Humans Left Sustainability Behind as Hunter-Gatherers


Many people believe that humans can have a sustainable future by using solar panels and wind turbines. Unfortunately, the only truly sustainable course, in terms of moving in cycles with nature, is interacting with the environment in a manner similar to the approach used by chimpanzees and baboons. Even this approach will eventually lead to new and different species predominating. Over a long period, such as 10 million years, we can expect the vast majority of species currently alive will become extinct, regardless of how well these species fit in with nature’s plan.

The key to the relative success of animals such as chimpanzees and baboons is living within a truly circular economy. Sunlight falling on trees provides the food they need. Waste products of their economy come back to the forest ecosystem as fertilizer.

Pre-humans lost the circular economy when they learned to control fire over one million years ago, when they were still hunter-gatherers. With the controlled use of fire, cooked food became possible, making it easier to chew and digest food. The human body adapted to the use of cooked food by reducing the size of the jaw and digestive tract and increasing the size of the brain. This adaptation made pre-humans truly different from other animals.

With the use of fire, pre-humans had many powers. They spent less time chewing, so they could spend more time making tools. They could burn down entire forests, if they so chose, to provide a better environment for the desired types of wild plants to grow. They could use the heat from fire to move to colder environments than the one to which they were originally adapted, thus allowing a greater total population.

Once pre-humans could outcompete other species, the big problem became diminishing returns. For example, once the largest beasts were killed off, only smaller beasts were available to eat. The amount of effort required to kill these smaller beasts was not proportionately less, however.

In this post, I will explain further the predicament we seem to be in. We have deviated so far from the natural economy that we really cannot go back. At the same time, the limits we are reaching are straining our economic system in many ways. Some type of discontinuity, or collapse, seems to be not very far away.

[1] Even before the appearance of hunter-gatherers, ecosystems around the world exhibited a great deal of cycling from state to state.

Many people are under the illusion that before the meddling of humans, the populations of different types of plants and animals tended to be pretty much constant. This isn’t really the way things work, however, in a finite world. Instead, the populations of many species cycle up and down, depending on particular conditions such as the population of animals that prey on them, the availability of food, the prevalence of disease, and the weather conditions.

Figure 1. Numbers of snowshoe hare (yellow, background) and Canada lynx (black line, foreground) furs sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Canada lynxes eat snowshoe hares. Image by Lamiot, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons. Link.

Even forests exhibit surprising variability. Many undergo regular cycles of burning. In fact, some species of trees, such as the giant sequoias in Yosemite, require fire in order to reproduce. These cycles are simply part of the natural order of self-organizing ecosystems in a finite world.

[2] A major feature of ecosystems is “Selection of the Best Adapted.”

Each species tends to give birth to many more offspring than are necessary to live to maturity if the population of that species is to remain level. Each of the individual offspring varies in many random ways from its parents. Ecosystems are able to keep adapting to changing conditions by permitting only the best-adapted offspring to survive. In favorable periods (suitable weather, not much disease, ample food, not too many predators), a large share of the offspring may survive. In less favorable periods, few of the offspring will survive.

When selection of the best adapted is taken into account, a changing climate is of little concern because, regardless of the conditions, some individual offspring will survive. Over time, new and different species are likely to develop that are better adapted to the changing conditions.

[3] The downsides of living within the limits provided by nature are easy to see.

One issue is that every mother can expect to see the majority of her offspring die. In fact, her own life expectancy is uncertain. It depends upon whether there are nearby predators or a disease against which she has no defense. Even a fairly small injury could lead to her death.

Another issue is lack of shelter from the elements. Moving to an area where the weather is too harsh becomes impossible. Our earliest pre-human ancestors seem to have lived near the equator where seasonal temperature differences are small.

Without supplemental heating or cooling, humans living in many places in the world today would have a difficult time following the way of nature because of weather conditions. As we will see in later sections, it was grains that allowed people to settle in areas that were too cold for crops in winter.

In theory, there are alternatives to grain in cold climates. For example, a small share of the population might be able to get most of its calories from eating raw fish, as the Inuit have done. Eating raw fish is not generally an option for people living inland, however. Also, in later sections, we will talk about the difference between the use of root vegetables and grains as the primary source of calories. In some sense, the use of grains provides a stepping stone toward big government, roads, and what we think of as a modern existence, while the use of root vegetables does not. Eating raw fish is similar to eating root vegetables, in that it doesn’t provide a stepping stone toward a modern existence.

[4] Animals make use of some of the same techniques as humans to compete with other species. These techniques are added complexity and added energy supply.

We think of complexity as being equivalent to added technology, but it also includes many related techniques, such as the use of tools, the use of specialization and the use of long-distance travel.

Animals use many types of complexity. Bees build hives and carry out tasks divided among the queen bee, drone bees, and worker bees. Many birds fly to another continent in winter, in order to gain access to an adequate food supply. Chimpanzees use tools, such as waving a stick or throwing a rock to ward off predators. Beavers build dams that provide themselves with an easy source of food in winter.

Some members of the animal kingdom, known as parasites, even leverage their own energy by using the energy of other plants or animals. Such use of the energy of a host is subject to limits; if the parasite uses too much, it risks killing its host.

While animals other than humans may use similar techniques to humans, they don’t go as far as humans. Humans employ a variety of supplemental materials in their tools. Also, no animal other than humans has learned to control fire.

[5] Pre-humans seem to have learned to control fire over 1 million years ago, allowing humans to gain an advantage in killing wild beasts.

Richard Wrangham, in Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, makes the case that the controlled use of fire allowed the changes in anatomy that differentiate humans from other primates. With the controlled use of fire, humans could cook some of their food, making it easier to chew and digest. As a result, the teeth, jaws and guts of humans could be relatively smaller, and the brain could be larger. The larger brain allowed humans to compete better against other species. Also, cooking food greatly reduced the time spent chewing food, increasing the time available for making crafts and tools of various kinds. The heat of fire allowed pre-humans to move into new areas with colder climates. The heat of fires also allowed pre-humans to ward off some of the impact of ice-ages, which they were able to survive.

James C. Scott, in Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, explains that being able to burn biomass was sufficient to turn around who was in charge: pre-humans or large animals. In one cave in South Africa, he indicates that a lower layer of remains found in the cave did not show any carbon deposits, and hence were created before pre-humans occupying the cave gained control of fire. In this layer, skeletons of big cats were found, along with scattered gnawed bones of pre-humans.

In a higher layer, carbon deposits were found. In this layer, pre-humans were clearly in charge. Their skeletons were much more intact, and the bones of big cats were scattered about and showed signs of gnawing. Who was in charge had changed! We know that human controlled fires can be used to scare away wild animals, burn down entire forests if desired, and make sharper spears. It shouldn’t be surprising that humans gained the upper hand.

[6] Grains, because of their energy density, portability, and ability to be stored, seem to have played a major role in the development of governments and of cities.

Scott, in Against the Grain, also points out that early economies that were able to grow grains were the economies that were able to place taxes on those grains, and with those taxes, were able to fund governments offering more services. Grains are a storable form of energy for humans. They are portable and energy dense, as well. It was grains that allowed people to settle in areas that were too cold for growing crops in winter. The year-to-year variability in production made storage of reserves important. Governments could provide this function, and other functions, such as roads.

If we analyze the situation, it is apparent that the existence of grain crops provided a subsidy to the rest of the economy. Farmers and their slaves could grow far more grain than they themselves required for calories, leaving much grain for trading with others. This surplus could be used to feed the population of cities, such as Rome. It was no longer necessary for everyone to be hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers. There could be new occupations such as merchants, teachers, carpenters, and sailors. Many more goods and services in total could be produced, and the population of cities could grow.

Cities, themselves, provide benefits, because they allow economies of scale, and they allow people with different skills to mix. Geoffrey West, in his book Scale, notes that larger cities produce disproportionately more patents. Thus, technology is advanced with the growth of cities.

It might be noted that root crops, even though they could provide most of the same food energy benefits for humans as grain crops, did not help economies grow in the same ways that grain crops did. This, likely, was part of the reason that they were not taxed: They produced no excess benefit to give back to the government.

Root vegetables are not as helpful as grains. They are less energy dense than grains, making them heavier and bulkier for transport. They do not store as well as grains. In early days, root crops could be about as efficiently grown by individual families as by farmers specializing in such crops, making it hard to leverage the labor that went into growing root crops. In fact, there was less real need for government with root crops: There was no way to store supplies of root crops in case of poor harvest, and there was little need for roads to transport the crops.

[7] The added energy benefits of grain crops created a situation where the grain was “worth” far more to customers, and to the economy as a whole, than what would be indicated by their cost of production.

There is a belief among economists, and among much of the population, that the selling price of a commodity will be determined by its cost of production. In fact, the example given in Section [6] indicates that back in the early days of grain production, grain’s selling price could be far greater than its direct cost of production, with the difference going into taxes that would benefit the government and the economy as a whole.

In fact, there was a second way that the usage of grain was helpful to governments. The efficiency of grain production, transport, and storage reduced the need for farmers. Former farmers could offer services not previously available to citizens, often in cities. Income from the new jobs could also be taxed, to give governments another stream of income.

[8] The use of coal and oil also produced situations where the value of energy products to the economy was far higher than their direct cost of production, allowing these products to be heavily taxed.

Tony Wrigley, in his book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, indicates that with the use of coal, farming became a much more productive endeavor. The crop yield from cereal crops, net of the amount fed to draft animals, nearly tripled between 1600 and 1800, which was the period when coal production ramped up in England. Coal allowed the use of far more metal tools, which were vastly superior to tools made from wood. In addition, roads to mines were greatly improved. Prior to this time, few roads were paved in England. These improved roads helped the economy as a whole.

Oil is known today for the high taxes it pays to governments. The governments of oil exporting countries are very dependent upon tax revenue relating to oil. When the selling price of oil is low, this results in a crisis period for oil exporting countries because they have no other way of collecting adequate tax revenue to support the programs for their people. For a short time, they can borrow money, but when this alternative fails, governments are likely to be overturned by their unhappy citizens.

[9] The economy tends to move further and further away from the natural order (described in Sections [1], [2], and [3]) as more energy consumption is added.

Even though the natural order would be sustainable, it doesn’t represent a situation that most people today would like to live in. In fact, most humans today could not live on completely uncooked food, even if they wanted to. While a few people today eat “raw food” diets, they often use a food processor or blender to reduce the amount of chewing and digesting of raw foods to a manageable level. Even then, their weights tend to stay low.

If energy products are available at an affordable price, humans find many ways to use them, to stay away from the natural order. Some examples include the following:

  • To provide transportation, other than walking.
  • To pipe clean water to homes.
  • To make growing and storage of food easy.
  • To allow homes to be heated and cooled.
  • To allow medicines and vaccines.
  • To allow most children to live to maturity.

[10] Because energy consumption is important in all aspects of the economy, the economy seems to reach many kinds of limits simultaneously.

There are many limits that the world economy seems to reach simultaneously. The underlying problem in all of these areas seems to be diminishing returns. In theory, these issues could all be worked around, using increasing energy consumption or increasing complexity:

  • Too little fresh water for an increasing population.
  • The need to keep increasing food production, with the same amount of arable land.
  • Increased difficulty with insect pests, such as locusts.
  • Increased difficulty in dealing with viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Overfished oceans so that farmed fish are required in addition.
  • Ores of metals of ever-lower grade, requiring more processing and leading to more waste.
  • More expensive techniques required for the extraction of fossil fuels.
  • Many unprofitable businesses; much debt likely to default.
  • Too few jobs that pay well enough to support a family
  • Governments unable to collect enough taxes

Energy and complexity work together to leverage human labor, in a way that the economy can make more goods and services in total. Unfortunately, we cannot use complexity to make energy. Technology (which is a form of complexity) can convert energy to useful work and, through efficiency gains, increase the percentage of energy that is available for useful work, but it cannot make energy. If we add more technology, more robots, and more international trade, we likely will need more energy, not less.

The net impact of all of these issues is that to maintain our economy, we really need an ever-increasing quantity of energy. In fact, energy consumption likely needs to grow more rapidly than population simply to keep the system from collapse.

Wind and solar certainly cannot meet today’s energy needs. Together, wind and solar amount to about 3.3% of the world’s energy supply, based on BP estimates for 2019. Furthermore, wind and intermittent solar certainly cannot be sold at a price high above their cost of production, the way grain, coal and oil have been sold historically. In fact, wind and solar invariably need the huge subsidy of being allowed to “go first.” They actually are reliant on a profitable fossil fuel system to subsidize them, or they fall completely “flat.”

[11] The problem, as the economy reaches limits, is too few goods and services being produced to satisfy all parts of the economy simultaneously. The parts of the economy that especially tend to get shortchanged are (a) governments, (b) energy producers, and (c) workers without special skills who are selling their labor as a form of “energy.”

When economies are doing well, the price of energy products tends to be high. These high prices allow very high taxes on energy products. They also allow significant funds for reinvestment for the energy companies themselves. Indirectly, these high prices allow a significant share of the goods and services made by the economy to be transferred to these sectors of the economy.

In addition, energy products allow non-farm workers in many areas of the economy to produce their goods and services more efficiently, thereby helping push up the wages of common laborers.

As economies reach limits, there is, in some sense, a need for more energy in many sectors of the economy. The catch is that the “wages” and “profits” needed to purchase this energy aren’t really available to provide the demand needed to keep energy prices up. As a result, energy prices and production tend to fall. Government-imposed limitations, intended to stop the spread of COVID-19, may also keep energy demand down.

Governments often fail, or they get into major conflicts with other governments, when there are resource shortages of the kinds we are currently encountering. Today is in many ways like the period of the Great Depression, which preceded World War II.

[12] Perhaps warm, wet countries will be somewhat more successful than cold countries and those without water, in the years ahead.

I showed a chart in my most recent post, Energy Is the Economy, that illustrates the wide range of energy consumption around the world.

Figure 2. 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 located in Middle Africa.

If fossil fuel energy falls, I expect that the parts of the world with cold temperatures will experience particular difficulty because they tend to use disproportionately large amounts of energy (Figure 2). Their citizens cannot get along very well without heat for their homes. Winter becomes very dark, if supplemental lighting is not available. Walking long distances in the cold becomes a problem as well.

The warmer countries have a better chance because they do not require as complex economies as cold countries. They can feed at least part of their population with root crops. Walking is a reasonable transportation option, and there is no problem with months on end of darkness if supplemental lighting is not available. For these reasons, warm countries would seem to have a better chance of passing through the difficult times ahead while sustaining a reasonable-sized population.

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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2,604 Responses to Humans Left Sustainability Behind as Hunter-Gatherers

  1. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The UK has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other developed economy except Argentina, a global watchdog says.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “This is no longer a health crisis, it’s a total economic catastrophe:

      “…The UK economy is shrinking at its fastest pace in three centuries. Government borrowing will reach a colossal £400 billion during 2020 – £15,000 for every household. That’s well over twice the debt we took on immediately after the 2008 financial crisis.”

      • Erdles says:

        Yes but the borrowing is from itself.

        • Erdles says:

          Bank of England purchase of government bonds now stands at £875 Billion up £425 Billion this year. The BoE will print whatever the politicians need to keep things going.

          • Wow! It is easier to purchase government bonds than it is to create jobs that are necessary and pay well.

            • Erdles says:

              Any interest due on bonds to the BoE is handed back to the UK Treasury. So the cost to the government of all this debt is zero. BoE owned debt now accounts for 44% of all outstanding debt. Unwinding this position is going to be tricky to say the least.

      • The borrowing, of course, is to try to keep the economy from completely falling apart.

        Boris Johnson and others should have figured out that shutdowns would make a bad economic situation much, much worse.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    Chinese banks’ excessive exposure to property is now the “biggest grey rhino risk” facing the stability of the financial system, a top financial regulator has warned…

    “In addition to bank loans, many of China’s bonds, equities and trust investment products are also related to property development, which means the overall financial exposure to real estate is dangerously high, Guo noted.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “China’s interbank bond market regulator has warned of the risk of inflated credit ratings and widespread industry problems following a review, after defaults by highly rated state-owned enterprises triggered market panic.”

      • If SOEs haven’t defaulted in the past, and everyone expects local government agencies to backstop them now, it is hard to build good predictive models. But, it is clear now that they can and will default!

    • People with savings buy empty condos, rather than put their money in banks, as in investment.

      People also buy condos to live in, often at high prices relative to their incomes. Some of these people may get laid off, with the problems in world markets.

      There is a temptation for China to encourage more building of condos than needed, to prevent joblessness.

      All of this leads to a likely excess of condos and falling prices, with problems for banks.

    • Minority Of One says:

      ‘China In Focus’, I think it was in their Thursday bulletin, did a feature (again) on thousands of people who this week lost everything they invested in peer-to-peer companies, that are to all intents and purposes scams. Typically in such scams when people lose a lot of money they get very angry, and in the ensuing demonstrations usually they are beaten up, arrested and often taken away by the police. Such scams are usually if not promoted then backed by the local government, which is why people used to confidently invest in them. The (CCP) leaders of which seem to end up enriched.

      This can all be seen on videos posted by brave Chinese people on social media. I don’t use the word brave lightly. The posts are usually removed promptly (but not before China in Focus has copied them) and the posters risk arrest, at the very least.

      Here is an article on the subject, not dated but looks recent to me. It states:

      “Regulators have remained quiet on the overall investment losses, but Kapron says ‘millions of people’ were victims and ‘billions of RMB [Chinese yuan]’ have vaporized.”

      I think it is a bit more than just a few billion.

      China’s peer-to-peer lenders face crisis, investors face ruin

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The Reserve Bank of India left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4 per cent as it struggles to rein in inflation despite the sharp economic contraction this year…

    “The persistent rise in consumer prices has narrowed the RBI’s options as it looks for ways to respond to the historic contraction brought about by the coronavirus pandemic…

    “Food inflation has long proved to be a politically sensitive issue in India. High prices of staples such as onions, for example, have been associated with the fall of governments.

    “This has raised concern among some economists that the country has been dragged into a cycle of “stagflation”, a period of high inflation without corresponding economic growth.”

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    The IMF was warning about our “$19tn corporate debt timebomb” before the pandemic even started.

    “Covid’s legacy is a corporate debt mountain… Once state support is switched off, many businesses will be unable to bear the debt they took on to survive.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Global debt is set to reach $200 trillion (£149 trillion), or 265% of the world’s annual economic output, by the end of the year, S&P Global has forecast… The credit ratings giant said it amounted to a 14-point rise as a percentage of world GDP.

      “Global debt-to-GDP has been trending up for many years; the pandemic simply exacerbated the rise,” S&P’s report said. Yet, despite the big jump and an expected wave of defaults over the coming year, the firm does not expect a major crisis at this stage.”

      • S&P doesn’t expect a major crisis. I suppose I should be comforted by that statement. We have lots of simultaneous problems to choose from.

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          Moody’s is taking a similar line:

          “Citing an array of risks heading into 2021, Moody’s Investors Service has a negative outlook on much of the global banking industry…

          “The rating agency reported that more than 75% of rated banks now have a negative outlook, compared to just 14% in 2019.

          ““The likelihood of a financial crisis is low but there is still considerable risk going into 2021, as reflected by the fact that over three quarters of our 70 banking system outlooks – including all G-20 countries except Canada – are negative,” said Sophia Lee, associate managing director at Moody’s.”

      • Minority Of One says:

        “Global debt is set to reach $200 trillion (£149 trillion), or 265% of the world’s annual economic output…”

        That looks like debt excluding financial institutions like banks and brokerages. Including them it is about $260T, or more .

    • Minority Of One says:

      A couple of years ago David Stockman, when his own articles were not pay-to-view, did one of his lengthy articles on one specific USA-based multi-national corporation, I have forgotten the name but it had three letters. The total market value of the company was about US $50 B, which was roughly the same as its debts. As long as its market value remained stable or went up, the company remained solvent and the top executives got rich. Were a ‘market correction’ to take place of say 50%, its debt obligations would be double the value of the company.

    • Thanks for the link. The story at least gets a little bit right:

      It’s often difficult to recognize civilization-sized shifts in behavior until after they’ve occurred. Until the pandemic none of the major oil forecasters had seen an imminent demand peak. The debate won’t end now, especially with signs that the pandemic will ease in 2021. But if we look back from here and see the oil peak clearly in the past, what follows will be the evidence of how the energy future snuck up on us.

      The peak no one saw coming
      Energy analysts usually present multiple scenarios. The gap between each forecast comes down to differing assumptions about government policies, economic conditions and consumer preferences for things such as new electric cars and solar panels. A business-as-usual scenario assumes little impact from policy shifts or new technology.

      Actually, there have been a bunch of us who saw the problem coming. The 1972 book, “The Limits to Growth” was first. I have been talking about the issue for a long time, and have been talking about low prices being a particular problem.

      Most of the article is simply the standard wrong narrative. “Solar is the new oil.” Yes, if this means move south, so you will have more energy from the sun. No, if you think this means more solar panels.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Gail, William Stanley Jevons saw this crisis coming in 1906, in his book “The Coal Question”. You can’t say we weren’t warned.

        One person who did take this warning seriously was Winston Churchill, who as First Lord of the Admiralty converted the Royal Navy from coal to oil between 1912 and 1914. Just waiting for Boris to cover the flight decks of our new aircraft carriers with solar panels.

    • Minority Of One says:

      I see that the fantasy forecasts that used to be made for future oil production (increasing forever) are now being made for future electric car production. LOL

  5. eric smith says:

    This post is a more than a bit doomsday but is quite accurate IMO.
    But there are other paths not yet taken between industrial ecosystem pillage and now imminent destruction and hunter gatherer effective extinction.

    I spent the decade between 1995 and 2004 obsessed with permaculture which is a design system that works towards extreme and REAL energy and resource efficiency along with huge reductions in “pollution” which is a meaningless word. Unused resource is a more accurate description as nature has no concept of “waste”.
    But even more important than that, it is an attempt to design an economy that ALIGNS itself with ecosystem function thru skillful design of systems that mimc natural ecosystems but are skewed for human benefit. It also has the ambition of increasing total ecosystem productivity by human “creation” of increased system opportunity. Think beavers- “nature’s engineers”.

    To paraphrase Bill Holmgren (permaculture’s co-founder):
    “If a new energy source is found permaculture will be swept into the dust bin of history.

    Someone should really listen carefully here.

    • oldman says:

      We will see how the permies hit the ground running soon enough. IMO its one of the more sane responses to our situation. Autonomous actions dont seem likely to meet favor with those administering the great reset. Perhaps since supreme court is affirming religious rights they can call their practices religion. It pretty much is so its not a stretch. They tend to be blind to contradictions and have lots of kids both behavior associated with religion. They might as well seek formal status although It might just be easier to become a mormon and do the same practices.

      Learning to grow food is one of the sanest actions you could do now IMO. Self righteous false solution promotion not so much.

      Permies are trying to do their best to be sane in a unsane world. Youve got to give them that. The real ones working their ass off. The play ones not so much.

    • Those working with permaculture are trying to build at least part of the system. They generally assume that more of current day things will be available than I expect will be the case. I have never run into permaculture doing anything at all with grains.

      Without grains, there is a real problem providing enough calories year around. A person can have a lot of animals and eat them year around, but that is not necessarily a healthful solution, and it will takes a lot of land. Humans tend to catch a lot of illnesses from animals, as well.

      • Erdles says:

        Nuts (hazel, macadamia etc.) provide more calories than grain per unit of land. They have the advantage that once mature the trees need no fertilizer and irrigation. Being annuals grains need to grow all their structure from scratch each year before dying whereas trees do not. That is much more efficient. I would imagine the same if true for fruit trees. We had three old apple trees in our garden that I suspect produced more calories than all that our vegetable beds could produce. They needed no maintenance at all.

        • Xabier says:

          That is why many mountain-dwelling tribes – eg the Basques – in Eurasia settled and established economies around chestnut trees.

          A very hard life, but regular and large crops were obtained, and the nuts eaten or traded to lowlanders. .

          • Minority Of One says:

            I have a couple of friends who own a 10 acre piece of land about as far from civilisation as you can get in this neck of the woods, growing all sorts of nut trees. As this is in NE Scotland, it is quite experimental (the trees are only 3-4 years old) but they seem to be doing well. Better than expected for this cold and wet climate.

        • I have been trying to grow hazel nuts, but the ones I planted have not produced. Either wrong climate or wrong soil or both. Someone told me to use fertilizer with a wider range of minerals. I have done a little of that. I was also warned that many nut trees take a very long time to establish.

          I haven’t seen other hazel nut trees around here. In fact, I haven’t seen other nut trees, either. Perhaps this is not the place to grow nut trees.

  6. jamie arnott says:

    Another excellent article.

    Nevertheless I would posit that unlimited free electrical energy is possible and feasible.

    My theory envisages a green new deal where every citizen has a universal basic income in free electricity, This free energy in turn can be used to store hydrogen to use as fuel for transportation.

    voila! Problem solved.

    Can anybody see any reason why this is not possible?

    • You dream on! Where are we going to get the free electricity from? It mostly comes from fossil fuels now. Intermittent wind and solar needs a subsidy. They are not long term (or short term) solutions.

      You can print money, but you cannot print electricity. This is where the story goes wrong.

      • jamie arnott says:

        But you dig a hole deep enough and you have a heat source to produce electricity (geothermal).

        Of course the investment and human will needs to be there.

        • chooseBLUE says:

          I have a opinion on your proposals. They are unfeasible in the extreme.

          Heat is the by product of other more useful energy sources.

          I happen to know of several instances of thermal energy use. They are quite useful for greenhouses. Nice infrastructure.

          I have been teching and creating infrastructure for a long long time. I dig it the most.

          In no way could geo thermal; provide the relatively clean energy that fossil fuel provides now.

          Nor will any other tech.

          Sure put up PVs. Wind whatever. nice infrastructure.

          Those things are derived from fossil fuels.

          THe energy to create them comes from fossil fuels. They cant replace fossil fuels.

          If you really want to understand read Gails past posts.

          Understand EROI to start. Gail finds fault with EROI but its a beginning.

          As fossil fuels go so does industrial civilization.

          No one here likes that fact.

          If nothing else understand that oil supply will die because of low demand. Low demand is a function of low energy use per capita.

          Negative feedback loop.

          Gail pioneered this understanding.

          You are in the presence of brilliance. (Gail)

          Enter the rabbit hole if you wish.

          Your choice.

          Red pill or blue.

          choose carefully

          • Lidia17 says:

            chooseBLUE, great comment. Just as an aside, I’m looking at building a greenhouse, and I keep coming across “passive” designs. But the “passive” geo-thermal designs all seem to use big-ass fans to move the air around. Any thoughts?

            • choosethebluepill says:

              Im not a greenhouse expert. The three geo thermals in my area are high dollar. Im poor. my friends are poor. WE see those greenhouses like lexuses. Sure would be nice. No envy just not in our budget. Were blessed to have what we gots. With hot water comes a lot of steam. That may be the reason for the ventilation. High humidity very destructive in cold climates due to vapor drive. I know larger ones have grid tied ventilation.
              If your going to create a mega geo greenhouse you do the grotto thing. hot tubs for parties. very nice. lots of steam.

              The ones I have helped build are low/medium dollar. no geo. no steam. still need a lot of ventilation both to get the co2 to the plants and shed heat in summer. All truss framed with glass. Short beefed up mono trusses solar south facing. Trenched around the perimeter to 4 feet and foam sheets buried. footers 2 feet or so inside trench. more depending on soil type. 12″ x16″ footers 2 #4 bar continuos. on top of grade. foam on exterior. Fill it up with compost b4 framing. or beds. whatever. long solar south facing axis. Large windows in ends and along north side. Hardware cloth and window screen no glass. These provide ventilation without power. Window interval allows standard OSB shear strength in north west and east axis. 4×4 framing on south axis with t straps for shear. rigid foam on exterior of north east and west exterior. Chicken wire placed under foam screws then very thin stucco. Shutters on all windows, osb rigid foam , all interior wood coat of white aromatic polyurethane covered with coat of clear aliphatic. shutter foam also

              Of course there are the polyethylene hoop houses. They are by far the most common. UV degrades those. Ventilation could be as described on east west ends. Usually with those its powered. Really moving air doesnt take a whole lot of power if you have PV anyway. I would imagine those are the cheapest. All you need is at home depot. You can bend the steel tubing yourself. Never done it.

              Not super greenhouse savy Thats how I and others have done it on a medium budget.
              Start it by finding the glass. truss spacing on glass width
              If its double pane you make it into two single panes. double pane too much insulation. solar oven in summer..
              Epdm strips under glass. Roofing washers for fasteners. It all starts with the glass, The big pieces have fairly uniform sizes. You get what you can off of craigs list. Sort it and truss and south posts spacing is determined around that. Thats one redneck way, Im sure there are other ways. glass if forever. until someone comes along with a $140 .22 lr.

          • jamie arnott says:

            I understand EROI

            Free energy doesn’t exist, but you can obtain an exhaustible supply from an investment in geothermal. What’s the alternative – extinction?

            • choosebluepill says:

              Where Im at the geo is deep.
              That takes a lot of $ and energy to bust that well. A lot. Not your average driller. Drilling is really a art, BIG ASS pump. Now you got to pump it to the surface. BIG ASS power needed. BIG ASS pv system.

              Now calculate the EROI of that geo system.

              Yes geo is kick ass.

              love to have one.

              Like the song goes. that life is not for me.

              Looked at my collar. its blue. just like the pill.

              All that infrastructure will last 20 years MAX. Ive seen top notch charge controller go in 2.

              Now compare that to a non geo system that uses the sun. Power needed. nada.

              The sun is everything.

              Calculate EROI

              Best be next to a river.

              “whats the alternative extinction”

              Sorry kiddo not going to touch that one. You get to figure that one out for yourself.

              Told you to take the blue pill. Its not too late. Ill make it easy for you. Im a silly old boomer doomster. Terrible negative energy.

              Its really the paradox of our species. We understand our ,as Gail would say, dissapitive nature more than other species. That understanding has led to some things we call good but also creates feelings of intense sadness.

            • Wolfbay says:

              Geothermal works in Iceland but it’s only an answer for rare situations. High heat is very close to the surface and it’s a small population.

        • If you are next to a volcano, this works.

          Digging the hole deep enough takes energy, and the energy gradient degrades over time. If it really were a cheap solution, we would see a lot of it being done, without any subsidies.

          There is rock about 6 inches under the surface where I live. I doubt it would work here.

          • FM says:

            Free Energy for consumption don’t exist, but is easy to obtain a significant surplus from gravity if handled by the correct ways with the adequate technologies. (nothing like the current parasitic technologies used to obtain energy from the gravity vector).

            • Hydroelectric works on the gravity principle. That is why it tends to be inexpensive.

            • choosebluepill says:


              I mean


              The sun evaporates water it comes back down as rain. Thats “parasitic”?

              Focusing on gravity is way cool I know. A invisible force with untapped and immeasurable potential.

              The sun does the work. It pulls against the gravity. Thats where the work is done. Work=energy

              Sun is everything


              IM a silly old boomer doomer who knows nothing.

              Suppressed knowledge gravity power will soon be everywhere. We will continue to expand exponentially on a finite planet. The elite cant stop the knowledge from leaking out. The golden age of humanity is beginning.

          • jamie arnott says:

            Free energy doesn’t exist, but you can obtain an exhaustible supply from an investment in geothermal. You can get more energy out than you put in. What’s the alternative – extinction?

            • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              extinction is a good alternative.

              the end of all human suffering, confusion, boredom, hatred, greed, politics, war, famine, etc.

              it’s on the way, sooner or later.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Jamie no need to dig a hole at all. The temperature difference between the ocean surface and its deep water is enough to power the world forever. We just need to learn how to exploit it.

          • jamie arnott says:

            Really Robert, I didn’t know that.

            Well there you go, A heat differential to turn the turbines for electricity.

            I was a bit dismayed that nobody thought it viable
            idea. I think if there is the will and determination, then I’m hopeful something can be resolved.

  7. truthdeadandgone says:

    The thing about tolerating censorship. You have no idea what is being blacked out.
    You are giving your world view to someone else. Yes cognitive dissonance created by conflicting ideas is unpleasant. Why? Isnt that what a educational system supposed to do change that unpleasantness to ho hum even enjoyable? Is it really so unpleasant to understand your own processing system your own biases? Is that not growth?

    This is from a Portuguese court. They evaluated evidence. The best medical research they could find. Its pretty unanimous in the medical community. Expert after expert cited. Tests over 25 cycles not to be relied on for anything. PCR covid test accuracy unknown but best guess using established medical criteria 3% accurate.

    turn my head to the west turn my head to the east turn my head to the south turn my head north

    truth dead and gone

    • Even if PCR tests above a cutoff of 25 or 35 are unreliable, I don’t think we are going to be able to get anyone to change anything.

      • truthdeadandgone says:

        I have no problem taking an accurate covid test. I would welcome one. I would like to visit my mother. In order for me to do so I would need to test myself so I know my visit is safe for her.

        A test with 3% accuracy does not ensure my mothers safety.

        If I take a PCR test and it comes back positive I have just opened not a can of worms but a barrel. Stigma. Insurance. Contact tracing

        So no they are not going to change anything. What does that imply? Its like they are asking for compliance from the get go. Totally stripping us of rights. Just comply. Take this test that means nothing but has total implications for your life. Take this vaccine that has total implications for your life. Comply. Obey. Shut up.

        I dont see how you could start this process with a more contentious issue. Is it designed that way? Comply. Obey. Shut up. Is that the real purpose?

        Accurate verifiable determination of infection to effectively address a pandemic sure does not seem to be the purpose with a test that has 3% accuracy. Sorry I like myself. I dont sign up for russian roulette.

        • Lidia17 says:

          Since it was never about the seriousness of the health risk to begin with, making appeals to seriousness or to rationality isn’t going to work.

          When I heard “15 days to slow the spread”, I said to a friend of mine, “this is never going to end”. Still, in the interim I got caught up in researching PCRs and vaccines and infection rates and death rates, all with a sense of horror and incredulity. I’ll probably still get caught up in it, with the idea that “if I can just show these facts to [my local politician, that mask-nut doctor next door, that store owner] then we can somehow collectively awaken from this nightmare.”

          But the reality is that this is all a massive manipulation. All the politicians traveling and going to restaurants maskless means they aren’t afraid.. they know the masks are for show, and that the hysteria is a smokescreen for whatever else is in the offing.

          Karl Rove: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

          That applied to the US at the time, but it applies equally to world actors of a post-USian age .

          • Tim Groves says:

            Spot on, Lidia.

            But at least we have the internet. In the old days, we would have had a much harder time studying what they do and a next-to-impossible task to communicate with like-minded abnormies.

            So let’s be content and the times lament to see the world turned upside down (one of my favorite Cromwellian ditties).


        • Tim Groves says:

          Is it designed that way? Comply. Obey. Shut up. Is that the real purpose?

          Indeed it is. It absolutely is.

          However, as a prisoner of the state in this matter, I’m resigned to it.

          • forgotwhichname says:

            Dude. Surrounded by lovely Japanese gals. On possibly the only island that had a modern sustainable culture. (edo) The culture that invented bathing. Growing rice not freakin potatoes. Im not jealous of most anyone, Im jealous of you.

  8. Mirror on the wall says:

    Re: population bottlenecks and human evolution

    It has been theorised that repeated severe population bottlenecks were instrumental in the evolution of the ancestors of modern humans, with reference particularly to the appearance of H. erectus, our direct ancestor, 2 million years ago.

    Founder effects resulted in small populations that allowed for an acceleration of evolutionary change. The genome was radically transformed through drift and selection and major anatomical, neurological and behavioural changes occurred suddenly.

    If so, then the upside of the coming population collapse due to energetic constraints is that the more drastic the bottleneck, the more that human evolution is liable to accelerate.

    A bottleneck would really get human evolution going. It is not ‘the many’ but ‘the few’ that really effect the evolution of the species.

    A population bottleneck is a catastrophe in its experience but from a broader, historical perspective it is a rare and highly progressive episode of species development.

    The present problems experienced by humans may be due not simply to political and economic challenges but also to our inability to meet those challenges in our present state of evolution.

    The situation may not be so much that merely civilisation is in crisis as that H. sapiens is in crisis and it is due an episode of accelerated evolution through a severe population bottleneck.

    If so, then the current situation is truly historic and liable to be highly beneficial to the species in the longer term. It is potentially the prelude to a ‘genetic revolution’ that will radically transform the species for the better.

    > Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Human Evolution

    …. A 2-Myr Bottleneck

    There are many reasons to believe that there may have been a number of severe population size bottlenecks on the lineage leading to living humans, principally because of the many speciation events that must have occurred. The diversity of the Pliocene hominid fossil record, beginning with the large samples from Aramis and Kanapoi 4.0–4.4 MYA (White, Suwa, and Asfaw 1994 ; Leakey 1995 ; Leakey et al. 1998 ), indicates that ours is just the most recent of a wide array of hominid species that once existed. The demographic effects of such speciations can be expected to have been intense, probably involving significant founder effects due to small population sizes, and they eradicated evidence of earlier speciations, such as the chimpanzee-hominid divergence.

    …. A hominid speciation is documented with paleoanthropological data at about 2 MYA by significant and simultaneous changes in cranial capacity and both cranial and postcranial characters. This marks the earliest known appearance of our direct ancestors. The new species has been called Homo erectus or Homo ergaster by some authors. Following others (Jelínek 1978 ; Aguirre 1994 ; Wolpoff et al. 1994 ), we call this emerging evolutionary species early Homo sapiens, as it begins an unbroken lineage leading directly to living human populations. The first specimens are humanity’s earliest known direct ancestors.

    We, like many others, interpret the anatomical evidence to show that early H. sapiens was significantly and dramatically different from earlier and penecontemporary australopithecines in virtually every element of its skeleton (fig. 1 ) and every remnant of its behavior (Gamble 1994 ; Wolpoff and Caspari 1997 ; Asfaw et al. 1999 ; Wood and Collard 1999 ). Its appearance reflects a real acceleration of evolutionary change from the more slowly changing pace of australopithecine evolution.

    …. Our interpretation is that the changes are sudden and interrelated and reflect a bottleneck that was created because of the isolation of a small group from a parent australopithecine species. In this small population, a combination of drift and selection resulted in a radical transformation of allele frequencies, fundamentally shifting the adaptive complex (Wright 1942 ); in other words, a genetic revolution (Mayr 1954 ; Templeton 1980).

    This interpretation is also supported by the fact that several different adaptive complexes changed significantly (as noted above) and together, and that evidences of these changes is found in the earliest specimens.

    …. In sum, the earliest H. sapiens remains differ significantly from australopithecines in both size and anatomical details. Insofar as we can tell, the changes were sudden and not gradual.

    …. These behavioral changes are far more massive and sudden than any earlier changes known for hominids. They combine with the anatomical evidence to suggest significant genetic reorganization at the origin of H. sapiens, and from this genetic reorganization, we deduce that H. sapiens evolved from a small isolated australopithecine population and that small population size played a significant role in this evolution….

    • Fred says:

      The science fiction answer to instances of sudden genetic evolution is outside (i.e. extraterrestrial) interference.

      There are many markers on Earth, outside of the genome, of such activity.

      Personally I’m undecided on the issue, mainly because our genetic programming is boom/bust i.e. grow to whatever limits prevail then collapse.

      So an alien race capable of Interstellar travel would (a) need to follow a linear development path I.e. not forget most of what they learned every few hundred years and (b) not have the genetic drive to grow at all costs and thus regularly blow through their resource base and collapse.

      The Australian Aborigines managed stasis for something over 20,000 years, but the price was a stone age civilisation technology-wise.

    • human beings are omnivores

      we will eat anything in order to survive, including each other.

      that gave rise to a million chances or mischances that led to you (and me) being here, and by definition the survival of our branch of human species in the sense that we know it

      one can write interminable theses on our thread of evolution, but that’s what it comes down to. Words are better when they are cut to a minimum.

      there have been other lines that died out—the same chances and mischances led them on a different path that led to extinction.

      we got lucky—but chances are our luck will run out too. Then the termites and bees can have their world back.

    • Mirror on the wall says:

      “It is not ‘the many’ but ‘the few’ that really effect the evolution of the species.”

      We may perhaps spot traces of that insight in the NT.

      It seems possible to read the transition to the new spiritual condition in the NT as parallel in its structure to the conditions attendant to an evolutionary speciation event.

      It is emphasised in the NT that only ‘the few’ and not ‘the many’ transition to the new condition and continue in life.

      ‘For many are called, but few are chosen.’ Mt 22

      Clearly the situation is akin to a human population bottleneck, which is likened to a ‘narrow gate’.

      ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ Mt 7

      The destruction of both civilisation and of most of the human population is the condition of the ‘new earth’.

      ‘Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.’ Rev 18

      The reduction of the population through the bottleneck is the precondition for the establishment of the species in a new ‘blessed’ condition in which behaviour is radically altered along with well-being. Rev 21.

      It is alluded that human bodies too will be transformed.

      ‘Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.’ Phil 3

      Much like the speciation of early H. sapiens, the radical transformation of the species is attended by the reduction of the population through a bottleneck and a consequent alteration of anatomy and behaviour – and well-being.

      Clearly the NT has a spiritual imagery and intention yet it is notable that the same structural conditions attend the transition to the new humanity as attend physiological speciation, specifically the bottleneck.

      In addition we see the destruction of civilisation as well as of much of humanity.

      It is curious that such a close parallel to rapidly accelerated natural evolution via the bottleneck should be found in the NT account of radically transformative if spiritual human progress.

      It is spot on if metaphorical.

      • Kowalainen says:

        It’s all good in theory. However, what will the metric of survival look like? If it is decided upon one, will it be the right metric? Most likely it will be corrupted and impotent.

        Physics? Genetics? IQ? Industriousness? Creativity? Grit? How and by what method is these imagined desirable traits to be measured? Will it be applied equally for all, or is it possible to purchase your way into the 21’st century “Ark”, thereby undoing the purpose of it all?

        Do we have to care? Should we care? Is there anything worthwhile past the bottleneck for the entitled princes and princesses of IC?

        I don’t think so. Forget about it.

        • Tim Groves says:

          How many of you plan your day or your life around the moral imperative to do what’s best for the human species?

          Hands up!

          • choosebluepill says:

            I pretend I do. Hey thats somthing. Chicks dig it. But seriously… We have this capacity called compassion. I value it.

            It means Im too soft to make it.

            Oh well

        • davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

          “Do we have to care? Should we care? Is there anything worthwhile past the bottleneck for the entitled princes and princesses of IC?
          I don’t think so. Forget about it.”

          I don’t care, since a bottleneck in my remaining years, maybe 10 or 20, would mean a fast collapse and my chance of survival would be exactly 0%.

          but it’s a parlor game.

          an upcoming bottleneck would be unprecedented, since it would be 7+ billion down to “thousands” if it is that low a level that defines a bottleneck.

          in which case, the bigger evolutionary question would be what survives mentally.

          in which case, forget about artistic types and scholarly types, the survivors will be the brutes and toughies among us.

          a true Great Reset to hunter gatherer times.

          • Kowalainen says:

            No brutes survived the Easter island collapse.

            It was rather the most insignificant human being, her child and a couple of goats.

            The sort of person no one expect to survive.

            It is what Gaia do – crushes our preconceived notions and delusions of objective reality.

        • Mirror on the wall says:

          K, if we are headed for a population collapse then we are headed for one. It is not a ‘choice’ so much as a consequence of trillions of conditioned ‘choices’ that we have made in a finite world. Our biological imperatives have driven us on to unsustainable population levels.

          As Gail explains in her article, we left the circular economy of other primates, and sustainability, behind a long time ago, even as HGs. We have utilised energy dense materials, eg. fire, grains, fossil fuels, to bring us to an unsustainable situation of diminishing returns.

          It is not the first time that we have approached a precipice; we seem to have been locked into a cycle of population ‘boom and bust’ for a very long time. That is evident in the archaeology from the onset of the Neolithic. Our population expands to the limit of the environment and economy to support it and then beyond.

          Many species exhibit regular cycles of boom and bust, it is not that unusual. It is just a facet of how eco-systems work. Neither the numbers of a species, nor the carrying capacity of the environment, are stable. They are always in flux. As Gail points out, some species of trees actually rely on population ‘busts’ in order to propagate.

          All species tend to produce more offspring than needed to maintain the population. In favourable circumstances many will survive; less in other circumstances. That is not a ‘problem’, rather the reduction in numbers allows the fittest to tend to survive and for the species to become better adapted. It is a part of the evolutionary cycle by which all species come to be.

          Nietzsche alludes to this sort of thing with regard to humans, as ‘the eternal joy in becoming and destruction’. Death and destruction are simply parts of the natural life cycle. Psychologically we are disposed, through the instinct of survival, to always want to survive, and death is a great grief to us. However we can accept that death, and even population collapse, is a part of the natural life cycle.

          A more expansive wisdom prompts us to accept the cycles of life joyfully. That is not necessarily going to be easy. Psychologists have established that motivation tends to accompany a narrowing of the field of cognition rather a broadening. Many of us are not really ‘wired’ to ‘feel good’ when contemplating the broad life process. We tend to ‘feel better’ with narrow cognition, let alone with regard to the life cycle.

          “Affect can influence cognitive scope (the breadth of cognitive processes[8]). Initially, it was thought that positive affects broadened whereas negative affects narrowed cognitive scope.[2] However, evidence now suggests that affects high in motivational intensity narrow cognitive scope whereas affects low in motivational intensity broaden it. The construct of cognitive scope has proven valuable in cognitive psychology.[2]” (Wiki, Affect (psychology))

          You wrote the other day about ‘wonder’ at the cosmos. Well, this is another aspect of that, but it is an aesthetic contemplation that is far more challenging than gazing at the stars. It is a ‘challenge’ to ‘find peace’ with the life cycle but it may be one that we can ‘meet’. ‘Emotional intelligence’ likely naturally increases with age and it implies an ability to control one’s emotional dispositions, an emotional discipline. We can become more ‘adept’ at ‘accepting life’. Maybe read Zarathustra for some helpful insights.

          The emotional difficulty in accepting situations can prompt us to think that the situation is essentially one of a ‘moral’ dimension that might be resisted through a morally critical ‘will’. But that is not really the case in this situation. It is just a natural consequence of the life cycle, and ‘morality’ has got nothing really to do with it. Some things just are. Hollywood tends to ‘moralise’ collapse scenarios, to add to the ‘drama’, tug the heart strings, get people in the seats and sell some popcorn.

          Anyway, if we are headed for a population bottleneck, then it will not be a consequence of a decision made by some ‘committee’ to establish some criteria that is ‘selective but fair’. It is just going to happen. Governments may try to intervene to give shape to the population collapse but it is unlikely that they would succeed. And the bottleneck itself is certainly not dependent on their ‘plans’. Some things just happen whether we like it or not.


          • Kowalainen says:

            I’m not objecting against the inevitability of the population crash in the current paradigm.

            However. I find it repugnant if some rapacious primate, dictated by it’s limbic system, is selected for running the selection process through the bottleneck. It is totally and utterly against any evolutionary paradigm.

            The only thing I would put my trust on if it is not decided by any human at all, but rather a machine that simply does not care and simply does what HAS to be done, according to the best available knowledge in that particular point in time, with no qualms and regrets. It might even not be the correct decision, but you know what, it is alright, because evolutionary processes indeed does trial and error. Mostly error. The eternal recurrence, or Hindu Yugas, will make sure that Gaia eventually will succeed in sending her offspring into the stars.

            Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence that gives a clear indication of what caused population crashes in historic times. Stating that overpopulation (Lotka – Volterra dynamics) is the only vector toward collapse is flatly a gross oversimplification.

            Big ass space rock plunging down into the oceans will cause upheavals in the planetary ecosystem, with nothing to “blame” except the fact that it is how planetary systems work.

            As far as I am concerned the process of life is to seek new habitats and to turn mineral into more life. It is nothing to be confused with cherishing life and death. It is all mindless mechanical process.

            The Nietzsche “philosophy” is reminiscent that of the Buddhist one. It is the perpetual humanist chauvinism hallucinated story the brain tells itself.

            Nietzsche went nuts and the Buddha became nothing at all. It is all wrong.

            Gaia is the proverbial instrumental convergence, a planetary sized paperclip machine. With the paperclips being life.


            • Mirror on the wall says:

              You seem to be arguing with yourself. No one is suggesting that some committee is going to impose some ‘selective but fair’ criteria for survival.

              And even if they did, what would that be to you?

              You seem to like to pose as a nihilist but your arguments are littered with value judgements, which is incoherent.

              You say it would be ‘repugnant’ to you but who really cares about your personal aesthetic responses?

              Be honest, that is just your own ‘hallucinated limbo’ talking.

              Of course people will do what they can to personally survive – that is a biological imperative. That is very much a part of how evolution works.

              The idea that AI would be more ‘natural’ is patently absurd.

              Evolution takes place also through effort.

              Nothing ‘has to be done’ to direct evolution, it has no ‘telos’, it is a result of effort and success. You are setting yourself up as the committee, while calling it ‘repugnant’ – you just want to outsource the execution to AI.

              If it is ‘mostly error’ then why would it matter to you whether some ‘rapacious limbo’ got things wrong but not AI?

              Because of your personal resentment toward ‘elites’, people who do better in life than you do. No one is really interested in your resentment. That can be a hard lesson to learn in life.

              Evolution is not entirely ‘mindless’, it has created animals with minds who do intervene in the process of survival.

              The ‘story’ is not hallucinated, although it does tend to include value judgements, which you plainly have plenty of yourself.

              Maybe you should take a look in the mirror and consider how much of your criticisms apply to yourself, rather than lashing out at everyone else all the time – even with imaginary arguments and incoherent posturing.

              You seem to be one of those blokes that it is just impossible to be nice toward because you are always going to be dissatisfied, and I would think that most people just give up on you.

              Admit it, you are only ‘happy’ when you are unhappy. Which is sad.


            • Kowalainen says:

              You seem confused on quite a few viewpoints.

              The only value judgement I do is passing that judgement onto Gaia itself and its evolutionary process. I have no say in the matter, neither should you or nobody else.

              If there is any entity to make these calls so far as to the best of currently available knowledge, it shouldn’t be tainted by the hallucinated reality that the primate brain produces, dictated as it is by the limbic system. Hence the Machine, it might be wrong, however for good reason.

              Socialist engineering (of the “elite”) is nothing else than a clean cut away from the evolutionary and social optima (turning mineral into complexity and extending it into the stars). It is why there is 7.8 Billion people on Earth with rapidly dwindling resources. It has nothing to do with the meta stable process of naturally occurring predator-prey dynamical systems.

              The natural process of population decline is easily observable in the oldest industrialized countries, once the lunacy of 3rd world immigration (to keep the racket going) is accounted for. There isn’t any population growth, rather a decline. Look no further than Japan and Italy for evidence of that.

              I firmly put the blame on the current situation on the socialist engineers, it is despicable. They for sure got some coal, oil, debt and natgas to peddle the hoi-polloi. How benevolent. Full bore BAU, a send straight over the Seneca crest and plunge into the troughs of nuclear war. The one with most 0’s and 1’s stored in computer memory, shiny bars of metal “wins” before the thermonuclear devices fly. Impressive stuff indeed.

              Yeah, and the delusion of fusion power didn’t quite pan out, so now the kraken is unleashed to curtail the worst excesses of IC and set path towards a Calhoun 1984-style GND dystopia.

              You are really a try hard trying to figure me out. Anyway, good luck with that. It is rather amusing and rather cute.

              Remember that you don’t have to agree with me, but then quite soon discover how it feels being wrong. And you don’t want that.

              Now where is that YT music playlist?

            • Mirror on the wall says:

              There is no ‘gaia’, which is a Greek personification of the earth. There is just the earth, so we may as well just call it that to avoid any fanciful, posey vanity.

              You admit that you make value judgments. That is just your own ‘hallucinatory limbic system’ speaking. You are not the earth and you do not speak for it.

              The attempt to reify your personal value judgements is pure vanity – the usual ‘new age’ nonsense. No different to crystals and midnight dancing at ‘ley lines’.

              Humans are not distinct from the evolutionary process, we are wholly a product of it. We act entirely according to our evolved biological drives.

              It is just the usual misanthropy from the ‘right on’ ‘green’ set that wants to construct a dualism between humans and ‘gaia’ – complete nonsense.

              No one, and no thing, is making any ‘call’ about population levels. You are anthropomorphising ‘gaia’ again as if it is human and it ‘wants’ or ‘decides’ anything – pure nonsense.

              It is ironic that you anthropomorphise inanimate objects in order to spin your misanthropy – completely incoherent.

              Your idolisation of ‘machines’ is just bizarre – they are simply tools that we have created to pursue our own objectives – nothing more.

              There is no ‘socialist engineering’ going on, we live in capitalist societies and population growth is driven entirely by the needs of the profit and growth based capitalist economy.

              Population decline is not a ‘natural’ process, it occurs in advanced industrial societies and it is compensated for anyway through the expansion of the labour market.

              We have used capitalism to harness the planet to our biological drives and that is why there are billions of people. Evolution equipped us, indeed drove us, to do that.

              You will not get on with the ‘new age’ crowd if you try to excuse capitalism and to blame socialism, as they are all anti-capitalists to a man.

              Our population will ultimately collapse because we have so expressed our evolved biological drives through capitalism and we have overstretched our population yet again.

              It is not a morality play. It ‘means’ nothing. Some things just happen.

              It is purely your own vanity, your ‘rapacious limbic system’ that deludes you think that it ‘means’ anything or that it is a basis for the reification of your own value judgments in an imaginary anthropomorphised ‘gaia’.

              You are just a ‘drama queen’ who is trying to make it all about how you feel about things. Your feelings are basically irrelevant to what is happening.

              To you it is just an occasion to try to demonstrate your own supposed personal ‘superiority’ to everyone else – which is a drive that you hardly even try to disguise.

              It is just attention seeking like a child.

              You are not hard to ‘figure out’ at all. You are a ‘new age’, resentful, misanthropic, anthropomorphising right-wing anti-socialist and a bit of a r acist. You are a needy drama queen, habitually rude, and a bit of a self-righteous child at the end of the day.

              Basically everything that you say is wrong because you lack any skills of self-criticism, which is obvious not only in your arguments but in your personality.

              You really do not care how silly or rude you make yourself look in public. You have no standards whatsoever.

              Do you want me to go on or shall we leave it at that?

            • Kowalainen says:

              Mirror, thanks for the good laugh. Yes, you didn’t agree with me and now the consequences are yours to deal with.

              By the way, where is that playlist?


            • Tim Groves says:

              Kowalainen, please forgive Mirror; he knows not what he does. His rapacious limbic system got the better of him there.

    • Or perhaps, the controlled use of fire allowed massive changes in anatomy, about two billion years ago. I believe that this is essentially Wrangham’s view.

      • Mirror on the wall says:

        Hi Gail, yes, it seems likely that technological and cultural change can change the selective conditions and allow for a change in the species.

        Scientists are divided on whether evolution works better in a smaller population, eg. via bottlenecks and no one really knows.

        It is thought that bottlenecks reduce genetic variety but on the other hand it can bring rare and recessive genes to the fore and allow selection to act on them.

        That would not be to say that bottlenecks always work out for the best as there is an element of chance involved.

        Our H. line has survived but many (all) others have gone extinct. 99% of species, 5 billion, are extinct, so that tends to be the end result for species.

        There is no reason to suppose that we will survive to the usual 10 million years that a species typically survives for.

        Or that H. today is the end result and that we will not ‘create something beyond ourselves as all species do’, as Nietzsche put it in Zarathustra.

        He leaned toward the thesis that a smaller population is more effectively in evolution, although he did foresee conscious human intervention in the process, which was a pretty common idea at that time and was practiced in Scandinavia into the 1970s.

        Anyway, if a bottleneck is coming, then it is coming. My own disposition is to accept that. I embrace the ‘eternal joy in becoming and destruction’ that the planet, metaphorically, exhibits and I try to reflect that in my own dispositions.

        The earth works how the earth works and I try to accept that. It ‘eternally’ brings species into existence, including H. s. today, and it destroys them as it creates more species.

        It is ‘all good’. It is just how the earth works and H. s. are intelligent enough to understand what is going on and we are well-disposed enough (well maybe not all of us) to join our wills to the ongoing process.

        We are able to celebrate the eternal joy in becoming and destruction.

        We might even institute festivals to celebrate it, the generations that have gone before us and those who will come after us – and species as a whole. We can celebrate both the creation and the destruction that clears the way for new creation.

        Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin – coming to be and passing away.

        Festivals of life – of eternal becoming and destruction – of all that ever was and ever shall be.

        That our wills might be one with the earth. The acceptance of all things in the ‘affirmation of life’ and its processes and conditions, as Nietzsche puts it.


  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Deflation in Europe Becoming Self-Fulfilling:

    “In late October, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde stated that she didn’t see any deflation threats “at all.” In order to try and stop the perceived self-fulfilling process the ECB is burying its head in the sand and not seeing what is directly in front of it.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “The COVID pandemic is putting pressure on the sustainability of some European economies, prompting some to argue that economic growth and monetary support from the European Central Bank will not be sufficient and that public debt should be renegotiated.

      “The EU is struggling to overcome the deepest crisis in its seven-decade history…”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “European Banks Warned By ECB to Avoid Letting Bad Loans Pile Up:

        “The European Central Bank urged the region’s big banks to do a better job scrutinizing companies’ ability to repay loans and weather the pandemic, warning them of the possibility that a mountain of loans eventually sours, weighs down the banking industry and slows the economic recovery.”

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “The surge in crude prices to the brink of $50 a barrel isn’t being celebrated in every corner of the oil market: weak fuel demand in Europe means the continent’s beleaguered refineries are struggling to pass on the higher cost to buyers.”

          • Mirror on the wall says:

            That is the general problem that is emerging – energy prices that are too low for energy producers to make a profit, and too high for consumers to buy, like other companies who cannot make a profit if energy is that pricey, and workers whose wages, constrained by the profitability of their employers, do not allow them to afford the energy consumption in end commodities, services and transport.

            As such, that report might well make us tremble as a harbinger of things to come. It seems to be an object lesson that confirms Gales ‘peak oil’ thesis, that in economic reality (capitalism) it will manifest as unprofitable-unaffordable energy and a consequent systemic unprofitability. Thus the need for a ‘socialisation’ of energy production, and production more generally, through debt write offs and state support.

            Capitalism is coming to an end as a functional profit-based economic system. More generally industrial civilisation faces collapse due to diminishing returns, especially with energy production, and the population faces collapse through overreach. Likely nothing can really be done about it. Some things just happen whether we like it or not. Hopefully states can keep BAU going for a bit longer, maybe a couple of decades, who knows?

            The current c 19 crisis perhaps offers an opportunity for states to ‘rationalise’ the economy and to ‘downsize’ it in steps to somewhat ‘manage’ the decline. If so, then I would be all for it. It is likely to be presented to the masses as a ‘great reset’ or as a grand ‘green’ environmental reorientation, but that ‘rationalisation’ is post-factum and spin on an unavoidable situation – which would be fine, so long as it ‘works’ at least for a time.

            • Mirror, great post, thanks.

              As you prolly know some countries – regions could eventually opt for (after “the global” looses appeal for good) the “Brown deal” so lower level complexity (curbed demand per capita) – quasi BAU continues on some mix of coal, natgas, .. , where available.

              However, even at that it will be likely very unpleasant dictatorial reality to live in.. at least for generations who previously partly had lived through unbound consumerism or simply entertained more choices thanks to higher allotment of energy to splash around for personal pleasures and desires.

            • Kowalainen says:

              Not really, it is the end of the rentier class. There is no more growth in the real economy to support the perpetual growth of debt.

              Then good ole’ Laffer comes walking along and simply informs the bad news that when the real economy is maxed out, trying to increase debt and interest payments simply will reduce real economic activity making the debt worthless at an even faster rate.

              The last hoorah down the line will be for the rentier class to buy the Crown Jewels of a nation – It’s natural resources. From that point on all debt will be virtually worthless.

              Now try to tax a region with privately owned hydro power stations and other resources and quite soon you’ll have a rebellion on your hands.

              It will be a rocky ride for the guvmints all over the world. Defaulting isn’t an option, at least if you want to eat and have electricity.

              Either rationalize the guvmint into oblivion or sell the Crown Jewels of the people, to enjoy a breather a couple of years down the line.

              Yes indeed. Do it. SELL!


      • Public debt renegotiated = public debt defaulted on

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