afford the goods and services made with commodities, unless commodity prices are very low, we will likely experience a huge drop in energy consumption. I don’t know exactly how much the annual change will be, but energy consumption growth and GDP growth tend to move together. We might guess that GDP growth is shifting to 5% GDP annual shrinkage, and energy consumption will be shrinking by a similar percentage.

Clearly, shrinkage of 5% per year would be far worse than the world economy has experienced in the last 200 years. In fact, for the 10-year periods shown in Figure 3, there has never been a reduction in energy consumption. Even if I am wrong and the shrinkage in energy consumption is “only” 2% per year, this would be far worse than the experience over any 10-year period. In fact, during the Great Recession, world energy consumption only shrank in one year (2009) and then by 1.4%.

History doesn’t give us much guidance regarding what impact a dramatic reduction in energy consumption would have on the economy, except that population reduction would likely be part of the change that takes place. If half or more of energy consumption growth goes toward rising population (Figure 4), then a shrinkage of energy consumption seems likely to reduce world population.

[5] What the world is really facing is a competition regarding which parts of the economy can stay, and which will need to be eliminated, if there is not enough energy to go around. It should not be surprising if this competition often leads to violence.

As I indicated in Section [1], all parts of the economy depend on energy. If there is not enough, some parts must shrink back. The big question is, “Which parts?”

(a) Do governments, and organizations that bind governments together, collapse? If countries are doing poorly, they will not want to contribute to the World Trade Organization, the United Nations or the European Union. Governments, such as the government of Saudi Arabia, could be overthrown, or may simply stop operating. In fact, any government, when it faces insurmountable problems, could simply stop operating and leave its functions to lower levels of government, such as states, provinces, or cities.

(b) Do pension plans stop operating? Are pensioners left “out in the cold”? How about Social Security recipients?

(c) Can international trade be kept operating? It is a big consumer of energy. Also, competition with low-wage countries tends to keep wages in developed nations low. Without international trade, many imported goods (including imported medicines) become unavailable.

(d) Which companies will collapse, leaving bond holders and stockholders with $0? People who formerly had jobs with these companies will also find themselves without jobs.

(e) If the world economy cannot support as many people as before, which ones will be left out? Is it people in rich countries who find themselves without jobs? Is it people who find themselves without imported medicines? Is it the ones who catch COVID-19? Or is it mostly citizens of very poor countries, whose income will fall so low that starvation becomes a concern?

[6] The violent demonstrations represent an effort to try to push the problems related to the shortfall in energy, and the goods and services that energy can provide, away from the protest groups, toward other segments of the economy.

In an ideal world:

(a) Jobs that pay well would be available to all.

(b) Governments would be able to afford to provide a wide range of services to all, including free health care for all and reimbursement for time off from work for being sick. They would also be able to provide adequate pensions for the elderly and low cost public transit.

(c) Police would treat all citizens well. No group would be so poor that a life of crime would seem to be a solution.

As indicated in Section [2], back in 2019, before COVID-19 hit, protests were already starting because of low commodity prices and the indirect impacts of low commodity prices. One reason why governments were so eager to adopt shutdowns is the fact that when people were required to stay inside because of COVID-19, the problem of protests could be stopped.

It should be no surprise, then, that the protests came back, once the lockdowns have ended. There are now more people out of work and more people who are concerned about not having full healthcare costs reimbursed. Social distancing requirements are making it more difficult for businesses to operate profitably, indirectly leading to fewer available jobs.

[7] Violent protests seem to push problems fueled by an inadequate supply of affordable energy toward (a) governments and (b) insurance companies.

In some cases, insurance companies will pay for damages caused by protesters. Eventually, costs could become too great for insurance companies. Most policies have exclusions for “acts of war.” If protests escalate, this exclusion might become applicable.

Governments of all kinds are already being stressed by shutdowns because when citizens are not working, there is less tax revenue. If, in addition, governments have been paying COVID-19 related costs, this creates an even bigger budget mismatch. Governments find themselves less and less able to pay their everyday expenses, such as hiring teachers, policemen, and firemen. All of these issues tend to push city governments toward bankruptcy and more layoffs.

[8] Dark skinned people living in America tend to be Vitamin D deficient, making them more prone to getting severe cases of COVID-19. Vitamin supplements may be an inexpensive way of reducing the severity of the COVID-19 epidemic and thus lessening its diversion of energy resources.

There are a number of reports out that suggest that having adequate Vitamin D from sunlight strengthens the immune system and helps reduce the mortality of COVID-19. Adequate Vitamin C is also helpful for the immune system for people in general, not just those with dark skin.

Dark skinned people are adapted to living near the equator. If they live in the United States or Europe, their bodies make less Vitamin D from the slanted rays available in those parts of the world than they would living near the equator. As a result, studies show that Vitamin D deficiency is more common in African Americans than other Americans.

Recent data shows that the COVID-19 mortality rate for black Americans is 2.4 times that of white Americans. COVID-19 hospitalization rates are no doubt higher as well. Encouraging Americans with dark skin to take Vitamin D supplements would seem to be at least a partial solution to the problem of greater disease severity for Blacks. Vitamin C supplements, or more fresh fruit, might be helpful for all people, not just those with low Vitamin D levels.

If the COVID-19 impact can be lessened in a very inexpensive way, this would seem to be helpful for the economy in general. High-cost solutions simply divert available resources toward fighting COVID-19, making the overall resource shortfall for the rest of the economy worse.

[9] Much more equal wages would seem to be a solution for wage disparity, but this doesn’t bring the wages of low earning workers up enough, in practice. 

There are a huge number of low-earning workers in many countries around the world. In order to increase commodity prices enough to make them profitable for producers, we really need wages in all countries to be much higher. For example, wages in Africa and in India need to be much higher, so that people in these parts of the world can afford goods such as cars, air conditioning and vacation travel. There is no way this can be done. Furthermore, such a change would add pollution and climate change issues.

There is a fundamental “not enough to go around” problem that we do not have an answer for. Historically, when there hasn’t been enough to go around, the attempted solution was fighting wars over what was available. In a way, the violence seen in cities around the globe is a new version of this violence. Governments of various kinds may ultimately be casualties of these uprisings. Remaining lower-level governments will be left with the problem of starting over again, issuing new currency and trying to make new alliances. In total, the new economy will be very different; it will probably bear little resemblance to today’s world economy.



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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2,617 Responses to Increased Violence Reflects an Energy Problem

  1. Susan Butler says:

    Scarce energy is not the only reason for unaffordability. There is a long line of expenses after commodities that go into finished goods. In our present arrangements, complexity greatly adds to those expenses including huge nonessential sectors like advertising and credit cards. There is also the predatory oligarchic class to support. Our value system which glorifies material wealth is optional. We could instead value the quality (not quantity) of human life, which would be far less expensive overall and would lead to a natural reduction in population without violence.

    • Dennis L. says:


      You are a woman, we guys need stuff to get a mate; reality, we guys learn fast. When the girls are young it is the sports hero, sometime when consideration is given for children, it becomes “responsibility.” Get enough stuff as a guy, and a younger woman is willing to make certain accommodations on age.

      Somewhere in my past I read a statement by an African chieftain who saw a woman pass by and said to effect, “Good butt, wide thighs, many children.” Sorry, no children, game over for man in which case do we really care if earth goes on or not?

      “There is also the predatory oligarchic class to support.” Have you noticed many of them have many wives? Have you noticed more than a few of them have more than two children? A guess, there is no end to the line of women willing to try out for a position with these oligarchs. Again, it is basic biology, the woman’s children get to go to the best schools, learn the game and it starts all over again. Women compete to get these guys, otherwise no makeup, no short skirts, no heels, etc. Doubt it? Tune in the nightly news, serious subject, they are all good looking.

      “We could instead value the quality (not quantity) of human life, which would be far less expensive overall and would lead to a natural reduction in population without violence.” Sounds good, if you do it and the person with power does not, your genes lose. Again, that goes against biology, oligarch gets first choice, pretty woman gets first choice, is that what you have in mind with quality?

      Nice to have a woman here, gets boring bantering with all the old guys. I hope you reply, we are an interesting and open group. There is no offense meant in this reply, willing to learn from a different viewpoint.

      Dennis L.

      • I am afraid you are right. A man without a job has a hard time finding a woman who is interested in him. In the US, having a pickup truck seems to be essential for a man. Or, a boat for a nearby lake.

        Historically, there have been very many more women who were mothers than there were men who were fathers. Rich men tended to have lots of children; poor men had a hard time finding a wife.

    • Lidia17 says:

      I’m really tired of the ongoing political/ideological denial of human nature.

      You would think that when TSHTF that people would “get real”.

      “Glorifying wealth” is NEVER OPTIONAL. “Wealth” is the state of being well, as “health” is the state of being hale. Animal species display their wealth—their degree of well-being—by showing prospective mates big tails (peacocks), large antlers (elk), nicer nests (weaverbirds), etc.

      Life itself is almost entirely unconcerned with subjective quality: it’s purely a numbers game.

      • Kim says:

        The topic is violence and energy shortfalls and that is often linked on this site with the phenomenon of self-organization.

        In situations of violence numbers are a big factor in success, so we should expect, if energy shortfalls are linked to violence, to see 1) violence as being increasingly group-associated, 2) for those groups to become numerically larger over time and 3) for group members to be able to, in some way, easily identify other members of their group.

        This might then go some way to explaining the increasingly common phenomenon of gang-violence and criminal rhetoric (e.g., rap music) in certain racial cultures along with race-based violence.

        But this type of argument just takes us back to the old “they’re criminal or violent because they’re poor” and “if only we gave them more welfare they would give up crime”.

        The biggest and plainest problem with this kind of argument is that while black criminality is completely out of hand in the USA, we have not seem the same phenomenon among poor whites. The poorest areas of white America, with high unemployment and social dislocation, are NOT the centers of fierce criminality that this theory would leave us to expect.

        And further – as to sharing the (energy) wealth – while people talk about poverty in the United States and its supposed link to crime, the people in the USA who commit – by far, far, far – the most crime, are very well looked after in terms of the social services pie. Indeed, itseems that the more effort-free advantages they have been offered over recent decades, teh more violence and criminality we have seen.

        In the end, I am afraid, we have to abandon that old liberal tic, poverty (or energy shortfalls) cvause crime, and accept the fact that the primary source of human violence and criminality is the human natures we are born with.

        • Minority Of One says:

          >>are very well looked after in terms of the social services pie

          For example…

        • Z says:

          Yes. There seems to be a denial of reality amongst the commenters here and many who have never lived in the United States for long.

          African Americans have an average IQ between 80-85. They make up 13% of the population yet commit over half of all violent crimes to include 90% of all inter-racial crimes.

          The moronic liberals have catered to them to where they have every opportunity to flourish through Affirmative Action policies, minority hiring preferences, etc. and yet they are unable to take advantage of all of these.

          All one has to do is see the types of civilizations that Africans build in Africa….and you will see that they have never built one which makes sense when you study IQ, impulse control, time preferences, violence, etc. How many here can fathom that the average IQ of Somalis is 68 and they are being imported into your Western Nations? How do you think that will work out?

          We are witnessing the failure of multiculturalism, multi-racialism, etc. This is the societal entropic decay which has been pushed by liberals, leftists, etc. This is destroying society. If you had a cohesive homogeneous society that society will not be plagued by the issues we are seeing.

          • GBV says:

            I have an IQ of over 120, am not a visible minority, and I committed – and was convicted of – a crime.

            Consider that the problem is more complex than a simple number or statistic…


            • Tim Groves says:

              You are probably to intelligent to be allowed to be a cop.

              Robert Jordan scored rather well on an intelligence test he took as part of the application process to become an officer in New London, CT. The score indicated that Jordan had an IQ of roughly 125.

              The average score for police officers was a 21-22, or an IQ of 104. New London would only interview candidates who scored between 20 and 27.

              Jordan sued the city alleging discrimination, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld that it wasn’t discrimination. “Why?” you might ask. Because New London Police Department applied the same standard to everyone who applied to be a cop there.


      • Xabier says:

        Lidia, don’t spoil all the political rhetoric by bringing biological reality into the debate!

  2. Duncan Idaho says:

    Surgisphere, whose employees appear to include a sci-fi writer and adult content model, provided database behind Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine hydroxychloroquine studies
    (don’t know if the Guardian is too progressive of a news source here)

    • Dan says:

      More info on the adult content model please

    • Robert Firth says:

      Surgisphere does not exist. It is a phantom, a shell company whose purpose is to fabricate “science” for big pharma. Almost every claim in its report has been discredited: it did not gather data from the places it claimed; it did not analyse the data with open source, peer reviewed algorithms, and it published its results in a journal with a history of publishing falsehoods. Its editor has a track record of fabricating hoaxes for political reasons, including the infamous 1998 anti vaccine paper, which he retracted only after 12 years of criticism when forced to do so by the General Medical Council.

  3. Tim says:

    Thank’s for another excellent report Gail. There’s no way to put the evil genie back into the bottle. It’s time to accept reality. IMHO all we can do is try to stay as independent from the collapse as possible. Try to have solar panels for energy, food, water, heat, medicine etc so you can last as long as possible, and stay mentally and physically healthy. The prepared will survive.

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      Prepper Will not survive too. But i Will try waiting God. Great tribulation Will be a short periodo of time . Otheewise no One meat of human Will survive

      • Tim says:

        Hi Marco. Preppers will fair a lot better than non-preppers when the fireworks get started.

      • beidawei says:

        So who do you think the Antichrist is? Trump has the morals for it, but surely the devil can do better.

      • Rodster says:

        I have a good friend who is a Jehovah Witness and he thinks, “THIS IS IT” and I told him don’t be so sure. Humans are a gnat on an Elephants ass. In the grand scheme of things we will all be in the grave before things turn out the way we want them or expect them to be.

    • neil says:

      We’ve a fairly big vegetable garden here, a few cattle and sheep and an orchard. We also have enough firewood to supply us till the end of the century. As soon as the collapse hits, a furious mob will come storming out of the nearest town to steal everything we’ve got.

      • Tim says:

        Neil, you are exactly right.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          I lived on 20 acres with orchards, gardens and livestock.
          It has crossed my mind.

      • Xabier says:

        Peasants, their lands, flocks and crops, are just one big sitting target – which is why knights once had their function of course, even if they were , in the economic sense, exploitative.

        Just as the villagers in Nigeria at the moment are being raided, kidnapped and murdered by bandits who lurk in the forests.

        The government (to which no doubt they pay taxes) fails to protect them – they have no knight to watch over them – and so they suffer in isolation.

        Thankfully they do have some access to weapons and are trying to fight back.

        • Robert Firth says:

          The raiders and murderers in Nigeria (my former home) are not bandits. They are Boko Haram, and are being armed and funded by foreign powers, No prizes for guessing who.

      • DB says:

        This is what Fast Eddy has always said, but I wonder whether it is a certainty. In the US at least, rural people are much more heavily armed than urban people. Would the raiders succeed in defeating the rural defenders? By the time urban people get hungry enough to think about raiding rural areas, will they have enough strength (or fuel for vehicles) to do so? And would they know what to do with what they found, as in how to grow and harvest crops, raise and butcher livestock, and cook food? Even the largest garden wouldn’t feed many people for very long — the raiders would probably die before they figured out how to make a living from the land. As I look around rural areas, few farmers seem able to support themselves, even now when fossil fuels are available. Not many farmers grow their own gardens any more or have their own livestock (if they grow monocultures of crops) or grow many staple crops (if they raise livestock). Most are just as dependent on complex supply chains to feed themselves as many urban people. Those of you who have large and diverse food producing gardens/farms might be rare and fairly unknown to most around you. I suspect raiders would be more focused on stockpiles of harvested food — grain silos, slaughterhouses/meat processing plants, and warehouses of produce. And when those run out, who knows? Maybe just death.

        • JMS says:

          I believe armed and united and somewhat isolated rural communities could survive die-off. But how coul they survive nuclear apocalyse? Hardly Thanks to our nuclear madness, end of IC means extinction level event.

    • Kim says:

      A just as most important requirement is to have numbers. Individuals and small groups are easy targets.

    • Actually, I think taking advantage of what time one has available is as important as anything else. We don’t know what the future will bring. The temptation is always to “prepare for the last war.”

      I encounter [on ZOOM] some people who don’t want to leave their homes. They are concerned that a coronavirus will find them and kill them if they go anywhere. They spend hours washing down groceries that they have delivered to their homes. They don’t want to visit their grandchildren except on ZOOM. What kind of life is this?

      Prepping is for some, but not others. Most people don’t have the available land for prepping. Preppers also need skills, and necessary supplies, such as seeds and a shovel.

      Regarding “solar panels for energy,” figure out what kind of energy you really need. Heat for winter? Energy to keep an irrigation pump running? Lights at night? Liquid fuel for mechanical devices? Then work on what you need. Don’t count on the system providing anything. If you plan to have electricity for devices with motors, you likely need solar panels, batteries, and an inverter. You may need to oversize the panels, and buy lots of batteries, if you want electricity when it is cloudy. Don’t count on much solar electricity in winter.

      We don’t know whether we truly are approaching end times, or whether one or another prophecy will be fulfilled. This is truly a strange time.

      • GBV says:

        “Prepping is for some, but not others. Most people don’t have the available land for prepping.”

        You don’t really need room to prep, Gail… just a closet or some space under the bed for freeze-dried foods and a bug-out bag. Or are you conflating prepping and “sustainable living” (i.e. permaculture practices)?

        I think many who never grew up on a farm start as peppers (i.e. buying supplies), but eventually recognize the need to have some control over the production of necessities (e.g. food, water, power).


      • Artleads says:

        This is why I can’t understand the frequent references to normal times–like men having stuff in order to attract mates, as one example.

        I sense that this is a global “time out” period, when many of the “rules:” can be modified. I see it somewhat like how we have different layers of brain, starting with the so called lizard brain. Other more complex brains overlay it, but the lizard brain remains. So why wouldn’t all the normal patterns of human behavior, like for mating, not be able to remain and yet be bypassed by a currently forming “new brain?”

  4. Gail, well done. You are just about the only popular blogger who looks at our current problems with a systems lens. I am sick of various pundits and media heads looking at what;s going on and saying it’s a racial problem ( PBS/NPR Huffington). Others see it as a economic problem, a federal reserve problem, a political problem. You seem to see it as all of these and more which it is: An overpopulation problem. a declining resources problem, a pollution problem. an inequality problem . But almost no one sees it as an energy problem which underlies almost all of the other problems.Not to mention a LTG problem which you recently resurrected in a classic blog post. Thank you for seeing this and trying to inform us. You have also pointed out in many posts the cyclical aspects which it does seem to be.. IT is hard to avoid a cyclical view of history and Howe’s Book on the 4th Turning now more than 20 years old really nailed it IMO but even he missed the energy aspect of it all almost completely. I hope he gets it eventually. I am afraid that there is minimal hope for a reboot of society without getting trampled by the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse . It may take wars and pestilence and famine to allow us to shed the elites, inequality and economic deadwood but it does seem we are heading in that direction at a good clip. I hope sane and lonely voices like yours will still be here a year from now.

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence. It is amazing how many people can write about current events, and miss the role energy plays.

      The same people miss the point that to burn as much carbon as climate change models assume is possible, the people in India and Africa would need to all purchase cars and get air conditioning. Coal from under the North Sea would be shipped to those areas, to help them in making this change.

      • Alan David Doane says:

        They miss the role energy plays because they think we’ve always had enough energy and always will. It’s literally unthinkable to even some of the smartest people on the planet that we’re headed for a lower-energy future with no flying cars or Wal-Marts in every town.

        • There is a huge amount of denial among public figures that there could ever be a problem. People in academia know that if they want articles published, they can’t write anything that is too gloomy, or it will never pass peer review. “Sustainability” seems to be the most popular topic today.

      • That is not necessary. Australia is happy to supply the coal for India

        Australia has a Prime Minister who brings a lump of coal to Parliament.

        • The Begining of the End says:

          “happy to supply” but at what price? This seems to be the penultimate question. Can India afford the lowest price Australia is willing to sell the coal for? Can Australia survive on the lowest price India is willing to pay? Assuming they can find a price that works for both, does this include the full system costs of pollution and its effects, including the medical costs for treating people whom suffer from the after effects of dealing with the by products of burning/processing the coal?

          It seems it is the full system/systemic costs in a fully realized world model that is what many are missing, one of the many things I have learned from this website over the years(and am very thankful for, I started reading this site in detail to try and find a flaw and or explanation of peak oil, what I found, was not what I was looking for but so far has not been debunked). They just assume, like when we ran low on whale oil, another energy supply will appear. It did before! Science and technology will save the day, because we went to the moon and computers got faster and cheaper at the same time, somehow this will also be the case with energy. They say batteries are more efficient today, not saying that they cost almost twice as much as just a few years ago, and that these minor % increases are not sustainable) They assume energy costs can rise to the level needed to support itself or support the transition to a new energy source. I was told, if it takes $300 a barrel to get oil out of the ground, that is what we will do, and we will use that “profit” from $300 a barrel, to figure out the “next” energy system. I was told super high energy prices was the “sign” we are running out of oil, not low energy prices, in fact low oil prices are great! People have more money to spend on other things, the oil companies can make a profit at $5, their marketing person told me that, why don’t you believe them! We will convert all our gas/diesel engines to propane/LNG (I had an otherwise very intelligent person tell me this, when I asked if they did the math to see how long that would take, how much it would cost, and if it would even work for very large engines-as we had this discussion in front of a medium sized piece of earth moving equipment as I explained the propane tank might need to be the same size as the backhoe because of energy density and be a near impossible pain to fill in some situations- I was told, we are smart, we will figure out). They truly did not understand the size and scope and cost of the situation, and wrongly assumed because in the past we dealt successfully with changing energy system (whale oil, coal, wood) we will do the same here. They were not worried if they could not articulate a solution, someone would figure it out, and anyway, this is all 50/100 years in the future, why worry about it now?

          And the kicker is, let us just say, an infinite supply of affordable coal(or other energy) somehow was available, we would just run into other limits. The fact that we seem to be running into many issues at the same time, limits on energy, resources, water, food, topsoil, phosphates, helium, to name a few, seems like the perfect storm. If it was just one, or two, perhaps we could muddle through or some how McGyver a solution. But just like when the piles of bricks seemed to magically appear during the protests/riots, all these resource limits and energy issues appearing at the same time or nearly in the same time frame has me wondering if this all is not some sort of Alien Human Farm simulation. They take a huge pile of “humans” setup these “conditions” and … see what happens? Perhaps different areas or different genes will behave differently? Of course there seems no way to prove/disprove the simulation theory, but if true, it would surely seem to be poetic justice I would pontificate based on our collective historic and present behavior.

          My current guess is for a slow/fast decline, slow at first, then speeding up, perhaps faster and faster, until it is near instant?(at least in geologic time frames). So the big question for me regarding this is, is this initial “slow” collapse months, years, decades in the making? Or have we already lived through most of that and we are nearing the faster sections? It does seem like we have a certain amount of inertia, and as many have pointed out, we still have many decades perhaps of usable resources, if the cost conditions can be met. But I am not all that certain we are able/willing to transition to a command economy to extract those last economically extract-able resources, if that indeed would be what would be required for that level of activity. I do almost feel that if this is a simulation, we are getting to the best part shortly, and it would be a shame for that to be over too fast. So I think for this and other reasons, a few years, maybe a half decade or so, of slow decline, stair step or curved, as different parts of the global, local economic system(s) fail and we attempt to repair/replace them to various degrees of affect. Add in the current anti-vaxxer mentality and soon to be perhaps less hygienic living situations, it seems we are creating a ripe petri dish for one(all?) of the 4 horsemen to have a field day. In a few years, could the real Black plague make a comeback? Stay tuned and find out, perhaps…

          It seems the next weeks/months will bring a host of additional challenges both emotionally and economically and physically. Hurricanes, fires, then perhaps (more) epic rainfall and flooding if the lack of global dimming causes some (more) minor warming which causes increased atmospheric water amount/density. And at the rate we are going, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and meteorite impacts would not surprise me in the least. At the same time we will be having more and more corporate bonds, stock dividends and loans due. Usually they just borrow a few more million/billion/trillion and kick the can down the road a bit more. Will the derivative pool allow this to continue, let alone the banks and governments. Do we reach a point where we run out of debt and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down? My guess is if that does happen a new system might emerge from the ashes, for a while at least, but it will not be very healthy, more like a punch drunk prize fighter at the end of their rope, hoping to get a few more punches in at least before they go down for the count.

          People might be realizing, in their own way, this is the end, or at least its beginning. Last May set the global world record for most firearm checks in the US. Whatever else does or does not happen, between that and the insta hyper media access, it seems we have the circus part of ancient Rome covered. The biggest question then seems, how long will the bread last?

          Learn to swim, indeed…

          • You make some very good points!

            A big issue is the price that India can afford to pay for coal. India seems to have had a very major shutdown. It was not doing very well before the shutdown took place. Its price is likely quite low.

            Also, the next few months will bring a lot of challenges. In the US, the $1,200 checks paid to adults will have been spent. In July, the $600 supplemental unemployment will run out. Besides all of the things you mention, plus, at some point, a second round of COVID-19.

    • Kim says:

      But it IS a racial problem. If you are white, you are being warned again and again that you are the enemy. Do you think that they are kidding?

      When people tell you that they hate you and want to kill you and take everything you have, it would be prudent to take them at their word.

      • JesseJames says:

        Observing what the human condition is capable of is fascinating.
        It appears that the “taking the knee” in public is now going to be required to prove you are not a racist and saying “black lives matter” will be required of everyone in public. Saying “all lives matter” will be forbidden.
        If this were to become the norm at all public events (think of pro sports events where all player, coaches and officials AND spectators) first selected players take the knee, perhaps raise a fist, perhaps shout “black lives matter”. Then all players are required to (or be publicly shamed , then banned from the sport). Officials will be next, then all spectators are required to bend the knee, perhaps even shout black lives matter…or be publicly (even violently) forced to…it would tend to remind one of another past notorious regime where salutes and verbal pronouncements of loyalty were required.
        Discussion about it was forbidden.
        Of course there is presently no law to require these things. They will be, and are being enforced in the public sphere of social media and media, and then with violence if needed. It could get to be like the Red Guards going around and enforcing “correct thinking”. Think Obama’s brown shirt army.
        This is all possible, some of it even probable at this point.
        After the public displays of subservience are required and enforced, laws will be passed requiring private subservience. They will press their present advantage to appropriate more wealth.

        I think the end result will be more civil strife…and breakdown in a lawful order.

        The shame of police brutality is that the bad apples seem to flourish with the protection of the badge, and the internally enforced silence within the department. No-knock warrants where a goon squad armed to the teeth comes in and ends up killing innocent people. This abuse of power needs to stop for all of us.
        All my thoughts are for equality, and peace for all.

    • SomeoneInAsia says:

      There are a few other online analysts who basically discuss the same problems. Such as Richard Heinberg and Kurt Cobb.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Allow me to cast my vote alongside yours. Gail is a rare and welcome voice of reason, as well as a good systems thinker.

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    An excellent analysis, Gail!

    “When Americans think of U.S. intelligence officials, they may imagine spycraft, surveillance, and covert espionage, but intelligence agencies are also filled with analysists whose job entails monitoring developments around the world, looking for patterns and potential threats.

    “And as the Washington Post reports, some of those analysts are now feeling a sense of dread, not because of events unfolding abroad, but because of developments in their own country.

    “The scenes have been disturbingly familiar to CIA analysts accustomed to monitoring scenes of societal unraveling abroad…”

    • I am afraid that is how it is, or perhaps, that is the way it will be.

      This is all part of a broader pattern. There is not really any way we can fix things, unfortunately, as far as I can see.

    • JesseJames says:

      It is interesting that our super funded spy and intelligence agencies, who can place undercover agents in any white patriot militia “wargame playing/pretend army” group to get evidence to indict them, does not seem to have a single clue as to who and what is behind much of the “organization” that has been observed in many cities with rioting. When it comes to Antifa, or whatever, they seem to not even be aware of the terrorist planning activities. So on the one hand, they are everywhere, on the other they are absent.
      Mighty interesting.

      • JMS says:

        Of course CIA wasn’t created to deal with commies everywhere. Apparently they love commies NOW. HUmmm. Maybe CIA is some steps ahead, as usually, dont you think?

  6. Shawn says:

    It is interesting to contemplate that changes in social behavior over broad periods of time (Multiyear? decades?) might be reduced down to a single physical variable (or two) as the ultimate driver of causation of those social behaviors. Gail has made a strong case for this in other posts. Maybe the case is made here but I am wary. The current outbreak of protests and violence in the U.S. seems best explained social factors of intermediate and higher levels of explanation, or at least those factors must be included in a full understanding.

    For example: The lack of social status, especially for some significant percent of minority males, must account for some significant portion of the violent behavior. (I don’t know, but you may need to be a human male to fully and intuitively grasp the deep need for social status and the feeling of envy towards other men.) The tendency towards racism, or at least tribalism, in human beings in general. Differing social norms among social ethnic groups fueling the perceptions of one tribe towards another. And of course, actual racism itself.

    The is a lot of overwrought commentary going on in the mainstream about what the current unrest means for the U.S. and globally. So here is my own over-reach. As we have begun the energy descent in a “full” world, the very idea of the what the nation state of the United States is beginning to come under question. The idea that all men were created equal was a statement made by men of European descent to other men of European descent. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness were conceived of when the U.S. was a vast and open frontier to be plundered. (True in part because European diseases wiped out the majority of the indigenous people). Can we have a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-value country of 325+million people as prosperity declines? If yes, is it governable by representative democracy? I suspect we are going to find out the answers in the near future. I hope we do try to find a way to live together mostly peacefully, but history says it will be difficult. Worth giving it a try though.

    • Dennis L. says:


      Thank you, realistic and yet “Worth giving it a try though.” Of course it is worth it, what do you have to lose?

      Dennis L.

    • Kim says:

      “Can we have a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-value country of 325+million people as prosperity declines? If yes, is it governable by representative democracy? I suspect we are going to find out the answers in the near future. I hope we do try to find a way to live together mostly peacefully, but history says it will be difficult. Worth giving it a try though.”

      But we already know that it is NOT “worth giving it a try” because we have already tried for 70 years now and seen nothing but destruction.

      From the general discussion that one reads in the media, one would expect that what we are seing in the USA today is bread riots by starving and imnpoverished people, but black communities in the USA are better looked after than kings of old: they live in so called “ghettoes” where people live in charming single family homes or well-maintained units, where the gutters are painted and the lawns are trimmed by government-paid workers and the car parks are full of new SUVs, as children – who are well dressed and may have smart phones – they are fed breakfast lunch and dinner at schools, they get cheap housing and numerous subsidies. A vast number of State and Federal jobs and business opportunities can be accessed only by blacks. There is an endless news and entertainment media propaganda that is intended to build up the myth of black success and achievement. The list of benefits and pro-black policies is almost endless.

      But what have we got out of all of that largesse, that share of the economy’s “energy”?

      Dysfunction, family destruction, drug addiction, crime, separatism-when-it-convenient….blacks have a rate of violent crime that is THREE TIMES that of whites! And now nationwide riots based on the idea that they are discriminated AGAINST!

      The disparities in behaviors between different communities cannot be explained by the old “poverty causes crime” argument. And the days of continuing to try, like Knut on the beachfront, are gone. The last 70 years has overwhelmingly disproven that.

      Today they do not have less than ever. They have MORE! And yet violence is stil the result. This is the part of the whole discussion that nobody seems able (or willing) to explain.

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “…we have already tried for 70 years now and seen nothing but destruction.”

        *Tiny* generalisation there, Kim, but then that is the difference between someone with an axe to grind and someone interested in offering an objective analysis.

        • Adam says:

          I like the part about the “shiny clean” ghetto houses, too!

        • Kim says:

          Please explain to me how the black family has not been destroyed since the 1950s. Please explain to me how forced integration of schools has not destroyed educational quality for non-blacks in the usa.

          Where is the (erroneous) generalization in these statements? These are quite simply facts. And I could add more the the litany of *objective* destruction.

          But of course these are facts told the kind that many people are deeply afraid of admitting.

          • Harry McGibbs says:

            I would be more interested to know the details of your personal journey than to hear more of your diatribes, Kim.

            You are working hard to seem reasonable, in the literal sense, but clearly you have a visceral dislike of black people (and gays, apparently).

            I am sincerely curious to know how this dislike originated. Also, was your worldview instrumental in your move to Indonesia or is that unrelated?

            • Z says:

              Kim is exactly right. Obviously you have never resided near black people.
              Data from 2016, despite only being 12% of the population, blacks committed 52% of all murders.
              We are regressing due to importing and appeasing these people.

              It is a deliberate ploy to destroy society.

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              “Obviously you have never resided near black people.”

              Funnily enough I grew up in Holland Park and the house next door was for a few years a grace and favour property owned by the Nigerian embassy.

              On one occasion some Nigerian children who were staying there informed me over the fence that if our (free range) cats entered their garden again they would kill them. Very rude!

              You’ll be glad to hear our cats remained unscathed.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              Holland Park???

              I hope the residents of Islay realise that such a posh person is living in their midst

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              Norman, I’m not all that plummy. I lived there from the 70’s to the 90’s back when there were still some English families and a sense of community, and property values weren’t akin to lottery wins.

              I am hopelessly priced out of The Royal Borough these days.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              Forgive me Harry

              My main concern was that , in times of privation, the locals might see a rich Englishman just as haggis filling.

  7. Chrome Mags says:

    It’s a game that is getting harder to win. Fewer middle class chairs on the Titanic world economy, but still I think the game will just keep going even as it gets really difficult for more people. Think of life like a version of a dream you have in your sleep in which you simply accept situations as they change. Oh sure, people will get riled up from time to time, but most of the time they’ll simply take whatever they can get. There’s plenty of resources and energy to play the game a lot longer in my opinion, and even if many notice the decline they’ll simply adjust to it. Why? Because there is no other game. Apparently it doesn’t just collapse in one fell swoop. It either evolves or devolves or as it was said in Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

  8. beidawei says:

    I don’t see it. The energy situation was very different back in 1968, but the race riots were similar. I realize that people have been looking at the “color revolutions” of other countries in light of climate and resource availability (including water).

    I would want to distinguish between the behavior of principled protesters, who are genuinely motivated by racial injustice (no new thing); anarchists, who are looking for opportunities to cause mayhem; and looters, who just want free stuff. For all I know the second and third group may be motivated, directly or indirectly, by economic conditions, but we would have to establish whether the mix is any different this time around than in earlier eras, with their different energy situations. We should probably also inquire into the motivations of police and police unions for doing what they do. Certainly their behavior is nothing new either.

    • beidawei says:

      PS. I vaguely recall research showing protests are more likely to occur after a population reaches a certain economic level–apparently a little success raises their expectations. Also, ethno-racial conflict is highly dependent on the proportions of the various identity groups within the larger society.

    • There can be two very different situations, with similar reactions.

      Back in 1968, it was clear that the amount of energy available was increasing. Old ways, which had been developed to deal with a very energy constrained world, no longer were appropriate. Changes were needed.

      At that time, handicapped children were not necessarily served by school systems, either. Trying to add more diverse populations to the schools required considerable “complexity.” More administration was required. More buses were required. Teachers no longer knew the parents of children in the school, making discipline more of a problem. Parents weren’t necessarily happy. Often, parents moved to the suburbs to avoid the changes.

      The killing of Martin Luther King was (rightfully) very upsetting to many.

      But trying to make this transition has been a nightmare.

  9. just over 300 years ago, an accident of geology, geography and poltical intent set the world on a course of division that would eventually tear it apart.

    The industrial revolution gave wealth to a minority of the world’s people, and in so doing denied it to everyone else.

    Now ‘everyone else’ is suddenly realising they are never going to get their share of what the world provided to that minority, and are understandably annoyed about it.

    The ‘black lives matter’ crisis directly links in to that, because the industrial revolution made the American nation (and other industrial nations) possible, and black slaves were shipped in as an energy resource. They were part of a trading triangle between Europe Africa and America. That is the legacy we all have to live with. And what we are in denial of.

    The ‘white race’ got there first, and doesnt intend to share the winnings

    The white race was and is determined to hang on to a depleting resource system, while the coloured races want their share. All the talk about this or that commercial system (airlines or shipping say) collapsing is just a side issue.

    Ever watch the sequence on the ‘Titanic’ movie where the third class passengers suddenly break out on deck and find the lifeboats gone?

    that is what you are seeing now. White folks grabbed the good life for themselves, while they could

    Police suppression of black rights is the same as the crew keeping third class passengers below decks. The third class passengers, (who were in the majority) have suddenly figured out there’s no way off the ship for them. The white race has taken everything.

    difference is of course that everyone is going to sink together this time.

    • Lidia17 says:

      Norman, you have got it entirely backwards: the Industrial Revolution meant there was less need for the conventional slavery system that had been operating for millennia without much prior pearl-clutching over it. Also, the Industrial Revolution was not some deus ex machina that “gave” people things… Europeans worked hard mentally and physically to build what they thought were improvements. Indeed, generally speaking their improvements raised the standard of living for billions across hundreds of years!

      You’ve got it wrong about the other stuff, too, I am sorry to say.

      • David Higham says:

        Tell the 10 million who died in the Belgian Congo all about your hypothesis
        Perhaps you could be more specific about all the other things Norman has got wrong.
        His ‘End of More’ seemed a pretty good summary of the overall situation. Have you read it?

        • Lidia17 says:

          David, yes, I have read Norman’s book. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is still not a product particular to the Industrial empire, to my mind, as opposed to any other. I’m thinking more along the lines of the 40-50% of humans who wouldn’t be here without the Haber-Bosch process, for example, or the populations which have exploded because of access to clean water and other disease controls. Many people are happy to upgrade to a concrete-block house from a mud hut, and they seem to enjoy having electricity now and then. For those billions, IndCiv has been a good thing.

          • ultimately, we created the slide to our collapse when we decided that the planet was ‘property’ to be divided up, bought and sold.

            lots of seemingly unconnected side issues to that hypothesis, but nevertheless they all seem to lead back to that

            if you enclose space, you need someone to guard it and rule over it, and count it—they can only be supported on the excess of those producing from it. So the production of ‘excess’ becomes critical.
            In bad years, there isn’t enough excess to support a top heavy population.

            That leads to the next stage:

            Where no one is content, because your neighbour’s parcel of property is producing more than yours, so you invent a god to tell you that it belongs to you anyway, so you go to war over it, thereby destroying both.

            But in the meantime we beget more of us, cramming ourselves closer and closer together in proximity to animals, and we exchange diseases.

            We find cures for most of those diseases, but that just allows more of us to survive.

            Which takes us to the endgame, where instead of minor ‘enclosures’ in expansion /collapse difficulties, we have entire continents facing the same problem.

            But the solution to the ‘problem’ is the same as when we started, expansion and appropriation from weaker, ‘lesser’ people. But on a global scale.

            My ‘western’ wealth enables me to buy (appropriate) avocados from Bolivia, or beans from Kenya. highly water intensive products from nations in water stress. A few get wealthly, most go short of water. Who is more important? The concept is idiotic.
            But it isn’t just in faraway places.

            Deprivation is everywhere, because ‘owning the planet’ has created colossal disparities and unpleasant social legacies.
            The slave trade left a permanent mess in the USA and elsewhere (slaves represent expropriation of resources from one place to produce excess somewhere else)
            It was never the intentiom, in the 17/1800s that slaves should be free and demanding the same as their owners.

            Now they are, and finding that that wealth is now in the hands of a privileged minority who intend to keep it. (This applies equally to poor whites too btw) But the planet can’t grow any more. I’m not ‘wealthy’ but I count myself in the priveleged minority. I own my bit of planet.

            That wealth is based on infinite growth on a finite planet. Something that politicians gods and economists tell us is perfectly possible,

            This worth a listen, on BBC world service:


            • Lidia17 says:

              (1 of 2)
              Norman, everyone seems to want to find a culprit, and a moment in time before our fate was sealed. It’s a matter of religious faith even among most atheists that humans once existed in a “pre-lapsarian” state. Some people say it was the development of agriculture, some people go as far back as our control of fire (I think Gail has mentioned this as a vehicle to access higher nutrition). If I had to come up with something, I might choose language, a technology which allows us to plan together in the abstract.

              But I don’t really think there is such a particular culprit, nor was our fate ever *not* sealed. The fate of humans will be to go extinct, as has been the fate of 99.9% of all species which no longer could maintain themselves in a changing ecological context, to which they may or may not have contributed.

              What you call “ownership” in human terms is just an expression of territoriality in which (I will arrogantly aver without relying on any sort of particular scholarly reference) all vertebrate species engage. I might have to say all living species bar none: I have a butternut tree with a murderous antipathy towards anything I might choose to plant nearby. If you cannot maintain territory for yourself, you will die, hence there is a strong incentive to maintain territory. I don’t see how this has become mysterious to the modern mind.

              Rather than point to ownership as some kind of original sin, codification of ownership (even with its inherent degrees of unfairness and corruption) is exactly what allows for civilization and actually a more peaceful day-to-day experience than that which exists outside of civilization (eg. in areas where ownership is temporary because theft and looting and robbery are normative). Since civilizations have risen and fallen in various parts of the world, they are a human feature just as termite mounds came to be a feature of termites.

            • I think you’ll find that ‘ownership’ in human terms is unique to our species, at least in a modern context.

              I ‘own’ my bit of planet because I exchanged my energy output for cash tokens, then used those cash tokens to pay the previous owner for what I now own

              I did not have to engage in mortal combat with him for possession of it, slaughter his offspring and take possession of his womenfolk

            • Male animals of many types, such as dogs, mark of pieces of land that they “own” with their urine. According to Craig Dilworth in the book, Too Smart for Our Own Good, this seems to be a way of preventing overpopulation. The amount of land marked off is far greater than the individual animal and its “family” would need for hunting prey.

            • I would point out that ownership allows “debt.” Indirectly, it allows the owner of debt some sort of claim on future output, to repay that debt. Debt also permits construction of structures, such as homes and factories, to be paid for over the lifetime of the structures. Thus, individual ownership enables growth.

              Controlling property using a lease is in some ways like ownership. The frequent payment is then built in having the lease. The leaseholder can count on having the property or automobile or tool.

              When there is no individual ownership, as in Cuba, it becomes difficult to build new businesses or new buildings, because of the inability to get loans for building new structures.

            • Lidia17 says:

              (2 of 2)
              No species does not strive to “expan[d] and appropriat[e] from weaker, lesser” individuals. If they did, they would no longer be viable. You can find this distasteful, but it’s just how the game works. In fact, the civilizing game has worked so well that you don’t even seem to be aware of the extent it has screened you from certain realities.

              I find it is people with the most “privilege” who seem to think territoriality is bad, and that giving up territory is No Big Deal (as long as it is others doing so). Have you put your money where your mouth is, Norman, and invited a few young Somalis to take up residence chez vous? If not, why not? I’m sure there’s only a 5% chance or so of them murdering you in your sleep.. that’s not much when you think about it.

              I started listening to your BBC talk show, but I just couldn’t make it very far. What the author sees as altruism I see as selfish: we do “good” things for others because we want to be treated well in return, and also to be thought of as good. It works out well, mostly, because it helps hold society together. But wait! Norman, it’s this very vexatious society-holding-together thing that’s facilitating population growth and increased energy and resource throughput!

              Why must people be good? Why must people be bad? What if they are neither good nor bad.. they just “are”? Gail has stated we are dissipative structures, a concept I have come across elsewhere as well. She has talked about hurricanes as dissipative structures. Are hurricanes good or bad? Do they bear moral weight?

              Moral agency is a purely human construct which we have evolved to keep each other in line and working together more smoothly. We are, by and large, in denial of our true nature, which is at any rate ephemeral and ultimately of no import. We are not in control of ourselves, never were, and never will be.

            • /////No species does not strive to “expan[d] and appropriat[e] from weaker, lesser” individuals. If they did, they would no longer be viable./////

              Not exactly sure of what you are trying to say there Lidia. Odd construction which doesn’t seem to be a typo.

              There also seems to be an anger there which I can’t quite fathom. A rage about life in general maybe, directed at whatever displeases you personally.
              We all have that problem. I don’t vent it here.

              Having my own bit of planet is just a statement of fact, not a cause for universal resentment. I’ve made it clear in other comments that I think that one of the prime causes of our problem is ‘owning the planet’ I’m not going to wrack myself with guilt over it.
              I make no excuses for following the universal line 50 years ago.

              Seems to me that extracting from weaker lesser nations/people is exactly what humankind has done, and as a result, we as a species are looking less and less viable.
              We find it impossible to accept that we an not supreme beings, and are dependent on the lowliest forms of life for our survival

            • I agree. TO me, it seems as though “good” is to a significant extent “following the rules that governments demand.” If they are demanding a one-child family, a person will comply with this. If they are demanding that you only park on one side of the street, you will comply with this. Governments can demand that parents support their children. In theory, they could also demand the reverse: Parents over a certain age (say, 65 or 75) are to be supported by their children.

            • Lidia17 says:

              oops, not sure why this first part did not go through..
              (1 of 2)
              Norman, everyone seems to want to find a culprit, and a moment in time before our fate was sealed. It’s a matter of religious faith even among most atheists that humans once existed in a “pre-lapsarian” state. Some people say it was the development of agriculture, some people go as far back as our control of fire (I think Gail has mentioned this as a vehicle to access higher nutrition). If I had to come up with something, I might choose language, a technology which allows us to plan together in the abstract.

              But I don’t really think there is such a particular culprit, nor was our fate ever *not* sealed. The fate of humans will be to go extinct, as has been the fate of 99.9% of all species which no longer could maintain themselves in a changing ecological context, to which they may or may not have contributed.

              What you call “ownership” in human terms is just an expression of territoriality in which (I will arrogantly aver without relying on any sort of particular scholarly reference) all vertebrate species engage. I might have to say all living species bar none: I have a butternut tree with a murderous antipathy towards anything I might choose to plant nearby. If you cannot maintain territory for yourself, you will die, hence there is a strong incentive to maintain territory.

              Rather than point to ownership as some kind of original sin, codification of ownership (even with degrees of unfairness and corruption) is exactly what allows for civilization and actually a more peaceful day-to-day experience than that which exists outside of civilization (eg. in areas where ownership is temporary because theft and looting and robbery are normative). Since civilizations have risen and fallen in various parts of the world, they are a human feature just as termite mounds came to be a feature of termites.

            • Lidia17 says:

              Norman, you wrote, “…the solution to the ‘problem’ is the same as when we started, expansion and appropriation from weaker, ‘lesser’ people.” I’ll edit my initially-inelegant response to read, “There is no form of life which does not expand and appropriate from weaker and lesser exemplars.” Not sure why you find it a difficult concept to digest, grammar notwithstanding.

              You put ‘lesser’ in quotes. There is always a ‘lesser’ depending on context. Self-abnegating Swedes who kneel in front of violent Afghans and moan when their ass-rapists risk being deported are ‘lesser’ in the eyes of the Afghan, certainly. Such Swedes will be chewed up and spit out. Their previous “success” was only relative, and highly contextual; their civility, education, and self-domestication quickly went from being an asset to a liability once global over-population and The Limits to Growth exerted the slightest pressure.

              I watched a friend’s chickens one day, and the lowest on the pecking order just lay there in the dirt being pecked mercilessly. I wondered why it did not try to fight back, or at least run away. Those are the goodwhites today—lowest on the pecking order. Kneeling FBI agents and police world-wide send a message of Islam/Submission. I think it is fascinating. It may be a sub-conscious understanding on their part that Civilization will not hold—that they are not strong enough to maintain it—and “barbarism” will become the “new normal”. I doubt we will have the luxury of “high-trust” societies going forward (why the Swedes chose to accelerate this process on their territory, I have no idea.. maybe they are “self-aborting” the way a defective fetus cannot often be brought along by its host mother).

              I’m actually not angry at all. People sometimes seem to think that declarative statements which challenge them imply anger, but that’s not always the case. What I talk about seems like a given to me, as it seems like a given that if one sets one’s sights on trying to change human nature or any natural force, one is bound to become disappointed and angry. To my mind, it’s as pointless and absurd to rail against hard-wired human survival instincts as it is to rail against masturbation. It becomes a pious crusade to steer people towards angelic behavior that they were never cut out for, and any secular religionist will bang xir head on that wall until xe passes away.

              Re: ownership, you write “I did not have to engage in mortal combat with him for possession of it, slaughter his offspring and take possession of his womenfolk”.

              Exactly! Those are the “benefits” of Civilization! Including the “cash tokens” and the whole lot. The State does the expropriating, so you don’t have to! But the paradox is that Civilization has other costs which we will eventual be unable to bear going forward under these circumstances.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              I live within the confines of western civilisation because I do not have the means or incllination to step outside it

              neither, i imagine do you

              I watch with amusement the arctic survivalists on TV–living beyond civilisation. Somehow they all have bullets and IC engines, regular flights in and out.

              For what little meat I eat, i pay someone else to do the hunting and gathering for me, just as my taxes pay policemen and doctors to look after me should I need them. Luckily I don’t
              There is little I can do about that state of affairs

              We are hard wired into the situation which we currently exist. Perhaps the ultimate survivors will be the bushmen of the Kalahari or somewhere

            • Lidia17 says:

              Gail, yes debt is indeed a fascinating technology!! If one takes on board the MPP/MEPP (Maximum Power Priniciple/Maximum EmPower Principle).. it’s as though “we” “needed” to develop a way to consume *more* than could be consumed at a normal daily pace.

              I’ve referenced this quote elsewhere in the past, but it always sticks with me. It’s from back during the 2007-8 financial crisis, when people were trying to figure out what was going on. Below is an old e-mail I wrote to a friend at the time.

              In an interview, a hedge-fund manager admitted being subject to a seemingly supernatural process:

              HFM: …the traditional way to think about financing is “OK, I find an investment opportunity, that on its face, I think, is a good opportunity. I want to deploy capital on that opportunity. Now I go look for funding. So I think that making mortgage loans is a good investment, so I will make mortgage loans. Then I will seek to fund those, to fund that activity, by perhaps issuing CDO paper, issuing the triple-A, double-A, A, and down the chain.” But what happened is, you had the creation of so many vehicles designed to buy that paper, the triple-A, the double-A, all the CDO paper… that the dynamic flipped around. It was almost as if the demand for that paper created the mortgages.

              n+1: Created the loans?

              HFM: Called forth the loans… it got even more extended in the sense that vehicles were set up that had a mandate to kind of robotically buy that paper and fund themselves through issuing paper in the market.

              So what happened is this machine—let’s call it, it’s a big machine that wanted to gobble up, you know, rated paper—needed to be fed. So there were people who could make a lot of money feeding the machine, and they were like, you know, “We need to keep originating mortgages, and feeding them to the machine,” and if you have a robot bid, you tend to get a bubble. Someone is hungry for paper, paper will be created

              I continued:
              This is not just the exotic EFFECT of finance, this IS finance, in a nutshell. This is what happens in all modern economic transactions, although we don’t have the opportunity to see it quite so clearly.

              Governments worldwide have stepped in to backstop the banks and to take on the out-of-control-exponentially-growing debt that has brought the private sector to its knees; they’ll keep loading up on their own out-of-control -exponentially-growing debt and/or keep printing money (two sides of the same coin, excuse the pun) because they can’t do anything else, short of intentionally imploding the system. But the longer it goes on, the worse the consequences.

              In Europe, unelected bankers are ALREADY OFFICIALLY RUNNING THE GOVERNMENTS of Italy (kicking out a right-wing PM) and of Greece (kicking out a left-wing PM). The presidencies of GWB and Obama are equally signed with the shadows of the eminences griges from Goldman Sachs; no matter which party’s superficially-stated policies you prefer, there is only the fiction of underlying “change”, as should now be clear to all.

              Beyond discarding this as a left-right issue, we must also discard it as even—to a large extent—a political issue at all. It’s larger than any country’s politics or any politics humankind has ever known. It’s certainly larger than the communist-capitalist divide (both of these systems pimped “growth” and championed the imposition of industrial labor as a human norm). It is literally a fight for the survival of humanity, nothing less.

            • Lidia17 says:

              Gail wrote: “Governments can demand that parents support their children. In theory, they could also demand the reverse: Parents over a certain age (say, 65 or 75) are to be supported by their children.”

              That is already actually the law, as I understand it, in Italy.. possibly other places in Europe. Here’s a kind of garbled report on the mish-mash of systems there:

              Click to access caregiving-contexts.pdf

              “Italy and Spain include half siblings among the legally responsible, but
              Spain also makes a distinction between the extent of support, that is, spouses, children
              and grand-children carry a ‘heavier’ commitment than siblings and their ascendants
              and descendants. Obligations extend to grand-parents also in France and some other

            • Interesting! Once governments promise pensions to the elderly, children see less need to have children. So, the tax revenue that might be used to support the elderly disappears. Governments make promises, but being able to keep those promises is a different story.

      • Lidia Kim Gail–and others

        The industrial revolution kicked off when iron was made cheap as chips. (1709-on), using coke as the heat medium

        with cheap iron, ships and guns and powered machinery could be made bigger and built more efficiently and in vastly greater numbers. The accident of geology was that this happened in the northern hemisphere, England to be exact. It could have happened elsewhere. It was the global lottery if you like, Had to happen somewhere.

        That’s how we carved out the world’s biggest empire. We lost it when our energy resource ran out. (Geology factor again).

        The American empire was built on an energy resource. That is also fading as their energy resource runs out. (geology is a killer). The American empire will dissolve. Americans will fight to deny it, just as we Brits did.

        But getting back to the 18th c, with cheap iron, and a growing empire, the drive was to make more and more money.

        It was clear that machinery made money, so more machines had to be made. And purposes found for those machines. Steam engines were the prime mover because they pumped out mines and allowed more iron and coal to be dug. Cheap iron needs a purpose. Near where I live they used it as kerb edging, it was so cheap.

        A typical one was the cotton mill. Take a look at one. They are full of iron.There are many other examples. The main patents for improved cotton spinning were in the mid 1700s, following the availability of cheap iron.

        With multiple iron frames, cotton spinning took off, because the world needs clothes. But the more machines you build, the more cotton you need as feedstock.
        But cotton was grown (among other places) in the US southern states. Where cheap manpower could be brought in as slaves and worked to death. (btw we used our own slave labour to mine the coal, children as young as 6 until 1842–well after we abolished ‘slavery’ here)
        The drive was for more of everything, because ‘enough’ profit is never enough.

        The ultimate feedstock for the cotton industry was slave labour. Unfortunate, but in the 17th/18th century commercial thinking was different. (or was it?) Without slave labour the cotton mills couldn’t expand fast enough to meet demand. Cotton had been spun since ancient times, but at a far slower rate. Speed = profit.

        Fast forward to now, and it remains an unfortunate situation we find ourselves in. The ‘slave labour’ mentality has not left the mindset of millions of people, (white or coloured). Other races called it the caste system.

        Here in UK your accent will put you in a certain ‘caste’ and create social exclusion. Same mindset.

        The mental infection has passed itself down the generations, even though actual slavery has ended. We have blighted ourselves with it. ‘We’ might ‘know better’ but the attitude of individuals doesnt count for much when millions of people are rioting in anger and frustration. You can create ‘improvement programs’ but if the collective inclination works against this, there will be massive droputs from it.

        Take the meaning of the word ‘denigration’—we use it freely and without thinking. But dissect it to realise what it is actually saying.

        • Kim says:

          Already in the 1300s half of Britain’s consumption of joules was in the form of coal.

          • Norman Pagett says:

            I can’t verify the joules consumed in 1300, I have my doubts, so I’ll need verification. Interesting point though. Coal mining was always constrained by water ingress until the invention of the steam pump—
            but I’ll keep trying with the other stuff.

            A fundamental component of progression of civilisation (in the sense that we currently expect it to be) is iron.

            By the early 1700s, UK forests were being consumed so fast to make charcoal, (the basic heat source of ironmaking}, that another way had to be found to make it—hence coke, which was abundant and cheap

            the key factor is volume

            you can make a horseshoe or a sword in a 13th c blacksmiths forge, but you can’t make them in millions,

            • Kim says:

              It was a point made in (I think) smil’s energy and civilzation.I remember it because it is a startling factoid. I will try to search out the ref.

            • Kim says:

              @ norman

              Sorry, i was wrong. I looked it up in Smil and find I misremembered. England began exporting coal to France in 1325. But coal didn’t take over from biomass as providing more than 50% of joules in England until 1620.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              thanks for filling me in on that Kim.

              problem with coal is the energy to weight problem when you have to transport it vast distances

              that’s why they put in canals in UK and elsewhere. I imagine the coal to France thing was from the Kent coalfields.
              Where I live, the foundry was only 1.5 m from the coal mine, but they built a canal to transport it.

              Interesting though

        • NikoB says:

          Worth watching if you haven’t seen it

        • wondering says:

          While there are interesting ties, the etymology of “denigration” doesn’t support your assertion Norman.

          • wondering says:

            This posted way down the thread, meant to be a reply to Norman at 06:13 June 4.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              it says ‘denigrate’ is to blacken

              I don’t understand what you are talking about

    • Actually, the US has been trying since the 1960s to make integration with blacks work out and haven’t been very successful. There have been all kinds of “affirmative action” programs and all kinds of other programs. Colleges have tried to add more minorities, but too often good intentions have not worked out well. Drop out rates have been very high, when colleges have tried to admit a selected percentage of black students.

      I think that the tax law has worked out badly for black couples. For people with relatively low incomes, taxes are lower if a couple simply lives together, without getting married. If the woman has one or more children, then she can file as an unmarried head of household, and this provides extra benefits. This tax situation seems to lead to a lot of single black women with children, plus men who do not feel very needed as part of a family unit.

      Children growing up in single parent homes do poorly in school whatever the color of the parents. Now, we are also seeing more poor white couples who do not get married because of the tax law. Schools become filled with children who do not have very stable home situations. The mother may be trying to work two part time jobs and may not be home when children need her.

    • Kim says:

      “The white race has taken everything.”

      Whites have done nothing that other races haven’t done and continue to do.

      South Africa was originally populated by the hunter-gatherer Bush people. About 1000 years ago the pastoral Hottentots arrived from the north and pushed them into marginal territory and took the lushest Bushmen territory for themselves.

      Evil Hottentots!

      Then around 1500 the first whites arrived, Portugese and later Dutch. The Dutch pastoralists took over from the Hottentots.

      Evil Dutch!

      Then in the early 19th century, the pastoralist Bantu tribes of Central Africa erupted into south east Africa. They pushed aside earlier groups. In the period of Shaka Zulu (1820s), the Zulu pushed side and killed 2 million people of other tribes and took their land.

      Do I hear “Evil Bantu”? If not, why not?

      I can tell similar stories for India pre-white, North, Central. and South America pre-white and anywhere else you like. Whites did not invent greed or selfishness. They did not invent war or slavery. Korea had slavery until 1894. A third of the population were living as serfs! Why do we never hear of this?

      Whites (white civil and miltary social arrangements) did however invent a hell of a lot of other things which for better or worse changed the world and that many people around the world may be very grateful for. The Haber Bosch process, for example, without which most of the people born in the last 100 years would not have been born.

      So now we arrive at the point where we have to agree that this is how humans are and there is no changing us.

      An along with recognizin this we must also recognize the particular point about humans that – one way or another because it is a matter of survival – they form groups. Because it is only as part of a group that a human can survive.

      Blacks and Hispanics and Muslims and other groups in the USA have already formed their groups and declared and shown their allegiances. This is accepted and even praised. It is only whites who are denied this right by people like you, the rights to freedom of association and self defense.

      But as history has shown us again and again, those who do not form into groups will not survive. And certainly those fools who think that they will be welcomed as equal members of an enemy group will also not survive.

      • Xabier says:

        Very true, the very primitive Bushmen were marginalized and then given only inferior positions among the pastoralists who lorded it over them.

        A pattern repeated all over the world as human beings developed in their power over nature and their own kind.

        Personally I am very bored by race issues, and particularly being described as ‘white’, when at present I am the most delicious honey-brown and would not look out of place in North Africa!

        • Malcopian says:

          ‘At present I am the most delicious honey-brown’

          Oh no, not Xabier too! The narcissism just abounds on OFW recently. Perhaps you’d like this little ditty I read on a ‘futurism’ site some years ago. It begins:

          ‘O to clone my own sweet self
          And suck on my horn of plenty’.

          Sadly I’ve forgotten how it ended, apart from the fact that the word ‘twenty’ was in there.

      • I have heard that within Assisted Living Centers, there is discrimination. The ones in better physical shape don’t want to associate with the ones who are less able.

      • NikoB says:

        I wonder if there are more people alive today of every race thanks to “white men”?
        Lets face it without the steam engine, the Haber-Bosch process, penicillin there would only be less than a billion of us. All were invented or discovered by dastardly white males.
        Though I could spin it that they also wrecked the planet. Bar stards.

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      Very good example

    • Robert Firth says:

      A female third class passenger on the Titanic had a 75% chance of survival. A male first class passenger had a 32% chance. But of course the *real* discrimination does not fit you narrative.

  10. CTG says:

    Hey… where is FE ? Skiing or having fun somewhere without internet?

    Looks like CDP…. with riots spreading to Europe and who knows soon, will be in Australia or NZ.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      FE was on South Island from his last post that I remember.
      There are worse places. Culinarily challenged, but you can do just about anything without
      the elite putting the dogs on you.
      Plus, the fly fishing is outstanding.
      Skiing? OK, but not by western US standards.
      Winter starting down there.

    • Rodster says:

      It appears that FE, has left the building once again.

    • Pintada says:

      FE doesn’t hate black people. That makes it difficult for him to stay. I got used to people like lidia long ago

      • Xabier says:

        I suspect FE mostly posts here when he’s a had a few too many and wants some fun: he’s posting in an intelligent and informative way about NZ on Wolfstreet just now -although he has claimed to hate and despise Wolf Richter. If only he could keep up that level all the time…..

    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      Foil Eddie seems “frustrated” (his own word) that The Collapse and/or human extinction is taking more than the first 5 months of 2020 to be fulfilled…

      in other words, he’s frustrated that the seeeecret CDP plan, which he was easily able to figure out due to his remarkable menntal abilities (sarc), just didn’t become reality…

      meanwhile, this year has become a fascinating case study for how govs/CBs/billionaires/elites will react to a crisis which seems severe enough to threattten the continued existence of bAU within the wobbling structure of IC…

      IF this virus/lockdown/overreaction crisis does NOT result in The Collapse within a year or so, that will give us more information about the resilience of the networked global economy…

      I feel like OFW is a front row seat to some real nuanced thoughts about what is actually happening now…

      and today again another timely and well thought article by Gail…

      it’s amazing that we were told way back in January that there could be vast overreactions to the virus, and the dire consequences were foretold very well…

      • Rodster says:

        “IF this virus/lockdown/overreaction crisis does NOT result in The Collapse within a year or so, that will give us more information about the resilience of the networked global economy…”

        That’s right, people tend to get caught up in the idea that Collapse = Event. Collapse is a process not an event like waves eroding a shoreline or beach. It takes time and the Banksters are full aware of the consequences to makes sure they can keep things running.

        In the end it will all fail because “that which can’t continue, won’t”. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this all drag out for months, years or maybe even decades. No one knows.

        “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” – Yogi Berra

        • Rodster says:

          We all thought this thing couldn’t keep going once the financial, banking and monetary systems collapsed back in 2008-09 and here we are. Things are still chugging along because those pulling the strings have more tricks up their sleeves.

        • The length of time things have kept going has surprised me. I was also very surprised by the shutdown response to COVID-19, in many parts of the world.

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