Transitioning to A Society of Sloth?

Yesterday I posted an academic introduction to the issues surrounding an energy/sustainability transition. Since Saturday pm is The Oil Drum "Campfire" 'tough questions' slot, I thought I'd follow if with something less politically correct. (Campfire guidelines here)

10 years ago**, Jay Hanson, of notoriety, wrote an essay titled "The Society of Sloth". In it he likens our satisficing of wants (as opposed to needs), to a giant Rube Goldberg resource consumption machine. His prescription is that in order to avert future suffering, we replace our present social sin of avarice with one of 'sloth'. The essay is below the fold, as well as part of a related recent email thread, (and the usual Campfire questions).

(**I should point that in 1999 I was an oblivious playboy financial manager who had never heard of Limits to Growth or Peak Oil and had quite different notions about what sexual selection meant. IOW, Jay has been ahead of curve thinking on these issues)

(Editors note: (Nate): This is one of hundreds of essays/excerpts by Jay Hanson; most are descriptive of problems- this was one of a few that posed some sort of suggestion to mitigate the upcoming supply/demand intersection. The way I read it, a society of sloth is not what Jay finds optimal or prefers, but one path that would be physically possible and might avert what he sees as WW3 coming down the road)

INTRODUCTION (Background information)

What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, 1st. destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or 3d. it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable.

– James Madison, 4th President of United States,

Capitalism can be seen as an organized process to ingest natural, living systems (including people) in one end, and excrete unnatural, dead garbage and waste (including wasted people) out the other. Major changes in our natural environment make it unsuitable for us – we no longer "fit". Thus, avarice carried to its logical conclusion lives up to its reputation as the deadliest of the Deadly Sins and billions of people will die horrible deaths this coming century:

Finally investment cannot keep up with depreciation (this is physical investment and depreciation, not monetary). The economy cannot stop putting its capital into the agriculture and resource sectors; if it did the scarcity of food, materials, and fuels would restrict production still more. So the industrial capital plant begins to decline, taking with it the service and agricultural sectors, which have become dependent upon industrial inputs. For a short time the situation is especially serious, because the population keeps rising, due to the lags inherent in the age structure and in the process of social adjustment. Finally population too begins to decrease, as the death rate is driven upward by lack of food and health services.

Meadows - Limits to Growth

You see things; and you say "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?"
– George Bernard Shaw

"Collapse" is defined as the rapid transformation to a lower degree of complexity, typically involving significantly less energy consumption. Societies "collapse" when they become too complex for their energy base. Thus, the collapse of capitalism is inevitable because capitalism must grow to survive – must become more-and-more complex and consume more-and-more energy.

But a "planned collapse" – a planned simplification – would not only mitigate much of the human suffering, it could also usher in a new golden age of leisure, music, arts and crafts – a simpler, more humane, more spiritual society. It's more-than-obvious that Mr. Potatohead has no answers, so we must see "planned collapse" as a "systems engineering" problem – not as an "economic" problem ("getting the prices right").

Think of it this way, if the only tool one has is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. What other possible solution can an economist recommend to the problem of too much economic growth, except more economic growth? So send the economists into retirement and call out the scientists, engineers, and systems people!

Since true democracy is inherently unstable, the most obvious means to "engineer" our new simple society is repression and coercion. But what about the seemingly insurmountable quis custodiet ipsos custodes problem?

In the seventeenth century, men could not imagine a deus ex machina (god from machine) authority. Four hundred years later, we have the digital computer. Computers would watch people and other computers would watch those computers. A fail-safe deus ex machina system of checks and balances could be designed to insure integrity – in fact, orders-of-magnitude more integrity than can be attained with humans.

What can be done to mitigate the coming nightmare? I propose that we retire "avarice" as our central organizing principle and replace it with a less deadly Deadly Sin: "sloth". I believe the "Society of Sloth" would be a splendid 21st century replacement for the Society of Avarice.


By Jay Hanson, Spring, 1999

(What follows is not meant to be a comprehensive description of a new society, but only presents some conceptual ideas for consideration.)

In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimises civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau


Global Problematic: (after The Club of Rome, 1972): Global tragedy of the commons because people are genetically programmed to more-than-reproduce themselves and make the best use of their environments.

Commons: A commons is any resource treated as though it belongs to all. When anyone can claim a resource simply on the grounds that he wants or needs to use it, one has a commons.

Needs: Human “needs” have a scientific basis which is defined by human biology. 35,000 years ago, three million hunter-gatherers “needed” community, shelter, health care, clean water, clean air, and about 3,000 calories a day of nutritious food. Today, people still “need” the same things that hunter-gatherers “needed” then (except fewer calories).

eMergy: eMergy (with an “M”) is the solar energy used directly and indirectly to make a service or product. In other words, eMergy is the “cost” of a service or a product in units of solar energy.

Why eMergy? In reality, the economy is nothing but a monstrous, energy-gulping Rube Goldberg machine to deliver “needs” to people. But each of those three million hunter-gatherers was the energy-using counterpart of a common dolphin, whereas each of today's 280 million Americans matches the energy use of a sperm whale. Obviously, the “economy” is incredibly inefficient at delivering “needs” to people.

No doubt my statement will stick in the economist's craw, because after all, isn't “efficiency” what economics is all about? The problem with “economic efficiency” is that “money” is not a measure of anything in the real world (like, say, BTUs). Money is power because money “empowers” people to buy and do the things they want – including buying and doing other people (politics). Thus, “economic efficiency” is properly seen as a “political” concept that was designed to preserve political power for those who have it – to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

For over a century, theorists have sought ways of integrating economics and environmental accounting, often using energy as a common measure. But these efforts met with limited success because different kinds of available energy are not equivalent. The measure of “eMergy” allows us to compare commodities, services and environmental work of different types. “Transformity” – the eMergy per unit energy – allows us to compare different kinds of available of energy.

So we need to totally junk the present economic system and replace it with a new one that minimizes eMergy costs (not money costs ) and delivers basic needs (not Cadillacs) to everyone in a sustainable way.

Sustainable Development: Sustainable development both improves quality of life and retains continuity with physical conditions; it requires that social systems be equitable and physical systems circular (industrial outputs become industrial inputs).

Authority: Goals (or ideals) are not produced by a consensus of the governed, rather a qualified authority determines goals. For example, physical goals for sustainable development must come from “scientific” authority – because no one else knows what they must be. All contemporary political systems are “authoritarian” with the moneyed class ruling the pseudo democracies.

Coercion (politics): To “coerce” is to compel one to act in a certain way – either by promise of reward or threat of punishment. Two obvious examples of coercion are our system of laws and paychecks.

THE ONE-AND-ONLY HUMANE SOLUTION: Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon; a global system of coercion – laws, police, punishments and rewards. In principle, the global commons can only be managed at the global level by people who understand the physical systems involved: scientists. Global coercion can be seen in the worldwide reactions to ozone depletion and global warming. Besides laws and paychecks, coercion can take many forms:

“It is not necessary to construct a theory of intentional cultural control. In truth, the strength of the control process rests in its apparent absence. The desired systemic result is achieved ordinarily by a loose though effective institutional process. It utilizes the education of journalists and other media professionals, built-in penalties and rewards for doing what is expected, norms presented as objective rules, and the occasional but telling direct intrusion from above. The main lever is the internalization of values.” [1]

Step one would be to establish a global government of some sort with the authority to protect the global commons – our life-support system – as well as protecting universal human rights. This government would also oversee the “clean” manufacturing of “repairable” and “reusable” energy-efficient appliances and transportation systems. It would also insure the sustainable production of staples like wheat, rice, oats, and fish.

Does this new global government sound repressive or restrictive? Not at all! A great deal of freedom is possible – in fact, far more than we have now.

eMergy Certificates

Step two would be to replace the organizing principle of “avarice” with the principle of “sloth”; break out of the money-market-advertising-consumption death trap. The Society of Sloth would not be based on money because that would be inherently unsustainable. Instead, it would be based on “eMergy Certificates”. [2]

Global government would determine the “needs” of the public, set industrial production accordingly, and calculate the amount of eMergy used to meet these needs. Government would then distribute purchasing power in the form of eMergy certificates, the amount issued to each person being equivalent to his pro rata share of the eMergy cost of the consumer goods and services.

eMergy certificates bear the identification of the person to whom issued and are non-negotiable. They resemble a bank check in that they bear no face denomination, this being entered at the time of spending. They are surrendered upon the purchase of goods or services at any center of distribution and are permanently canceled, becoming entries in a uniform accounting system. Being non-negotiable they cannot be lost, stolen, gambled, or given away because they are invalid in the hands of any person other than the one to whom issued.

Lost eMergy certificates would be easily replaced. Certificates can not be saved because they become void at the termination of the two-year period for which they are issued. They can only be spent.

Insecurity of old age is abolished and both saving and insurance become unnecessary and impossible. eMergy Certificates would put absolute limits on consumption and provide people with a guaranteed stream of “needs” for life.

With modern technology, probably less than 5% of the population could produce all the goods we really “need”. A certain number of “producers” could be drafted and trained by society to produce for two years. The rest can stay home and sleep, sing, dance, paint, read, write, pray, play, do minor repairs, work in the garden, and practice birth control.

Any number of cultural, ethnic or religious communities could be established by popular vote. Religious communities could have public prayer in their schools, prohibit booze, allow no television to corrupt their kids, wear uniforms, whatever. Communities of writers or painters could be established in which bad taste would be against the law. Ethnic communities could be established to preserve language and customs. If someone didn’t like the rules in a particular community, they could move to another religious, cultural, or ethnic community of their choosing.

In short, the one big freedom that individuals would have to give up would be the freedom to destroy the commons (in its broadest sense) – the freedom to kill. And in return, they would be given a guaranteed income for life and the freedom to live almost any way they choose.

[1] p. 8, Herbert I. Schiller, CULTURE INC; Oxford, 1989;

[2] Energy Certificates:

Addendum: here is the tail-end of a recent email thread between Jay Hanson, myself, and others discussing the costs in resource and fiat terms of our obesity epidemic. I had commented on how sugar induces physical dependency (Colantuoni and Hoebel 2002), sugar is a ‘gateway’ substance that increases the likelihood of addiction to other substances, e.g. amphetamines (Hoebel 2003), sugar and fat together create significantly increased consumption behavior (Kelley 2003), low serotonin is linked to carbohydrate craving, obesity and depression (Wurtman 1986, 1995), and diets high in sugar will cause release of dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain (Hoebel 2005). When asked what to do about our current state of obesity and consumption, Jay replied :

The way we live today is utterly insane. Stop all advertising of everything -- especially booze and food -- immediately. It is totally insane to encourage people to destroy their health and the planet.

Close all non-essential businesses such as tourism. No one NEEDS to be a tourist. Close Disneyland, etc.

Insure that health-food-type grocery stores exist within easy access of every neighborhood. If a city is too sprawled like Detroit, bulldoze the suburbs and concentrate the residents.

Start paying people to take and pass classes in cooking. Pay married couples enough so one can afford to stay home, watch the kids, and cook etc.

Start gradually closing restaurants and booze stores (start with the fast food) until no more restaurants exist -- and only enough booze to satisfy the addicts. Cover parking lots with dirt so people can plant gardens.

In short, gradually dump the entire market economy and allow people to stay home, take care of their kids, exercise, take university classes, etc.

If we followed my recommendations (and they worked), we could avoid WW3. The handwriting is on the wall. The time for capitalism has passed.



1. Has the time for (global) capitalism passed?

2. If humans can't overcome our impulses, should advertising for 'consumptive goods' that are bad for us be allowed (e.g. fast food)?

3a. In a society where basic needs were provided for, what would we compete for (being hardwired to compete for status)?

3b. What would happen to our current societal wealth disparity (masked by debt and cheap energy) if society 'slowed down'?

4. Would it be possible for us as a species to leave easily available energy and resources untouched?

5. If we acknowledge the idea that systems go through growth, transition, descent and recovery on a regular basis and that human systems are likely no different, would slowing down consumption in the manner suggested lead to quicker descent, and therefore quicker recovery?

(Please keep in mind the above essay was written over a decade ago, without any recent additional datapoints.)

More Americans are outsourcing their own jobs:

Insure that health-food-type grocery stores exist within easy access of every neighborhood. If a city is too sprawled like Detroit, bulldoze the suburbs and concentrate the residents.

Emphasis mine - poor word choice, that. You have to sell your message...wait a minute, he demands an end to advertisement...

lol - I see your point - remember, other than the last few lines from the email thread, that entire essay was written over 10 years ago. perhaps 'cluster' or 'localize' might have worked better...

lol - your comment of using 'cluster' or 'localize' instead... I couldn't help but think JHK changing the name of his blog from "clusterf*ck nation" to "localize-love nation"... ;-)

The city of Flint, Michigan is considering this very idea. Over the last few decades Flint has lost nearly half its population. They are considering the idea of moving the few remaining homes in some areas and resettling those people in a more concentrated core area. The abandoned areas would no longer need city services like fire protection, snow plowing and other street maintenance, or repairs of water and sewer systems. It is seen as a way of improving your dreaded economic efficiency in the operation of the city. The problem of suburban sprawl isn't even a factor in this plan.

2. If humans can't overcome our impulses,....

Very few of us think, most of us act on impulse (including alledged geniuses like Charlie Munger - see yesterday's drumbeat).

I would love to see The Transition based on the principle of "Sloth," especially if it meant getting rid of the chronic noise of advertising (which includes most of what passes as 'entertainment').

But I really doubt any one country would embrace a "sloth economy" voluntarily. And even if they did, the rest of the world would be happy to make up for their neighbor's lack of consumption.

I think Arena Earth will be sponsoring WWIII, and probably multiple, sporadic regional wars long afterward.

There is a lot of education to do.
People should learn gardening,cooking and nutrition.
Where do we begin?

Hello Awashinoil,

Your question: "Where do we begin?"

Please see my golf course postings at the bottom of today's DB.

At first I thought this essay was a joke. But it seems that Jay Hansen is quite serious and quite the authoritarian fascist. I don't think I'd want to live in his world.

The difference between wants and needs is tenuous, maybe non existent in economic terms. All needs are also wants and things that didn't exist yesterday become essential today. Example: toilet paper. It didn't exist until the later nineteenth century. Would Jay want to give up toilet paper as inessential?

Global government: he says, "Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon; a global system of coercion – laws, police, punishments and rewards." Hitler would love it. I did have the thought long ago that a global monetary system would be a good idea. A single currency would be managed by a sort of priesthood of politically isolated people. A global central bank, if you will, self regulating and self perpetuating. No other power would accrue to them except to responsibly manage the monetary system.

To answer your questions:

Capitalism. There is a difference between capitalism and free markets. Capitalism aggregates large amounts of money (capital) in order to build large projects, aided and abetted by government. Free markets are buyers and sellers in an open marketplace exchanging goods and services, hopefully with government making sure everybody plays fair. If you want to build something big then you need a mechanism to aggregate capital i.e. capitalism.

Advertising: Used to be advertising was basic information that people needed to know what they could get in the marketplace. Take a look at some early newspaper ads. Very drab listings of what somebody had to sell. A lot like Craig's list. I need to know what there is in the market. I need advertising. However I don't need TV type babble. Unfortunately I don't know how you could outlaw it in a free society. I think people become more and more hardened to it and that's why the big corporations continually escalate the hard sell. People don't ignore want ads though. They seek them out. Just where does Jay draw the line?

I can't relate to your questions 3a and b at all. They make no sense to me.

Number 4, leave resources untouched. No. But people can learn to live sustainably. Mother nature will provide the incentives.

Question 5 seems to assume that slowing consumption equals cultural decent and that speeding up consumption equals "recovery." I don't really look at it that way. I think slowing consumption offers the chance to redefine "value" and to live a better life.

This seems like a typical knee-jerk reaction to Jay's ideas. Is Jay himself an authoritarian fascist? No, he's a free-market capitalist just like you and me. He was quite a successful entrepreneur who accumulated a small fortune and retired at an early age. That's why he's had so much time to think about these matters.

The Society of Sloth is based on the ideas of King Hubbert who understood the implications of peak oil before anyone else and Garrett Hardin. What Jay was trying to do was to find a way out of this overshoot trap that is leading us directly to WW3 and a massive, horrible dieoff of humans and most other life forms.

Jay thinks about 10% of the labor force is all that's needed to produce essential goods and services like basic clothing, food, health care and yes, toilet paper. The rest could stay home and learn to cook, garden, read, play music, and practice birth control.

This was just a thought experiment and Jay doesn't think it has the slightest chance of being implemented. He is expecting a massive nuclear war in about 10 years.

"Jay thinks about 10% of the labor force is all that's needed to produce essential goods and services like basic clothing, food, health care and yes, toilet paper."

Does anyone believe this?

No - he's over-estimating by a factor of 2 :-)

Is it really going to be that easy to grow, transport, process and cook food for 7+ billion people in the post petroleum world? To supply fertilizer? Or to educate and train doctors, nurses, technologists and other medical professions? Or to supply the plastics and other materials for modern medical care, shelter and clothing?

I think Jay thought that the inhabitants (if any) of the post-petroleum world will be producing the bulk of their own food, shelter, and clothing within family units, without recourse to markets.

I don't think (from his web site's title, that Jay assumed we would have 7+ billion people in a post-petroleum world.

Actually, toilet paper is not that essential. I am in the process of weaning myself off it. It is just a heavily indoctrinated habit. With water on tap in our houses (I presume for all TOD readers, except maybe Airdale?), we really have no excuse not to simply use small cloths to wipe our butts. Wipe, immediately rinse in small bucket, put that water in the toilet, rinse again, with a little disinfectant in the water if you want, and wash hands. Using water recycled from the bath or shower of course.
Same for menstrual pads, and babies' nappies (diapers!). I have only last month broken the habit of buying disposable women's stuff, daring to question the system. But once you do it, and form your new habit, it's not that hard.


Ur right. Last time I ran out ,,,during the big ice storm, I quit buying it.

Right now I use paper towels. These are far more sturdy and,,well if one goes alternate routes then no need to digress. You learn and adapt.

There are lengths to which I have yet to go in some areas. Before long perhaps I will go back to the outside outhouse, after putting something up.

Then of course one lets the hair grow. I had to pay my own girl cousin $14 for my last haircut and that was last year and that is when I stopped going to somewhere. I just cut it myself and the beard takes care of itself after a while. Trim with scissors is all thats needed. Once you grow a beard you notice that suddenly people treat you a little different. Not good or not bad,,but just differently.


Actually Airdale, I thought you may be one of the few of us TOD readers who is living without mains water on tap.
In Australia it is not that uncommon, people on rural "lifestyle" blocks and some of those out in the country are not on mains water, they depend on rainwater harvesting off their own roof, with several 20KL rainwater tanks, and/or water storage in dams on the property that capture the run off from their own land. But I don't know how common this is in Western countries outside of Australia, nor how many of our Australian TOD readers are off the grid in terms of water.
Living like this makes you REALLY appreciate the value of water. It also teaches you not to flush unless you have to. I have taken the next logical step, and only flush when I have to, using water caught from the bathtub, a 12L bucket poured in fast and high does the job nicely (it helps having the toilet and bucket right next the the bath!)

Anyway, I presume you are composting your used paper towels!

cheers, Soph

Yes composting everything that will compost.

I am on a very deep well. Setting in an aquifer that if went dry then the rest of the USA would long ago have ran out everywhere.

At the junctions of 4 big rivers we settle a lot of water into the aquifer. Its sand and gravel most of the way. They hit mine at 200 feet. With 50 extra to spare.

I don't worry about water too much for I would pull the pump and let a old fashioned sleeve down the hole. Get about 1 or 2 gallons that way. Enough easily for one days use. Some springs not too far off.

For all else catch water off this metal roof.


I figured!

We're in Tasmania and off the grid for water which is true for most people around here who don't live right in a town. Even with the recent drought we've managed to avoid buying in water though it got very close as we have a veggie plot out the back. We have 60KL of main water storage and another 23KL in a fire tank. We conserve and reuse water whenever possible in the summer, catching shower water to use in the children's bath, then taking that water out to the garden, etc...Plus our house was plumbed with a separate greywater system so the rest of it goes to the natives out the front.

There's some extra work but it is a nice feeling that the water falling on your roof is not being carried away in a storm drain. That your shower water is not being piped in from a treatment plant and then carried back in a sewer pipe. Plus it makes you think a lot more about what you use to clean with, cause it's staying right there on your property! And finally, you get a whole new appreciation for the rain. Not a nuisance anymore but something to be celebrated.

I think Tassie would be one of the best places to be in the future. I am working on it... I am in Adelaide, and it's only got to get more water stressed, especially with these bloody stupid population growth policies in place!

One of my younger relatives just moved onto a rural lifestyle block, off the water grid, 2x20KL tanks... and she ran out! Had to buy 5KL, a couple of days before that big lot of rain last month. She's learnt by experience, the most effective way... Although there are some scenarios coming up in the future that I don't want to learn to manage via experience, which is why I value the OilDrum Campfire so much!

Actually the bucket and disinfectant are not required. This issue was discussed on TOD a month or so ago. All you need is a jug of water. Poor with one hand and wipe with the finger of the other hand. You only need the towel to pat yourself dry. Naturally you need to wash your toilet hand well afterwards.

I find the bucket convenient because; a) I put my used bath water in it as required; b) 12L is a good amount to flush away a poo. So the bucket doubles for damping the cloth and rinsing it.

I missed the discussion from a month ago, can you help me locate it?

Cheers, Soph

The discussion can be found here


Not to be disrespectful, however this I read a similar essay in college and it was first published in 1848 by Karl Marx, in Germany and was titled “The Communist Manifesto”. This is an extension or modernization of Marx’s vision for a utopian society in terms of a finite resource world.

In response to the questions:

1: No, Capitalism is still here and will be here, it will not go away without some dramatic and/or violent intervention.

2: No

3a: The same thing we have always been in competition for, our mates, you can take the chimp out of the savanna, and you can’t take the savanna out of the chimp, humans are still primate mammals and all that we know in our current system boils down to seeking/obtaining better mating prospects.

3b: Wealth could be defined by the accumulated inheritance of durable goods, those things that were bought with eMergy credits that were not consumables.

4: Define easily, there are and have never been easily available resources, technology has made resources more attainable and/or viable however obtaining resources has never been easy.

5: ? however the transition to such a societal system would be wrought with massive human suffering and conflict as any global system is bound to be met with great opposition by somebody.

In summary, my take on this essay is that this is an interesting academic idea however more a work of science fiction than a real viable plan, as for one, it does not address the details, and the devil is always in the details. For example if everyone works for 2 years, how do you decide who is a doctor with a training period of 26 years min or a farm hand with 11-12 years min. How do you address the differential in training? Is it interest based, or aptitude based, which would be better? I always wanted to be a rock star, in terms of interest, however my aptitudes have always been toward science and engineering. If a child wants to be a farm hand however clearly has a talent for science/medicine, how do you coerce him/her into becoming a doctor in a society without rewards for educational investment?

How does the “Global Government” work, who decides which scientists are in charge? What is the makeup of the global governing body; climatologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, biologists, psychologists, mathematicians, anthropologists etc.? How do they make decisions, vote? In that case you have only created a global technocratic democracy.

How do you define global mutual coercion, especially in a society without money? What do you do if a city, province, state, country, etc. isn’t towing the line or local scientists disagree with the global? Get a mob, hit everyone collectively in the offending group on the head with a stick and say “Bad”. Economic sanctions are the prevailing means of nonviolent coercion today, without money in a global society how do you coerce someone, cut off the food, water, tp perhaps? What happens when cutting off, food, water, tp etc. fails to have the effect?

This essay presents an interesting spin on “The Communist Manifesto” updated for a post industrial finite resource world. I see hints of ideas from H.G. Wells as well. It opens up interesting ideas for debate, however at best it is not anything approaching a viable plan.

But it seems that Jay Hansen is quite serious and quite the authoritarian fascist. I don't think I'd want to live in his world.

Yea, lets have a better world!

system of coercion – laws, police, punishments and rewards."

Now how is this not "Government" as is implemented today?

" Example: toilet paper. It didn't exist until the later nineteenth century. Would Jay want to give up toilet paper as inessential?"

I first encountered Jay on USENET in the 90's I have on occasion posted on Jay's sites, including the string that started this campfire. Jay lives in a place that has developed a dependance on long distance transport of goods. It once suffered a severe toilet paper shortage. Recently when he was extolling the virtues of equal allocation, I asked how many bureaucrats would be required to allocate toilet paper equally in his community and to prevent any hoarding. Needless to say it was not posted.

The system Jay is proposing sounds an awful lot like the quixotic system developed by the "Technocracy" movement that was briefly popular in the 1930's. It could be argued that centrally planned economies have not had a very good track record so far, but that's probably beside the point.

If one reads and understands the work of H. T. Odum, the late ecologist who popularized the concept of eMergy, then one would know that he never advocated for the replacement of money (or the capitalist system for that matter). In fact, he belived that information has the highest transformity of all goods and services and therefore the highest eMergy. And money is, after all, a form of information. Odum understood that by simply calculating the ratio of eMergy to money in circulation one could easily arrive at the "eMdollar" amount for any given good or service.

For further reading I highly recommend his book "Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century", especially the chapter "Energy and Economics".

For Odum's views on how to manage the descent of society in a world of depleting energy and resources there is no better summary than "The prosperous Way Down":

And, of course, the book by the same name:

In his own words:


Principles that appear to govern all systems including human societies were used to consider the time of economic descent ahead. These include the energy laws, the maximum empower principle, the universal energy hierarchy, the conservation and hierarchical distribution of materials, the spatial organization of centers, and the pulsing paradigm.

We expect much of the culture and public policy appropriate for the growth period to be replaced with a new set of ethics and policies affecting each scale of time and space during descent.

Decisive changes in attitudes and practices can divert a destructive collapse, leading instead to a prosperous way down.

As for the tragedy of the commons we turn to Garrett Hardin who's essay of the same name is widely credited with popularizing the concept. For an excellent read on the underlying ecological reality of our current financial crisis don't miss the chapter called "Growth: Real and Spurious" from his book "Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos". I recently helped transcribe that chapter and the Garrett Hardin Society graciously agreed to host it in pdf format:


Jerry - as you know I am student/fan of Odum, but I don't agree with everything he wrote. Money is not information and eMergy has many many quality related, culture-specific problems. We can turn energy into information into money but it won''t always work in the reverse.

LOL! As a wise man once said: With "fans" like you who needs enemies?

Money is not information and eMergy has many many quality related, culture-specific problems

All this is telling me is that you have read his work without really understanding it. Pity.


Huh? Can you enlighten the unwashed rest of us at least to the extent of a sentence or three revealing what on earth you're getting at?

Here is a paper outlining the pros and cons of eMergy analysis (written from perspective of 'pro').

Jerry, I plan to have a post up Monday or Tuesday on linkages between Maximum Power Principle and fiat currencies which might clarify some of the areas I agree with and disagree with Odum. The vast majority of his work came before credit and derivatives became part of broad money supply.

Thanks for the link, unfortunately it is far too nice a day to read it this moment. I look forward to reading your upcoming post, althought I'm a little bit worried that it's not referred to as the maximum eMpower principle.

And, if I haven't said it before, thanks for all your efforts on this site. As a fellow systems thinker I find your topics are consistently the most relevant to our current predicament.


Huh? Perhaps you failed to notice my comment at the top of this thread?

Don't worry Paul, I understand you've probably got your panties in a twist over a perceived lack of respect on my part. Allow me to "enlighten" you: I devoted a sunny Saturday morning to writing a comment that directly addressed some of the points in Jay's essay, including links to source material, in a good faith effort to raise the level of discussion on this topic.

I was rewarded with Nate devoting all of about 5 seconds to an acerbic and unsubstantiated one-liner that I know to be poorly informed.

I responded as such, and with "all due respect".


For an analysis of the history and reality of "money" in our current system, I recommend "The Future of Money" by Bernard Lietaer. Unfortunately not available in the US, and apparently now hard to find elsewhere.

Great comment Jerry, I am saving this page so i can recall those books and links for the future.

Do you happen to know of any material I could read to understand the methods by which transformity ratios are arrived at? I mean if I want to compare wind energy with coal energy and I want to convert them to EMergy with some transformity value, How is it decided that the EMergy in wind is half that of coal (I'm not sure what it's suppose to be)? When I see some of the EROEI values stated for wind and solar vs that of oil I cant help feel those transformity values are incredibly screwed up. Also If I understand correctly, which I may not, transformity values would be unique to each process,so how are these values used in general for processes in an entire country? How does wind and solar energy which is a few orders of magnitude less dense, and requires and order of magnitude larger infrastructure footprint(that might be redundant) manage to obtain an EROI in line with modern day oil processes. Also nobody seems to acknowledge that EROI/time is a metric much more important than EROI.


The system Jay is proposing sounds an awful lot like the quixotic system developed by the "Technocracy" movement that was briefly popular in the 1930's. It could be argued that centrally planned economies have not had a very good track record so far, but that's probably beside the point.

I took a look at both the society of sloth idea and the technocracy movement over the past 6 months - more here for those interested :

Is it time for a 4 day working week

Hubbert: King of the Technocrats

I think that a lot of people are missing one crucial element in this: the simple fact that "choice" of living arrangement is only available to an energy rich society. Those people who live in a constrained environment with no imported energy or materials, live according to the dictates of that local environment. As we lose this gigantic surfeit of energy, our choices become increasingly limited.

When someone asks, "Do you think anyone would willingly give up toilet paper?" one must wonder if they get the concept of a finite planet. Societies will be forced to give up many things, one by one, until they reach an energy equilibrium. Your choices become more and more limited until such a time that choices will be focused on non-material, or at least trivial, items such as fashion and social customs.

How we choose to react will undoubtedly determine the level of future suffering. Since humans are short-sighted by nature, trained over millennia to look to the immediate area and time for the maximum survivability, they will be strongly pushed by evolution to avoid the harsh reality of physics and will attempt to cling to the old energy use dynamics rather than plan ahead in order to reach the inevitable destination of an energy normative setting based on insolation rather than fossil sunlight. That means war. It means fighting for the dregs of a failed paradigm. It means quite a bit of suffering just to assuage the egos of a bunch of man-apes fresh from the savannah all too eager to cling to their techno-toys.

This collapse will be uneven, of course. Many countries will see things fall farther and more quickly than others. It would not be hard to determine which would be at most risk. But, within each country, there will be a further Balkanization of collapse. For instance, in the U.S., the desert Southwest will disappear as a viable habitat for mass quantities of humans. The south will continue to support people but at a more hellish level than before. The great frozen north (Global climate change not figured in) will freeze its tushy off while burning up the forests for warmth--there goes your toilet paper. And, within each of those areas, small micro-climates/social configurations will survive nicely while other areas will implode rather quickly.

Anyway. Something to consider.

That's why I am willingly giving up toilet paper, now. Not because I think my actions will make a jot of difference to helping reduce carbon emissions or reduce energy consumption in my society. But it will sure make it easier for me to cope once TSHTF. I'm hoping my little corner of the finate planet will descend more gently than others... but the last thing I want to be worrying about is toilet paper! Then, and now! It's another thing I don't have to go to the ugly supermarket for. I'll be happy when supermarkets are gone, except for the fact that it will indicate our normal economy has permanently gone down the U-bend, and a lot of folk will not be ready.

Roughly half of humanity are wipers that find washing with your hand icky and the other half are washers that find smearing the feces around icky, either habit works.

Yep, but which habit is better in the face of energy descent, break down of just-in-time distribution, and ecology? In one instance we are paying to cut down and process trees, or recycle paper from already processed trees, and then buy them from a retailer, with all the energy use and resource use that implies. On the other hand (most cultures choose left hand, don't they!) you can wipe with your own hand and/or a cloth, but then have to wash to get the desired hygenic standard, and where does the water come from, if you live in one of the many parts of the world that is or will be suffering water shortages?

Washing wins, exept in a sub zero centigrade outhouse wich might explain why we are wipers in Sweden. Locally I dont care much, we are more or less bathing in locally produced paper and the feedstock is renewable and cultivated in a multi generational way. I worry more about the phosphorus lost in the WC systems, the paper is neglible and does no harm in the biogas production or processed beyond recognition in the fields when we sooner or later close the most important circulations.

Btw, it has recently been noticed that the milling and processing of wood into pulp and paper yields usable biogas raw material in the waste streams.

The toilet paper use and production, distribution, retailing of it etc, in itself may have a small impact in the bigger picture, but it's a very significant symbolic gesture for people to understand that it IS possible to do without it, and it is a symbol of our supermarket culture, and what is regarded as "essential". I have read so many times on blogs that "giving up toilet paper" is a boundry that people aren't prepared to cross... and yet, if people could learn to cross that boundry BEFORE things get tougher, then they will be better able to cope with tougher times, and the enforced loss of TP due to the supermarket shelves emptying as we on TOD suspect they will.

I agree the flushing away of our natural fertilizer, especially the P, is a much bigger practical problem. I hope to get onto a composting toilet system once I am out of the rented apartment.

Meanwhile, the milling and processing of wood into pulp and paper which yields that biogas, could create paper that is used for writing valuable information on - books! rather than material to wipe our butts (ok, some published material would be better used for buttwiping :-))

BigGav - would be interesting to follow your 4 day workweek with the next variant, 3 day workweek (2 day workweek, etc.). At what point does current system morph into something very different? At 4 days I think it could still maintain itself. At 3, probably not.

The problem with these prescriptions is pointed out by your question 3a: what would we compete for? I don’t see how a society of sloth would not degenerate into all kinds of destructive behaviors as people find other ways to express their competitive instincts.

The time for capitalism has certainly passed, but that may simply mean that the time for humanity has passed. It seems to me that our genetic programming isn’t particularly well adapted to a world of global limits, and that real solutions will come from the world of genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, etc. This may sound like pie in the sky, but I think it’s past time to start tinkering with the human genetic code in a serious way -- the technology to do so is already at hand. Just to give one example, I can tell you from personal experience that no society of sloth will ever work unless you can find a way to reduce male testosterone levels. I am encouraged by the recent move toward loosening ethical limits on biotechnological research, but it needs to go much further. If there is to be any non-apocalyptic future ahead of us, it is probably going to require a “singularity” or evolutionary bifurcation, which is why I think it is critical that we take advantage of this window of opportunity and aggressively pursue transhumanist game-changers before the collapse scenarios discussed here make them impossible.

I view this whole thread as completely the opposite-a quintessential feminized 2009 American view of life. Happiness is an IKEA living room set and the opposite of this happiness is "sloth". Historically, buying useless products (i.e. consumption) is a female preoccupation. This statement bothers a lot of people because it implies material differences in what constitutes a fulfilling life depending on one's sex. Most posters on this site are men-I gotta ask-when is the last time you guys purchased any product that brought real joy (for even a moment). This is a female trip through and through. IMHO the whole idea of consumption as a fulfilling lifestyle for a human male is a clear indication of the society wide deep sexual frustration and repression of the 2009 American male.

well I bought some freeze dried food and a new laptop and both gave me quite a bit of pleasure. (but I harbor no deep sexual frustration either...) n=1

Let's see.... muscle cars, motor cycles, power tools, fly rods, boats, golf clubs, kayaks... the list goes on. It seems to me that buying useless products is hardly gender specific.

Besides it depends on the female involved. With my friends a discussion about malls is far more likely to involve splitting firewood than shopping.

What I should have said is that it isn't an either/or switch (a life based around consumption or a life of sloth)-you could just as easily say the choice is a life of consumption or a life of adventure, because the entire conformity/consumption mode is extremely boring for a lot of guys. I realize that the women reading TOD are a breed apart in many ways.

Good point. In fact, in the US anyway, men and women buy the same amount. The way they shop is different, and what they buy may be different, but they spend just as much money.

The difference is that women's purchases are naturally assumed to be frivolous, while men's are presumed to be investments, or just rewards for their hard work, or just an attempt to support their family.

Exhibit A, my coworker and her husband, who are in deep debt, and still digging. She shops more, but it's small stuff: clothes for the grandkids, knickknacks and furniture for the house. He buys fewer things, but more expensive: a $20,000 stereo system, a flatscreen TV, a boat. They both accuse the other of wasting money.

"They both accuse the other of wasting money."

They're both right.

Excuse me? Can you back up your statements? Not that I am saying that many females are not into consumption, but it is a bit rich for one gender to point the finger at another without backing it up with some evidence.
On a tit-for-tat (ie, my opinion, not backed up by any facts) I see a lot of technology being developed purely so big boys can play with it - PA gear for sound engineers springs to mind. Big cars and trucks are another. Latest mobile phone, guys? And the new jacket?

Maybe consumption is not so much to do with gender after all. Or maybe it is... but is this a helpful discussion at this point in the proceedings, when all of humanity, all genders, are in a problem of their combined making? Let's focus on solutions. (Is that a girly thing to say?)

It wasn't meant as a criticism of women in any way-enjoying products isn't wrong in any way. It was just an observation-let me ask you-what have been your most thrilling, exciting experiences so far? Have any involved buying items? Maybe a lot of women are just as bored by this trip as some men are.

You aren't suggesting that buying something is anyone's most thrilling, exciting experience, are you?

Ye gods, that would be depressing.

IME, the reason people buy stuff is not the thrill of purchasing or acquisition. (Well, maybe for a few collector types.) Most people are buying an experience. Or what they hope will be an experience or a change in their lives. They buy a new gadget with the idea that it will make them more efficient and they'll be promoted or have more time to spend with the wife and kids. A new lipstick with the idea that it will make them look wonderful and land them the husband of their dreams. A stainless steel range with the idea that they'll become terrific cooks, and save money while feeding their children healthy home-cooked meals. A leather jacket, in hopes that gorgeous women will swoon at their feet.

The reason buying stuff is ultimately unsatisfying is because most of the time, it ends up being just stuff. It doesn't change your life.

Unsatisfying? Well I think you are likely buying the WRONG items.

Some things are very good to buy. Like I went to an auction just a week ago for I wanted the big cast iron kettle that was to be on the block along with a huge amount of rather old but damn good gardening hand tools.

Yet I just got the kettle at $45 and a quite good price that was. This is a big kettle. Not a housewife decor item. For rendering down fat to make lard or washing clothes as my grandmother did.

I also got a copper well bucket. $10 for a solid copper well bucket?

Ok that was all and I was tempted but I only got what I needed and wanted. So one has to shop if one is really going to 'transition' or 'homestead' as I prefer.

If you don't buy the items you need to live that different lifestyle, well then you are not prepared. Simple.

Airdale-but mall shoppng is over for me and has been for some time
I did buy 5 cases of new Ball canning jars at a local grocery store though. At $9.95 a case with lids.A bargain.

Airdale,I am with you here.It seems like the more time I spend checking out the big picture,the worse things look.We will be buying a surplus shipping container soon to use for storage.These are much more durable than wood construction,if kept painted,and much harder to break into than any ordinary building.They are also dirt cheap at the moment.a lot cheaper than the materials to build an equal size storage building So what's going in it?

Anything that will fit that will keep and be hard to get wtshtf.acouple of hundred pounds of wheel wieghts lead-65 cents a pound right now at the local recycler who buys alloy car wheels. fishinf sinker and bullet molds.Anything that turns up at the flea market cheap from rope to electrical wire to an old hand cranked sausage grinder.some rolls of insulation bought from a guy who had it leftover when remodeling.heavy duty plastic 55 gallon drums that were originally used for food grade compressor oil.they will last almost forever if kept out of the sun.someday they will be needed to store water or grain maybe,or else I can cut them in half and use them for garden pots.a couple of tons of bagged limestone-enough for our kitchen gardens for a LONG time.grease cartridges,oil and filters and a few critical spares for the diesel tractor. rat traps.chicken wire. a big coil of plastic water pipe.odds and ends of logging chains.a couple of new batteries, the old style where the acid is not added until you need the battery.u can store these indefinitely.window screens.books about making things like soap and biodiesel.

Shipping containers come in two types (actually more, depedning upon cargo); one use and reusable. The reusable ones are better built and stronger. "One use" can be bought for scrap value.


Alan,thanks for pointing this out,I have never seen one of these single use containers.The kind I speak of are loaded over and over again.They are commonly either 20 or 40 feet long and are made to haul on specially made trailers pulled by truck tractors.At seaports they are unloaded from the trucks with very large cranes and stacked 10 layers or more deep on "container" ships,so you can see that they are very sturdy indeed.You can buy a forty foot by eight foot by 8 foot in pretty good condition right now for less than two grand delivered.rust is generally the only thing that can hurt one of these things very much.

I am less than a mile from one of the docks of the Port of New Orleans and have seen containers stacked on ships, rail cars and trucks (and on the ground). Cleaning containers for re-use is a local business.

I think it was the Chinese that came up with single use containers (one way vs. shipping back empties).

Best Hopes,


"You aren't suggesting that buying something is anyone's most thrilling, exciting experience, are you"?

You very close to the real truth.
Are not we humans concerned principally with happiness and pleasure?
I think we can and do work very hard to obtain varying degrees of both, even if for some it is mere survival. Each generation appears to require more time to enjoy or seek the objects or pastimes which give us pleasure.

Be it shopping, alcohol, drugs, sex, sport, music, entertainment or travel. The capitalist system has one objective and that is to service the needs of human pleasure. To provide the things we think we need to give us and our offspring a better life.

I'm a card carrying doomer but I don't think we need to worry about sloth. If survival means we have to work harder and do without the excesses we think we need to keep us happy, then it will happen naturally. It's happening already, coffee shops are going down, electrical retailers, vehicle manufacturers, airlines etc.

Drugs, sex and rock'n'roll are doing okay because that's where we appear to be retreating for now. It won't last though, we will adapt and find pleasure in very small mercies and that could simply be a decent meal.

Each generation appears to require more time to enjoy or seek the objects or pastimes which give us pleasure.

I don't think that's true. At least in the US, we're working harder than ever, trying to stay in the middle class and live the American dream.

Anthropologists have found that foraging societies need about 3-1/2 hours a day to provide food, shelter, and clothing. There's generally no way to preserve wealth in such societies, so no incentive to work harder than necessary. These societies are now found only in extremely inhospitable environments, so it's likely that our ancestors spent even less time time working than that.

I don't think it's natural for people to spend so much time working. We evolved to have more leisure time than we do.

Leanan, we don't have a clue as to what working hard means, and neither does several previous generations.

Oil has freed the very vast majority from hard work. Miners don't work hard, neither do lumber workers, farmers, builders, blacksmiths' and so on, the reason's are obvious. If someone works hard these days it's because they want to, not because they have to or because the job requires it.

There are no more stokers, muleskinners, gravediggers etc. even sheep shearers have back supports.
We travel long distances in our cars to get to work, or we sit in a train or airplane. Then we most likely sit on a chair in an office or truck or excavator, probably at most ten percent employed and at work we spend out spare time on the internet for pleasure. We eat more, drink more and take more drugs.

Long hours in my opinion does not equate to hard work. The only time someone would come home physically exhausted nowadays is when they have been to the gym. And gyms are everywhere, probably because we need the exercise, nobody works hard or walks anymore. The nights are lit up and and entertainment abounds, all types of sport, concerts, movies and huge entertainment systems to enjoy at home.

The time for hard work will return and those that catch on first will be among the survivors. Skills long lost will have to be relearned and our perceptions of what is needed to make or keep us happy will change. It will no longer be a new iphone, or new home or car or trips to the mall, we can be assured of that.

I hope not.

As I said, I don't think this is natural for people. Though it has been quite common recently in our history. It's what gave rise to the idea of heaven being sitting around all day with nothing to do. (Which would be hell for most of us today.)

The time for hard work will return and those that catch on first will be among the survivors.

More likely, those who can force other people to work for them will be the survivors.

There's generally no way to preserve wealth in such societies, so no incentive to work harder than necessary. THERES an idea....

If you are asking me personally what have been my most thrilling, exciting experiences so far, I'm not sure I could tell you on a family site like this! But some are examples are: riding my bike down a HUGE hill after a HUGE slog up the hill. Being on stage perfoming in front of a huge crowd of people. Skydiving, bungyjumping, hanggliding - ok, those involved purchasing the experience. Being in a small room with a bunch of amazing musicians, jamming until late, feeling that amazing connection.... and of course some amazing days and nights I have had with very special intimate others, that certainly couldn't be purchased.

I think Leanan replied very well to some of the issues you raised, just upthread. Despite the obvious male contributor (articals and comments) bias in terms of greater number of posted material, the TOD team is actually anchored by two very amazing women, and there may be more females lurking in the readership than is apparent! Although I don't believe the readership is 50/50 female/male.... it is interesting to ponder why, but maybe not so important in the greater scheme of things. Females have a very strong presense in the Transition Towns movement, and of course Sharon Asytk is a huge influence, I suspect she has many female followers, who are "just as bored by this (consumer) trip as some men are".
In the end, we're all in it together, and there will be an end to shopping at the mall! And supermarket! Horrible things.

From capitalist pigs to sloths with these kinds of "leaders "???

President Bling-Bling says, " Air Force One is one 'spiffy ride,'

"Hey guys, what do you think of my -- this spiffy ride here?" the president asked the group of reporters traveling with him on the presidential plane...

"Thanks for giving me a reason to fly Air Force One," he told the House Democrats after his flight, which took him away from a week of fighting for the economic stimulus bill.

For the United States, we would probably have to ditch the Bank of Congress, and the Bank of the Executive Branch and reassign the current gluttons who reside in each to "re-education" farms.

The words 'President Bling Bling' do not appear anywhere in the CNN article at the link you posted.

If one does not agree with a politician's polices, or one does not like the person, fine.

However, can we express our opinions and preferences sans the not-too-thinly-veiled racial slurs?

The linkage between some causal banter about the niceness of Air Force One and the current banking/economic mess is pretty obscure, given that all Presidents are afforded equal accommodations. Even better, President Obama has cancelled the aquisition of the hideously expensive proposed fleet of new Presidential helicopters after Senator McCain complained about them, saying that the current helicopters were good enough.

Funny how Senator McCain waited all these years to get all up in arms to try to embarrass the new President when he knew darn well that the program was started and nurtured under President Bush's administration.

President Obama seems not too excited about the idea of the Air Force buying new Air Force Ones as well: (This link describes the nascent replacement effort, but not Obama's reaction...I read that somewhere else, likely Aviation Week and Space Technology or maybe in an in-government publication).

These attitudes and priorities do not jibe with the 'Bling Bling' name and spendthrift implications, with its connotations of gangsta rap and boys in the hood and so forth.

This is right up there with a previous crack on TOD about the First Lady's $500 sneakers combined with a 'moving uptown' remark.

I am embarrassed to say that my home town in Pennsyltucky had homes with 'Vote White' signs in the yards, and it seems that there is still plenty of code-talk resenting some uppity black folks using the same Presidential perks that every modern President and their families have used and for spending some of that Presidential $400K salary on some shoes that are obviously too good for them.

I suppose that the first Hispanic President will have to put up with fuzzy dice in the Air Force One cockpit quips and the first Asian American President will have to bear his or her own race-coded comments as well.

The melting pot myth of America is fine to some folks, as long as most of the ingredients stay on the bottom, stuck to the vat getting burned.

You make some good points, but in other ways your blinders are on pretty tight. That 400K salary is a joke-if Obama doesn't end up with north of 100 million it will be a shock to everyone actually viewing reality. On the bottom? Are you aware of what % of Americans would ever consider spending $540 on sneakers? The guy isn't part of your tribe, so quit the fantasy that he is-his tribe consists of players who run up 400K expense accounts without blinking.


I don't recall you whining about all the Bush Bashing that used to occur.

So why don't you give it a rest and let the other sides have their say as well?

Your 'true colors' are definitely showing thru as well.

We all have opinions but your seems to be to always bitch about others.

Yours can get rather tiring as well.

Airdale-I don't connect Pennsylvania in any way with Kentucky. Mind your mouth there and I won't whine about Pennsywhatever

Calling someone out on obvious racial slurs is not out of line.



You're right, I should have put the "president bling-bling" in parenthesis or something.

Also, I did not think for one second this was a racial slur - there are kids of all races using the same term in every crevice of every neighborhood in my area.

My insult was intended for the politicians in general - McCain is a Bush is a Clinton is an Obama is a FRAUD (imposter, con, whatever)... The line of clowns looks all the same to me regardless of which side of the Isle they sit on.

"The House"'s they reside in should be razed.

Get rid of The Fed (and begin the investigations and indictments), get rid of both houses of the Congress, and and get rid of the Executive-in-Chief (no matter how charismatic, he is a FRAUD).

Keep the Supreme Court for the individuals states to take inter-state disagreements to be heard.

Let the individual states pick up the pieces and start over.

(and for god'z sake, tell the rest of the world find a new "policeman" - especially the whining Europeans)

4. Would it be possible for us as a species to leave easily available energy and resources untouched?

I think this would be very difficult because of the Maximum Power Principal. Those who have cheap energy / resources have the money / power.

We have at least one major example: Japan gave up the road to industrialization and built a large but sustainable population based on agriculture. They refused to trade with the world and the US, which had turned all that energy and cheap resource into a large navy, sailed in and forced them to participate.

It is a classic tragedy of the commons problem. Exploit the resource, and you do better, but everyone does worse. Or don't exploit the resource and get wiped out of the commons pool by those who do.

Inside a country, this means they have the ability to radically shift the dialog. We can see it with peak oil when Exxon Mobile runs front page ads on the Wall Street Journal any time they run an article talking about peak oil. That kind of "money to burn" only exists if you have control of a huge and valuable resource.

The natural gas industry seems to have taken down Kerry with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Cap and Trade seems to be coming apart as all the self interested parties realize how much it will cost them short term. What about a dictatorship? China seems to have the same issue and worse! There are no pollution controls. And no way politically to fight for them.

So those with huge sums of cash from exploiting a resource base can control the politics enough to allow exploitation of the next resource base. Who has the money to oppose them?

Between countries it is very similar. OPEC tries to restrict the rate of oil flow and we threaten to pass laws that declare such a restriction of trade illegal. We put forward the case that they lack the right to not sell. Russia shuts down a pipeline, and NATO rumbles that restricting energy supplies could be a basis for war. And, of course, most here believe Iraq was all about getting access to cheap oil.

No, I think our world is much, much closer to Asimov's Foundation Trilogy than we would like to believe. If the resource exists at positive energy return, it will be used.

So those with huge sums of cash from exploiting a resource base can control the politics enough to allow exploitation of the next resource base. Who has the money to oppose them?

The drug-cartel situation in Mexico is a good metaphor for this. Those best at accumulating wealth through exploiting resources end up controlling the whole political process; ergo, the exploitation continues apace (your occasional George Soros to the contrary notwithstanding).

2. If humans can't overcome our impulses, should advertising for 'consumptive goods' be repealed?

New book relevant to this general topic

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior, by Geoffrey Miller

The publisher just sent me a review copy. I have not yet had time to read all of it, but the few sections I have read have floored me -- excellent. The last chapter is relevant to reducing consumerism.

Description at Amazon:

Product Description
A leading evolutionary psychologist probes the hidden instincts behind our working, shopping, and spending

Evolutionary psychology—the compelling science of human nature—has clarified the prehistoric origins of human behavior and influenced many fields ranging from economics to personal relationships. In Spent Geoffrey Miller applies this revolutionary science’s principles to a new domain: the sensual wonderland of marketing and status seeking that we call American consumer culture. Starting with the basic notion that the goods and services we buy unconsciously advertise our biological potential as mates and friends, Miller examines the hidden factors that dictate our choices in everything from lipstick to cars, from the magazines we read to the music we listen to. With humor and insight, Miller analyzes an array of product choices and deciphers what our decisions say about ourselves, giving us access to a new way of understanding—and improving—our behaviors. Like Freakonomics or The Tipping Point, Spent is a bold and revelatory book that illuminates the unseen logic behind the chaos of consumerism and suggests new ways we can become happier consumers and more responsible citizens.

About the Author
Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist and author of The Mating Mind. He was educated at Columbia and Stanford and is associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico.

He changed the name of the book! (and his website). I have been waiting for that for 2 years. Man is he prolific. Thanks Mike.

(EDIT: He is working on the next book "All-Consuming Instincts: Why We Buy Fake Cues of Evolutionary Success"; c. 400 pages. (Research completed; in preparation for c. 2011 publication). This is exact stuff I have been speaking on..)

Also worth a look are the documentaries by Adam Curtis - all available via youtube and The Century of the Self is particularly relevant.

Adam Curtis's Power of Nightmares is propaganda cobblers. Falsely makes out that Islamic terrorism originated in the 1950s when in reality it originated with Islam's founder, see eg in Qur'an 59:2-7 "Allah" gloating about M's starting of the ethnic cleansing of Arabia. Respect where respect isn't due.

For an attack on the the advertising industry see Vance Packard from the 50's.

I believe that Max Shulman also addressed this issue in a humorous fashion post WWII.

I like McKibben's word: stuffporn.

A great deal of freedom is possible ... if someone didn’t like the rules in a particular community, they could move to another religious, cultural, or ethnic community of their choosing.

"A great deal of freedom". Right. Under the thumb of the petty parochial totalitarian thugocracy that will end up in charge of each of those villages. Oh, but one can leave. Right again. If the thugs deign to let you out of your cage. (Recall that the Communist thugs of Eastern Europe built extensive walls to keep people in - and they had to, or eventually no one but the shiftless and stupid would have remained, a non-functional assemblage no one could possibly have governed.) And if the thugocracies physically located between where you are and where you wish to go deign to allow unmolested passage. And if you have no family ties binding you to wherever you are. Fat chance.

So, interesting discussion up to a point, but it should remind anyone reading that there are excellent reasons for rights such as those set out in the much-abused US Constitution. And there are reasons why utopias fail for nearly everyone - why, indeed, they're called utopias. Given a bit of time, failure seems to be the rule even when the intentions are good and the organization is skillful, as with the kibbutzim in Israel. Those, too, have long since either disbanded or else reformed beyond recognition. Only the most inconsequential portion of the population now lives even close to the original way.

Taking an example from said kibbutzim, it must surely have become extremely wearing, even for the starry-eyed idealists, to have to audition oneself before a panel of meddlesome overbearing neighbors any time one needed a new bicycle (or heavy repairs to the existing one) or whatever else. Proliferate that across all the myriad petty details of life, and it's no wonder the things couldn't last. So what, then, could we expect of a sort of plural marriage into a 'community' where "bad taste" is defined and outlawed by the thugocracy, even if said thugocracy justifies itself by piously observing that it's a tyranny of the majority? People are social creatures, but I doubt that many are meant, evolved, suited, or whatever similar term you like, to live as existential ciphers like that, as mere hive creatures.

No, I don't think I want anything whatever to do with a world fashioned after the proposal on the table. I find it quite enough, for example, to work intensely in an arts group, without need to marry and conform to such an overarching extreme even in artistic matters, and certainly not in all the other myriad petty details of life. If some other group member needs a new bicycle, both that fact and the details are, well, none of my business. Alas, totalitarianism, thuggery, the forced obligation to "drink the kool-aid", the demand to march in lockstep in all matters, seem to inhere in utopianism, as the line about a "draft" demonstrates beyond any possible shadow of a doubt.

So in the end, I figure it's healthy that utopias seem almost always to fail. Life just doesn't seem meant or destined to be designed once for all time by some New Plato pontificating from some grand professorial ivory tower. It's more like an improvisational dance or a jam session, but for whatever reason some people, Planning Addicts, perhaps, just can't seem to abide that. So we always get another huckster shilling a new utopia Guaranteed Not To Become Dystopic And Fail, Not This Time, No Really, No, Not Even When Actual People Move In. But good riddance. Let the devil take it.

call out the scientists, engineers, and systems people

How about some anthropologists and ethologists (animal behaviour experts). You need to get good ones, many are mired in cultural delusions. A key part of our problem is that humans are funny animals.

There are many relevant aspects of humans nature that need to be considered. Here are a few:

  • Human life has two stable equilibrium points: (a) high level of male-male violence and adult sex ratio about 2 females per male; (b) high level of social control, little violence and 1:1 sex ratio.
  • Human societies have two modes: (1) united against the common enemy; and (2) internal struggle for power. Of course dictators love mode (1). This is why America's policy of isolating dictatorships does such a good job of preserving them.
  • Altruism is not evolutionarily game-theory stable. It exists in humans because we are evolved to hate and punish bad guys. Indeed we are more evolved to put up a good front of doing the right thing than to actually do it. This is why criminality follows so swiftly in any places where there is a shortage of transparency. It is also why we are all less than enthusiastic about increasing the level of transparency.

A lot more could be said. The aim is to create a society that has low and equal consumption. The key to such a society is transparency. Indeed transparency alone will go a long way. For example if everyone knows that X gets 10% more eMergy certificates than everyone else then that will provide the same status boost as secretly receiving twice as many.

That was well said.

Human life has two stable equilibrium points: (a) high level of male-male violence and adult sex ratio about 2 females per male; (b) high level of social control, little violence and 1:1 sex ratio.

I understand the thrust of this but was unaware there was evidence of 2:1 ratio

A lot more could be said. The aim is to create a society that has low and equal consumption.

Would you consider expanding on the above comment in the form of a 1,000-3,000 word, altruistic (shared labor) guest post?

I'd also say that having psychologists and anthropologists is important. This is partly because, to my understanding, the "human problem" ISN'T avarice in the definition of wanting more and more amounts of possessions but that people are constantly seeking novelty, often in the material objects; people in conditions where there is a severe lack of variety in goods generally don't seek excessive amounts of the identical goods. Indeed, my biggest annoyance about modern society is not people having material goods, but that so many have barely come down from the buzz of acquring a new "thing" before they're working on acquiring newer things, never taking the time to actually enjoy the use of the objects they've purchased. (I'm not denying "non-novelty driven avarice" exists, just that its much less of a problem than the human desire for novelty.)

Given that I think you're slightly off-beam in your diagnosis of the cause of the problem, I likewise think that your solution is slightly off. I think a better goal than replacing avarice with sloth would be to try and figure out ways of encouraging lifestyles which satisfy the human desire for novelty in ways which have much lower physical impacts. Indeed, from the "low impact lifestyle" people I've seen they tend to find alternate outlets like arts and crafts production, etc, rathter than "settling for a standardised, repetitive low impact lifestyle". You very much want to get rid of advertising; when I'm feeling cynical I suspect the solution is to ramp up the advertising but somehow disconnect it from actually buying physical stuff. (This is only when I'm being cynical, because I do worry about the effect on people's attention span/ability to sometimes delay gratification that advertising directly works against.)

Given that I think you're slightly off-beam in your diagnosis of the cause of the problem, I likewise think that your solution is slightly off. I think a better goal than replacing avarice with sloth would be to try and figure out ways of encouraging lifestyles which satisfy the human desire for novelty in ways which have much lower physical impacts.

For record this isn't my essay - your comment above is EXACTLY the direction where I think we have to go and I am trying to lead by example (kind of). Years ago here I wrote about HROEI (Happiness returned on energy invested), which morphed into all sorts of variants (neurotransmitter cocktail/entropy was the basic gist)...Whether it is possible to shift the 'what' is yet to be seen.

The bad thing about this site is that we are forging ahead 'at the margin', but sometimes we find ourselves repeating things that are years old - the 'new' stuff seems overly shocking to new readers.

In any case, I agree with your comment. We can't change our wiring to compete but we CAN change what we compete for...

It often seems that Jay maximizes his HROEI and dopamine by belittling and insulting others. Or by treating adults as children. Still he has entertainment value and should be given credit for establishing the dieoff site and the Yahoo energy boards. As I have mentioned previously he was the first to publish L. F. Buz Ivanhoe's Hubbert Center Newsletter on the internet. Since then it has been mostly downhill.

I agree. That could fulfill the "competitive" aspect as well. Competition needn't be to have the fastest car or biggest house or most money. It could be to play the best music or paint the best painting. As it is many less-complex societies.

What are the chances that Jay will post on this string. Somewhere between slim and none. Jay prefers sites where he has total control. There is far too much freedom on TOD for his taste.


Not for the first time I find Nate's questions mostly either uninteresting or conceptually misfounded (as in: When are you going to stop beating your boyfriend, Nate?).

1. If capitalism is one or two people running a privately-owned pub, shop or transport business: no, capitalism's end is not here. But if you mean the growth-dependent globalised-corporatised-creditised-oilised system: it is on its last legs, never to stand again.

2. The question assumes that there will continue to be (rational, helpful) governments and corporations advertising; assumptions I don't much subscribe to.

3a. There is no such thing as needs. Food and shelter are conditions for a cat to live. But there's no "need" for the cat to live anyway. "Needs" are mere inventions of the human mind like "money", "ownership", "property" and "wealth".

Re the opening post:

"Collapse" is defined as the rapid transformation to a lower degree of complexity

No. If your house collapses it becomes more complex, not less (try compressing a jpeg of it).
The essence of collapse is disappearance of orderedness or defunctioning of an ordered system, changing to disorder. That's why a planned contraction or planned simplification would not be a collapse.

Step one would be to establish a global government

By which point Jay Hanson is already in pig-flying land. Not much point in following his thread any further. Unfortunately, making a lot of money does not guarantee one is a competent intellectual no matter how much one might fantasise it or others might assume it.
Edit:- I note Robert Wilson's comment that concurrently appeared above this one; qed.

1. "one or two people running a privately-owned pub, shop or transport business": That is a market economy, not big-C Capitalism, which requires a sophisticated financial system, legal fictions of corporations as people, etc. Market economy good; Capitalism -no, not bad - good in measured doses, closely monitored.

The absence of a distraction (following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the conversion of China to "communism with Chinese characteristics" (sic)) has allowed Capitalism's shortcomings to come into focus. Stealing from Churchill, it's the worst system we've got, except all the others we've tried from time to time. It needs firm handling and proper house-training, though. (Churchill didn't say that second bit, that's mine.)

2. Advertising? European style, perhaps. Again, good in small doses. How else do you find the bicycle repair man?

3a. Competition will be for status / fame; it already is. Look at your TV listings: America's Next (s)Top Model, American "Idle", Project RunwaySaunterway, etc. (Couldn't resist a slothful pun, sorry.) ;-).

3b. If I understand the transition correctly, monetary wealth will be meaningless. Notoriety will be the new wealth. Discrepancies will be perceived as problematic; Andy Warhol and Marshall McLuhan ("everybody will get their 15 minutes of fame", "The medium is the message") will be the new proto-prophets of notoriety-socialism, etc.

4. Can we leave easily available resources untouched? Sure, if we are distracted from noticing them via cultural blinders. See Jared Diamond's discussion of the Greenland Norse ignoring seals as a food source. In the 70s, Jerry Pournelle used to say in reference to solar energy, "it's raining soup and we're too stupid to hold up a bowl!"

5. Would this be an acceleration of the panarchic cycle? No, it would be a slowing, attempting to maintain social interdependence and exploitation of potential at a high level.

Robin, by "complexity" Nate intends "social complexity" - the number of different roles played by people in society. This is based on analogy to "ecosystem complexity", roughly measured by the number of different species in the ecosystem. In this context "collapse" is a rapid(?) reduction in the number of different kinds of things in the unit of study (society). It is different from entropy. Nate is in a school of Environmental Economics.

I agree that planning on the scale needed is unlikely to happen, and any planned response that does occur will be local and probably disruptive.

I further agree that "making a lot of money does not guarantee one is a competent intellectual," but it's interesting to me that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Ted Turner, and Jay Hanson (to name a few moneymakers) all seem to have an idea that "something needs a bit of fixing" in the world.

Nate, nice thought experiment but unlikely to have much application in the Real World (TM). ;-)

Join the Slothful Society: Adopt a pet slug now!! ;-)

That is a market economy, not big-C Capitalism,

But is there any clear boundary? The people who can't afford to own a shop, farm, etc, might think those who can as unfairly controlling, privileged capitalists (kulaks etc).

by "complexity" Nate intends "social complexity" - the number of different roles played by people in society. This is based on analogy to "ecosystem complexity", roughly measured by the number of different species in the ecosystem.

Thanks for clarification. But! once again let's look at that jpeg (in this case a "jpeg" of society). In a grand bureaucracy people are slotted into a limited number of uniform categories: clerical assistant, clerical officer, supervising officer, executive officer, higher executive, etc. By contrast, after that bureaucracy breaks down, there are instead a lot of individuals in a mixed up mess of all sorts of ad-hoc roles and statuses. Thus greater complexity even in the ecosystem terms. Looking at the social jpeg, instead of the say 10 ranks of the organisation, the "social color bit depth" has to expand to distinguish all those un-stereotyped individuals.

By "roles" I was meaning more things like:

Shopkeeper truckdriver fireman actor makeup artist TV weatherperson dentist sound technician musician electrician water supply engineer financial planner bank teller author website-designer farmer diesel mechanic fitter slaughterman post-grad student nurse physiotherapist hairdresser lawyer librarian tailor car salesman economist golf professional etc etc etc...

After a "collapse" of complexity many of these specialities will be absent - people do for themselves or do without (financial planner? hairdresser? fireman?), or several activities are "rolled up" into one, for example the role "handyman" rolls up builder, cabinetmaker, plumber, electrician, painter, carpet-layer, glazier, arborist, fence maker, saw doctor, etc.

So, rather than several tens of thousands of occupations, there may be only one or two thousand.

A simpler jpeg from that angle ...?

Is there any clear boundary? No. One possible place to draw a line is: do all trading business owners habitually take part in the daily operation of their businesses? When you get some who own (parts of) businesses, but other, non-kin people run those businesses, you have incipient Capitalism.

Rent (interest, when it's rent on money; dividends on stocks) and legal devices to limit risk (limited liability, contract law, securing loans over assets): the twin signs of Capitalism.

But there isn't a definite point at which you can say "Capitalism starts here".

The peasants looking enviously at the kulaks and shop-owners are using the wrong word. Perhaps they mean "lucky SOBs" and "arrogant merchants".

Greg,I've wondered a lot about that business with the seals and the Vikings.Diamond is one of my favorite writers,he should be on everybody's must read list.The likeliest explianation I can come up with is that killing a seal is a damned hard thing to do especially with the weapons they had,which were not apparently well adapted to seal hunting.getting close enough to such an intelligent animal accustomed to being hunted probably played an equal or larger role,and might have been impossible w/o Iniut clothing,which is/was good enough to allow the hunter to lie dead still for hours next to a seals hole in the ice.Given the bad relations with the localIniut, it is also unlikely that they had an oppurtunity to learn how seals are hunted successfully from them.

it is hard to believe that the Vikings would have starved rather than eat a seal,given the choice.

Instead of Sloth, why not partying ?

We in New Orleans have found that biological consumption of ethanol is much better use than fueling an SUV. Amplified music takes only a few amps, etc.

A "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!"# society need not consume large amounts of resources and could be quite sustainable.

# Let the Good Times Roll

Best Hopes for 300 festivals/year :-)


I'm going to post this as a reply to Alan's comment, because that's what I think is the best solution. Alcohol is the cause of, and the solution to, all of man's problems. Music is all good.


1. Maybe, but I think it will be defended strenuously.

2. Consumptive is in the mind of the beholder, so I don't see how this would work.

3a. Sex and social control. See middle/high school.

3b. No comment.

4. Nope.

5. I don't think recovery is guaranteed, so I don't think so.

Alan's point is not a joke. There is a persistent idea that less energy means less "economic activity" = "sloth" = "less fun." I see almost no relation. For example, if we spent our time playing tennis daily, rather than sitting in cubicles Monday-Friday and driving our fat butts to the mall on Saturday-Sunday to buy crap to fill our oversized houses and rental storage units, that would be a very active lifestyle but would consume basically no energy or other resources at all. Then, as Alan says, after tennis we could drink some ethanol and party party. There is nothing "less" about this lifestyle. The fact that it is completely solar-powered is just a nice happenstance.

I think there are a lot of Americans who cannot imagine what they would do without high-tech resource-intensive consumption. Often, the response to hearing that foraging societies work only 3 hours a day is, "What do they do with all that free time?" No TV, no DVDs, no video games, no malls, etc. Free time with "nothing to do" is seen as torture.

We are so overstimulated that it would be a difficult adjustment. Kinda like people who are used to eating McDonald's and Doritos find home-cooked meals bland.

However, you do get used to it. I lived overseas in developing countries from time to time as child, which often meant transitioning from a typical American childhood to a lifestyle where entertainment was powered solely by my own imagination. I found it difficult as a teen. Hated it, hated my parents for dragging me away from TV and malls and chocolate ice cream. But after a year or so, I didn't want to go home.

One of the several elements that I found fascinating in New Orleans was "stoop culture". People would sit out on their stoop (front steps) or porch if they had one, talk with neighbors and passerbys (people walking by, not driving), perhaps have a drink, practice a musical instrument, play cards, or shoot baskets, etc.

Even when a bit hot and humid, many people prefer this social connection over watching TV in air conditioning.

Best Hopes for Social Connections over TV & video games,


Talking with your neighbors is all well and good too, but actually DVDs/video games take almost no resources/energy at all.

Actually, most "high tech consumption" is not "resource-intensive". The stuff that really burns up "resources" is Suburbia, which is to say, mostly autos/houses. Low tech stuff.

The actual materials in an iPhone is about equivalent to a plastic soda pop bottle and an aluminum can. It's almost nothing.

I want to get away from the idea that "lower resource use" means some sort of 19th century lifestyle of knitting socks and whittling wood. That sort of thing is fine too, but actually we can have most of everything that's fun about modern urban living with very low resource use.

Also, conversely, that 19th century lifestyle was actually enormously consumptive of resources. So, it's not really something we want to imitate.

two relevant quotes just came in my inbox:

Dr. Merrill E. Gates, president of Amherst College, c. 1887:

To bring [the Indian] out of savagery into citizenship…we need to awaken in him wants. In his dull savagery, he must be touched by the wings of the divine angel of discontent…Discontent with the teepee and the Indian camp…is needed to get the Indian out of the blanket and into trousers—and trousers with a pocket in them, and with a pocket that aches to be filled with dollars!


Senator Dawes, author of the Dawes Act, of 1887, which created private property rights for Indians, so that their land could be sold to white settlers:

The head chief [of the Cherokees] told us that there was not a family in the whole nation that had not a home of its own. There was not a pauper in the nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar…Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They [the Indians] have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common…There is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbor’s. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization. Until this people consent to give up their lands and divide then among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much progress.


Some other examples of early efforts to create wants found here:

On British capitalists' discussions of the need to "create wants" in Jamaica after the abolition of slavery in the 1830s... [A]s abolition was being prepared in Jamaica, British Member of Parliament Rigby Watson argued on June 10, 1833 (p. 54):

"To make them labour, and give them a taste for luxuries and comforts, they must be gradually taught to desire those objects which could be attained by human labour. There was a regular progress from the possession of necessaries to the desire of luxuries; and what once were luxuries, gradually came, among all classes and conditions of men, to be necessaries. This was the sort of progress the negroes had to go through, and this was the sort of education to which they ought to be subject in their period of probation [after emancipation]."

Similarly, John Daughtrey remarked (p. 71):

"Every step they take in this direction is a real improvement; artificial wants become in time real wants. The formation of such habits affords the best security for negro labour at the end of the apprenticeship."

For other examples of capitalists' conscious discussions of the necessity of "creating wants," see for example, Aviva Chomsky, West Indian Workers and the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica, 1870-1940, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. An excerpt (pp. 56-59):

[The United Fruit] company claimed in its propaganda that its role was to instill consumer values among its workers... In 1929, Crowther, another United Fruit biographer, explicitly explained the importance of the spread of a consumer mentality as he waxed eloquent on the virtues of capitalism and bemoaned the immoral effects of a subsistence economy: "The mozos or working people [in Central America] have laboured only when forced to and that was not often, for the land would give them what little they needed." But this could be changed, he explained, by infusing these laborers with the desire for upward mobility. "The desire for goods, it may be remarked, is something that has to be cultivated. In the United States this desire has been cultivated...

American movies, radio, and especially magazines were everywhere, and "our advertising is slowly having the same effect as in the United States -- and it is reaching the mozos. For when a periodical is discarded, it is grabbed up, and its advertising pages turn up as wall paper in the thatched huts. I have seen the insides of huts completely covered with American magazine pages... All of this is having its effect in awakening desires."

Hans Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1971. An excerpt (p. 158):

[T]he problem of introducing American pragmatism and efficiency involved confrontation with basic Haitian values and ambitions regarding work and material rewards for work. . . . Financial Adviser Arthur C. Millspaugh stated: "The peasants, living lives which to us seem indolent and shiftless, are enviably carefree and contented; but, if they are to be citizens of an independent self-governing nation, they must acquire, or at least a larger number of them must acquire, a new set of wants" [see Arthur Millspaugh (U.S. proconsul in Haiti), "Our Haitian Problem," Foreign Affairs, Vol. VII, No. 4, July 1929, pp. 556-570].

"and delivers basic needs (not Cadillacs) to everyone in a sustainable way."

LOL This is when I quit reading. Last I heard this planet could sustain ~2 billion people or less so what the author really meant was that we must get rid (somehow) of about 4 billion people first and then compute the eMergy for those left and I doubt if there will be a Univac around to do the computing.

Why don't we all just say, "Keep a 'here and now' focus and do the best we can with what we have." That is truth; in stead of all the computative speculative BS with beautiful logic that is essentially clueless. Ultimately that's what will be done. Eat berries in season.

Apparantly not many really understand forcasting and black swans. Rule one ... Don't forcast anything either with text or graph because in a little while you will have to take it all back and look really stupid ... like economists or TPTB in any government. There are no other rules.

BTW: I also really know how to fish. Stretch a gill net across the river for a few minutes and eat well.


Or perhaps did you know that one could mash some green walnut hulls and throw them in the water and stun fish to gather a mess?

Or so I was told by some old timers.

Aside: The snakes are in trouble it seems. They are puzzled by this landscape and are coming to my living quarters. Two days ago a large black snake took up residence on my front porch. He was hard to convince to leave and I had to carry him to the woods.

Then the next day a chicken snake about to deliver young was beside the porch and I had to take her to my wood pile.

Last night I spied a king snake in my bathroom hiding behind the hot water heater. I took him out to the yard but he came back to the porch so I put him back in my bathroom. At least he can catch the mice there instead of me using traps.

All these snakes were very docile. I handled them easily.
The woods are torn to shreds and things are not what they used to be. The wildlife seem to be perplexed.

I have never had this problem with snakes here before. Yes I do find their shed skins around the place but they prefer to remain hidden and reclusive.

Its a mystery to me. I took some photos of the beautiful ringed king snake to put on my website as well as images of the Pow Wow and recordings of the drum music.

Airdale-also birds are nesting all around my living quarters and right on top of me. The dogs will kill the fledglings unless I can catch them when they fledge out of the nest. Animals are confused.
We are making them confused. Our weather is doing its part.
Yesterday roads were flooded all over. The night before another huge wind passed over. It made a huge sucking sound like I have never heard before. Many others heard it and were suprised at its roar.
I have never heard wind make this sound. It lasted for 30 minutes or longer and never seemed to move much. Then it passed to the west and was gone.

Hi Airdale:

Out here in the high desert we are in all-to-gether different weather. You can have our year's worth of moisture in one day (7 inches total).

We have a mountain to the northwest called 'Peavine' and as mountains go, it isn't much but a couple thousand feet higher than we are here. The local knowledge is not to plant until the snow is off Peavine. There is still a bit of visable snow up there but I planted strawberries and onions anyway. Tomorrow I will plant some more but I will not plant tomatos untill the snow is off from Peavine, two weeks at the outside.

I always pick the plants with the shortest growing season because we can have frost in early September.

As long as we have water, it is OK. We have a well and a solar powered golf cart to operate the pump so it will work.

I'll try the crushed green walnut shells. Walnut wood is one of the worst domestic woods for alergies so there is probably something to the story. Thanks for the tip.

Its the hull. Not the shell. They fall green or can be picked but later the hull turns black and rots off.

I have never tried it either. But once I had a very old book that told of very easy ways to trap,catch and gather just about anything. All mostly illegal now. The walnut trick was in there.

Here is a web link I just found that says its true. And old indian trick.


PS. Since you work with wood you should be careful around black walnut sawdust.I built a bookcase out of it. Very nice wood but the sawdust is a bear.

Black walnut is fairly common here. In mature trees there seems to be less sapwood. I have one log out back that seems to be almost pure heartwood. I now wear a dust mask when working it very much.

I much prefer cherry for that reason. Or red oak.

This is a story of one of my walnut pieces.

Have or did you consider submitting that piece to Tauton's Fine Woodworking. Its easily as good or better than many I have seen submitted as 'works by members'.

Very very fine work. Kudos. I could not begin to match that level of detail.


cmon guys. lets keep it on topic. set up private email if you want to discuss tangential (but interesting) things.


No doubt my statement will stick in the economist's craw, because after all, isn't “efficiency” what economics is all about? The problem with “economic efficiency” is that “money” is not a measure of anything in the real world (like, say, BTUs). Money is power because money “empowers” people to buy and do the things they want – including buying and doing other people (politics). Thus, “economic efficiency” is properly seen as a “political” concept that was designed to preserve political power for those who have it – to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Pretty authoritative statement from someone that apparently doesn't understand the concept of economic efficiency. The concept is defined without any mention of money.

Here is where I stopped reading and started skimming before getting ready to do something else. Paragraph one:

Societies "collapse" when they become too complex for their energy base. Thus, the collapse of capitalism is inevitable because capitalism must grow to survive – must become more-and-more complex and consume more-and-more energy.

Capitalism must grow to survive? Yes.
Become more complex? No.
Consume more energy? Not necessarily.


In praise of sloth? Reminds me of Bertrand Russell's In Praise of Idleness. Are you equating sloth with idleness? Sloth has the connotation of apathy and lack of activity, while idleness is active and productive. I don't think sloth is a wise choice.

Capitalism can be seen as an organized process to ingest natural, living systems (including people) in one end, and excrete unnatural, dead garbage and waste (including wasted people) out the other.

I understand the anger--the wrath--behind this "definition," but the fact is it is vacuous and unilluminating, for just about anything can be described in the same way: The ICE, agriculture, even, in fact, life itself: A living thing can be seen as an organized process to ingest natural, living systems (including animals and plants) in one end, and excrete unnatural, dead garbage and waste (including wasted meat) out the other.

There's nothing to be gained, except perhaps a bit of emotional release, to describe Capitalism--or anything else--this way.

So send the economists into retirement and call out the scientists, engineers, and systems people!

Sounds great. Plato would love ya...But there are counter-examples: see China, where the leadership is made up of engineers and systems people (Chinese thought is systems thinking by nature)--and they are the ones who have implemented Capitalism in China, a Capitalism much more free and open than the state-controlled Capitalism of the US.

Making the philosophers--or engineers or systems people or scientists--kings will do nothing to usher in your utopia. It will just substitute one set of autocrats for another.


1. Has the time for (global) capitalism passed?

Let's turn the question on its head. Has the time arrived for the public control of capital, for investments that are determined solely by public decisions, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by dictatorial fiat?

2. If humans can't overcome our impulses, should advertising for 'consumptive goods' be allowed?

I don't understand this question. What does it mean to overcome impulses? Are we to give up or overcome all spontaneity, all sudden motions, all non-rational activity?

Why not forget about the first part of the question and just ask: Should advertising be allowed? Maybe we should really ask: Should factually untrue advertising be allowed? Should packaging be allowed?

Since advertising is in part informing, are we going to ban informing people about available goods? Are we just going to dictate what goods are produced and provide a massive list from which people may choose? Is there to be no variety, and no differences among these goods such that advertising (informing) people of their merits or demerits would have no value? Just the same old "Mao" suit for everyone--something like Ford's early advertising: You can have any car color you want so long as it's black!

3a. In a society where basic needs were provided for, what would we compete for (being hardwired to compete)?

Are we hardwired to compete? Please provide some references as well as critiques for this claim.

So, let me see if I get this right: We have all our food, shelter, sex, water, intoxicants (oh, sorry, I forgot, no intoxicants), so what would we compete over? Well, how about the "best" play or painting or whatever?

3b. Would wealth disparity accompanying 'a slower society' become more acceptable? Or less?

Where would all this wealth come from?

4. Would it be possible for us as a species to leave easily available energy and resources untouched?

What does this mean? Would we willingly leave oil--or coal-- in the ground even if we had a need for it? Would we let a tree remain standing even if we were freezing and needed the firewood? Well, I suppose if we regarded these as sacred or if a death penalty were attached to their use--these are the only two almost surefire ways of preventing people from doing something that have worked at least some of the time.

5. If we acknowledge the idea that systems go through growth, transition, descent and recovery on a regular basis, wouldn't slowing down consumption in this manner be akin to a cultural acceleration of descent, and therefore acceleration of future recovery?


A society of sloth? Legalize marijuana.

I can't believe anyone who knows anything about human nature could possibly take this post as a whole seriously,although it does raise some interesting points.If you think otherwise,please take a few weeks off(ha ha) and read Animal Farm and Brave New World.Move on to Solzhenitsin's Gulag Archipelago.

If you still don't get it,The King James Bible and Charles Darwins works may enable you to see the light.

If you are still scratching your head, there may yet be hope.Try E.O.Wilson especially on sociobiology(he more or less founded the field).Stephen Pinker's Blank Slate and THe Way the Mind Works might do the trick.

We are nothing more than animals-hairless apes.The "ghost" in our machine is not a soul but a sort of (please forgive my inability to clearly condense this concept to a few words) fuzzy logic organic computer program running in beta on a jury rigged operating system based on a reptilian brain overlaid by a mamallian brain overlaid by an outer layer of hypertrophied cortex unique to the apes in general and humankind in particular.

The ground rule were built into the foundations of the system many many millions of years ago, and can be summarized briefly as eat,copulate,and die at the lowest level.Darwinian evolution gradually resulted in added layers,always compatible by necessity with lower layers, such as care of the young,pairbonding,cooperative groups,territoriality,INTRA SPECIES COMPETITION, and so forth,all of which are well known in the so called "lower animals".

When we acquired the ability to talk and to make tools the ground rules changed abruptly,BUT THE OLD RULES STILL APPLY.The new abilities brought with them the additional abilities of preserving and passing along knowledge from generation to generation,cumulatively, plus an incredible opportunity for the individual to specialize and thereby help the group grow faster.These things ,excepting speech,are not actually uniquely human,as chimps have been seen using tools,etc.

We refer to all these things as "culture".Culture is not subject to Darwinian evolution in at least one key respect.Cultural behaviors-every thing from toolmaking to agriculture to fads in popular tastes-spread by Lamarckian evolution.Your acquired behavior is not only readily acquired by your own off spring, but also by any other individual who wishes to emulate your actions.Richard Dawkin's The Blind Watchmaker will make all this clear to you.Cultural evolution is highly subject to fast positive feedback.Crashes are virtually gauranteed as a result.Some maybe of little consequence;if the use of rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac is discontinued due to the extinction of rhino,there will still be plenty of babies.If the use of petroleum is sharply reduced due to its unavailability,WW3 COULD BE THE RESULT.

In the end, it all boils down to this:Nature does not give a rats ass if we survive,or if for that matter anything survives.We have evolved into a creature capable of spoiling it's own environment to the extent that we might mostly wipe ourselves out,but that is not unique either.A corn crib full of rats must eventually scatter or starve.The population of rabbits waxes and wanes on a regular basis in the North Country,and the population of lynx follows suit.It may be our turn soon.

Incidentally,artifacts such as muscle cars are not at all useless.They serve the same purpose as peacock tails and tailored clothing.The possession of such items advertises dominant social status and enhances sex appeal.

question one-We may eventually come together under one socialist world govt,although the odds appear to be very much against this happening.Capitalism will never fade away,but maybe an all powerful govt could outlaw it.If the opportunity exists ,it will reemerge if temporarily extinguished, because it is (in the short run,at least)more productive than any other economic system and its practioners will overrun the competition.In an environment such as the FSU competition was by no means extinguished.Those in power kept themselves on top thru nepotism and an incredibly strong and deeply entrenched "old boys network" for lack of a better term.

question two Outlawing the advertising of such goods ,if it could be done without destroying freedom of communication, would be a really good thing.If we could get rid of consumer ads, we soon would be drinking good locally brewed beer and eating good locally baked bread rather than manufactured horse pee and wonder why anyone eats it bread. I don't believe it can be done, short of a total collapse and a whole new world view.Half of us measure our manhood by the image we project thru brand names and the other half would be scared to death of losing thier job or seeing thier investments shrivel -with good reason.The only reason to pay a couple of bucks for a bottle of water when fruit juice and milk are cheaper is to show off the bottle.Flip side-nobody will pay a premium for your water unless you advertise ("brand")it,as it is literally impossible to prove it is significantly different from tap water at 1percent of the price.

question three. power and status.recipe for a POTENTIAL disaster similar to North Korea or FSU THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE WORSE THAN current situation.Do you really want EVEN MORE of the great white sharks of the business world running the government? We have very few leaders as it is who are not either members of the propertied elite or else the property of the elite.The sort of men and women who make it to the top in the corporate world will sieze whatever opportunities are available.Ordinary people, the 99 percent of us who are followers,however might be satisfied with bowling trophies and softball leagues-but only so long as charismatic characters can't upset the apple cart by "pushing more and better my way".How do you stop such a character?

3b In a world where massive excess consumption is possible,we paradoxically look up to the people who are using us as tools or wage slaves,hoping to emulate them.I think that if this proposed new paradigm comes to be, the ordinary citizen will mostly ignore the rich,and continue to worship celebrities as is the case today.?/However, once it is in place, and joe sixpack comes to regard his new entitlements as rights,the property of the rich will be at greater risk of confiscation by taxation than currently.Flip side-I have known many people, and know several people today, who are perfectly content to take it easy-forever- as long as they are kept warm,dry, and fed at someone else's expense.I must admit that I have lived that way myself on occasion, but never for very long.How do you get a day's work out of someone who is content with a gauranteed basic living?Google employee absenteeism is socialist Europe vs USA for insight.

4I have been able to teach my coon dog that food on the table is not to be touched,even though he can get to such food very easily indeed.I have a higher opinion of my dog,however,than I have of the human race in general.

5 the average man on the street could study this question for a month and he would not be able to tell you what is being asked of him with any more accuracy than if it had been written in some unknown extinct language, or the zeros and ones of machine code.It does make sense in a zen sort of way as written,less is more,our skin is what joins us to the external world,not what seperates us from it,etc. if you phrase it differently as "if we leave that patch of small trees over there alone, at the expense of being cold tonight due to a lack of firewood,we will be much better supplied with firewood tweny years from now" the meaning becomes clear.I don't think too many of us are going to be in favor of shivering tonight.the argument as stated does make sense and so does the proposed slowing down of consumption,but selling this is going to be harder than selling abstinence at a frat party.

Don't take me too seriously, I'm just a crabby old farmer with too much time to read and think not enough pressing work.


Man you are on a ROLL.

But I sense some contradictions and note some in your comments.

You say 'read the Bible' then you say we are to 'eat,copulate and die' which is sorta crosswise with each others,concept wise that is.

Maybe you need to be out in the garden dirt more listening to your inner spirit. Hummming the first verse of Genesis in Hebrew. Listening for that small voice deep inside that says we are worth more than 'eating,copulating and dying'.

I agree that man was apelike but the time came when he was endowed with a soul. From that point on he was not an animal. He could do what animals could not do.

Well doesn't matter. To each what he takes and finds along the path. If you come to the clearing at the end of the path then you will go gracefully or else kicking and screaming and go out badly. Having run the race rather poorly at that.

I eschew organized religion any more. I seek elsewhere than the cities and suburbans where the gorillas live and consume.

Airdale-listen to the drums in your spirit,that is all that matters

Here is a YouTube of what I speak of,A favorite of mine:

Howdy Airdale,

Enjoyed the YouTube tune and sure enjoyed the photographs. My sweet mother, who passed 35 years ago, told me stories of the Shoshone camped at the north end of the lake and of tribal members at her mother's house for Sunday dinners. My Great Grandfather was an adopted son of Chief Washakie, Chief of the Shoshone. I've lived in the land of the Ute and the Piute for the past fifteen years. No more Indians here although once there were many. There sign is everywhere. I quit picking up arrowheads years ago; I let them lay.

The soul isn't exclusive to humans, in my opinion. I'm very much on par with my good Mule, Ernest. He may be the superior critter. With the end of our human biology we loose our language and then what we call the soul fades to merge with the great what is. The animals around us just skip this step. Taoists and others do their best to avoid this.

I hear the Indians talking at night. There shadows are in the canyons and among the rocks. Some folks can't live here; the night time shadows scare them.

The folks in town are on water restriction, all 125 of them. This is supposed to be the height of spring runoff from the mountain but the river is as low as I've seen it. No runoff this year.

Last night I had dinner with motorcycle friends who had come up here from Texas. We have a nice restaurant in town that caters to foreign tourists; good food, fancy food, expensive food. I topped off my selection of ribs with a great big piece of very chocolate cake and Chai Icecream. I suffered indigestion all of the night.

The people at the restaurant, all spending $50 plus for a nice meal, all dressed nicely, but casual, as if they'd just returned from a 10 mile jaunt in the rocks, without getting dirty, seemed to all be celebrating. Lots of noise, lots of laughter, lots of commotion. I'm not sure any of them were aware of the newly imposed water restriction on town residents. I knew it was coming. I rode my horse up Sand Creek a week ago; no water coming from Hell's Hole and that's where the town water comes from.

California is on fire early this year. I haven't heard that anything has changed in Australia and, I guess the ice is still disappearing in the Arctic and the glaciers are on the verge of slipping into the ocean in Antartica. The snakes have come to live in your house. Here, the Coyotes have been silly for the past ten years. I hope the snakes stay in the rocks.

Nothing will replace Capitalism. Nothing will replace nothing. Nature, however, will prevail. I sometimes think I'm the ghost that lives in my little log cabin.

Best from the Fremont


Airdale,let me expand on that bit about the Bible a little.My momma and Daddy will go to thier graves believing every word of it,literally,and I was raised on it.I do not believe any more,however, that it is literally true,or that it is the definitive word of God,assuming a god exists.Gods and souls are whatever you make of them personally as far as I can see.

I am afraid I have only a slim casual knowledge of the beliefs of real Native Americans but I am sure that these beliefs,such are they are, are just as worthy of respect as any others, and more respect than some I am better acquainted with.

I am under the impression that the religious beliefs of the various tribes vary considerably.

So the thing is that someday if I live long enough I will read up on Native American culture and religion,to learn what I can from it.

Any boby can read the KJ Bible and learn as much as he needs to know about human nature.It is all in there from incest to murder to parental devotion to power politics to the wonders of love and the beauty of nature,I could go on all day.I expect all this knowledge of who and what we are is also laid out in the religion you know best.It is to gain this knowledge of who and what we are that I reccomend the KJB as the best single book ever.I don't ask anyone to take it literally.

But if you have read it,you will know that proposals such as the ones put forth in the Sloth post are simply not going to work because they do not mesh with who and what we are.You will also wind up somewhere near where you personallyseem to be in terms of your world view,assuming you are smart enough to seperate the wheat of knowledge from the chaff of dogma.(I mean the rhetorical "you" at this end of the sentence.)

I cannot find anything in the KJB that advocates for our modern lifestyle of runaway consumption/destruction of nature,etc.I do find plenty that is consistent with getting away from the cities and suburbs where the gorillas live and consume.

I am sure in my heart so to speak that our old coon dog is just as important in the eternal scheme of things as I am, but I can't see that there necessarily is any scheme,other than survival and reproduction.

All the philosophy I have ever read cannot tell me for sure that I am not a figment of my own imagination.God and creation are an insoluloble chicken/egg riddle.Big Bang,in the last analysis,is just another name for God.On the other hand,the scientist types obviously know more than the average preacher can even imagine.
The environmental scientists are telling us the same thing that your eyes and mind/soul are telling you-that we are headed to hell in a handbasket.this seems to prove that more than one path exists which can lead to wisdom.
All the preachers I know live better and easier than the members of thier congregations, which tends to support that old saying about the two oldest professions.I have no use use for organized religion,but there is no doubt organized religion has its uses,especially if you happen to hold the winning hand in a rigged game.One good priest is worth more than a dozen soldiers when it comes to keeping the commoners quiet and busy,and a lot cheaper and safer to boot.Troops have a way of staging coups a little too often.

If you can spare a couple of hours,read some of Mark Twain's stuff on religion. it's all available free on the net.
Letters From the Earth and Captain Stormfield and his visit to Heaven are the place to start.I gaurantee you will enjoy these two pieces.


OK, so figure out a solution. I tried, and came up with almost what Jay Hanson did. That or we are doomed.

I would emphasize a few things
We have to work to make the world a better, not a worse place.
the future is more, not less, important than the present.
capitalism as it is does not work. just the opposite, it"s suicide.
"freedom" to choose is useless when the chooser cannot understand the consequences of the choice, which means democracy as she stands cannot work.

So? We are doomed.

Jay is right. So is oldfarmer, so we are doomed.

You can call me oldinventor. I have invented a lot of things I thought would make the world a better place, No way. Went into ways to kill people, mostly. Hm-- maybe that does make the world a better place, huh?

Enough. Now I'm gonna go have fun working on a nifty solar water pump--to make the world a better place- Uh, I mean, make more people, um, ah, come to think of it, forget it.

I have invented a lot of things I thought would make the world a better place, No way. Went into ways to kill people, mostly

Yeah - I nearly went that route. I was on track to do a PhD in AI (modeling insect cognition), until I found the funding was mil-industrial and the point was to make superior self-guided missiles...

1) Yeap -- it's time to let capitalism commit seppuku. No reason for it to exist to pull everyone down the cliff with it.

2) Hmmm - fast food should be allowed ... But no advertising. Soon, we will be living locally; so our food which grown nearby will be cooked by our neighbors. Just make sure our neighbors take a class in healthy cooking -- haha. But you can't take away the beers!!! We all need a good drink once in a while -- hahaha. We have to maximize happiness with a certain input of energy. If beer does the job, why takes it away. Everyone's needs are different -- I would not have a new shoe but like to have the beer instead. Overall, it'll depend on how much energy surplus we really have -- with 7 billions people, we probably don't have that luxury with the beers.

3a) We will compete for knowledge. Who can solve puzzle? Who can cure aid? Who can make solar PV 60% efficiency low cost? In other words -- just status but no "monetary" reward. We do it because -- may be -- sexual selection. We will have more scientists, more artists --- more religions too probably. We are competing for ideals, ideas, beauties, etc... Not MONEY -- not resource. Just like TV today tries sell us things, we will use TVs to sell this "status" -- scientific celebrity, etc.... Would people still compete and watch "American Idol" if no money is involved?

3b) We have to wipe debt out -- any way -- debt is a concept that capitalism used to enslave people. Since we get rid of money, we have to get rid of debt. Energy has to be divided equally so to keep this disparity low. Now, since the west is using more of it right now, we can imagine that we are "loaning" this energy from the poorer part of the world. In order to slowly establish some sort of equality over time, investment in infrastructure in the poorer part of the world have to accelerate. We will have to sign a contract with the whole world to maintain population growth for now -- so we don't have a "breeder" group going berzerk. In return for this agreement, we will try to develop the poorer part of the world. Build PV, build wind power, hospitals, etc... what ever we think necessary for the 2100 world. Of course, we won't build to the current European/American kind of world --- a lot more modest. Also as part of this agreement, the developed world has to wind down while still have to build whatever necessary for 2100 -- yes to PV stations, wind power but no to McMansions and SUVs. Hopefully, sometime in 2050 or 2100 -- we all will meet in the middle.

4) Well -- what is untouch? We have to use some of it to wisely wind down. How? Say 10% decrease of everything each year. So in 15 years, we will use only 20% of what resource we used in year 1. By that time -- recycle will probably be good enough to sustain a lot of things. Does that mean the population has to go down too? May be -- it's all depend on how well we can use resource to maintain a level of happiness. Also, all of our effort will be putting into "efficiency", "recycling", etc... --- we should see that winding down is not as bad as we imagine. If we need to decrease population, we will do that by spend less on health care for elderly (it does sound cruel but we have to be realistic). In a way, it is fair b/c sooner or later you will be old -- and in the end everyone is kind of feeling the same effect. We have to maintain close to 2 childs/couple just to make sure we don't have a collapse of younger population (may be 1.9 or 1.8 if we really want some population decrease but no 1 child policy).

5) Hmmm -- no -- the way we think of growth will have to go. There will be oscillation to the happiness scale but it's a small ripple instead of a catastrophy.

It will come down to
Who do the work? How works are divi up? How to deal with "cheaters"? ....
Cheating is definitely bad for future society. So punishment would have to be severe -- almost have to go back to the "an eye for an eye" day.
Instead of counting days work, we should count how much things get done. Also, we will have to have a scale on different works -- you work less hours on the works fewer people are willing to do -- like cleaning the toilet. Thus cleaning the toilet is considered "high-value" work!!! I am sure we can be inventive on how this work out. The point is that all "hardwork" should be kept to a minimum -- more time for leisure activities.

A postPeak society of sloth implies the need for great human efficiency when movement is required,IMO. As FFs head toward Unobtainium: smooth riding on steel wheels on steel rails powered by pedalized chain & gearsets offers the best way to move mass/energy expenditure:
Pedal power probe shows bicycles waste little energy
When it comes to efficient use of energy, it's tough to beat a bike.
Bicycle efficiency and power -- or, why bikes have gears.

Recall my earlier posting on the authors of "Bicycle Science" conclusion: HPV record will have to move to rails to advance any further past 82mph. IMO, SpiderWebRiding for vital cargo movement vastly outweighs the Nuhautl Tlameme backpacking scheme.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Can't believe no one has spotted Hanson's rip off of one of Kurt Vonneguts classic future prediction novel- "Player Piano". He could have at least referenced it!
Read it and note the human reaction to enforced idleness imposed by the state which generously provides everything except a "purpose to life".
I read it 30 years ago and re read recently. It still has incredible messages.
My son discovered Vonnegut at university without my prompting. There is hope yet.
We'd all need some type of lobotomy as an accessory to this lifestyle.

"Think of it this way, if the only tool one has is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. What other possible solution can an economist recommend to the problem of too much economic growth, except more economic growth? So send the economists into retirement and call out the scientists, engineers, and systems people!"

Spot on Sir!... Spot on.

I dont know about this 3000 calories per day needed for HGs. On a calorie restrictive diet its been shown possible to go down to 700 calories per day even with physical exercise. The main problem with eating so little though is making sure you get the right quantities of vitamines and minerals needed.

On a calorie restrictive diet its been shown possible to go down to 700 calories per day even with physical exercise.

I doubt this. After WWII the German population's food was strictly rationed by the occupying powers. Everyone got the same calories, 2000 I think it was. The coal miners complained they couldn't manage on this amount. The authorities didn't want to show any favouritism and were against increasing their ration, but soon it became obvious that people doing heavy work couldn't manage on 2000 calories a day, and their ration was upped to 3000 calories. (Unsure of the exact numbers. I read this in a biography of JM Keynes or JK Galbraith, who helped administer post-war Germany.)

We were always told that with hard physical labour we needed 5000 calories per day but I know from personal experience you can work 8 hours on much less than that (although I dont know exactly how much).

The first time I came across calorie restrictive diet it was on British TV some years back. A man and woman were eating just under 700 calories per day and he was going to the gym or running every other day.

40 hours physical work per week is something else though.

I can assure you that on 700 calories a day with even minimal exercise that you will not live long enough to need worry very much about vitamins or minerals or much of anything else,unless you are grossly overwieght to begin.In that case you might last for as much as a year,if you are young and in excellent health other than the proposed initial obesity-assuming you don't have to move around much and that you are living in a nice warm place.

Lately I have been reading about WWII and how Weimar German Society existed and on what values.
Apparently they were going through a big resource crunch that bolstered Hitler to power and made him target Jews and others so economy can be downsized for (or exploited by) the privileged section.
Now all that I read here seems like a welcome letter for someone like Hitler to manipulate and use in such a society.

Even though Jay's Intention might have been good. I see no reason why the application would remain so.

What seems to be ringing my alarm bells are:
1. Restrict media (very easy then to manipulate mass media and mass perception) Something Hitler did and going on today.
2.Restrict Consumption and access to consumption, again something that can easily be manipulated (history is witness for that).

In all, Intention seems good on paper and will only remain on paper.
A very dangerous idea if someone wants to apply it.