The Big Picture - What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

I just got the book, What Have You Changed Your Mind About - Today's Leading Minds Rethink Everything. Given my cognitive overload, I have so far only managed a quick skim. But the title/content made me reflect on what I've crammed into my brain these past 6 years or so exploring issues related to resource depletion; how many times I have been wrong about things, misunderstood concepts - I've even restarted my entire understanding from scratch on three occasions. As such, I thought this book title a good segue for TOD:Campfire - an opportunity for a 'community' that has become increasingly aware of the wide boundary energy decline story to share what they've learned - any surprises, insights, or 180 degree 'a-ha' shifts in thinking...

Firstly, here is one Amazon reviewers thoughts about that book:

Not all of these speculations are rosy, and a number of writers put forth doomsday ideas. The possibility of accidental nuclear war, the idea that we have already reached in many areas the best we are going to do and can expect from now on only Decline, the possibility that disaster may come through radical climate change, or though supernova explosion or asteroid collision are mentioned. But from my point of view the dark possibilities also grow out of some of the most optimistic prognoses. There are many essays here on various ways `humanity' is going to be transformed or transcended, rendered obsolete or irrelevant. There is talk of the singularity the moment when machine- intelligence replaces ours as prime - maker of our world. There are various speculations on ways in which our minds may be copied and then downloaded into machines which will then go on self- improving themselves cognitively. There are thoughts on ways we will engage in a cosmic competition and spread through the universe our silicon- descendants or perhaps viral heirs. There are also a whole host of speculations on shadow-worlds, parallel universes, perhaps microbially small, perhaps vast in ways we cannot imagine. There are too speculations of how we disappointed in our search for extraterrestrial intelligence are going to produce alternative intelligences who will become our real friends, and ensure that we are not lonely in the universe.

What disturbs me in considering many of the essays is that they often seem to relate to humanity as if we were simply `minds' and not people who live lives, and have histories and complex relationships with other human beings. The whole presumption that some other kind of being can be manufactured by us or can somehow come out of our own researches seems to me a vast simplification as to what we in all our complexity are. Here I should note that there are a number of writers who question the very question of the project. One says nothing can possibly change everything, and another suggests that we cannot possibly know what the change will be, as we have in the past never been able to see the surprise which would come to take history and our understanding of the world in a new direction.

With that poetic introduction, I'd like to turn the reflective mirror onto the topic of peak oil. What have we learned? What have we been wrong about? What insights have years of interdisciplinary data-sharing created? Because 'facts' can be distinguished from 'synthesis', I would therefore partition the question "What Have You Changed Your Mind About (with regards to peak oil/resource depletion) into two subcategories:

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?


B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation? What are the new insights?

I'll briefly share some of my own answers to these questions, and then throw it open to The Oil Drum readers. I came from a Wall St/Finance path -an ecological tabula rasa, so in the past 6 years I have learned virtually everything I know of value - ergo my mind 'change' has not been trivial. Below are some things I've learned, in no particular order, and non-inclusive.

1)What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?

1) Peak Oil is a symptom, not the cause, of global consumptive overshoot.

1a) People have been thinking and writing about these problems since before I was born. (I thought in 2003 I was onto something new....)

2) I now think EROI's usefulness is overrated. (largely because because the alt. energy timing ‘fulcrum’ is backloaded and therefore incompatible with modern decision criteria - it also can't adequately measure quality which will pose a problem with liquid fuel shortages). Still, I remain firmly aware that net energy and natural resources are what we have to spend, not gross energy or dollars.

3) The origin of 'steep discount rates' in economics and 'impulsivity' in psychology lies in the ecological Maximum Power Principle.

4) Hubbert Linearization as such was not used by King Hubbert.

5) Peoples pre-existing belief systems will trump fresh facts the vast majority of the time. Optimistic attitudes and the social traction they engender have been adaptive for vast periods of our history, only rarely interrupted by fight-or-flight realities.

6) Generalists are better predictors of bigger picture events than specialists.

7) My first introduction to Peak Oil was Jay Hansons website, where a recurring theme was that we are just clever apes competing for resources in order to move up the social (mating) ladder. I didn't believe that. Now I do. (It probably extends to bloggers and oil forecasters and stock market prognosticators...)

8) The majority of humans are not emotionally 'strong' enough to overcome our baser impulses. I.e. rational neocortex is not the supreme behavioral commander that most believe.

9) The neural habituation to higher and more 'unexpected reward' is a primary driver of consumptive behavior.

10) Melting ice is endothermic. (it absorbs energy, not releasing it). Duh.

11) There are likely no sasquatches alive at present.

B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation? What are the new insights?

1) Group selection/multi-level selection is real and is a better fit with biological history than 'selfish gene' theory. However, the timeframe for humans to effectively use this aspect of our wiring to full advantage was probably a generation ago.

2) Money/currency is the ultimate example of Jevons Paradox.

3) Sexual selection continues as a real and driving force. We can't change our drive to compete, so on a finite planet we have to change what we compete for.

4) Explaining all this to 'the masses' will be counterproductive and actually accelerate social decay. (google toilet paper / Johnny Carson)

5) The likely role of peak oil 'outreach' will be to lay a foundation of knowledge to be used (and remembered) after the paradigm change - not actually to create it as I once hoped. (note: my opinion not likely shared by other TOD contributors).

6) There is increasing talk of outlawing or restricting “derivatives” – instruments whose value “derives” from something else. stocks, bonds, futures, etc. are also derivatives – they are financial markers for REAL assets. (for calculus geeks and ecological economists, think of stocks and bonds as derivatives and derivatives as the second derivative of real assets..;-)

7) Government, politicians, billionaire etc. are not responsible for our problems. There was not some devious plot forged on Jekyll Island for world domination. Where we stand today was arrived at by a path dependent series of small steps of people pursuing power in culturally condoned ways. It's a giant chinese finger trap with huge momentum- but the players are mostly benign, with few true conspiracies.

8) Nature abhors a gradient. Humans encountered a giant lottery ticket in fossil fuels. As the gradient began to dissipate in 1970s consuming nations replaced it with debt, imported energy, and borrowing from nature, future, and thin air.

9) As our problems worsen, mitigation efforts accepted by the current system will actually worsen the problems with increasing positive feedbacks.

10) We will hit social limits to growth before we hit hard resource limits. (We already have).

11) There are some silver Peak Oil BBs are on the supply side. Though there are no silver bullets the majority of good ammo is squarely on the demand side.

12)The cultural trajectory for the past 2+ generations has been towards efficiency (and financial profit), subsidized by cheap fuels. As extremely cheap energy (in real terms) becomes less available we will likely substitute time and labor for what energy and money now provide us. This will move the pendulum away from efficiency/profit back towards resilience and redundancy and away from globalization towards more localized economies.

That list is quite long and could be longer so I'll stop....In sum, 5 years ago I was optimistic but not hopeful. Now I am hopeful but not optimistic....;-)

Feel free to discuss any of the above, or add your own answers to those two Campfire questions:

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?


B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation?

Citing determinism and its inherent complexities WRT nonlinear and chaotic systems is a crutch to explain reource depletion. Simple stochastic models with linear effects makes much more sense and actually allows us to predict decline from intuitive principles.

That is what I have learned

LOL as hard as I try to accept your argument I still can't.

I tried really really hard today to believe your results and came away even more convinced that we can miss a big issue.

4) Hubbert Linearization as such was not used by King Hubbert.

I'd suggest his approach was actually a semi-qualitative attempt at the shock model before numerical integration was easily doable.

However going beyond this you have to ask when does the Central Limit Theorem fail ?

Edited to add link and comment

It has no simple inverse there is no such thing as the anti-Central Limit Theorem.
If the system is not independent then its by definition contains coupling and is probably complex and governed by a unique set of equations.

Its so incredibly powerful and fails so seldom that when and how it does fail you find the failures are treated specially. Economic systems repeatedly fail in a spectacular fashion for example. Yet in general they are built upon and underlying resource base that should expand in contract according to central limit concepts.

This alone makes it difficult for me to accept how can the demand side of the equation have this much variability while the supply side varies slowly over time ?

Shocks are of course probably the right answer i.e its the right type of answer but then this leave open a huge barn door of how do you prove you have all the shocks right ?

The problem is it seems you get a good probable right answer i.e if your models shocked correctly then you have the right answer but it suffers from the same problem as the central limit itself i.e its not robust against when it fails which in the case of the shock model is missing a shock.

In a lot of ways its not all that different from having two opposing forces in balance.
Lets say your standing on a large stone seesaw with another person. You both walk around but just happen to follow a pattern that results in the system remaining in balance.
But then you change your pattern and the entire system tilts.

In many ways this is what happens on the demand or economic side i.e your shocks one has to wonder if th supply side is really as smooth as it seems to be.

I just don't yet find the evidence compelling.

What I'd like to see to believe your concept better is for the price of oil to rapidly find a fairly low stable price and stay there for a years or even a decade if that happened then I'd buy into the idea but for now we just have to continue to wait and see.

I don't want to start a long thread here we beat this to death. Obviously claiming complexity and fast changes and couplings limits the mathematical tools you can realistically use esp if you have limited and suspect data so I'm fighting this battle with both arms tied behind my back while you have a very powerful and compelling and intuitive mathematical tool. And I agree that chaos is a waste of time as any sort of predictive tool but then as far as I can tell the toolbox to counter your approach is effectively empty filled with custom solutions for particular problems that are known. Not a swiss army knife to be found not even a danged hammer more a bunch of delicate custom surgeons tools.

Looks like I'll have to use my teeth :)

Chaos is not supposed to be predictive, it's supposed to be explanatory, including the explanation about why it's impossible to make certain predictions is certain time frames with arbitrary accuracy due to the butterfly effect.

Of course, we also have no set of equations which accurately describes individual, group, and mass psychology and behaviors. Another slight problem with using chaos to predict the unfolding of the collapse.

I guess part of my issue is that while I agree that human and group decision making cannot easily be pinned down, the object acted on -- that of constrained resources -- we have a solid chance of quantifying. I really think we can make some progress understanding this and I think it has great importance for planning; I know many people believe that a collapse is a collapse and so why bother. Fine, but policy is the backbone of politics and something formal needs to be given to our leaders besides anguish.

For awhile at least I had respect for economists, sensing that they must have brilliant theories. I once took a macroeconomics class from Walter Heller, who was a main economic advisor to both Kennedy and Johnson. Heller would show up for the lectures and say something profound (I assume, I can't remember), but most of the class was taught by TA's. One TA sketched out a long equation on the chalkboard, let us ponder over it for a few seconds, and then promptly erased it. He said something to the effect, "that is the last time you will see an equation". I don't know why, but that action had always bothered me; it seemed like a resignation to failure.

Recently someone on TOD pointed to a couple of short articles by Robert Nadeau concerning the origins of economic theory in the 19th century

Short article :
Longer article :

Nadeau asserts that not only does the formation of classical economics rely on strange analogies to physics, but that the analogies that the early economists chose were physics theories that were not even verified. They were basically vague postulations on the balance of energy existing in the "ether", in other words not the concrete Newtonian stuff that everyone agreed on, but ideas of the more abstract mysterious origins of electrical or magnetic energy that started to gain traction around that time. And to top it off, many of teh early economists were religious and thought god had something to do with this (i.e. the idea of the invisible hand). This all occurred slightly before physicists like Maxwell figured out the practical formulation that has served us well. I got from Nadeau that the only perturbation to the original ideas were those provide by Keynes and others who allowed that we could subtly guide economies, and this was not just an invisible hand.

So, the analytic battle exists on several fronts. We have economic theory that is down the toilet. We have the quants on Wall Street who have basically made a mess of the situation and caused many people to distrust any math. We have chaos believers who immediately put up red flags warning that dangers lurk in any analysis. We have other mathematicians that blow smoke by creating impressive formalisms that show purity but lack any connection to practicality. And finally we have a somewhat MEGO public that can't get interested.

I stand by the side of using practical probability and statistics and don't get cowed by the nay-sayers that say we can't and will never understand any of this. Yesterday, I just found a book in my stacks called "The Earth's Dynamic Systems" written by Hamblin in 1975. This guy was definitely concerned about our resources and the opposite of a cornucopian, yet he did write the following:

We basically know the extent of our mineral resources and the rates of our consumption. It is not difficult to project how long they will last.

So why is it that 30 years later, we still have no fundamental frameworks and argue over the reliability of heuristics such as HL? And still no one knows how much is in SA reserve? Perhaps back-of-the-envelope estimates is all that we ever needed. Yet look at the predicament we are in. A few valid theories of economics and of resource depletion dynamics certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Perhaps back-of-the-envelope estimates is all that we ever needed.

Bingo! The most obvious proof is the small effect on peak that comes from significantly larger URR.

It would be worth a post for one of you eggheads, er... more able persons... to take a look at this issue.


Actually the problem is the reverse case current production and peak can be supported with a significantly lower URR estimate.

Its not the significantly larger URR case that is popular thats of concern.

We have the technical ability to produce at our current rate against much lower real reserve levels then are generally reported. Of course this is at the expense of a steep decline post peak. I personally have not been able to find compelling evidence that we are not in the maximum case i.e producing at the maximum rate agianst the smallest URR that can sustain that rate.

A rather simple understanding of our economic systems suggests this is the most probable situation.

As you point out assuming much larger URR's does not change the peak date all that much therefore unless proven otherwise given or economic model the most probable URR is the smallest possible to replicate our past production history and a conservative estimate of world discovery.

This can readily be shown to be in the range of 1250-1500 GB we simply don't need more oil than this to produce at our current rate. Our entire production history can readily be fitted with this minimum assumption.

Elimination of questionable reserve additions worldwide which serve only to fatten the tail of production theoretically I might add because these additions would be produced at a rate at 50% or less of todays and its not clear they even exist. If they do then its not clear they will be produced since its not clear what sort of economy would demand their production i.e its a different world then.

Where the reserve additions are not outright fabrications they are generally not backed by new discoveries but by expansion of the reserve claims for fields that have been in production for some time by definition that would be produced from fairly depleted fields and production from such fields generally occurs at much lower production rates.

No matter how you consider them they don't add materially to the production rate over the minimum URR estimate.

Time will tell but at the moment there is no reason not to determine the minimum URR capable of sustaining current production and assume this is the right answer.

1250-1500 GB seems on the slim side. I don't recall getting a decent fit at all to the such a low-ball estimate.

Actually 1500 could turn out to be distinctly on the high side.

My current best estimate after recent review is 1350-1400. I think 1500 is on the verge of being out. If now got it at 90% confidence 1400 is tops.

Whats really funny is I pulled it down of your own work.

And Nates comment

Onshore production globally peaked in 1982. If that doesn't convince folks that oil is finite I don't know what will.

Thats sufficient to derive my result with a very high degree of accuracy.

The beauty of it is the linear region is actually and almost pure artifact of technology.

2400*.50 = 1200
2400*.75 = 1800
2400*.60 = 1440

Turns out technology has actually increased extraction efficiency by 40% since about 1970. In other words with todays technology we can extract a reservoir almost twice is fast as we could in 1970. I've been trying for some time to narrow it down between 50% and 25% 50% was too high and 25% was obviously to low. Turns out given your graph and Natest comment 40% is just right.

What I was missing was the land peak once that was obvious the then the offshore split is obvious and this drops out the technical effect almost perfectly.

Your graph is also crtical because other approaches tend to semi-include it making them closer to the right answer but also corrupting the analysis since the include the right information incorrectly.

Throw in a a shock of a 40% increase in extraction efficiency starting in 1970 and peaking in 1998 and then we can talk real numbers. It might be slightly shifted to 1975/2003

Do it I don't care if you believe me then I can show you that where it went linear was because of this shock.

OK, I believe you if what you call URR, I call 2 times URR. If you want to redefine terms in your own universe that is fine.

Well thats the essence of the problem.

In a sense whats happened with reserve additions is as technology has progressed the reserve estimates of existing reserves have grown. This decision to expand the reserves was in many cases bolstered by improvements in extraction technology and in discovery technology. We could see the oil better and extract it faster.

"When you look at recent reserve additions - from 1991-1998 - we've actually added more reserves on average in older fields than the average size of new field discoveries," he said. "And I think it will come as a great surprise to people that that's where the big additions on the shelf are coming from."

And it gets better.

The growing importance of reserve additions in older fields is aptly demonstrated during both the 1983-90 and the 1991-98 time periods, when the average reserve additions per field from older fields was 27 percent larger than the average size of new field discoveries.

This margin increases to 75 percent if the large proportion of older fields with negative revisions is ignored.

Both the average size and the number of new field discoveries declined significantly between 1991 and 1998, compared to the previous seven years. The decline in the average size of new discoveries was nearly universal across all areas, with the exception of the East Louisiana area where the average size of new discoveries actually doubled.

According to Nehring, there were 103 national class giant fields (100 million BOE and more) on the GOM OCS at the end of 1998. However, the concentration of recent reserve growth in older fields was not primarily a case of the big fields getting bigger.

"Recent large reserve additions in older fields were disproportionately concentrated in previously small and medium-size fields, advancing them to larger size categories," Nehring said. "In the late 1990s, an interesting sidelight of this phenomenon has been the revitalization of previously abandoned small fields through substantial new pool discoveries."

He offers insight into the lack of dominance of giant fields in recent reserve additions.

"Those fields were discovered in the 1950s and 1960s for the most part and recognized early-on as major fields," he said. "So they were treated as core assets by their operators, undergoing several cycles of re-evaluation and renewed exploration, which left relatively few reserves to be added."

So the big ones where well known and well developed by the early discoverers yet some how we can do all these reserve additions even though obviously they had no problem exhaustively extracting the reserves in the 1950's and 1960's from fields that where profitable at the time.

The shock I'm claiming happened is laid out in detail in this link. Hopefully it should be obvious that despite the claims these are crumbs every now and then you get a big crumb sure but treating this situation equal to oil occuring in large fields in the 1960's is not correct its not the same and I'd not surprised to see a lot of it won't be extracted or moved to unrecoverable.

And again you can't underestimate the revolution in discovery.

"Seismic techniques and satellite imaging, which are facilitating the discovery of promising new natural gas reservoirs, have nearly doubled the success rate of new field wildcat wells in the United States during the past decade."

A 50% increase is success rate is not small its not correct to ignore the impact of 3D Seismic on the oil and gas industry it was a revolution not evolution.

Now simply consider if we had not developed 3D technology or even horizontal drilling I'd argue even without them we would have eventually developed most of these resources anyway. It would have taken longer and required a lot more wildcat drilling. But if technology has for some reason been frozen at 1970's levels all that would have happened is a lot of the resources would have been developed later in time.

But drilling a hole in the ground is highly effective at finding resources. Its a powerful technique slow and expensive but it worked very well.

If the technological advances of the last few decades did not result in any real significant increase in reserves but instead accelerated the rate at which we extracted the remaining oil in a basin vs what we would have done if technology had not advanced then all we did was force the extraction profile to become highly asymmetric in most of the worlds basins. We have reached the point that we are going to find out what really happened.

My opinion is obviously that the geologists in the period from 1950-1970 despite their lack of technology actually got the right answer because wildcat wells including the dry holes where much better at delineating real resources than people realize.

We have just now in the last couple of years finally hit the point that we are about to find out if this argument is right or wrong. If correct then the process has already started and we should be seeing oil production already starting to decline rapidly.

Given the proposed steepness of the decline rates your not talking about significant changes in overall production measured in months not years. Your talking about losing say about 200kbd - 700kbd of production on a monthly basis.

Technically we don't even really have to argue this since given the numbers I'm proposing it obvious what would happen. Once this starts you would get a rapid spike in oil prices maybe high enough to collapse the economy.

Depending on the details of the situation and the rate of collapse you might get a very brief period where production temporarily exceeds demand but it would have to be a massive unprecedented collapse and fast. Economic activity would have to drop dramatically over a matter of months. It could happen but the probability is low.

Regardless you certainly expect some sort of economic transition as this is effectively the same as a fast above ground oil embargo. Its going to leave one hell of a mark.

Next of course this does not matter assuming that all that happens is a initial economic contraction not outright collapse literally months later you have lost enough supply that you hit the supply demand problem again.

If I was going to predict what would happen when this event hit then I'd expect what would happen is prices would rise fast the economy would then contract and prices would probably flatten or slow their rise substantially. I'd not predict a fast collapse in the economy no real reason to its improbable. Possible but improbable.

Thens I'd predict that economic contraction can't keep pace with falling oil production and the economy would then probably contract sharply. Now I'd expect the chances of a fast contraction to be higher.

After this then it really just depends on the details but your back to rising prices and ever more resilient demand. However now I'd argue that prices would then rise until substantial demand destruction finally slowed the increase. This last time around in my opinion it goes until the system is forced to seek alternatives to oil. Simple conservation no longer works.

I actually feel like my model is a better fit i.e I really feel like we saw a slow contraction that finally was overtaken by depletion and forced into fast collapse mode.

So both the recent economic events and my estimates points to my assertions having already happened they would no longer be predictions. The only predictive part is that we would expect that the production rate is falling so fast that you return to and expensive oil regime rapidly. In my opinion less than a year. Given what actually happened was a fast collapses in both prices and demand it makes sense to think that the market might respond slowly to the situation i.e expectations of a continued rapid fall in production that impacted the new lower demand level would be low. But it does not really matter if the market initially does not really believe the situation as the months roll on and prices increase yet the real oil supply continues to fall the market can and will adjust.

Certainly it would be nice to get a quantitative model with a bit better numbers but its really not required and one can argue that the system is changing fast enough that any sort of generic model would probably not be all that useful you can effectively watch the events unfold in real time.

Or the model is wrong and the contribution of oil to the recent financial bubble was secondary they where not a unified bubble i.e the financial bubble was caused by the oil situation and the oil situation caused the financial bubble to form to offset falling real oil supplies. This was just a simple recession albeit intense one and oil should stabilize at some reasonable price. Supply for the new lower level of demand is ample.
The price might be a bit higher in dollar terms but this is only from simple monetary inflation. Plenty of spare capacity is present so any pressure on prices should bring more oil online. A price spike could form but its several years in the future if at all. We have a very good chance that efficiency gains could easily result in a balanced system with prices remaining on average fairly low.

If I'm right then we are dealing with a situation that changes on a monthly basis if I'm wrong then the divergence of possible outcomes becomes clear in a few months.

The market of course will decide when and how it wants to address either situation its its own master but my scenario changes fast enough that if its correct the market will be forced to move it will have no choice. For all intents and purposes its facing an oil embargo like effect this will show up fairly quickly no matter what the public information is it cannot be hidden.

Back of the envelope analysis will work in cases where the system as a whole will temporarily converge to a steady state. It's easy to tell if a system will temporarily converge, but not when.

For more in-depth analysis without having to result to numbers, Nassim Taleb says that Poincare helped develop the field of analysis in situ where qualitative properties of systems can be rigorously discussed, but not computed. I have not researched this.

But here's a small example, I think, of a back of the envelope analysis without numbers. If you are certain to die, but you do not know when, how does this impact your disposition toward living a human life?

Interesting opinion piece in the latest Time magazine called "Excluding the Extremist" by Justin Fox. He is referring to the financial advice of Peter Schiff and others who aren't necessarily mainstream.

"But there's a thriving line of academic research showing that including divergent opinions and models of how the world works makes groups better at solving problems"

That puts it fairly succinctly and I still think the quantitative analysis is possible. Unfortunately, the financial quants have given the term quantitative a bad rap.

BTW, Justin Fox has a book coming out next month called "The Myth of the Rational Market".

Economics is primarily human psychology, couldn't be further from physics.

Economics largely explores resource constraints, which is bean-counting levels of physics.

If you take the classical definition of "physics", sure. But chemistry could be said the be the physics of atoms and molecules. Biology could be the physics of organic chemistry. Psychology could be the physics of human perception, cognition, and socialization.

And regarding resource constraints, most bean counters don't have the training or inclination to do operations research analysis. Or are you lumping everyone who does tedious numbers-based work into the bean-counter category? :)

Bean-counting in terms of people imaging it as harder than it actually is.

To pooh pooh economics as mere bean-counting is to misunderestimate the psycho-linguistic powers of its vocabulary and tonality.

When was the last time you saw GDP being computed to include all "bads" and "disservices" generated by domestic enterprise?

When was the last time you saw an economics expert not dressed up in a throat choking monkey suit and not talking in monotone like Ben Stein?


Chaos is not supposed to be predictive, it's supposed to be explanatory, including the explanation about why it's impossible to make certain predictions is certain time frames with arbitrary accuracy due to the butterfly effect.

Chaos is the fundamental particle from which Order emerges in this realm.

The Buttefly Effect - think - Chaos is "magnetically" influenced by Consciousness and Will.

The BIG shift in my life was reading "Consciousness of the Atom" by Alice A Bailey, shortly after my Physics professor told me that science was trying to answer the question HOW not the question WHY.

Any organised system from an atom upwards is actually a living being with Spirit and Consciousness as well as Form. The reason we are alive and conscious is because the particles from which we are assembled are alive and conscious.

Connect the dots.

I suspect that the most important key point that I ever learned was in 1948 - believe it or not - from reading Time Magazine one night when I was bored with studying.,9171,886484-1,00.html

Later Dr. Wiener wrote The Human Use of Human Beings and also became prominent in imaging science, (Wiener Spectra).

I used to believe that Peak Oil was a problem (been a TOD member for 3+ years now). But now I believe it will be a non-event because the annual decline numbers are so small. (ASPO predicts decline from 80 Mbpd in 2010 to 55 Mbpd in 2030; this is 1.25 Mbpd per year, less than 1.6%)

What about the increase in demand from China and India et al?
I think maybe a manageable event but a non-event??
I think that it is a forgone conclusion that life as we have come to know it will be altered significantly toward whether or not we accept this and willing change or fight to hold on to the good old days is the real question.

I think maybe a manageable event but a non-event??

I've kind of shifted to the "manageable event" camp. Last summer I lived in fear as the oil prices climbed and wondered if tree sprouts would be growing thru the cracks in the pavement in the nearby interstates in 10 years. Now I'm now thinking the interstates are still going to be in heavy use 10 years from now though with somewhat less traffic, lower speed limit, and more potholes.

I doubt heavy use but still in use.
I think that mass transit is going to come on big and a city structure of many semi-self-sustaining hubs of smaller scale interconnected by said mass transit system seems like the logical solution to a lower energy consumption model.
You sound like you have read Kunstler's Long Emergency. I have as well and I love his cynical curmudgeonly style of writing.
Cheese Doodles and Lloyd Blankfein's Cappuccino Machine.

I want to there to be a video of Kunstler and Kris Can in a food fight: Cheez Doodles from a Salad Shooter at point blank range.

How about oil wrestling (no pun Intended) we will just have to avoid looking at Kunstler

Have you seen this stand up routine?

No haven't read anything of Kunstler. To be honest I don't think much of Kunstler. I'm probably being unfair as there may be considerable overlap in our thinking. My only exposure to him is the video "The End of Surburbia" and some web sources. The impression I get is that he's simply selling negativity and hitting the talk circuits (for a small fee of course) but first impressions are frequently wrong. Maybe I need to give him a fair read, but I tend to lend more credibility to folks that aren't lining their pockets. If he had some output in the refereed journals (he may have and I just haven't stumbled across it) my opinion of him maybe would be different, but what I've seen he's hitting the popular press with his stuff and going for the coin.

Good call.

I too have shifted from the end of the world camp when I first joined TOD (over 2 years ago now) to the 'actually it might not be that bad, and might actually be good in many ways' camp. Mainly because I have become a researcher in the renewable energy field and have realised that we really haven't made any serious attempt to make use of other fuel sources or increase efficiency before. Now that we are, I believe we will see a lot of results much quicker than some people here expect.

actually it might not be that bad ...

Murphy's Laws say that bad things won't happen early on, and if they do, count yourself as lucky.

Usually the bad things won't happen until the worst possible moment, and then they'll come in bucketfuls.

More on Murphy here

Thats is called Entropy.

Coming across the concept of Peak Oil in 2002 certainly changed my mind. Realising the importance of the peak regardless of subsequent depletion rate - it's important if it's 1.6% or 16% per annum - further changed my outlook. The basis of the Rich World's economy has been the expansion of energy production to meet its population's desires. The debt that is at its heart can only be serviced through that growth in energy production. The requirement to find a new basis would not seem to be a non-event.

JN2, On the subject of a 1.6 % per annum depletion, don't forget that this corresponds to an approximately 3.2% per annum decline PER HEAD OF POPULATION, or have you worked out a way of keeping the hands of the poor 5.7 billion (and growing) off the oil of the rich 1 billion?

I use to think Peak Oil effects would be more dramatic than I now do. I thought Peak Oil would cause more or less permanent high prices. I now think that periodic high prices will put a lid on oil demand by crashing the economy so long as it is dependant on oil.

The economic decline will reduce demand to a level that the reduced oil supply due to Peak Oil is adequate and the oil price will decline even though the supply is smaller than it previously was.

This price roller coaster means that increased investment in oil is discouraged. Alternative liquid fuels like my favorites ethanol and biodiesel will be held back because they are not competitive with cheap oil.

I see no good outcome to this dilemma unless the price of oil is held artificially high by a large tax at retail. But the tax will act as a permanent drag on the economy unless it can be recycled equitably. That is not likely due to politics.

All I see now is "muddle through" and "toughing it out" as most likely outcomes. Perhaps that is the way it has always been and always will be.

The economic decline will reduce demand to a level that the reduced oil supply due to Peak Oil is adequate and the oil price will decline even though the supply is smaller than it previously was.

X, thanks for expressing my sentiments. I have been out of pocket for a couple of days on a boat trip and missed this entire thread.

But the one thing I have learned is that if prices get high enough it will damage the economy enough to knock prices back down again. That may seem like stating the obvious in hindsight but few of us saw this obvious fact when prices were on the way up, and that includes myself.

The strange thing is now that it has happened, and also happened in the early 80s, few people still realize this obvious fact.

Ron P.

lifes biggest epiphany occurred about 50 years ago in a comparative anatomy class when i realized evolution was absolutely, without a doubt real. Raised a baptist in the south i experience considerable cogitative dissonance up until that moment. Since then i have subscribed to Charles Darwin’s maxim of evolution: "Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die" The cull has begun.

I also learned that TOD was the best place to monitor what's going on, just in case one of you smart folks find the magic elixir. I wish you all the greatest success.

Since then i have subscribed to Charles Darwin’s maxim of evolution: "Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die"

Basically I agree with that, but I think you have to define "strongest" and "weakest". Do you mean strongest in physical strength, mental strength, financial strength, scientific strength or some other strengths?
I believe we have to focus on preserving mental and scientific strengths over physical and financial!
And this is where the real battle will come in trying to define who should live and/or die in the coming required population decline.
Where are we going to find politicians with the intestinal fortitude to make the 'super holocaust' decisions that will be necessary?
I suspect that brute force physical strengths working for financial strengths will win by default.
I don't expect to survive if I live long enough to see the dieoff.

"Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die".

It doesn't quite work that way.

Those that are best adapted to their environment will have a better chance of reproducing.

A resource-poor environment favors smaller animals. We humans might not be well adapted to the environment we are creating for ourselves.

What is more, throughout the zillions of life forms on this planet, cooperative species , and species that cooperate with other species, have had remarkable success, humanity being a good example of both in-species and intra-species cooperation.

'Survival of the strongest' is incomplete, and leads to dangerous implications.

'Survival of the fittest' is a much better wording: Those that have the best fit to their surroundings, will have a good chance of reproducing.

I don't quite remember when this illumination hit me, but it was when I learned that amoeba are actually several bacteria and virus cooperating to form a body. Every living cell on this planet is a cooperative effort, and every animal and plant is a huge collaboration of cells. The basic premise of life is not strife, but collaboration, cooperation, symbiosis and parasitism.

And predators who cull their prey too greedily end up dying of hunger. Whereupon, the prey that survived had the necessary qualities to elude the predator, and the next generation will be just that little harder to catch.

Populations that harvest their sustenance to near depletion, experience catastrophic reduction in numbers, possibly to extinction. The rest of life gets a chance to fill up the gaps.
I believe this to be our case.

Hi Lukitas,

I often wonder just how evolution is working in regard to humans at this point in time. On one hand, we may be evolving in a positive sense at some micro level - fighting viruses, etc. But from a macro POV, our relative pecking order on the planet - especially in term of mental and physical abilites, it seems very doubtful that we are progressing in any sustainable manner.

I wonder if humans maxed out about 15 to 25,000 years ago (assuming farming began about 13,000 years ago) in terms of mental and physical abilites? Farming brought slaves - humans selected for having strong backs and obedience. Modern medicine seems to be the advesary of evolution.

I would not be alive today if I was born 25,000 years ago - modern medicine has prolonged my life a couple of times. One sounds like Hitler if you suggest that only the strong and bright should live to reproduce another day. And yet, we have an unsustainable population of humans that simply cannot reason sufficiently to preserve our species for the long run. I find this whole equation troubling when I think about my great granddaughter (who, of course, is perfect in every way).

I doubt humans have had the time or the conditions to evolve much.

For one, evolution marches in microscopic steps. For another, evolution requires separated populations, and local conditions that require local adaptations. Large and connected populations have a tendency to remain stable over long periods, due to the intermingling gene pool.

The long prehistoric diaspora of humanity has left us with some 'frontier' populations with remarkable, but superficial adaptations. Inuit are better adapted to the cold, the pygmy body-shape is good at hunting in dense forest, for example. However, the last ten thousand years or more, the earth has experienced a reasonable stable climate, reducing the need for adaptation. Moreover, humanity has reconnected to its 'lost' populations: the gene pool now includes aborigines as well as amazonian forest tribes - in the long run, localized traits will disperse and be absorbed by the general population (as long as the world remains connected).

If, deprived of oil, we are incapable of sustaining a global culture, and global warming creates huge shifts in local climate, then local (and separated) populations could develop local adaptations, and we could have another go at evolving. It would take generations though.

There are some indications that practising hunter-gatherer populations are smarter in the mean than agrarian populations. Meaning that they have a higher proportion of smart people, not that they are more intelligent than all other humans. They certainly weren't smart enough to withstand the great population waves of agrarian and modern cultures.

One could describe our culture as a sort of hive mind, millions of persons having little effect individually, but all of them combined have extraordinary and gigantic effects. Now that the hive mind has nearly eaten itself to extinction, will it be able to adapt to the new circumstance of resource poverty?

Hi Lukitas,

Very interesting comments - you are well versed on this topic. I will have to dwell on the hive mind idea.

I recently read "The Dominant Animal"
I thought it was pretty good - any comment on the book?

I fully appreciate the time it takes for the evolutionary process in general - although there is some evidence that occasionally the pace quickens for short periods. What keeps coming to my mind is that the human gene pool could be accumulating mutations that would be selected out in a harsher environment - because modern medicine permits these these mutations to endure (reach breeding age). Again, my understanding is that evolution (in a positive sense) is very slow, but mutations can occur fairly often - mutations that would be selected out during most of our history. If there is any truth to this notion, how does that bode for the "new circumstance of resource poverty" you mention?

If you were interested in expanding on these ideas in a guest post - it might be interesting. Thank you.

I am truly and profoundly honored to be asked for a guest post. Thank you.

Tying in long history, evolutionary history, with geological history does indeed offer a relatively clear view of what we can expect.

However, knowledge of our prehistoric ancestors is still relatively thin.

(A good start is Richard Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale", which not only provides a look back at billions of years of our biological history, but also offers a reasonable comprehensive overview of contemporary additions to the Theory of Evolution. A wonderful book, and a bookful of wonders)

I am the kind of generalist who skips and jumps from subject to subject, slowly but surely building a more complete comprehension of the universe we live in. I don't know if I am ready to tie my conclusions into a knot, ready for the unraveling. Maybe I should consider such a work, where I could reunite natural with philosophy, using the scientific results made since philosophy was natural.

For the nonce, I will limit myself to commentary, if possible apt.

For example, misgivings have been expressed about the diminishing quality of the human genome. I doubt these are warranted.

Up until about a hundred years ago, we did not have vaccinations, antibiotics, etc. Three generations is not enough for devolution to occur.

Within the last 30.000 years, humanity passed through at least one bottleneck: an event, where the total population is reduced to a few thousand or less. There has not been enough time for us to diverge as much as horses and donkeys have, and they can produce hybrids. (Dogs show extremely diverse races, from chihuahuas to great danes - All can reproduce with one another, and all are descended from wolves we domesticated after we became human, and started choosing puppies to our preference.)
There has been enough time to produce superficial, and largely cosmetic differences, skin color, hair color and form, nose and eye configurations, hip and shoulder widths and limb lengths. Quite probably, most of these differences arose out of sexual selection, with a large dose of in-group preference. Interestingly, the exotic has never quite stopped us from trying to procreate with those who don't look like us.

If anything, the inclusion of truly adaptive traits into the genome, such as the stocky build of northerners, or the lithe littleness of forest dwellers, can only make us better prepared to face evolutionary challenges. If the necessary genes are there, they have a chance to prove their worth against evolving conditions.

Apparently, evolution only moves into higher gear when conditions change : for example, when the Galapagos experience drought, larger and harder seeds survive better, and finches with larger beaks are better able to eat those seeds, the larger beaked finches are better at reproducing.
Evolution happens when conditions change, and it speeds up when conditions change drastically. A giant asteroid impact had to kill off the dinosaurs before a scurrying mass of mouselike creatures could evolve into all the mammals we know today, cows, pigs, rabbits, hippopotami , giraffes, lemurs and whales and all the rest of them, including us.

As it is quite clear that we are drastically changing the face of the earth, it is self evident this will have serious consequences on the history of life on earth. There will be an enormous culling of species before we humans give up the ghost. And we do not know how many species are required to constitute sustainable communities of plants and animals and humans. Neither do we know how many such communities can be sustained after the age of cheap energy, food, clothing etc.
Estimates of the earth's human population 10.000 years ago vary between 250.000 and 10 million. (At least some of these hunter-gatherers were quite well off - if you can picture prehistoric statuettes, they are often quite naturalistic representations of fat women. There is no way to get that fat in six months, it takes years, ergo, the people who made these images were well-fed.) Estimates of earth's carrying capacity, if we all were hunter gatherers, are wildly optimistic at 70 million. Farming allows us to feed more people on the same area of land, but it remains to be seen if farming can truly be sustainable. The Sumerians destroyed their soil 4 or 5000 years ago, the Egyptians interrupted millenia of annual fertilization building the Assouan dam, and I don't think I have to explain the pitfalls of modern agro-industry.
A gigantic reduction of our numbers seems inevitable, and I would wager that between hunger, sickness and war, hunger and sickness will vie for first place in most numerous killing. Even if only one billion of us remain in a hundred years, I am not sure the earth will be able to carry that billion indefinitely. If contraception becomes unavailable, maintaining a low population could become problematic (condoms as well as the pill require petrol).

ramble over.

I think that since we had to invent alphabets and a system of standardized writing, roughly 4,000 years ago, most humans have been living in increasingly disconnected and increasingly abstract bubbles, separated from the real, physical realities around them. So depending on how long a human generation is, between 20 and 30 years, that's some 130 to 200 generations of increasingly favoring the ability to be abstracted, disconnected, or isolated in some way.

Thanks to our long-term evolved preference for sexual activity as both procreation and play, and with the increased ability to travel, we humans have also become more homogenized and less specifically adapted to local environments.

The evolutionary adaptability of a species is found in its variability, and we have become more genetically alike than different. As I understand it, humans over the last few hundred thousand years have had a narrowing genome, not helped by our near extinction around the time of the Toba volcanic eruption, and now not helped further by our bubbled-existence and homogeneity.

The pre-existing variability is key to the survival of the species, because what we like to think of as "adaptation" usually means "oh, here's a problem that we need to figure out and then change how we go about doing things". That's not usually how adaptation works in nature, those who are less well-adapted die out in favor of the better adapted. Other living things do not have the luxury and luck of complex problem solving.

One thing in which we do have great variability, having existed so long in a disconnected bubble, is our attitudes and beliefs about, for lack of a better phrase, "how the world works".

But even with humans before the advent of germ theory 150 years ago, those of us with less appropriate immune systems died out in favor of those with better locally-adapted immune systems. This was still the case with the Spanish Flu a century ago. Since then, hygiene and more recently antibiotics and pesticides have prevented germs and the things that carry germs from killing us. Which has had a largely unseen effect, except to those who study infectious disease. What this has done is caused humans to slow down their evolved response to disease, and rapidly sped up the evolution of viruses, bacteria, and pests, most of which have much faster generational turnover and larger populations than we humans.

We're also doing this to our food supply. Weeds, insects, and other invaders are continually trying to get at our food supply, while our food supply goes through one generation. The pests go through multiple generations of adaptation for a single generation of the life-cycle of our food. So we now have to continually apply new pesticides because the pests keep adapting to the old ones. And because we were too ignorant or impatient to let evolutionary adaptation do its job, we're now trying to genetically engineer the food itself.

Are we screwed six ways from Sunday? Is "six" even in the ballpark? Inquiring minds want to know what's the fastest way to get drunk.

I don't know about microscopic steps.
What about a devastating disease that left only those with the resistant mutation?
Seems that would be very rapid gene pool modification but probably a rare event.
Look at what happened to the Natives of the North American Continent when European diseases were introduced.
I know you will argue that they were isolated and hence did not have the chance to evolve the resistance but it could happen if modern medicine ceases to exist.
AIDS in Africa might be an example.

A really drastic reduction in numbers has to take place before the gene pool begins to shrink. You have to get down to the level of inbreeding before family traits become fixed in the genome. In the case of illness, resistance to that illness spreads through the pool, but that is actually a minor adaptation. No changes in lifestyle are required.

If I recall correctly, The Native American population went through a minimum of several tens of thousands. This was a catastrophic reduction in numbers, but not quite enough to seriously hurt the gene pool, especially as many claimed ancestry in more than one tribe.

I can't remember a plague or pandemic that killed more than 30 to 50% of the affected population. As of now, several southern African women have shown resistance to aids, and are passing it along to their children, so natural resistance is already becoming available to the African gene-pool. (And a few doctors are trying to figure out how the resistance works.)

A simple metric for inbreeding to occur is that a population has to remain stable for as many generations as there are members, before the dominant traits of the first generation are expressed in all the members of the last generation. A population of 1000 has to remain at that level for 1000 generations before every one is closer than cousins. If in the mean time, the population grows and splits, separate and slowly diverging populations will appear.

For the world we live in, a population decline large enough to force inbreeding has a very low probability. Possibly, the next generation, or the one after that will be much closer to such an eventuality, and even then it will happen in pockets and niches. The upper class, for example, have often shown a knack for silly reproductive decisions. (I remember a Spanish king, Charles II, literally a drooling idiot, offspring of cousins who were themselves cousins...)

They had inferior technology and were weakened when they needed to defend themselves.

I am sure that was part of the Anglo strategy.

But I absolutely understand your logic.

There is way, way too much variation in the current or past pool to allow a concentration unless it is designed that way.

I doubt humans have had the time or the conditions to evolve much.

For one, evolution marches in microscopic steps. For another, evolution requires separated populations, and local conditions that require local adaptations. Large and connected populations have a tendency to remain stable over long periods, due to the intermingling gene pool.

Well not necessarily, evolution is change in allele frequencies. We arguably have more diversity in the modern world because we've beat some negative selection pressures with cultural innovation. How many people do you know that need glasses? 25000 years ago you would be at a disadvantage with poor eyesight, but not so much in the modern world. Reducing negative selection pressure increases diversity though it may decrease survivability in some environments, while leaving a larger pool to work with when positive selection reasserts itself. Cultural innovation hasn't halted evolution, just changed the playing field a bit. In a sense you could argue that evolution for H. sapiens has accelerated.

my point.

In 1988, I was dozing in the back of a conference room at The Johnson Space Flight Center. An automobile wiring harness manufacturer was speaking. She said, “It takes less skill to fabricate a computer chip than it is to sew a collar on a shirt”. Instantly, I envisioned Hudson Valley electrical/computing engineers being replaced by Indian engineers at a fifth of the cost to the manufacturer. That vision has directed my personal view and actions for the past twenty years. Our standard of living must decline until it is at the level of the so-called undeveloped world. We have used debt to hide this fact for at least two decades. Independent of Peak Oil we are now past the point where debt can support our accustomed life style.

I stumbled on to TOD about three years ago. In one evening of reading TOD,I became convinced that PO is real and imminent.

In my view, an economy that is unsustainable independent of resource limitations will completely collapse under the burden of expensive energy.

There may be a technical solution to the problem but, in my opinion, hydrogen fusion is the only currently proposed concept that has any possibility of preventing massive die off in the next two decades.

Therefore, we should be developing small community groups to cope with the evolving collapse of society. The current project in my small community is to catalog post PO skills, tools required to exercise those skills and compare that list to the skills and tools that we currently possess. This will be followed with training and acquisition programs to fill the gaps. The local Grange is the focal point for these activities.

TGN,if it is either hydrogen fusion within 20 years or die off we might as well just get on with the party.

If practical nuclear fusion were just ONE or TWO or THREE or FOUR major breakthroughs away,todays toddlers might conceivably live to see a fusion power plant actually generate some usable juice.

The problem is that virtually none of the materials that are needed to actually build such a plant actually exist except as laboratory curiosities or concepts on computer screens.I once believed in fusion myself.After hearing fusion boosters over the years dismiss one major engineering hurdle after another as if a workable solution to any particular problem would be found any old day,I have yet to see the evidence that ANY of the various formidable problems have yet been resolved to the extent that even the very best engineers are ready to actually draw up even a partial blueprint.Even in science and engineering at the highest levels, we are still just chimps willing to go along to get along,and it would be utterly niave to expect more than a minute fraction of the people who are making money out of fusion or who have staked thier academic or political reputations on its eventual success to admit that they may NEVER succeed.

It takes ten years of bau to build a nuclear plant,and we not only know how it is done,we also have all the infrastructure in place to manufacture the MATERIALS used as well the MACHINERY such as pumps and valves made from the materials . (I will hazard a guess that a nuke could be built in maybe a little less than half that time on a war time footing.)

Anyone who wants the straight dope on fusion power can type von karman lecture series feb2008 into her favorite search engine and get the facts from the faculty at CalTech-the folks who are responsible for a huge chunk of the successful research and development behind our space program.
They don't believe it is possible to say when fusion might become a practical reality,but they are certain it will not happen within the next thirty years.

Incicentally this lecture is probably the best single short presentation of the overall energy situation you will find anywhere-but if you happen to be a regular reader of The Oil Drum you don't really need to hear it,except maybe if you want to hear it directly from the faculty of one of the worlds premier science and technology universities.

God save the internet!

Well, now, oldfarmer, Nate Lewis also said in that lecture that solar is the way to go, and we know how to do it and it is there in abundance. The 1990 sept issue of Scientific American - among many others- also said the same thing, and added that wind from North Dakota to Texas was also plenty adequate for all our electric needs.

Stitch it all together with HVDC and hydro storage, and cut out the orgies of "consumerism" , and "increase and multiply", and we can get back to paying attention to the meaning of life.

Nate is enthusiastic for PV since he is a chemist. I am talking about solar thermal, not PV, since I am a rude crude 19th century thermal engine guy. Solar thermal has storage, as well as capability to run on combustion when the sun is hiding, so 24 hr/day power.

I really don't know why TOD does not talk up these honest-to-goodness simple possibilities more. Maybe too simple? Rather take on a hard job like fusion to keep our brains in shape??

Can't pay for it? Baloney. Just quit putting energy, materials, effort in the crap we do today so enthusiastically- stuff that does nobody any good at all, and switch those resources over to where they count. My favorite example of super stupid effort is soda pop. And the important one is fancy private cars.

BTW. Many people here assume that people are insatiable and will never quit trying to gobble up more and more no matter how much they have. That is just not true. I could gobble a huge bite more than I have any desire to do, and same for most of my friends. We live quite simply, and even want to live simpler. I do not think we are in any way rare or abnormal. Something wrong here.

"..don't know why TOD does not talk up these honest-to-goodness simple possibilities more"

That right there is a great question, Wimbi. I also like the reminder of calling Solar the "Fusion that works today."

I do suspect that the simplicity of it makes people take it for granted, and it gets that handwave while folks head off to find something 'Intricate, Mighty and Masterful..' or some such nonsense.

The button I wear says 'Your House is cold, the Sun is hot. 100% Maine Sunshine!'


jokhul- I had the good luck to have a great prof long ago- Egon Orowan- who was supposed to teach us the structure of solids, but instead spent his lecture time telling anecdotes of the early part of the century European physics and physicists, as well as lots of secrets to success. One I remember particularly was-

"Never try anything simple until you have failed with something big, complex, expensive and hard to do."

Seems we do follow Orowan's rule quite rigorously WRT energy.

Then, after all those anecdotes and wonderful observations on things in general, Orowan would give us a hell of a hard test on the subject. He figured, rightly, that it was all in publications anyhow, and it was up to us to get it from there.

Now, with all that, why have I not yet hooked up that solar water heater??

There's a wiki page on him:

Interesting guy.

Not even sure when all this started for me. Fews years ago I guess. But because of the work done here and blogs like it I woke up on many different levels. I own a CPA/financial planning firm. On a largely unimportant but quantifiable level I helped many others see the path we are on and they took the appropriate actions. Started with my partners. Family. Clients.

Some paid off debts. Most moved their money from the risky asset classes I had preached for years and years into cash. I looked like a genuis.

That good feeling lasted a few weeks. Then it was the realization of what's next.

Now I have moved up Maslow's little pyramid. Downsized, readjusted, planted. Much happier. I owe many people a world of thanks around here.

I think WestTexas put it best sometime late last year when he said even if this peak resource thing is just flat wrong, global warming is BS and we keep growing and reproducing forever, you will be happier if you simplify.

So what have I learned? WT may just be the next reincarnate of buddha:)

By reading the Oil Drum, I have realized that even the brightest are really wedded to their pre-existing beliefs. Without assuming I am the brightest, I am, too.

I think collapse will come over several decades, but what do I know? A few on TOD think nuclear (esp. thorium) gives us a bright future indefinitely. I have posted a couple of times to ask for an article explaining how nuclear can save us and hoping the issues would be addressed systematically. Haven't seen it yet. But those folks belief it to be so, and I believe eventual collapse to be so. I'll agree to disagree and strive to keep an open mind.

John McCarthy, the computer guru, is one of the most extreme nuclear cornucopians. He was one of Jay Hanson's Usenet debate foes during the late 90's. Earlier Alvin Weinberg and Petr Beckman had ben among those who gave me hope for nuclear energy. I have not kept up with the more recent field of 'experts'.

Thank you for the reference. I have bookmarked it. Although reading this makes me wonder...

"Cohen's 5 billion year estimate is based on extracting uranium from seawater, which the Japanese have already shown to work."

I wonder if I read on they'll be mention of EREOI or mention of other possible limiting factors (steel, concrete, water, etc.). If not, I question their status as experts.

I have learned that so called 'experts' know almost nothing about almost everything! ... and yet they are permitted to seriously influence the way the world is run! Actually the evidence is clear ... they don't know how the world runs any more than you or me.

Cohen is an expert on radiation hormesis. That was another possible belief alteration when I discovered the work of T. D. Luckey on hormesis around 1980. At the least I would say that there is more evidence for radiation hormesis than there is for the linear no-threshold hypothesis. Unfortunately the minimal effects from lo-dose ionizing radiation- if any - are largely buried in a sea of noise. I once spent a Saturday morning in the Pittsburgh office of Dr. Cohen trying to convince him to write an article for one of the major Radiology journals. The article was eventually published together with a contrary opinion written by a well known radiologist. See # 9

The question of energy return has been repeatedly answered for nuclear power. The energy costs for uranium are nearly entirely in the enrichment process, which is unnecissary in the long term.

Sea water uranium is, at its heart, a rhetorical tool. It will never be used for nuclear power production as hard rock mining from low grade ores will allways be less expensive.

You say it's been repeatedly answered, but isn't there some dispute? And, assuming uranium (or thorium) won't be a limiting factor for centuries because of, e.g., fast breeder reactors, who says something else might not be?

I mean, if Odum wrote the EREOI is 4 and the World Nuclear Association says something like 93, it seems like the knowledgeable ones (like yourself?) ought to explain in detail how it is going to work.

TOD seems to have few who have similar opinions to you, but your answers are really brief and imply that only a moron would question you.

Hi Nanonano,
I made the case for Nuclear Fission a couple of years ago here on TOD. You can read it here.

This has been disputed by many people, who basically rely on an unpublished report from 1976 about the energy costs of Uranium mining. The champions of this approach are Storm Van Leeuwan and Smith. You can read the results of the correspondence I've had with Storm van Leeuwan on our website starting here:

See the second last paragraph for the links to the correspondence.

People can say whatever they want, but the real world facts of Uranium mining mining is that it takes far less energy energy to mine than the energy that is gained from consuming just 1% of it in a light water reactor. See the link to worlds lowest grade mine at Rossing

Or if you prefer, look at the cost of 200 tonnes of Uranium ($50 per pound), enough for 1 GW for 1 year in a light water reactor, 22 Million dollars, compared to the cost of coal ($50 per tonne) for 1 GW-year = $182 million dollars, or compared to 1 GW-Year of electricity sold at 5 cents per KW-Hr = $400 million dollars.

~$22 Million for the raw Uranium
~$200 Million for raw coal.
~$400 Million for Electricity at 5 cents per KWHr

All for 1 GW-Yr

There are constraints on Nuclear-fission but they're not the cost (energy or $) of the fuel.

My big change is basically support of Nuclear. TOD convinced me that the choices are energy or death and chaos.

The energy isn't going to be oil, so it's going to be coal, nuclear, renewables, efficiency gains. Well, renewables aren't yet scaling enough, so it's going to be coal or nuclear, or efficiency. Coal is less desirable than nuclear, particularly if we can get beyond the tiny efficiencies of the current generation of reactors to something which burns most of it's own waste.

Efficiency... Well, people have started buying Hummers again, and the TVs are only getting bigger. Humans use what is available... Efficiency will only come about when there is a sustained increase in the cost of energy, but the nature of our monetary system largely mean that any increase will be periodic, not sustained.

In the meantime I have stopped worrying about debt, the 1st crash has already happened. It's clear from government actions that politicians do what is expedient rather than what is right, so they are happy to inflate the debt away.

Mr. Sevior,

Thank you for the links. I missed the discussion 27 months ago, although I must have got the EROEI of 93 from an article referencing the same study.

Is an article possible on how the EROEI may change over time?

Hi Nanonano,
Yes, our website quotes 93, but I think it is more likely closer to 50. It is easy to overlook small things that matter for those sort of very high EROI's. I will update when I get a chance.

In answer to your implied question of how come some researchers get low EROI's..

A possibility is the following:

If one assumes American Gaseous Diffusion for enrichment, then there is a large energy cost for this. The American Gaseous diffusion based enrichment needs approximately 1 GW-Year of electricity to produce enough fuel for 20 GW-Years of nuclear plants. If one further assumes that this electricity is supplied by a coal-fired power station, then because of the thermodynamics, this requires three times as much primary energy in the form of coal.

So right away making these assumptions one needs 3 GW-Years of coal to generate 20 GW-Years of electricity and the EORI has an upper limit of 6.

However if instead of a coal-fired power station, one uses a nuclear power plant, then instead of 3 GW-years of coal, one needs 200 tonnes of natural Uranium, the energy cost of which is about 0.01 GW-years, the EROI increases dramtically.

Furthermore, Gaseous Diffusion plants are obsolete and are in the process of being replaced by Centrifuge Enrichment. This technology uses 50 times less electricity than Gaseous Diffusion, so once again the EROI increases dramatically.

Into the future that 1% of energy extracted from the Uranium can also be increased. The technology to do this has a road-map but we need to see if it can followed to completion.

I have changed my mind about nearly everything I was taught in high school and most of what I learned at college if it has anything to do with history or politics.

I also long ago learned to appreciate Twain's comments about the education of his father.It seems that his Daddy was maybe just a little dense,but when Twain returned home after a couple of years on his own,he realized that his pop had learned one hell of a lot in a short period of time.

You can count on human nature to stay pretty well constant,but every thing else involving homo sap head is temporary,including homo saphead himself.You just have to live a long time to realize it.


It is only recently that I have been seeing the point of view that the masses will not necessarily be better off if they had the same understanding of the issues of resources and population as those of us blogging our little hearts out to alert the public.

I have come to the conclusion that it is somewhat counterproductive for the mainstream to be alerted to the issues. Since I have been aware of the issues for 40+ years, have a degree in Ecosystems Analysis & Conservation, this has been my intellectual fodder and bread and butter for a long time. The first impulses were always to have other be aware of what I considered valuable information. And to also try to think about the possibilities for solutions to the problems that were inevitable 'in the future'.

My change of heart, as it were, has been because the reality of the masses ignoring the information [excepting China and its one-child policy] made me realize that real solutions must come from the masses. Us outliers may be able to think in more abstract forms than the general public, but that doesn't mean that our solutions will be any more effective. Think - unintended consequences.

The more a solution is based on the far future, the more likely it will prove to have missed a swan or two. Better we should work to align ourselves with the reality of life lived in the moment. Intellectually it seems short-sighted, but our organism was made to respond in just this way.

Maybe the only satisfaction us doomers will have is to be able to say 'I told ya so'.


Hi Vicky.

I've long tried to construct a rationale for conveying complex information to "the masses", or to those who are "higher ranking" in society. I've failed at making that case to myself, after quite a bit of experimentation tweaking the zeitgeist and our nominal leaders. It "feels like" the right thing to do, but we'd usually do well to closely examine what feels good.

However, as a very-effective activist over the past 3+ decades, I'll submit that there are ways to change things on a large scale fairly quickly; they just aren't as intuitive. Human society and existence is finely tuned on the edge of criticality in myriad ways, which are in principle knowable and exploitable.

I always hate to see people leaning towards burnout-nihilism due to the seeming intractability of the problems we face, because the still-possible outcomes are not equivalent.

Would I kid you?


Hey Greenish

You're clever enough to be a lever, I'm just an old worn-out hammer.

On the other hand, just because you have been successful do you have full confidence that you are right? Remember Einstein's quote. 'I should have been a plumber'.

I have some confidence in the masses [or the real humans, if you will] that they will find their way back home.

It is time for some of us outliers to tend our gardens.


I'm a worn-out lever, and not clever enough to put most of my thoughts into words.

Full confidence? No. Perhaps this is just the slice of the multiverse in which I succeeded ridiculously often despite being barking mad. But that doesn't work well for the purposes of self-rationalization. It's difficult to construct a tenable internal argument that I all of a sudden can't change the world anymore. If I do reach that conclusion, it will be with equal parts regret and relief.

I think confidence in "the masses" is chancy; their trajectory is pretty well-mapped to date. But by all means tend your gardens, actual and metaphoric. Steering this mess isn't easy, fun, or low-risk.

I've finally got a breadfruit sprouting on one of my trees. About time. The lazy man's garden: each tree is an autonomous starch factory. By the time I've finished my "mission impossible" stuff, they should be bearing nicely for the next hundred years.


I am tending my garden actually. And big congrats on the breadfruit.

Since we all are being so naked today, I'll tell you my 'fantasy' of the fate of mankind. Several remanent populations make it through bottlenecks and start speciation. I think the current human population is a transition specie. Like the proto-bird.

I haven't a clue to your real world identity, but you hint in some of your remarks on TOD that you might be famous in some way.

What is the point of your 'mission impossible' if you don't trust nature to have the final word?

I always enjoy your comments on TOD. Today is the first day I stopped lurking. Lucky me.


What is the point of your 'mission impossible' if you don't trust nature to have the final word?

The real world will certainly have the final word, but it has no preferences.

I've - utterly arbitrarily - made a value judgement that life, diversity, and the experiences of conscious observers are preferable to a planet of single-celled algae. Or that - all else being equal - a world with penguins is preferable to a world without them. Admittedly this is a bit central-nervous-system chauvinistic, but I think it's a worthwhile philosophical position.

The world, and the universe, have a long time to be lifeless. The course of life on earth for the next billion or so years is still up for grabs, in human hands, and rather immediately subject to irrevocable decisions and looming cascades. Many sorts of options once foreclosed are foreclosed forever.

So I'll continue trying. It simply isn't in me to not take the situation personally.

And I didn't mean to hint that I was famous. On the contrary, I'm fairly expert at not being famous. Fame is a hindrance in most circumstances, drastically limiting options. Sounds like BS, but it isn't. I'm just one of the "powers that be", a free agent. You seldom learn the names of those who actually move world events, for better or worse.... not that I've moved any lately.

Fame is a crutch for those who can't get things done in relative anonymity. It's nothing to seek, and it's very easy to give away in this monkey stew we swim in.

one last comment, then off to bed to read my newly downloaded novel on my kindle.

I appreciate your candor in revealing both your undercover PTB role and your preference for self-consciousness to remain part of the biosphere. It is an amazing thing this knowing that we know.

I however believe that the biosphere does have preferences, far too subtle for us to fathom. It is in the sense of biases rather than predilections. We are the result of those biases. My loyalty is to the biosphere if I have to choose between survival of it or humanity. Even if it is yeasts and bacteria without the vertebrate fauna.

The universe as a whole might be considered to be without preferences, but there are local pockets of wonderful activity that defy the odds.

Enjoy it while you can.

Regarding preferences in feelings it is interesting that manny people seems to prefer to support cute animals rather then other humans if they have no personal relation to either. This might indicate some ugly mechanisms regarding inter human competition.

Or you can see the ability to care like an abundance of empathy, humans could compete much fiercer, the odd thing is probably that we got so little violence in most cultures. Protecting an animal is an example of caring about another being but it turns ugly when people start doing it by hurting other humans instead of using non violent conflict solving.

I think a choice between the biosphere and humanity is a false choise. We would have a very hard time survivng withouth the biospehere and the biosphere is tougher then humanity. My personal main motivation is due to liking humans and culture, I care about environmental problems since it is good for people and the continuation of cool and surprisning culture. Lots of phenomnom and organisms in nature are of course wonderful and I enjoy looking at them and that influences my feelings but its not my core motivation.

I agree with the transition species observation but then again evolution by definition is and emergent process.
My understanding of evolution is that it works in fits and starts........... when the environment changes radically the most adaptable of the species is able to reproduce more prolifically and it changes the composition of the gene pool over a relatively short time period in favor of the more adaptable traits.
This seems to be the beginning of one of those radical changes in conditions.
I this particular case local conditions are going to make much more of a difference than the individuals adaptability but I guess that has always been the case for all species (Galapagos Islands).
There is a lot of "luck" involved in this natural process Isn't there?
We humans are a strange combination of the rational and the absurd..........right now absurd seems to be holding sway however.

This was a great idea, Nate. I can't wait to read the rest of the responses.

I'd like to be able to remember everything I used to think, but it's been a long, un-journaled journey, and I've forgotten some of the things I didn't know.

Key points and un-wrongs:
1. Despite an education which included actuarial science and economics, I had to learn that population levels and mortality are actually functions of dynamic nonlinear systems, and that people are made out of food.

2. Conservation of mass and thermodynamics apply in biological systems. These are central to ecological stoichiometry, the study of the interaction between mass/energy balance and biological organisms.

3. Gender roles do, in fact, exist, and the dance of attraction and seduction between men and women doesn't work at all as portrayed in popular media.

4. If you want to see different results, you must first change your primary actions.

5. Seek first to understand. Most of us, through no faults of our own, do not understand.

New/refined insights:
1. With practice, the brain can remain plastic and capable of rewiring itself indefinitely.

2. As a means of resource exchange, money enables more complex societies than barter.

3a. Free will does not exist the way people think it does, and we are not in as much control of ourselves as we'd like to believe.

3b. In an increasingly complex and overwhelming world, more and more people run on autopilot in order to survive.

4. Our legal system, as currently designed, can never be made workable for a sustainable society.

5. Money doesn't create resources. Human-usable resources are always "created" through appropriation and usurpation.

6. There is a significant yet unseen force which goes beyond the necessary intelligence, education, patience, emotional resilience, resources, and personality to be collapse-aware: luck.

7. Debates about beliefs are almost never about specific beliefs, but about underlying and unmentioned benefits and threats of the system of belief.

8. Many of our human evolutionary adaptations served to make us increasingly prolific sexually.

9. Space-time probably has a fractal, self-similar geometry.

10. Peak oil, climate change, mass extinctions, and population overshoot are symptoms of unmanageable complexity. The unmanageable complexity stems from our creation of a way of life for which we are ill-designed.

11a. As members of the same society or culture, we are much more different from each other than our tribal ancestors. We are not held together in the same way as they were, by stories, myths, and experiences which were shared, immediate, and local. What holds us together is money, cheap energy, and our reliance on coping mechanisms and synthetic substitutes (bland entertainment, religion, porn, drugs, and chasing false hopes).

11b. Another primary driver of consumptive behavior is that synthetic substitutes don't effectively take the place of what may be actually missing (positive socialization, exercise, sunlight, sleep, healthy diet, sexual expression, etc.). A new, higher level of "more" is then sought after to compensate for what was never solved in the first place, resulting in a persistent, unaddressed deficit. Wash, rinse, repeat.

12. Sexual orientation is neither a choice, nor is it genetic. It is a result of the interaction of genetically-guided biology with specific environmental cues. If certain environmental cues change, sexual orientation can change as well.

13. Fear is the reason that both sex and death largely remain mysteries to most people, because we are taught to be afraid of them when we're children.

13. Fear is the reason that both sex and death largely remain mysteries to most people, because we are taught to be afraid of them when we're children.

I don't think that death and sex should be lumped together in this manner.
I think that fear of death is innate and not taught. I seems obvious that to fear death has the ultimate survival value.
Now sex on the other hand might have it's "taboo" origins in the history of our species prior to birth control methods.
Controlling sex is another way of attempting to control population and therefore might have had some survival value for the GROUP.
So it seems that maybe to fear death has individual survival value and to "fear" sex might have a more complex implied survival value by limiting population growth to a manageable rate.
Just my guess.

When I first learned of Peak Oil, late in 2005, my world literally changed overnight. At first I developed an apocalyptic view of our future, PO was going to result in a more or less instant collapse of the capital markets and therefore of our economies. Now I see things differently. I do not think apocalypse will happen, but I do think a slow grinding recession/depression with oil being pushed higher and higher up the value chain is going to play out over the next several years. The fact that BAU is over will only seep slowly into the official mind; and they will try and fix "the problem" in many ways that are ultimately futile and wasteful (like building more roads as they are here in Australia as part of Rudd's nation building program).

In my view the destination is a zero/negative population growth economy with elderly people maintained on state pensions. The world must relocalize, rely on rail for mass transport; and develop closed loop food/energy/water/sewerage systems. Factories, shops must for the most part be local. This all implies a lower consumption life style, with virtually nothing thrown "away". Quite how we will get there I have no idea and there still remains the chance of apocalypse through war (resulting for social pressures caused by resource shortages and/or the effects of climate change). That is why we must try and be smart now.

Explaining all this to 'the masses' will be counterproductive and actually accelerate social decay.
I have finally come to accept this, and have some equanimity with people I interact with.
Even with strong intention and an arduous education, story and myth are what most of us humans use as reference points, with pattern recognition enhancing the conspiracy theories that propagate around the story and myth.

Explaining all this to 'the masses' will be counterproductive and actually accelerate social decay.
I have finally come to accept this, and have some equanimity with people I interact with.

Accelerating decay, collapse, dissolution - whatever term you might want to apply - is a GOOD thing. This goes back to one of Nate's first points about there being no way to mitigate, but only a faint hope of providing some seed kernels for the next paradigm. The bigger and faster the crash, the more likely the kernels will survive.

The "problem" depends on the timescale one chooses. A five year solution is not a 20 year or 100 year solution.

What have I learned? That it is "too late". That "hope" was the last thing out of Pandora's box for a very good reason. But that one does not need and one does not even want "hope" to do the right thing. This is a lesson I'm still trying to figure out. A friend of mine says our mission now is to "die purposefully".

God himself needs all of our help.

FWIW, virtually all of the activists of various sorts with whom I've worked over the past decade have "gone back to their gardens". I suspect we are past endgame. Checkmate in 3; it's predetermined. Possibly excepting the addition of extreme amounts of chaos. Shiva. But anything "orderly" is deadly. Only extreme chaos offers any possibility of breaking the system. And how do a few get that sort of traction?

cfm in Gray, ME

How do a few get that sort of traction? Take lessons from the masters. You don't so much unleash havoc as much as you take advantage of it when it happens of its own accord.

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?
B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation?

The really astonishing moment for me was in Dec 05, when I discovered a somewhat-organized subculture of people existed talking about this stuff - stuff that I had assumed for decades was not subject to useful human discourse.

I'm a trifle odd - bit of autism or somesuch thing - and from birth my thinking was predominantly abstract-visual, which made the very-verbal humans I was surrounded with seem wildly irrational in annoying and dangerous ways.

I read voraciously until about 8th grade, and then decided to quit it, because it seemed that the ways I saw the world made a lot more sense than what seemed to be conventional wisdom, and I could "fake" it in my classes using methods which were more natural to me. Between age 19-21 I created a greatly-edited human personality/interface which worked well enough for me to function in society and get girls.

The human population/energy crash was apparent to me and looming at that point, so I spent a few years trying to figure what a sentient creature should do about it.

By age 23, after analyzing oil data (I was working as an oil seismologist, so had access to relevant data books), I had developed a fair notion of "peak oil" and when the crunch would hit, though I'd never heard the term. One fine day in the Louisiana salt marsh doodlebugging, the clanking marsh-buggy broke down and I volunteered to guard it, as the rednecks who comprised the rest of the crew chugged off into the distance.

This gave me an afternoon and an evening to ponder peak oil and what I should do about it, as the natural world came back to life around me and a light rain fell. I figured 2010-2020 as the probable systems-crash period, which left the intervening time squarely within my presumed lifespan (that was '74). I quit the next day and started a less-probable career of trying to optimize which species, diversity, and principles would make it through to the other side of the bottleneck. You are all familar with my work, if not my existence.

Fast forward three decades.

My wife got quite sick late in 05, and I needed to be at her side; so I decided maybe I'd see about fleshing out a book from one of my many skeleton-drafts, to try creating a cult audience and raising a little coin. I was about a month into it when I had a phone board meeting for one of my groups and a board member asked, after it closed, what I was working on. I described it, thinking that he'd be impressed or horrified, and he just said "sounds like Kunstler's book". What? Someone else is talking about this stuff now?

So I junked the book idea and instead read about what "peak oil" "dieoff" and related themes had to offer, feeling an incredible relief from self-imposed isolation. And it was a strange sensation to see many of the "visual" concepts I'd worked with expressed in words, sometimes eloquently.

The very existence of Nate and many of the rest of you was amazing to me.

Regarding lateral thinking and synthesis, I think that's the only way I naturally think. Whether it's a feature or a bug has long been open to interpretation. In school I was considered retarded by some, a savant by others, and odd by all; hence the personality redesign.

It's communication of my perceptions which is hard for me. I have a reasonable command of language, but I've mostly failed to describe how I've operated (with considerable success) in affecting the world. It gets very offbeat very quickly. I'm beginning to realize that I may ultimately fail at that. The way I think has always been alien since I was a head-banging kid, and it may well remain too alien to be passed along to the normally-wired.

That said, I vastly appreciate the real-world lucidity I've found here. The discussions here are more congruent with my thinking than any I've seen, and I've quite a bit of respect for many of the posters.

Rave on, gang.

The very existence of Nate and many of the rest of you was amazing to me.

Actually I would be quite surprised if a group like this didn't exist -- given the nature of the internet and all.

Actually I would be quite surprised if a group like this didn't exist -- given the nature of the internet and all.

Of course I knew in general that gaggles of statistical outliers could be located. I was describing my emotional reaction to realizing there was a reasonably well-developed body of accessible knowledge and systems thinkers addressing this stuff. I had mostly worked within the "environmental" community, to the extent I worked with others at all, and until 2005 hadn't run into anyone who had a clue of a clue.

And while there may be other groups "like this", TOD is IMO pretty unique.

I think there is/was a Yahoo group called "Running on Empty" or something like that. I joined a few years ago, posted a couple of comments but both my comments were yanked. I asked why and the moderator said they were not appropriate. Jeez, oil depletion doesn't seem very appropriate either, I recall thinking to myself at the time. I found that all very strange, but it just goes to show how there are lots of these "parallel universes" out there. You don't run into them necessarily unless you run into them :) I don't think I have ever had anything censored on TOD, BTW.

Yes, I found ROE and ROE2 first, and got a lot of my posts censored, so departed. It took me a fairly long while to discover the reality of TOD since I initially assumed it was an oil-industry thinktank, and I hadn't enjoyed that industry much when I was briefly in it.

Running on Empty died because of a technical glitch. It was replaced by ROE 2. I never found either to be as interesting as the original energyresources Both are still active. At the preset time they are not moderated by Jay Hanson. See also this Usenet string about the onelist origin of these Yahoo groups.

I remember well, at age five, standing in my Aunt's stairwell, and knowing how alone we are; alone in a very fundamental way that cannot be explained in language. That loneliness has to be felt. It cannot be understood. I also was something like autistic, maybe I was autistic, I didn't talk, I was content with my own and very private introspections. I insisted on walking by putting my toes down first, like a little Indian. My mother enrolled me in tap dance lessons so I could learn to walk properly. I was thrown out because I wouldn't take my hands out of my pockets. I liked to go to church so I could flush the urinals and watch the water swirl as it disappeared down the drain. I didn't buy the Sunday School lessons; hollow stuff in my young opinion. As a teenager, I knew something was wrong with our social arrangement. I saw the problem as one of sustainability. That is, we built most of our modern infrastructure, highways, large buildings, subdivision tracts, over the previous 100 years or so. I saw a problem of accelerating decay rates, sewage lines, electrical grids, highway systems. Iron rusts. I read Steppenwolf and Magister Ludi; they stuck with me, and then 100 Years of Solitude.

I stumbled onto TOD 3 years ago or so and have been a regular reader since. I have no technical education, but have done my best to read and understand the technical articles and discussion that is a regular part of TOD. I have learned much but still know little. At first, I was elated, excited to have found a resource that put into words and solid concepts those ideas I had had for years about the nature of our culture. I began talking to friends about what was probably headed our way. My excitement was greeted with skepticism, gracious forbearance, and an "Oh, it's this again" attitude. I no longer share my thoughts as freely because, I've found, at first to my chagrin, that most people aren't interested in anything that threatens their notions of BAU. As it has turned out, much of what I, and others here on TOD have been thinking, has, in fact come to pass. The present economic crises was a no brainer, if one took a look, six or seven years ago. What was coming was very plain to see.

I have recently read Taleb's Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness. He does a good job of outlining the problems of causality; Black Swans are nothing new, and, as I said in one of my prior posts, you don't know you're sliding off of the bridge until you're sliding off of the bridge. You don't know there is going to be an accident, until there is an accident. That is the definition of accident, but, in our world, we prefer to not even think of the possibility of unwelcome possibilities before the fact of occurrence; a flaw maybe, but, a flaw that allows us to get things done. If we considered accidents for what they are, we would never have built an interstate highway system, or tall buildings, for that matter (would the Twin Towers have been built if the event of 9-11 had been foreseen?). Because of my life experience, which has been markedly different from most others. I don't get close to the edges of large drops, nor do I like to fly. I try to anticipate the Black Swan events even though intellectually, I understand that, by definition, they can't be foreseen. I can predict with a good chance of success, that on today's date, next year, the outside temperature will be above 30 degrees. An eruption of Krakatoa, the week before, and an asteroid strike in the Pacific, and my prediction would fail. Prognostication is possible, but.....

In retrospect, the crash of oil prices should have been foreseen. I didn't see it coming. I remember watching oil at 110 a barrel and thinking a bottom was in. The subsequent slide to the 30's was a very good lesson. Our view is always biased by our beliefs. No one can be completely objective because we live in a interactive world. Bias can't be avoided; it's there with every breath.

Thank you to all of the folks who contribute to this site. You've given me substance, good stuff to chew on. TOD is swell. Best from the Fremont

Thanks for sharing all of that, Fremont... sounds darn similar to the way I was, and have been. It moves me to occasionally hear from someone else who's similarly "odd".

I think that anyone not subject to the "consensus trance" may come up with similar ideas about the crazy unsustainability of the way we live and impact the world.

I got "Fooled by Randomness" since I live on as close to zero money as I can, and the library didn't have "Black Swan"; but I smiled while reading it because he had come up with something very much like the way I see the world - probabilistically - although by a different path.

I discounted the odds of fiscal deleveraging so was also hit by the drop in oil prices; I had made a bet that oil prices would rise until late in '08 and that society could probably sustain $200; should have listened to Stoneleigh. But I hadn't planned to use that money for myself anyhow: large amounts of money are for projects to help the world. Next time, maybe.

I did think the odds were high the twin towers (at least one of them) would soon be destroyed, though, better than 50-50. The last time I was up in one of them, near the top doing business, was in '97. It was a windy day, and the damn thing was veering back and forth in the wind like a sailing vessel. It felt more like being in a poorly-built aircraft than a building, creeped me out. Moreover, those who had blown a hole in the basement of that building still wanted to take it down. When my appointment there was done I had several hours to kill, and lay on a bench between them, looking up and assuming that they would probably be brought down before I had occasion to go up inside them again. 9/11 didn't surprise me, it was one clear possible scenario.

There are strong limits on what we can do, set by the real world and by the way humans think and behave. But there may be some counterintuitive ways we can ameliorate the worse scenarios before they come to pass. I'm working on it...


I discounted the odds of fiscal deleveraging so was also hit by the drop in oil prices; I had made a bet that oil prices would rise until late in '08 and that society could probably sustain $200; should have listened to Stoneleigh. But I hadn't planned to use that money for myself anyhow: large amounts of money are for projects to help the world. Next time, maybe.

Yeah, me too. Now I listen to Stoneleigh and Ilargi every day.

Interesting to hear the report on the flimsiness of the WTC buildings. If the "official" conspiracy theory is correct, the 3 that fell were the only steel framed buildings ever to collapse from a fire. If the "unofficial" theory is correct, then they didn't need much pyrotechnic material to demolish them.

Ah well, every impoverished person should make and lose a 7-figure sum in a year, if only for perspective and to know what it feels like. As risk-taking goes, that was pretty minor. Most well-planned projects will acquire the needed funding anyhow.

The impact of fuel-filled 767's was more than sufficient to take down the those towers, they were built like a pre-fab mall. I've been on rope bridges I trusted more. But that's the end of my comments on that.

WTC7 was not hit by an airplane.

"They were built like a pre-fab mall."

Does not help in the conspiracy theory argument. With a steel cage surround them, and massive steel center support columns, they were very well designed. And that they swayed in the wind goes back to the old engineering adage, "blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall not break under stress." Or something like that.

An epiphany.

I see some between Greenish and I, but differences in degree and choices made. I could, with slight variations in personality, get all the feminine attention I wanted, but I wondered if I wanted a relationship based on deception (although I realize deception is the norm when it comes to romantic relationships, the question was if I wanted that).

My devotion to New Orleans is based on my ability to be myself and to be accepted and appreciated for who I am. Good friends from a variety of backgrounds (and psychologies). That same acceptance (described by a friend as "a unique absence of pressure to conform") and support is also the source of New Orleans' bizarrely intense creativity.

I consider my various efforts, from promoting efficient Non-Oil Transportation to replanting Iceland, as a form of creativity. Creativity that I could not do anywhere else than New Orleans.

I truly enjoy and appreciate the food (TOO much !), the music, the architecture, the festivals, the walkable communities and daily social interactions of New Orleans; but the freedom and acceptance of who I am is the keystone :-)

Best Hopes for Creativity and New Orleans,


Alan, as I think you know, I hold you and your efforts in high esteem. To clarify, though:

I see some between Greenish and I, but differences in degree and choices made. I could, with slight variations in personality, get all the feminine attention I wanted, but I wondered if I wanted a relationship based on deception

While I did need to change my withdrawn semi-autistic nature to engage in social interaction, I've never used deception to get sex or friendship. The relatively few friends and women I've chosen to relate to received a high level of disclosure about my odd ways of thinking beforehand. Not something I'd normally mention in a forum like this, but the way you word it, I think a clarification is warranted. My main social skill was keeping women OUT of my bed; beautiful, rich, famous women, screenstars, models, etc. There was a bit of celebrity/charisma/self-certainty that attracted them like flies once I started doing my thing in earnest in '76.

There is no falseness in the personality I created; just as it isn't dishonest to speak in a foreign language. When I'm among humans, there's always a feeling that I'm speaking a very foreign language. But what I say is true. I'm married now and have been entirely faithful - to an italian with ADD, who's a great social symbiote while sharing deep values with me. But from early '76, when I decided to get directly involved in the nutty world of humans, I never had a woman say "no" to me and have politely turned down some highly improbable affairs.

And that's only counting the humans.

My sincere apologies !

I was referring to your comment "Between age 19-21 I created a greatly-edited human personality/interface which worked well enough for me to function in society and get girls" where the age range clearly shows that this was a stage of adolescent maturation.

I did NOT mean to infer that you went through life like this. I was speaking more of myself in any case.

Best Regards,


The older I get the better I was.

Heh, don't get me started.

Greenish I very much understand what you are explaining about your cognitive differences. I too have think predominantly abstract and visually. After reading about aspergers a few years ago I wondered if thats what it was, but not all the pieces fit. Eventually I determined it was at least ADHD and there are meds for that. But it still doesn't change the simple fact that I do not think like the vast majority of other people. Connections are rare and the prospect of actually finding a partnership with the opposite sex who thinks similarly is minuscule.

My best theory that seems to explain the most is that those with our cognitive types do not imitate behaviour like "normal" people. Later I found that idea is already being explored with the "mirror neurons" that allegedly are lessened with the autistic types. In my observations of people throughout my life I've noticed how little effort or thought goes into socialization in comparison to the immense effort it has taken for me to understand people well enough to interact. I've learned but its like as if its a second language. My response time has always been slower despite the fact that I rank in the top percentage on an IQ test. Things like dancing have always been more difficult although I am sure if I took the time to really learn I could be better than average, it just takes longer. However on the rare occasions when I can converse with like-minded people on a common topic it is natural.

I have a second theory that our ancestors were actually more like ourselves and that civilization has evolved humans toward more mimicry and imitation. I think that overall Civ has gradually been weeding out independent and alternate thinking. Ants are a good example of what we have become albeit with more castes. Its a hard theory to test since the only way to compare is with genotypes of cultures outside agrarian civilization. In my observations of those of native descent I have noticed some major differences but its impossible to form a conclusion because of the differences of culture. Others have theorized that earlier hunter-gather humans probably were much more ADHD than modern humans due to the benefits. Being able to hyper-focus can often be very useful.

Feeling alien is a good way to put it. I can convince myself for a time that I'm normal but always at some point I'm forced to see how truly different I am. Yes everyone I have ever known thinks that I am odd. Some like it but close relationships always allude because it is alien to them too. Writing is a much better form of communication for me than speech due to the extra amount of time to devote to forming transmit-able messages.

Its not all bad being an alien though. I understand people and the world around me to a much higher degree than others. My innate curiosity still compels me to explore new ideas. My lateral thinking allows me to make connections between concepts that most will never make. Even in my sleep my mind dreams of new thoughts.

The people here on TOD are the closest thing I have to an intellectual family. Even in college I never found truly independent and realistic thinkers. I couldn't possibly list the things I have learned here or the way those ideas have helped form new ones. One agreement I made along time ago with myself was that I would never stop learning and exploring. Sometimes I get carried away with that though so another good habit I try to keep is self-reflection. Ultimately however, all that is pointless without action and the how of that is obviously the one thing we all here can't form a consensus on.

But yeah, rave on guys (and the few gals).

Hey there AKbound.

I'm not sure what possessed me to "out" myself a bit more in this campfire as an alien, but it's nice that it resonates with a few of you. It's a very real thing; and I think that without some mechanism like the internet, the odds would be low of running into a similar mindset.

I kinda get the feeling that "aspergers" and other terms are catch-all diagnoses for people who don't automatically plug into the social grid. It took a bit of work for me to not seem overtly odd; but social functionality, once achieved, fairly quickly became hyperfunctionality.

It never occurred to me to try finding a mate who thought the same way. I've always enjoyed the company of those who think in ways different than I do, which is probably a good thing. Laughter is good common ground.

A good friend, also reasonably odd, who died last year, appended the following to his emails: "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." - Albert Camus (In fact, his blog is still up, and I'll note it here for brief posterity: The guy who got me from physics into geology, and with who I shared a number of adventures; extremely disabled but with an unusual mind).

Whether this sort of difference is a dysfunction, or whether we're harbingers of a morlok/eloi divide, I reckon will be up to the "frozen accidents" of path dependence, but being able to credibly act like them may have survival value. And yes, I'm saying all this with humor intended but never entirely kidding.

And I agree, written communication is much more efficient, takes less processing power. Face to face meetings are difficult because they take a large amount of processing, and are exhausting. You understand this, but someone like my wife never would. Just different wiring.

And as to your last point, I don't think consensus is necessary for action, and it's a good thing it isn't. I say that as a person who has had quite a bit of experience with action. If consensus were necessary, we'd be even MORE hosed than we are.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

One of my big changes in understanding was that folks on TOD and LATOC are NOT typical. This was demonstrated objectively by a LATOC thread a while ago. Someone posted a link to a Meyers-Brigg test, and a bunch of posters completed it and reported the results. The last compilation I saw, about 70% of the respondents were of a personality type that represents 3% of the general population. NTIJ I think it was.

This has several implications. One is that the general population just doesn't process information the way the majority of folks on TOD and LATOC do. It would be a very difficult task to get them to understand our concerns.

This leads me to think that this personality type has been conserved by evolution, but at a low level. In this scheme, the majority of people don't question the leadership as long as they are well fed; probably this level of cooperation and optimism is optimal for steady-state cirmcumstances. However, that contrarian 3% forsees unsustainable conditions, and when TSHTF, they have some solutions thought-out to help the tribe get through the disruption.

If I'm right about this, it's appropriate that the 3% go 'tend their garden'. We need to de-bug some transition techniques so they can be disseminated when our local tribe needs them. It's frustrating, but it's our destiny.

Errol in Miami

One of my groups once had a major donor insist upon testing of the key employees, and I rolled my eyes during the process. Most of the process richly deserved eye-rolling, too. But they called me an INTJ. Frankly, I'm probably weirder than 4 letters can designate, but people who think that way do seem to be in a minority. TOD-standard systems thinkers are probably 4 orders of magnitude rarer than what they call INTJ's.

I'd be willing to entertain that perhaps this sort of offbeat thinking is simply an expression of phenotypic plasticity; there is certainly a cost to the individual to maintain the cognitive dissonance rather than resolving it through one of the usual mechanisms. But I can't see a whole lot of individual survival value to it in the current context. (Fortunately, I've decided that personal survival isn't highly important - talk about a game you're guaranteed to lose. The shape of the future is something I can get my teeth into). And indeed, that's the way such plasticity works: only the changing context establishes whether it has value.

Best of luck in your 'garden' and the transition, I don't disagree with you. But the garden I'm interested in is the shape of the living world of 1000 to 1 billion years in the future, and that's where I'll be putting my effort for now, since in my strangely-wired noggin, doing anything else wouldn't seem sane.


I have only been here for a few months but I have to say that there are a lot of peripheral thinkers (myself included) on this site.

I think one of my comments to a groups of friends will seem familiar to all you guys.

Once I was told that I "think outside the box".
My reply was "What Box?"

I wasn't trying to be funny. I like many here never even consider where the line between common knowledge and extra knowledge exists or even if it exists at all.
I bet not many people here watch the Mass media and that is why there is such a disparity between the masses and those that choose to ponder life.

I almost forgot.
I am a Myers Briggs ENTP (Inventor) for what ever that classification is worth.
It might have slightly more relevance than IQ.

this is good idea to test - i will figure out a way. your hypothesis is interesting though I'm not sure there is evolutionary conservation of Myers-Briggs types - how would that phenotype stay distinct through evolutionary time? It's not like it is one allele...

I don't know that I'm saying that, for instance, INTJ's are conserved per se. More that in a healthy population there will be a distribution of characteristics, like proto-elephants with longer and shorter noses and monkeys with a range of personalities and cognition styles. That the breadth of this plasticity builds up over long periods of relatively low stress in a species from mutations, and then is available for expression as a context changes at a far faster rate than would be possible otherwise. (basic stuff, in other words).

I think of my border collies, who are hyperactive obsessive wolves with a staring fetish and a penchant for odd thinking. That was already in the wolf genome for some reason, but it took a strange context to bring it out. Any wolves in the wild who were born thinking like border collies would have had a rough time of it, but being nuts is now selected for in a human world.

Meyers-Briggs types are a pretty blunt tool, but it is interesting to see some real patterns in terms of types of perception. It's what you'd expect even without a specific mechanism, I think.

I tend to think that the more wigged-out stuff like autism and savant syndromes, and other "disorders" are more evolutionarily interesting... but then I would.

Wish it into the cornfield, Anthony.

It's probably in the extra stuff we don't yet understand -- imprinting -- "junk" DNA -- patterns of methylated bases along the strand. Not Mendelian but inherited nonetheless.

The thing that has convinced me of this (married to a dog nut) is that you can predict some things about dog personalities from the breed. Obsessive border collies. Affectionate spaniels. Retrievers that like to retrieve, eh. Dog personalities are clearly inherited.

And, I think, human personalities are as well.

I've thought for a long time that most personality types shunned by society would be essential for species survival when TSHTF. I'm an ENFP/ENFJ myself, not a typical engineer profile. Similarly, ADD/ADHD is a trait genetically adapted to handling change better and making large leaps in innovation or betting on the future. I think of Polynesians sailing the pacific for new lands. For a great evolutionary perspective on ADHD check out the writings of Thom Hartmann. Highly recommended for any ADD/ADHD folks who think their quirks are only problems or brain defects.

Is that the "I think in pictures guy"?
I think all these classifications of "mental abnormalities" are nothing but BS.
ADD could be said to be the mentality of a hunter, that is to say, some one that has excellent spacial perception and mental visualization and can think is terms of motion.
I don't know about others but I think in terms of images not words and can change the aspect geometrically in my mind (sort of like walking around a building and seeing the different perspectives mentally).
The different types are either suitable for the current environment or they are suited to a different set of circumstances. There is a reason for variation in the gene pool.
Someday these "abnormal" traits will be the most valuable.
Just like anything else I suppose.

Hartmann came up with the Hunter vs. Farmer hypothesis to explain the genetic value of ADD.

His books on ADD/ADHD are the best out there IMHO. He's written many on the subject too.

2003: The Edison Gene. Park Street Press. ISBN 0-89281-128-5.
1996: Beyond ADD. Underwood Books. ISBN 1-887424-12-1.
1996: Think Fast!. Underwood Books. ISBN 1-887424-08-3. by Thom Hartmann and Jane Bowman, with Susan Burgess
1995: ADD Success Stories. Underwood Books. ISBN 1-887424-03-2.
1994: Focus Your Energy: Hunting for Success in Business. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-51689-2.
1994: ADHD Secrets of Success: Coaching Yourself to Fulfillment in the Business World. Select Books. ISBN 1-59079-017-0.
1992 (first edition): ADD: A Different Perception. Underwood Books. ISBN 1-887424-14-8.

Thanks for turning me on to this.
I thought something along these lines was the case.
It seems intuitively obvious that all these different phenotypes would have some basis in past genetic selection and are not abnormal but simply anachronistic.

To my surprise, I've spent so much time this decade concentrating on oil that I had not fully appreciated the advance in total global BTU demand. It was only several months ago, when I started digging in to the deeper guts of the BP statistical review that I gained the fuller picture. As always, it does not unfold over the mind in just one day. It's been about 90 days. And, I can say I am completely blown away by it.

The scientist Richard Gott proposes that few of us ever get a change to see the end or the beginning of a big paradigmatic era. He suggests that most of us are fated to live in the boring middle of time. Well, I now think we will have a chance to see something at least as similar in importance to the transition that started it all--the shift from biomass to fossil fuels.

The other reality I had not fully appreciated was the scale and the breadth of the global infrastructure that was erected not just with fossil fuels--but with cheap fossil fuels. I was looking at a lakefront house for sale in N.E. suburban Cleveland today, online. Cheap fossil fuels built that house, caused the diasporas to come to that neighborhood, and sustained an inward flow of labor there for decades. Like a glacier, the fossil fuel era disturbed boulders and left a wake that other smaller forces simply could not have created. How awesome.

It's all way, way too big to be run on energy that's not concentrated like miracle oil. The triple stacks of a California freeway, the almost endless square footage of commercial and office space, the thousands of miles of streets, and the airports. And of course, we opened up credit contracts on top of all this stuff, attached to all this stuff, with myriad other participants. All based on the idea that it would keep expanding.

And as I was a part of this era, I thought it would keep expanding too. After all, it's nearly impossible to see where you are, when you are deep inside the belly of a paradigm.


To my surprise, I've spent so much time this decade concentrating on oil that I had not fully appreciated the advance in total global BTU demand.

G - what specifically about global BTU demand? (I would argue that demand is always far higher than consumption, and rationed back by price. If gasoline was 10 cents per gallon we would be over 200 mbpd in demand...)

I discovered last month that US per capita energy consumption peaked in 1973 -the same year as real wages peaked. (and per capita energy production peaked before that, ignoring quality differences).

We live at a grand moment of our species history (though other generations have thought that too). I suspect the roller coaster with complacent citizens is just leveling out and about to enter a 3G hairpin turn - a wild, and meaningful ride ahead. We need the hairpin turn of pain and fear to get to a smoother track.

**Edit - I'm noticing a recurrent theme in this thread - folks were once stressed about imminent resource depletion but after years of learning, reflection (and maybe preparing) they seem to be right back to where they started emotionally. This is consistent with (still controversial) research in psychology called 'setpoint theory' which posits that our personalities and happiness, etc. per individual don't drastically change over time, despite 5 sigma events that might occur (winning lottery, getting cancer, etc.) There are exceptions but personal observation makes me hypothesize that our outlook on the future is some short term weighted moving average of the last 6 months, last 2 weeks and last 5 hours, or some such. If true, we could get away with massive change, and 6 months later could be living in a different, less resource intensive system, and not remember why we had to live like we do now to be happy.....

The narrative I've found is in the 10 year advance in country by country coal and NG consumption. This is where you see the big push. The totals are impressive but so are the individuals. It's also worth it to conjecture country by country which are calling on coal and NG as a way to replace industrial oil uses.

But the aggregates are impressive as well--such as just the simple Primary Energy series, from 1997-2007. Wolfram|Alpha allows for a quick take handle, for that all-in category. (in Mtoe).


Even though I read TOD daily and get a kick from all the theories and comments, I no longer get worried or stressed by any of the information or insights, because I've come to realise that nothing really matters.

I have finally accepted that Pee-Coil is inconsequential.

It could just as easily be peak water, soil, NPK, toothpicks, or Peek-A-Boo’s we still will not face it, not accept it.

It’s all about wealth. Thats all that matters in this paradigm.

The right to pursue wealth.

The perhaps most important of all, the desperate attempt to preserve wealth.

These are sacred truths of life on planet earth and can not be challenged.

This all guarantees a bloody, ugly, fragmented future where nobody wins and everybody is guaranteed to loose.

Welcome to the jungle.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I fully believe that earth rules could lead us out of this mess but wealth will get in the way and not allow for truth to prevail.

Just my opinion.

And by the way I intend to intelligently resist this inevitability with all the powers I possess, to the very end, with my last breath.

CHEERS!!! (no really)

I guess the central thing I have learned is that while we have an infinite amount of energy available to us in our pratically infinite universe, harnessing that energy is not so simple, and so the declining availability of cheap oil and the possible eventual end of all oil does create problems and opportunities for human existence. I had at one time simply assumed that we would be clever enough to invent new ways of harnessing new forms of energy so that we could continue our human adventure forever. Now, I'm a little more pessimistic.

I have always led a frugal and simple life, so the current situation has not affected me; I adapt well. And since I was born and grew up in a third-world country, I have no qualms about living in a world of limited petroleum-based energy. I find all the noise and pollution of this so-called "advanced" country to be somewhat annoying, so less oil would be better, I think. Since I think we waste too much of our water "flushing" and should universally move to composting toilets and dryer-less washing, the end of oil does not entail the end of fertilizer for our agriculture--but, rather, an improvement to better fertilizer, natural and plentiful.

Like everyone else, I have no idea how things will turn out in the long-run. I think that the world at large may have a hard time because of the arrogance and sense of entitlement to Earth's resources that Americans have--and their willingness to use their military power to take whatever they want. America's military is the greatest threat to any peaceful decline, if that is what happens.

I don't think peak oil will have any long-term consequences for human civilization; civilization existed long before oil and can go on long after it's gone. Excessive global warming or a new ice age would have far more dangerous consequences for humanity than PO.

Not really a mind-change, but rather a realization that there really are no 'solutions' but only strategies.

Oh yeah, on the "nature abhors a gradient" thing.... possibly lifted from the book 'Into the Cool'. I would say "Nature loves a gradient" instead. Nature would not exist without energy gradients. It's kind of like saying "I hate food so I try to eat it and get rid of it as fast as possible."

Just a quibble.

I'm not sure I've changed my mind as in a sense discovered that people don't want to embrace collapse. Intrinsically we generally reject the notion. I use the word embrace in the sense of acceptance. When a loved one dies you have no choice but to embrace the event or go crazy. In many ways its the same when a civilization dies.

Originally I was pretty much a silver bullet type. I was concerned about global warming and peak oil but I did not really see anything really horrible in the sense that maybe change was not possible.

Now I think that our intrinsic inability to accept change even bad things which is really cultural is itself the root of our problems.

Peak oil, Global warming, Debt bubbles over population etc etc are not causes they are results of a civilization that has gone intrinsically astray.

There is no fix sure depending on how events unfold certain events may be delayed maybe even for a generation or two but we have to fix ourselves first and eventually part of that fix is accepting and indeed embracing the death of our current culture because its intrinsically flawed.

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?

Our brains were largely shaped at a time in the history of our species when chronic energy deficiency was widespread. Trading three meals the day after tomorrow for single meal today would have been a good trade; our ancestors may not have made it till the day after tomorrow if they didn't get the meal today. I used to puzzle how a couple of friends continually get entrapped in high interest quick loans, I've laboriously tried to explain the negative feedback loop to no avail, but now understand our neural circuitry sometimes works against us.

5) Peoples pre-existing belief systems will trump fresh facts the vast majority of the time.

Corollary: Using reason, one is unlikely to alter a belief of another if it was not arrived at by reason.

10) Melting ice is endothermic. (it absorbs energy, not releasing it). Duh.

How about condensing water vapor?

11) There are likely no sasquatches alive at present.

Likely no sasquatches were alive in the past either, unless you broaden the definition of sasquatch to include Gigantopithecus.

To clarify - the sasquatch thing is longstanding family 'joke' that partially made it to TOD. My younger brother claims to have seen one when we lived in Oregon. He and I have had a lifelong argument as to their existence. I claim they once existed as there is ample indian folklore, etc. but the odds are astronomical that no one would have proof, skeleton, etc. He claims there is lots of proof and they not only exist, but that thousands of them do. I think he is probably just acting - to get my goat...To me the IDEA that such a creature could still live within the nooks and crannies of our filling world is liberating to me, even though I don't believe it..My moniker here for first couple years was 'thelastsasquatch'.

Just showed my young daughter 'Harry and the Hendersons'.. a fine Bigfoot movie for kids, and for me a clear example of how mythical creatures carry messages about our self-image. Bigfoot often plays this role of the 'Gentle Giant'.. the kinder side of wildness. I think it also points to our hopeful memory of when WE were both more Natural, and somehow bigger, stronger and also wiser than the role we've settled into.

I'm still holding out for the Plesiosaurs..(Nessie) but it doesn't matter if I get to pet one or not.

`Don't you think you'd be safer down on the ground?' Alice went on, not with any idea of making another riddle, but simply in her good-natured anxiety for the queer creature. `That wall is so very narrow!'

`What tremendously easy riddles you ask!' Humpty Dumpty growled out. `Of course I don't think so! Why, if ever I did fall off -- which there's no chance of -- but if I did --' Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. `If I did fall,' he went on, `the King has promised me -- ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn't think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me -- with his very own mouth -- to -- to --'

`To send all his horses and all his men,' Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.

I loved that movie.

One exchange from it sticks in my mind:

"Where's the pot roast?"

"In a shallow, unmarked grave in the back yard."

It was REALLY well done, much as it's so well disquised as standard 80's fluff. Aside from the fine facial puppetwork of the Sasquatch, and having Lithgow of course, the choice to have Harry grab the vicious hunter at the end and just smother him in a big hug was one of those rare moments that takes a look at the Fear>Anger connections, and how close we could be to actually dealing with them wisely.

Probably a close second as a favorite Movie Statement to Gene Wilder shooting the guns out of the hands of the Railroad Posse that he stands against in Blazing Saddles. 'Many a truth is said in jest'


I became PO aware about 2 years ago. Since then there have been many changes in my life:
- I used to vote right wing, now I vote green.
- I used to avoid recycling because it damages industries making new stuff :); now I recycle everything and have reduced our family garbage by 75%.
- I avoid driving and walk more.
- I eat less meat.
- I shower only when dirty.
- I wear the same clothes until they are dirty.
- I turned down our heat and try hard to not waste electricity.
- I avoid mass media news because their ignorance and idiocy makes me angry.
- I dropped out of my executive career and am planning to buy a farm. In the mean time I am doing some volunteer work at a community demonstration organic farm.
- I am staying out of the stock market and have moved 50% of my savings into gold.
- Climate change worries me more than PO. I suspect PO will likely accelerate climate change.
- I worry a lot about my kid's futures and how little I did to prepare them in their formative years.
- I've slowed down trying to educate friends and family having learned that most don't want to discuss the issues.
- I spent the first PO aware year frantically searching for BAU solutions, now I understand that the only possible outcome is for everyone to consume less. I see many possible ugly paths to our destination but I pray (in an atheist's way) for a smooth and peaceful path.
- I'm getting better at connecting dots. I now see all of our problems in the light of living beyond the means of the planet.
- I now seek the underlying physical forces in everything I try to understand. Sincere thanks to the brilliant people on TOD for teaching me this. The rule "what can't continue, won't" is a very powerful prediction tool. And I love the work of Nate and others at explaining the biological basis for the human behaviors I detest.
- I used to blame them (politicians, government, corporations, media). Now I blame us.
- All my old heroes have faded away. My new heroes are Albert Bartlett, Jason Bradford, Nate Hagens, Chris Martenson, David Holmgren, David MacKay, Edward O. Wilson, and Michael Pollan.
- I am less happy and often depressed now that I understand the big picture. There is something to be said for ignorance.

I almost do the opposite things...

> - I used to vote right wing, now I vote green.

I have not changed how I vote, over here in Sweden it is the right that is dynamic and able to change and the left is the conservative group that have growned used to having all the power.

> - I used to avoid recycling because it damages industries making new stuff :); now I recycle everything and have reduced our family garbage by 75%.

I have never liked throwing away usefull stuff but I am only slowly increasing my recycling, most of my waste make most sense in the CHP garbage incinerator. I only sort out poisonous stuff and pure fractions to increase the value of the recycled stuff.

> - I avoid driving and walk more.

I prefer to bike and hope to soon be able to buy a new small car since my old small car is becoming a little rusty and outdated and I would like to change it befor it needs to be owned by a mechanic.

> - I eat less meat.

No change, perhaps I heat a little more fish.

> - I shower only when dirty.

I like to indulge in long hot showers and baths and consiusly consume kWh of heat as a pure luxury, I want some luxury in my life while I live it and I live in an area with close to unlimited fresh water and good water treatment.

> - I wear the same clothes until they are dirty.

Buying clothes is the most boring thing imaginable and it is frustrating since 1/3 of the buys dont work out right. But I have made it a habit to wash often, I prefer washed clothes over large ammounts of deodorant wich might be socially bad choise...

> - I turned down our heat and try hard to not waste electricity.

I would turn down the heat if my flat did not have this countries worst heating system, it is even a little embarrasing for me to live here. I avoid electricity use that is of no utility for me but I use about one kWh per day for decorative purposes and one kWh per day to avoid swiching things on and off, I know exactly what its cost is on every level and choose to consume this energy.

> - I avoid mass media news because their ignorance and idiocy makes me angry.

I try to read as much mass media as I can to try to understand how people think and figure out how they get their dominating ideas. I will probably never get a realy good understanig of it but I am less lost in different social setting then during the long time I had no TV to get more time for internet and books.

> - I dropped out of my executive career and am planning to buy a farm. In the mean time I am doing some volunteer work at a community demonstration organic farm.

I am trying and fumbling getting into positions to try to influence how this plays out on a level above extremely local work. My extremely local work have been hurting some becouse of this but I cant do everything at once.

> - I am staying out of the stock market and have moved 50% of my savings into gold.

I would stay out of the stock market if I had lots of money and I would defenetely not invest in an inherently worthless wealth symbol like gold. Had I money I would invest it in productive business ideas that I understand, preferaby with controlling interest in them wich is likely to make it small enterprice or buy a small hydro powerplant, forests or farmland if I wanted to park the wealth. If I ever is going to get weath I would need to encourage other people to lend it to me wich makes it kind of self defeating to be weary of lending...

> - Climate change worries me more than PO. I suspect PO will likely accelerate climate change.

PO worries me more then climate change since PO gets acute first and both problems are part of a complex of resource problems that interact in bad ways. Climate change is larger problem and I suspect it is so large that it is all about adaptation.

> - I worry a lot about my kid's futures and how little I did to prepare them in their formative years.

I have no kids to worry about but I like kids to have a good future and especially to have options for making it a little better regardless of how bad it gets. People live their lives both in good and bad times and either way they need to do something with their lives.

> - I've slowed down trying to educate friends and family having learned that most don't want to discuss the issues.

I have had great success with friends and family, but I have not been in a hurry to change either, you only need to nudge it a little and continously in the same direction. I wish I were even better at this since it also works in the local political arena.

> - I spent the first PO aware year frantically searching for BAU solutions, now I understand that the only possible outcome is for everyone to consume less. I see many possible ugly paths to our destination but I pray (in an atheist's way) for a smooth and peaceful path.

I have found dozens, no hundreds of good ideas small and large but no one is a silver bullet. From my POW is a lot of my cultures BAU perfectly adequate for the post peak oil era and most of that has roots that extend to before to mid 1900:s.

> - I'm getting better at connecting dots. I now see all of our problems in the light of living beyond the means of the planet.

You oversimplifie, but everybody do that.

> - I now seek the underlying physical forces in everything I try to understand.

This is a realy good insight and TOD has sharpened my reasoning but I suspect that it realy is some kind farmer/engineer mindset.

> Sincere thanks to the brilliant people on TOD for teaching me this. The rule "what can't continue, won't" is a very powerful prediction tool. And I love the work of Nate and others at explaining the biological basis for the human behaviors I detest.

Tankyou to the community, I tend to only remeber the ideas and to the namnes no the individuals.

> - I used to blame them (politicians, government, corporations, media). Now I blame us.

That is a good insight!

> - All my old heroes have faded away. My new heroes are Albert Bartlett, Jason Bradford, Nate Hagens, Chris Martenson, David Holmgren, David MacKay, Edward O. Wilson, and Michael Pollan.

I have very few heroes and no person that I follow to the letter or withouth questioning. But I wish I were more like Richard Feynman or as spectacularly successful and still cool as Linus Torvalds.

- I am less happy and often depressed now that I understand the big picture. There is something to be said for ignorance.

I would choose knowledge if I had to choose between insight and happiness.
On the other hand I am not worried that I would become depressed enough to loose
my curiosity, even if everything went to hell I expect to be interested in hells depth and how it slides down.

- I spent the first PO aware year frantically searching for BAU solutions, now I understand that the only possible outcome is for everyone to consume less. I see many possible ugly paths to our destination but I pray (in an atheist's way) for a smooth and peaceful path.

That's a common path, I think. One can imagine an alternate universe where a viable BAU solution of some sort really exists, and in that universe radical change wouldn't be required.

I have this recollection of a conversation that took place in the early 1990's, where someone told me about Peak Oil. My vague sense of it all was that I hoped that either there was something wrong with the theory, or that some sort of BAU solution could be found, but I more or less continued on with my life.

Ultimately part of the problem with convincing people about the dangers of Peak Oil is that you essentially have to prove a negative. You have to prove that none of the BAU solutions are going to be of enough help, so you have to dig in and study the numbers on each one, and come up with a convincing argument as to why each one won't work, or will only have limited applicability.

And when you get done with that, you have to prove that all of the pie-in-the-sky schemes won't work either. If we were still 30 years out from peak, then all of those "maybes" might actually add up to something that could be a solution of some sort. For example lots of people look to a future world filled with electric cars, but very few people have contemplated global lithium supplies, and whether we will ever be able to make enough batteries to make this a reality.

I am an electrical engineer by training so the physics and economics of energy are fairly easy for me to understand. I observe that many people without technical training do not understand energy physics and economics yet often have very strong opinions on how alternate energies will save the day or how nuclear is bad. Our society needs more science based decision making but I don't think I will live to see this.

I've not changed my mind very much...

I'm sure that studying farming will be useful, that talking to others about PO on any level is useful, that economizing will be VERY useful.

We're actually watching the energy slowly draining out of our economy. We can't see energy, we can only see cars, food, goods, etc. It's truly puzzling for many to see jobs they've had for years just evaporate.

Others are relieved tyo see the end of all the building, the driving, the consuming and the polluting.

Finding out about PO four years ago clarified the human relationship with the earth for me.

Darn it Nate, your a good editor, you've done it again. If the job of an editor on this board is to bring out the various responses and thoughts of contributors, you manage to drag me in every week. I swear off doing any writing,swear off beating a dead horse once again and going back around the rhetorical merry go round, but your subjects and questions are too fascinating, even when I disagree with some of the original premises, I still have to think about them, and I have a tendency to think by writing. So once more I can't resist!

Your questions:

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?

B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation? What are the new insights?

In answer to A)I have been wrong about a great deal, but my biggest error was in letting so many distractions and panics pull me away from the big picture. I had read Alvin Toffler in the 1970's (Future Shock) and 1980's (The Third Wave) and found him to be one of the great perceptive thinkers of our age. I am still in many ways a "Tofflerite" in much of my intellectual construction, but Toffler had made a very profound prediction in the 1980 book "The Third Wave": He had said that the "industrial world" as we knew it was already at the end of it's growth. Toffler took the view that the technology the West had used to create wealth had played out all of it's options, and that due to the speed up in information exchange the new modern "wealth production" system that would replace it would crash into the old age like a tidal wave creating dislocation, confusion, but potentially a massive leap forward for humanity.

But Toffler had said in 1980, during the worst decline in oil production since the birth of the oil age to this very day, that before the old outdated industrial age could be changed and transcended, the old outdated energy system it had created and was based on had to be transcended. Toffler predicted this to occur "not in decades but in years." On the timing, he missed. In the 1980's and 90's oil and the fossil fuels came roaring back. Toffler had been wrong, and I had been wrong with him. That error cost many young people dearly.

But I have never lost my belief that we are indeed at the end of an era. The nature of energy and wealth production must change. Toffler I was certain had been right in fact but wrong in timing. For the individual that can be deadly to planning and to personal prosperity.

From the age of 14 when I read "Future Shock" (also the year of the 1973 oil embargo) I have believed that the growth of the age of oil was soon to end, and have always viewed that as a good thing. The hegemony of oil had long enough stopped the world from advancing into a new and more efficient and creative age. The end of oil as the monopoly supplier of transportation energy is a GOOD THING. I have never doubted this. But I had been very wrong about how long it would take.

The key things I have learned on TOD is that (a)While the tool of EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) is often misused as a sword to attack alternative energy, it is a real and useful construct, and must always be kept in mind in planning alternatives. It is not the only tool, it can be easily abused, but it is a fundamental tool to understanding our situation.

Another thing that TOD has taught me, and this is an amazing one, is that the world does not use nearly as much oil as we think we do, and it is not the central power source that it is often made out to be.

This post on TOD was far and away the greatest paradigm shifting post in my understanding I have read to date on TOD:

The implications are astounding. The world (not just the U.S., but the world) uses about a cubic mile of oil per year. I am involved in market research for a living, and I did a poll among knowledgable friends and business associates: Not one of them guessed a number this low, and most guessed a number 10 to 20 times greater, some guessed 100 times greater! Thus, the oil industry is blessed with a halo of invincibility, since people believe in their minds that the amount of oil the world uses is so great it cannot possibly displaced!

The real amount of oil the world uses in cubic volume should be published EVERYWHERE, but of course the industry does not want the fact that we are enslaving the world for this little bit of oil known to the public. It would be catastrophic to their interests. Just consider the implications for a few moments: Of the cubic volume of the earth, which is 260,000,000,000 (that's 260 billion miles) ONE CUBIC MILE of oil is used per year. Astounding. And the volume of solar energy that falls upon the earth dwarfs the amount of oil we use.

This brings me to another point that I feel I had been wrong about for MANY years of my adult life: After tinkering with solar energy in my high school and post high school youth, I dismissed it as "pie in the sky", and believed it would not develop in my lifetime.

I now feel that I was absolutely wrong and that my childhood faith in solar was correct. it is the ONLY energy source that breaks us loose from the depletion treadmill, is carbon clean and therefore is the inevitable path forward. I now feel this will occur MUCH faster than I originally believed it would, perhaps not in years as Toffler believed but in the next decade. Almost no one seems to know how staggeringly fast the technology is moving and it is still accelerating. It will make the so called "computer revolution" seem like a corner candy store by comparison.

So the big picture trends, what Toffler called "The Wave" that would be so large as to overcome all waves are (a)Renewable energy and the following massive technological development that will come with it (b)the absolute certainty of decline in oil consumption as well as production (they are married). I am more certain every day that the OECD nations have already seen the highest consumption of oil they will ever see, and one more...(c)the power of demographics. I had known this one for all of my adult life, but had forgotten it or been distracted from it by all the panics and distractions. The aging baby boom in the developed world is THE driving force behind economic development, booms and busts far more than the issue of resource depletion. Resource depletion matters a lot. The aging and dying of the largest and richest generation in history matters more.

To the issue of your question (b concerning lateral thinking, I will make this rather short: I have learned in my adult life that the power of aesthetics means EVERYTHING. People will create the world they want, not the world they need. The most powerful and prosperous can afford to defend the worldview they choose if they have to enslave and even murder the masses to do it. The pyramids were built while the slaves died. The palaces of the Renaissance glistened in gold while the natives of the new lands suffered a holocaust of epic scale, and the peasants of Rome went hungry.

The aesthetics mean EVERYTHING. Those with power will build the world they want to see. The only way forward is either to (a)be a member of the elite or (b) create a vision of the future that is so beautiful and at the same time so humane even the rich and powerful elite cannot resist it. This is why we need the artists, the writers, the poets and the visionaries bought into a new world of clean, efficient and "elegant" wealth production. We must make the new world visable not only to the mind and spirit but also to the eye. Very few people have the power to VISUALIZE, it is even rarer than the power of thought. This for me has been the ultimate connecting of the dots.

Thank you for your time, Roger Conner Jr.

I came across PO 2 years ago at a conference that Chris Vernon attended, but it didn't really sink in until last year, when I was several months pregnant with my daughter. If I'd really understood it before, I'm not sure I'd have been brave enough to have a child.

I've learned since then that efficiency can't save us, but only frugality. There are simple answers out there: Use less! But they are not easy as they go against the cultural directions so strongly.

I work in the water industry. It's shockingly wasteful of energy and other resources, and is absolutely going in the wrong direction. I used to be quite interested in wastewater reuse schemes, high-tech water reclamation. Now I realise that the (unpalatable to mainstream) answer is that we must stop putting feces in water.

The most hopeful thing I've seen recently is the Transition Town movement. They realise the importance of giving people a positive vision of the future. But I've also been reading books like Akenfield, on the way of life in Suffolk about 100 years ago, and have realised that we can't romanticise a low-impact, local way of life either. People got disease from their local water supply. Most of the children didn't go to primary school.

We are in for some interesting times. There was definitely a feeling amongst my peers at university (early 2000's) that modern life was dull and that they wanted a real challenge. Maybe this will be it.

I was around for the post WWII baby boom. Population growth during that period became frightening. Along came the sexual revolution together with advances in birth control technology including the pill and the IUD. Seeing the precipitous drop in the birth rate in many countries was encouraging. One surprise. During the late 60's I attended a conference led in Santa Barbara by Garrett Hardin seeking the legalization of abortion. I recall thinking that this probably won't happen in my lifetime. It did happen within a few years. Dr. Hardin's papers including the notes from that conference are available in Special Collections at the UCSB library.

"Along came the sexual revolution together with advances in birth control technology including the pill and the IUD. Seeing the precipitous drop in the birth rate in many countries was encouraging."

It is fascinating how fears have changed. I remember as a child in the late 1960's that many older people were afraid of the "free love" sexual revolution because they were sure the country would be up to its ears in babies! Who could have guessed then that in the period of most sexual liberation the population growth would slow! Now the aging boomers weep at the thought of no grandchildren!

Another issue that is controversial but I don't think is mentioned nearly enough is the impact of liberal attitudes regarding homosexual relationships on population growth. The total number of gay and lesbian couples is now no small matter and among the younger crowd is much larger than it has been historically even in the 1970's and shows no signs of slowing. This indicates the possibility of many couples who will have no children or if the law allows even adopt children already born. As the baby boomers age and die and Western liberal attitudes spread around the world (China which is already making the effort to hold down population could be well served by a "progressive" liberal policy regarding gays and lesbians), we could actually see a rather steep drop in population growth. Whether we will ever see negative population (that is, population drop) barring some catastrophic event (so called "die-off") we don't know, but it is no longer out of the realm of possibility.

The interesting thing is finding out what in our genes, fetal development and perhaps even childhood influences the expression of the sexual drive and other parts of our psycological makeup. I would not be suprised if something in the chemical coctail we live in influences this much like leaded gasoline made millions of people slighty dumber.

But regardles of how people become what they are they got to be able to live their lives in a good way. I se no harm in accepting lesbian and gay people, its the opposite behaviour that is hurtfull for individuals and our culture. People who like a world with more kinds should like kids and support parents.

One probem with negative population growth is that it makes it more likely that people will have to be withouth good pensions. Those who postponed living joyfully while they lived in anticipation of a good existance after their worklife might become very disappointed.


Well Nate, I haven't really changed my mind, nowadays I actually feel more vindicated than anything. After a solid taste of how our system worked, (I was in Chicago in 68) I ended up neck deep in people like Herman Khan, Daniel Bell,John Naisbitt, Toffler,Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall. And of course "Limits to Growth"

All the information was there long ago. Conclusions were obvious for anyone who really cared to take a deep look. So I got the hell out in the early 80's. Land, owner-built passive solar home, water, gardens, and livestock. I found I was really well suited for this lifestyle and still enjoy it. My own self-reliance has given me a rock solid sense of security. Much more so than any cookie cutter job society might have offered.
There's are real joy to living close to, and walking lightly on the land.

So now I kind of sit back and watch, observe. It reminds me of some of the great sci-fi reads of my teens, I'm not skipping any pages but I am anxious to see how it turns out in the end. The twists and turns along the way are fascinating, and I can see them daily here at TOD.

Don in Maine

Herman Kahn was one of the resource cornucopians.

What have I learned? Nice question. Condensing several hours of reflection down to a postcard...

Technical problems are the easy ones. All the hard problems have to do with what's inside people's heads. There is no "best", or even any "least bad".

Social structures have huge inertia, and determine behaviour. Stories matter more than reality.

The third response to any problem (after ignoring it, and then denying it) is to try to manage it, so society grows ever more complex, while it can.

All the hard problems have to do with what's inside people's heads.

Bravo (applause).

"Stories matter more than reality."

Stories are our only shared interface to reality, and our personal interface, our perceptions, are slivers of keyholes through which we experience a tiny fraction of everything out there.

Daniel Quinn achieved quite a bit of social inertia with "Ishmael". We would need more stories along those lines, if it's not too late.

I come here to get a dose of reality. I need motivation as I am an extreemly lazy man.

I lost two fine women because they were unable to accept the need for radical action. If they won't pull in the same direction as I, I shall not drag them by the hair. Yer on your own Lassie.

Just finnished Talib's "Black Swan's". He does not address inevitable disasters such as geometric curves. He overly emphasises discontinuities. However, smooth curves can reveal nasty ends. ("The Report to the Club of Rome".)

Yes. Yes Iknow about the suprising complexity of Chaos Theory but it is a multi-dimentional case of the non-smooth line. Beautiful and facinitating.

I expect that the end of civilisation will be a fractal event. Self similar at different scales.

I expect that the end of civilisation will be a fractal event. Self similar at different scales.

This is not much of a stretch to predict that the end of a fractally organized system will end in a fractal manner.

If you think about human society it is a fractal. From the Family unit of organization to the Federal governmant it is a Heirarchy.

I guess this is just one more piece of evidence that the universe is ordered according to fractal geometry.

This type of relationship is everywhere.

The solar system resembles the atom etc.

Reading TOD and pursuing my own information about PO on the internet have caused the following changes in my life:

1 - Caused me to change my processing of news that I read. I absorb what is found on MSM, blogs, and alternative news sources and then make my own conclusions...usually somewhere short of either extreme.

2 - I have learned not to become stressed about anything that I discover in #1. Most is predictive and theoretical. Things that MAY happen but not set in stone.

3 - I have developed a better understanding of geology, financial analysis, and international politics.

4 - It is wise to be prepared, but not insane or one will lose friends and family connections.

5 - Periodically disconnecting from technology and internet news/blogs goes a long way towards fulfilling #2. Connecting with outdoor activities (garden, dog parks, biking, etc.) is a great substitute for that time.

6 - Viewing the world as if today will be the last where petroproducts are plentiful and cheap. This causes an appreciation for what we currently take for granted.

7 - Connected with neighbors I never knew and found friends I could enjoy spending more time with if petrocollapse ever plays out in my lifetime.

8 - Preparing my kids for a more difficult world...learning karate as a family, how to make things, how to garden, how to be frugal, how not to think the world is their platter, etc.

What have I learned since I began reading TOD shortly before Hurricane Katrina?

That the oil peak I anticipated in the 70's is upon us now.

That no combination of possible technologies will allow the world to continue as it is.

That governments know this but are afraid to acknowledge it and upset BAU.

That we and our local communities are on our own.

That TODers have moved on from speculating about the date when Ghawar will tank to "how can I prepare to save my family".

That reading the thoughtful comments and even the heated arguments on TOD is not only enlightening but the best intellectual entertainment there is.

Thanks to all!

I've finally realized that the Hokey Pokey is what it really is all about.

When I started my peak oil education campaign in 2005 (subsequent to the first ASPO conference) I thought it was just a matter of starting the fire and watching it grow. Now I have returned to the garden. And in the garden I have begun to ponder whether conservation is a help or hindrance. Does it prolong the inevitable and allow greater numbers of people to experience collapse or does it buy into our religion that modern humans are capable of protecting the last tree.

I've never feared peak oil, learned so much in the journey, met so many incredible people, happy to be alive at this moment in time.

The election of George Bush was a mixed blessing in 2000. From my point of view, it was going to put this train wreck in the ditch faster, but I would of preferred it done with wisdom and foresight to possibly make the transition more of a softer crash.
I now see hat was delusion on my part, and this will unfold with the last man standing scenario of elite's fighting over the ever decreasing resource base.
Bush did exceed my expectations, and made things collapse faster than expected.

I started with "The Population Bomb" back I think in the 1960's and have read much of the literature since then on population problems. I have ever since believed that overpopulation would be our downfall.
I have learned much on TOD about energy problems (3+ years on TOD), but the most valuable insight I have learned is that it is not going to be just any one problem that is going to hit us, but many different problems at the same time which is going to cause much misdirection on the path to the future.
On a more personal level, I managed to get what little I had set aside for retirement in the stock market out of the market at 11,000 and then watched it climb to 14,000 with much wondering if I had made a mistake. But I had promised myself that I would stay out until the end of 2008. Whew! Everyone else I know took a bath in the market - Even though I had told all of them to get out. This has taught me that it is hopeless to try to warn people of an adverse future as they just don't and won't hear the message. Now I just try to enjoy retirement and plan as best I can to try to be self sufficient for the coming decline.

"A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?"

1. Professors are often wrong and set in their ways. I was brought up thinking they were the intellectual masters that we could trust and use as a baseline for lateral beliefs. Now I know we need to examine the facts and make up our own minds.

2. Most of the beliefs that we as a society hold to be true, are in fact myths perpetuated by an industry that profits from that myth.

Example -- buy and hold stocks because over the long term they always go up. Seems funny now, but almost nobody questioned it one year ago.

Corollary: Everything advertised should be assumed false, or at least wildly deceptive.

Example -- buy soft drinks and you'll have lots of fun and be popular with the opposite sex.

3. Politicians only act to protect their jobs, and therefore represent those who contribute the most money to their re-election. Therefore, moneyed special interests are the true leaders of society.

"B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation? "

1. High school biology experiment, 1974 -- yeast cultures in a closed environment grow exponentially until they run out of food and die swimming in their own waste. Conclusion, isn't the earth just a larger closed environment which will eventually run out of resources and be full of pollution?

I still see some of my classmates and I was the only one who drew that conclusion. It was not the intent of the lesson. But it was a life-changing experience for me. I instantly became a believer in peak oil, environmentalism, sustainable living and population control.

2. Most of the beliefs that we as a society hold to be true, are in fact myths perpetuated by ...


Glad to see that you have come to conclude on this aspect much as I have.

A few days ago, ccpo and I were having an aged debate on the topic of "myths". He initially felt that myth-talk was a lot of hooey. My contention was that we swim in myths much as fish swim in the sea.

Take your point about "Professors ... I was brought up thinking they were the intellectual masters [and] that we could trust [them always]". In fact, that was an initially valid myth that spun itself into being wrong as you matured.

When you first started grade school, when you started learning Readin', Writin' and Rithmitic, the teachers were smarter and were passing down mostly valid information. The assumption and myth were, that this state of affairs will continue, that the teachers/ professors would continue to be trustable. This is where you (and I, and most everyone else) went wrong.

But I don't think there is some vast corporate conspiracy to perpetuate myths. It's more subtle than that. The human brain is too small and under-powered to handle the true complexity of the world. So we instead model our world through myths (or "narrative falsities" as Nassim Taleb, author of Black Swan calls them). We like and cherish our stories, especially when they have happy endings and paint us as the species more intelligent than yeast. Ah, if only that myth were true.

Being the smartest yeast organism in the Petri dish doesn't help much though. The other zombies will still run amok and get you at the end of the story.

I think there can be an unhealthy dependence on 'Happy Endings', as US audiences have been suckled on them so successfully (as it sells more Soda..) .. but generally I don't view the 'happy' conclusion as a promise or a prophesy of 'How Life Really Is', it is the success of a character that has learned or adapted, conquered a personal weakness or mastered their skills.

Storytelling does play the part of a morale booster, a reminder of how the pattern works, or CAN work if you, the protagonist, learns to dodge the classic character pitfalls like (7 sins time) Pride, Jealousy, Sloth, Gluttony, Anger etc.etc...

We just don't have enough of them that really point out Gluttony as a KEY problem, or Abstinence and Penitence as a KEY Virtue.

By "narrative falsities" I didn't mean to (and Nassim Taleb probably didn't meant to) point at happy Hollywood endings.

The term "narrative falsities" is pointed to how pundits explain, for example, why the stock market moved as it did today, or why oil prices moved up or down.

Fact is, they cannot prove cause-and-effect even if there is large statistical correlation. Quite often we simply don't know, and may never know, what the cause-and-effect relations are. But we nonetheless make up stories, models, theories, etc., about them and pat ourselves on the back for having constructed a convincing, but still baseless, "narrative falsity".

The book theme sounds similar to the post I started more than a month ago, but still haven't finished: "What if I am Wrong?" My intention is to explore the implications of being wrong, for me, but also for the opposition.

I came to PO awareness around 2003, after reading Chip Haynes prescient article, "Ghawar is Dying." It seemed incredible to me how fragile "our way of life" was, and how few people were aware of it. After delving into the subject I still think that an apocalyptic vision of the future, full of large-scale societal meltdowns, is the most realistic view.

Ultimately, it will not be PO, but decisions made by governments, based on the reality of PO, that will determine mankind's future. As such, I'm not optimistic. The global industrial society has been held together by baling wire for a while, and the pressure points are growing exponentially on that vulnerable wire.

I fully expect to see widescale manifestations of breakdown by the end of this year, to advance apace in the ensuing five years after which everything will become increasing local in scope.

Nate: re group selection, keep in mind Dawkins' distinction between "replicators" and "vehicles" (built by replicators to facilitate replication -- bodies, groups, etc.). Genes that promote group membership in a "positive sum game" group are selected. Groups don't replicate -- unless you are talking about the the memes in their group meme pools.

For an excellent talk on memes (and "temes" that replicate in computers rather than brains), see Susan Blackmore's TED talk:

Re my own change of thought: until recently I could see no viable, CO2 neutral, and scalable replacement for oil that would "save" us.

Craig Venter to the rescue. His comments about "replacing the oil industry" with genetically modified algae that produce oil is worth a look.


Start of his comments re algea -- at 13 minutes into presentation.

Genetically modified algea would "eat" CO2 and sunlight, and produce oil. CO2 neutral. Scalable.

He calls this "4th generation biofuels."

He says:

"... (we) have modest goals of replacing the whole petrol-chemical industry."


"we are a ways away from improving people, our goal is to make sure that we have a chance to survive long enough to do that."

Also see:

Anyway, gives me a shred of hope on which to cling...

I'm not talking about memes, but was referring to my expanded understanding of how multi-level selection could work. I will clarify in an upcoming post but bottom line is we have to expand definition of 'in group' with whats ahead and I fear it's too late for that. (Climate change is an example, but why will China join our 'group' if they don't have to).

My experience with Venter is he is a confident salesman. I've heard so much on algae I don't know what to believe..

Nate,it is too early for any body to know where this algae to oil thing is going to go,but it does have a couple of things going for it.

The first thing is that nobody has as yet proven either that it WON'T work,as is the case with so many other "next big things" or else that it can work but only at some time indefinitely removed "when and if the costs come down." I'm sure that if you were to spend an hour on it you could come up with a hundred "next big things"that work in the lab but not in the real world for dozens of different reasons, high costs probably being the most common.

The other thing is that the cultivation of algae is in principle no more or less than an extension of agricultural technology aka farming to a new crop.This one seems to offer an extraordinarily high potential return without actually depending on any really new tecnnology other than the genetic manipulation of the crop itself via genetic engineering-which incidentally is something we have been doing for thousands of years now at albeit a slower place by selective breeding.

The overall situation looks to be almost ridiculously favorable.

1The potential inputs are sunlight,water,and a very modest supply of nitrogen,phosphorus,potassium and some trace elements.The quanitites of nutrients are actually so small as to be almost insignificant if the remains of the algae are recycled into the production process when the oil is extracted. I could see this process using river water polluted with excessive nutrients actually removing pollutants thereby at least partially purifying a significant amount of water.

2The primary output will be liquid fuel (which will probably require only minimal if any processing to be used in a biodiesel mix) with a ready and lucrative local market.Any sludge will probably be useful as fertilizer,and whatever is left of the algae itself after oil extraction will probably find a market as livestock feed unless as noted it is reused on the spot.

3It might be possible to modify the process to use various microbes to not only produce oil but also to use sewage as an input.This could result in a high protein livestock feed by product as well as recapturing phosphorus and potassium in the sludge or feed.Such a feed fed as a supplement to animals on pasture would put the P and K back on the grass.

4The whole process will be liquid based,meaning it can be highly automated and probably set up inside a giant greenhouse.This means very little production will be lost due to inclement weather,near zero problems with pests,near zero odor,etc.

5It should scale nicely. Once commercialized,it should be possible to build basically identical modular plants and install as many as needed at a given location.

So imo this thing looks like it could be the dark horse of solar energy.If it works at scale.And if it works a reasonable cost.The only environmental downside appears to be water consumption,but there are plenty of sunny places with water.

About how many watts per square meter of earth's surface are expected? I'd be interested to know how much space will be required for algae to replace 80 MB/d of oil.

Memes are a wild card, and if taken seriously (as do some of our deep thinkers such as Dennett, Dawkins. , etc.), are game changing when it comes to our ability to make rational decisions.
I recommend the Blackmore Video also.

I'm a 19 year old university student, with a huge interest in Peak oil, climate change, and many other issues. I have been sporadically visiting TOD for about a year now, and to be honest I have always found many of the posts a little above my reading level so-to-speak. But reading your comments above is extremely enlightening and easier to grasp given the more broad nature of our topic here.
It is certainly reassuring to see the ability of many of you (from what I understand from your comments)to change from being financially motivated, capitalistic induviduals to people more accepting of the merits of the simple life.
My issue here though, is that many of you seem to have become somewhat cynical about our future and have retired to farms and gardens with the money that you have made over your carrers in order to escape the horrors that may come with a societal collapse. Although I see how this makes perfect sense in the interest of protecting you and yours, I don't yet have this luxury. The vast majority of the planet's people do not have the ability to move to the countryside and live off the land becasue of a lack of funds and skills. I sincerely hope that you--part the few who may have the ability to find solutions to our coming decline that will reduce our suffering--realize that a solution that saves only a few at the expense of the many is probably not the best answer.
It is easy to say that a dieoff will happen because of our overconsumption and exploitation of the earth's resources, and that we all must look after ourselves and our family. But to me the underlying cause of all of our overconsumption has always been our selfishness.
Our desire to improve our own situation and compete with others has driven us to find a new way of life, but we cannot arrive at it as the same people that screwed the pooch the first time.
As a famous Canadian television character and icon always puts it, "We're all in this together".

As far as what I have learned over the last year or so is concerned, I think the best proposal for a society that may work for all of us in the future comes from the zeitgeist movement. This video is the zeitgeist movement's activist orientation presentation. It centers around the creation of a resource-based economy, where mass-transport and cybernetics are key, but money, and ownership no longer exist. If you are not familiar with the zeitgeist films and movement, then I would encourage you to take a look, I think that many of you may find it very interesing, honest, and innovative. Here is the address:

Nigel, Canada

windridge notices rather astutely,

"My issue here though, is that many of you seem to have become somewhat cynical about our future and have retired to farms and gardens with the money that you have made over your carrers in order to escape the horrors that may come with a societal collapse."

Are you by chance a history major? I ask because you may know that this is not the first time this has occured, and in fact is a pattern in all declining cultures(whether or not the larger world culture is declining is a different argument) The Roman emperors retired to country villas and grew their own food,had their own palace guard and even ruled the nation from the countryside. Witness the villa of the emperor Hadrian, or Diocletian, who became the first living Roman emperor to willingly retire from rule and move to the country in the area of Dalmatia.

Now see if this does not sound like the happy country gardener described often here on TOD: when some citizens came on behalf of the emporor to lobby Diocletian to return to the throne to stop the corruption and bickering by his successors, Diocletian is quoted thusly:
"If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn’t dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed." Sounds kind of familiar here, doesn't it?

Your other point regarding Zietgeist movement "It centers around the creation of a resource-based economy, where mass-transport and cybernetics are key, but money, and ownership no longer exist."

I used to view this as outright Marxism, but have come more to accept the idea.

In some ways, the attack we now see on home ownership and auto ownership may be the beginning of the new non-ownership culture, and online billing means that so called "money" can be transitioned over to credit or debit points, mere electronic scoring with only the production of the robots and the ideas of the visionaries used to create wealth (almost all raw materials by then being recycled and energy provided by renewable and possibly nuclear fusion energy) the value of the product would be purely in the capital cost of the robot production system and in the ideas of the intellectual designers. It could end "wealth" and property as we now know it. Think about it, if you could rent a Ferrari or a yacht (with electronic credit points) only when you wanted to use it, wouldn't that be about as good as ownership? Why not subsidize some opportunity of use of luxury goods on an occasional basis even for the poor or average class in the interest of wealth equality and lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission (occasional use of the item being less consumptive than full ownership and maintainence)?

This is just the edge of what the alternative energies and the information technologies imply and what Toffler was talking about when he referred to a "new wealth production system". Toffler by the way felt there could be only one marketable commodity if all the basic needs of life (food, clothing, shelter) could be provided: He called this "the experience industry" in which experiences became the marketable commodity of the post industrial cultures. We are seeing this already, as motion pictures and video games now consume as much wealth in many peoples lives as food or shelter. I now spend more per month on information access than I do on energy. This could be one of the most radical periods in history.

"new non-ownership culture...if you could rent a Ferrari or a yacht...only when you wanted to use it"

The trouble is, oftentimes you can't, or the terms and conditions are so miserable and one-sided it's not worth it. That might be OK for frivolous stuff like a yacht. With enough legal protections, it can also work for steadily-used stuff like housing.

The trouble is with intermittently used stuff that's important, which perhaps in principle lends itself best to rental-type arrangements. The shared or rental car you really want is never there on Memorial Day weekend, when you want to visit the family. We're social creatures, everybody else wants it too. Or if it is there, it's an absolute misery, like airline travel on Memorial Day weekend. Again, we're social creatures, everybody else wants it too. On top of that, the urge to "save" every last penny has given us, apparently irreversibly, the absolute tyranny of the "reservation" system, with gargantuan charges and penalties if you, say, postpone a trip that is of little use to you because the weather turns out to be too stormy. No, you had to "reserve" everything months ago - though naturally the service 'providers' are completely free to welch on you without any penalty.

I guess that's a microcosm (well, OK, maybe a nanocosm) of the trouble with so many of the Utopian fantasies. They only work Nowhere - not in the real world. It follows that some degree of ownership may persist for considerably longer than one might expect by looking at matters only theoretically, from the point of view of coulda and shoulda, rather than looking at them from the point of view of reality.

Certainly a valid point...but I would encourage you to watch the presentation from the link i provided(maybe you already have).It points out very clearly I think that these kinds of attitudes toward hoarding the items we want will fade away when we live in a society without scarcity. I know we all seem to have the assumption that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and a dramatic rise in scarcity is on the way, but this may not be the case.
Today's economy does not allow us the ability to fully strive for abundance because the real value in everything in this economy comes from its scarcity. Everything is more valuable when it is scarce. Go to any economics 101 class and this is the first thing that you will learn about how our system "works". So, before assuming that scarcity is upon us, remember that we live in an economic system that is diametrically opposed to the notion of abundance.
I said before that the cause of our collapse has been selfishness. I will continue that the cause of our selfishness is the scarce nature of the earth's resources.
This allows us to understand better the root of our desire to protect ourselves only at a time when we believe further scarcity to be on its way.
Imagine now, a world where we act to reduce scarcity through technology in a brand new system that truly reards this behaviour. This would solve almost all of our major social problems.

Its not selfishness windridge, its self-interest or perceived self-interest. Also as people get older and experience life with its myriad of choices and consequences, ideology and the illusion of invulnerability greatly diminish. People don't think along the lines of "real value" or "scarcity". They think mostly by what is presented from their social influences. They think about day-to-day decisions. They think about hopes and dreams. Maybe a show like Zeitgeist will influence a small portion of young or re-young to contemplate they world vision but its unlikely to have any significant affect. Changes of reality is what forces people to rethink things. And then most will simply go along with whatever "solutions" are presented. The thing though is that emotion is the biggest drive gear in most peoples head, with fear spinning it the fastest. War will be offered as a solution long before any substantial changes in economics.

Not trying to shoot your bubble down but it seems that the romantic notion that one can revolutionarily change or save the world, peaks sometime in the early twenties. Still as many here would agree, it is never completely vanquished. :-)


Your points are well taken. In the current legal and financial environment, there is much that cannot be done.

But we must presume that as production/price and technological changes keep coming the production and price picture must change and therefore change leasing, renting and pricing terms. The automakers are already much more flexible on pricing than they were a few years ago, and they would be as well off leasing their stuff piecemeal if they can't lease it whole and get some money out of it.

To your issue that people all seem to want to do the same thing at the same time, that is SO CORRECT, and one of the first things that must change, can change, and will change. I have seen studie showing how much fuel would be saved and greenhouse gas emission avoided if we simply went to work and came home at different times from one another. The energy wasted since the 1960's sitting in traffic jams that were totally avoidable is CRIMINAL and shows the idiocy of our so called organizational leadership. I know people who are already celebrating holidays at different than the official weekends to avoid the crowds and the increased pricing used to rip off the customer on so called "holiday" weekends. The public is already taking matters into their own hands, it's the business community and leadership of government who will have to adjust.

The times they are a changin'...

I've learned that Jay Hanson is right, die-off is coming. The man's logic is irrefutable. I've also learnt that we are born optimists, anticipating discontinuity is one of the toughest things the mind can do.

Reading some of the optimistic comments above about muddling through and all, we are facing the biggest economic collapse in the history of the planet. Oil production due to a lack of credit could make oil production plummet to 20 million barrels per day or so in Gail's adverse scenario. Those wishing and hoping for renewables are living in dream land. With the coming greatest depression, people will have to worry about food, water, shelter, heating and keeping alive not some of these fancy techno-fantasies.

I learnt about peak oil 4 years ago, forgot about it, came back and then lost interest as the effects of peak credit are going to hit just as hard as peak oil. I wonder how people think that America will remain stable given the massive amount of looting taking place to the tune of trillions and the utter toothlessness of the judicial system. If America accepts such third world country behaviour - endemic corruption and crony capitalism then at this current rate it will become a third world country. The price of freedom and liberty is eternal vigilance. Political and economic stability are not a given.

All in all, TOD and Nate especially have taught me a lot but I don't expect a muddle through or things to look up. A collapse in living standards is painful, as Gerald Celente says, "when people lose everything, they lose it"

In general, I cannot disagree, although 3rd worldization of the USA, already well-advanced in certain sectors, is probably far from the worst potential outcome. Regarding peak, since I first learned about offset Hubbert curves for peak discovery and peak production in graduate school in the late 1960's, I've always known intellectually that this time was coming (as is my own death), but placidly assumed, even as a resource geologist who should have known better, that the time was comfortably in the future, and that substitutes would, through the magic of science and the markets, make themselves available as needed. Beginning in the late 1990's I became increasing aware of annoying talks (usually relegated to a dreaded poster session on the last day) at professional meetings stating otherwise, but these were largely offset in my mind by numerous industry and government denials, vociferous mocking of past shortage predictions, and so on.

The realization that my comfortable assumptions could be utterly wrong came in the summer of 2007 when I happened to read Colin Campbell's peak oil book (2004 edition, I think), which I had earlier picked up at a remainder sale. I couldn't put it down; it was one geologist speaking frankly to another, with cold and fearsome documentation rather than emotional pleading and platitudes. This site and ASPO's, which I rapidly discovered through a web search, at that time provided much more fearsome documentation, and I devoured many past TOD posts by those who no longer post here. I began to post myself when it became obvious how little most posters know about metallic and non-metallic resources, other than that energy is required to develop, mine, and process them, that mines produce pollution, and that depletion applies to mines too.

So from TOD I learned something about petroleum and other fossil fuels, EROI, Exportland, ELP, Tainter and complexity, corporate media, government, ecology, and economics, and perhaps taught a few people something about important differences among metals, especially energy-related metals. A most uneven trade, obviously. One delayed personal insight, already expressed by many, is that peak oil may be more of a symptom than a cause, and that peak something else, such as complexity or efficiency or credit or personal trust, may ultimately be the symptom that proves most harmful to our population (I hesitate to say civilization).

My other major insight, thanks to TOD and similar sites, is to realize how lucky(?) we are to be able witness the beginning of a really major historical change in real time, complete with concomitant documentation and discussion. Obviously, this is an addictive experience for many. Of course, one of Murphy's laws is that everything takes longer and costs more than we think. And our ringside seats will last only as long as the web does.

As noted by others, campfire presentations such as this can be quite useful. They keep TOD of late from coming across as some kind of an on-line faculty meeting (i.e., with endless posturing and bickering by the same people regarding the same trivia). Insert praise here.

This is a great thread. I especially love the posts by "710" and "ThatsItImOut". I have the optimistic view that we have energy resources that are almost limitless, (but we haven't learned how to use them yet). I do, however, think that 710's view on sexual orientation is simplistic. Sort of an off-topic comment in any case. I believe there are both genetic and environmental factors that influence sexual orientation. You might be interested to know that homosexual men tend to have anatomical traits that, statistically, differ from straight men. For example, heterosexual men are more likely to have a fourth finger that is longer than the middle finger than homosexual men. Nobody knows why this is true, but there is speculation that it is related to in utero exposure to different levels of testosterone. This would certainly seem to suggest that there is at least somewhat of a biological component contributing to sexual orientation. I agree with 710, though, in believing that sexual orientation changes over time. I know this because of personal experience.

I also have a personal theory, shared by nobody else I know, that believes that homosexual orientation is actually an adaptive trait in the young and the middle-aged, but maladaptive during child-rearing years. As a youngster it may help to form social bonds among boys and at mid-life it may serve to provide social support during a difficult stage of the man's life. Needless to say, heterosexuality is more adaptive during the years of procreation, at least in regard to the passing on of one's genetic make-up.

I'm glad you appreciated my comments. You're the second person who has brought up my comments on sexuality, and it's difficult to summarize what is inherently a complex topic in any definitive statements. Regarding sexual orientation, I did make it sound simplistic, but to make it sound realistic would require considerably more exposition and discussion, and these were just supposed to be summary insights. But it looks like we're in agreement about the general process.

I view orientation in the same way I view a compass needle. The needle doesn't point to magnetic north, the needle is pointed to magnetic north by its surrounding environment, the Earth's magnetic field. In a much more complex way with sexual orientation, of course, with myriad cues from the environment and interacting with diverse psychology and biology.

My personal theory, which I've also not heard elsewhere, is that humans are born with a inclination either toward heterosexuality or sexual flexibility. Sexual flexibility then usually polarizes into heterosexuality or homosexuality depending on both developmental cues and subsequent societal cues.

But because the polarization is durable, and the sexual flexibility is lost, this continually selects out of the gene pool those people who tend toward homosexuality, favoring those who polarize toward heterosexuality. It continually decreases our sexual flexibility, which is a natural damper on population. This is both a large-scale societal problem, and a problem built out of millions of small-scale misinformed individual ideas and attitudes about human sexuality. Ideas which we receive as fear-based admonitions as children.

The learned, taught behavior which dampens our proclivity toward sex and thus the population, is selecting out our natural sexual flexibility which dampens the population.

I have no solution, I'm just saying it's a problem.

Maybe at some point we'll have a Campfire on the impact of human sexuality and its evolution on our current problem set.

Great thread folks, nothing to add, all the sensible answers are scattered here.

I've decided that a collapse is a collapse so I might as well produce an album of music and sing about it, any way of embedding music.

Before attending to my garden, a couple of thoughts on Nate's most reasonable observations:

The majority of humans are not emotionally 'strong' enough to overcome our baser impulses. I.e. rational neocortex is not the supreme behavioral commander that most believe.

We could use the education and public media systems to "lend a hand" to those lacking strength. Pie in the sky.

The likely role of peak oil 'outreach' will be to lay a foundation of knowledge to be used (and remembered) after the paradigm change - not actually to create it as I once hoped.

Better start etching TOD onto stainless steel sheets if you want it to be remembered for after the paradigm shift, microprocessors will be rare in a low energy world.

Melting ice is endothermic.

Why this odd fact?

Why this odd fact?

Because I thought I had a novel idea in capturing the heat each spring when all the ice melts and was quickly disabused of this notion by TOD community ...;-)

You could still capture the heat released in the fall as the ice freezes. It's easier to concentrate heat collected at 0°C than at -20°C.

Any method at doing that seems hopelessly complex :-) Maybe there is a novel way to do that but peltzier is all I can think of off the top of my head and would require an enormous investment for measly gains. Might as well just paint a box black then or stick a pipe in the ground...of course salts could be used for exothermic but harnessing it?

I am not my brother's keeper.

My understanding of what is now coming down goes back almost 50 years. Nothing has been hidden. I'm sorry if you have made the wrong choices but it's your problem. The usual response is, "Lots of luck buddy. We'll take what we need." We'll see.


Years ago I was strongly influenced by two books: The Club of Rome's "The Limits to Growth," and EF Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful," so I have always had a consciousness in the back of my mind that everlasting growth and development was both impossible and undesirable.

My biggest lesson in reality, however, came from an African in a drought-stricken village when I (then an engineer) asked him angrily why a communal irrigation facility was standing unused. "What is the point of planting," he replied, "When you will not enjoy the harvest?"

I realised then, and I have seen it confirmed since, especially as a trustee of a condominium, that people will not change unless they see some personal advantage in it, and they will do almost nothing for their community, believing it is "someone else's job." And enforceable property rights are supremely important.

So I live simply, and don't preach, and don't expect too much. TOD has confirmed my world view rather than changed it.

I started reading TOD about a year ago after reading "The Long Emergency". My eyes have been opened to a future much darker than anything I would have thought possible in my prior state of sleep-walking. My wife has been a little slow to follow - I think it has been harder for her to adjust her expectations, especially where our young son is concerned. Nevertheless, we have learned an enormous amount in areas we had never given much thought to in the past, ie energy and economics. Actions illustrate this - in the past year:

1) we sold the Jag and SUV and are driving a Jetta TDI wagon and Mercedes B200 (that one only until the plug-in Prius becomes available)

2) we sold our beautiful, recently renovated house (took a beating in this down market) and are renting now

3) I started taking the bus to work

4) we moved out of equities and into money-market, cash and precious metals

5) at work I drafted a paper on peak oil and its potential effects on under-privileged populations

6) I attended a conference on peak oil and public health

7) I have raised these issues with the politicians and senior bureaucrats with whom I work

8) we are looking for arable land

9) we are considered "doomers" by many of our friends who prefer we not talk about these things.

I realize these are small steps in comparison to what many of you are doing, probably laughably so, however, they represent significant adjustments in our lives. I also appreciate that much more adjusting will have to be done as things unfold. We still live comfortably and food security is not an immediate issue. I expect these conditions to change. And, I am not optimistic that we can avoid a chaotic social disintegration leading to harsh and dangerous times ahead. I fear that the clock has run out on the opportunity for planning and action that would have been able to mitigate the coming changes and that a large die-off is inevitable. I know this sounds bleak, but it seems to me that what remains now is to improve one's personal chances of survival.

When I discovered PO about 5 years ago and generalized out from there to the converging crisis of industrial civilization, I was pitched headfirst into the Slough of Despond. All I could see was corpses out to the year 2100.

My major shift was that I finally realized there was in fact reason to hope, but it took a long time for me to see it because the hope doesn't occupy the same worldview as the crisis that TOD spends most of its analytical energy on. I had to completely change my understanding of the crisis as well as my definition of what a successful response might look like in order to accept that my perceptions of hope were legitimate. In taxonomic terms, the crisis and the hope are orthogonal - the sets are non-intersecting.

I've concluded that the crisis of civilization is not really a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems. These visible problems are only symptoms of a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown. The disconnection is the sense of separation that allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in. In this worldview the mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization: there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.

The only way to keep this planet from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change that worldview by healing our sense of separation. Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it. What we face is not a technical challenge, but rather a deep existential or spiritual one.

I believe to my core that this challenge is already being met, through the viral agency of the millions of environmental, social justice and aboriginal rights groups that comprise the world's largest social movement, as described in Paul Hawken's book "Blessed Unrest". This will never be a popular perspective on TOD, it's far too soft for engineers and the there's no math. But I think there's a greater chance of "success" down this path than down the technical/political one.


Interesting thoughts.

You might enjoy the book "Reinventing the Sacred" by Stuart Kauffman.

Yes, I did enjoy it. I gave a copy to my irredeemably reductionist biochemist father, who was somewhat less impressed.

However, the book that has informed my thinking the most over the last year or so has been The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein. It was the Archimedean lever that moved my world. One quote that particularly struck me from that work was, "the things that must happen to avert [the various crises now upon us] will only happen as their consequence".

"What we face is not a technical challenge, but rather a deep existential or spiritual one."

Excellent call, Glider. This is what I often call the aesthetic aspect, (what do you consider beauty, perfection, a meaningful life?) which decides what you and those sharing the earth with you will attempt to do (and nothing can be done without being attempted).

Albert Schweitzer once said just after World War II that "the crisis of the West is at it's essentials an ethical crisis."

It still is.


It never made sense to me that we somehow trashed an entire planet by accident. There has to be something fundamental about us as creatures that made that possible, and our sense of separation seems to fill that bill. I call it "the Faustian price we have paid for the self-awareness granted by our neocortex".


It that is true self-awareness might play out like the development of photosynthesis, a massive extinction followed by development of new kinds of diversity.

Interesting thread and many fascinating stories. By comparison my life has been an easy, charmed ride through the peak of the petroleum age. A child in the sixties, my family moved to a rural area when I was seven, and I spent my adolescence thinking about cars, girls, and reading sci-fi and fantasy books. By the tenth grade I noticed I was a nerd, and set about to change that, which I did with reasonable success. I then spent the rest of high school, all of collage, and many years after partying and engaged in social pursuits. I never really applied myself very often, never put much effort into anything beyond the superficial.

At Lehigh in the early '80s I attended a Freshman Seminar on the limits to growth given by a Professor Sheeser. It was interesting and disturbing, but the impacts seemed a long way off, and clearly something would be worked out.

After a near-fatal car wreck 1991, I decided it was time to get more serious about life. I bought an old farm house and began to restore it, soon married and had children, joined a local church mostly for the sense of community (I had considered myself an atheist). But by the mid 1990's there were cracks beginning to appear in the edifice of official society.

I had always been a dedicated liberal and Democrat, but I struggled with the obvious conservative policies of Clinton. The right wing Christian fanatics had appeared in our church (we stopped going). I had gotten involved with local politics in an attempt to save our small rural farming area from development, but that effort was failing due to pressures from the housing bubble.

However the biggest cracks appeared due to medical issues. My wife battled Lyme disease, and my son was likely born with it. On top of that, he suffered vaccination damage from a system gone insane. He was clearly showing autistic spectrum disorders, was violent and uncontrollable. At two. We fought like hell to bring him back, with no help whatsoever for any of it from the established system. We got used to living in a different universe from those around us, and soon that didn't bother us in the least. I set up an old used laptop on the kitchen counter, we got a second phone line and it was always connected. We had access to information and began to really think for ourselves. We learned that to understand the world meant that you had to put an effort into it, to spend time reading and to make your own decisions about the truth. We fixed our son (he's still a tough kid at ten, mildly aspergers, but plays a mean electric guitar and his brown eyes will melt you).

There came the coup of 2000, subsequent events where the official story beggared belief, and all faith in the political system vanished. In 2003 we realized the cause was lost and abandoned our beloved farmhouse. We traded for a larger property farther away in an area with lower property values and have never looked back. But the "damage" was done - we no longer believed in the illusions. There's still a laptop on the kitchen counter (and many more old machines). We stopped watching TV.

I found TOD on 2005 while reading about the hurricanes. I was fascinated by what I read, and followed many links to other topics. There were so many knowledgeable people. TOD had become the catalyst for the continuing education that I never pursued, and helped continue the opening up of my intellectual side that began back in the '90s. At first I looked for ways to ease the transition. Then I mostly focused on trying to understand the timing of the various large crises that effect us now (energy, climate change, economic, and political).

What did I learn?

The use of fossil fuel is at the root of all of these problems. It made everything we see around us possible in an incredibly short period of time. The economic and political issues are simply social symptoms of the energy and climate troubles. But Ilargi and Stoneleigh were correct on the timing, and the economic crisis hit first, to be followed closely by political turmoil, and these are the things that we will see and feel first. They will help to prevent us from acting in any appropriate ways to deal with underlying problems.

Lack of fossil fuel energy and fertilizer derived from it will make it impossible to feed the present world population. That is the biggest effect of peak oil and NG.

The big hammer will ultimately be climate change. CC will make many of the most heavily populated parts of the world uninhabitable. How long it may take is unclear, but CC may happen fast enough to make all of the rest of this moot.

I learned that there is no technical solution. There is no energy source that can compare to fossil fuels, certainly not one that can be brought into widespread use soon enough......soon enough to what? To prevent a population crash, to preserve our present way of life? If we had more fossil fuel we would only make the CC problem worse, and if we had some new source of energy we would only make the overpopulation problem worse. There's no way out.

Primarily this is a social problem. It does not appear that any of our societies are prepared to take constructive actions in appropriate time frames. I do not really think “we” as a species will do a blessed thing in the face of these merging disasters, other than fight. I generally agree with Greer, in that these problems spell the end of the industrial petroleum age, and the process will be playing out for the rest of our lives – and long after.

Once I thought that nothing much would happen during my lifetime, and I often thought that this society we've made was unfulfilling. I now have a much better understanding of why it felt that way, and see that we will likely live through the beginning of some of the most massive changes in human history. How it will play out is unknowable in detail, and so I think the most important adaptation you can make is to understand and accept change. My assumptions will likely be wrong in at least some way, so I must stay alert and be prepared to adjust my mental model. This is just the lot we've drawn. There can still be love, happiness, laughter, friendship, beauty and meaning to an individual life, but life will be fundamentally different from anything we were told.

Great thread Nate, I first became Peak Oil aware back in 1998 reading Thom Hartmann's book, "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight". The whole concept that our spectacular economic growth and the human population explosion were all linked to easy sources of energy that borrowed upon stored sunlight. We were living off of savings that were unsustainable and then I saw somewhere in the future TSHTF would happen, with either massive economic and social dislocation and/or huge population dieoff.

A key point I have learned digesting the coming implications of PO, are to live fully today and enjoy in gratitude what we can do and experience NOW.

ELP is what I keep returning to when I wonder what on earth I can constructively do. So I learn how to live on less NOW, grow food, get to know neighbors and build community, and not worry about a lot of the daily soap opera on NPR & in the news.

The future is viable, but it will look much different than our world today, and a deeper understanding of what SUSTAINABILTY truly is will be as valuable as understanding mathematics and how to read are to us today.

Family and friends matter, if TSHTF in a bad way (as my rational analytical mind tells me it likely will) then our personal connections will be much more valuable than tons of ammunition & stockpiled food.

A positive mental attitude, an accepting world view that understands the implications of Peak Oil, will give one a long head start on adapting & productively changing with or even ahead of crisis. This will be much like the difference between someone caught unawares by a tsunami versus a surfer paddling to catch a big roller.

Sex is a basic human need but reproduction is not. The jury is still out as to "whether humans are smarter than yeast." God seriously needs to explain this to the Vatican and all the Imams.

And lastly, the world would be a much nicer place with a lot less humans on the planet.

A) What are some key points you learned that you were previously unaware of and/or what were you wrong about before and now see differently?

(Assuming a time frame of 'before you found and became interested in peak oil'.)

1. That some people do not have a deep gut level understanding of ecology and resource limitation.

It has always been obvious to me that there were limits, that we were hitting or exceeding them, and that there was no reason why humanity should be immune to the consequences of overshoot.

2. How bad the damage from agriculture is.

I knew we utilized artificial fertilizer, and that ancient techniques caused undue soil loss, but had no idea just how bad the current soil loss was, nor the level of overall depletion of arable land. Along with this, the depth of our global water situation, especially the aquifers in the Midwest USA.

3. The approximate timing of the oil depletion curve, and why guessing it from social response was inadequate.

I'd previously assumed a downslope beginning around 2030-2050, merely because noone had responded obviously yet at that point, so it "couldn't" be so soon.

4. The potential value of space travel, other than pure exploration.

Along with it, why so much space-faring fiction begins with end of oil, development of solar and nuclear power, a third world war, and mining the asteroid belt. What goes up, must come down, unless it reaches escape velocity.

5. A far more detailed mental map of the pollution and destruction of habitats on Earth.

At one point, the term Superfund Site was not even in my vocabulary. Nor were uranium tailings used in building homes, coal mining refuse used in building playgrounds, etc. Our culturally beneficial capacity to concentrate and refine substances has shown its dark underbelly.

6. The human need for hope in engendering creativity.

The use of cultural dogma to refine a spectrum of possibilities is unavoidable, regardless of its accuracy or lack thereof. When this impacts attempts at developing large breakthroughs, though, it's easy for important things to be overlooked. So I hope the best and the brightest do believe, deeply, that there is a solution, because without that belief they would be less likely to find one.

B) What are some areas where lateral thinking (connecting dots between different subjects) allowed you a higher level synthesis/insight into our situation?

I don't generally use any purely lateral or purely vertical thought form. Every one of my above points involves both.

But, the most important thought tools I got from studying peak oil:

1. Thinking of process feasibility and return in terms of application of energy and refinement degree of materials. Especially from a full life cycle viewpoint, including its waste products.

2. Consideration of long supply lines, just-in-time delivery, and just how quickly a disruption can develop.

3. Awareness of the role of resource mining in geopolitics.

What have I learned here?

That TOD will never tell you what to do or how to do it.
It will 'point the way' if you read others comments that have discovered what is really happening and will happen.

Those are the ones 'pointing the way'. The ones who will be most likely to survive but I no longer think that TOD will have practical value as to surviving that future.

Here is where I am currently or wish to go in my mental attitude.Some apply more than others.I am trying.

1. The Earth is our MOTHER, care for her.
2. Honor all your relations.
3. Open your heart and soul to the Great Spirit.
4. All life is sacred: treat all things with respect.
5. Take from the earth what is needed and nothing more.
6. Do what needs to be done for the good of all.
7. Speak the truth.
8. Follow the rhythms of nature; rise and retire with the Sun.
9. Enjoy life's journey, but leave no tracks.

The above is mostly taken from a flyer I picked up in Hopkinsville,Ky while visiting the Trail of Tears park and museum there. It is a Native American Ten Commandments(I left one out and altered another).

For hundreds of years the Cherokee farmed the southern areas and lived wisely. They tried hard to deal with the whites who came. They created an alphabet, a newspaper, some went to Congress, and they often fought with the white man against other europeans.

Yet their lands were taken and they were forced at gun point to leave their lands and go elsewhere by the very men they helped. The Supreme Court upheld their petitions and ruled in their favor but the then President defied the court and issued orders to move them.

They were my ancestors and lived easily on this earth and left few footprints. They built and lived in log cabins. They are still the largest of all the Native American tribes. They treated their women with respect and allowed them membership in the tribal councils. They revered the earth.

We took it from them and then destroyed it.

This is what I have learned. I am still seeking but I think that at 70 years of age I have enough to continue as I am currently. I will walk MY PATH until I reach that clearing at the end of it. I fear little now. I feel better now than I ever have in my whole life except for watching the earth disintegrate before me and hope that the destruction ends before too much is lost forever.

Here in the four river counties of western Ky we lost 8.6 billion dollars in forests and woodlands as a result of the worse disaster since the 1811/12 earthquake , being about a 9 on the Richter Scale.Source is Kentucky Forestry and Wildlife.

Many on TOD have seen the 'light/path/way' and know what to do. They will surely, be part of a future remnant. They will learn what and how to do what needs to be done. There is IMO little need to go beyond that except to help others who ask, if you can.


Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.


You are most welcome. I spoke of my Native American ancestry in that comment. To me they are the most important of all my ancestors for they live the way I would prefer to live. Perhaps I don't exactly live that way but in the spirit I most surely do.

BTW great website you created.

That cascading water. It reminds me very much of something I observed and was shown by locals back many long years ago when I was a Boy Scout and hiking the Kentucky Lincoln Trail up in the Smoky Mtns uplift.

I/We-my troop) had to hike 32 miles with just what we carried on our backs over two days. At some point I was seeking water and neared a huge spring gushing out of a on some lowly hollow just off a gravel road(few hard roads back then in that area).

Locals sit nearby and spoke of the purity of the water. It appeared almost identical to what your image shows.

At this point in time now all groundwater in Kentucky is polluted and undrinkable. Has been for some time starting with the later 70s I would guess. The hike was in 1955. I still recall it vividly.

Airdale-someday I may try to retrace my footsteps just to find it again-back when I was in my early teens

I have realized and learned;

The Earth is flat-Why else could we fall off the edge?

Everything I learned at school was wrong. The re-education process has been a slow and somewhat painful adventure.

I am surrounded by a largely unconscious mass of people and the exit is small.

Our cousins, the chimpanzee behave better than we do.

Ignorance is not bliss-unless you are a slug.

There is good reason for my porn habit.

Life's a bitch and then your dead.

7) Government, politicians, billionaire etc. are not responsible for our problems. There was not some devious plot forged on Jekyll Island for world domination. Where we stand today was arrived at by a path dependent series of small steps of people pursuing power in culturally condoned ways. It's a giant chinese finger trap with huge momentum- but the players are mostly benign, with few true conspiracies.

This attitude will prove most costly in the end, as it always does. Does it matter that I can find quote after quote after quote from people like Albert Pike, Helena Blavatsky, HG Wells, Bertrand Russel, and countless others, saying exactly what the elite are going to do and how they're going to do it? Nope, because its all a conspiracy theory! lol. "It doesnt exist, and it will never exist, because I will never read any of their books." That is the prevailing attitude, and it is a suicidal one. These people are cold blooded killers, and they lay their plans right out in front of everyone for all to see, knowing it wont make any difference, because they understand human psychology.

There is only one way this sequence of current events could have played out in such an absurd manner: with a deliberately dumbed down sheep-like mass of people. That is a fact. An educated and informed population would never be acting like this. It's pure madness, and no amount of denial will change that fact.

Now read this quote from Bertrand Russell: "Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so."

Our educational system is modeled after such ideology. And it has functioned exactly as it was designed to function. If you cant see profound implications in that then I'm really not sure why you'd even care to study any of these subjects, especially resource depletion. Why not just let the cattle march themselves off the cliff? Or, even better yet why not help them along by joining the chorus of eugenicists who want the dieoff to be as big as possible? Or do they not exist either? All those people, and all that money directed at misleading humanity off the edge of a cliff? And you believe none of it is real?