Opportunities and Constraints - A Contest of Ideas

What follows is a writing contest of sorts. Though most of us here have disparate opinions, some wildly so, we are all well versed in the details of the numerous crises (or if you like, 'opportunities') facing modern global civilization. Resource depletion, social inequity, environmental destruction, debt overshoot and others all vie for the #1 slot on our 'problem' barometer. Given the tapestry of constraints and opportunities we face, what goal would you pursue, and what actions would you recommend (or take) to get us from our complex and nuanced starting point today to where you’d envision. Punters, writers and philosophers from the 'doomer', cornucopian, techno-optimist, resource pessimist, Austrian school, Chicago school, and school of hard knocks are all encouraged to participate. (There will be prizes.)

(Preface: some of you have emailed me pointing out that my writing in last year or so has shifted from analysis to philosophy. I think this is an accurate assessment - by and large I have taken my analyst hat off. As such, my current writing/terminology is probably a bit obtuse to any that haven't followed my posts over the past several years. Though hard numbers are needed, neither data nor technology is going to change our direction, only its slope. To me, acting outside of the box of conventional solutions is the only way I can see a smooth transition en masse to energy descent. And acting starts with thinking, or listening. I hope to one day put my analyst cap back on.)

We can bicker about the warp and the weft, but if we squint the overall image we get from the tapestry is something like this:

Our modern economic system (what some now refer to as turbo-capitalism), viewed with an evolutionary lens, is people ‘selling’ their wares/skills/creativity to other individuals, with an attempt to move up the status ladder given modern environmental cues. We are both cooperative and competitive depending on the circumstances, but its very important to understand that our neurophysiological scaffolding was assembled during long mundane periods of privation in the ancestral environment, something still not integrated into the Standard Social Science Model that forms the basis of most liberal arts educations (or economic theory).

We are a clever, ambitious species who for hundreds of thousands of years (or more depending on the model) lived off of current/recent solar flows. We eventually puzzled out how to access stored sunlight in the form of fossil fuels. The population and growth trajectory that ensued eventually latched on to a series of assumptions/rationales that would fuse into the system a belief that more is better and that there would be unlimited substitutes for finite natural resources like oil and water. The change from using solar flows to the energy gain contained in a barrel of crude oil was and still is, indistinguishable from magic in the larger scheme.

Eventually (1970s), some cracks in the assumptions underlying this model appeared. Real wages peaked in the early 1970s and have been declining ever since. Globally, though the poorest people in the world earn more than they did a generation ago, the fact that over 2 billion people don't have a toilet doesn't really sound like an equitable global playing field. Oil peaked in the world's largest oil producer (USA) in 1970. In 1971 we discontinued the gold window and the worlds economic system had no natural tether to real assets. Without such a monetary speedbump, debt skyrocketed over recent decades and became every bit as important driver of economic growth as cheap energy.

Debt functions as a social abstraction which serves as a spatial and temporal reallocator of real resources: away from the periphery and towards the center and away from the future and towards the present. Those at the center and the present are either unaware of such transfer (most) or quite pleased about it (the wealthy/elite). Even though it has no fundamental backing in real wealth, new debt in a fractional reserve financial system immediately confers economic advantages as those who believe in its future, accept paper for goods. Thus in aggregate, debt is a zero sum digital game in the very short term– someone's debt is another's perceived retirement savings, so an increase in debt is also ultimately a ‘stretcher’ of the current social wealth accordion (higher intra-country and intragenerational GINI). What is happening now is effectively an ongoing blood transfusion from the health of the sovereign to heal the 'injuries' to various parties in the private sector. How high of % of total debt the government can bluff to is a hot question.

Not all people pursue money, but our cultural system itself does (via profits, etc.). So gradually, the digital markers amassed over the past generation or so have allowed a certain percentage of the population to extend their perceived relative fitness advantage over others of their same species, something they were evolved to do. However, the traditional land, labor and capital inputs have been dominated by the prevalence of cheap energy inputs, (and increasingly by an acceleration of debt-as-marker). The cheap energy/cheap credit drivers of this system will soon be a thing of the past, and act as a hard leash to future global growth aspirations.

In currency reform, which occurs when fiat currencies stretch too far above their ability to maintain stable servicing of debt extant, debts are basically partially or totally wiped away with a new scrip and new rules. Since our species has a prevalence to care about relative vs absolute, especially once a certain minimum threshold of basic needs are reached, a future of digital wealth destruction via currency reform seems to be one of the few paths that would qualify as a ‘solution’ given our resource and population constraints. As such debt deflation, hyperinflation or even new currencies and the wiping away of prior claims are not what concern me most -it's the hominid endowment effect reaction to losing what they thought they had, combined with our mirror-neuron fed propensity to act en masse, without understanding that real wealth hasn't really changed. (though it has been stagnating for decades which is what brought us to this precipice).

A currency crash, in my opinion, is now all but inevitable. (Indeed, last night Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, reiterated the possibility of a new reserve currency). Questions surround when, how wide, and what do international trade/cooperation and social stability look like in the aftermath. Given that our real assets are natural, built, social and human capital, and that finance/debt/credit etc are just markers for real assets, a currency reform in itself would not alter the world's wealth – but it would alter the distribution, and such a transition would itself influence the potential for future wealth creation and sustainability.

One the one hand, I have increasing angst and frustration at watching people remain in ignorance about the imminent global problems we face. On the other hand, as long as no one really pushes the issue of what lies underneath the Kimono, we can probably continue a bumpy social plateau for some time to come. The problem is that we are curious monkeys, and the bold, clever, loud and persuasive among us will probably stumble on some combination of truth and emotion that will cause said kimono to flash open, and set the sovereign hockey puck in motion, eventually resulting in financial dominoes.

Policy requires the combining of normative (what goals should we have) and positive (how do we attain those goals) thinking. Thinking ahead, is there a series of actions, taken either globally or locally, that would allow us to acknowledge our constraints, while focusing on our opportunities (most notably: that we are an empathic/other regarding species; that solar flows, though diffuse, are large; and that we achieve decreasing psychic returns from more money/stuff once above a minimum threshold.)
Instead of a general discussion of these ideas, I'd ask that Oil Drum Campfire readers submit one sentence on what goal/objective they think is worthwhile pursuing followed by one paragraph (<300 words) on how to get there from here. Essentially, how to navigate beyond the current system of claims, while paying attention to energy and resource limits, social equity, and the environment.

There are (as we know) likely no catch-all answers but lets hear some good ideas!

The option of surviving is not available to us as we are mortals, and mortals eventually die.

The length of our life is always uncertain. The fact that we will die is certain. Peak Oil and collapse only means that the likelihood of the length being less years and the conditions before death less pleasant. More than anything else we should cease the endless push to get ahead and live in the moments one by one. Act well to those who are close to us. I know that all sounds pretty trite, but I learned as a teen volunteering in nursing homes that there are worse things than death. If we just try to maximize years we may well miss the kind of things that make living something worth doing.

scientists discover secret of aging feb 15 2010

from financial times


from newcastle university england


complete article from nature.com


basically it is very complicated

but a summary (mine)

cells detect damage in the dna
if dna damage is not fixed in 1-2 days then
the cell orders the mitochondria to cause huge damage in the cell with free oxygen radicals produced in the mitochondria
in 2 up to 10 days the cell dies or becomes senesent meaning it can not longer replicate.
if the scientists disrupt the process with antioxidants the cell could become cancerous
the only chance to live somewhat longer but not become immortal is to find a way to minimise the effect
that some long lived free radicals like h202 escape from the cell that they are meant to damage and damage other cells as well.

First link required a subscription. The second two didn't work. Perhaps the links have aged.

Faith in immortality was born of the greed of unsatisfied people who make unwise use of the time that nature has allotted us. But the wise man finds his life span sufficient to complete the full circle of attainable pleasures, and when the time of death comes, he will leave the table, satisfied, freeing a place for other guests. For the wise man one human life is sufficient, and a stupid man will not know what to do with eternity. Epicurus.

If scientists had enough time left before collapse to figure out how to make us all live longer, well then we would need even more stringent population control.

We are here as we are because of death - selective death (before reproduction) along with selective mating moves evolution forward. Without death we would all be one celled microbes floating in the primordial soup .

"An old man who cannot bid farewell to life appears as feeble and sickly as a young man who is unable to embrace it." campbell

If scientists had enough time left before collapse to figure out how to make us all live longer, well then we would need even more stringent population control.

Not necessarily. People in longer-lived societies have, on the average, less children. People who had no fear of dying from old age might not even feel the need to reproduce at all. It's even possible that in a world where clinical immortality was the norm, eventually we might need to encourage people to reproduce! (People can still die from causes other than old age, obviously.)

Oxy- I just quoted you over on the LATOC forum. Hope you don't mind. Seemed appropriate to the thread.

oldchuck, don't mind at all ..... pleased in fact

Steering large-scale events as well as possible into less-dire classes of outcomes, using whatever works.

The exact future of humans and the earth is inherently unknowable, but there are absolute things which can be known: extant biological options may be kept open for evolution's future or be foreclosed. To the best of our knowledge, the planet could be a great place to live for the next half-billion years if we don't muck it up. Thus, what's at stake may be real human lifetimes numbered the trillions, dwarfing the hundred-billion or so to have existed since our species evolved. Those trillions are in immediate existential danger now; and we're only one of thousands of species affected. What happens in this century will have huge consequences for the future of life, and I reckon that steering through this bottleneck with an intact planet will be our species' all-time greatest challenge. And again, I think we need to use whatever works to steer human perceptions and not let our capuchin-monkey predilections for egalitarianism and political correctness get too much in the way.

dwarfing the hundred-billion or so to have existed since our species evolved.

based on the mechanics of a population undergoing long-term exponential increase, a rough guess is that 50% of all humans ever born are still alive today, or in another way that our current numbers are equal to all the people that ever lived.

Which makes the number of humans that have existed since we evolved about 14 billion or so, rather than 100 billion. Suddenly I feel a little lonely...

My top-of-the-head wild guess was circa 50 billion; but I cheated and went to google for a number. Depends on your assumptions of course.

http://www.math.hawaii.edu/~ramsey/People.html - this link says 96 billion

http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx - this one says 106 billion

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/413/how-many-people-have-lived-... - The Straight Dope pegs it as between 69-110 billion.

So for order of magnitude, 100 gigalives seemed reasonable. The argument would be stronger with your estimate, which is an order of magnitude less. My point, of course, is that the intangible-but-real future trillions should be the overriding concern of anyone who values human life, and that goes double for all the OTHER species who are suffering collateral damage.

Our messed-up relationship with the Future - considering it a fantasy rather than a probabilistically real place - has set us at war with those potential trillions. We probably terminate tens of billions per year by reducing the earth's carrying capacity, but they are nonentities to us. We have no feel for what is being lost.

And heck, I feel a bit lonely in making this point. But it is a point worth making, even though I personally work more for other species: the number of humans who have lived is trivial compared to the number who could live, with decent life quality and in harmony with natural evolved systems. Trying to maintain 10 billion at once on the planet, or even 5, is the philosophy of the binge eater. There is a potential place for billions and trillions of humans: spread out over millions of years.

Greenish - yours may not win the 'plan' part of this as it lacks details, but it sure as hell is a noble goal! (noble but sadly counter to our wiring). How to weight the future and other species at all when our wetware keeps bringing us back to the present is a tough nut to crack, but thanks for thinking about it.

Well the premise was one paragraph, which for me is barely enough to lay out the rationale.

And of course, "doing what works" may or may not be compatible with laying out fiendishly devious plans in intricate detail on a public blog. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Seek to be in harmony with the Earth and with other humans, remembering that most of our time on the planet has been spent using the energy available day-to-day, find comfort with the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death.

"Don't seek fame or profit, glory or prosperity. Just pass life as it is , according to conditions. When the breath vanishes who is the master? After the death of the body, there is only an empty name. When your clothes are worn out, repair them over and over; when there is no food, work to provide. How long can an illusory body last? For its idle concerns would you increase your ignorance?" — Dongshan Liangjie (b. 807) This Zen teacher, very much alive in a time before energy superabundance, achieving deep understanding of human be-ing on the earth, an understanding we can achieve whether we have plastic stuff and automobiles or not. And since we can be certain that the time is coming when we won't have plastic stuff and automobiles we had better learn to find the harmony.

Reduce expectation and increase the EROEI of mineral/fossil fuel extraction by utilising higher EROEI renewable energy to assist in mineral/energy extraction at key nodes, while simultaneously preferentially prioritising to support key points in the needs hierarchy.

In other words, expect less, boost sustainability of key productive inputs to the system, prioritise key needs. By hitting the problem sideways amazing technical results can be archived. Unfortunately we now need the same insights directed at the human psychology side, and we need it yesterday.

I have always enjoyed your presentations. It was a pleasure to finally meet you during the 2007ASPO 6 in Cork Ireland. I grapple with the same problem. I have really enjoyed your posts on psychology.

I carry out specific scenario planning, looking at interconnects and the errors in assumptions. I analyse the interaction of energy, finance, geopolitics and military between sectors, countries and regions. I have solutions to 'opportunities' that are generally not publicly discussed. I have started to explain the solutions to key individuals, organisations and governments. I don't know how to fully explain the need for solutions without explaining the full extent of the challenges that may in my personal view exist.

In one example the solution is simple for a country and would probably require less than 3% of current consumption of a resource. It costs little and can be implemented in months to a year or two. However failure to implement the plan in time would probably lead to carrying capacity issues on a scale that I do not wish to discuss even at this vague level.

Although the consequences of failure are likely to be significant, there is no rational cause for alarm since the solution is simple to implement. Someone please help, how do I explain this type of thing to key decision makers without them 'irrationally' experiencing extreme emotional state change?

I believe I have worked out how to keep human civilisation going through this bottle neck at a technical level. It may be possible to run civilization on 5-10% of current energy consumption through specific intervention at critical nodes. However the plan will probably fail if we are unable to manage the human evolved psychological effects. The plan is useless if it is not implemented and I suspect using logic to persuade is useless. Humans are adaptation optimizers not fitness optimizers.

I would like to be able to explain magnitude and velocity of effect with out alarming any one to the point that they decide to stop working on implementing the solution and head to the hills with beans and bullets. Many solutions provide preferential profitability for investors over most other asset classes and as such do not require altruism. I have solutions to 'opportunities' that are not publicly discussed, regarding the US and many other locations.

The window of time where successful interventions are possible is closing fast. I am not looking to keep this for my self I just need help to explain it without accidentally causing unwanted effects. Someone please help!

rbmh AT ac-gc.net

Hi Greenish,

Trying to maintain 10 billion at once on the planet, or even 5, is the philosophy of the binge eater. There is a potential place for billions and trillions of humans: spread out over millions of years.

This is such a simple and obvious idea that it begs the question: why is it so hard to understand? You know my contention about delusional forces at work. So, when you say:

Steering large-scale events

What could be more large scale than to convince humanity that investing a lot of time and energy in trying to secure a better deal in some form of afterlife is misguided? Or, to get people to understand that we are not "special" but just one part of the biosphere that has gotten out of balance? I wish we could steer humans to understand the only real "afterlife" is the generations that follow them - and how much we are damning them to a very real hell.

Hi BikeDave. Thanks, I agree with your sentiments.

So, when you say:
Steering large-scale events,
What could be more large scale than to convince humanity that investing a lot of time and energy in trying to secure a better deal in some form of afterlife is misguided?

That'd certainly be large-scale if it worked, but belief in an afterlife (and in most cases an attached dogma) is such a resilient emergent property of human mind that logic has little bearing on it. Moreover, in tough times the aggregate fitness afforded by a belief system which causes people to clump into aggressive/defensive superorganisms is greater than in the absence of such a system. Atheists might sit around waiting for a quorum to transact business while the Faithful converge on them with nooses and pitchforks. I think fundamentalist religion will gain in market share as things get more stressful: that's how it evolved to its current virulence. Aesthetically I'd prefer that were not the case, just as I'd prefer not to catch the flu; but both the flu and fundamentalism are a resilient part of our reality. And in the same general catagory, as far as I'm concerned.

Or, to get people to understand that we are not "special" but just one part of the biosphere that has gotten out of balance? I wish we could steer humans to understand the only real "afterlife" is the generations that follow them - and how much we are damning them to a very real hell.

Well, a lot of people have been pushing those ideas for a long time; me among them, and I probably won't quit.

But "getting humans to understand" is the tough part. Because I'd maintain that collectively we aren't self-aware or sentient; that we just impute that quality to our institutions because we seem to ourselves to be self-aware, logical, and in control. I'm afraid that any "steering" will not be accomplished through socratic dialogue which reaches critical mass in the nick of time to take our species beyond delusionality. It will be done the same way we're induced to buy tennis shoes and name-brand whisky, by playing upon the lusts and fears of unconscious parts of the mind where decisions are made before the neocortex rationalizes them. It's a pity, but there it is.

So can we get a part of the very powerful advertising industry to help shape minds away from consumption? Should we do it ourselves? www.adbusters.org has been attempting to do some of this kind of "culture jamming" for a while now. Do you know of other such efforts?

Well, I've had agencies under contract in the past and while collectively they exert quite a force in our society, they're not really all that good at what they do. There's an enormous amount of effort throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

I think "do it ourselves" would be the choice, then; except that steering minds away from consumption on its own merits is a tall order. Might be easier to accomplish in a less-direct but more-motivating way. I've dabbled in such stuff over the years; feel free to drop me a note by clicking on my user name if you like; I'm a fan of your posts.

A good indication of whether something is possible is whether it has been done before. In the case of reducing consumption, you might say that "elevating poverty" is equivalent; that was done by the Christians towards the end of the Roman age, and by the Buddhists throughout Asia.

I have no interest in religion myself, but at least in this case it does point in a useful direction. When a culture fails, there's blame to be assigned; I don't doubt that lifestyles of extravagant and public consumption and frivolous wealth are on the way out, as least as "ideals".

dohboi - strange website - had not seen that before.

Hi Greenish,

Good insight (as usual) - I know that many of my "wishes" may be logical but not all that doable.

Hi Greenish, It 's great to see you're back !

I've burned a zillion electrons over the last few weeks trying to say something fairly close to your paragraph beginning "That'd certainly be" gets across in just eight lines.

Some things we can change-like sweaty under wear.Other things we are stuck with-in the short to medium run for sure and probably permanently- or simply for the duration.Religion is one of them.

I understand and appreciate your use of the term "virulence" within this context but it doesn't seem to be exactly the right word-perhaps the exact word doesn't exist , or is a word known only to medical specialists.

But I can use it as a jumping off point-a contagious disesae can exist within a population which has served as it's host fr a long while and do the population only modest injury, in terms of the big picture.I believe smallpox and measles fall into this category-capable of killing off some variable number of individuals in such a population from time to time, but not capable of wiping it out.

But if shall we say Europeans introduce such diseases in to (shall we say) a population of North Americans with no previous exposure.....we all know the story, basically the original Yankees were wiped out almost to the last man woman and child in some localities before they saw thier first pale face.

If you choose to look at a religion as a disease for illustrative or philosophical purposes this bothers me not at all.You and I are still on the same FUNDAMENTAL - there's a possible pun here- track, our intellectual noses to the ground so to speak, searching for understanding first of all.

Of course as usual you are way out in front of me, and I'm yipping along about a half a mile behind like a new puppy after his first rabbit.

But as you point out, people who bond into working groups will put the pitchforks to those trying for a quorum.

If a fundamentalist religion is a disease,it can protect it's host by causing them to clump or go into herd mode, and the relationship trends to commencialiasm rather than parasitism , in biological terms.Sickle cell disease is not a bad thing in malaria country.

Of course religion can't as such(-meaning as a disease-) directly infect individuals with acquired immuninty in the guise of a good scientific educational grounding and a high iq,such as my cyber buddys here with whom I have been enjoying some heated exchanges in regard to this subject recently.

Of course there's always a larger envelope or a bigger box to be considered, and we must find a way to step back far enough from the trees to actually see the forest.I'm too tired to write out a scenario decsribing how religion might result in our suffering some very unpleasant and totally unnecessary ill fortune, such as another world war- but this is a very real possibility, considering that the people with the oil hate us for some very good reasons, one of them being that we are "them " to thier religious and cultural "us".

I understand this very well indeed, and that it is in large part WHY those opposed to religion on what they very reasonably see as sound common sense grounds ARE IN FACT OPPOSED to religions -especially fundamentalist religions.

But I also understand that religion is something that cannot be changed by attacking it directly.Theoritically it is possible (and I've actually seen it done, but the fire was very small and the quantity of gasoline relatively very large and very suddenly applied) to put out a fire with gasoline, but the usual result is to cause it to flare up explosively, larger and hotter than ever.

Boxing religion pugilist style cannot put it down.It thrives on adversity; the more it is attacked by outsiders, the stronger it becomes.Leaders of secular states use this aspect of religious or group psychology to maintian control of thier citizens by creating bogeymen in tough times-this is why we are the Great Satan , the evil yankees, the capitalist pigs,the running dog lackeys, in so many scripts.

A subtle , patient judo like approach is needed to gentle a religion and cause it to gradually lose it's wild vitality and wither away.

But no matter that cases of cholera and yellow fever and plague are very rare, these afflictions always return when conditions are right.

If we succeed in more or less neutering religion in our society, and it fades out, as it has in western Europe, we are left with a -WHAT?

As Lord Chesterfield said, when men cease to believe in God , they do not henceforth believe in NOTHING.

A nice peaceful , peosperous society can obviously coalesce around something other than a religion-for sake of brevity,let us call it ,for the moment, a belief in thier society expressed in the form of a benelovent socialist(by American standards) govt.

Now let us suppose that such a govt fails-nature, and our communal monkey minds cannot cope with a vacuum.SOMETHING ALWAYS rushes in to fill the void.

Now permit me to mix my metaphors just one more time tonight.Any military man will tell you that the key to victory is to get there "firstest witth the mostest" and get set on the ground.

Suppose tshtf here in America.Suppose fundamental Christianity is dead, killed off by some miraculous means.The former Bible thumpers will still be as ignorant as ever.

SOMETHING will rush in to fill the void left when we can no longer worship Dale Earnhart and Joe Montana and the blonde goddess in the slinky ski suit all last week.

Now I'm just asking-why should we think that new devil , so to speak , will be any better than the one we know so well already?

Hi Mac. Not sure I'm "back" but I have been away; miles to go and promises to keep, etc.

Longish post, but I'll do a few quick replies.... I assume Nate's instructions for "one paragraph" only apply to the initial "contest entries" and not the ensuing chatter.

I've burned a zillion electrons over the last few weeks trying to say something fairly close to your paragraph beginning "That'd certainly be" gets across in just eight lines.

I missed it, sorry to say; I've been embroiled in family stuff. And yesterday, a potential tsunami, but all's fine here.

I understand and appreciate your use of the term "virulence" within this context but it doesn't seem to be exactly the right word-perhaps the exact word doesn't exist , or is a word known only to medical specialists.

If you choose to look at a religion as a disease for illustrative or philosophical purposes this bothers me not at all.

While I'm sometimes vexed by religion, and in particular the effect it has had within my family, I didn't call religion a 'disease' per se, I meant the viral comparison in only a lightly pejorative way. The meaning I was going for was a self-replicating evolving information system symbiotic with human hosts. Of course symbiosis comes on a sliding scale which covers mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. Mitochondria may have been a disease at one point; and much of our genome is bacterial. Sometimes it's hard to tell the dancers from the dance.

For instance, there are a number of 'diseases' which you're better off having in some contexts; you're exactly anticipating my points by mentioning sickle cell anemia and there are many other such thingies which are problematic now but conferred a benefit in the past. Or there's helminthic therapy, which is now used to treat serious autoimmune conditions like chronic inflammatory bowel conditions and MS by intentionally infecting the sufferer with parasitic worms to redirect the immune system into the work it evolved for. That might be a more reasonable analog; our active brains may work more smoothly with a damping mechanism to derail stressful feedback loops and a common fabric of heuristic shortcuts for some kinds of social decision-making.

Certainly I consider a religion to be very similar to a virus; it cannot replicate on its own but it does have an evolutionary "agenda" which is separate from the agenda of its adherents/hosts. And I think "virulence" was probably the correct word I was going for. Again, meant descriptively and not pejoratively, except to the extent some people will take umbrage at me considering religion a kind of virus.

I've read your past postings on religion - that is, up until a month or so ago - and I think you have good points to make about respecting and working with things which will NOT be going away. As well as respecting the people who experience benefits and limitations by being involved with such a symbiosis.

But I also understand that religion is something that cannot be changed by attacking it directly......It thrives on adversity; the more it is attacked by outsiders, the stronger it becomes.....
A subtle , patient judo like approach is needed to gentle a religion and cause it to gradually lose it's wild vitality and wither away.

Good points. I'm not sure that religions will be gentled at all, I'm rather expecting the opposite. However, it may be that some important "memeplexes" (to use Dawkins' terms rather than my own) can be inserted into the "genomes" of a religion or two. That might be worth trying. If I'm alive in 20 years, I may be an outspoken Baptist.

Now let us suppose that such a govt fails-nature, and our communal monkey minds cannot cope with a vacuum.SOMETHING ALWAYS rushes in to fill the void.
Now I'm just asking-why should we think that new devil , so to speak , will be any better than the one we know so well already?

As may be clear from what I've already said, I think that fundamentalist religion will become more, not less, powerful in the coming decades, although it will continue to pick up adaptations to increase its fitness so may change its stripes a bit. There are context-triggered phase shifts already built into the existing well-evolved religions, just as there are in many biological organisms. They already "know how" to adapt to war, to good times, to bad times. (Ecclesiastes 3).

We aren't in control of religion; it will long outlast its current adherents. However, we can understand what it does for humans and how it propagates and evolves. If we can genetically modify corn, perhaps we can tinker with religions a bit too, and get the benefits without the side effects. Worth trying, perhaps.

cheers, and good night.

Any military man will tell you that the key to victory is to get there "firstest witth the mostest" and get set on the ground.

That sounds an awful lot like "Mission Accomplished"

Perhaps there are some military strategists out there who might hold a different more subtle long term view.

The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy. It has had an influence on Eastern military thinking, business tactics, and beyond. Sun Tzu suggested the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.

I think Sun Tzu understood Black Swans as well.

Of course firstest with the mostest is not a universal key, or the only key, to success in war.

Sun Tsu is mandatory reading for any warrior, either real ones or the arm chair type such as I am.

I was tired and in a hurry and should probably used a different example-for example a bare field, and a burned out forest.

The plants that first colonize and hold the newly available space will vary depending on the circumstances-sometimes the ground may frst be seeded with various pines which will eventually shade out the grases and shrubs and hold the ground for fifty to a hundred yearss, as in the ecology local to my area.But the pines can't reproduce in thier own shade-the hardwoods can, and after a hundred years, the pines are few and scattered.But they got there first, and by virtue of this fact,won the initial battle, even though less fit overall.

And the hardwoods may simply grow right up thru any pines , even deliberately transplanted pines,from still living stumps, and regain thier territory pdq.

And Greenish-I have no problem personally with the word virulence , or your summary of this whole subject, except for one unfortunate detail having to do with a poorly educated public.

The word as yu use it is not loaded with negative connotations, and can be considered a synonym for vigorous as I see it.

But in the popular press and mainstream speech , it seems to be associated almost exclusively with undersirable things-microbes that make us sick, nasty attitudes,unjustified aggressive speech and so forth.

So it is clear to me that you indeed have not called religions a disease, but it will not be clear to a reader who is religious and already hunkering down in a defensive mode,women and kids to the center of the circle,pitchforks bristling, and the hot blooded and somewhat expendable young males holding the perimeter, eager to skewer themselves an evil evolutionist nature lover.

They would especially love to bag one one with the temerity to refer to himself as "Greenish"-shades of Satan , the man is setting himself up as if not a god himself , a king claiming divine providence from some pagan sun god or tree god! -Such will be the thoughts running thru thier minds.

All this should be interpreted as being sprinkled with winkies. ;)

Of course it is almost certainly true that you are in no physical danger,for now at least, but I can vividly visualize some yahoo preacher figuratively holding you over the coals on Sunday morning so his congregation will know how to vote on the following Tuesday.

Greenish,I would dearly like to pursue further your idea of doing a little genetic engineering on various religions and thereby render them more useful and less dangerous.I am in a small and quiet way doing more than a little to undermine the foundations of fundamentalism in my local community, being a sort of emissary of science in disguise.I have planted toousands of little seeds of heresy here and there without yet being detected, and some of them are flourishing.

For instance many local men have seen fossils, having experience in mining and highway construction, etc.So it's easy to lead a conversation off on a tangent about hoe one can count layers in the sandstones die to the differential deposition of silt and organic detritus over the course of a year.Then I can with a very straight face say with complete truthfulness that I have been in a quarry where whale fossils were being excavated , and that there are tens of thousands of such layers visible in the first few hundred feet of the quarry wall.Nobody says anything, but you can see the doubt growing, slowly, as to the veracity of the literal truth of the Bible.

If you want to take thier kids to a museum where they may be exposed to the realities of evolution in stark terms, just emphasize that there are also some"arrerheds" and rusty old guns and they will pack up the family and go with you without a second thought.

I can assure you that once even the saltiest and most fanatic hillbilly has toured a large zoo and seem a real or a model TRex skeleton fossil, he occasionally wonders just how damned big that Ark must have been, and how many angels it musta took to maintain the peace on board-not to mention that unless God provide Noahs sons with some very high speed transport in very large quantity that the animals would have died of old age faster than they could be gathered up..And that Noah must have had as many wives as Solomon if he could have had so many sons.And then all the other holes in the story start becoming more and more obviuos, as the questions start coming like the snow moving down slope in an avalanche.

I have stood next to such an exhibit with a former soldier and see the hair stand up on his arms.After a minute or two he said he wouldn't want it to get no closer than five hundred yards and that you couldn't possibly stop it with less than a fifty caliber machine gun if it was hungry and took after your ass.

There can be very little doubt that there will be a resurgence of fundamentalism if the economy continues to decline.A fading out such as has occured in Western Europe can probably only occur is a fee and prosperous society based ,ironically, on an ethical system consistent with the teachings of that charlatan Jesus. ;)

My advice to those who expect collapse is on the way and are making plans to hunker down in the rural hinterlands is to study the KJB during spare moments in thier bunker/doomstead/farmhouse.A little protective coloration can go a long way, both in securing help and fending off aggression..

It was occasionally the case in WWII that somebody in communication with a soldier in distress grilled him first by asking a few questions about baseball, or his home town , to make sure he wasn't a German trying to draw them out and kill them or take them prisoner.If the person calling for help could not make a satisfactory answer, he was as apt to either be ignored or get a grenade for his troubles as not.

Such people as the backwoods fundamentalists are indeed scinentifically illiterate but they are NOT STUPID. When and if tshtf they will practice all the usual societal first aid the men learned in the Marines-including triage .If there are more wounded on the feld than can be rescued, guys in the same uniform are selected.

And of course there is a possibility that if one is out of uniform , so to speak, he might be taken for the enemy and summarily dealt with without benefit of judge , jury, or -ahem - clergy.

Best be able to recite a few verses at least under such circumstances.;)

Thanks for the entertaining & lucid comments. Like you, I consider the audience and say stuff here I wouldn't elsewhere. Even so, most of my projects probably raise the risks of my being shot and that is one criterion my wife applies when giving thumbs up or down. If nobody wishes you dead, you're probably not changing anything.

You should do a keypost on the realpolitik of religion in the USA.

Hi Mac,

I know that there is no "miracle" that will result in my changing your opinions about religion - but, I still wish to take exception with one idea you mention often in one form or the other:

Lord Chesterfield said, when men cease to believe in God , they do not henceforth believe in NOTHING

May I humbly suggest that you and the Lord are a tab bit out of date regarding this previous truism. And, given your own words:

A subtle , patient judo like approach is needed to gentle a religion and cause it to gradually lose it's wild vitality and wither away.

Perhaps, Hollywood is providing that service - consider the movie Avatar. Sure it has stunning graphics and 3D but so have other movies. The last time I checked, Avatar grossed over $2B and may well be the top grossing movie of all time. There are suggestions that this move struck a core with people who deeply feel that traditional religions have become irrelevant in the face of planetary destruction. The subtle (or not so subtle) message of Avatar is that corporate greed is destroying the environment and we should realign ourselves with nature and the actual physical world.

Some people see the message of personal salvation to avoid the eternal fires of hell as simply an irrelevant slogan akin to the ones used by hucksters selling cars. Some people actually notice that more time is spent extolling the faithful to honor their tithe obligations than to reduce personal CO2 emissions or produce fewer offspring.

But, back to the good Lord Chesty, this idea that absence of a believe in some kind of supernatural god, that people will automatically become devoid of any kind of belief systems - is utter nonsense. Most people will develop some kind of worldview that provides a framework or prism for how they perceive and judge events they experience. Instead of clinging to so-called holy scriptures written by supernatural beings, some people choose to embrace the reality and mysteries of the NATURAL world. I think this is part of the passion many people feel about the Avatar movie.

There is a formal movement that attracts many of these free thinking folks


Secular humanism is philosophically naturalistic. It holds that nature (the world of everyday physical experience) is all there is, and that reliable knowledge is best obtained when we query nature using the scientific method. Naturalism asserts that supernatural entities like God do not exist, and warns us that knowledge gained without appeal to the natural world and without impartial review by multiple observers is unreliable

I have no doubt that your legions of pitchfork yielding faithful will never embrace this type of thinking. But, I also suggest that some of us can hold belief systems that have moved beyond Zeus, Oden, Shiva, Thor, Neptune, Apollo, Morrigan,Brahma,Buddha, and some of the more modern names.

Hi Dave, I guessed as far as magic bullets go , we are both ten foot tall and bullet proof.

I suppose you must have missed the "not" in the LORD CHESTERFIELD QUOTE, ACTUALLY AP PARAPHRASE.


Ah... you are so right! My bias showing - I am so used to people saying that without a belief in god that mankind will run amok with no beliefs to guide them.

Anyway, hope to see you become a card carrying member of secular humanism :-)

Hi Dave,
I will never be a card carrying secular humanist, because I am too cantankerous to be a card carrying member of any group.

Of course reality dictates that I pass myself off as a member of whatever group I inabit at the moment.On Monday nights from 6:30 till 9:30 I am a very creditable left center liberal secular humanist because that is where I percieve the sweet spot lies for an "A" in a life span sociology class in which I am enrolled.Need it for my RN program-I am afraid there might be a dire shortage of medical expertise in my neck of the woods if and when the crash arrives, and the classes are a goodway to pass the time and meet new people.Maybe a sweet young thing into older men-(please no smart remarks from the girls about chauvinism, daydreams are as close to a sex life as I am ever likely to get given my age, deafness, neanderthal politics, and appearance,not to mention the fact that I have very little money.;)

I was a real Christian for a few years as a kid, and I still incline to the ethics of that religion as taught in theory , but unfortunately not much honored in practice.

I have a hard time getting it across that I am not advocating religion, but simply trying to get the day to day reality of it across-what Greenish called the real politick of it above.

Now as it happens, I am indeed quite fond of my horde of fanatics with thier pitchforks and torches;they are perfectly harmless so long as they do not percieve you as an enemy.Besides that they brought me into this world, and are willing to give up the shirts on thier backs and share thier last bite of food with me, even take up arms if necessary, to protect and defend me as one of the group.OF COURSE THEY EXPECT THE SAME IN RETURN.

If you are an ant, you better not venture into the wrong colony-since you won't smell just righT, you will be torn to bits and tossed onto the midden nearby.

Why should a confirmed Darwinist, such as yours truly,expect PEOPLE people to act differently?

Because I'd maintain that collectively we aren't self-aware or sentient; that we just impute that quality to our institutions because we seem to ourselves to be self-aware, logical, and in control.

Greenish that is an interesting thought, sentient as individuals but not as the social beast. Obviously ants bees and termites manage quite well being non-sentient at both levels. In fact now that you say it it seems obvious that it is so, but it is just not something one thinks about. The question is why? Why doesn't the sentience of the parts translate into sentience of the whole.

A great read is the novel "Blindsight" by Peter Watts available online if you wish through the creative commons http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm He has one of his characters advance a tentative theory that some humans are evolving towards non-sentience (complete with lack of empathy). I have read it about 5 times in the course of 2 years and I NEVER do that. If you get it don't be put off by the vampire. Watts makes it work :) Not to spoil the plot I won't say which humans might be evolving a lack of empathy, but they tend to breed with members of their own class so you can probably guess. He explores in the course of a very engaging novel a variety of mental issues.

Greenish that is an interesting thought, sentient as individuals but not as the social beast. Obviously ants bees and termites manage quite well being non-sentient at both levels. In fact now that you say it it seems obvious that it is so, but it is just not something one thinks about. The question is why? Why doesn't the sentience of the parts translate into sentience of the whole.

I'm glad it seems obvious to you; I haven't run across anyone explicitly making that point and I think it may have considerable explanatory value.

Of course, terms like sentience and intelligence are slippery and can't be used in research. Rather one can arbitrarily define benchmark quality thresholds, such as 'self-awareness', defined by meeting certain observable objective standards.

Could be the fact that the organism hasn't changed much, while the size and nature of connectivity of the tribe has. Would a swarm of bees a million times as large exhibit the same problem-solving ability as a standard swarm? Doubtful. And as you point out, a swarm of bees isn't sentient by our definitions. I'm extending that to swarms of humans.

Indeed, the jury may still be out on whether individual humans are sentient by their own definitions. It would be easy to write a computer program which could argue it's own self-awareness as well as most college students. We subjectively experience a flow of time which doesn't exist, see faces and machiavellian intent in random noise, and who knows what other filters our little evolved wetware analogs apply to external reality?

But even giving ourselves individually the benefit of the doubt on the "sapiens" moniker, I think it's clear that collectively it doesn't apply.

(I ordered the library book, thanks for the tip).

Are you talking about sentient beings or sapient beings?

sentient: adjective, able to perceive or feel things
sapient: adjective, 1 wise, or attempting to appear wise.
• (chiefly in science fiction) intelligent : sapient life forms.

All living beings, as we think of them, are sentient, but all sentient beings are definitely not sapient. All sentient beings have Buddha nature, but many sapient beings are too asleep to know it.

sentient - has lots of definitions.


As greenish says it is a slippery concept. Scientists use various ways of measuring such as identifying the reflection in the mirror as self.

Animals that have passed the mirror test are all of the great apes (bonobos[5], chimpanzees[5][6], orangutans[citation needed], gorillas[citation needed] and humans), bottlenose dolphins[5][7][8], Orcas[citation needed], elephants[9], European Magpies[10], barn owls, and pigs[11].

As in I think therefore I am

Or as in I am I, Don Quixote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS8rpt1y6lk&feature=related

Computers could be say to have an intelligence but are not self aware.

One of the fun things to do with kittens is to introduce them to a mirror. The first time, and ONLY the first time, they think that it is another kitten. They ignore the mirror after that first interaction.

Is that self awareness ?


Not by current definitions. The mirror must be used for self-examination.

Guinea fowl, especially lone guinea fowl, will spend hours at a mirror making all the appropriated guinea fowl talking sounds. They seem to really think those are other guineas in the mirror. The cat thinks it is at first,but doesn't find a body, a smell or a responsive sound. Being smarter than a guinea (most things are) it just decides it looks like a cat but is not a cat I would guess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx5ro7kjesQ Actually on this next clip it appears the cat thinks the cat in the mirror is another cat and the mirror is a hole http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecw1TCz-kwA&feature=related

More self aware animals will touch their face where a spot has been painted (I think they put chimps etc asleep to do this so the chimp doesn't know that anything was put on them). Some use the mirror to see body parts they can't see without it. And of course humans preen in front of mirrors as well as using it to apply makeup, shave, etc.

I am sure self awareness is a range not a line and mirror recognition is only one way of trying to measure it.

Could be the fact that the organism hasn't changed much, while the size and nature of connectivity of the tribe has. Would a swarm of bees a million times as large exhibit the same problem-solving ability as a standard swarm? Doubtful. And as you point out, a swarm of bees isn't sentient by our definitions. I'm extending that to swarms of humans.

I think this is the big factor.
Also, I think that this feature is going to be selected for in this next evolutionary event for our species.
The survivors are going to be acutely aware of their fellows moods and feelings etc.
Cooperation and empathy are going to be returning to vogue.

It is nothing short of stunning to me how absolutely clueless the worthless money mongers are about the seething anger that is brewing in the public domain.
That is the definition of lack of empathy.
This is a moment in history without a doubt.
I know one thing.......I am not going to have any empathy for them...................

For the thesis that groups cannot act sociologically in an empathic fashion, consider reading "Moral Man in an Immoral Society" by Reinhold Niebuhr.

My simplistic breakdown of it: the human brain is much more complex and interconnected than any organization can be, and thus the ultimate task of intelligence - morality - is reserved for the individual brain, as evolved.

The way toward the future is to abandon the machines.

It's been long enough, the failed machine experiment, perhaps we should run it until the entire planet is destroyed. It must all go; the machine narrative, the machine heroes, the machine politics (in all senses), the machine wars, the clockwork economies, the machine rationalizations, the machine seductions, the machine false promises, the machine demands, the triumph of machines over all, the machine 'riches', the machine lies, the trivial and wanton destruction for its own sake ... the ultimate human - machine rape/suicide pact. In the finite here and now, the choice that is offered by the machine is to drive or have a job. Guess what most are choosing?

Lewis Mumford: The Myth of the Machine
Vol 1
Technics and Human Development
Vol 2
Pentagon of Power

Derrick Jensen: Welcome to the Machine

why not lead us and give up your computer?


A machine is any device that uses energy to perform some activity.


* Advances in electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) have made possible the structural determination of large biological machines in the resolution range of 6–9 Å. Rice dwarf virus and the acrosomal bundle represent two distinct types of machines amenable to cryo-EM investigations at subnanometer resolutions. However, calculating the density map is only the first step, and much analysis remains to extract structural insights and the mechanism of action in these machines. This paper will review the computational and visualization methodologies necessary for analysis (structure mining) of the computed cryo-EM maps of these machines. These steps include component segmentation, averaging based on local symmetry among components, density connectivity trace, incorporation of bioinformatics analysis, and fitting of high-resolution component data, if available. The consequences of these analyses can not only identify accurately some of the secondary structure elements of the molecular components in machines but also suggest structural mechanisms related to their biological functions.

Oh well, I guess suicide may or may not be painless...

The way toward the future is to embrace the machines.

It's been long enough, the failed focus on human labour. As far as the systems which make our civilisation are concerned, humans are spectacularly inefficient machines. They must all go; the human narrative, the human heroes, the human politics (in all senses), the human wars, the irrational economies, the human rationalisations, the human seductions, the human false promises, the human demands, the triumph of people over all, the human 'riches', the human lies, the trivial and wanton destruction for its own sake ... the ultimate human - machine suicide/rape pact. In the finite here and now, the choice that is offered by the human world is to have a job or die. Guess what most have no choice in selecting?


You know, this way round makes much more sense. We know that the next step of human evolution is to cast off these non-evolving shells of meat and upload to the upgradable machine future. We also know that freed from the limitations of human dependencies it is much easier to shake off dependencies on fossil fuels, and even the surface of the earth, going out into space and away from the finite world.

We also know that population growth has historically been seen as a national net positive, whereas the future world runs on different rules. Maybe the fix everyone is looking for is not a replacement for oil, but a replacement for the meat body that needs so much effort to sustain it and move it physically about.

Hello Vinge.

humans are spectacularly inefficient machines.

Then please explain (in terms of physiology and biomechanics) how it is that your average human out on the African savannah is perfectly capable of running down a herd of antelope, barefoot, I might add.


It seems to me that there are two basic kinds of human cognition the kind that only allows one to see the trees and the kind that allows one to see the forest.

There are too many people who only see the trees and can't see the forest. We need to find a way
to change that because TPTB see a forest in which all the trees are theirs for the taking the rest of us be damned. They know how to manipulate the sheeple into submission for their and only their benefit. They are highly efficient machines that are hell bent on maintaining their own status and power.

Good luck sheeple! Hopefully your slaughter will be as painless as possible

One of the most fantastic things I ever saw on TV was a documentary where a (I guess 40 year old)bushman ran down and killed an antelope. The beast collapsed from exhaustion in front of him, he only had to finish it off.

Two legs are much more efficient than four over long distances.

And a heat regulating system that allows you to use every square inch of your body to cool itself is much more efficient than one that only allows such cooling through the tongue, again over longer distances.

I'd just say, all animals are air cooled. The Homo sapien build uses a very "cool" water cooling design. They move fast, but they stop. We can eventually catch up as long as they prey is in sight.

Humans hot, sweaty, natural-born runners

Thanks for the post and the good discussion. I have to say that the whole subject reminds me of one of the funniest things I have ever heard on NPR:


This is about someone who decided to test the idea that humans could outrun quadruped ungulates by trying to run down antelope in the American west. It had me in stitches--enjoy.

There is so much effort involved in maintaining the human machine because we have evolved that way. Whether or not we choose depends upon to what extent one believes in behavioralism.

In any event, if we chose to get rid of most of our machines, starting with the automobile and focused on psychic rewards not requiring massive amounts of energy and resource inputs, we could end up with less effort for ourselves and a more sustainable world.

Looking at some of the past tribal arrangements wherein the people lived in a relatively productive natural environment, very little effort was required to maintain what you call the meat body.

After getting rid of the auto, construct or fashion living arrangements where a minimum of movement was required to satisfy basic needs. Non muscle powered transport should be minimized by maximal planning and implementation of car free cities.

Third, downsize our housing structures to no more than 250 square feet per person. Well designed structures of that size can provide all our basic daily needs for living, cooking, entertaining, evacuation, and sleeping. Elegant small and tiny structures, whether houses or condominiums or apartments can lessen our need for effort and dramatically reduce our impact on the environment. It will also contribute to greater density which will spill over into optimizing the movement/transportation requirements.

Fourth, provide maximum incentives to reduce population including eliminating all tax and other incentives to produce. Base health care costs on number of persons per household, not the unfair single vs family paradigm.

Anyway, the whole machine paradigm has been well covered in the Dune series of books and did not turn out well.

Having said that, it is unlikely we will reverse our current catastrophic trajectory, resulting in mass extinction, including perhaps the human race. That will also solve the meat problem and might we just as well for whatever species, if any, might survive.

Perhaps even more important than getting rid of many machines is to stop thinking mechanistically. As Wendel Berry eloquently points out in "Life is a Miracle," even biologist have taken more and more to speaking of living creatures and communities in terms of machines, which allows us to think of these as not living and easily taken apart and put back together.

Few would argue that there is anything sacred about a machine, though we are filling our lives with them. Many would argue that the community of life on earth is sacred, yet we are destroying it with every second of continuing modern industrial global society.

Via taxation reduce all fossil fuel use at a linear rate to one-third the present level by 2020. Adaptation to a new environment is possible given time and necessity to adapt. Such a reduction will result in unimaginable hardship for the vast majority and the early death for many. However, without application of radical forced change, we will continue with BAU resulting in mass die-off.

Revenue derived from fossil fuel taxation should be strictly allocated to projects such as: 1) Energy efficiency, 2) Non fossil fuel energy generation such as hydro, nuclear, thermal solar, etc., 3) Improved rail and water transportation systems, and 4) Energy research. Domestic fossil fuel energy enterprises should be nationalized and export of domestic production eliminated unless some export is required to maintain long-term production capability.

Cascading feedback loops resulting from these actions will force adaptation in all dimensions of political/governance, economic, and social life. Forced reduction of fossil fuel use is the only lever to effect the necessary changes in the time we have remaining.

As we work through the resulting problems, attention to social unity must be at the very top. We are hard wired to be family/tribe focused. A week of comments on TOD demonstrates how issues such as politics, religion, race, education level, etc., lead to alienation and inhibit social cohesion. I must come to a realization that my enemy is BAU, not the Asian, democrat, atheist, university professor. He needs me and I need him. If we don’t force ourselves to unify there is far less hope for any of us.

It's time to deify the Eternal City of Humanity.

What is it?

Or rather Who ... for She is Civitas, the Human Community , who will be and be for centuries and millenia hence. She, in addition to all that She will be then, will encompass us as we are now. And She must be worshipped and served for She is greater than we, and is far far greater than the sum of us and all before us. Greater in the mysteries of Life and Non-Life. Greater in the science of Void and of Matter. Greater in thought, deed, and emotion. Greater in every way!

Thus in the service of Civitas we must constrain our buying and selling for She demands tribute and refuses to be impovished by heedlessness, waste, ruin and plunder of all that will sustain Her ever more. For She is a jealous God! Though all have value, be ye mindful that all value has value only relative to Her.

Make way for the Divine Queen!

[Maybe add free immodium for tea partiers? ed.]

Goal: Slow or eliminate population growth by methods other than a rising death rate.
--Accomplish what little can be done by proselytizing for birth control methods from abstinence to abortion. Problems resulting from differential birth rates mandate that this be accomplished throughout the world.



my goal is essentially the same as yours. I truly believe population is the heart of our problem.
I'd just add, not checking your links, educating women will be the cheapest way to accomplish this.

educating women will be the cheapest way to accomplish this

as well as the most practical and effective one, especially when viewed in comparison to any number of other dubious ideas. "Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population" by Connelly is recommended reading for anyone on the subject.

The one problem at the moment, I think, is the nature of the "race to the bottom" inherent in our energy situation. Education is a very easy thing to put aside when tshtf, and history demonstrates time and again how easy it is to begin a dark age, and how long it can take to emerge again.

An overlooked advantage of education is that it not only tends to reduce the number of children produced, it also tends to delay the age at which the couple has the first child.

The difference between a fifteen having their first child and a thirty year old is an entire extra generation. If birth can be postponed into the mid forties, two entire generations will be avoided.

Postponing first birth is also the only way to immediately reduce the population without some kind of die off.

Other incentives in this direction include giving women power over their lives, providing health care, provide realistic assurance that the aged will be provided for by society...

No, the easiest, cheapest way to reduce population is to sterilize all but a select few men.

Radomly chosen at birth by a lottery system to donate sperm to the masses upon reaching Puberty.

By artificial insemination, BTW.

Men, are the death of Humanity. Have always been, will always be.

"Men, are the death of Humanity. Have always been, will always be."

I'm not going to argue with that one, but I would point out that one fertile (and promiscuous) man in a tribe of 100 fertile women can sire over 100 new progeny per year; whereas one fertile women in a tribe of 100 fertile men can only bear one child a year, no matter how promiscuous she is.

This is one of the reasons that scholars (including feminist scholars) have suggested that many traditional societies practiced female infanticide as a way to keep their populations in check.

Typical male...Always blame the woman! HA!

Note that I pointed out that it was feminist scholars (Carol Clover is one name that jumps to mind, writing, in her case, about early Norse practices) that pointed out the probable utility of such a practice.

I am not blaming anyone, just pointing out the unfortunate facts of biology.

Since your proposal proscribes anything but artificial insemination, it pretty well gets around the problem I pointed out with one or a few promiscuous men impregnating large numbers of women.

Snipping all males is probably the fastest, cheapest and most humane way to stop population growth (it is a much easier procedure than tubal ligation, for example.) The fact that it is so infrequently mentioned on these fora surely does reflect the largely male population of posters.

Some males are bound to resist the procedure, however. Perhaps the most important cultural change needed is a redefinition of masculinity that is less focused on the machismo of virility.

Forced sterilization of both men and women was tried in many places in the 20th century, and failed everywhere it was tried. It was tried as a means of reducing the growth rates of targeted "undesirable" population groups (based on ethnicity, race, culture, and/or income), and there was no case where it worked.

The conversation does bring to mind an old sci-fi work "Consider Her Ways."


...yes, and if you look at any population management program for non-human species, for the most part males don't matter, its the females that you count. The population explosion in India under British rule, and the chronic utter misery that it resulted in, was largely blamed on the ending of the long Indian tradition of female infanticide.

Not that I imagine it would be a good idea at all now...Education for women has an equivalent effect, without the cruelty.

And that is reflected in hunting permits. Most permits are for males, much fewer are given for females. That way (presumably), a maximum sustainable harvest is produced.

Robert, I agree with you.

The most fundamental problem is human population overshoot of the planet's carrying capacity and the goal should be to reduce that population to about 3 billion by the end of the century in the most humane and peaceful manner possible.

Population overshoot is a symptom of the problem - a symptom that is often denied by those that take comfort in declining birth/fertility rates. I think it is insane that we should be satisfied with a projected human population of 9B in 2050 and then tapering off from there. Global human population is still growing at a rate that will not permit any kind of humane powerdown scenario - the current decline in growth rate is just not good enough.

The fundamental problem behind population growth is delusion. Delusion fed my myths from earlier times before basic science was understood. World religions embody this delusion and fuel the madness. Like Robert said - promote all birth control, fund all birth control, stop tax subsidies for children, join movements for separation of church and state. Stop saying "god bless America" and promote the idea that there is no god and America does not deserve any special blessing from mythical supernatural beings. Start thinking rationally about our future generations.

The fundamental problem behind population growth is delusion.

I think the fundamental problem behind population growth is the elimination of natural controls - predators or germs or food limits

I think the fundamental problem behind population growth is that once the elimination of natural controls happened, we still had the programs in our brains to replicate (desire to have sex, desire to leave offspring, desire to preserve our species). These programs are strong. Took years of selective breeding to get non broody hens. Cross non broody chickens with non broody chickens of another breed and broodyness starts popping up.

China's population is still increasing. We don't have time for education to solve the problem for us. Nature will therefore solve it by returning balance through natural controls.

Hi oxidatedgem,

Certainly you are correct in saying that nature could have kept our numbers lower with plague, famine, plus a compliment of Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptors. But, we did emerge as the top predator and we did manage to grow lots of food and kill lots of germs.

My contention is that our intelligence should easily allow for us to see the folly of exponential population growth and take corrective action - but, we defy all common sense and keep on breeding like your chickens. The delusion I'm suggesting is the apparent ingrained belief, held my most humans, that we are somehow "special" in the scheme of life and are not subject to the same rules of nature that govern chickens, rabbits and monkeys. The vast majority of the people on earth accept the idea of some kind of supernatural realm - usually with some kind of god in charge. Beliefs that are probably less likely than the idea that humanoids live on a moon of Jupiter. This type of delusion prevents the human mind from seeing the actual role of humans in the biosphere.

Those folks who post on TOD who want to find ways to feed more billions of people seem to accept that there is some inherent reason for humans to totally dominate the planet. Why would any sane person think that there is anything normal about 9 billion humans on the planet - about half of whom are cutting down all the trees, digging huge holes, polluting the air and water, etc.? A visitor from outer space would assume we were some kind of plague and probably start "spraying for humans".

We don't have time for education to solve the problem for us. Nature will therefore solve it by returning balance through natural controls.

You may be right, but I think this is still the big unknown. I would like to think that we can rise above our delusional condition and take rational action to squeak under the line before mother nature gives us a harsh spanking.

I would like to think that we can rise above our delusional condition and take rational action to squeak under the line before mother nature gives us a harsh spanking.

First, there has to be a "we". There will only be a "we" or "us" when "we" realize that "we" are all screwed.

I would say that moving beyond our delusions is the primary goal. We may well have already passed a number of tipping points that will make it impossible for even extreme measures (by BAU metrics) to avert absolute catastrophe.

But we can still have the kind of awakening that Oedipus had when he realized that he had killed his dad and f'd his mom--both of which we most assuredly, if metaphorically, have done as well.

This is in fact the only remotely realistic hope I have--not that we will be able to avert future complete and utter disaster, now probably physically impossible to avert--but that we will have what the Greeks called anagnorisis, something like the Zen idea of satori, but tinged with the tragedy of our predicament.

Short of such a widespread realization, not much was ever really possible anyway. And now, even with it, it will have to be its own "reward."

Hi Ghung,

I tend to agree with you. But, the thrust of my comment was directed at the reason so many of "we" can't seem to realize our predicament until we have to "step over bodies in the street". Even when most of us have the intellectual ability to easily analyze the situation and take appropriate action.

The more humans need to work collectivly for solutions the more fractured they've become. Ego/ideology trumps reason.

Hi Bicycle Dave - as I wrote this I realized I agreed with you, but I don't want to start over so I will let it play out as I wrote it.

You wrote My contention is that our intelligence should easily allow for us to see the folly of exponential population growth and take corrective action

That would seem to be true and should be true. We can certainly logically analyze the situation and figure out the folly of overpopulation. The problem is twofold

1. One is that it can be hard for people to see the large view in the near view of the child they want to pass on their family line. I don't think we have large view programs. If we did we would also not over exploit oil, pollute our water, build weapons that could destroy the whole planet, create dead zones at the mouth of our rivers, etc.

2. We have at least two different "I's" in us. One is the logical intelligent I and the other is the hidden I who makes most of the decisions

I remember in the wonderful days of the 60's when birth-control pills were getting highly accepted and used how many educated women wanted their career and assumed they would never give it up for passing on their genes. I remember also when these women were approaching 40 and suddenly they had to have children before their biological clock ran down.

Emotions rule us far more than logic. Antonio Damasio ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant%C3%B3nio_Dam%C3%A1sio ) describes a patient who had brain damage that limited most of his emotions. You might think this man would make better decisions without being hampered by emotion. Instead he could hardly even decide which date to choose for his next appointment.

The fact that better educated women have less children is a correlation. The causation might not be that they being educated can see that overpopulation is a problem. It might be that better educated women have a higher standard of living and therefore a higher expectation that if they have two children they will live to adult hood.

Evolution passes on programs for those conditions that have happened regularly in the past of any particular species. It does not pass on programs for hitting the jackpot which in the case of oil is a never before event. Humans no more knew how to deal with the power unleashed in oil than they know how to deal with winning the Ga lottery. Humans don't know how to deal with plentiful sugar, salt or fat because their program is for scarce sugar, salt and fat. Information, logic etc have helped very little in curbing the appetite for what was once necessary but scarce but now is plentiful.

I think it is not delusional thinking that we need to address but rather outdated programing. We can't install new brains, the best we can do is use the thinking logical brain to give a strong and persistent message to that old reptilian brain. But people with religious delusions are certainly not going to help with that, so in the end I agree with you - those who let delusions rule their lives are not helping and often hindering. And that religious group includes those who believe that technology is another magic performing god that can make the planet able to produce food for 2 or 3 billion more people.

Too bad for us. Since China with its 1 child policy is still increasing in population, I doubt that even having the whole world adopt that policy would stave off nature's harsh spanking.

Nope, it would need a policy of one child but only after you were at least 30 (or better--40+). This is the only policy goal (however achieved, ideally by education, incentives...) that could conceivably start reducing population in the very short term without "encouraging" death or totally banning reproduction to some portion of the population, generally considered too large of an infringement on human rights.

Think about it--if immediately and successfully implemented, there would be very few women at or approaching 30 (or 40 if you could set it that high) who had not already had a child that would plan to have one. It would take over a decade for the "bulge" of world 15 year olds to reach that age, and by that time we would have had a chance to educate them and perhaps convince them to forgo childbearing altogether. And of course many would have died or become infertile in the meantime, or would have decided on their own not to have kids.

Those that did have kids would be much more mature and would likely value education highly themselves and would pass that off to their offspring insuring further distant spacing of generations.

Having two generations on earth rather than three or four would obviously greatly reduce the total number of people on earth for both the short and the long term.

Of course consumption is as big a problem as population and should be the first priority of those wealthy enough to have a computer and be on this forum.

As Drifter has pointed out,getting snipped is something that all the males on the forum can do immediately to insure they do not (inadvertently or not) become a future source of the problem.

Nope, it would need a policy of one child but only after you were at least 30 (or better--40+).

I know its quibbling (since no-one is going to implement these plans), but there are health issues for both mother and child that come with late childbirth. The chances of several types of defects increase with maternal age. I recently read that this might be the explanation for the rise in autism as well. If we can get the fertility level down to or below replacement levels, then the average time span of a generation only effects the population transient, which is caused by the changed fertility level.

Yes, this can be a factor, but only one, and far from the most important one.

Moving people to mostly vegan organic diets and reducing the number of toxins in the environment will do much more to reduce such problems. We had our kid in our late thirties and have had no problems.

I would suggest that on going population explosion (together with overconsumption) poses a far greater threat to our future than a few potential additional problems from late births.

But of course you are right that no such policy goals will be put in place. The good news it that the world is moving toward later birth ages. The bad news is that the movement is very slow.

Hi oxidatedgem,

Good thoughts.

Humans don't know how to deal with plentiful sugar, salt or fat because their program is for scarce sugar, salt and fat.

I resemble that remark! Too bad this was not made clear to me way back in grade school. Also, my work career was mostly as a computer software developer - can't help but to envision the code we could (magically) upload to our brains to correct this "feature".

includes those who believe that technology is another magic performing god

If we were at all sane, we would jail anyone who deliberately uses the MSM to put forth disinformation about energy supply, pollution and the like. Just the other day, a college educated person (in response to some of my muttering about PO) dismissed any concerns that our generation's actions would adversely affect future generations: "we solved the problems of our times, and these kids are even smarter - I'm sure they can solve any problems that pop up in their times".

China with its 1 child policy is still increasing in population

According to http://chartsbin.com/view/xr6 the growth rate of China is .66% versus the US rate of .98%. I give them credit for actually having some kind of national policy for addressing the issue - the US has no official policy at all. I understood that the Chinese (at one of GW conferences) claimed to have avoided the births of 300 million since they started their program - this is almost the size of the US population.

Russia and much of the former Soviet Union have negative growth rates. Finland and Sweden are approaching zero, but most other countries are helping the global growth rate of 1.17% move us along to that 9 or 10 billion number in the mid to latter half of this century. It drives me nuts when people quote birth/fertility rates as proof of decreasing population. If a low birth rate country encourages immigration (legal or otherwise) to do manual labor then the end result is the same as if they had more children. All that really counts is growth rate and the global growth rate is still marching us to population disaster (IMHO).

Here's a good short story that Salon posted online a few years back about uploading software patches to our brains...

Bicycle dave, what do we do with people who think as you quoted "we solved the problems of our times, and these kids are even smarter - I'm sure they can solve any problems that pop up in their times". I guess deep sigh is about it. Had a story from a friend about a son-in-law who is immensely bright. He planned a home birth for his wife after studying how to be a helper and the dangers of hospital birth. When the baby came they had no diapers or clothes for the baby.

I think perhaps what we call smarts this day is isolated knowledge that doesn't connect to the greater whole and thus leads to more and more disastrous problems being created until we run out of solutions. Whatever one may think of Lovelock these days the image of Gaia is useful if for no other reason than to realize that the world is a whole and pulling or pushing on one place has effects somewhere else.So many solutions that people propose are never viewed as part of the whole. And viewing the whole is not something we can do well even with the best of computer assisted models.

oxidatedgem - I can only add that people who do not understand the fundamental symptoms and causes of the problem have a very low probability of implementing effective solutions.

Reducing population in itself does not solve the problem. If the 3 billion embrace an energy intensive American way of living, then global warming will accelerate. And economic growth can continue to chew up fossil fuels despite population decline.

Most of the world's population is not consuming large amounts of fossil fuels. So reducing the world's population is not a silver bullet.

Good point. Reduction of the billion highest-level consumers would do more than reduction six billion lowest-level consumers.

Most who preach population control (though I'm not accusing anyone on this enlightened forum of such a position) seem to be

of some means
from the developed world

who are eager, even desperate, to blame the world's woes on

of few means
from the undeveloped world.

There is something suspicious about people obsessed with pinning the core problem of the world on those who are their polar opposite.

Remember that the problem is population x consumption, and it is the second part of that formula that most on this forum are most guilty of.

Really, if we were to pick the least harmful human cultures over time, we would look to the Koi-San (so called Bushman) and the Mbuti and related so called Pygmy peoples. These seem to have remained in or near their original habitats, and so have not become the invasive exotic species that humans are in most of the rest of the world.

Of course, it is modern Western industrial culture and its ideology of limitless growth that has done the most damage, both in the west and wherever else it has taken hold, most recently and devastatingly in Chindia.

Good point. Reduction of the billion highest-level consumers would do more than reduction six billion lowest-level consumers.

True..., but some of these third world people want to live like Americans (Chinese and Indians)....

Most who preach population control (though I'm not accusing anyone on this enlightened forum of such a position) seem to be

of some means
from the developed world

who are eager, even desperate, to blame the world's woes on

of few means
from the undeveloped world.

I'm Hispanic and I believe over population and overconsumption are at the heart of our depletion problems.

Really, if we were to pick the least harmful human cultures over time, we would look to the Koi-San (so called Bushman) and the Mbuti and related so called Pygmy peoples. These seem to have remained in or near their original habitats, and so have not become the invasive exotic species that humans are in most of the rest of the world.

Why would anyone complain about hunter-gatherers?
There's a big difference between the Mbuti and say Easter Island or Haiti, which would have been in a desperate situation before the earthquake without outside help.

"I'm Hispanic"

Note that I specifically exempted the universally enlightened posters on this thread from my generalization. On the other hand, altering one of the five elements of identity doesn't go very far to alter the degree of otherness I am pointing out.

"Why would anyone complain about hunter-gatherers?"

Perhaps no one is openly complaining about them, but they are under threat pretty much everywhere they exist.

The "hunted-gatherers" seems a better name these days.

...and turning a debate on how to address our population problem (which lies at the core of virtually every other problem we have) into a useless "rich vs poor" or "west vs east" or "one race vs other races" is one of the old traditions of the 20th century. There was a time when the representatives of 3 billion people sat around the table at the United Nations and completely failed to agree on anything on population, in spite of great concern for the future, because of such side-issues.

All the various efforts point to one only that worked - education for women. Perhaps in a society of educated women one of the first differences would be that we don't have rich vs poor or one race or culture vs another race or culture - type fights for global dominance via baby production.

Hi dohboi,

Remember that the problem is population x consumption, and it is the second part of that formula that most on this forum are most guilty of.

Lets say you are right. Does this imply that we should use guilt as a reason to be silent on the issue? My contention is that the high consumming faction of the world population are the ones who really need to get this message and take action at home. In the US, for example, should change the tax code to discourage having more children - and by some means that does not discriminate against poor folks. We should do everything to get the religious fundamentalist out of government. There are many such actions we could take - but that is a post for another day.

ideology of limitless growth

Again, I ask the question of how seemingly intelligent people can hold such an ideology - and what is the best way to make a dent in it? I know, it is probably to late - but, I think we should try.

"I ask the question of how seemingly intelligent people can hold such an ideology - and what is the best way to make a dent in it?"

Again, to rephrase the Shakespeare quote: First kill all the economists.

I might add to start with the professors of neoclassical economics.

Really, we have made propaganda toward this insanely destructive ideology part of the curriculum in nearly every college and university in the world. We have to stop that immediately and start teaching the opposite, the fact that we live in a naturally abundant world, but a world with real limits, a world with a natural economy (or ecology) withing the artificial human economy must function without destroying or severely damaging the larger system.

And of course the construction of homo-economicus as hyper-individualized self aggrandizers also has to go.

As to guilt, note that I said nothing about it either way. Only that we should always examine our own hidden motives when we approach a major problem. And focusing on population at home is exactly the right place to start if one is going to approach this issue at all. If you aren't comfortable talking to your own neighbors about their plans for reproduction, what business do you have even thinking about how people from other countries with radically different histories and world views might make the most intimate and important decisions in their lives.


If you aren't comfortable talking to your own neighbors about their plans for reproduction, what business do you have even thinking about how people from other countries

I'm always advocating Population Connection, Planned Parenthood, adoption, vasectomy, and the like. Hmm... if this is an uncomfortable topic I wonder that's why I don't get invited to more parties?

First kill all the economists.... start with the professors of neoclassical economics

I suspect this is a very big problem - the whole issue of "common good" and common property like air and water is seldom mentioned (unless this has changed very recently). Perhaps you and I should be in charge of deciding what text books can be used in econ 101 :-) Starting with "Bottleneck" and "Plan C" might be a good idea.

Aha, another 'Plan C' enthusiast?

By the way, I didn't mean you you in the above quote I sited; I meant the general 'you', as in 'one'; I just find use of the generic 'one' to sound pedantic so I avoid it.

Too bad about the parties. I'm thinking that population control zealots aren't going to be invited to a lot of sex orgies, either. More's the pity.

Hi Roderick,

Reducing population in itself does not solve the problem.

I just knew this was going to happen.

Nate said:

I'd ask that Oil Drum Campfire readers submit one sentence on what goal/objective they think is worthwhile pursuing followed by one paragraph (<300 words) on how to get there from here.

Certainly, population reduction by itself is not a silver bullet and certainly the issue of consumption disparity is extremely important. However, it seems to me that creating babies is the first step in triggering a chain of consumption events - especially in western countries. I would like to see the US be a leader in taking measures to address its own population issues.

It seems to me that the same dynamics that prevent us from understanding the population problem are the same ones that prevent us from understanding the growth and consumption issues.

My original post to this comment got eaten somewhere. Sorry if this turns up twice.

FWIW: I have posted an essay on my blog that addresses the moral dimensions of the population problem, titled: "The Hardest Moral Dilemma of All". This is not a proposal for a solution, merely a look at the moral issues involved between doing nothing (and letting nature solve the problem) and doing something sufficiently massive to make a difference (not involving killing anyone). No easy matter.

Question Everything

Of course, "doing nothing" implies that BAU is not doing anything.

But of course BAU involves doing enormous amounts very vigorously.

Really and truly "doing nothing"--not using ff, not jetting or motoring around the world, not eating or drinking any more than the minimum (or less), not procreating...--this kind of 'doing nothing' if universally employed, would in fact be a solution to most of the problems humans have posed to the rest of creation.

Almost all of our actions, no matter how well intentioned, end up causing harm. Non-action is so strongly condemned in our culture, that it is not generally considered as a serious approach.


The doing nothing refers to doing noting in the way of population control, not BAU.

Thanks for the clarification. I was more directing the comment at all those who say that "we can't do anything" about this or that, when just by living our high-consuming lifestyle, we are all doing something quite profound and damaging.

Two problems best kept separate: population control and excess consumption. The best means to address population control is education for women, while the best way to address excess consumption is simple economics and lifestyle change. You wind up going down some ugly and non-productive roads if you try to address both with some kind of theory linking the urgency of control to individual's resource consumption.

I'm not quite sure what you are getting at with that last ominous but opaque comment.

If I were to guess, I suppose you would mean some program to start culling the population of the world starting with those who consume the most. Note that I have not suggested any such thing, but is this the ugliness to which you refer (sometimes boiled down to the catchy slogan "eat the rich")?

I don't mean to be opaque, just ineffective brevity. There have been no shortage of wars and atrocities based on resource inequities and the striving of one group to get the upper hand over another. Population "policies" often seem benign, but can be worse in effect than war. Go back to the British in India, they ended the practice of female infanticide, leaving all other things the same, and were quickly shocked by the subsequent growth rate, particularly among the poor and "undesirables". As one consequence, under their governance they allowed the medical care system to deteriorate, and regular epidemics carried away millions of the poor and undesirable..not as fast as the were replaced, however. With a sickly and increasingly poor and increasingly young populace, the next step was forced sterilization, targeting again the poor and undesirables. That didn't work either, in spite of the aggressive manner of its implementation.

In the US we had no domestic population policy, but were also distraught by the ever-expanding numbers of the poor and "inferior" overseas. We spent billions funding sterilization programs around the world, very often with the perspectives of eugenics at their core. They didn't work either, and the ugliness of a program like that comes in when it is failing, and imagines that failure just means you have to try harder.

If you want an example of the opposite, look at the French Revolution, when the wealthy were marched to the guillotine in large numbers, before cheering crowds who imagined they were forging the way to a better and more equitable world by severing all those necks. Its possible to hear echoes of that in populist-type rants these days.

In any case, we have only one good proven method toward population problems, and that is the education of women. That has a proven effect, independent of income, cultural or religious perspectives, industrialization, etc, so there's no need to complicate a simple solution.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

The stone age was the only way humans have or ever will inhabit this planet sustainably and for better or worse our ancestors practiced it successfully for millions of years.

The expoitation of fossil fuels and other mineral resources has allowed our species to overshoot the carrying capacity of this planet many fold. If we wish to persist as a viable species we must begin the process of training people on primitive living skills and protect all remaining wild lands and habitat. A political revolution would be necessary to shift away from the suicidal growth economy to a more benign socialistic model that allocates essential resources while reducing resouce consumption on the order of 90%. See www.warsocialism.com. Obviously births would need to be rationed as well.

If you train people in primitive living the first thing they are going to do is go and spoil your remaining protected wild lands because they now know how to exploit it.

Primitive people have only ruined their environment when the situation becomes unbalanced - such as arriving with a few tools in an environment that has never had humans before. After unbalancing the environment newly settled in Australia, the aboriginals created a new balance that lasted until new humans with new tools arrived.

You don't have to train people in primitive living, just let the few hunter-gatherer tribes that are still around have the planet. The idea that civilized man could train some people to live primitively is laughable. We don't have a clue. It is something you learn from your tribe as you grow up, not something we can figure out. The knowledge base needed is huge and built up over hundreds of thousands of years. We civilized humans don't even know what we need to know.

Meanwhile civilized man is destroying the Amazon at a prodigious rate and pushing out the hunter-gatherers that didn't destroy it for 10,000 years or more.

"You don't have to train people in primitive living, just let the few hunter-gatherer tribes that are still around have the planet."

Nicely put. Those interested in helping to preserve some of these fast-disappearing cultures might consider joining "Cultural Survival."


Minimizing the vast extent of our damage and coming to some understanding in our role in the destruction of creation seems to be the most that the civilized world can do. Anything beyond that is almost certain to make things worse, as we would continue to act out the various cultural pathologies that are deeply ingrained in our psyches.

Thanks dohboi, for the link and your comments. Too long we of the "civilized" world have looked down on some pretty incredible people with skills we all may soon wish we had.

You and others might find this movie of interest. Although the Bakhtiari tribe were not hunter-gatherers they were the next step up, migrant herders. The film is available on Netflix, probably other services carry it as well. What these people manage in order to make their seasonal migration is as an incredible feat as I could imagine.

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925) is a silent documentary film which follows a branch of the Bakhtiari tribe of Persia (today Iran) as they and their herds make their seasonal journey to better pastures. It is considered one of the earliest ethnographic documentary films. It was written by Richard Carver and Terry Ramsaye.

Thanks for the film recommendation. I'm wondering if the Bakhtiari or their name at least is some how related to another Iranian tribe, the Bactrians of camel fame. I can't find anything on either ones wiki site connecting them, and the former seem to be a southern, the later a northern Iranian tribe. Curious.

I don't remember any camels in the movie - horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, probably chickens - the scene of them crossing a large flowing river was incredible - the tribe was about 50,000 strong (probably they live in smaller units and just flow together for the migration) and the livestock must have been 5 times that much or more.

I think the people who went to film used camels to get there.

Just found that google video has it online - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5237243314188407757#docid=-21067...

If you just want to watch the river crossing forward to about 37 minutes. Not very good quality online but you will get the idea. One of the first things they do is blow up goat skins to tie together to make floating rafts. Since it is a silent movie you have to put up with printed comments in the vein of the early silent movies. But the pictures are all actual, no one is acting. AT minute 48 there i s a scene of men floating on inflated goat skins "shepherding" the sheep across.

Learn to live with less and enjoy it more.

For the past half century we have been on a consumption treadmill baited by the promise of happiness. We have come to accept the false promise that if we acquire/use more in the way of material wealth we will achieve satisfaction, status and security. Somehow, however, the carrot always seems just out of reach no matter how fast we run or how much we spend. The carrot is in fact an illusion. Happiness is not a thing or a place, it is a process. "Finding happiness" implies that it is either lost or hidden. It is neither. It is all around us. It does not take material wealth to be happy. Indeed, obsession with conventional wealth and excessive possessions often obscure the obvious; happiness is free. All you really have to do is stop chasing it and simply accept it. A good friend once gave my wife and I a blessing that I share with you; may you always have enough. That is really all you need.

Nicely put. Some guides in this direction that I have found useful are:



For the past half century we have been on a consumption treadmill baited by the promise of happiness.

Well put. My only change would be to say for the past 10,000 years as the start of it was IMO the beginning of agriculture. That said the past half century has ramped the treadmill up exponentially.

see "The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race" (ie agriculture)
by Jared Diamond, Prof. UCLA School of Medicine

Become one with nature.

Always back a winner! Is there any doubt Gaia will be the winner? The odds are about four billion to four score in Gaia‘s favor. When you understand the reflection of the moon is not moon you are well on your way. And ’chair’ is not the thing you are sitting on. The past is but a memory and the future does not exist so the only reality for each of us is ‘here’ and ‘now’. With that completely in focus, it is really simple but I don’t need to tell you that, you are already one with nature and you would understand that if you ever wake up. IMHO Gaia doesn’t care so why should I? As Greer would say, in three hundred years it will be different than now.

Goal: Promote better relations after currency change (and debt unwinds).

Approach: Churches start teaching what "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," really means.

Reasoning: If people, businesses, and governments are to live peacefully after losing what most feel is rightfully theirs, there needs to be some way of calming bad feelings, without the losers in the debt unwinds attempting retribution or war to take back assets corresponding to those lost.

I have heard that there is a movement among some faithful for a universal jubilee-- forgiveness of all debts, a kind of start over that was once a regular part of ancient economies.


If anyone has a link about the current movement, I would appreciate it.

My own first step might be a variation of the old Shakespearean quote--

First, kill all the economist (especially those of the neo-classical persuasion).

(Though perhaps we can spare an occasional actuary or two!)

Not a very promising start with Iceland and the UK.

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling used anti-terrorism rules to take control of assets held in Britain by a troubled Icelandic bank.

The UK request is for the rest of the debt to be paid back with 5% interest, even if Iceland goes bankrupt in the process.

"A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: "As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think." Campbell

"There is no place in this new kind of physics both for the field and matter, for the field is the only reality." Einstein. When we create duality in our thought and lives we have created opposition. To separate ourselves from the whole is to cut our options and erect the walls of our own prison. The goal is to evolve to that place where the energy that had been projected outward to correct the world is turned around to correct oneself---to get on our own track and to dance, in balance, between the worlds " An old Apache storyteller reminds us, "the plants,rocks, fire, water, all are alive. They watch us and see our needs. They see when we have nothing to protect us, and it is then that they reveal themselves and speak to us." Campbell

I cannot accept that it was all for naught, that invention evolved.

But evolution sometimes works in fits and starts. Sometimes cataclysmic dyings cleanse the old to make room for the new. Though I have developed strong reasons to believe that the current species of Homo, our species, the one we arrogantly call sapiens, is now about to become part of that episodic cleansing, I also have reason to hope that the genus will manage to survive, in a new form. There is no way to know or predict what the selective forces of a new world, one resulting in large measure from our own follies, will produce from this raw material. But I can also hope that the spark of cleverness, the ability to invent, guided more strongly by true sapience will persist and learn to invent in much wiser ways.

Question Everything

Goal (given the constraints you laid out Nate): Keep the current system going as long as possible.

Plan: Natural gas rig count is 50% of what it was a year ago and production is flat! Yes debt is a real problem but the amount of natty we have will get us out of this economic slump and propel us into a new boom phase for the coming 15-20 years. We need to open all stops on drilling for NG and create legislation to transform vehicular transportation using NG. Stop the government Monty Hall campaign and get people off the dole and back to work. Growing and using our resources is the best way to alleviate poverty and some of these other social woes. For those that worry about environmental impact, get the prices right and hard working people like me will respond. Sorry, but focusing on coming 10-20 years is all we can do and all we will do.

Ack - how can anyone read this site and still maintain that growth is the solution to our energy problems, poverty, social issues, or anything at all? For goodness sakes, if you don't get the problem with that, have a listen to good old Dr. Bartlett: http://globalpublicmedia.com/transcripts/645

Although I have come across many human population mitigation possibilities, including the more outlandish ones like gassing the entire world population to make a given percentage sterile, in truth I cant see any being implimented effectively now or in the future. In fact any half hearted mitigation attempts probably only make our environmental problems worse in the long run.

Maybe growing the economy as fast as we can until it crashes and then letting nature take its course is the only viable option? That seems to be the way we are heading anyway.

Go forth, buy crap and save some environment services and biodiversity for the survivors of the die-off.

BAU is dead! Long live BAU!

Sounds like you have a classic case of "can't see the forest for the trees"! It's obvious that you really don't get it! But don't feel bad neither do the vast majority of people out there.

I would agree that his approach seems quite distasteful. On the other hand, I have quite thoughtful friends and acquaintances that ponder that any attempts to move toward sustainability are likely to fall far short of true sustainability and are only going to help prolong our geocidal society leading to even more complete long term destruction.

I personally can't bring myself to embrace this level of total despair, but I can't completely reject it as a thoughtful position that attempts to take in the full enormity of our predicament.

Continue teaching that how the world occurs to us in our power as expressed in language.

The most powerful way to create collaboration — and it is only through collaboration that anything significant will be achieved — that I've seen is to have people recognize that the meaning they bring to their perception of the world is entirely made up in language and is in their power. The world has no inherent meaning. It means nothing until there is a human there to assign meaning. The pain, the struggle, the suffering (as well as the joy and fulfillment) are a function of the words we use. We are trapped by words and don't know it. "They" are not evil. "They" are not righteous. "They" are, actually, a bunch of molecules moving — and that's it.

Language is the house of the truth of Being.
Martin Heidegger

Alter the words and the being follows. We call ourselves human beings but we are, so far, not very good at managing our being because we haven't all learned that the access to being (for humans) is language.

great thought. But, Frank Luntz and Carl Rove have been working on this language stuff for a long time. Must be working, we got Palin and the Tea Party.

"Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning." When we talk about settling the world's problems, we're barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It's a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives." campbell

Given that we were already in the sixth mass extinction event in the history of complex life before the impact of global warming started up, which will usher in an even greater extinction event on top of the one already started by modern industrial culture, we could see the advent of human language as the equivalent of two asteroids that (probably) wiped out the dinosaurs.

Coming to an understanding of the nature of this most powerful force ever to hit the planet is, I would opine, the most important task before us. Of course, its very understanding must be mediated through language itself, which suggests just how complex and convoluted the task before us is.

Agreed...for humans, language is a force powerful almost beyond measure. Language has the power to start wars (and end them) and evoke any emotion one could want. Words aren't just a tool, they equally run us.

We are just children when it comes to broadly understanding how conversations (i.e. strings of words) are patterns that create our future.

Right, but it is not just a power that has its effect on humans. My point is that other species have suffered dramatic declines at the hands of the first species to have complex language (though I remain agnostic on how complex say dolphin signaling may be--perhaps greenish can help us here).

Language, and particularly the ideologies it has generated in the last couple of hundred years, is devastating the living and many of the non-living systems of the planet more than any force since complex life evolved. I see no hope left, no matter what. But any major action we take is almost sure to be counterproductive until we understand better the nature of the awful and awesome force.

though I remain agnostic on how complex say dolphin signaling may be--perhaps greenish can help us here

Well, if you don't mind a non-peer-reviewed opinion, I'd guess that dolphin "thinking" is every bit as complex as human. Dolphin signaling/language is still not well understood, but it is unlike ours. Human language is mostly linear-syntactic, which has facilitated exosomatic information storage across generations and enabled certain sorts of information to be additive; stored by one person and accessed by different persons. Dolphins communicate in their primary perceptual modality - sound - and almost certainly use the huge processing power of their sound-processing lobes to encode and decode sound bursts and clues which someone without a dolphin brain could never crack the code for.

It might well be more difficult for dolphins to come up with circular reasoning, or "narratives" like humans tend to rely on, either useful or spurious.

Are humans smarter than dolphins? Well, how many people know how a microwave oven works? Or could fix one, much less build one from scratch. We have learned to organize our work in ways that only require us to push a button to get a magic effect. Dolphins are capable of pushing the same buttons: they will spontaneously learn to play video games or use telephones. They will just never manufacture any, and this is no great lack for them since they would be precluded by physical reality from using fire, creating most of the tech materials humans use, or becoming agriculturists. And it has worked quite well for them: their only real problem is humans.

I'd agree that human linear-syntactic language is a big part of the world's problem; not only due to its facilitation of exosomatic information storage and organization to give us abilities beyond our wisdom, but because we tend to "think" in this sort of language. Doing so opens up all sorts of opportunities for fallacy, rationalization and delusion.

And that's what we have to work with....

Thanks for the insight. I'm filing it away for further cogitation, which I'm sure will be subject to all sorts of fallacy, rationalization, delusion...

Greenish, your last paragraph on language nicely summarizes the thrust of Catton's discussion in his latest book, Bottleneck.

And while I'm here, I'll note that his earlier book, Overshoot, is one of the three primary sources I point folks to in order to grok the human predicament. The other two being Al Bartlett's talk on Exponential Growth, (also on YouTube and many other places) and the documentary, What a Way to Go.

Greenish, your last paragraph on language nicely summarizes the thrust of Catton's discussion in his latest book, Bottleneck.

Really? Interesting, as usual I'm just typing what comes to mind at the time. I plan to read his new one as soon as the hawaii library system gets it. He and Heinberg do seem to have a talent for choosing the same titles I have on my own drafts. Overshoot was a good read, and I'd second your other recommendations.

I like the images.

One goal would be (re-) build the local community relationships (social, economic, political) while acknowledging (paying debts, forgiveness where possible, adjusting lifestyles,) current constraints and conditions to start a conversation with "Where do we go from here?".

I don't think it is possible to create a solution. There is no magic bullet or ten that Moses or his modern day equivalent shall descend with and announce to the masses. Rather (with luck), there will be hundreds, thousands, millions of individual solutions, 1/2 solutions, partial solutions that will get us a little further down the path without just kicking the can (of problems) down the road for someone else to solve. Once most people acknowledge the extent of the predicaments we are facing, and after we all change our underwear, then we can begin to work our way through them. What works for me in my town may not work for you in you town, there are all these idiosynchric histories that come in to play and must be dealt with by the people involved. When a group of people wherever, are all in agreement that we are all in this together, then ways will be found. If that does not occur, (and scale up eventually) to regions and larger political units and economic units, then it ain't gonna happen and the doomers will be able to say I told you so as they extinguish the last light of this go round.

How do you climb a mountain? Start walking, one step at time.
For me, if we can rebuild a sense of Gemeinschaft, that is the first hard challenge we must succeed at.
This won't help but I am not going to try and resist, but if we can retire a few boomer generation politicians (left and right) at all levels of gov't, I think that will help.


Quality from quantity. Seize control of our genes.
Impermanence and eternity.

We, and certainly not I, are not perfect.
We will never be.

Instead of allowing evolution to be a random walk, we must define the purpose of humanity.
Quality is real and independent of the Observer or the observed.
(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Persig)

Our purpose is to extend the life of Gaia as the Goldilocks Zone moves outward due to the sun's warming.

We are now flirting with it's inner edge.

My girlfriend is currently hand stitching an image of Buhdda which has already taken her a month and she probably has another two before she is finnished. I have been threatening her with a lesson in impermanence by burning the thing in front of her the day its completed :)

Grautr, that is very funny. But you probably shouldn't make good on your threat as you, too, might get a lesson in the transitory nature of all things.

Hey guys, remember me? the one who said oil was in a giant bubble and nobody believed me? oil went from $150 to $30 I think my best work was right here where mr simmons just about rang the bell on the oil bubble.


peak what?

what happened to the natural gas cliff? remember south africa was going to be a disaster? I remember someone said there was going to be a civile war remember when the south was going to run out of gasoline? remember when atlanta was going to have no water? what happened to permanent blackouts?

in the face of peak oil I am an optimist of course. every day I see new developments in the clean energy field. we will get through "this" if there is even a "this."

I like this development:

Google develops prototype mirror for solar energy

wal-mart improved their fleet efficiency by 35% which better their goal of 25% AND saved them $200 million. it's almost like kunstler doesn't know what he is talking about. he is a huge critic of wal-mart and he called google a bunch of children.

Wal-Mart to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2015

we will adapt.

From Google's and Wal-Mart's actions we can say that they perceive a problem.
And more power to them.

Zimbabwe happens to be ahead of the curve.

BULAWAYO - About 50% of children and teenagers admitted to hospitals in
Zimbabwe are HIV positive, results of a research by a British institution
have revealed. The study whose results were released recently was conducted
by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) last month,
Sally Hall, the media manager of the LSHTM told Standardhealth.


Like the Kid on the skateboard said, "Everything seems fine-so far"

Plan A is to be the last man standing as peak resource extraction stalls growth and debt unwind takes out all of the countries weaker than yourself first. In preparation, borrow as much money as possible from your competitors knowing you will default and they will hurt most. Use your reserve currency status and control of the largest financial institutions to pull forward phantom future wealth. Use the money to build the world's strongest military with bases near the world's remaining oil reserves, and to keep your citizens just happy enough not to threaten your power. When the unwind occurs, scoop up the resulting deflated resources with force or cash to breath new life into your domestic economy.

If plan A fails, have plan B ready to launch a massive nuclear attack on the most heavily populated consumers of the natural resources you need.

Divert everyone's attention from the real plan with a war on terror, a war on drugs, mock fights between members of the same but differently named political parties, and with promises of great health care and green jobs. Don't worry about climate change because your models tell you the unwind will solve the CO2 emmision problem and because your own geography will be least impacted.

LOL. Very well written and so unfortunately true.

Here is what I would do...

All plans must start with reducing the political influence of big money and corporations, perhaps by banning campaign contributions and professional lobbying.

No meaningful peaceful change to the status quo can happen without this first step.

The next steps would be to clearly explain our predicament, to cut the military budget by 50%, and to heavily tax all fossil fuels. Money not spent on the military would be used to stabilize the existing system through deficit reduction. New funds collected from fossil fuel taxes would be dedicated to practical EROI research, and to the infrastructure and re-training required for a peaceful descent. I would also have my economists study no growth models such as a reduced work week so I had some viable policy options in my back pocket should social unrest so require them.

More.. More .. Gi'me more.

Corporations are not people.
They must be "de-personified" legally.
They must have no say in the political process.
We have a separation of Church and State.
Why not a separation of Money and State?
(That seems as silly as a the separation of Church and State to a Medieval mind)
Is Money not another illusionary religion?

A Carbon extraction tax.
All revenues to be raised by taxing Carbon at it's point of extraction.
Think.. No more income tax, no sales tax, no importation duties..
Your money is your own to spend as you wish.

All revenues to be raised by taxing Carbon at it's point of extraction.

Very interesting idea. Have you looked at the numbers in any depth to understand the implications?

Sorry, my calculus is not up to the task.
But it would work by forcing the tax burden up the consumer chain to the end user of the Carbon.
Who burns the carbon pays the taxes.
Not many many people would escape paying taxes. Therefor this idea would not find favor among the rich, who don't like paying taxes.

It would be popular among the working poor, as they could minimize their tax burden as effectively as the rich.

Does a rich man who has 1000x the income of a poor man produce 1000x the carbon? This plan would screw the little guy, methinks.

But it at least addresses the other, largely ignored side of the problem--production.

We have to stop UN-sequestering carbon that has been safely sequestered away from the atmosphere for millions of years.

Obviously, if we extract it, it will be burned. So stop bloody extracting it, for X's sake!

I would go beyond a tax to a ban on all future extractions--first of coal, then oil, and finally of natural gas. The US could enforce this with threat of nuclear strike for any violators.

A general strike by all workers in the ff extraction and processing industries could do the same thing, especially a strike by those with high levels of technical knowledge that would be hard to replace. An accompanying strike by all those who equipped to train the next cohort of such workers would probably be needed. But these are exactly the parts of the intelligentsia most in denial of what should be the undeniable fact of AGW.

(And, by the way, I think this very thing is the main source of their denial--the fact that it would put them under enormous pressure to sacrifice the most for all of the rest of our sorry *sses.)

Thats why you need tax & dividend.

Unfortunately I have to agree with that. Besides enery in toto is currently a much smaller piece of the economic pie than government spending, so it would take a punitively high carbon tax to raise that sort of revenue. Now I beleive we can start by shifting some portion of the tax burden from income to resource consumption. But with anything approaching government business as usual (GBAU), the numbers won't work for a complete tax switch.

but how are you going to divorce politics and finance when they are so clearly joined at the hip? If you got that problem solved then the rest would be easy.

The State and Church were separated into two boxes.

In a like manner;
We separate what is left over into 3 boxes, with Economics and Legislature separated by the People.

The Economic sector is forbidden to communicate directly with the Legislature.
The legislature passes laws that effect the Economy.
The People are effected by the economy and they Vote which closes the control loop.
That would work.

If the People liked the effect on the economy of a Law then they would express their opinion at the ballot.

Radical reconstruction of the U.S. transportation order is the best policy we can pursue and promote.

The cars-first transportation arrangement of the United States (which China is now rapidly copying) will make or break the species in this make-it-or-break-it century. If we permit the powers-that-be to continue to preserve it, even with a large infusion of so-called "green cars," we are doomed, thanks to cars-first's stupendous and stupendously wasteful energy requirements, its deep ties to military conflict in our heavily armed world, and probably also its greenhouse emissions effects. If we could mount a serious and adequate program for transcending cars-first transportation through planned urban and inter-urban reconstruction, it would not only provide a way to create millions of new public- and private-sector jobs, thus unifying a potentially very large coalition, but doing so would provide a practical, readily-understandable way for us to bring sustainability, energy constraints, and ecological economics to the center of the stage. This could generate a sense of political meaning and passion amongst a demoralized, frustrated population that is thirsty for these things. Getting this topic onto the agenda would also bring on a whale of a good fight with the U.S. oligarchy, which is certainly the single most dangerous social formation in today's world, on many different fronts. If we fail to press this topic, meanwhile, you can start making your Mad Max plans...

Hi Michael,

You think this is not a good thing?

LOL +10 but could you make it like 10 stories high?

Yeah, I counted 23 visible lanes. Is that outside of Atlanta somewhere?

I don't really know where it was taken - but sure does remind me driving thru the Atlanta area. This photo has been floating around on the Internet for some time now.

When I see this photo, I think of the traffic jams I've endured in many countries besides the US - this car thing is a really a global problem. And, those countries that cannot yet afford enough cars to have such a scene - just can't wait to get there!

I don't really know where it was taken

It is an obvious photoshop, there are repeats of the same car patterns. Look and yea shall see...

Hi FMagyar,

I can't think of any place in the world where any roadway has this many lanes. But, I think it captures the spirit of the feeling one gets when stuck in a traffic jam for a couple of hours. And, given the exponential increase in cars since the beginning of the century, maybe some dumb politicians might actually built such a monstrosity.

The border crossing into Tijuana is comparable (I have been told).

Katy (I-10 in Houston) bought a railroad ROW for more lanes.

Ten (plus two auxiliary lanes @ intersections) plus six access road lanes (plus turning lane) makes 19 lanes at places. 16 lanes in other sections.


No wonder that Texas is ELM, they no longer produce enough oil to satisfy their "domestic demand".

Best Hopes for enough cool weather to finish insulating my attic (mostly R-19 + R-30 @ right angles),


Blows the mind!

I know that your point may be valid regardless of the authenticity of the photo, but have a look at the 8th & 9th lanes from the left, and you'll see that they are photoshopped copies of each other...

Easy answer: live for today, whilst intensely focusing upon tomorrow. Not the day after tomorrow, just tomorrow.

Nate, now you want 300 words. I'll probably get to that tomorrow, as the Olympics are on TV right now*.

*Don't give me grief or I'll ask how the dissertation is progressing.


We must transition to a sustainable economy where all energy sources are renewable.

Infinite economic growth cannot go on forever on a finite planet. Human prosperity exists among the planet Earth's energy flows, and any economic theory that ignores this will eventually prove meaningless. In real terms, we human beings are at or near the limits to growth of our population, our food supply, and our other energy uses. Continued over-consumption will lead to a catastrophic collapse unless humans learn to live sustainably. Living sustainably means consuming the biosphere's stored energy no faster than the biosphere can replace it, and using only other sources of energy that can pay for themselves without unsustainable inputs from the biosphere. The latter may include wind, solar, and a few other sources, if they prove feasible in the long run; they may not prove feasible. Even in the best case scenario, human beings will have to consume far less energy than typical 'first world' residents in order to live sustainably. If we can teach and learn a global culture of sustainability, our descendants may have a chance of continuing to live a relatively pleasant life in the future. A global culture of sustainability has never existed before. We must conserve as much scientific and historical knowledge as we can to build such a culture in the future.

This exchange from The Road comes to mind.

Old Man: I knew this was coming.

The Man: You knew it was coming?

Old Man: Yeah. This or something like it. I always believed in it.

The Man: Did you try to get ready for it?

Old Man: No. What would you do?

The Man: I don't know.

Old Man: People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn't believe in that. Tomorrow wasn't getting ready for them. It didn't even know they were there.

The Man: I guess not.

Old Man: Even if you knew what to do you wouldn't know what to do. You wouldn't know if you wanted to do it or not. Suppose you were the last one left? Suppose you did that to yourself?

The Man: Do you wish you would die?

Old Man: No. But I might wish I had died. When you're alive you've always got that ahead of you.

The Man: Or you might wish you'd never been born.

Old Man: Well. Beggars cant be choosers.

The Man: You think that would be asking too much.

Old Man: What's done is done. Anyway, it's foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these.

The Man: I guess so.

Old Man: Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave.

I think our goal should be 350 million people, as long as they are spread out globally.

How to get there: Release a biological weapon in an International Airport, with the goal of accomplishing that task undetected. If there is no detection, then the national orgin of the person is not known and no animosity can be directed at any one nation. The bio weapon would be designed to cull 95% of the world's population. It would take a sophisticated team of bio chemists to make sure that approx. 5% of the population will survive. In this manner, there are no wars, no radioactive wasteland, just people quietly dying en masse. It would need to have a long incubation period, like 4-6 weeks, so it can spread worldwide and infect just about everyone before there is any knowledge of a problem and leave no time for work to be done to develop a cure.

Then the planet would start to heal. Wildlife would start to multiply, the forests will come back, the CO2 levels will flatten and then start to slowly drop, temperatures will stabilize, yet humankind will still have yet another opportunity to get it right, by living with nature in a sustainable manner.

Call it 'Operation Take Two'.

I realized after posting my idea, that it was pretty stupid of me to do. So let me be clear. I am a small business person and so is my wife. I know how to do carpentry, plumbing, electrical - I am a general contractor. I have no knowledge of bio chemistry or know anyone that does.

I simply think our specie is decimating this planet, and if we had any sense we would find some way to rein in our excesses, but that probably will not happen. We will simply keep going as is until we hit a bottle neck. In that sense we are no different than yeast.

I'd have to say that a biological weapon reducing population to 350 million or so would just be another temporary difficulty. As a species, there have been long periods where our population growth rate was sufficient to double every 25 years or so, in which case we could easily be right back at 6 billion in 100 years.

In any case, if humanity had no more sense than yeast and could only be kept in check by engineered diseases or forced sterilization or some such thing, what would be the point? To some extent, to even care about the problem you have to believe we have the intelligence to overcome it, or its really makes no difference whether we do or not. Nobody weeps for the yeast in in a petri dish, once it hits the wall.

Hi daxr,

you have to believe we have the intelligence to.....

This really is the heart of the issue. I suspect that we do actually have the necessary degree of intellectual capacity to understand the basic issues and take effective corrective action. Birth control, riding a bike, smaller homes, global equitable wealth sharing, less military, more education, etc - these are not really difficult concepts for the average human to comprehend.

But, as others have pointed out in this thread, intelligence is not the only driver of human decision making and as oxidatedgem mentioned up thread - we may have some serious programming issues for dealing with today's problems. From my POV the issue is not how much intelligence we have, but rather how can we get rid of the mental viruses that prevent this intelligence from being used to its fullest potential.

How to get there: Release a biological weapon in an International Airport, with the goal of accomplishing that task undetected. If there is no detection, then the national orgin of the person is not known and no animosity can be directed at any one nation. The bio weapon would be designed to cull 95% of the world's population. [. . . ] Call it 'Operation Take Two'.

No, call it 'Operation Twelve Monkeys'. (Or better 'Operation La Jetée'. ;-) )

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Monkeys
  • But what if the biochemists fail to leave 5% alive? Who will be among those 5%? If only religious fanatics survive or only cornucopians? Take Two? Much to insecure. I think we are headed for a Charlton Heston like future:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green
  • I agree that it is too late to change the course of the titanic. But what you propose is just too damn insecure. And we need to survive in order to evolve into something more complete, less ape-like, that will have a better grasp on what the universe is. And where to go from there. But may be I watched 2001: A space odyssey to often ;-)


    Before there was 12 Monkeys, there was MOONRAKER.

    Lots of Hugo Drax wannabes in the doomer contingent...

    A fine thought, but too technical. I had a friend once who shared this idea with me (he said it wasn't his.) He had taken Biology in college and claimed there was a meme in the academic system that the answer to population growth was for each biologist to go out and kill 100 people.

    Problem solved.(This was 25 years ago; mileage would vary because of changes in assumptions today.)

    The question this raises is at what point will some person or group decide that a cull is more humane (or more likely, better for them) than an uncontrolled die-off? Genocide is a far simpler solution to the stated problem than a biological weapon that would be by definition experimental. Plus, you can get rid of people you don't like(the rich, the poor, the stupid, the intelligent, the religious, the atheists, the gawdamn commies, the banksters, the genocidal maniacs trying to kill you...)

    Of course, history has shown that death squads on whatever scale seem to come from a military or quasi-military organization (training, indoctrination, and a willingness to allow the issue of PTSD to be ignored all are important to a successful genocide.) This is a job for someone like General Jack D. Ripper, a man in command willing to grossly overstep his authority.

    Or men. This may occur at staggered intervals in different areas, is places where population pressure is greatest, in places where the profit from controlling population is highest, in places where life is already cheap, or during an opportune crisis.

    Heck, you don't even have to wait until international order breaks down. We don't do anything about most genocides now.

    (I'll take my tongue out of my cheek now and point out that this is not a future I would prefer or recommend, but rather one I would like to protect against.)

    This is a job for someone like General Jack D. Ripper, a man in command willing to grossly overstep his authority.

    Sounds like a job for this guy:


    I think he may have had it right the first time:


    At the heart of our cosmology lies the idea that we are separate from everything else. If we are to create lasting changes, we need to start to mend this rift within--and among--ourselves.

    How best to do this? One key way would be to reignite our senses, that is, gain direct sensory experiences by being out of doors, observing (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, intuiting) the variety of so-called Others, unmediated by anything or anyone else. These sorts of experiences are our best teachers, showing us how myriad others live, regaling us with their beauty, teaching us reverence, and filling the deep need we have for connection. As we do this, we can begin to work with other humans to restoke our imaginations. We need to tell ourselves different stories. Our language has led us to this place and we need to work with it to lead us to a place where we feel secure. Any of the issues we face now can be tied to our human desires to fill the holes within ourselves. Even if we could all wake up tomorrow with a better-designed monetary policy, devices that let us know exactly how much energy we were using (ancient or current), better-educated women (educated according to what? one must ask), these holes would still be with us. As rube cretin mentioned here earlier, our other relations, as the First Peoples called them, are waiting for us. I think they're waiting for us to grow up, to come back home.

    How does the rubber meet the road on that?

    i am reluctant to jump into this one. but since i have visited your formal site on several occasions and know your interest in manipulation, especially with film, i will offer a a crude exercise in "rubber meeting the road." "True enlightenment comes not when people are sold based on style, but based on substance." mos6507 It is now cold in new england, your home territory. When spring comes go to a swampy area near you early in the morning before day break, sit down and press your fingers down into the mud or soil, pretend your fingers are roots, be very quite and listen to the sounds as morning arrives. Unlike film, this is the real stuff. No manipulation. Try it, you will like it. By the way, your website is great!

    sorry i could not find it last night. watch this short video. Rubber meeting the road.



    The rushing around, hurry-hurry facts of life in our culture probably speak for themselves. The only way I know of to really get us to slow down is by renewing our ties with our senses and having direct experiences that are not mediated by anything else. I was a kid when the first Atari games hit the market and I can remember staying up late, even on a number of school nights, trying to win. I think of these games now -- as well as certain TV shows that, at the time, I thought I would die if I didn't see -- as a great big blur. It's the experiences I had out of doors, in various contexts, in various places that I remember most vividly. And when I write, I often try to tap those experiences for metaphors. I cannot do the same with "Centipede" or "Pac Man" or "Breakout" (I'm dating myself here!) We humans cannot evolve quickly enough to keep pace with the technologies we develop; we do not have the personal stores of energy, nor do we have the extrapersonal stores to make that happen. We need to live on current sunlight. To the extent we seek to do so, we can slow ourselves down. Spending time in a forest, by a bay or ocean, on a lake, on a river, in a meadow, on a mountain...these can help not only to slow us down -- if we allow ourselves to be slowed -- but also to help us realize how much we have in common with everything else. As noted in the YouTube video that rube cretin posted, we won't save what we don't love. And we won't love that which we have no feelings for, no direct experience of.

    you might find this article of interest. The solutions it offers and the commitment it requires is within the context of Nate's Post, though many may not see it.



    I just read that yesterday...and agree with you. It IS do-able, but I think many people feel Jensen snipes at them for not doing enough, etc. Fact is, it's ALL needed, IMO. What I get concerned about -- I know this from my own experience -- is the dissipation of energy that comes from getting too spread out on too many things. Some people can do that just fine. I'm not one of them. Wise gardening requires a certain amount of time. Efforts to change things through legislation is activity at a different scale. So, maybe the question should be: How shall we choose?

    Cherish what we have been left, walk lightly today, leave more for our descendants. Share.

    Real growth can only come from using what the sun is bringing us today, not using the storehouses of the past, or borrowing from the future. Maybe 1/2% real growth is possible, certainly not 3% or 10%. But first we must shrink. A sustainable planet might have five hundred million people living in and near comfortable small towns, not unlike those of 75 or 100 years ago, with farms and crafts, and yes some technology. If tomorrow the world's wealthiest 10% cut consumption by 75% and one woman one child become a world norm, consumption could be reduced by a third and we would begin the only gentle way back to a planet that is sustainable for all life.

    (There are many steps that need to be taken, so I'll just add this one that hasn't been stated explicitly above.)

    Implement the Oil Depletion Protocol based on conventional oil only.

    I intentionally left out the Tar Sands, CTL, and "Oil Shale", as these are predominantly too expensive and would impart too much in the way of climate change impacts. For those who are unaware of the ODP;


    • The world and every nation shall aim to reduce oil consumption by at least the world depletion rate.
    • No country shall produce oil at above its present depletion rate.
    • No country shall import at above the world depletion rate.
    • The depletion rate is defined as annual production as a percent of what is left (reserves plus yet-to-find).
    • The preceding provisions refer to regular conventional oil—which category excludes heavy oils with cut-off of 17.5 API, deepwater oil with a cut-off of 500 meters, polar oil, gas liquids from gas fields, tar sands, oil shale, oil from coal, biofuels such as ethanol, etc.

    In other words, "3rd world" would be condemned to eternal "3rd world" status so that "1st world" can continue to live inefficiently.

    They have been trying to trick "3rd world" to accept this kind of idea with the CO2 emissions. Little wonder it doesn't get far ...

    I pretty much take for granted that energy depletion means we're all 3rd world countries in the future. Absent some miracle technology, that's about it, whether you consider it condemnation or a blessing. I am more prone to thinking of it as a matter of who has a low-energy sustainable lifestyle already, and who still has a long way to fall and a lot of learning to do...

    There is no magic bullet that will provide "low consuming" nations with a path to the lifestyles of "high consuming" nations (Heinberg's labels for 3rd world and developed nations, respectively). Indeed, high consuming nations will have to struggle to transition to a low consuming lifestyle. Big cars, big houses, big TVs, etc are not what life is all about, anyway.

    If the Oil Depletion Protocol (or something like it) is NOT enacted, then fuel prices would rise far beyond what "3rd world" citizens could afford anyway, so I would say you have BAU view of what the progression of a nation's technology and standard of living could be.

    Perhaps the most important goal we can strive for right now is a closed loop energy cycle to power our bodies, i.e. an agricultural cycle with no waste.

    Note: This plan says nothing of a closed water cycle but that is a topic in and of itself.

    Response: 289 words
    Our current system, to mention nothing of mechanized equipment required, relies on massive petrochemical fertilizer inputs being dumped onto our farmland, with some of it being used by the plants to form the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids that power our bodies. The leftovers are then washed into the nearest stream or river and eventually reach the sea, causing algal blooms along the way. Our waste undergoes a short treatment process and is then also dumped into the sea. The result is pollution, widespread soil depletion, and utter dependence on petrochemical fertilizers. The solution is to close those two ends and use that material to replenish the agricultural system at the other end, the soil. The engineering challenge is in processing massive amounts of human waste into humanure. The faster the waste is turned into manure, the less space would need to be set aside for storage of that waste. The social stigma that would likely go with that would require us to use humanure only to grow livestock feed, and to use livestock manure to grow crops for human consumption. Weed harvesting from watershed effluents can also be used to recover the soil nutrients that get washed out of an agricultural basin. Thus the nutrients would be recycled repeatedly through the system, being used as a carrier for the chemical energy required to power our bodies. It would also then be possible to quantify the rate at which food energy and associated nutrients can be supplied based on the amount of material we are able to process and how much land is set aside for agricultural purposes. From those data we could accurately predict the maximum sustainable population and create a legal basis for unfortunate but necessary population controls.

    Goal: World Peace. Now, when do I get my sash and crown.

    Didn't Dwight Eisenhower once say something to the effect that plans made prior to the battle typically came to naught. But the process of planning gave one the tools to make the changes necessary to actually win the battle.

    Most of us seem to be milling about smartly. Perhaps what each should do is "a little less talk, and a lot more action."

    ...But the process of planning gave one the tools to make the changes necessary to actually win the battle.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. Isn't this the purpose of the contest?

    One thing to keep in mind when we consider 'closing the loop' is that we will need to eat a much lower sodium diet, otherwise the salts from our wastes will quickly make the soil too salty to be productive, a problem that is nearly impossible to solve over anything but a very long term.

    Also, it is a good idea to move the night soil away from where you live or to bury it deep. Otherwise, various bugs get a taste for your particular types of proteins and turn to consume you next.

    Well perhaps there could be a method for extracting those salts and returning them to the oceans. I'm certainly no expert on this but I suspect that would be one part of the engineering challenge of processing our waste. Additionally, the salt has to come from somewhere, and is mined or pulled from the oceans. Reducing our salt intake would also reduce the need to mine those salts.

    I wonder if this could be attempted in an isolated watershed.


    It shows a woeful lack of understanding of basic economics to claim that debt is a zero sum game. To claim that one party must lose is absurd.

    Bond and credit markets exist precisely because there are mutually advantageous trades possible between potential borrowers and lenders.

    Since the Apocalypse Now crowd on the Oil Drum loves to indulge in fear mongering (left wing fear mongering as opposed to the right wing fear mongering of the former Bush Administration), I can see no greater Apocalypse than the disappearance of credit markets and hence debt.

    It shows a woeful lack of understanding of basic economics to claim that debt is a zero sum game. To claim that one party must lose is absurd.

    Debt has increased every single year since 1930s and has increased more than GDP for at least 40 years in a row. In the short term, both parties gain. In the long term, there has to be mean reversion. (look at prior debt/currency bubbles over the past few hundred years - Rogoff paper a start).

    Bond and credit markets exist precisely because there are mutually advantageous trades possible between potential borrowers and lenders.

    Heard of biophysical economics? Those trades are based on paper, which was originally designed to represent real wealth but has become so convoluted that the time frame of its representation is incredibly short not to mention largely unrelated to real capital.

    For every new debt dollar, some government, institution, wealthy person, bank etc. is the creditor. Though debt is created out of thin air, the credit on the other side confers real short term advantages to its holder in a system of positive interest. Debt in our system is a ponzi scheme globally because it won't be paid off, let alone serviced most likely, due to lack of energy gain - but it still has a debit and credit when it comes into the system.

    It is my opinion that debt deflation will reign for a while, as governments bump up the % of total debt they have from ~50% to ~70% of total, or until the system says 'no mas' and starts currency hockey. During this period, which might be months to many years, 'credit' is going to banks, institutions, employees etc. that increase their perceived situation, while more debt is going on the government books. In reality, this is just a transfer from the health of the sovereign to certain parties of private sector.

    In graduate business school we were taught that debt was an integral part of corporate finance, more debt equaled higher return on equity. We weren't taught that this was not true across generations and that without energy as key input into cobb-douglas that all the economic/finance macro rules would soon need to be rewritten, including the role of debt.

    Lastly, 'apocalypse' would be mass starvation, nuclear war, etc. - a currency revaluation/reset won't be a walk in the park but it won't be apocalypse either.

    Heard of biophysical economics?

    The web site:


    Since the Apocalypse Now crowd on the Oil Drum loves to indulge in fear mongering ... I can see no greater Apocalypse than the disappearance of credit markets and hence debt.

    Roderick, I infer from your statement that you see credit markets and debt as facilitators of growth. At least until fairly recently, creditors extended credit only because they believed that they would see a return on that investment -- i.e. they expected the return of principal + some risk premium for having extended credit.

    My question is this: What happens to capital if conditions are such that investors can no longer reasonably expect a return on their principal + that risk premium? I think I know the answer and that is that capital then flows into "innovations" such as credit-default swaps (CDS) that allow the lender at least the possibility of profiting whether the loan is repaid or not.

    My "man in the street" take on this is that "innovations" such as CDS are, in fact, symptomatic of dying credit markets and that they have been conceived as a way for an overly-clever and not very ethical bunch of financiers to continue living well just at the very point in time that the sum-total of the planet's available natural capital -- fossil fuel, arable land, water, clean air, human labor, etc. -- begins to contract. The bottom line is that when claims against future wealth become impossible, credit will collapse whether I -- "Leftist Doomer" -- want them to or not. We may not be there just yet. But, I contend that we are seeing the precipice.

    The size of the credit default swap market is large by any measure. The notational amount on outstanding OTC CDS was nearly $30 trillion in 2006 according to the Bank for International Settlements. And information published by the British Bankers' Association indicates the credit default swaps market represents over half of the global credit derivatives market.


    I'm trying to find the source, but yesterday I heard (NPR perhaps) that CDR's and cross-currency derivatives now total in the hundreds of trillions of dollars globally. Virtually all global debt has bets placed on it, and one instance of soverign default will bring this house of cards down. Virtually all currencies and debt/credit would be wiped out.

    I agree with others on this site that this is the "bull in the china shop" and could render PO and AGW moot in the near future. There's no way to back out of this dead end road.

    A while ago, the figure $1.14 quadrillion was floated around, but I doubt anyone knows the exact amount with that much specificity (though I admit that this sounds a bit funny, given that, by specificity, I am referring to accuracy within tens of trillions of dollars!).


    These are totally unregulated, which means that no one needs to keep track of them or report them to anyone. The insanity of blindly 'trusting the market' to handle such monstrous instruments is beyond comprehension.

    Simplify your life, before it gets simplified for you.

    My 2¢ worth:


    In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as “Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.”

    I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. To put our current rate of worldwide crude oil consumption in perspective, during George W. Bush’s first term, the world used about 10% of all crude oil that has been consumed to date, and based on our mathematical models, the world will use about 10% of our remaining conventional crude oil reserves during George W. Bush’s second term.

    Good on you, WT. This has been my plan for 15 years.

    Simplify your life, before it gets simplified for you.

    None of us know for sure how fast, slow, steep or shallow the curve downward will be. But we do know its coming. It scares us, and paradoxically excites us, because somewhere inside we knew it was all just a little bit unreal, and that eventually we would have to grow up and put aside our toys.
    Be Selfish. If you care about your family, friends, community and the world, you must ironically look after yourself first. You have to prepare yourself psychologically for what might lie ahead. Every day you must chip away at something you do, and do it differently, more simply, with less energy, and even decide if you have to do it at all. You will make mistakes and people will laugh. You must laugh at yourself and continue with your personal descent. Because in your process of decent, you will eventually give people what they need. That is entertainment at your mistakes, and guidance from your successes.

    10 Ideas To Change the Future

    1. Restore real honesty and real transparency in Government. We need politicians who believe the American people are intelligent enough and mature enough to understand the issues. No President should ever tell a lie to the American people. From Bush "no new taxes" to Obama "transparency" in the health care crisis it doesn't work. Lack of integrity never works. A person's personal power relates to their personal integrity...so why would we want a President without personal power.

    2. Make energy priority one. Make use of many resources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, for instance natural gas as per the Pickens plan can help power buses. Solar and wind need to be expanded. The two birds with one stone is to tax energy use by gradually implementing sales taxes on energy and use those funds to subsidize alternative energy. This will impact both the supply and the demand side of the equation. The American people have to understand that either their money will go to our Government to get us out of this energy delema or it will go overseas.

    3. Fix social security and medicare. These are unfathomable and unfunded liablities. It is not doing a favor to the American people to have them believe they will be supported for 30% of their adult life with income and medical care. When social security was passed by Roosevelt the average life expectancy was 65. It will not be popular to tell people the Government can not support them for 30% their adult life because one you give something to someone it is hard to take away. People have grown to expect this as a right. There has never been a change in age eligibilty that has affected those under age 55. However, real world reality must overcome unrealizable fantasy. We can not ask our children to give up their future to support our retirement. It is not fair and it will never work.

    (Stop reading here if you want as per contest rules)

    4. Fix the healthcare crisis. Government must take the approach that it is the cause of much of our healthcare crisis. Government in various forms has caused an astronomical increase in the cost of delivering healthcare and in some ways reduced Americans coverage rates. The Federal Government has passed on the under-reimbursements of medicare for the aged, medicaid for the poor to those under 65. It requires free care for perhaps 20 million aliens with no consequences and the system has to pass on those costs. Many States require mandated coverage for chiropractic, unlimited mental care and invitro fertilization which are absorbed by those who don't use these services. Medical malpractice lawsuits need to be more limited. The U.S. has more lawyers per capita than any other country. The extra cost of is born in terms of high insurance premiums for doctors, discouraging doctors from practicing, higher cost of services for the public and worst of all defensive medicine. Some studies show that 25 cents of every dollar and 1/3 of all tests are spent on defensive medicine. While there needs to be compensation for the injured there does not have to be unlimited liabilty. Eliminate laws that prohibit insurance from being sold over state lines. State overregulation in States like NY have caused millions to be uninsured because they cann't afford the premiums under the State mandated systems (ie NY does not even allow age discrimination so it costs a 20 year old costs $300-$600 to insure). Do extend Cobra benefits by creating a longer but modified transitional period, do use Federal funds to subsidize to an extent the cost of State guaranteed insurance pools for those with preexisting conditions, do, do have the States create a model health insurance act, do not allow partial drug coverage (people purchase 2-3000 maximums without understanding the risks) rather make it simply full coverage or "yes full or no", do not allow insurance companies to drop the insured due to claims or raise premiums based on claims already in place in many States). Do allow children to stay on parents policies until age 28 or until no longer a dependent.

    5. The U.S. Federal Government must quickly determine whether or not we need to take immediate action on global warming. The U.S. can not depend on the U.N. or International Universities or on many vested interests on both sides of the argument to find the truth. The U.S. Government and the U.S. President must take a hands on approach to evaluate all the evidence fairly and determine the best course of action. If it is an urgent problem then it is likely that technology rather than international cooperation will be part of the solution because it will be difficult but not impossible to get the developing world to prioritize the problem.

    6. Create a new world order. Don't eliminate the U.N. but deemphasize it by creating an Organization of Democratic countries (ODA). Eligibilty will be based on meeting a "World Constitution - Guidelines for Freedom".

    7. Put in term limits for Congress. Politicians need to focus on what's right, not on re-election.

    8. Phase in a modified National sales tax (that wouldn't apply to food and clothing but would apply to energy) and reduce income taxes. Half of Americans no longer pay income tax. Everyone needs to contribute at least a little . The Government needs to think in terms of incentives. A sales tax by its nature discourages spending while income taxes discourages productivity.

    9. Simplify Government. Trust the people. For instance, why do we need so many programs to help the poor and why are there so many bureacracies? ...because the Government doesn't trust the people to do the right thing. One or two programs (ie. subsistance and unemployment) paid in cash will simplify and put faith in the people.

    And pass a line item veto or a "modified line item veto". The Congress may not be willing to give up too much power to the executive branch in an outright line item veto. The modified line item veto would allow the President to veto specific items and the Congress would have the power to override the Presidential veto but the override would have to be in a secret vote (the only time a secret vote would ever be used in Government) so vote deals could not be made and Congressman could vote their concious as to whether to cut spending without fear of political repercussions.

    10. Use the communications pen rather then the sword to encourage international peace and cooperation. We need to communicate better to the world that we do not seek to impose our way of life or values on them and mean it. However, we also need to better distinguish between our friends and our enemies. We need to use communication as a better weapon against our enemies. For instance, we could drop leaflets on Iran, who is at war with us anyway, which was done in Berlin during WWII. We need to clean up our own house and stop acting as if we know all the answers for the rest of the world. We need to communicate and act in accordance with the principal we simply want the people of the world to have the freedom to choose their own values.

    By acting as a model of success we will have the chance to change our futures and that of the world.

    "6. Create a new world order. Don't eliminate the U.N. but deemphasize it by creating an Organization of Democratic countries (ODA). Eligibilty will be based on meeting a "World Constitution - Guidelines for Freedom"."

    This is the only way we can (possibly) mitigate climate change. Any country that doesnt sign up as a member should suffer from trade restrictions to make it fall into line as quickly as possible.

    I got as far as tort reform and gave up on you. This is just part of the wish list of the republican party. Tort is a tiny part of the expenses of health care, maybe one percent. Tort reform is a distraction, but it plays well with the faithful.

    I don't actually care which health care plan we choose, as long as it is one already operating in an advanced country. There is a wide range there to choose from without inventing the wheel all over again. And all of these countries do a better job per dollar than we do. Time to humble down and learn from others.

    First hard reality: We - all of us - must live within our means.

    Second hard reality: Our means will be shrinking in the future as non-renewable resources deplete and we are left with strictly limited renewable resources.

    Everything we really need to know, and everything we really need to do, flows from those two hard realities. These apply across the board, at the micro scale of individuals up to the macro scale of nations and the entire globe. Accept these fundamental realities, and things simplify considerably.

    Any effort to deny them or to pretend that we can somehow get around them is doomed to failure, and will inevitably result in having even fewer means available in the future than there would otherwise be.

    When one accepts these hard realities, then numerous things start to become quite obvious:

    Energy: The transition from non-renewable to renewable energy resources is inevitable. The sooner we all get on with it, the better. Those renewable energy resources are less concentrated (as Greer pointed out a couple of days ago), and the reality is that we are unlikely to be able to come up with sufficient capital to enable us to replace non-renewables on a 1:1 basis. Living within our means will therefore imply living with far less energy. Thus, it is going to have to also mean being far more efficient in our use of energy. One need not worry a very great deal about how to make this happen - the coming energy scarcity will force it to happen, one way or another. All things considered, though, those who accept the reality and get ahead of the curve in making the necessary adaptations will fare better.

    Other Resources, and the Stuff they make: What applies for energy also applies for other material resources, and the things that are made from them. As the non-renewables deplete, we are going to be left with only what we can produce renewably (from biomass) or can recycle. The limitations that this imposes means that the material basis of our culture is going to have to downsize considerably. We are going to have to transition to a culture where there is just a lot less "stuff", everyone is going to have to live simpler lives, and what little there is will have to be built to last and be carefully maintained and kept in good repair. Again, this will happen, because there will be no choice.

    Money and Debt: An economy that is shrinking is an economy where debt of any type, held by anybody, is a deadly millstone around their neck. I don't know how existing debts are going to be settled, or more likely repudiated. However, it is obvious that the era of debt is about over. In an economy that is forced to live within its means, and especially if those means are shrinking, having an expanding, inflationary money supply is the last thing you want; it will only result in misallocation and waste, which is exactly what you don't want. It will undoubtedly require some painful and costly lessons before national governments finally learn their lessons; most likely, they will end up being replaced by new governments that have learned the lesson and do get it.

    No time for more, but this should lay a good foundation.

    Back again with a few further elaborations:

    Agriculture and Food: There is only so much arabale land area, we've lost some of that - at least for a while - to urban sprawl, and we'll be losing some more as sea levels rise and deserts advance. There is also only so much fresh water, and that may become more variable and uncertain and not enough in the right places. We also need to protect some natural ecosystems like wetlands for the "services" they provide. As the non-renewable resources (including fossil water in deep aquifers) deplete, we are going to have no choice but to live within the limits of completely renewable and sustainable agriculture. This may very well not be able to produce enough to sustain the present or an even larger global population, so one way or another, that might have to eventually decline. We probably can support our existing population here in North America, and maybe even a bit more, but we'll have to get used to eating a little less, and a little lower on the food chain. Meat is going to have to return to becoming a luxury food, and is going to have to be grass fed. More people are going to have to get back into the habit of growing at least some of their food in gardens.

    Health Care: I'll also address this since it is in the news right now. An economy that is declining down to a much lower sustainable level simply cannot afford to provide gold-plated health care services to everyone - especially with a hefty overhead supporting legions of insurers, lawyers, and bureaucrats. All societies are going to gradually be forced to the following model, whether they like it or not:

    The first layer will be self-care. People will have to understand that staying healthy is first and foremost up to them. They can and should be taught the basics of healthy living, hygiene, and disease and accident prevention. Whether or not they follow this advice is up to them, but the obligations of society to help them deal with the consequences of their failing to do so will have to be limited.

    The second layer will be a network of low-level professionals (nurses and nurse practioners, paramedics, physician assistants, etc.) operating in the local communities. These will be equipped and empowered to help people with most of the simple health care emergencies, and to be the first layer of defence for infectious disease control.

    The third layer will be the physicians and hospitals. We'll do what we reasonably can, at reasonable cost, and people will be expected to pay what they can. That will be the best we can do.

    elicit & assist in the formation of community, & local decision-making by making authorizing 'more' democratic global decisions by local groups of 100 or less.

    declare global holiday wednesdays for crisis education and voting. 'clicker' type technology would be how votes would be tabulated.


    clickers would be passed out by local/pop. density. after a period of wednesdays of study of distributed materials such as nate's above, multiple choice options developed by governments/central banks of the world would be presented for voting. initial voting/decisions would be regarding a global currency reset/reboot.

    ....ok, a few obstacles, yeah; but hey our US pres was a community organizer at one time so maybe he'll use that model & work it here & pass it on to world leaders as the best way forward.

    in some ways i think an oil crisis now is to be preferred over a financial crisis as it would focus us 'locally' more.

    Give up the idea that we are individuals, and instead accept that we are really members of a collective, or various collectives, collectives based on common interests; rival and competing collectives, struggling for control over and access to resources, which we need to live, but which are becoming scarcer.

    We are already, at least in many parts of the world, rapidly moving away from the paradigm of "capitalist growth" towards something else entirely. The post-growth society, where access to resources won't be allocated by the "capitalist market" but instead by ones position in the "bureaucratic market" which isn't really a "free market" at all.

    One can argue that "capitalism" and the growth model have been breaking down for over thirty years, and that the current crisis of capitlism is a transitional phase from growth capitalism to non-growth capitalism, or neo-fuedal capitalism, "merchantalism" reborn!

    The state is now stepping up to take control of the "free market", but it's a state that is under control and serves the new, unfree market system. Representative democracy, hand in hand with this, is being replaced, as it has to be, with unrepresentative democracy, but that is merely a detail in the changes we are going through, icing on the political cake so to speak.

    How then do "we", whatever "we" really means, move from the unlimited growth paradigm, of the democratic, consumer society, successfully to the limited growth, post, consumer society? That is, without most of us being turned into serfs in a new form of fuedalism?

    Well, it won't be easy! The chances of success, that is, most people in the rich west maintaining the luxurious lifestyles they've become used to, is slim. The age of the affluent middle class, the American Dream, is over, and won't be coming back anytime soon.

    Theoretically, if we lived in a "democratic" society change, political and economic change is possible, because power resides with the people or the majority, only we don't live in democratic states, and radical change isn't possible, for voting is one thing, power is something else entirely. Power is connected to ones access to economic power, ones wealth. Like they say, a billion dollars is worth more than a million votes.

    Change, or the opportunity, or the possibility of change, can only come through, in theory, political power; a change in those wielding political power, and through it the direction of society, taking the reins of power away from the rich and powerful and reshaping the world for the benefit of all, not just our rulers.

    But, the ruling elite need to be so weakened and their grip on power loosened before any alternative collective stands a chance of seizing power from them, and how that happens, without a collapse, with all that implies, is beyond me.

    What good questions!

    My perspective has been lately influenced by reading William Catton's "Bottleneck..." and James Hansen's "Storms....".

    For me, our predicament boils down to this:

    First,we are ungovernable and unmanageable. That is, we humans cannot govern or manage ourselves.

    Second, we cannot manage or govern the planet.

    This does not mean that we should stop trying to do the best we can in terms of relating to each other or the planet.

    On the contrary we must try to find ways to live in the best ways we can so that we can help the next generation or so to survive. (Remember the "7 generations" idea and all that.)

    None of us lives in the best ways we no how and even fewer of us take the time and energy to understand how best to live. The matter is ultimately quite a mystery.

    We are happier if we try to nurture the next generation. This seems to be hard-wired into our brains.

    Finally, we do not control outcomes. Like it or not we impact others and our planet in powerful ways. We do not know all about that. Nor do we know about all the other forces ebbing and flowing on our little planet, solar system, and universe.

    We know far less than there is to know. We see "through a glass, darkly." We stumble through our lives wearing the equivalent of an old-style welding helmet and a deep sea diving suit. Even the best of us with the best intentions do this.

    The worst thing seems to be that most of us get caught up in pride and do not realize how little we know and how much damage we can do.

    As a practical matter, we ought to note that we in the USA have been perfecting the fusion between big government and big business into what B. Gross called "Friendly Fascism." We have the best politicians and courts that money can buy.

    This gets down to philosophy and religion. Why are we -- individually and collectively -- here? I like -- still -- Kurt Vonnegut's answer:

    "We are here to help each other through whatever this is."

    As to the things we do that go terribly wrong, and the things we do not understand or control, I still like Vonnegut's famous phrase:

    "And so it goes.."

    So while I stumble along doing the best I can I lament for our ignorance and corruption while I rejoice in the glimpses of what looks like Truth and Beauty. I experience a deep brooding joy that I cannot really explain.

    From one Beggar to another, I like to make note of places that welcome me and where I find sustenance. Can of beans and pot of coffee over a small fire, that sort of thing. Online too?....heh, heh!

    More Transparency- People behave better when watched by a crowd.

    The premise of TOD is that governments and corporations are hiding the truth about society's energy supply from the citizens. There is alot of truth to this assertion because all major energy projects are at least partially subsidized by governments. Which individuals benefit the most financially from projects is obscured. Al Gore barnstorming for global warming while simultaneously working to throw contracts to alternative energy companies that he holds privately through his venture capital firm is just one glaring example.

    I don't believe that there is an energy supply problem. I forsee a smooth transition to alternative energy sources. Unfortunately, I do not have access to basic information which requires my predictions to be based on assumptions which may turn out to be wrong.

    My most radical transparancy proposal is to eliminate cash and make every transaction public - all purchases - all payments - all barter. I believe most people would be alot less selfish if the sources of their wealth were known to everyone. Healthy, able-bodied people would work harder since normal people are embarrassed to sit around doing nothing while their friends and families work for a living. I realized my suggestion would have many unintended consequences and I don't recommend getting from where we are today to a more transparent future too quickly. The radical idea is meant to provoke thoughts.

    Al Gore barnstorming for global warming while simultaneously working to throw contracts to alternative energy companies that he holds privately through his venture capital firm is just one glaring example.

    I don't suppose that Al is just putting his money (and influence) where his mouth is. No, that couldn't be it.

    Unfortunately, I do not have access to basic information which requires my predictions to be based on assumptions which may turn out to be wrong.

    You need to study the last few years of TOD. All the info you need (pro and con) can be had there. Warning: Most cornucopians I have convinced to do this come away a little rattled.

    As exemplified by the comments in this thread, the cause as well as solution to most problems is all too easily ascribed to "Them" and not "me", so my goal is to concentrate on "Me" and actually doing something instead of just talking about what "They" or "We" should do - hopefully winding up 2 steps ahead of the bear and one in front of "Them".

    To implement my goal I need to decide which problem I can actually prepare for, or at least hope mitigate to some extent. I take into account my personal situation, assets and abilities as well as liabilities. Once I've decided on the set of problems I think I can handle, I make a plan and work it. Of course each of us has a different view and a different toolbox so what I worry about and plan to do is bound to be somewhat different than others' but while many are looking over their shoulders, OOing and AHHing and describing the bear's claws and length of teeth in great detail and making charts and equations describing how fast he can run and of course when and if he'll really start to run, I want to be taking baby steps in a different direction. But that's just me.

    Harnessing "teachable moments" from "oil price volatility” is my suggestion. Helping people understand that sticker shocks at the gas pump (of the recent past and shocks on the way) are caused by PEAK OIL could help voters in democracies come to their senses as to what is at the root of the present mess.

    Unfortunately, other "teachable" issues regarding why energy profligacy is bad suffer from the "frog in the slowly heated pot" problem.

    It doesn’t matter how many scientists agree that we're killing our beautiful planet, if a majority of the electorate does not agree a climate disaster by 2040 is something that we need to be concerned about now.

    Similarly, most voters consign the impacts of Peak Oil to the distant future. Anyone that has given it a few moments of thought are usually reassured by the argument (and fact) that if we're at Peak Oil, then half the oil is still left in the ground.

    Most voters see Climate Change and Peak Oil as distant intangibles. Problems that our kids and grandkids may need to figure out. Getting to the paycheck at the end of the month is the most tangible issue facing most of us.

    By contrast, instability in energy pricing is a major problem that is self-evidently with us here and now. Many TOD readers understand that this volatility is a direct consequence of Peak Oil. The TOD constituency also largely gets that volatility in oil price is probably the “wrecking ball” that is laying waste to our capitalist economic and democratic political arrangements.

    If a wider part of the electorate could be educated that RIGHT NOW:
    1) Volatility in energy prices is being caused by Peak oil and that
    2) This instability is causing the collapse of our civilization in a hurry;

    …then maybe our political elites would give up their meaningless “liberal” vs “conservative” arguments and start grown-up debates on what we are going to do.

    A further benefit may be that the media stops describing activities such as accumulating Olympic medals in speed skating (fun as it is to watch) as “historic”.

    Hi Therramus,

    Problems that our kids and grandkids may need to figure out

    I know I mentioned this before, but I've actually had well educated people tell me that our generation solved its problems and future generations will do the same with "their" problems - and, after all, they are smarter than us. No need to get our panties in a bundle - happy motoring and all you can eat!

    Hi Dave,

    I also believe that our aggressive drive to solve problems (human ingenuity) will eventually come to our aid. Naive probably, but not so foolish as to think there is not going to be extreme pain - a euphemistic way of putting it, but sometimes the whole truth hurts too much.

    Longterm, am optimistic about prospects - but a good first step is understanding the problem. My minature contribution is to hammer on about the cause and dangers of oil price volatility to anyone listening e.g. latest nail pounding Oil Caused Recession, Not Wall Street

    Democracies are obtuse and slow, however once it is understood that an existential threat is at hand, then maybe it will sink in that something must be done.

    Heard an Israeli General say something like - "When all else has failed taking a rational approach should be considered as an option."

    Good advice.

    Retire all personal debt, including mortgages, as fast as possible which is currently 12 months from today for me.

    My perception is that historically wealth was the ownership and control of land, buildings, ships, businesses and food production. The control of those assets allowed accumulation of more of the same. Debt historically was the opposite of wealth regardless of standard of living. Debt was a "pawning" or risking of owned assets as a way to raise cash and current lifestyle. My assessment is that debt was taken on when the owned assets were no longer paying for their upkeep or the person/entity was tying to accumulate wealth faster than the existing assets would generate it. In either case Debt was to be avoided because it risked losing control of hard assets slowing wealth creation even further. I view most people today confusing access to a particular lifestyle, through use of debt, as becoming wealthy. I think this applies to businesses as well as individuals since individuals run companies. Assuming a persons skill set allows for the accumulation of wealth without risking hard assets it seems foolish to risk the assets already controlled (by taking on debt) in an attempt to quickly increase lifestyle. My last statement is that almost no one I talk to views the world this way today. Virtually all are convinced that leverage and use of debt will make you wealthy or make the organization wealthy. I do not believe in this new ecomomic philosophy. Usage of assets without ownership is not wealth creation, which is my true goal in life.

    The best bet for most is to grow their intangible wealth.
    Invest in your health, your knowledge, your family, your friends and all forms of intangible wealth.
    Work less, enjoy spending time for you instead of spending dollars.
    Read a book ,meditate,walk,garden,be in contact with nature .
    Share your knowledge.
    Learn new skills.
    Intangible wealth is worth more than money.
    It can not be taxed , seized or stolen.
    It does not depreciate.
    It will follow you wherever you will be.

    You have the winning answer in my book.


    the suggestion of a solution requires the recognition of a problem.

    until such time as all parties involved at ALL levels ( from the very pinnacle to mud cookie eaters in a metaphorical basement) recognize the problem and their contribution to it as typically dictated by local social stratification, it just doesn't matter.

    there will always be persons with their own agendas at heart, despite the outward misdirection, that conflicts with the goals required to maintain a semblance of reasonable life on this planet. these people may or may not rise to positions of power that require certain trappings represented by wealth, technology and waste inherent in the loops.

    without completely changing human behaviour to a new paradigm within a fairly short span, rejigging the global economy to un inforce digidollars and their representative suggestion of physical wealth, wealth trading practices that eat the young (very nearly literally), and superiority complexes consisting of the representative 'big stick' provided by a combination of all of the above we would need to do this (don't ask me how you would get everyone on board):

    exit the front door of your home and turn left, pick up the first item weighing over 5 kilograms you see, if the person to your left has already left the home and gone left then you should now turn right to face the person approaching you with a 5 kilogram device. beat each other until one is dead.

    this is the space human kind has left to use to move boldly into the future. everything else is utopian and completely unrealistic given the well known confines of standard human behaviour at all levels.

    Hi overload - welcome to TOD,

    the suggestion of a solution requires the recognition of a problem

    This is a truth that is seldom appreciated. I'm not quite as pessimistic as you seem to be - but I think the key to any graceful powerdown is getting the average person to understand the real nature of the problems facing us. I try not to be a unrealistic Utopian dreamer - I just try to support organizations that I believe understand the issues and have the right advocacy - it least it makes me feel a little better about my grandchildren.

    Arithmetic,population and Energy


    Watch these videos:
    At 1.3% per year population growth rate,there will be one human per square meter of dry land in 780 years and the mass of people will equal the mass of the earth in 2400 years.

    For the USA: Autarky.

    From the Wikipedia: Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance . . .

    Approach: Move to a Command and Control Economy. Select technologies that can be reproduced within USA borders. Basically solve for a sustainable economy and society with a super linear programming model or whatever is appropriate using only available resources with the United States. All non-resource variables are endogenous. Limited individual rights but few economic rights. Moving towards such as state is only possible, IMO, when all other options look far worse. Think long term -- there are probably many things that could move us in the right direction by creating Critical Materials Priorities that require Federal approval for use. These could be expanded gradually over time. If there is time.

    Hilary Smith

    Goal/objective #1: Support, reward, protect, provide timely evaluation of, and timely approval/rejection for the discovery and early development of True Technical Breakthroughs by technical individuals in the private domestic sector through government policy and funding.

    Goal/objective #2: Pass federal law explicitly restricting employer rights to the intellectual property of their few million technical workers. By law, make it possible for workers to freely research and innovate after work on their own time, with their own tools, without fear of theft by their employer, and without the fear, time and cost of non-compete clause defense.

    These two goal/objectives are extracted from my first ever public essay. It can be viewed at http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article13953.html (or request a copy from s.morra@tx.rr.com). It is titled "An Engineer's Solution for Sustained Economic Growth" (or "Golden Goose Dies. Takes society with it. Has the Last Laugh"). Try "backing away from the trees and look at the forest" for the last ~150 years to see how to get out of this jam, including oil.

    Increase the price of garbage pick up in every suburb and city by 250% for every garbage can past the first one each week. Continue to enforce penalties for burning, littering, etc.

    This will cause people to think more about their consumption and eventually cause the public to demand that the corporations quite wasting so many resources on packaging of their goods.

    Raise the cost of energy (electricity) and gasoline by 100% through taxation.

    This will cause people to think more about their consumption and to ration their own use. The increased revenues could reduce our debt.

    (I sold my car and ride a utility bike. I sold my house in the 'burbs and live in the country and have a 7Kw PV system, and I don't have garbage pick up. So if everyone lived more like I live, it would lessen the load on the planet. I think ultimately there will be a natural decimation of the population and that we are all just killing time and playing mind games until either a) we die as an individual [yes, it will happen, I am convinced] or b) we reap the natural consequences of our wanton destruction as a populace. I'm not really concerned about which will come first.)

    Say goodbye to the oil god, say hello to the sun god!

    For about 500 years, ever since people started to become dependent on coal (then later oil) ever increasing populations created ever more fear and greed and panic that there wouldn`t be "enough". I firmly believe we can blame WWI WWII and Vietnam War (also Iraq, other modern wars) on oil---war is the consumer of last resort. I think the reversal now (and perhaps forever) in energy availability is a profound relief for everyone on a private and personal level, including those in the government. We will probably see things improve because human relations will improve. People will be happy to share again when they are not so worried that someone else is going to grab a larger slice of the pie that is just sitting on the plate. All that excess won`t be there to covet. When you live with lower rate energy flows from the sun, you share with others and take it slow, for example letting nature do the work of cleaning the water, and so you don`t mess it up in the first place. It will take time to get there. We will appreciate the sun again as never before....

    The paramount need for sustainability is Deliberative Democracy.

    The root of all of our problems lies with our inability to dialogue at the political level. Related to this is the lack of incentives for the average citizen to learn about the issues that affect him/her. Deliberative Democracy is a method of decision making that draws the citizenry into the debate (since a certain amount of power gets filtered down to their level), while keeping the debate civil. This is not theoretical. Many jurisdictions have tried this with excellent results (witness the recent provincial citizen assemblies drawn up to look at constitutional change in B.C. and Ontario).

    The mass media is currently a stumbling block, since it tends to distract with baubles. However, Deliberative Democracy is sometimes able to break through the logjam. Several years ago, in a senatorial race between Mitt Romney and Ted Kennedy, the citizenry was drawn in to discuss the issues at hand, and the resulting wider viewership was larger than that for either the Superbowl or the O.J. Simpson car chase.

    I've studied Deliberative Democracy quite thoroughly, and if I could make one recommendation for reading up on the subject, it would be Changing Maps: Governing in a World of Rapid Change, which was led by a distinguished roundtable and was published by Carlton University Press.

    There is a way out. It was figured out by the science community and published in 1934 as the Technocracy Study Course.

    Energy economics... biophysical economics (without using money), connected with ecological economics..., the invention of M. King Hubbert, Howard Scott, the Technical Alliance from Columbia University, Frederick Soddy, Alfred Lotka, Richard Tolman an American mathematical physicist and physical chemist, among others. Technocracy and thermodynamics
    These ideas represent the flowering of American culture and thought from the 20th. century.

    It drops Adam Smith throwback economic ideas which track back to a time of low energy conversion. The basis of the Price System is a throwback to Middle East contract society based on human labor.
    That time is over.
    Technology, robotics, engineering design, eliminates purchasing power by eliminating jobs. Human labor productivity is no longer a factor.
    Kilowatt hours do not need to be monetized.
    Money measures the abstract. That will no longer do. Resource destruction for money is pointless and destroys sustainability.
    A Technate would operate within a given resource base and consuming would become a right of citizenship.
    Energy accounting eliminates both the basis and the need of all social work and charity. It would reduce crime to but a small fraction of what exists today.
    If we don't like the war, the poverty, the misery, the waste, the crime, the disease, and the corruption which the Price System spawns, why do we stick with it? Viable alternative is possible.

    Waste not, want not.
    It is an old adage, outdated, something our grandparents who lived through the hard times said, from a puritan age that no longer applied.

    Yet I am shamed by my waste, and am forced to try to define it. Is driving a car a waste? Living in an air conditioned home? How about if I love my dogs and feed one...or two...or three? At what point does my love become waste?

    The astounding waste that occurs with no gain in lifestyle would be definitional. If I must drive, or feel I would not have a full life without driving, am I getting the best use out of the resources which allow me to drive?

    If I feel that air conditioning is imperative for comfort or for health, do I avoid allowing the cool air to leak useless through the gaps and into the atmosphere?

    Are the arts a waste? What is the return on energy and thought invested in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, painting “The Last Supper” or a Gothic cathedral?

    Can efficiency be art? I think of paths not taken. On ebay there is a car for sale, a Lancia Appia from 1954, a four door sedan, beautiful and comfortable. It will carry 4 or 5 people. The car is 1 liter engine (60 cubic inches, a beautiful V-4). With today’s technology, an engine of .5 liters (30 cubic inches) a ten times reduction from the sizes commonly in use would do.

    Would a tenfold reduction in consumption be helpful? The gap between no technology and even a bit is the difference between barbarism and modernism. The next step to gluttony is all too easily made.

    There is not enough energy, water or soil in the universe to fund gluttony and idiocy.
    Roger Conner


    Increasingly, if it isn't already the case, politics; in a post consumer-led, market, non-democracy, will cease to be defined by the "right" "left" dichotomy, which on the mass scale was arguably a myth anyway; politics in the era of scarcity; of jobs, credit, growth; politics will increasingly revolve around "up/down" rather than old-fashioned "left/right."

    I was let go from my construction job in Sept. 2008 and have collected a gov't unemployment check since then. Diagnosed Alcoholic. 3rd DUI, lost my license for 5 years. Eligible for re-instatement in 2013. Lost title to my vehicles. Since 2008 I get around by bicycle, and this is difficult, but I have added racks and lights to make my journeys safer. Living in Wisconsin makes it a challenge in Winter, but I have adapted, as long as it is 20 or above, and not too windy, no problem. I have lived in a tent. Went UpNorth Wisconsin to live with friends and found it to be a mistake. One of the most interesting experiences I had was living on a dairy farm near Fairchild WI. What an eye-opening experience. Never got paid (in fact, it cost me) in money, but received a treasured and valued experience. What small dairy farmers must endure... only to be going broke and working insane hours... should make us all be ashamed to pay so little for the dairy we consume. I also helped to construct (concrete work) a MASSIVE new dairy barn at a commercial operation.. The Labor is all ill-paid Mexicans living in poor conditions. It just cannot continue this way, nor is it (as we all know) resource sustainable. Massive human population reductions are necessary. Human population growth must be checked, either voluntarily, or through natural processes. The current economic model is broken and cannot be repaired.,,If I loan you 10, yet require 11 in return... this is an unconsianceable contract. Somewhere, on one of these threads I read of a "Gifting Society", and believe it can provide an economic answer. Socialism in action. I do believe the industrial age is unsustainable and rapidly coming to a close. For my friends, I now provide remodeling services in exchange for food and shelter (barter) however realize that the current mode of oil fueled luxury living is coming to an end. Jefferson argued for an Agrian society, and I believe he was right. The collapse of agriculture, by whatever mechanism or happenstance, will bring human population levels back onto check. We are in a catch-22, No Corporate Farms, No Fuel, No Cheap Oppressd Labor, No Food!. Eat your Computer??? Gold??? Stocks??? Bonds??? You will eat your children and neighbors!

    There is more than enough energy in easily accessible Uranium and Thorium to power an advanced planet-wide civilization indefinitely.

    Moreover the technology for efficiently using that energy is available within 1.5 decades. We should make sure we use our abundant coal and NG reserves to keep civilization running until this technology is ready for deployment. The NRC should be quadrupled in size to hasten this. Our nuclear labs around the world should gear up to develop and test the variety of technological options we have. Here are a few links.
    http://www.intellectualventures.com/TerraPower.aspx http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/

    I am 47. My Parents are 80. My Mother grew up on a chicken farm. My Father ran horse teams on a farm. I Never, until I worked on the Dairy Farm in Fairchild, WI. had an idea of what it was like. Perhaps Nuclear can continue to provide Electricity,,, however humans DO NOT live on electricity. The issues go WAY beyond the mere supply of electricity, or oil derived energy. Humans need organic food to live, not electricity. Electricity is a luxury. Our population growth has exceeded the carrying capacity of the land; Thorium and Uranium, or Hydrogen is not a nutrient source to our species. Perhaps we have given rise to the species of "The Machine". In the history of the World, many extinction level events have occurred, I believe we are there again, and perhaps it is our own success that is creating our own demise...or even designing our own replacements...

    With sufficient energy we already have the technology to create everything else we need, except of course, human kindness. The whole social contract is a different conversation.

    We do not have the technology to replace ecosystem services, the Earth's life support systems which are currently provided to us for free and which we are destroying at an ever increasing rate.

    This is why I don't believe it will be a return to the 19th century. Electricity should be around for the long term. The problems are related to liquid fuels.

    Floridian, are you aware of what bad shape our national grid is in and how much it would take to fix it much less upgrade it to be able to handle switching to solar and wind power. We have for a long time been compensating for the reduction in ERoEI of oil and gas by not upgrading our infrastructure including the grid. We will be without electricity much sooner because of that.

    "To help pay for upgrading power lines, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year provides $4.5 billion in government assistance for electric transmission projects.

    That's just a fraction of the $40 billion to $50 billion needed to update certain areas of the grid, according to the Energy Department."


    Others have estimated 1 trillion to do the job right. Well we have frittered away our trillion (some say $14 trillion) bailing out the banks.

    Choosing the best options that we humans are capable of adopting and implementing.

    Politics is the Art of the Possible

    The key, IMHO, is to create a plan that a wide variety of interest groups can support for disparate reasons. Rough draft shows that a major push for renewables & efficient non-oil transportation results in GDP +13%, CO2 -38%, oil use -22% employment +4% for USA in 20 years.

    Something for everyone.

    United Nations "Green Economy Initiative" is looking at options for regions of the world, with some data from me. Same numerical analysis.

    For USA, have the Dept. of Energy sponsor a comprehensive review of all rational options (conservation, nukes, NG vehicles, HV DC, etc.) with a major organization providing data on a specific option (GE nukes, wind, hydro), Sierra Club (conservation), etc. Show results by the "Four E's" (economy, energy, environment, employment) for each option and synergies between them.

    Baby steps will be implemented (in USA) till we panic. When we panic, a viable blueprint of the best possible options, under the circumstances, will be available.

    I would like Hans Herren to be the face and voice (a la Al Gore) of the comprehensive plan.

    Comparable studies for other nations/regions can be built on the on-going UN work.

    Best Hopes !


    I really liked your essay. Good summing up and I can see the evolution of your thinking. Maybe evolution is the wrong word - maybe "maturation" in its best sense.

    I don't think you will see any comments you have not seen before, including this one: we will go through a very turbulent time and reach some stability in perhaps 30 years.

    I would like to add that Nate's prose is a real pleasure to read - he is an excellent wordsmith.

    If you open a gate,lacking a complete and certain knowledge of what may be living on the other side,you are betting all the chips.

    As Greeenish says , we are sentinient as individuals , but not collectively,and we have opened many gates and released many monsters.There are numerous gates yet to be opened, and monsters of unknown feocity are known to reside behind some of them.If we keep on opening gates with less than perfect knowledge, we will eventually release amonster that will devour us all.Thus it behooves us to play our cards as consevatively as possible;everything else is an academic question if we don't survive.

    Amen OFM. What's more we have gained the ability to open bigger and bigger gates which if there are large monsters behind them will set them loose.

    The more I think about the lack of collective sentience the more I am sure that is right. We are sentient but we are made up of non-sentient cells. Sentience is slow so if you tried to make something sentient out of sentient units it would be very slow if not stalled.

    Our species is unable to do anything other than forge on until something stops it. Our individual sentience and intelligence has gone to our head, we think it can save us as we open up yet another gate.

    Here's some questions - what is sentience good for? What selective advantage did it provide when it first appeared? Does it still provide that advantage or is it no longer useful? Can a being be highly intelligent without being sentient?

    We need to establish a caste system based on developmental stages (as formulated by adherents to Piaget's theory, like Robert Kegan and Susan Cook-Greuter... see http://www.cook-greuter.com/9%20levels%20of%20increasing%20embrace%20upd...)

    People would be divided into each caste by developmental stage. No one at stage 2.5 or below is allowed to vote. No one below stage 4 is allowed to hold public office. You must be a 5 or higher to hold the senior positions like President, Prime Minister, and Chief Justice. Inherent in the system is the ability and the desire for each individual to grow to the next development stage. Since very few people living at the higher stages embrace any religion, the true test of progress would be when religion disappears. Anarchy would only be attempted by those resistant to personal growth. Fortunately, persons at lower levels are also susceptible to advertising, peer pressure, and social status.

    I've read Ken Wilber while in High-School and had nearly forgotten such theories.

    Your comment and link brought it all back. Just the insight I needed!

    I guess these moments are why I always come here. The aggregated insight of this site. Always amazing!


    J. Dähn

    Doh! I guess I'm stuck at stage 3 or 4.

    Go back to an all-cash society, make the money out of something which cannot be easily duplicated but can be easily recycled. Stamp them all with an expiration year. Low-end workers, like farmers, get paid directly by the government with new money; the government also provides some services which must be paid for, and the money spent on them is just destroyed and recycled. In between, it circulates around normally, except that people tend not to hoard it due to the expiration dates. Also, allow some trade-in for new cash, but only a limited amount per person per year. This system would probably have no need for taxes, and money would be tied almost directly to labor with no real chance for financial shennigans that inflate the wealth of money-brokers relative to everyone else without producing anything useful. Of course, this would require a highly socialistic government to work.

    This way, being and staying wealthy would be a lot of work - probably too much work to coerce government into doing things which benefit nobody except you. And it's more likely to be useful work, to boot. Did I mention that inherited wealth doesn't last either?

    I can do it in one word, from which all else flows: SHARE

    The implications are vast, humane, in accord with religion, in tune with evolution, and productive of equality and more fun.

    Goal: building community.

    How: A group of people who live in geographical proximity has the potential of becoming socially, economically, energetically and environmentally sustainable. We use what we call "The good neighbors vision". We have several modules: a second hand and produced locally shop, a community supported agricultural system, and an interest free bank. Everything inspired by Permaculture and Transition Initiatives.

    My goal: Conversion of paper capital into decentralized natural, built, social and human capital.

    I wouldn’t have even thought such a thing was possible until I sat down and struggled through wrapping my head around Catherine Austin Fitts’ concept of a Solari. A Solari is a public financial corporation whose sole purpose is to do just this — convert wealth-on-paper into real wealth at the community level, for the benefit of everyone. It works like this: the Solari builds a database of all the capital flows in a neighborhood, then advises both local government and private investors where to invest in the neighborhood to save money and better the community — that is, build up natural, built, social, and human capital. After a year or two the database becomes something of a case study in how to increase local wealth and it takes on value in its own right. Then based on the value of the database, the Solari issues stock at two levels: A-stocks can only be held by people who live in the neighborhood and they confer voting rights, but no dividends. B-stocks can be held by anyone in the world, they pay dividends but confer no voting rights. Holders of A-stocks have only indirect personal incentive — without dividend payments, their payoff is in bettering the community and their obligation is to drive up the value of B-stocks, which happens through bettering the community. Holders of B-stocks get their payoff because their stock value goes up, and their dividends come from money the Solari makes investing in the community. Thus the Solari is able to pull global capital into a neighborhood and convert it into decentralized natural, built, social, and human capital.

    *Be observant, and take note of, current events that disrupt communities and societies.

    The earthquake in Chile took out all basic infrastructure and badly disrupted the JIT (just in time)delivery of goods and services. Looting gangs roaming cities and armed citizens protecting what is left of their lives.