Energy Is the Economy; Shrinkage in Energy Supply Leads to Conflict

It takes energy to accomplish any of the activities that we associate with GDP. It takes energy to grow food: human energy, solar energy, and–in today’s world–the many types of energy used to build and power tractors, transport food to markets, and provide cooling for food that needs to be refrigerated. It takes energy to cook food and to smelt metals. It takes energy to heat and air condition offices and to power the internet. Without adequate energy, the world economy would come to a halt.

We are hitting energy limits right now. Energy per capita is already shrinking, and it seems likely to shrink further in the future. Reaching a limit produces a conflict problem similar to the one in the game musical chairs. This game begins with an equal number of players and chairs. At the start of each round, a chair is removed. The players must then compete for the remaining chairs, and the player who ends the round without a chair is eliminated. There is conflict among players as they fight to obtain one of the available chairs. The conflict within the energy system is somewhat hidden, but the result is similar.

A current conflict is, “How much energy can we spare to fight COVID-19?” It is obvious that expenditures on masks and vaccines have an impact on the economy. It is less obvious that a cutback in airline flights or in restaurant meals to fight COVID-19 indirectly leads to less energy being produced and consumed, worldwide. In total, the world becomes a poorer place. How is the pain of this reduction in energy consumption per capita to be shared? Is it fair that travel and restaurant workers are disproportionately affected? Worldwide, we are seeing a K shaped recovery: The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.

A major issue is that while we can print money, we cannot print the energy supplies needed to run the economy. As energy supplies deplete, we will increasingly need to “choose our battles.” In the past, humans have been able to win many battles against nature. However, as energy per capita declines in the future, we will be able to win fewer and fewer of these battles against nature, such as our current battle with COVID-19. At some point, we may simply need to let the chips fall where they may. The world economy seems unable to accommodate 7.8 billion people, and we will have no choice but to face this issue.

In this post, I will explain some of the issues involved. At the end of the post, I include a video of a panel discussion that I was part of on the topic of “Energy Is the Economy.” The moderator of the panel discussion was Chris Martenson; the other panelists were Richard Heinberg and Art Berman.

[1] Energy consumption per person varies greatly by country.

Let’s start with a little background. There is huge variability in the quantity of energy consumed per person around the world. There is more than a 100-fold difference between the highest and lowest countries shown on Figure 1.

Figure 1. Energy consumption per capita in 2019 for a few sample countries based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy. Energy consumption includes fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy and renewable energy of many types. It omits energy products not traded through markets, such as locally gathered wood and animal dung. This omission tends to somewhat understate the energy consumption for countries such as India and those in Middle Africa.

I have shown only a few example countries, but we can see that cold countries tend to use a lot of energy, relative to their populations. Iceland, with an abundant supply of inexpensive hydroelectric and geothermal electricity, uses it to heat buildings, grow food in greenhouses, mine “bitcoins” and smelt aluminum. Norway and Canada have both oil and gas supplies, besides being producers of hydroelectricity. With abundant fuel supplies and a cold climate, both countries use a great deal of energy relative to the size of their population.

Saudi Arabia also has high energy consumption. It uses its abundant oil and gas supplies to provide air conditioning for its people. It also uses its energy products to enable the operation of businesses that provide jobs for its large population. In addition, Saudi Arabia uses taxes on the oil it produces to subsidize the purchase of imported food, which the country cannot grow locally. As with all oil and gas producers, some portion of the oil and gas produced is used in its own oil and gas operations.

In warm countries, such as those in Middle Africa and India, energy consumption tends to be very low. Most people in these countries walk for transportation or use very crowded public transport. Roads tend not to be paved. Electricity outages are frequent.

One of the few changes that can easily be made to reduce energy consumption is to move manufacturing to lower wage countries. Doing this reduces energy consumption (in the form of electricity) quite significantly. In fact, the rich nations have mostly done this, already.

Figure 2. World electricity generation by part of the world, based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Trying to squeeze down energy consumption for the many countries around the world will be a huge challenge because energy is involved in every part of economies.

[2] Two hundred years of history shows that very slow growth in energy consumption per capita leads to bad outcomes.

Some readers will remember that I have pieced together data from different sources to put together a reasonable approximation to world energy consumption since 1820. In Figure 3, I have added a rough estimate of the expected drop in future energy consumption that might occur if either (1) the beginning of peak fossil fuels is occurring about now because of continued low fossil fuel prices, or (2) world economies choose to leave fossil fuels and move to renewables between now and 2050 in order to try to help the environment. Thus, Figure 3 shows my estimate of the pattern of total world energy consumption over the period of 1820 to 2050, at 10-year intervals.

Figure 3. Estimate by Gail Tverberg of World Energy Consumption from 1820 to 2050. Amounts for earliest years based on estimates in Vaclav Smil’s book Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy for the years 1965 to 2019. Energy consumption for 2020 is estimated to be 5% below that for 2019. Energy for years after 2020 is assumed to fall by 6.6% per year, so that the amount reaches a level similar to renewables only by 2050. Amounts shown include more use of local energy products (wood and animal dung) than BP includes.

The shape of this curve is far different from the one most forecasters expect because they assume that prices will eventually rise high enough so all of the fossil fuels that can be technically extracted will actually be extracted. I expect that oil and other fossil fuel prices will remain too low for producers, for reasons I discuss in Section [4], below. In fact, I have written about this issue in a peer reviewed academic article, published in the journal Energy.

Figure 4 shows this same information as Figure 3, divided by population. In making this chart, I assume that population drops only half as quickly as energy consumption falls after 2020. Total world population drops to 2.8 billion by 2050.

Figure 4. Amounts shown in Figure 3, divided by population estimates by Angus Maddison for earliest years and by 2019 United Nations population estimates for years to 2020. Future population estimated to be falling half as quickly as energy supply is falling.

In Figure 4, some parts of the curve are relatively flat, or even slightly falling, while others are rising rapidly. It turns out that rapidly rising times are much better for the economy than flat and falling times. Figure 5 shows the average annual percentage change in energy consumption per capita, for ten-year periods ending the date shown.

Figure 5. Average annual increase in energy consumption per capita for 10-year periods ended the dates shown, using the information in Figure 4.

If we look back at what happened in Figure 5, we find that when the 10-year growth in energy consumption is very low, or turns negative, conflict and bad outcomes are typical. For example:

  • Dip 1: 1861-1865 US Civil War
  • Dip 2: Several events
    • 1914-1918 World War I
    • 1918-1920 Spanish Flu Pandemic
    • 1929-1933 Great Depression
    • 1939-1945 World War II
  • Dip 3: 1991 Collapse of the Central Government of the Soviet Union
  • Dip 4: 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic and Recession

Per capita energy consumption was already growing very slowly before 2020 arrived. Energy consumption took a big step downward in 2020 (estimated at 5%) because of the shutdowns and the big cutback in air travel. One of the important things that energy consumption does is provide jobs. With severe cutbacks intended to contain COVID-19, many people in distant countries lost their jobs. Cutbacks of this magnitude quickly cause problems around the world.

For example, if people in rich countries rarely dress up to attend meetings of various kinds, there is much less of a market for dressy clothing. Many people in poor countries make their living manufacturing this type of clothing. With the loss of these sales, workers suddenly found themselves with much reduced income. Poor countries generally do not have good safety nets to provide food for those who are out of work. As a result, the diets of people subject to loss of income became inadequate, leading to greater vulnerability to disease. If the situation continues, some may even die of starvation.

[3] The pattern of world energy consumption between 2020 and 2050 (modeled in Figures 3, 4 and 5) suggests that a very concerning collapse may be ahead.

My model suggests that world energy consumption may fall to about 28 gigajoules per capita per year by 2050 (for a reduced population of 2.8 billion). This is about the level of world energy consumption per capita for the world in 1900.

Alternatively, 28 gigajoules per capita is a little lower than the per capita energy consumption for India in 2019. Of course, some parts of the world might do better than this. For example, Mexico and Brazil both had energy consumption per capita of about 60 gigajoules per capita in 2019. Some countries might be able to do this well in 2050.

Using less energy after 2020 will lead to many changes. Governments will become smaller and provide fewer services such as paved roads. Often, these governments will cover smaller areas than those of countries today. Businesses will become smaller, more local, and more involved with goods rather than services. Individual citizens will be walking more, growing their own food, and doing much less home heating and cooling.

With less energy available, it will be necessary to cut back on fighting unfortunate natural occurrences, such as forest fires, downed electricity transmission lines after hurricanes, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and constantly mutating viruses. Thus, life expectancy is likely to decline.

[4] It is “demand,” and how high energy prices can be raised, that determines how large an energy supply will be available in the future.

I keep making this point in my posts because I sense that it is poorly understood. The big problem that we should be anticipating is energy producers going out of business because energy prices are chronically too low. I see five ways in which energy prices might theoretically be raised:

  1. A truly booming world economy. This is what raised prices in the 1970s and in the run up to 2008. If there are truly more people who can afford homes and new vehicles, and governments that can afford new roads and other infrastructure, companies extracting oil and coal will build new facilities in higher-cost locations, and thereby expand world supply. The higher prices will help energy companies to be profitable, despite their higher costs. Such a scenario seems very unlikely, given where we are now.
  2. Government mandates and subsidies. Government mandates are what is maintaining demand for renewables and electric vehicles. Conversely, government mandates are part of what is keeping down tourist travel. Indirectly, this lack of demand relating to travel leads to low oil prices. A government mandate for people to engage in more travel seems unlikely.
  3. Much reduced wage disparity. If everyone, rich or poor, can afford nice homes, automobiles, and cell phones, commodity prices will tend to be high because buying and operating goods such as these requires the use of commodities. Governments can attempt to fix wage disparity through more printed money, but I am doubtful that this approach will really work because other countries are likely to be unwilling to accept this printed money.
  4. More debt, sometimes leading to collapsing debt bubbles. Spending can be enhanced if it becomes easier for citizens to buy goods such as homes and vehicles on credit. Likewise, businesses can borrow money to build new factories or, alternatively, to continue to pay wages to workers, even if there isn’t much demand for the goods and services sold. But, if the economy really is not recovering rapidly, these approaches can be expected to lead to crashes.
  5. Getting rid of COVID-19 inefficiencies and fearfulness. Economies around the world are being depressed to varying degrees by continued inefficiencies caused by social distancing requirements and by fearfulness. If these issues could be eliminated, it might boost economies back up to the already somewhat depressed levels of early 2020.

In summary, the issue we are facing is that oil demand (and thus prices) were far too low for oil producers because of wage disparity before the COVID-19 crisis arrived in March. Trying to get demand back up through more debt seems likely to lead to debt bubbles, which will be in danger of collapsing. There may be temporary price spikes, but a permanent fix is virtually impossible. This is why I am forecasting the severe drop in energy consumption shown in Figures 3 and 4.

[5] We humans don’t need to figure out how to fix the economy optimally between now and 2050.

The economy is a self-organizing system that will figure out on its own the optimal way of “dissipating” energy, to the extent possible. In physics terms, the economy is a dissipative structure. If the energy resource is food, energy will be dissipated by digesting the food. In the case of fossil fuel, energy will be dissipated by burning it. We may like to think that we are in charge, but we really are not. It is the laws of physics, or perhaps the Power behind the laws of physics, that is in charge.

Dissipative structures are not permanent. For example, hurricanes and tornadoes are dissipative structures. Plants and animals are dissipative structures. Eventually, new smaller economies, encompassing smaller areas of the world, may replace the existing world economy.

[6] This is a recent video of a panel discussion on “Energy Is the Economy.”

Chris Martenson is the moderator. Art Berman, Richard Heinberg and I are panelists. The Peak Prosperity folks were kind enough to provide me a copy to put up on my website.

Video of Panel Discussion “Energy Is the Economy,” created in October 2020 by Peak Prosperity. Chris Martenson (upper right) is the moderator. Richard Heinberg (upper left), Art Berman (lower left) and Gail Tverberg (lower right) are panelists.

A transcript of this panel discussion can be accessed at this link:

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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2,764 Responses to Energy Is the Economy; Shrinkage in Energy Supply Leads to Conflict

  1. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Hungary and Poland’s veto of the bloc’s pandemic recovery fund could cause unemployment levels to explode.

    “According to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), 40 million people have benefited from temporary unemployment schemes due to coronavirus.”

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “According to research by the Aspen Institute, nearly 40 million Americans could face eviction over the next several months. The only thing holding back the flood right now is the CDC’s eviction moratorium order and a patchwork of state and local protections for renters.”

    • I think the other thing holding evictions back is the fact that no one (certainly no politician) wants 40 million people running around homeless, at the same time that there are homes for 40 million people clearly available.

  3. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Too funny…Borrow….he wrote borrow..Bloomberg
    Illinois Plans to Borrow Another $2 Billion From Federal Reserve
    Nic Querolo and Shruti Date Singh
    Bloomberg) — Illinois plans to borrow an additional $2 billion from the Federal Reserve in an effort to prop up its already-struggling finances as the state’s bills rise amid the pandemic

    It would be the second time the worst-rated state has borrowed through the central bank’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, an emergency lending program for state and local government issuers. Illinois already borrowed $1.2 billion from the Fed during fiscal year 2020 to cover pandemic-induced losses, and has since repaid $200 million of that loan, according to the governor’s office.

    “Short-term borrowing is a short term band-aid to address the urgency of a short-term problem like one caused by a pandemic,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

    Yeah, seems we find ourselves in a constant state of emergencies now

    • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      “Yeah, seems we find ourselves in a constant state of emergencies now”

      but the Pritzker types mostly think they are “short-term” emergencies.

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “South Africa can’t implement a pay deal with public servants because it would precipitate a fiscal crisis, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said.”

  5. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Mister BAU says no Turkey for you…it was all for progress
    Indigenous Rights
    Indigenous say ‘no thanks, no giving’ 400 years after Mayflower
    ‘National Day of Mourning’ for Native peoples in Plymouth comes as the United States begins to deal with its colonial legacy.
    Creede Newton
    26 Nov 2020
    As the United States prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, the community where it first took place continues to grapple with the legacy of the arrival of the Mayflower, the ship that 400 years ago transported the English Pilgrims who celebrated the apocryphal first feast with members of the Wampanoag tribe.

    But the modern telling of the US holiday is largely unverified and ignores a longer, bloodier history of conflict and colonisation, according to Native American organisers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where Pilgrims first settled for a short time in 1620.
    The US is undermining a Supreme Court ruling on Native rights
    Native Americans host ‘National Day of Mourning’ on Thanksgiving
    Native Americans look to future amid grim coronavirus numbers
    The United American Indians of New England (UAINE) has organised a “National Day of Mourning” on the fourth Thursday of November since 1970 to bring attention to the history of the Wampanoag – and Indigenous people across the US – who faced war, disease and ethnic cleansing with the arrival of European colonists.

    “We Native people have no reason to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims. We want to educate people so that they understand the stories we all learned in school about the first Thanksgiving are nothing but lies”, Kisha James, who is Aquinnah Wampanoag and Lakota and an organiser with UAINE, said in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.

    The Wampanoag helped the Pilgrims survive after their 1620 arrival in North America. While often depicted as offering the newcomers goodwill, the tribe had been decimated in the preceding years by disease, likely introduced by European settlers in 1616, and also faced rival tribes. The striking of an agreement with Europeans was likely strategic: the Wampanoag needed an ally.

    When I lived in Boston area joined this group and a Chief named Slow Turtle was active in the Community to health…

    The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness

    • Robert Firth says:

      If they are so upset, perhaps the Siberian Americans should go back where they came from?

      • Xabier says:

        Not when they can get grants and subsidies in the US to correct ‘historical injustice’, ie the simple flow of history itself……..

        What do the turkeys have to say about all of this? !

      • Many of them are more than 75% white. That aside, yes, the “Native” Americans should have no special rights.

    • Herbie Ficklestein says:

      Our Mission
      Our mission is to assist Native American residents with basic needs and educational expenses; to provide opportunities for cultural and spiritual enrichment; to advance public knowledge and understanding that helps dispel inaccurate information & myths; and to work towards racial equality by addressing some of the inequities across the region.

      Robert and Xavier, Never mind the US Government has repeatedly ignored or intentionally broke treaty agreements, even up to this day.
      Attended functions and all inclusive and very positive message.
      Chief Slow Turtle 🐢, was someone I was fortunate to met before his death and was a healer and reached out to many people, no matter what backgrounds.

      I don’t blame them for setting the record straight.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Setting the record straight? It’s all ancient history now, and we all know how difficult it is to set that straight.

        Testimony from the Reverend Thomas Malthus (published in 1798):

        The North American Indians, considered as a people, cannot justly be called free and equal. In all the accounts we have of them, and, indeed, of most other savage nations, the women are represented as much more completely in a state of slavery to the men than the poor are to the rich in civilized countries. One half the nation appears to act as Helots to the other half, and the misery that checks population falls chiefly, as it always must do, upon that part whose condition is lowest in the scale of society. The infancy of man in the simplest state requires considerable attention, but this necessary attention the women cannot give, condemned as they are to the inconveniences and hardships of frequent change of place and to the constant and unremitting drudgery of preparing every thing for the reception of their tyrannic lords. These exertions, sometimes during pregnancy or with children at their backs, must occasion frequent miscarriages, and prevent any but the most robust infants from growing to maturity. Add to these hardships of the women the constant war that prevails among savages, and the necessity which they frequently labour under of exposing their aged and helpless parents, and of thus violating the first feelings of nature, and the picture will not appear very free from the blot of misery. In estimating the happiness of a savage nation, we must not fix our eyes only on the warrior in the prime of life: he is one of a hundred: he is the gentleman, the man of fortune, the chances have been in his favour and many efforts have failed ere this fortunate being was produced, whose guardian genius should preserve him through the numberless dangers with which he would be surrounded from infancy to manhood. The true points of comparison between two nations seem to be the ranks in each which appear nearest to answer to each other. And in this view, I should compare the warriors in the prime of life with the gentlemen, and the women, children, and aged, with the lower classes of the community in civilized states.

        May we not then fairly infer from this short review, or rather, from the accounts that may be referred to of nations of hunters, that their population is thin from the scarcity of food, that it would immediately increase if food was in greater plenty, and that, putting vice out of the question among savages, misery is the check that represses the superior power of population and keeps its effects equal to the means of subsistence. Actual observation and experience tell us that this check, with a few local and temporary exceptions, is constantly acting now upon all savage nations, and the theory indicates that it probably acted with nearly equal strength a thousand years ago, and it may not be much greater a thousand years hence.

        If given the choice, very few of today’s American Indians would want to go back to their noble savage origins. Although they may fantasize that traditional life was all one long camping trip, the women in particular would be very unwilling to go back to being slaves and beasts of burden with zero human rights and absolutely dependent on the latter’s kindness and generosity—not that they would have any more choice in the matter than my dog has about what make of dogwood he eats.

        • 7dogparty says:

          Yes. Id still like to go back in time and give the tribes Kalishnakovs. How do you like me now paleface?

      • Robert Firth says:

        A fine ambition, but why does it remind me of “Take up the white man’s burden”? Don’t you think there is something problematic about believing these people cannot make it without your help?

  6. Denial says:

    Yes but wouldn’t that make oil more expensive for the u.s to purchase? I don’t think the u.s consumer can afford it,

    • Yes, a falling dollar would make oil more expensive for the US to purchase it. It would push the economy in the direction of recession, even more than it already is in that direction.

      • Denial says:

        What would that do to the price of fracking oil in the U.S say Texas and offshore oil? Would it make it more profitable to get? And you mean it would push more in the direction of a depression….not recession….right?

      • Dennis L. says:

        Oil is priced in dollars, how does the value of the dollar affect what the US pays in dollars/barrel?

        Dennis L.

        • Think of the difference between the Euro at 1.10 to the dollar and the Euro at 1.20 to the dollar or 1. 30 to the dollar. The Euro is at the highest relative to the dollar at 1.30 to the dollar and lowest when it is 1.10 to the dollar.

          Europe can much more easily afford US exports when the Euro is at 1.30 than if it is at 1.10. If a barrel of oil costs $45 in US dollars, it costs 40.91 in Euros when the Euro is at 1.10 to the dollar; 37.50 in Euros when it is at 1.20 to the dollar, and 34.62 in Euros when the Euro is at 1.30 to the dollar. In fact, if the Euro is high relative to the US dollar, it can afford to buy imports of all kinds from the US. (Exports from Europe don’t sell well in the US, however).

          If most of the countries of the world (including China) have high currencies relative to the US, the price of oil looks less expensive to all these countries. They will tend to buy more of it. This raises the world demand for oil, and thus the world price of oil. The price of oil (in dollars) will tend to rise from the initial $45, because the price of oil is based on world demand, not on the cost of production. So the higher world demand tends to raise the price of oil.

          Of course, if the dollar is low relative to other currencies, this will mean that the US will find imported finished goods from everywhere more expensive. The US will cut back on imports of all kinds. This will push these other countries toward recession or depression. This will eventually stop the rise in the price of oil.

          I wonder if, in fact, eventually we will see credit problems affecting trade among countries. This could lead to a big cutback in world trade of all types. Such a change would reduce the price of oil.

          • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            USD index:


            so the USD is lower though not yet at its recent low from early 2018.

            oil is in the 45 to 48 range.

            maybe oil goes into the 50s or 60s etc, but I have become convinced that any high rise in price will be just a brief spike.

            I have no clue about the direction of the USD.


          • Dennis L. says:

            Doesn’t Europe have to buy dollars to pay for oil? Relative to oil it would seem the US is indifferent, it is priced in dollars, we print dollars, they have to buy dollars which means they have to earn Euros before they can buy dollars.

            If Europe sells a car to Saudi for 30 euros and 30 euros can purchase 40 dollars, they have to purchase$40 before they can pay for a $40 barrel of oil.Somewhere they had to make 30 euros to purchase the dollar, they sold a car. The US prints the $30 and sells them paper. We get the Euro with which to purchase European goods, e.g. a nice MB. If they need more oil, we get more Euros and purchase more MBs.

            We sell very expensive defense equipment and training to the middle east(the joke is, priced a F35 lately?) they effectively pay in oil, everyone else has to make mundane goods to purchase dollars.

            It sure beat the gold standard for the last fifty years.

            Dennis L.

  7. Denial says:

    How is the u.s stock market going up? The U.s has borrowed so much money this year and last eight years I keep waiting for the collapse! I guess that’s why the keep pushing alternative stories in the u.s…..people would much rather talk about how the hate Biden or how they hate Trump than face the real music……this collapse has got to happen soon

    • It’s not “U.S. stock market” but premier global stock market.
      Essentially, the whole world is at the casino table.

      It’s like party pool with several people already inside and one drunken guy is relieving himself, up to a point it’s not noticeable at all, then overlooked in good spirits, another delay and some start to consider perhaps the time to leave is approaching this is gross situation, some are leaving, ..
      It’s a long process 🙂

    • It helps that interest rates are low and credit is easily available. Also, yields on bonds are terribly low, so people (and pension plans) think that the only way to invest is in stocks. With lots of buyers and easy credit, the price goes up.

  8. believeeverthingyouread says:

    It would seem Dr Shivas analysis of the election results has serious flaws.
    So flawed that I find myself questioning his credibility.
    This is not to my liking but it is what it is.

  9. Mirror on the wall says:

    Re: Thanksgiving, finite world, American unity

    Some ‘native’ and ‘leftist’ moral posers seem to promote a ‘binary’, dualistic narrative about the settlement of America in which ‘native’ Americans (Siberians) are ‘innocent’ ‘victims’ of ‘wicked’ European settlers – therefore Thanksgiving should not be celebrated but ‘marked’ in some critical, ‘socially conscious’ way.

    There are objections to that narrative.

    Intraspecies violence

    Native Americans (NA) and their ancestors were hunter-gatherers and we know from studies of HGs (and subsistence farmers) that they have a similar intraspecies ‘homicide’ rate to chimpanzees and for the same reasons, getting and keeping territory and resources. HGs are highly tribal and territorial, they form colonies like chimps and they fight it out for territory. Humans are cooperative aggressors like chimps and we have been since our common ancestors 7 million years ago.

    So NA tribes had battled it out for territory and resources for 13,000 years before Europeans arrived. In that context Europeans were just another tribe doing the same as NAs and probably in a less aggressive if more successful way. There is no fundamental behavioural (or ‘moral’) difference between them. The world is finite, scarcity is the norm and species, tribes and persons compete to survive – that is just how things are in the real world. No one is ‘innocent’, everyone is a ‘player’ in one way or another.

    Interspecies violence

    NAs wiped out most of the species of large mammals in America after they arrived c. 13,000 years ago. See the text below. NAs wiped out half of the planet’s genera of large mammals.

    Moral standing

    Thanksgiving is a matter of morale – it is normal for a people to celebrate itself so as to raise morale. NAs do the same. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with that. All morality is ‘will to power’, it advances the interests of people in some way or other; thus it is relative and subjective. The existence and success of one group generally come at the expense of others, be it intra- or interspecies. No one would ever celebrate anything were that an objection; morale would be impossible and we would all die. The purpose of morale (and morality) is to advance one’s existence.

    Some way may be sought to include NAs in Thanksgiving as USA includes them; their historical cooperation is a good starting point. The narrative against TG is divisive and depressing to Americans. A frank discussion, like that above, may help Americans to obtain some perspective and to approach the matter in a less divisive way. There is no denying the impact of Europeans on NAs but neither is there any denying the impact of NAs on each other, for the same underlying reasons, and on other species. No one is ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’, the only question is whether USA is worth celebrating. USA needs to ‘get over it.’

    > The Three Great American Extinction Events — A Brief History

    The First Great American Extinction Event (Approximately 13,000–11,000 years ago)

    …. When people first descended into North America, they encountered these herbivores, as well as a dazzling array of carnivores.

    American lion, one of the largest cats to have ever lived and nearly twice the size of an African lion, hunted wild horse and bison on the plains. American cheetah chased down the ancestors of modern pronghorn — North America’s fastest land mammal extant today. Sabretooths hunted in packs and specialized in preying on young elephants. The animal made famous by Game of Thrones, the dire wolf, also stalked prey among these large cats. None, however, compared to the gargantuan short-faced bear. Standing 13 feet tall on its back legs, these beasts weighed a ton — nearly three times the size of modern grizzlies — and ate 50 pounds of meat a day (they probably specialized in stealing giant carcasses).

    Never in history had modern humans encountered such an array of large predators and prey. One can only imagine the sense of awe and fear they must have inspired.

    Unfortunately, those giants didn’t last long. Shortly after people arrived, the megafauna vanished.

    Damning evidence indicates that, although climate change was at play, we were probably the deciding factor[1]: virtually no trees, plants, or small mammals went extinct during that time[2] — only the big, conspicuous species. Until the moment the great elephants went down, their tusks were growing larger and they were breeding, indicating they were well-fed.[3] And we now know that every continent’s megafauna — except for Africa and parts of Asia, where wildlife evolved to fear us — disappeared at nearly the exact moment humans came onto the scene.[4]

    In North America, this mass vanishing was so great, 73.3% genera of large mammals went extinct shortly after people arrived. The giant mammals that once defined the American wild became fossilized memories, in fewer than a thousand years. These extinctions accelerated as people spread into South America and, eventually, even the world’s most remote islands. By the time the global migration of people came to an end, half of the planet’s genera of large mammals had vanished.

    With this history in mind, it’s accurate to say that North America closely resembled an African game park for millions of years. Like the giraffes, lions, and elephants of Africa, our country’s ecosystems were run by sloths, sabretooths, and mammoths….

    • I think you are right. The Native Americans killed off the large mammals, just like the Aborigines killed off the large animals in Australia after they arrived there. Hunter-gathering tools worked perfectly well for killing off wild animals. All that was needed was the control of fire, and all of these people seem to have had the control of fire.

      For a while (and perhaps still today) it was popular to write about
      Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology
      Obviously, the people who write this material haven’t stopped to look at what happened in the real world.

      By the way, when I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, we celebrated Leif Erikson Day on October 9, rather than Columbus Day. Lief Erikson is the Norse explorer thought to have discovered continental North America more than 1000 years ago.

      • Dennis L. says:

        Good old Leif,

        At L’anse aux Meadows the guides tell a story of Leif’s wife visiting the hut of his mistress with an axe, probably don’t have to tell the rest of the story.

        Northern Newfoundland has icebergs beached on the north facing beaches in July, it was cold on the gulf in heavy parkas. Current houses have doors on the second floor to allow egress in the winter with heavy snows. Driving up the peninsula the power poles are put in cribs of railroad ties filled with rock – there is no top soil, there is no soil, there is red rock, and more red rock. Stiff winds, when the railroad ran, one winter the train was blown off the track.

        It sure is going to be great going back to a preindustrial society, everyone wears fur in those climates, all one needs do is kill a polar bear. Hint, nothing to burn, it is done with a spear up close and personal. A boy goes out, brings back a fur for his gal, he is a man, done deal, not much sweet talk.

        Many years back I came across a photograph of Westby, WI when it was first settled, the settlers lived in huts made of bark, not unlike L’anse. Norwegians can be very determined and the women can definitely hold their own.

        Dennis L.

      • Mirror on the wall says:

        That was nice of Trump, good for him.

  10. davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    Tim Watkins goes negative on the Great Reset:

    • I don’t like this article as well as some of his others. Watkins understands parts of the problem, and because of this gets the general conclusion right.

      Tim Watkins says,

      The energy cost of the energy which underpins everything we do, began to increase in the 1970s. From that moment on, the discretionary purchasing power of the developed states has been in decline. The opening up of the last major oil deposits in the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed for one final, debt-fuelled blow-out between 1995 and 2005, before peak conventional oil extraction called time. The remorseless rise of oil prices after 2005 created price increases across the economy as everything made from or transported using oil went up in price accordingly. In an attempt to control the price increases, central bankers increased interest rates; causing the entire debt-based financial house of cards to fall apart in 2008. Only a massive influx of new currency coupled to zero-percent (in real terms) interest rates stabilised the system so that emerging market economies like China and India could provide the global economy with one final blast of output growth before – sometime in 2018-19 – those economies also ground to a halt.

      What I object to is the focus on “the energy cost of energy.” I have been deeply embedded within the Biophysical Economics community for many, many years. I have given talks at most of their meetings (often criticizing their methods); I am on the editorial board of their journal; I peer review some of the articles in their journal. I have been asked several times to write articles for their journal, but have chosen not to write for it. One person approached me and brought up the idea of my becoming the head of the organization. (I said, No.)

      From my perspective, if EROEI is helpful at all, it is the EROEI of the overall system, not of wind, or solar, or oil. From this perspective, the rapid growth of China’s coal production, starting right after it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 was a lifesaver for the world energy mix. Chinese coal, at that time, had a high EROEI, even on a “delivered to the consumer” basis. China also makes significant use of cogeneration, which allows use of double use of coal energy by channeling the waste heat from electricity production to heat homes and businesses. The addition of China’s coal “saved” the overall economy, at least for a time, by bringing the average EROEI up.

      In recent years, China’s coal EROEI has declined, on a delivered basis, pushing it toward peak coal. It has responded by building new fields in the North. Production from these fields is just beginning, so its EROEI is higher when a person looks at the extraction effort only, but not necessarily very high when it is shipped quite a distance, over land, to the consumer.

      Anyhow, I think that phrasing the issue as an “energy cost of energy issue” is not really right. For one thing, we don’t have a good measure of energy cost of energy, on a world basis. For another, the EROEI calculations on wind and solar are just plain misleading, in my opinion.

      The formulas used in the calculations underlying the 1972 book The Limits to Growth have a somewhat different calculation, which to me makes more sense, as a limiting factor on economic growth. The LTG model seemed to show (if I remember correctly) not more than 15% of the world’s output of goods and services can be used as investments in all of the endeavors of the economy, if collapse is to be prevented.

      The investments used in Limits to Growth calculations would relate to many different types of activities, most of which reach diminishing returns: extracting and producing clean water, adding filters prevent air and water pollution, extracting minerals of all kinds, and building factories and roads, for example. Even the amount of education required might be something subject to a limit.

      The idea of “energy return on energy invested” is a huge simplification of the LTG limiting factor. Its main advantage is that it is an easy idea that graduate students can be put to work on. It also perhaps provides some insight into the rising “cost” of energy production, using information that energy producing companies would be willing to give to researchers.

      The real story is that lower prices and collapse tend to occur because most workers can no longer earn high enough wages. There is too much wage disparity, because of too much complexity. Rising debt increasingly becomes a temporary substitute for lack of adequate energy availability. Energy researchers had little idea regarding how the economy as a whole might be involved in this issue.

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