Peak Oil Media

In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.

Under the fold, more Kunstler (in a short telephone interview), an interview with Paul Erhlich at E&ENews, and a copy of a recently published paper of Al Bartlett's on population, climate, and the world we live in.

And here's "Oil Myths, Oil Facts," A peak oil segment from an east Texas news show. James Kunstler is inteviewed via telephone. (~3 mins each)

Part 1

Part 2


Society: Controversial environmental author Paul Ehrlich talks biofuels, offshore drilling, peak oil (OnPoint, 07/24/2008) OnPoint, 07/24/2008

Forty years ago, author Paul Ehrlich stirred up controversy by predicting that the world's steady population growth would cause hundreds of millions of people to starve within a decade of publication of "The Population Bomb." Though his predictions were wrong, he is often credited with having had a major influence on the environmental movement in the '60s and '70s. During today's OnPoint, Paul Ehrlich, author of the new book "The Dominant Animal" and Bing professor of population studies and professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, gives his take on today's top energy and environment issues. He also responds to critics who have accused him of using scare tactics.


Here's a recent article by Albert Bartlett. Like many, Al is not optimistic about the Pickens/Gore plan. You will understand his reasoning when you read the article.

Published in the Teachers Clearinghouse

for Science and Society Education Newsletter

Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 2008, Pg. 21



Albert A. Bartlett, University of Colorado at Boulder , 80309-0390


Throughout the world, scientists are prominently involved in seeking solutions to the major global problems such as global climate change and the growing inadequacy of energy supplies. They present their writings in publications ranging from newspapers to refereed scientific journals, but with a few rare exceptions, on one point they all replace objectivity with “political correctness.”

In their writings the scientists identify the cause of the problems as being growing populations. But their recommendations for solving the problems caused by population growth almost never include the recommendation that we advocate stopping population growth. Political Correctness dictates that we do not address the current problem of overpopulation in the U.S. and the world.

We can demonstrate that the Earth is overpopulated by noting the following:

A SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH: If any fraction of the observed global warming can be attributed to the actions of humans, then this, by itself, constitutes clear and compelling evidence that the human population, living as we do, has exceeded the Carrying Capacity of the Earth, a situation that is clearly not sustainable.

As a consequence it is AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH that all proposals or efforts at the local, national or global levels to solve the problems of global warming are serious intellectual frauds if they fail to advocate that we address the fundamental cause of global warming namely overpopulation.

We can demonstrate that the U.S. is overpopulated by noting that we now (2008) import something like 60% of the petroleum that we consume, around 15% of the natural gas that we consume and about 20% of the food we eat. Because the U.S. population increases by something over 3 million per year, all of these fractions are increasing. Natural gas production in North America has peaked in spite of the drilling of hundreds of new gas wells annually. In a nutshell, the U.S. in 2008 is unsustainable.

Let’s look at two prominent examples of this political correctness. The book, “An Inconvenient Truth” (1) was published to accompany Al Gore’s wonderful film by the same name. On page 216 Gore writes; “The fundamental relationship between our civilization and the ecological system of the Earth has been utterly and radically transformed by the powerful convergence of three factors. The first is the population explosion…”

It’s clear that Gore understands the role of overpopulation in the genesis of global climate change. The last chapter in the book has the title, “So here’s what you personally can do to help solve the climate crisis.” The list of 36 things starts with “Choose energy-efficient lighting” and runs through an inventory of all of the usual suspects without ever calling for us to address overpopulation!

As a second example, in the Clearinghouse Newsletter (2) we read the statement, “Human Impacts on Climate” from the Council of the American Geophysical Union, The title recognizes the human component of climate change which we note is roughly proportional to the product of the number of people and their average per capita annual resource consumption. The last paragraph of the A.G.U. statement starts with the sentence, “With climate change, as with ozone depletion, the human footprint on Earth is apparent.” The rest of the paragraph suggests what must be done, and it’s all the standard boilerplate. “Solutions will necessarily involve all aspects of society. Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government.” Etc., Etc., Etc… There is no mention of addressing the overpopulation which the statement recognizes is the cause of the problems.

A few years ago I wrote an article calling the attention of the physics community to this shortcoming.(3) To my amazement, most of the letters to the editor responding to my article supported the politically correct unscientific point of view. (4), (5)

Many journalists look to the scientists for advice. The scientists won’t talk about overpopulation, so the journalists and the reading public can easily conclude that overpopulation is not a problem. As a result, we have things such as the cover story in TIME Magazine, April 9, 2007, “The Global Warming Survival Guide: 51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference.” The list contained such useful recommendations as “Build a Skyscraper,” (No. 9, Pg. 74) but not one of the 51recommendations deals with the need to address overpopulation!

What’s one to do when scientists and political leaders demonstrate their understanding of the fact that overpopulation is the main cause of these gigantic global problems, yet the scientists’ recommendations for dealing with the problems never call for addressing overpopulation?

(1) Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Rodale Press, Emmaus , PA , 2006

(2) Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter, Winter 2008, Pg. 19

(3) A.A. Bartlett, “Thoughts on Long-Term Energy Supplies: Scientists and the Silent Lie,” Physics Today, July 2004, Pgs. 53-55

(4) Letters: Physics Today, November 2004, Pgs. 12-18

(5) Letters: Physics Today, April 2006, Pgs. 12-15

Here is a 30 minute interview with Matt Simmons that I have not see on the Oil Drum

thanks for the link.

it is particularly interesting to see Simmons mentioned that his ocean energy guys have been seriously looking into the wind over the open ocean (out of the northern Maine, so it is close to the polar oceans where 3kw/m2 average wind energy density or higher is available) and the production of ammonia as fuel from the wind power. so glad to see the outlandish idea presented in this PDF may have somehow led not only SCT but also Simmons and his fellows on to something rather interesting.

Simmons mentioned ammonia, and that got me thinking... I've been reading for years about the possibility of using ammonia to replace the electrical grid, at least over long distances. I know our grid wastes a lot of power. Would an ammonia infrastructure be more efficient? Realistically, how much energy would be gained? Is it possible to retrofit our existing nuclear reactors to produce ammonia in addition to electricity? Would that be more efficient?

the question has been studied and answered a quarter of century ago, see

Green, L. Jr., 1982 "An ammonia energy vector for the hydrogen economy".
Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, pp.355-359, Vol 7, No. 4

things may have changed a bit but the big picture still holds.

It is obvious. Stage one: denial! Further, the politician who controls the money must get re-elected so he cannot tell the Catholics, Muslims, African Tribesmen, etc. etc. all around the world that their beliefs and actions are causing the problem.

Acceptance: Not to worry. Take care of yourself and your family. The economic collapse that is coming will take care of overpopulation here and around the world.

Unfortunately, everything about peak oil is starting to sound repetitive. I need a serious break from this stuff until some new data comes to light.

So what's the matter,Mamba.Did that dreadfully nonPC word,population turn you off.Got a problem there,have you?

And I gather that commercials urging us to buy new cars, houses, electronics, ski vacations and so on are still fresh to you.

Well, once you've run around and convinced everyone the ship is sinking, it's time to help people get onto lifeboats.

As Bart over at the EnergyBulletin said, now that we know we have a problem, it's time to start offering solutions.

[cue doomer saying there are no solutions]

it's time to start offering solutions.

I'm almost ashamed to reply to this with an Internet meme, but it just seems so appropriate: "In Soviet Russia, solution offers you."

Come on man, you forgot the exclamation points!

It should be read:

In Soviet Russia, solution offers YOU!!

From Paul Ehrlich vid;

"The economic system is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ecologic system"

So, hows the parent company doing? Will the subsidiary take down the parent or visa-versa?

Also his predictions were not wrong. Just the timing of them.

Paul Ehrlich is my kind of ranter.

You go dude!

Also his predictions were not wrong. Just the timing of them.

Sure, someday the galaxy will run out of stars. I'd like some more concrete statements than everything is unsustainable eventually.

Albert Bartlett is right, but I'd go one step further. Various grand schemes, like Gore's and Pickens's, attempt to address a problem in isolation. Neither one appears to understand that the earth is finite, in all of its resources. All such grand schemes want to solve our problems without giving up business as usual. This includes economic growth, as well as population growth.

Will producing all our currently energy "needs" by renewables actually be achievable without harming the environment (regardless of whether that damage will be less than current energy resources)? Do Gore and Pickens propose stopping at the level of current consumption?

I have made a feeble attempt to discuss population at Will probably continue to do so though it may not be pc. If you search for population growth at that site you will find few references.

Homo Consumerensis is likely to become extinct in the next few years. I hope a new species is ready to take its place.

New species? No. Lovelock suggests an older one: hot rocks. Fits the ecological niche perfectly.

I let the vid on Erlich run into the vid on McKibben. When asked about hope and effect, McKibben was quite clear that in his opinion we are beyond recovery. He's not looking a happy man. I often wonder just what image I want to project when I get into these sort of discussions.

cfm in Gray, ME

This post hits the root cause nail right on the head.

Negative human influences on the biosphere are increased by:

1) Higher and higher levels of per-capita consumption

2) Increasing numbers of people

Here is where I venture into the tar pit...what is the root cause of overpopulation?


Two examples that have been woefully mis-used by greedy and oftentimes less intelligent people:

Genesis, Chapter 9, Verse 7:

"And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it."

Genesis 1:28

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every
living thing that moveth upon the earth."

Lest you think I am picking on religious belief and people who hold these beliefs for the fun of it, this is not so. All my life I have been surrounded by folks who flippantly use these and similar religious doctrine snippets to justify their high on the hog, head in the sand existence. And do not forget the grim number of people who tie this illogical bow up at the other end of the rainbow by pointing to the Armageddon mythology as reason that we don't have to worry about these silly earthly matters anyway. It is a simplistic continuum of thought: God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over all creatures and subdue the Earth: rinse, spit, repeat, then at some magic time the four horsemen will ride in to increase everyones' misery until the messiah returns, slays the evil ones, and everyone who believes will enjoy the Kingdom of God on Earth for 1000 years (what happens after that, everyone packs up and goes to heaven?) And don't forget, humanity's troubles began when a woman dared to try to gain knowledge about the world....thus the current mindset that science and scientists and anyone who engages in structured, logical thought is not to be trusted at the least, and agents of the devil and unpatriotic enemies of the state at the worst.

This kind of thinking permeates American society. Even when religious people awaken and advocate some environmentalism, the fundamental doctrines above sabotage any real improvement. Witness the Pope telling all the Catholics that pollution is bad, war is bad, rich folks not sharing with the poor is bad, but his institution digs in its heals on the issue of birth control...though shalt not ever, ever use a condom or birth control pills or IUDs or any contraception. With this stance, all the other nice thoughts about the environment aren't worth a warm bucket of spit. Not just Catholics, but Mormons, Baptists, Islam, etc...even look at all the ancient carvings of fertility symbols and fertility gods.

Our imperative to breed profusely served us well from an evolutionary standpoint, where for millions of years (best estimate currently is ~2.5 million years), humans and their ancestral lineage lived short lives and needed to breed often to keep the species going. Since the advent of modern medicine and agriculture and high-density, easy-to exploit energy to support these, mortality has deceased, life expectancies have increases, but the urger to procreate at previously appropriate rates is difficult to change.

NO one can even begin to bring this 800-pound gorilla in open conversation..."what do you have against children, you were one yourself!"..."Would you wish you were never born?"..."If we have less people then we will miss out on God knows how many Einsteins, etc. to enrich our society and solve our problems"..."Global warming is a conspiracy by enviro-nazis who can't get real jobs and who want to stick it to rich people"..."There's global warming on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn!"..."we have enough oil for Millions of years, all this talk is a bunch of hot air"...

The Statements in quites above were all said out loud by officers of the US Military, mostly people with Master Degrees who operate highly sophisticated equipment for a living...many of the potential bringers of Armageddon are fervent believers in Armageddon. I'm afraid most of you here have only a very dim idea of the military-industrial-political-religious complex that has been driving the boat of world affairs. All the environmentalists and Peak-Oil Aware types in the world are regarded much as flies to be shooed away or swatted flat if need be.

NO one can even begin to bring this 800-pound gorilla in open conversation..."what do you have against children, you were one yourself!"..."Would you wish you were never born?"..."If we have less people then we will miss out on God knows how many Einsteins, etc. to enrich our society and solve our problems"..."Global warming is a conspiracy by enviro-nazis who can't get real jobs and who want to stick it to rich people"..."There's global warming on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn!"..."we have enough oil for Millions of years, all this talk is a bunch of hot air"...

You forgot "why don't you kill yourself," I love that one.

What we cannot talk about is the one thing that's going to ensure our species demise.

BTW, did Erhlich mention a "hydrogen economy" as something viable, or did I hear that one wrong?

Well said moonwatcher.

Thanks for having the cajones (I speak metaphorically so it still stands even if you were to be a wahini) to talk truth.

This truth has reached its zenith with this current administration where "Ideology and theology trump science".

We are so screwed up.

Moonwatcher, I like the religion aspect of your point. Very interesting.
But your concluding comment about the "environmentalists and Peak-Oil Aware types" underestimates that they are growing in numbers, and rather than be shooed away, can closely resemble the Lilliputians when the time is right. Wishful thinking? Time will tell.

The causes of the population explosion are simply man getting better at extracting resources, or producing /growing them (eg. agri) and creating what is called wealth, added value, etc.

Back in the Paleolithic, or more recent Sumeria, or in some ‘primitive’ more or less contemp. communities, when there was not enough to feed extra children, or keep alive old ppl who contributed little or nothing, these died in various ways. Cultures differ. Anyone can come up with examples, folklore.

Industrialization, which btw was incredibly slow, much slower than most suppose, did eventually hike household income, in Britain first of all...then, moving along, ww2 or post brought us to the oil age and its fantastic bonanza. In life-times that we can see, the Green revolution, that is the mechanization of agriculture (fossil fuels, fertilizers, infrastructure for watering, so called modern seeds and so on), the giving up of the slaves, rationalization and best practices, transport -rail, road and river- an explosion of trade provided, world wide, more edible stuff, even a glut at some point.

People finally ate to their hunger - yes they did, despite serious sad pockets of famine, as a % of world food they were small, of course deplorable for all that.

And so we all multiplied, had children. Many.

Children, in much of the world, represent comfort and future wealth. They are a stake for the future, if they can be kept alive beyond 6-10, as they can then work, contribute, extract more from the environment, physical or financial (jobs of one kind or another, agri, gov, finance, war...all in in the greater, expanding world) - in any case conditions were so much better, full speed ahead.

Add in simply that women who eat sparingly but enough for life, have minimal health care, and no contraception, low status, will produce many children. A stab for the future (EROEI), pride and joy, status in the community, love, a tribe to gather round.

The demographics of our population problem are such that even if governments imposed a one child per family limit our global population for the next three decades would continue to grow because the majority of humans on the planet are entering or will enter their reproductive child bearing years up ahead. So this tabu topic of population actually has to address the question of How do we increase the death rate to really be affective let alone how do we control our birth rate. In the same way that mitigating peak oil required actions 35 years ago so does the subject of population control because today we find ourselves in the situation that any real affective solutions are morally reprehensible.

"Here is where I venture into the tar pit...what is the root cause of overpopulation?


Sorry, but that tune doesn't play very well in China or Italy now a days. (Or France or most any other country in the EU.) Maybe you should do a bit of research before you make an outlandish statement like that. In many other regions and cultures, especially the third world, most people have many children for purely economic/practical reasons not because religious beliefs saying something to the effect of, "Go forth and multiply."


Religion is just a subset of all forms of tribalism. Humans are a pack animal. Religions and nation-states are social structures that expand the size of the pack, but the tribal instinct remains the same. If it wasn't religion, people would be fighting over something else.

This relates to population growth because in any kind of power struggle, whether it's an election or a civil war, population is everything. The lone exception is industrialized warfare. Therefore, birthrate and surplus food all translate to more power. You can augment birthrate with an evangelical ideology to convert non-believers. I'd lump Christianity, Islam and Consumerism into that category.

The root cause of our energy problem is excess consumption (greed) by the richest nations that have already passed through their demographic transitions. Driving a Hummer 15,000 miles a year and eating 3,000 calories a day of food (mostly from a cow) that has been transported more than a thousand miles to get to the table is so wasteful compared to the average person in the developing world that it defies imagination. I do not know too many religions who espouse the consumption of massive amounts of everything (whether it is useful or not). I think if you take a look through the New Testament you will see that Jesus spent more time preaching against Money (and its corrupting effects, i.e. greed) than any other subject. One phrase comes to mind: "It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.". I seriously doubt that you would find a religion anywhere (certainly not Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) that would truly espouse the kind of greed and waste and energy consumption that is such a hallmark of western society today. There are PLENTY of resources on the planet for us if we were not so greedy. "Enough for our NEEDS, but not for our GREED."

I didn't say religions espouse consumption. I said some successful religions espouse expansion of membership, whether through conversion or reproduction. True Christianity is a moderating check on consumption, but it's been corrupted by philosophies like Prosperity Theology. That's definitely not a mainstream Christian interpretation, but it does explain the behavior of certain politically connected preachers. In the US, I'd say Consumerism has replaced Christianity as the dominant belief.

As for carrying capacity, sure there's enough resources in the world for 6.5 billion people at a very modest level of consumption, but with population growth we'll hit the wall soon enough. Who's to decide what's a reasonable standard of living for our needs and what the world population should be? 1 billion Americans? 2 billion Europeans? 8 billion Haitians?

Consumerism is indeed the dominant philosophy in most industrialized nations. I wouldn't say it is a religion because it does not fit the profile. And it has to stop. Now. But commercials have so ingrained the ideology to our brains that it will be very hard to quit.

I believe that humanities outstretched fingers are already hitting the wall.
In Eastern Africa there are about 13 million people in need of food badly. There are food riots all over the world.
Expect to see a lot more of this in the future.

The bad news is people will die.
The good news is population will go down.

I think you hit the right issue. Religion is just one of those human institutions that are caught by human faults. It doesn't matter that religion says "tho shall not kill", because people will find a justification to kill other people for not believing in such benevolent teachings. Science suffers from the exact same problem, because it doesn't matter that theories are supposed to be evaluated by data, many scientists endorse or abject to theories by their level of social/group acceptance. And the average Joe takes what he thinks to be scientific knowledge with the same rigid passion as any religion.
People jumped at me with a zealot intensity when I said this in another forum. One of them, as an example, claimed that "gravity makes a hammer fall at the same speed as a feather if you throw them from a high building, and anyone could make such experience. Therefore people did not accept blindlessly scientific facts as they where religious laws because they can test it"! Forget the knowledge of air resistance or limits of models to describe physical phenomenons, just notice the plain contradiction to common sense!

The root of any system is the human factor that drives it.
Allegedly, communism was supposed to be driven by "the common good", and that obviously did not work well (actually it did not work at all, because most of these societies became totalitarian regimes driven by the "power" factor).
A capitalist system is driven by "greed", and unfortunately that proved to be a successful system. And in the most curious twist of faith, a former communist country is the one responsible for the ultimate capitalist concept: products so cheap that you buy compulsively, and so bad that you need to replaced them almost immediately. It is a bad commercial practice to make products that last! Never noticed how old stuff lasted longer?

So, the central issue is human development, not the one measured by the luxury items, but a development of awareness. The awareness of consequences of our actions, and the knowledge to predict and understand them.

I do not know too many religions who espouse the consumption of massive amounts of everything

How about Free Market Capitalism with its fundamentalist dogma of everlasting Economic Growth where it is possible for all the faithful to acheive the lofty goals of individual wealth?

Just to agree with you, from a moderate religious viewpoint, in Genesis it says:

"Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it"

Notice the word 'fill'. Not 'overfill'. This planet is full, past full. We have completed our task, now we should stop before we go too far.

You ask: "...what is the root cause of overpopulation? Religion."

I could not disagree more. You might as well blame "culture" itself, for that is all religion is.

You'd just as well ask: "What is the root cause of religion?" To which the answer is "biology, sex, fecundity, and death"

In fact my question is a much better question, I would humbly suggest.

Because people are animals they have evolved to reproduce efficiently, to derive pleasure from sex, to derive pleasure from children, and all to avoid the full consequences of personal mortality.

Religion and all culture helps organize all that mad shtuping and birthing and dieing so that humble apes can experience some modicum of meaning as the are born, blossom, impregnate, become impregnated, give birth, nurture a few young and die. Our brains force us to try to make sense of this mad dash from womb to grave.

The very idea that "thinking" affects behavior is a very religious idea, and one that I would question. It is behavior that leads to thoughts... to religious ideas and to religions. And the things that lead to behaviors are the material conditions of life... the availability of resources, food, land, etc.

Religions do nothing but put a belated stamp on what we are and what we do. If you would change Man, change the circumstances of his life and his religion will follow rapidly behind. Religion is but the tail on the dog of the human condition.

Witness for example the disappearance of Christianity in Europe. It can happen in a moment, as the world changes. In contrast, fighting religion directly, as if this religious idea or that matters for people's behavior seems extremely foolish. Religions express underlying realities... they rarely determine them.

Because people are animals they have evolved to reproduce efficiently, to derive pleasure from sex, to derive pleasure from children, and all to avoid the full consequences of personal mortality.

Basic error in logic demonstrated by very low birthrates in more developed OECD countries, essentially inversely proportional to subscription to religion (eg. higher in USA than in Britain, Netherlands etc.)

Essentially, the key factor to reducing birth rates is to improve economic conditions, very little else aside from genocide had proven effective. Catholic laedership's and US fundamentalist christain's stupid clinging to an ancient "moral" tenant, eg. no birth control, is merely salt into the world's wounds. Reprehensible, and a negative factor, but of little significance alongside economic conditions.

Oh come on, there is no error in logic involved. My claim in no way contradicts the fact that economic conditions lead people to make choices that may run counter to their reproductive success and reproductive fitness.

The Catholic church provides a justification for people's preferences... it does not create them. As you say, when economic conditions change (Italy!) the Catholic church's admonitions are powerless.

Economics and material circumstances matter.... religion takes forms that suit people's preferences.

I respectfully disagree that the root cause of overpopulation is religion.

Look at the forces that are driving overpopulation today: industrialism, consumerism, advertising, factory farms, industrial agriculture, destruction of communities, etc. These are all secular forces which transcend religions; they were and are as common in the atheistic Soviet Union and modern China as in the United States and Europe. Sure, Genesis 1:28 may have had a marginal effect, but it was written when population was perhaps 1% of current population.

Religion today has been co-opted by secularism. In fact, Christianity was co-opted by secular society after Constantine and the council of Nicaea. Periodically there have been protests against this: the Desert Fathers, the Anabaptists, and others who all protested against the secularism of the church in different ways. Similar protests have erupted in other religions. So far they have failed. Periodically also people revolt against secularism in other ways and you have fundamentalism of all stripes. But most fundamentalists have rejected secularism in irregular and uninformed ways (rejecting birth control, but accepting war and consumerism).

So yes, religion can be held responsible for overpopulation. But religion is not the root cause. Secular forces are the root cause, with religion an accessory after the fact. If religion returned to its roots, say to a Jesus who rejected war and materialism and said "blessed are the poor" and "love your enemies," it could be a force against the powers driving overpopulation and destruction of the earth.


"...the forces that are driving overpopulation today: industrialism, consumerism, advertising, factory farms, industrial agriculture, destruction of communities, etc. These are all secular forces which transcend religions."

Keith I think you're correct. Religion is at best a smokescreen or at worst a handmaiden for global corporatism rather than a player.

Several years ago at the behest of a close friend I attended a large Christain Church service. I didn't detect much religious expression there however. It was more like a large burlesque production and in between acts we would sing hopelessly trite, repetitive lyrics from one of three large monitors above the stage. The big sermon was about "proper tithing". The pastor related the touching story of the "man who discovered that the more he tithed the wealthier he became". There was no mention about "the meek shall inherit the earth"?

One look at the parking lot crammed with large late model SUV's should proclaim that this is the Chruch Of Conspicous Consumption. What pragmatic Pastor, with his eye on the bottom line, would extort his parishioners to consider birth-contol or criticize consumption?

On the other hand, Les Knight, the founder (pastor) of VHEMT - the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement - is religious in his soft-spoken dedication to the principle that humans might be gently persuaded to halt reproduction on a fast dying planet. Although there is no place of meeting and no dues other than voluntary contributions there is a well-developed web-site: VHEMT's slogan "Live Long And Die Out"

For the truly misanthropic there is the Church of Euthanasia, with it's four pillars of abortion,suicide,sodomy and cannibalism. Their web-site has a guide for "butchering a human carcass" that includes a recipe for barbeque sauce.

Can the notion that a net increase of 350,000 additional people on the planet every day become a main-stream issue? Maybe and perhaps not as far into the future as people might think. With over a billion visits The Oil Drum has become almost main-stream and the fact that it is openly discussing over-population as an issue should be an encouraging sign. Will it take the spectre of Peak Oil and Climate Change wreaking disasters far and wide to wake up the general population?

Probably! But in the meantime I think there are a lot of people doing what they can to prepare for that day.


The best religion is "The Church of Stop Shopping".

Change a lu jah, brothers and sisters!!!

The Church of Stop Shopping is so cool! I saw the DVD that they put out, "What Would Jesus Buy?" The irony is that Rev. Billy does it sort of as a satire on many modern megachurches, with the exorcisms of Walmart and such, but he's probably closer to what Jesus would say than the churches he's satirizing. He's probably closer even than he himself realizes.

It is hard for a politician to say "hey, your way of life is excessive and it has to stop." Even if they have something of a following, you just can't build a political career on that. But a preacher can say it and get away with it. "Cassandra" is a role that is a permitted category for preachers in modern society, albeit one usually isolated from the mainstream. For some famous examples from the ancient world, see Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, et. al. So I'd say let's get down to your local Zen center, Hindu Temple, synagogue, or liberal Christian church and start talking to them about peak oil and the "end of the age" -- the age of industrialism, that is. Though it's not for me, some evangelical churches are getting the message too (where's Jim Wallis?).


You need to read Dawkins: "The Selfish Gene" to understand why people are unwilling to control population. It's built into the way all life works. It expands to fill it's niche. We are simply better at expanding our niche.

Tell you what. Just make sure you don't have kids.

What a bunch of bollocks. Religion is the cause of explosive demography? What the hell is wrong with your head, man?

1. That rule of "go forth and multiply" isn't even necessary to get to your point. Natural Selection does that far better than you: those who wish to go forth and multiply are exactly the ones who will make sure their own genes will survive.

What I mean is that if all intelligent people stopped having babies, then this wouldn't become a sustained subpopulated world. It would become an idiocracy, get it? It's not a matter of choice, it's a matter of survival of the most fertile. Completely pragmatic in nature.

2. If religion was the cause of explosive demography, then why didn't we have such an explosion in the middle ages, wise guy? Why did it happen precisely in the most open atheistic of times so far, the nineteenth and the twentieth century? (and no, I am not theistic, I'm just stating a fact) Your theory does not hold.

In fact, all your rambling is a call to emotion, without any substantive facts whatsoever backing them up. It's also a call to a decayed society, one that hates children, for it sees them as a threat. I know well where you think you are going in there, but you are appallingly wrong.

Just so you know.

2. If religion was the cause of explosive demography, then why didn't we have such an explosion in the middle ages,

No antibiotics.


So it had nothing to do with religion.

It had to do with the industrial revolution coming while a too-many-births mentality (sorely needed for the survival of people until then), creating a glut (to use a common word in here) of people.

This glut ended some decades ago in the civilized countries where industrial revolution is older.

It has nothing to do with religion.

(and again, no, I'm no advocate of religious thinking, at all)

I might have added "and sanitation." Religion (not all, not all forms) may provide an excuse, it is not the cause of overpopulation. It doesn't provide a very good path for overshoot, though.

"If we have less people then we will miss out on God knows how many Einsteins, etc. to enrich our society and solve our problems"

But then again, how many Hitlers, Jim Joneses, or John Wayne Gacys do we not get because these people weren't born?

There are always two sides to this Population question.

One is How Many People, the other is How much they consume.

It's rightly seen as hypocritical to go to developing countries and tell them to have fewer babies because they consume too much, when the messengers from the Industrialized nations are consuming an order of magnitude more resources just as a matter of course.

Another factor creating massive growth in the developing world is our own industries, busy marketing to these 'Emerging Markets', creating for them this consumer-paradise disposable-goods model of living.

Birthrates have been shown to moderate when the women of a society are educated and empowered, and when the society itself is given the chance to stabilize and self-govern. The resource-ravenous attitude of our Industrial Machine has undermined the ability of small countries and isolated societies to defend themselves from the colonial style manipulations that, like yeast, are only after the 'sugar', and don't pay any attention to the balances that they will upset in order to consume it.

Look at Haiti. The ruinous Millions they pay in Loan Service was for loans that predicated 'Export Based Crops'.. while the people are eating dirt and clay.. sound a little like Ireland's Potatoes?

'Are Corporations smarter than Yeast?'

(No disrespect intended to Totoniela)

USA: Less than 5% of world's population, 25% of fossil fuel consumption / GHG emissions.

Let he who is without sin, etc...

Do you know an example of a country with both modest consumption and women's rights resulting in low birthrate? It seems to me that the surplus wealth from consumerist capitalism is the big driving force behind education and empowerment of women.

I know China instituted the one child policy decades ago when they were much poorer, but they're well on their way to a high consumption society.

I have only heard that the education and empowerment of women in poor societies have been shown to give them control over reproductive choices, leading to the moderation of birthrates.

In this recent age of Cheap Energy and Powerful Global Marketing (See; CocaCola, Baby Formula and Diapers) etc, I don't think you should be looking for the perfect test case, particularly if it's just to challenge my point. I don't know if it exists or not.

The Marketing of wasteful products and needless consumption has to be dealt with, as does the population issue. What tools would you choose for either of these challenges? I'm suggesting that there are some tools, not that I've solved how to implement them. As far as marketing and excessive products goes, I see too many examples of businesses whose model relies upon selling people things that they either don't really need, have gotten addicted to, or both. This makes sense as a 'business model', but only when taken in isolation from societal or ecological needs where it is a waste of energy, raw materials, creative talent and labor.

I have only heard that the education and empowerment of women in poor societies have been shown to give them control over reproductive choices, leading to the moderation of birthrates.

Education, empowerment and rising prosperity together really knock down birthrates.

Of course, many governments in high birth-rate countries are not keen on giving education, prosperity and political power to their women; and many Western countries aren't keen on their having that lot, either.

It's notable that those speaking of the importance of lowering population are rarely found advocating increased prosperity, education and political power for women. Rather they're found being against immigration, in favour of forced sterilisation, against restrictions on consumption and pollution in the West, and so on.

Better education, prosperity and a stronger political voice for women in countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, India and so on would be a radical change for those countries, and for us, too. It would threaten the local leaders' political power, and the Western world's cheap oil, coffee and Nikes.

We can't have that.

It's just a politically-correct fallacy that prosperity is the cure for excessive birthrate. On the contrary, the huge increase of populations has resulted from the huge increase in prosperity from cheap energy. Populations in Africa have massively soared due to aid pouring in. Consequently the many years of aid has just made the poverty much larger. There's likewise been a huge increase of population in KSA due to their massive oil revenues. And as a result the Arabs are poorer than ever.

Unfortunately you are entirely wrong. You obviously suffer from a number of preconceptions, I suggest this 20 minute talk by a fellow who shows just how difficult it is to generalise in this way.

What he shows is that an improvement in healthcare is associated with an improvement in prosperity, and vice versa; but improving healthcare improves prosperity faster than the other way around. Similar results are found with education.

And speaking generally, all countries in the world are improving prosperity and reducing birthrate both, just at very different rates. The exceptions are the very badly-governed (Zimbabwe, North Korea, etc) ones.

These ideas that the "solution" to the "problem" is to keep migrants out of wealthy Western countries, and to stop sending aid and just let people starve, the heart of this is simple racism and greed, and I reject it entirely.

Birthrates have been shown to moderate when the women of a society are educated and empowered

If one likes. One might also say when women come to live in a rich, industrialized, developed, etc. place -or one hiking itself up there pretty quick- perceive that the cost of having more than 1,2 children cannot be borne, or will render the existing family members poorer, and of lower standing (notably re. housing) and that there will be no return in old age for the parents/mother. (In effect, the return which does exist, thru e.g. pay as you go pension schemes, taxation that pays for med. care and so on is not understood; it is seen as a ‘right’.) There are exceptions of course - e.g. the very rich in the US for whom no. of children is becoming an exterior sign of wealth; immigrant families in France who go for a 3rd child because of natalist policy, etc.

As education correlates with wealth in the devp. world, the differing view points are hard to separate out. It is reasonable, however, to argue that the salient correlation is between mother’s (parents, couples) consumption of resources and birth rate (with the former ‘high’ <> to the latter ‘low’). This would seem to imply that devp. world parents have a vision of the limits to growth and the difficulty/impossibility/too-high cost of social mobility, on the ground, in their situation. (Or that they are selfish!)

This is one of the factors that has lead to ‘globalization’ and sending various industries to the 3rd (or ‘emerging’) world. Western mothers do not produce children for them to work in sweat shops, or even factories with proper pay; that is supposed to happen elsewhere. Arab oil producing countries don’t let their sons sweat in the desert except for leisure such as camel races.

The upper emplyed class, seen globally, produces administrators, supervisors, lawyers, marketing types, leaders (often inherited), manipulators of finance, etc. And there are only so many jobs, positions, of that type available.

What is with the sick joke in the Kunstler video??? First we hear Jim flatly proclaim that there will be no hydrogen economy, and go on and on about how we need to reestablish our relationship with our surroundings, and then --in a moment of perfect corporate environmental hubris & insensibility-- we see a hydrogen ("responsibly") powered BMW driven out of a waterfall and on down the stream bed. Jesus H. tap dancing you-know-who!! TED takes BMW's money and puts out a JHK video?!?!? Hypocrites.

Howard Kunstler's view,on public spaces, doesnt begin
to identify the insidious and pre-engineered truths
about American public spaces.
Purposely instituted public spaces like malls were
specificly designed to isolate people and not
encourage open political scrutiny or discussion.
Long gone are the days when people could gather and
anyone could stand in the middle of the town square
on a soap box, shouting to any who were within ear shot.
Anyone even collecting signatures on a petitition at
the local mall would have rent-a-cops tossing their
butts out in a heart beat.
Barber shops have been largely replaced by franchised
"Hair salons" where political or civil discourse is
as taboo as head lice.
Henry David Thoreau. spoke of men living a life of
quiet desperation....that day is here and entrenched
in American society.
The media ignored the mass demonstrations....refusing
to even estimate crowd volumes...for decades now and
this continues to this very day.
This allowed people the opportunity to dash themselves
against the tide untill weary.
The controling class has lied and lied again ad nausem
and when confronted with the truth by individual
or several individuals...the rulers refused to admitt
the lies.
When arguments were presented ,they refused the debate.
When debates were entered they refused to capitulate.
When some small capitulation was achieved the people
mistakenly believed a small victory had accured.
Then the same lies that were yesterday revealed were
again recirculated and the rulers denied they recalled
the debate ever took place.
If they did have some vague recollection...they recalled that they had soundly thrashed their detractors.
I recall how ciggeretts were once marketed as a cure
for the common cough.
Not needing to dig too far back in time for the
youngsters among us...Does Weapons of Mass Destruction
in Iraq ring any recent bells?
All the folks waiting for revolution are gonna be
severely disapointed when they cant find it televised
on thier 500 cable or sat channels.
Chief reason among many being that the revolters dont
have access or funds for the commercial advertising
necessary to air thier cause.
Americans are weaned to believe that if a little is
good...more is better and to much is just enough.
Americans believe AP and Rueters news and dont realise
that not even Russians believed Pravda or Tass...EVER
The reason wallstreeters arent jumping out windows
like they did in 1929 is because the windows dont open
now as they did back then.
Hurling yourself down a stairwell just doesnt seem as
Drama for the future will be a very personal matter.
millions of foreclosed homes and 50 million without
heathcare insurance doesnt raise an eyebrow in the USA.
Trying to educate people about finite resources....
ecspecialy people who believe Jesus is gonna rapture
them in their terry cloth, walmart futile.
Americans cant be concerned their bank has failed or
thier fiat money is worthless...their to busy waving
the stars and stripes and screaming "WE'RE NUMBER ONE"
What makes anyone believe that peak oil will be a
concern to Americans en masse is beyond me.
Although in closing...I admire those who fight the
good fight ...agaisnt all odds of achieving any victory.
And I myself have never chosen a side because I thought they would win....but only because I thought
they were right.
I gotta be honest and say...I havent won many fights.

Neph, PLEASE take out the "hard" returns in your comments. You are taking up way more space than you need to. Let the text wrap around on its own. There is no need to create a hard break every time you get to the end of the window on the right like a typewriter.

Americans believe AP and Rueters news and dont realise that not even Russians believed Pravda or Tass...EVER

In our house we call NPR: "New Pravda Radio". We don't do it to be cute... we've accepted that NPR has become dedicated to painting the turd.

That's so true... it's hard to believe how right wing NPR has become. But then given how the Bushies infiltrated the Justice department with their various anti-democratic and fascist agents, I think we can assume they did the same thing at NPR.

Oregon7: I used to admire NPR and when they were (infiltrated) there was an obvious change in formatting
I noticed the bias day one when even news comments on
Israel and Palestine took on MSM verbatim coverage.Not
to mention the economic reports which Diane Rehm cant
articulate without voice inflections that give away even her astonishments thats shes saying it and doesnt
believe a word of it.

NPR (National Petroleum Radio) are stenographers for the Pentagon and their corporate masters.
No one can reasonably use them as a source of information, as it has been filtered through many layers of propaganda.
At least in Europe (France for example), one can get various points of view that have stated their biases-- One can read the conservative viewpoint, then check out the communists new struggle.

Daniel Yergin was the resident 'Energy Expert' on Marketplace last night.

It's the worst source of news, except for all the others..

To the administrators of this site: since you have adopted this rating system probably to make this more accessible and popular, you should consider IMHO controlling the size/length of the numerous pointless, rambling, often autobiographical posts. Any reader scrolling this site for possible useful info has to wade through a briar patch of garbage currently-why not a limit of eg. 20 lines on the posts which are just basically someone hitting keys on a keyboard at random?

BrianT: You are absolutely correct and I couldnt agree
more that facing these huge social,political,economic and ecological problems,we can fix them all with 30 sec
sound bites.I see the error of my judgement in thinking
that it would require a person to read a bit more then
what one is given in a single political cartoon cell.

With good information from the best scientific and government sources, many people can understand the concept of Peak Oil.

But there are several other realities they need to understand in order to comprehend the catastrophe ahead:

1. Once global oil production begins to decline, conservation and or demand destruction will not reduce the rate of depletion.

2. All alternatives combined can make up only a fraction of the liquid energy gap, and that gap will increase every year.

3. When there is not enough oil to support the vast highway network, the power grid will fail, and by our design, almost nothing works without electric power.

4. Step 3 means that rapidly we will descend into a local economy with nothing coming in on the interstate and no heating. With almost everything from food to clothing coming from afar, there will be a need to become self-sufficient in everything in a short period of time.

5. There is almost no governmental contingency planning in place.

Understanding Peak Oil is step one. Getting through steps 1 to 5 above will take all the more explanation in order to overcome strong ideologies of renewable saviors and cultural beliefs in the ability to invent or concentrate solar energy in a usable form.

Kustler's most amusing little talk proves once again that James Kunstler is a brilliant critic of urban design and social organization, and doesn't have a clue about peak oil.

I love Kunstler's critique of the hell we've made of our urban spaces.

I hope that he is right that peak oil will force a remaking of urban spaces.

But he has no freaking idea if that will be the case, and we may very well suffer civilizational collapse or muddle through at an economic level that doesn't enable redesign of much of anything. It could go in a million different directions.

Kunstler wants us to live in small urban settlements with wonderful public spaces. I do too.

Will peak oil get us there? I really doubt it. The reason it is attractive is because it functions as a deus ex machina. Instead, if we really want those European and early American spaces to re-emerge we would actually need to fight the corporate and business interests that have destroyed them. And that fight may really not be winnable.

So peak oil offers a perverse kind of hope... doing for us what we can no longer do for ourselves.... no longer do for ourselves BECAUSE the U.S. Congress and election system is completely penetrated by corporate interests (also known as a condition of "fascism.")

Kunstler readily understands this, I think, even though he doesn't speak it. His critique of architecture is really a critique of fascist architecture, and more broadly of totalitarian architecture. Our architecture and our values respect the values of those with power. He understands this, and like me and like most of us, he probably doesn't know how to fight it. The corporate grip on our public life is vicious, extending through the media, the press, the courts, the Congress, the Presidency -- all owned lock, stock and barrel. What can you do when faced with that reality and the cities it produces? Perhaps all you can do is to hope that peak oil changes the playing field completely. That's all he's doing.

But should we, dare we, underestimate the resilience of that corporate-fascist system? Is it really endangered by peak oil?

The real question is now, as it has been for all of history, how do we create a democratic and egalitarian society? How do we fight the fascism, both the political fascism and the design fascism that it produces?

Kunstler's emphasis on the "peak oil solution" to that problem is really a position rooted in political despair. Just read "The Long Emergency" and you'll quickly see that he is a design and political critic, not in any sense even a competent science writer. His technology discussions are laughable, unlike his design analysis. But his design analysis and its political intuitions are, I think, right on target.

I share his political and aesthetic despair, but I'm less convinced that peak oil will actually change things for the better.

Declining wealth would not seem to be a leading indicator for increasing democracy and equality.... or for urban design that reflects those values.

You hit the nail on the head with that comment. That question of what if anything we can do about the corporate/fascist sytem merits a thread of its own because the perpetuators are often as helpless as the victims in changing this. We are all caught up in this system that seems to have a momentum and life of it's own without any real force to change direction. That is why Kunstler and so many of us recognize Peak Oil as an imposed external force that can challenge this dyfunctional system we are living under and why we are perhaps totally misguided in believing that it really can change things.

Meet the new boss....

I think the main result of less oil, less energy, and less money will be the need for villages, settlements, towns, and cities that enable us to use energy more efficiently. Our ancient and older cities tend to be more compact because they arose in an era without the surfeit of oil that we have today. They are compact, walkable, and have a wide range of service and goods available in a very small area. They are also spaces where people congregate, whether for social interaction, shopping, dining, strolling, and commerce. Think of the old sections of Barcelona, for example, which are car free and interesting. They have some decent architecture, but it is not just about the architecture, it is about the spacial relationships and the possibility of human interaction, culture, entertainment, and freedom from the dominance of the auto.

Maybe we won't have money left over for good architecture but that doesn't mean we can't make our inhabited spaces more compact, walkable, bikeable, livable, quiet, and interesting. I spend time at the Boulder mall. It has retained some of it early 19th century architecture which is a plus. But I don't think that is the essential draw.

The question is, will that new form be created by the activity of large corporate political forces, or bottom up small entrepreneurship such as envisioned by Kunstler, in his fantasy of small urban centers tied to local agricultural activity, spread out across the landscape once again?

Will it be a town filled with neighborhood coffee shops or with Starbucks?

Will it be Democracy Inc. or actual living democracy?

Corporations can create fine malls and pseudo-public spaces... but they are still corporate subsidiaries.... policing and marketing take place under an entirely different set of laws from those that govern activity on the street. Inside, they can expel you for your t-shirt. Outside you, in theory (if the corporate sickness hasn't leaked too badly) can say what you want, and wear the t-shirt you want.

An old style downtown, although subject to restraints of trade and barriers to entry, is (or can be and should be) a composite of independent entrepreneurs. There may be planning processes but they are public planning processes, subject to some democratic checks.


Imagine that peak oil leads to massive thermal solar and wind investment and nuclear power investment. These are huge corporate activities that will place the corporations who do them in a position to control the government/media nexus just as the oil companies do now. They might very well find it in their interests to build compact Kunstlerian forms (debatable), but even if they do so those spaces will ultimately serve (in ways we can't really anticipate) their interests. They may resurrect the architecture of democracy, but it will be "Democracy Inc." not actual living democracy. Democracy Inc. is to democracy as Starbucks is to your local coffee shop, and as a Mall is to Main Street.

Those corporations can create a democratic looking architecture as a consumer good... but it will not and cannot be democratic architecture as an expression of a democratic egalitarian society.

"Democracy Inc." (and the external forms of egalitarian democratic public spaces) can be created as a consumer good, a product to be marketed because in an expensive energy world it sells well. You can do that as a response to peak oil, but by doing so large corporate power centers can ensure that we never get actual egalitarian democratic public spaces, or actual democratic society.

If those small cities are as desirable as we think they are, who is to say that they will not be picked up as a great marketing gimmick, and we'll end up with some plasticized corporate version of them, and continue to wonder why nothing feels quite real.

(I know, I know, plenty of people think shopping in the local mall IS a real, and a wonderful, experience. You say "choice", I say "brainwashing". I say it's been so long that they just don't know anymore what isn't there anymore, and have lost the ability to imagine what could be.)

Oregon7: I like your style,and notice you often mention
Starbucks.Arent you a tad bit joyful the Starbucks borg
machine is showing cracks because of P.O.? Starbucks being hurt worse then any other major franchise I can
think of.Maybe you are aware of more then you can admit
to yourself when you propose that the future seems a bit fuzzy and you cant really tell about things to come.I can sense you will be pleasantly surprised by the future and wont be disapointed whats-so-ever.
To answer a question you have about democracy being a
fair weather political friend...thats not how democracy
tends to get its roots planted.Democracy finds its most
fertile seed beds in the despair of the masses.The natives seem a bit restless as of late,do you agree?

Actually, Starbucks is a fairly benign corporation as they go... reasonable employee benefits etc. But it does represent a radically different business model from individual coffee shops, locally owned, reflecting a thousand different visions of what coffee shops should be. It masquerades as a local shop ("each one is different") but that too is a corporate sameness... differentness is a corporate policy... and a sham.

I guess I don't take joy in Starbucks suffering... whether because of PO or other reasons. I just don't take joy in the corporatization of political and social life that SBucks represents.

Hmmm... democracy has roots in despair of massess? Like in 1930s Germany? I'm just sayin'

I think democracy grows on a bed of relative economic equality... domestic and international... and on the dispersion of power... states, localities, etc.... individual entrepreneurs rather than large corporations, etc.

I think that inequality, disparities of wealth and poverty, of information, of culture, are the bed for tyrrany, concentration of power.

Now, PO may make people more equal by lowering the mighty... (and that is Kunstler's implicit vision... agrarian small town democracy returns!) but it could also increase inequality, increase corporate and military power, and bring us back to a different vision of agrarian society... the feudal model, the sharecropper model.

I don't know of course what will happen, but both seem reasonable possibilities.

Starbucks gives lip service to the Fair Trade coffee movement

by selling Fair Trade coffee for those who specifically ask for it. And Starbucks spends enormous amounts on advertising to convince the public that they care for the growers and coffee pickers that they exploit by paying low wages.

Starbucks could have chosen to educate the U.S. population about how coffee is grown, who are the people who pick our coffee, how it is sorted, is it processed, roasted and how coffee gets to them.

By using exclusively Fair Trade coffee and educating the population, Starbucks could have developed more clients and made more profits. This is so because the money that goes to pickers is so small as a part of the price of retail sales, that increased workers wages would have a very small impact on the price of a cup of coffee.

I personally avoid Charbucks (called so because they burn coffee when roasting it) and hope others do as well.

I have some knowledge of this as I live in a coffee growing area and my wife and I own 5 hectares planted in coffee. Coffee plants in blossom smell of jasmine and the thousands and thousands of pure white flowers against dark green plants are so beautiful.

Btw, I should have said Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, which is a pedestriansized area cut out of existing streets with a wide variety of shops and restaurants. The space is not owned by a corporation but there are individual shops which are corporate owned. I wasn't sure you were aware of that.

You might also check out Arcata, Ca which has banned establishments owned by corporations which have over a certain number of stores. I believe the number is 5. Obviously, all the big Corps like Starbucks are banned. In any event, Arcata shows that something can be done about corporate dominance if the politics are right at the local level.

Most towns and cities, however, go out of their way to attract the big corporations to build their malls,etc., including tax breaks.

I agree that a more energy efficient layout in future towns and cities can easily be corporate owned. The vast majority of our citizens are perfectly content to have that be the case. Just keep coming with the bread and circuses and they will be content to give up their community and their freedoms.

I believe the number is 3 in Arcata.
Arcata makes Berkeley look like Tustin, or Tallahassee.

7 - you are on a roll.

I like where you are going with this.

I love seeing how people hanging out here evolve their thinking.

IMHO in the post PO future we will all live in small co-op communities left alone by corp and gov, and garden together and sing kumbaya around the campfire at night. (also all will wear tatty old cloths & gloves with the fingers cut off)LOL

Even though I don't really see this happening I am working hard, 24/7/365 to try and make this happen. At least in my local community.

Call me a dualie. kumbadoomer

There is a real sense in which you can only follow the pleasure principle... the reason to start a garden is because you enjoy doing it, the reason to create local community is not to cope with peak oil, but because it works for you right now.

The greater the uncertainty the more the maximization of current value becomes the guiding principle for investment of effort/money/time.

As uncertainty grows, the discounting of future income/wealth, should increase.

Even spending time preparing for specific contingencies becomes less valuable as uncertainty increases.

Peak Oil, even if we can predict the timing (we can't), increases uncertainty, and reduces the value of planning for the future.

PO consciousness makes some activities (growing my own food) seem more relevant... but the main reason to do it is because I enjoy it. Yes, I enjoy it a little because the thought of PO is there in the back of my mind. But I wouldn't take food growing very far if I was only thinking about PO. It has to be meaningful in itself now.

The things we need to do could be thought of as a PO response, but they could be thought of a global warming response or response to the absence of local community connections or to deficiencies in agricultural sustainability or to a lack of justice, democracy and equality. The things that need to be done for all of those issues are remarkably similar.

That raises the question: why frame the question as a PO issue? Well, like global warming, PO has a status as a force majore ... so maybe is more "serious"... but all of those are problem, and the solutions to all of them involve a similar set of community and political activities designed to reorient human relationships and relationships with the biological and physical environment.

By that time they'll have extended copyright back a few hundred years and the RIAA posses will be roaming the land collecting royalties and/or fines from you for your illegal performances.


oops, forgot I wasn't on slashdot! ;-)

Much as I like Jim Kunstler's style, his mordant comedy, and his exposition of the things he does understand, he's sure as hell no engineer. Nor is he, I think, very deeply au fait with the foundations of physics: conservation of momentum, for example.

In our latest email conversation, when I suggested that he consider the very clear indications that the three WTC buildings could only have come down by controlled demolition, and that that could only have been organised by powerful USAmericans (pursuing purposes of desperate global realpolitik related to our current synergising global crises which of course include Peak Oil) Jim answered with the standard emotional-denier response which afflicts so many of even of the most savvy Americans (and many others too, I find): He called it paranoia and fucking nonsense, and refused to spend any time discussing it. Not your average physicist, exactly.

So: aware of some problems then, but maybe not just how deep some of them go. His proposals for a renewed humanity and human scale in US communities, whilst admirable and of great goodness of heart, seem to have behind them no grasp at all of the understandings of our basic global situation promulgated by people such as Cliff Wirth, Albert Bartlett, Paul Ehrlich, Jim Lovelock, Richard Duncan, even -- if you want to stretch a point -- Jay Hanson; and plenty of others.

Their collective insight seems to imply very cogently that there is no prospect of a perilous adventure full of terrible risks, but which finally wins through to a happy ending; that on the contrary there will be no happy ending for most of us, or for most of our societies around the world.

On this still almost-taboo subject of ramping overpopulation spiking towards an inevitable crash -- just as happens to any other species that goes off on a ramp -- there still seems to be no prospect, no convincingly realistic prospect anyway, that we will do anything truly effective about it in anything like time.

So by default it will be left to natural processes. Maybe these will be assisted by secret initiatives from the same machiavellian realpolitikers who bring us such things as the 11 September atrocities, and the consequent and still-continuing genocide of brown people, in the plotters' long-pre-planned attempt to sieze secure control of the Caspian-Hormuz Sweetoil Corridor.

In one or other of the imperial power centres in the world -- Washington, Beijing, Moscow, maybe all of them -- can't we guess that some bunch of amoral strategists are musing even bigger possibilities: 'Necessary' mass wipepouts of large tranches of human population in selected areas of the world by suitable biological agents specially engineered for the job, perhaps; especially if these can be tailored GMOs specifically targeted at selected races of humankind, whilst avoiding others.

Hom sap is fully capable of such enormities. We've given plenty of proof of that.

In our latest email conversation, when I suggested that he consider the very clear indications that the three WTC buildings could only have come down by controlled demolition, and that that could only have been organised by powerful USAmericans (pursuing purposes of desperate global realpolitik related to our current synergising global crises which of course include Peak Oil)

Can I suggest you read through and see if you still think "the three WTC buildings could only have come down by controlled demolition".

I believe there are question marks about who knew what prior to 9/11 but the suggestion the buildings were actually destroyed by demolition charges is just a fantasy that distracts from the real questions. In my opinion only of course.

Btw, Alex Jones also claims to believe that "Peak Oil is a hoax invented by BP".

The problem with the need to change our ways which people such as Kunstler and many recognize is that of the overwhelming momentum of civilization.

All we seem to be able to do is introduce small memes which take a rather long time to grow and manifest all the while civilization's bad behavior is gathering and growing and heading us off in a direction.

It's like humans trying to divert an asteroid crashing into the earth. We simply don't have the ability to muster the energy and resources to change the momentum and avert the collision.

Our civilization will only make a significant change if there is an enormous catastrophe which ripples through the world and undermines civilization as we know it. It could be a plague, or severe untenable weather from global warming, or a Tsunami that wipes out the populations along the entire atlantic and pacific rims, or a asteroid, or maybe the rapid depletion of fossil fuel.

We will not legislate or invent our way out of the present slide into misery and the destruction of our civilization. it may come at an increasing rate as banks fail and the economic house of cards collapses and all the wealth created and represented in "notes" goes up in smoke. That is and will happen. But can we rise from the ashes in a new and sensible way? That is the question.

Retrofitting our urban centers on a national scale using Mr. Kunster's logic will be incredibly expensive and useless when declining oil begins to impact us in the ways described above by CJ.

If we are to survive without an electric infrastructure we need to look back to the early 1900's and examine what worked. There is no middle ground. There is also no room for the current population.

True, a household can grow a garden on a fraction of an acre that is large enough to feed them. That is just the beginning of what is needed to survive. Fruits and vegetables are not enough. Land is needed for a milk cow, a pig, chickens, and a horse. It takes considerable acreage to support a single household's animal needs. Perhaps 15 Acres for a horse, pig and a cow. Another 5 acres if you want a heifer for beef.

In the northern climes it takes up to a five acre woodlot to provide a sustainable amount of fuel for a single family's cooking and heating needs. More acres if you need wood for building.

Don't plan on living off the land for your meat. It takes not hundreds but thousands of acres around a village to support a population of deer, rabbits, turkeys, moose, bear, partridge, etc. that is large enough to be hunted continuously. Rivers and lakes can easily be depleted of fish if the population in the village is too large.

You can tweak my numbers a bit (maybe a lot:) but my point is that a village of a few hundred people requires a much larger amount of land than most people realize. The type of land is also critical. Without a public water supply you can't just throw up a house anywhere. You need a huge amount of water each day for your just your animals. Your acreage has to be suitable for grazing and growing winter feed for your animals. Just as you can rapidly deplete the quality of your soil in your garden, the same applies to over grazing your pastures when they are too small.

I suspect the best source for determining the sustainable ratio of people to acres would be the Amish.

Yep and even the Amish will be in trouble. They too are dependent on the global market place for much of this:

Surviving in most of the U.S. will be tough. Cutting and moving wood without trucks, horses, and wagons will be "challenging," to say the least. There are not many horses around and it will take decades to breed enough horses to go around. Horses require food, care, vets, and medicine. No one is making wagons these days locally.

Wood stoves break, just like everything else. You could keep one or 2 extras, but eventually you have none and can't get more, because there is no transportation on the highways.

Asphalt roof shingles need to be replaced, and houses need to be painted and maintained.

Food must be grown in with a short growing season, and all of the farm stuff that used to be in a 1890 Sears catalog is no longer available. Last summer I took a tour of a farm and saw how dependent farming is on oil -- transportation and manufacture of plastic feeding bowls, containers to store grains/feeds, straw, roofs for animals and storage areas, wire, rope, wood boards, cement, fencing, antibiotics for animals, asphalt shingles etc. Seed and hardware used to be available at the local hardware store, no more.

Then there is clothing which is manufactured and transported from afar. Making cloth is a major operation from growing cotton to making cloth. I have studied the textile mills of Lowell National Historical Park in Lowell, MA for years, as I used it as an example of the confluence of capital, technology, and labor for a course I taught on Global Urban Politics at the University of New Hampshire. I know that the parts in those factories were manufactured in many places with a vast transportation network. Those factories will not be built again after the last power blackout. And there are not many sheep around, nor animals to make wool or leather cloth out of. Eventually down coats and comforters wear out, as do blankets. It sounds like just keeping warm will be a major problem.

Potable water and sanitation for thousands and thousands will another problem without the systems we rely on.

And there will be no modern pharmacies, hospitals, disease control, and little birth control.

cjwirth: I thought you might find this video to be good

I made my own and its 2'' tall and 2'' in dia,the fuel
anyone can make themselves,it fits in your pocket and
weighs less than an oz. It will cook any meal you can
think of and the material its made from will last in landfills for millenium to come.Its got to be the worlds cheapest cooking stove not to mention the smallest and lightest and most indestructible.Had Sears
sold these puppies they may not have been forced to sell themselves too K-Mart

Very good link Neph. Thanks.
I have been looking for a good link to biogas stoves.

I have three wood heaters(old style) in my barn ready to go for this winter yet for cooking I wanted to build or buy some such as shown in these links.


Here's what's funny....I agree with most of the politics behind the discussion of Peak Oil...The yearning to get back to the land (live as the Amish do), the disgust with the ruling class and how they own everything (including us)... and the political and legal systems that make it all possible...I can see why many see Peak Oil (despite all the chaos it threatens to bring) a Godsend. However, it won't play out. We'll have PLENTY of fuel from algae, of every type we need...and it WILL scale....Professor Wirth, you would be right about you current views...EXCEPT algae fuels will eventually replace oil...Sorry guys, you all have a nice dream, but that is all it will ever be.

Your oilgae dream sounds wonderful, problem is that it is in the R&D phase and may not pan out, and even if it does, the energy costs in growing this stuff in farms and processing it would be enormous.

I love JHK. I like to hear and read his thoughts and comments.

To me he is the Phillip Wylie(Generation of Vipers) of today!
In the 50s/60s I read Wylie's book and was astounded at his veracity and
insights. Ditto with JHK.

However,however much as I admire his new 'smaller/better town/city' ideas? I refuse to ever ever again live too close to other human beings.

I love the small, very very small town that is near enough to ride a horse to or ride a bike or hike to in order to get the few supplies I might need. The rest I can handle myself along with some nearby neighbors who are into their own survival mode and bartering tradecraft and usual products from their farms.

Granted large areas of our country will not support my goals but I think they are wasted for habitation anyway.

So thats my take on JHK and what I think of as a viable lifestyle.
Why? Simply because that was EXACTLY the way it was when and where I grew up. Where I was born and how we lived. We hitched a team to a wagon and drove to a small town maybe twice a month. Trading cream and butter or chickens and eggs for other staples.

It worked fine then and can do so again. Its just a whole heck of a lot of people that are all doing stupid things will have to perish off the face of the earth.

I see no other way less it be a very very slow and gradual descent. That I don't see. I see chaos. I see the Four Horsemen already grooming their mounts. I see a 'bad moon on the rise'.
I remember Wylie's book. I hear you JHK.

Airdale-now back to your regular programming and me back to my corn , tomatoes and purple-hulled peas and a water bath canner

PS. I note a huge crop of fruit in my area. My peach tree has lost three major limbs. The vine fruit is enormous. Not a single potato beetle to be seen. No birds either though. Very very few honeybees.
Never see a groundhog anymore. We have apparently killed off huge numbers of creatures. All to make more room for a bunch of fat-azzed people.(Phillip where are you when we need you?)

I agree completely on the over-population talk taboo. I think that every state and local health department in the country should offer FREE universal, confidential birth control information, advice and means, to every human being over 16. ALL and EVERY means of birth control. And advertise heavily.

BUT since there is such hysteria and denial for many reasons, the label that must be used is this: Family Planning. Which it really is. A bit more difficult to criticize. What can be wrong with family planning? It sounds more like the people involved really care.

There is another subject that I feel is more taboo than birth control. Imagine being forced to decide who dies from lack of shelter and food. If our society reverts back to the time before electricity was widely available, those who have food and shelter will see a steady stream of families desperate for help. There will be no safety net, no welfare, no food stamps, no homeless shelters. The situation will be most severe in the colder regions.

There will simply be too little time and resources to absorb the hundreds of thousands of people who will be forced to leave the cities.

What will you do? Will you welcome them into your household? You will have limited food and limited room in your house. How many desperate people can you help? How will you deal with the knowledge that turning them away likely means they die?

Worse, what will you do when desperate people refuse to leave; when they force themselves into your house?

And finally, how will you deal with those who have guns? People who believe they should survive and you should not.

Will we see this worse case scenario? In the US we have a history of our government taking action after the fact. Typically by throwing money at the problem as we did during the savings and loan crisis and now the housing crisis.

The problem with declining oil production is it can't be fixed by throwing money at it. There is no one-time fix. We can out bid the poorer countries for the available oil for a while and watch their societies collapse. We can take over countries like Iraq and Iran and delay the inevitable for a few more years.

The problem of declining oil production is without precedent. The consequences could be so horrific we dare not go there. Instead, we work on fixes that we can emotionally deal with. The fault lies with us. Can we admit the true scope of the problem and prove it with facts? The longer we take to accomplish this first step, the harder and longer the fall will be.

We survived the cold war. We forget what the consequences would have been if there was a nuclear war. In a matter of minutes every society on earth would have been affected. The effects of declining oil production are not as drastic as a nuclear war, but they too will affect every society on earth. It will just take a little longer:(

Egad!!!!....Another drama queen....Stop working yourself into a lather....Algae fuels will solve all...Now, of course, everyone is right about the fact that alternative fuels will not scale...BUT as ALWAYS there are exceptions...That exception is algae....Life is going to go on the same as always...Relax

There's nothing quite like an optimist for making one pessimistic.

Hmm, aviator202, you're not Richard Branson by any chance?

Algae are fuelling Branson's maiden flight

This morning, a Virgin plane powered by biofuel makes a test flight. Is it green altruism or sky-high oil prices that is driving this? Helen Power reports

Two hundred journalists, business people and dignitaries will gather at Heathrow airport this morning for a champagne brunch with Sir Richard Branson.

They have been lured there not by the croissants or even the presence of the Virgin chief, but by a flight billed as the solution to carbon footprint guilt.

Algae are fuelling Branson's maiden flight
Branson's secret biofuel is said to be algae-based

This morning Virgin Atlantic and its suppliers Boeing and GE will stage a test flight of the world's first commercial biofuel plane.

For reference: Branson later revealed that it wasn't algae based biofuel powering the plane as it was not available in sufficient quantity yet. It was actually a mixture that was 80% jet fuel and 20% coconut and babassu palm oil.

For those not well-read in TOD posts about algae biodiesel, here are some links:

And some studies:

With some key quotes:

"Fundamental thermodynamic constrains make it impossible for such approach to be commercially viable for fuel prices below $800/bbl, even if flawless technological implementation is assumed."

"A PBR-based biodiesel plant will have a maximum carbon mitigation potential of less than 30 kgCO2/m2/yr"

"Biofuel production in PBR-based plants compares unfavourably with other alternative technologies for liquid fuel production, carbon mitigation and solar energy."

Wellllllll, Golly Gee Whiz...All those fancy math equations!!! All those fancy numbers !!!! Cain' t be wrong!!! Too Gol-Durned complicated and indepth to be wrong !!! Except....Those numbers rest on lots and lots of ASSUMPTIONS!!!...I am very sure the authors connected with the above links BELIEVE their assumptions...So did Mulder...LOLOL However Guys and Gals...The algae issue is an ENGINEERING issue...Humans are really, really good at ENGINEERING...Those links have really huge, massive, enormous ASSUMPTIONS underlying the math...Read closely, even the AUTHORS admit it!!! Can't produce oilgae for under $800/bbl????? C'mon, you think YOU are the last word on the economics of oilgae???? You guys are shore smart though...of course, there are LOTS of folks smarter!!! So, don't think you are the last aren't....LOLOL

Those in search of venture capital don't have a lot of assumptions underlying their math?

For heaven's sake waste no more energy on this innumerate troll.

That's right!!!....This troll's optimism is threatening the doom level of the board!!!!...Don't want to let any sunshine in!!!!....Gots to sit there hunched over the keyboard eating Cheese Doodles while we contemplate THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!!!!....Give.Me.A.Break....LOLOL...On the other hand, take a look at what Boeing, Airbus, Air France, KLM and Air New Zealand are doing about oilgae...Their survival depends on it and they WILL make it work...So there you go....LOLOL

Since the earth exists for us humans, we will be glad to terriform it (as we have been doing for millions of years) to provide food and energy for a comfortable life!

I guess you aren't a biologist are you? BTW there was a time when earth existed for the dinosaurs some of them became extinct and some of them evolved into other better adapted life forms.

What's the point of the biologist strawman here, FM? Are you one? And before you post inane thinking like this one, you should remember that the dinossaurs lived for hundreds of millions of years before they collapsed, due to external factors. So the analogy is bullshit.

What I can't stand is that if I read doom porn in here, 20+ points are awarded for the "insightedness" of the author, while if I read a cornucopian, he has to be a dumb moron, so there you have -10 points... I don't agree with both views, I see peak oil as a problem, but a solvable one. I don't see neither full blown panic malthusian talk nor the casual "no problemo, dude" talk as useful. People should consider peak oil a problem, and give it a thought, if not only to save some serious money by changing a bit of their lifestyles.

But the sheer sheep doom porn mentality that the point awarding sessions bring here is daunting and far more depressing than peak oil itself. It's as if people are consuming themselves of desperation and schadenfreude all over the place, rather than accepting there's a problem and try to solve it. It disgusts me.

The biologist remark is more an appeal to authority than a strawman. As for the doom porn, perhaps you could explain your vision of the next 5 - 10 years. Maybe if enough people could envision a future that doesn't involve total chaos and feudal enslavement, then there wouldnt be such a market for doom porn.

Well, Iconoclast, my vision of the future is terribly confusing, for I can see that there is so many things in the world that if one tried to make a good case out of it, it most surely wouldn't be a prediction, but a program. It comes to my mind that famous phrase of whom I don't know:

The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself

But I will refrain of patronizing my answer.

I'll just say that the impetus, the need to have a clear "vision" of how the world will play out in the next "5-10 years", or 20, or 30, etc., is really a typical concern of a doomer-porn brainwashed mind. It's an impossible task. Serendipity (Black Swans) always leads us to uncertain paths, and many times in history did the world turned upside down with unplausible twists. Imagine for instance that Bussard was right and that his nuclear fusion reactor works. It's just a possibility among millions of others. The irony is that, after they did happen, people thought about them as obvious and inevitable. They were not obvious at the time, nor inevitable. Y2k was considered by Kunstler the hammer which would plunge the world into medieval times. It was a real threat with real consequences.

We are still here.

Peak Oil is also a real threat with real consequences.

We will still all be here tomorrow.

And we will discuss how it "wasn't easy to get out of Peak Oil"

And afterwards, I'll take out my VR glasses and have some sleep.

some people you just can't reach. I know of this guy that just bought 10 acres of land bewtween Austin TX and San Antonio TX, and just west of those 2 cities. AKA Texas Hill Country. Though the land does have pretty views, other than raising goats or sheep the land is pretty much useless. There is rainwater harvesting but growing anything must be a difficult challenge.

There's this to say about the THC: it has natural NPK.

Well I don't know about the N so much, but it's an ancient reef, raised up from the seabed >100M years ago, and the mineral content here is a bit alkaline (acid rain = no problemo). It includes the important minerals. It hasn't been farmed by "modern" methods until it's all depleted of P and K.

On the not-so-good side, it's hot and dry. Will it be hotter and drier after another decade of AGW? I don't know.

You have to love the cognitive dissonance. Kunstler's talk specifically mentions that the Hydrogen society is something that isn't going to be viable. Setting aside whether you accept that premise or not, the fact that this is followed by a commercial from BMW in which we get to see a lone hydrogen powered vehicle cruising down completely deserted roads in idylic settings of unspoiled nature, not a single human habitat in sight just totally shatters my irony meter...WTF!

Yep, the irony just rolled off the screen. You just can't make this stuff up...

We need to reduce environmental impact, that is the product of individual consumption times population.

There are many ways this can be accomplished. One such mechanism is as follows, it is politically possible but other measures would also be required.

If the high consumption countries restricted immigration (for whatever cause) of people from countries that already had a declining or static population the effect would be twofold.

First population that was in a society with low resource consumption but high population increase would no longer be able move to a society where those people would consume more. Currently this is a source of increasing consumption

Secondly the effects of increasing population would put pressure on their society to move towards population stablisation.

But what if your immigrants brought with them a make-do-and-mend mentality and an awareness that resources were scarce and should be treasured?

And started teaching the locals this?

We must avoid xenophobia in the guise of something else, here.

We need to reduce environmental impact, that is the product of individual consumption times population.

And in all that follows, milo never mentions the possibility of high-consumption countries reducing consumption.

And milo is from a high-consumption country.

What an amazing coincidence.

Ive got hope that a better society can be constructed
like a Phoenix from the ashes. Iam not totally against
even a 1 world government if that 1 world government was humanitarian and just.Of course to pull off a coup
like this will take a bit of work and ingenuity but I
dont suppose we have a finite supply of those.I meet some really smart folks from all over this third piece
of dirt from ole Sol and realise that the cantankerous and abrasive dont die as fast as the docile and agreeable would like.I wish the media would lend a hand
and not play the puppet of the ruling classes and then
we could all lift together....but thats not gonna happen.So it boils down to those on the spear tip who have always brought the rest kicking and screaming into
a new era...dragging them on their heels.No one persons
or even a small group of people will accomplish anything or solve these huge problems facing mankind today...rather a group effort of combined wisdom will be necessary and indeed crucial.This site seems a perfect microcosm and crucible to judge the metal mankind is made of.Some guy pressing a stick in a clay
tablet thousands of years ago probably never figured it
might be studied thousands of years later but this stuff discussed here I believe will be looked opon for
a long time in the future.Like I said...I got hope

I think the best Peak Oil media that occurred this week was on CSPAN with Picken's exchange with Congress on Tuesday.

I can't get the realplayer video to play for me. But this was absolutely fascinating and I could actually feel a difference in the response from all parties. Later in the week you kept hearing the pickens plan being brought up, directly or indirectly, on the house and senate floors.

Now with the speculator and SPR bills out of the way. Let's see what they decide to try to do this week. More of the same?

The idea or concept that the undeveloped countries will be in worse shape than the Western societies may be in error. True they are hurting now and will be hurting later well after peak oil but they know how to exist in minimal conditions. How will a ‘Valley Girl’ exist sweeping the streets as the African woman in a previous link? How will the 400 pounder exist without medicine on his/her knees planting carrots? The list goes on and on to include the Geek and the middle manager and the rest of the 90+ percent of the Western World.

Even given fertile land, good climate and water, there is not one American in a hundred that can provide food for themselves and a small family. Not one in several hundred can forge and hammer something to shape.

I am a doomer and I believe there will be a time of awful dieoff. Those that are left in the US will be in a little better shape than the African because there will be a few leftover things from this society that may be used to start a new society. And alas there will be some, though not much, crude oil and products to help with the reconstruction. They, not us nor any author, will determine the shape of their society.

The religion they adapt will suit their circumstances. They may, but because I am a cynic, probably not understand where we went wrong and will make similar mistakes. The human bean has not changed significantly in several millennia and probably won’t change significantly for several more millennia.

Hi, this is my first post here, and I think TOD is great, I've been lurking awhile, but I disagree with what's been said here about overpopulation.

First, population and consumption are two entirely different things. To measure them, we may use crude gross figures (total population and total consumption). Sometimes, higher population equals more consumption, but that depends on other factors, messily rolled up into the concept "standard of living."

It's more meaningful to use growth of population per person (i.e. rate of population change) and growth of consumption per consumer (rate of consumption change). Here, there's a strong negative correlation between the two. Countries like Afghanistan, Burundi, Niger, Somalia and Yemen are in the top twenty children per woman but consume very few resources per person, particularly fossil fuels. Countries like Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and a host of former East-bloc countries are in the bottom twenty children per woman, but consume huge amounts of resources per person, including fossil fuels. (Source: The Economist Pocket World in Figures, 2008 edition) Generally affluent countries with low birth rates consume more stuff "bad for the Earth" than poor countries with high birth rates. This runs contrary to what would be predicted if overpopulation per se is the problem. Instead, the problem is overconsumption, particularly resources/energy per person.

To bring high birthrates down, effective remedies include universal access to birth control, keeping children (especially girls) in school for as long as possible, and decreasing infant mortality (eg. through inoculations). That last one is initially counterintuitive but when humans discover their offspring will probably survive, they stop making too many of them. Hence the "demographic transition" in countries as their GDPs rise. But unfortunately as GDPs rise, so does energy use per person. And that's the catch -- from a numbers angle.

Second, ethics. Maybe others disagree, but as a resident of an affluent Western country I find it easier (a.k.a. more "politically correct") to publicly claim that overpopulation is a problem than to provide constructive criticism to motorists and meat-eaters on ways to change their behaviour given the horrific effects of personal transport and livestock on the planet... (if I did that, I'd be friendless!)

The real 800-lb gorilla is lifestyle choices. These can be implemented without raising the ethical concerns of forced/legislated population control. But most Westerners find changing their lifestyle truths to be... too inconvenient. Meanwhile, even with their population growth rates declining, over a third of the world races towards Western standards of overconsumption, unsustainability and misallocation of resources -- the catch from an ethical angle.

I don't see an easy way out.

the problem is overconsumption, particularly resources/energy per person.

I think you do have something here. And we have heard our politicians that America must go on a diet. Overconsumption is not THE problem, but I would say it belongs high on the list for solutions to our energy problem. Overconsumption is another way to say we must conserve...but using the word overconsumption highlights the fact that we pig out on energy. There is certainly a lot of fat to trim.


Welcome to the active commenter community.
An interesting position:

The real 800-lb gorilla is lifestyle choices. These can be implemented without raising the ethical concerns of forced/legislated population control. But most Westerners find changing their lifestyle truths to be... too inconvenient.

Two presumptions in here that merit closer scrutiny. First that we have "free will" or choices as you call it. Second that we abhor "change".

To test these concepts, imagine that you visited your local mega-mall dressed as Ben Franklin. This after all, is a "choice" you make one day to dress differently than you had the day before.

Very quickly you will find that your free choice of different outer garments (costume) draws unusual attention. You don't "fit in". You will sense it and so will those around you. After a short while you will find yourself "pressured" into dressing in Rome as the Romans do. So much for free choice with regard to even the simplests of things, outer garment choice.

Now as for "change", the mere fact that an outer garment choice which was vogue is no longer vogue, shows that we in fact we do accept change. Very often. This suits the business model. Big business wants you to change. Constantly. Last year's model is not good anymore. You need to to ... oops sorry, you are not being "controlled" ... you want to adopt this newer consumable. The old one is out of vogue. That's the socio-political reality concerning choice and change.

Yeah, okay, I see your point. I'd still argue we've got choices, but you're absolutely correct that they're constrained by social norms and other things.

Taking the example from outergarments to higher energy consumption products like cars and livestock is interesting. Cars: a choice? Most North Americans would consider them mandatory, but it depends on the place and circumstances. From what I understand, New York City and Boston might be examples where it's relatively easy to choose to be carless; Detroit and Phoenix not so much... and having a job as a real-estate agent is just one example where some form of personal transport a must.

I do, however, think there is a (narrow?) band of choice between not having to have a car, kind of wanting one, and needing one. Most consumers take the expedient way out.

And your point about corporate/media control is valid, too: advertisements of a petrol-burning vehicle driving a deserted winding road into the distant sunset come to mind.

The consumption of livestock is weirder and I have a harder time understanding the choice vs. control debate but I think social norms come to play... and habits, too? The detrimental effects of livestock aren't limited to fossil fuel consumption ( so it would be reasonable that people trying to be "green" and reduce consumption would start, say, by reducing their meat intake by 10%. Not too hard, really, but I'm reticent to do this even with my good friends, because I find it socially awkward to both give and receive advice on food choices which are often considered very personal, though eating is also very social.

All to say that a 10% reduction in driving and meat-eating is easier (though not easy for everyone) and more ethical than trying to reduce population quickly by culling and sterilization; and far more effective near-term than trying to reduce birth-rates the aid-agency way.

"The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See"
That's the title of this 8 part video lecture from Bartlett:

If people haven't seen it, I hearily recommend it.

PS If you think you've seen denial on the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change, just wait for the denial when you try to get people to change behaviours driven by one of the most fundamental evolved drives - the drive to breed.

Thanks for posting that. I am up to part 5.

VERY eye opening although I took many of these math courses and understand the math behind it. I DID NOT however, have a clear grasp on the real world issues that he presents here. Not by a long shot.


I've got a degree in electronics, I can program a computer to use the soundcard to receive/send and demodulate/modulate all sorts of sub-carrier digital modulation schemes, I've trained neural networks - and much more besides.

After watching that video I felt stupid - really stupid. Kickself moments are the best - lessons you don't forget. Bartlett shows the difference between someone like me who can use the maths, and someone who really gets it!

I watched it all again yesterday - as a civilisation we're screwed.


All living things on this planet keep expanding as long as they have resources.

Population growth has nothing to do with any of the 3000 registered religions. Their failure is to explain the real problem and then to teach the principle of placing the sickly babies on the front steps.

I guess it stems from the Tithing principle, where the more tithes the richer the religious economy. Even sickly, deformed and Poor tithes will be accepted.

Any consumer society would be insane to advocate the reducing of its consumer base. Most of these insane societies are still importing worker immigrants even though they are already overpopulated.

We are not talking intelligence here.

The Philippines exports over a million "workers" every year to these insane countries.

I think it might be time to realize that only the Plague, or a better virus even than AIDS, will be able to do the job.

Let us PRAY for help.


I disagree with Bartlett's comments on population.

The issue that I have is that he fails to differentiate between the number of individuals and the effect that each individual has on the environment, which varies dramatically from culture to culture.

In 1994 for instance, the US emitted over five times the amount that India did, despite India having a population four times the size. His SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH falls over a little for that. If everybody in India, over a billion people, disappeared tomorrow, it would make little difference to the greenhouse.

As a consequence his INCONVENIENT TRUTH, is also false. If everybody in the states walked to work it would make a gigantic difference.

Most western countries actually have a birth rate lower than the replacement rate. . This means that without immigration, these countries are unable to maintain their population without government bribes

The reason for this is simple: In a western country children are expensive, and directly effect the standard of living of the parents, birth control is freely and readily available, health care is good enough that there is very low infant mortality, and society looks after an individual in their old age, not offspring, reducing the need to breed.

The real trick of the next century will be to reduce the effect of western civilization on the environment, otherwise we could have all of the draconian population control in the world, and it will make zero difference.

The issue that I have is that he fails to differentiate between the number of individuals and the effect that each individual has on the environment, which varies dramatically from culture to culture.

Of course.

It's like this.

Impact = population x per capita waste/consumption

High population countries say, "Consumption and waste are a terrible problem!"

High consumption and waste countries say, "Population is a terrible problem!"

What is common between the two sets of countries? Each suggests a solution which means, "we do nothing, the other guy does everything." Looking at things objectively, we need to tackle population and wasteful consumption.

However, unless you go genocidal, population takes decades to change, whereas consumption can be changed overnight for individuals, and within months or years for entire countries. It seems reasonable to look at the easiest part first, to address the high consumption and waste first.

Amazingly, we in the West are not keen on that.

We could either have a planet of 8 billion equally poor people or a planet of 1 billion equally wealthy people.

Which is more desirable? Which is more stable?

The 8 billion poor people will have tremendous incentives to keep on breeding for economic reasons, unlike wealthy people in industrialized countries who have gone through the economic/demographic transition. The 8 billion poor people option is unstable. So, saying that we could solve the problem if the industrialized countries cut their consumption is misguided, I think. The only way we are going to keep population stable is by making everyone industrialized and wealthy, and the only way we can make everyone industrialized and wealthy is if there are only 1 billion of them.

Now, who get to be included in that 1 billion? If we wanted to be bloodthirsty about it, we could say that Sub-Saharan Africans are pretty much the only large group that has consistently not been able to experience some degree of wealth, so that everyone else on the planet should be killed, and these Africans can take up our former places of residence in New York, Moscow, Paris, etc. You could also say, in equally draconian fashion, that Americans and Europeans who have already acquired their top spot and brought down their fertility rates should kill off all the other contenders farther down the wealth pyramid. I don't like these options, but although they might sound crazy to your ears, when people get desperate, I fear that these options will not sound so crazy to their ears after all.

What I would prefer, though, is a middle-ground compromise, where nobody who is already born has to die, and where people from all the regions of the world get to be included in this 1 billion through a process of natural death and worldwide prolonged sub-replacement fertility over the next 60 years.

In terms of practical policy for the USA, here's my suggestion:
*Remove all economic incentives for having children (tax deductions, etc.)
*Impose artificial economic disincentives on having more than 1 child (for every child after that, the family must pay $10,000 per year. Families that have no kids get a $10,000 bonus every year).
*Remove the economic incentive for having children (make it illegal and tantamount to child abuse to indoctrinate one's child with one's political or religious beliefs, to order around one's child to do domestic (slave) labor, etc.) This way, we will make having children seem like spawning useless parasites, which is exactly what we want. Only the best parents who really love children, not as workhorses but as fellow human beings and friends, will be willing to have kids and put up with all of the resulting hassles and disincentives.
*Dispense free birth control and birth control education everywhere.
*Ruthlessly persecute illegal immigration, but allow unlimited legal immigration from any country that comes to have a lower fertility rate than the USA's.
*These policies will be revised once the population is down to 2 billion people.

That final policy point should make it clear that this is not a nationalistic, xenophobic policy. This is a thoroughly technocratic policy, and nothing more. Furthermore, people from other countries will be falling over themselves to lower their fertility rate so that they can legally immigrate to the USA. If people in the USA don't want the immigration, all they have to do is lower their fertility rate even more. Pretty soon a competition evolves around who can manage to attain the lowest fertility rate.

Edit: Note: I don't mean for any of this to be retroactive. The immigrants who are already here should be given amnesty as the most practical thing to do. The families who already have children should not be punished by these laws. Besides, these laws are not about punishing past "crimes," they are about deterring future socially-undesirable behaviors. I am not suggesting it is a "crime" to have 6 kids. I am just saying that it is extremely socially-undesirable and that it is in our collective interest to deter that.

After 50 years or so, the world is back down to 2 billion people, and the population pyramids are so lopsided in the other direction (there will be so many more old people than young people), that even if the world went back to exactly replacement fertility, the population would continue declining and be back to 1 billion people by 2100.

The best part of this plan? No bullets needed. No extra deaths due to warfare (although maybe some old-age deaths will happen sooner than otherwise because there won't be as many young doctors to put old decrepit people on life support for the last 5 years of life. Not as big of a tragedy as lots of young people in the prime of their lives getting killed in war, in my opinion).

I think something like this is the best option for the USA and the world in the upcoming century. Because it will be either the condom or the bullet. Human population WILL come down to 2 billion or less. The only question is, how do you want to achieve that?

We could either have a planet of 8 billion equally poor people or a planet of 1 billion equally wealthy people.

Since the rest of your rather genocidal argument rests on this assertion, you need to demonstrate that it's a reasonable one. You don't have to prove it, just show it's plausible.

You have to define "poor", and define "wealthy", what kind of lifestyle are we talking about in each case, and show how each happens.

Until then, you can keep your genocidal fantasies to yourself.

JHK-the curmudgeon of armageddon , the rapscallion of regression , the doofus of die off. CFL's nope. hybrid cars, nope. solar panels, nope.
wind mills, nope. trains, yes.
it looks to me like JHK is eating too many cheese doodles and tater tots.
he flies in jet planes to cities on the edge of forever to rent low mpg
cars to drive to big hotels that use elevators and air conditioning. he does all the things he complains about. and then sez there is nothing we can do to change it. oh, and he gets these big fees and invests none of it in changing the world for good. JHK looks like he is ready to keel over from his consumer life style. who will take his place and carry the banner when he goes (soon)? all the doomers on TOD say the same thing. surf the web eat cheese doodles and tater tots and consume.
and they all fornicate and pump out future consumers who will have nothing to consume except themselves. wdenesday is soylent green day.
did you know the oceans are dying? today right now as we eat cheese doodles and surf the web. 2 billion? try 2 million. mad max me right now.
so long chumps.

It is true that he has no plan although he is entertaining. Trains are great. Compact cities are great. But that is just a very small part of the overall puzzle. Yes, we need to make other arrangements but he is not very specific about what those arrangements are.

I really like a lot of what Kunstler writes...It's entertaining...Spooky stories for adults...The next generation Stephen King...But Lordy, Lordy, Lordy....ALL these PEOPLE on this website...ALL rooting for the apocalypse....LOLOL...The solution is at hand...IT'S ALGAE...Now true, we can't replace 85 million barrels of petroleum INSTANTLY...But on the other hand it took 150 YEARS to build our CURRENT oil infrastructure...Producing enough algae to run the world is possible...We just need to get the engineering right...and that is ONE THING humans are truly great at doing....For example, how does the picture change if within 7 years we can produce 20 millions barrels of algae fuel a day?...Huge, huge difference....and Peak Oil becomes just another footnote in history...Folks, I know this doomer stuff is entertaining...and it's a nice escape from life...but life as we know it now....will continue as always...Professor Wirth to the contrary...By the way, have you noticed how MANY different places he posts?...EGAD, he is truly prolific....LOLOL

Imagine it is 13,000 years ago, and two hunter-gather's are talking.

Frank: "Bob, I'm telling you, the earth's resources are finite. There are too many of us, we're running out of big game, ever since we killed off all our major preditor's we've lost touch with the natural cycle, too many people, we're doomed".

Bob: "I heard about this thing called agriculture, suppose to be getting really big over in Mesopotamia..."

Frank:"You're a damn cornicopian Bob".

Population expansion and increased resource consumption has been going on for 13,000 years at least, maybe 40,000.

I have no doubt this current crisis will involve a period of disruption. Whether it will last twenty years or two hundred, who knows? When things settle down again, if the past is any kind of guide, there will be MORE people utilizing MORE resources, with a higher level of technology. We will get smarter about things is all.

Unholy guy,

The first half of your argument has merit, the second half not.

By your 13,000 years ago it was about to be too late. Once the Indus, Tigris and Yellow rivers taught the human species that they could get a free lunch we exceeded our genetic origins and started on a ten thousand year decline to where we are today.

The 3000 Religions these free lunches spun off are bizarre and the Pyramid culture was pretty weird. Animism may have been the most sane religion of them all.

Homo Sapiens will keep pressing the envelope until it tips itself into a premature extinction, or alternatively it will soon extinct all species it comes into contact with.

When we left Hunter-gathering we left the existance we were designed for.

The beginning of the shift actually happened well before we left hunter-gatherer. It happened when we learned to use tools and fire to kill off our predators and start putting the serious hurt on our prey. That is what started the long homo sapien population boom

In order to really achieve any kind of meaningful balance with our environment we would have to give up fire, bow and arrow, probably flint. Not really what I would call a realistic plan.

However, we should also note that we have successfully been pushing the envelope for 40K years. It is possible it will all come crashing down with some kind of extinction event, but it is also possible it will not. If the past is any indicator of the future, the smart money is on continued homo sapien success (at the expense of the natural environment). Honestly, we may well end up with 50 billion people living happily on a dead rock of a world, more likely then us all becoming farmers again anyway.

First time I've seen Kunstler speak. I've read his blog from time to time, and read a bit of his Long Emergency book, and he appeared to be a very intelligent and witty writer. I had no idea he had such great public speaking skills though.

I'd love to hear Kunstler's commentary about these photographs of Beijing in preparation for the Olympics. Looks they even skipped the nature band aids and just put up some billboards to cover the ugly realities. Good luck China you seem to be living in very interesting times.

Ehrlich makes a good point in that the scientific community is unanimous in its agreement that what we're doing to the planet is unsustainable. Unfortunately just about everything else he says is detrimental to any sort of realistic progress.

The simple fact is that humanity has already made the choice, an "unspoken pact", to sacrifice the environment in order to preserve "civilization". There is no way him or Al Gore or anyone else is ever going to accomplish anything beneficial when they cant understand this pact. All these people are doing is injecting a whole bunch of FUD into a discussion that needs to be centered around the prevention of humanity from falling off an energy cliff like Wile E Coyote.

Hello all,

I skimmed some of the posts replying to mine re: religion and population, and hats off to everyone for caring enough about our shared welfare and future to take the time to add to this discussion.

I do not have the time for a point-by-point reply, but a few things:

- My spouse and I have two beautiful children, we are big champions of children, they are absolutely essential to perpetuating our species, which I think is a good thing.

- I read Isaac Asimov's "Fecundity Unlimited" (a short essay hard to find now...I highly recommend it) a long time ago, and other literature regarding population control, and figured that two children was the right contribution to humanity.

- Communism, as well as other seemingly secular (and religious-oriented) authoritarian forms of government, substitute the state for religion. The PRC one-child policy is fairly recent...their leadership did something right. Recall the patriotic exhortations of posters and other propaganda media in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union (mostly Russia), and China before the One Child Policy...the exhortations for the patriots to birth as many future citizens as possible...industrializing the biological imperative and the need for many children during primitive times and corrupting it to serve the glory of the state. Global Risk...the country with the most armies dominates! Much the same has gone on with various religions and denominations over time...Christians, out-breed the Muslims ( now)...Catholics, out-breed the Protestants! Mormons, raise the congregations to heaven! More flock to pass the plate around to, and for some religions the Temples and Cathedrals and suburban mega-mall church-plexes get larger and more ornate...and the political ($$) influence more pervasive.

- Reproduction is a biological drive, and religion is an overlay to rationalize the world as we perceive it...check, and check. No argument from me.

- IMHO, religion has done a lot of good in the world, and has also caused lot of problems. I just opined about it's influence on the fertility rate.

- Why wasn't there a religious-driven population explosion in the Middle Ages? Oh, I dunno...Black Death, pre-ag revolution, pre-modern medicine, Crusades and other bloody wars to cull the herd...and we made up for lost time, just look at the expansion when we discovered the 'New World' and slaughtered the Pagan savages and filled their land in the name of 'Manifest Destiny'.

- The Bush administration, prodded by its fundamentalist bank-rollers, held third-world aid hostage to a litmus test of countries not discussion contraception...look at the state/church sponsored 'abstinence-only' classes promulgated in the USA.

- Ever heard of the 'Quiverfull' movement? Although non-immigrant birthrates in the US are right at or slightly below replacement(immigration accounts for our growth the last 15 years and most of our extra 100M people we will have by ~2048), there is a growing idea that Christian God-fearing, white Anglo-heritage folks need to breed many more non-brown/yellow/black babies to preserve the white/Christian/etc. majority in the USA. The same folks are fear-mongering that Europe will turn into Eurabia because the overly-secular liberal European intellectual elites are not reproducing enough for replacement, and that people of Mid-Eastern descent are moving in and breeding faster and thus will conquer White, Christian Europe. And therfere, ergo, the white Europeans need to heed the languishing Christianity and out-breed the Muslims and other foreigners! BTW, I met quite a few people in the military with 6 children, one with seven, and one with 10, and almost all of these parents had no intention of stopping! Again, these are people with Masters degrees by and large, very religious, very Republican, and very pro BAU, anti-environmentalist, cornucopian. There are also plenty of religious (and secular) folks who believe in being good stewards of the Earth, Support our Constitutional rights, care for the poor,etc., but they are being out-bred and shouted down by the corporate/fascist/cultist types. The same people who blow the 21. children per woman idea out of the water are the biggest conspicuous consumers, or aspire to be so (Church of God and you WILL be rewarded...ignores and perverts all the teachings of Jesus)

Bottom line: Most people are far too emotional and superstitious and greedy to understand and apply simple math to ensure a sustainable future for humanity. Quite unfortunately, we all seem to be on the road to crash-and-burn, last man standing scenario. I keep hope that we will awaken and take another path....without hope, what is there?