Is There Any Silver Lining to a Collapse Scenario?

Many Oil Drum readers imagine what is ahead as a slide down the net energy curve, as the amount of oil and natural gas available gradually decline. Somehow, business as usual will continue, but at a lower level, as resources deplete. But what if a better model for what is ahead is overshoot and collapse?

There are no doubt different ways this could happen. My own concern is that systemic risk might affect the world's financial system, credit system, and international trade system. Globalization might rapidly wind down, and with it our ability to manufacture goods using materials from around the world. Our ability to maintain technology would drop quickly, as it becomes impossible to manufacture essential items such as computers, tires, batteries, and replacement parts for vehicles. The extraction and use of fossil fuels and uranium might also wind down quickly, eliminating most electricity and nearly all commercial food supplies. World population in this scenario might drop to perhaps 10% of its current level, in a matter of years.

If we knew such a scenario were going to happen in the new few years (or next 20 or 30 years), how would it change the way we think? The chance that any one of us would live through such an event would be fairly low. I am sure we could all think of negative impacts, but tonight we are going to try to look for the positive. Could this be in any way liberating, or positive? Below the fold, I will give you a few of my ideas.

Appreciation for what we have today

If we knew that what we have now would soon be gone, perhaps we could better appreciate what we have today. We might be more concerned about family and friends and what is truly important, instead of worrying about amassing more wealth.

I suggest reading the post Life After the Crash: Lessons from Kenya, if you haven't done so. Derek--the guest author--writes,

It's the mindset that makes most Kenyans experience a happiness most Westerners would never consider to be possible given realities - as they see and experience them.

In Kenya, we do use electricity (hydro / diesel), if we can. We have constant power cuts. But that's not the only limit. In fact, the vast majority of us, even the so-called middle-class, build our lives around limits. Limits are the basis for every decision we make, business or otherwise. It is, you could say, a way of life that is happy when it is not done in - not unhappy if things go wrong (I am not sure that this makes sense).

People there - including me - celebrate every day that was a good day. And a good day is one where we got by. I would say, for 95% of Kenyans, life there is very much focused on the hour - and hardly ever on the future.

According to Derek, people can be very happy just celebrating each day, and not worrying too much about the future. Even if we knew (or suspected) there was likely to be a crash ahead, we could be happy with what we had each day. There is no real reason to worry about possible future calamities. We can only live one day at a time, anyhow, and we are pretty limited as to what we can do to change things.

Less pressure to get ahead

If we knew our situation prior to the crash was only temporary, we might be freer to enjoy what we have today, and not worry whether it will lead to some supposed better step in the future, since likely no one will be getting much ahead. If it is good enough for now, than it is good enough.

Of course, if we feel that it is terribly important that we be one of the 10% (or whatever) who will ultimately remain after the collapse, then there is huge pressure on taking the steps necessary to make this happen. But if we know (or strongly suspect) that a collapse is coming, we can at least take steps that are likely to be appropriate for a crash, such as moving to a farming community.

Less pressure to pay off debt

If we strongly suspect that we are headed for a crisis in which everyone else has trouble paying off their debt, perhaps paying of debt is not as important.

This is admittedly a guess. But what will a government or bank do with thousands of unoccupied homes? Lots of cars that people cannot pay for and cannot drive for lack of gasoline?

Reduction in worries about later life

Many things done today are done out of concern for later life. We save money for retirement. We invest our money with the hope it will grow before retirement. If we strongly suspect that we are not likely to live until normal retirement age (or if we do, our financial system won't be around anyhow), the point in saving for retirement becomes much less. If we do survive the crash but the financial system doesn't, saving for retirement may still not be much of an issue. In a poorer world, most people will work as long as they are able, making retirement a thing of the past.

In fact, it we have already saved, and we suspected a major crash scenario were coming, the knowledge might free us to use what funds we had saved for things that we value now. We could even donate funds to charities we consider worthwhile.

Besides monetary worries regarding old age, many of us have other concerns. Will I be well? Will my spouse pass away first, and I be left by myself? Will I be able to drive? Will I be able to take care of my adult disabled child? If you really are likely not going to live very long anyhow (and neither is your adult disabled child), these issues may become less important.

Are We in Charge, or is Mother Nature?

Right now, some of use feel like we have an obligation to help Mother Nature out on environmental issues.

If Mother Nature really is in charge, as in this scenario, things may get fixed pretty quickly, even without our assistance. Fossil fuel burning is likely to drop quickly; acid rain is likely to stop; overfishing of oceans will likely drop quickly; and industrial agriculture will likely come to an end. A lot of environmental challenges will be repaired as quickly as Mother Nature can arrange it.

Our anxiousness may not really be necessary. Things may straighten themselves out, even without our assistance.


I think the idea of a terrible crash (even if it takes place over 20 or 30 years) has at some point gone through all of our heads. The idea is pretty awful, but maybe it is something we should at least be thinking through. There might even be a few bright spots. If you have some ideas, perhaps you can share them with the rest of us.

There won't be a collapse. Uranium only exists in finite quantities and must be mined for light water reactors. Integral Fast Reactors are 160 times as fuel efficient, and can accept low-grade ores, like uranium in granite or seawater.

There won't be a collapse.
"Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not."
Albert Einstein

The birds, ground animals, and fish might see things differently.

Its not the Lord doing this to us. He is not malicious, true, but neither do I expect him to miraculously save us from our mistakes.

If you were to base your understanding of the world on, well, the world, rather than on out-of-context quotes that confirm your bias, you'd be more likely to see that there's been many many collapses, especially of late. Take your pick of organism, ecosystem, economy, or industry. All have experienced collapses, major ones, and often.

Looking around the Canadian province of Alberta, where the natural gas focused manufacturing sector has mostly shut its doors, the livestock sector is culling like crazy, drought has walloped the grain crop, across the south-east quarter of the province, and the provincial government is slicing budgets, I'm thinking that "the Lord" isn't at all subtle and may well be malicious.

And if humans had a positive history of the management of fission power then I'd be agreeing with you.

Yet the failure of fission is so well known to the industry that they KEEP begging Congress for the protection of Price-Anderson.
(Do go ahead - show where the members of the fission power industry showed up in front of Congress and asked for it to not be renewed.)

Do you think that tax breaks and subsidies are indicative of the failure of the FF industry? I don't think that's a failure of fission so much as industry getting it's hands on government money, just like any other industry with a successful lobby.

While nuclear power may be the best option for a business as usual energy world I do not think we have the resources for the build out and no where near enough time before other issues cause our way of life to crash and burn.

If there is a crash, what happens to all of the spent fuel that has not been properly disposed of?

Of all the ecological nightmares that the post crash world will face I think that nuclear fuel waste will be one of the lesser issues. We need to remember that natural uranium ores have dangers too and that there are other sources of natural unhealthy radiation. The best approach to the waste will be to leave it alone. The storage pools in the nuclear power plants will store it more or less safely for awhile. Military sites will be much more of a problem.

Comparing RBMK technology with a positive void coefficient to the IFR is like saying cars are unsafe because the model-T Ford was unsafe. If IFR coolant is shut off, the reactor shuts itself down damage free based upon the inherent characteristics of the technology.

I stopped reading Charles E. Till's article when he use the word "inexhaustible" in the abstract:

The principal provision of the electricity-generating IFR advanced nuclear reactor is its inexhaustible, domestic, non-fossil, fuel supply.

Lies, lies and more lies about nuclear fission just like in the 1950's.

There' still 13 RBMK's in operation. Not mention all the air cooled reactors in operation around the world.

An inherently unsafe reactor design in a containment building with the structural integrity of a aircraft hanger. Dumb and Dumber.

Does bring out the argument that mankind is not mature enough to work with nuclear power. But this can be said for many other chemical/biotech industrial processes.

It is bought cheaply by the non crashed countries as a gesture of goodwill and a source of new nuclear fuel if freshly mined uranium becommes unavailable?

And plutonium for bombs.

Seriously however if you look at the BAU case they way the world is really structured is as islands of wealth and technology surrounded by a sea if you will of poor. From a technical standpoint collapse probably means significant shrinking of these islands. However most of our technology is not created or used for critical products so shrinking does not mean the knowledge base or advanced technology capacity shrinks. Mass manufacturing capacity may well shrink but its not needed anyway as the middle class that buys the bulk of the goods shrinks.

With this said these islands will be tempting targets for take over think Taiwan vs China on a global scale. And obvious solution is to develop nuclear weapons or buy them to defend your self. The mini MAD with potentially hundred of participants.

So in general the most important outcome as collapse happens will probably be the rise of smaller nuclear armed city states that periodically nuke each other. Along of course with small scale nuclear terrorism.

Realistically any reasonably advanced nation could rapidly develop a nuclear arsenal if they don't have one already esp if they have an operating reactor and go the plutonium route. One can readily assume cheap Russian or Chinese built reactors will be sold to a number of countries.

Of course most countries probably won't be around for long and if they remain we will see regime changes happen ala South America often. In general one of these regimes is going to develop nuclear weapons and if its toppled probably retreat to a nuclear defended city state. This will probably be countered by the new regime either taking the remaining weapons or developing its own. So you quickly fracture into micro nuclear defended mini MAD.

Of course for many parts of the world the reactors will be very important from a energy standpoint however given the political situation I see the energy half as a bit of a side show since we probably will see mini nuclear wars break out periodically.

In fact given the worlds population on of the fastest routes to dramatically kill a crap load of people is a localized nuclear war followed but the resulting disease and social collapse and of course genocide between the remaining combatants.

And certainly biological warfare will be practiced the best way to defeat a nuclear armed opponent without triggering a counterattack is via biological warfare vectored throught their internal militant groups.

I could even see some of these crazies take what we know about gene engineering for plants and develop various potent biological weapons targeting our current crops. The beauty of this is they deploy a resistant strain before attacking their neighbor. Viola no more enemy and your can take everything as they starve.

I won't delve to deeply but consider the horrors unleashed during WWII when we had a fraction of the technical capacity today. Now consider the insanities we could create with our current technologies. I'm sure I've missed many.

But of course its not Politically Correct to point out the obvious issues with technology and unstable if not insane leaders despite the number of examples of 20th century dictators leveraging technology to practice genocide.

History and human nature are not important to the silver bullet crowd or rather the depleted uranium bullet crowd as they should be named.

I think if you did a body count for the US its a close race between charred bodies from nuclear attacks and blown up ones using depleted uranium shells.

And of course you have to credit the missile guidance and delivery systems developed initially for nuclear weapons that have proved highly successful in our conventional warfare. Indeed the spin off ways to kill people developed by the primary weapons programs often prove far more successful than the primary method developed to kill people.

Post peak as law and order degrade we will get serious about the matter and the first half of the 20th century will be seen as a time of peace and prosperity with minor provincial wars jokingly called the Great War and the War to End all wars later named correctly WWI and WWII thus allowing easy inclusion of the real world wars that occurred later after technology had been refined and energy supplies fell.

And if you don't believe me I just recently did a review of the War footage from recent conflicts since 1990 we are just as ruthless as we have always been war and the depravity of war has not changed one bit.
Ask a Chechen. It was sickening but by forcing myself to review it I realized that the people that are upbeat about or future really really don't understand how the world works. I think I do but its even hard for me to except how truly evil and sick humans can be. As long as we have this disease and technology and competition for survival the outcome cannot be anything but a bloody mess.

This approximates my own projection on a good day.

Hi Mike,

Always appreciate your comments.

re: "Seriously however if you look at the BAU case they way the world is really structured is as islands of..."

It's interesting to me that you put it this way, as I believe most people don't see "islands" at all, especially if they are on them.

That said, I had a very similar experience of all-of-a-sudden "seeing" - or envisioning - the following: "the world is really structured as..."

...many/most men dominate their wives (and children) by means of physical abuse (hitting).

Thus, actually most wives/women - (on a worldwide basis) - essentially have no or very little freedom. If someone can hit you anytime he wants, for any reason he wishes, then how meaningful is any idea of "freedom"?"

And I was having similar thoughts like this; i.e., of suddenly seeing the network of relationships as something tangible, and the tangible aspect being the lines of ability to exercise power, in a brute force - (or just direct force) - way.

Not to mention, how meaningful is the concept of "consensual sex" in such a relationship? (Where one person has the power to hit and physically abuse at any time?)

Islands of safety and real freedom - (freedom of thought, of emotional response, of movement, of small daily actions) - may actually be fairly rare for the majority of the female persons in the world today.

This means that this segment of the population has what amounts to no say whatsoever on larger issues. If you can't come and go, talk freely, choose when and if to engage in sexual activity, then...what is the meaning of any kind or choices about war?

Not to focus on men. Well, it seems I just did.

Anyway, such a hypothesis requires oodles of references, and I don't have time to assemble them. The stats on hitting I think are relatively easy to find.

This may be how "the world really works."

Again, one has to consider that boys are also raised by women (their mothers). And women hit children, also. The thing is, it seems there's a factual basis for the "vicious cycle" being at least perpetuated by this imbalance in the power relationship (who can hit whom?)

Child-raising is so important. How children are raised. What skills and what attitude they bring to the world once they become adults (without the benefit of questioning, thinking about, altering the conditioning of childhood).

what happens to all of the spent fuel that has not been properly disposed of?

Aside from what's in cooling pools, I don't see much happening.  Dry casks are going to last centuries unless people break into them.

On the other hand, this is an argument for going nuclear as fast as we can.  There is essentially no way to have a fast-crash scenario based on a shortage of nuclear fuel.  If the new reactors were based on thorium instead of uranium, the USA would have several decades of time to catch its breath before having to worry about more fuel; combine that with something like Alan Drake's rail build-out and electrification and a great many big issues become small.  This is one reason why Joe Bonometti's and David LeBlanc's presentations are so significant.

And if humans had a positive history of the management of fission power then I'd be agreeing with you.

Yet the failure of fission is so well known to the industry that they KEEP begging Congress for the protection of Price-Anderson.
(Do go ahead - show where the members of the fission power industry showed up in front of Congress and asked for it to not be renewed.)

What about government guarantees to compensate those who may be affected by escaped CO2?
That guarantee is not even in legislation, just an email.

So if you survive a nuclear accident or accidental CO2 asphyxiation the government will look after you, not the private operator. Some say most power generation should be government owned anyway as in France.

If future survival depends on the free exchange of ideas, then we should all earnestly hope for immediate and utter collapse . . . if only for the happy side benefit of the extinction of spammers. Way to go "deuterium" (a.k.a. Mr. Buy My Book)! You jumped on it, and got your spam posted early!

Of course the uranium in seawater and granite just jumps out all by itself and doesn't take more energy to extract than you'd ever get out of it. EPIC FAIL, CREDIBILTY GONE!

Screaming and namecalling does nothing to keep the quality of this site high.

I disagree with him too.. but try to help keep this all from descending into screaming rants, please.

Obviously self serving comments linking to ads should just be flagged.

The great M. King Hubbert, who accurately predicted U.S. peak oil in his 1956 speech "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," remarked that granite would have an energy density 50 times that of coal if its uranium and thorium content were used fully in breeders.
Has it ever occurred to you that some people who visit this site might actually be interested in learning something new?

Learn something new...

In the 80's I was majoring in Nuclear Engineering at NCSU. The mathematics involved in 3-D reactor core neutron fluxes was more than I had the smarts for so I changed majors. Three Mile Island accident also influenced my decision. No because of the accident itself but because of what it meant for job prospects.

I agree that the new designs are good, that the fuel is not an issue and that disposal can be done relatively safe. What I question is all the other factors that this build out will require.

How much concrete, metal, energy, educated personal etc will be needed for this build out. How does this compare to how much resources are available and at what price levels.

Time frame? It seems to me that for this to be a BAU solution we should be well into build out but we have yet to get started.

I don't know about collapse, I don't have a crystal ball.

Still, I'd like to remind IFR enthusiasts:

Uranium != clean fuel (env. & mining CO2 emission costs)
Reserves != production flows
Paper technology != working production plant
250 plants on paper != 250 plants built and in operation
Nuke power plant start of energy production != Nuke power plant cumulative net energy turns positive
electricity != liquid fuels

These might complicate the issue somewhat.

In general, I believe anybody who thinks that a single solution is *the* answer to fossil fuels production decline probably has not studied the whole issue in detail. Alternatively he's just trolling and trying to sell something.

That's just me. YMMV.

The Integral Fast Reactor would eliminate the need for mining, milling, and enrichment of uranium. In fact, our existing stockpiles of "nuclear waste" and depleted uranium would suffice to power the planet for over 700 years using IFRs. So, material already out of the ground could power the world for nearly a millennium, no mining needed. We would be building IFRs right now if not for the fact that the Clinton administration cancelled the IFR project in 1994 for non-technical reasons. None of your points complicate the issue, and are already addressed in the book for those who are actually interested in an in-depth analysis.

The nuclear industry is replete with over stated claims, MASSIVE cost overruns, multi-year delays and premature shutdowns.

Just because paper says it does not make it so. This is quadruply true of the nuclear industry.

See the recent premature, multi-billion loss, shut down of the Windscale waste fuel reprocessing plant. Does that physical reality enter into your paper plans ?


I think that the large scale deployment of nuclear power - preferably breeder/burner varieties - is the only real hope of building a properly advenced society in the long term, and I also think that collapse is about the worst thing that could possibly happen.

The problem is arguing these positions with people who are - as far as I can tell - convinced that a 'powerdown' is both inevitable and good.. and without appearing as a nuclear shill. There are certainly issues to face and fix; but if our nuclear future kills a million people from bad waste managment and accidents, instead of a chaotic powerdown killing 5 billion people from war and famine then morrally it would be by far the better option.

Likely to be true, true

For me I think that it is inevitable at this point and the goal becomes how best to transition through the collapse. Two issues I see are physical reality and suboptimal mindset. Both are likely to play out to our determent and either will cause crash and burn.


The question for me is can nuclear power help soften the crash, if so how.

Nuclear power can help provide a soft landing by keeping the lights on, to put it simply.

Even if petroleum is in very short supply, nuclear will keep cranking (coal will be affected rather quickly by shortage of fuel to run trains and barges).  It is possible to run heavy diesels on slurried coal, but that conversion will take a while.  If we add more nuclear (and wind) and electrify the rail system, we will have a minimum of both juice and transport even if nuclear fuel isn't delivered for months (and it's very easy to stockpile).  Houses may become too expensive to heat, but how hard do you think it would be to supply half the people in the nation with an electric Snuggie so nobody freezes?  Freeing home-heating fuel for transport and electric generation is a shift which can allow compensatory strategies to be brought into play.

The biggest feature of crash scenarios is time:  one problem cascades into another before it can be dealt with.  Anything that delays that progression allows the crash to be slowed or stopped.  The crucial thing is to anticipate the problems and have solutions which can be put in place fast enough.

there wont be a collapse?
that's a bold statement
i don't think you can make that guarantee
you can give odds of the likelyhood of collapse
call it likely or unlikely
but who can possibly know that it's absolutely not going to happen?

no one

Humanity is showing clear signs of overshoot with drawdown of resources (fossil fuel depletion, deforestation, over fishing etc) and degredation of environment (aquifier depletion, desertification, loss of bio diversity etc). The end result of overshoot as we can see by examples (yeast in a vat, rats in a grain silo, the deer on St Mathews Island and the humans of Easter Island) is population die off.

I guarantee it absolutly will happen, when exactly though is another matter.

Well, to state the obvious, a human collapse which is sooner and more abrupt would be more than a silver lining to most other species. It would be the ring melting in Mordor, the death star blowing up, the rapture, and winning the lottery rolled into one.

Right now, some of use feel like we have an obligation to help Mother Nature out on environmental issues.
If Mother Nature really is in charge, as in this scenario, things may get fixed pretty quickly, even without our assistance. Fossil fuel burning is likely to drop quickly; acid rain is likely to stop; overfishing of oceans will likely drop quickly; and industrial agriculture will likely come to an end. A lot of environmental challenges will be repaired as quickly as Mother Nature can arrange it.

However, the implication that a likely human collapse makes environmental planning unnecessary is the worst sort of blithe rationalization. It feels like a religious ideal as opposed to a serious projection.

I may be in a crusty mood from lack of sleep, but "helping mother nature out" strikes me as a grotesquely euphemistic phrase in this context.

We're in the middle of a mass extinction event NOW just from yeast-business as usual. In the middle of that event, just as natural systems are already highly stressed, we may soon switch to catabolic societal collapse, in which all trees are felled for warmth or slash&burn ag and all available critters are eaten as environmental rules and treaties fall by the wayside.

The vanishingly-small possibility that "all may happen to turn out dandy" is nothing to plan around except perhaps in some abstract zen-nihilist navel-gazing sense. There is every reason to fear that more-destructive cheap fisheries such as pelagic driftnets will be re-deployed to strip-mine the down side of the catch/effort curve and provide temporary food for desperate nations while destroying marine resources utterly, with little if any treaty enforcement. Trade in endangered species will not be seriously curbed once humans are starving - it is barely curbed now. Hell, anything and everything will be rationalized as fair game once first-world human privation enters the picture. Humans burning coal - perhaps extracted by slave labor - will continue adding to the CO2 in the air for centuries. And resource wars will incorporate the strategy of "denial of resources to enemies", which will not bide will for carrying capacity.

Our anxiousness may not really be necessary. Things may straighten themselves out, even without our assistance.

Well, humans don't seem to be providing much assistance anyhow. And there is a good chance the earth will not become another lifeless venus, though we can't know that for sure. But "things" we destroy are not going to straighten themselves out, and any thinking citizen of the planet should be anxious at the very least.

I'm having an "off day" due to insomnia associated with doing eldercare on a family member, and hadn't intended to post today, but I had to weigh in...

Clearly we don't know collapse is in the offing, so we continue to work on taking better care of the earth.

Actually, I don't see much actual progress in taking better care of the earth. There are lots of press releases, lots of treaty goals, plenty of people changing lightbulbs and a blue million new NGO's networking, but in the overall scheme of things, the planet continues to be trashed.

The danger in your post is that even if you don't offer it as a rationale for "not caring" about human impacts on the earth, it is perfectly suited to be just just a rationalization.

It seems like our care of the earth depends mostly on the number of people on this earth. No matter how much groups will talk about changing light bulbs, or whatever, the impact is likely to be tiny. The real issue is the amount of "stuff" each person consumes, and that is mostly determined by the amount of income the person has. Unless the environmental groups start a campaign to reduce incomes by 90%, the situation will continue. So I am fairly pessimistic regarding direct impacts of our attempts, unless population starts dropping, and with it resource use.

Our benign management of our environment depends on our affluence and our total resources (technical, social, etc).

As countries and communities begin to be sufficiently affluent that they really "have enough", they begin to stop acting out of being scared for themselves, their families and communities, and start acting out of compassion for others, including other species.

They begin to expand the circle of "family", "tribe" and "community" to include other countries and religions, and other species.

They start to climb the Maslow hierarchy, and find fulfillment in people, life and ideas rather than consumption.

Affluence doesn't guarantee this kind of emotional/spiritual growth, but poverty certainly will prevent it.

Fear and poverty have very little silver lining.

Nick, 3 billion people live on $2 a day or less. What loving family, tribe or community is embracing them? Our copper, gold, silver etc are mined by people who have short life spans because of the inhumane conditions they work in. Many poor people share more out of their little than the the rich do out of their wealth. Affluent countries mostly register a less happy populace than those that meet needs but are not affluent per surveys of reported happiness.

You have nice thoughts about how things could be, but the reality is that the number of desperately poor people alive today is most likely the highest number of desperately poor people that lived at any one time in the past even if the percent might be a bit less. Percents don't matter to people who are skipping meals or starving. Nor do they care how spiritual people are who have more.

"It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them.

On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever."

Douglas Adams

3 billion people live on $2 a day or less.

That's the value of the market transactions they perform. They live on more than that.

What loving family, tribe or community is embracing them?

As you imply later, many poor communities are surprisingly happy. Why? in part, because they have strong social connections. IOW, they embrace each other.

Our copper, gold, silver etc are mined by people who have short life spans because of the inhumane conditions they work in.

And yet, their lifespans are longer than they were 100 years ago. You're looking at the glass 2/3 empty, instead of 1/3 full.

Many poor people share more out of their little than the the rich do out of their wealth.

True. Wealth certainly doesn't guarantee generosity. Abject poverty really, really doesn't encourage it. And, more importantly to this conversation: how many poor populations worry about species conservation??

Affluent countries mostly register a less happy populace than those that meet needs but are not affluent per surveys of reported happiness.

I don't believe that's the case - I've looked at the research. Can you point me to the studies you have in mind?

the number of desperately poor people alive today is most likely the highest number of desperately poor people that lived at any one time in the past

Sure. But they're happier and live longer on average than at any point in the past.

Percents don't matter to people who are skipping meals or starving.

Exactly my point.

it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

That's really not true. Big disparities in wealth/income are very guilt and stress inducing, even if it's well hidden.
Did you see Ugo Bardi's recent post? Poverty causes a very narrow mind:
Poverty isn't nice:

For hunter-gatherers, it was the norm for women to die in child-birth - each birth would have had, very roughly a 5% chance of killing the mother, and after a pregnancy each and every year, for 10 or 15 years, few women would be left. Re-marriage after widower-hood or widow-hood (due to equally risky chronic warfare) was necessary - see the biblical instructions for marrying widowed in-laws.

Infant and small child mortality in pre-industrial Europe/US was so high that it was the norm for people not to attach to or nurture their children - the concept of close parental attention was extremely novel in the late 1900's and early 20th century. This would have been worse for hunter-gatherers.

Life expectancy for hunter-gatherers was about 30: most of the people on TOD would not be alive, under such a regime, and none of their parents.

Living with painful and unpredictable death around you, on a daily basis, is miserable - there's no way around it.

There would also be enormous amounts of very painful chronic disease. Have you looked closely at photographs of adults in the 1800's? They never smile, because their teeth were terrible (bad teeth are very painful). Parasites, skin problems...

The Bhudda said "life is suffering". He said that with good reason.

It was a very, very hard life. There are some things that are not relative.

Hi Nick,

I think you make a very good point about the quality of life in previous times. As I understand it, for a 100k years or so of hunter gather times, only a very few "elders" made it to my age (needed for wisdom about when to move the camp, etc).

Althought I'm 80% convinced that the next 10-20 years will not go well, it does seem possible that we could retain the knowledge of science and medicine to live an extraordinarly great life to a very old age. If we devolve to a "Mad Max" scenario, then it will be worse than 100k years ago.

The key is not technology itself, but the ability of mankind to abandon worldviews based upon ancient myths and start thinking in terms of hard science and the realities of our planet.

All-in-All, the prognosis is not very cheerful.

Hi Dave,

There is a considerable amount of confusion about how tough life was in prehistory.My guess is that everyone is right-average conditions don't mean anything at all to people living under specific conditions.

I agree with you concerning the hard science in respect to biology ,geology,etc,biut there is a very real problem that over the last few decades has been brought to our attention by the hard science of biology.

Our neocortex is not in charge.

The Blank Slate is deader than last month's fish entrails.

I reccomend three books as an introduction to the problem,assuming one is grounded in basic biology. Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden,Stephen Pinker's The Blank Slate,and Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn.

These are simply fascinating books,the kind that people who are interested in science, nature,and philosophy will often read straight thru.

Of course EO wilson is the grand old man of the field but his definitive work is not actually fun to read unless you are a hard core science and nature freak.

Hi Mac,

You mentioned Dragons of Eden before - so I bought the book. I often read a couple of books at a time and have just started Dragons - I like it.

Will look at the other books you mention.

You will like them too!

Most people don't have time to read much so I only mention science oriented books written by people with serious credentials who are also capable stylists.

"The Bhudda said "life is suffering". He said that with good reason."

Nick, that is not all the Buddha said. He also taught the way out of suffering.

Oil has made us able to cheaply avoid our suffering, not cure it.

Yeah, that's the point of the Maslow hierarchy: people commonly get stuck at the lower levels, instead of realizing that there's only so much that consumption can do for happiness.


I think you are confusing what is know and what is myth about prehistoric life. Of course it's hard to gather evidence about history 100 years ago, and even harder about history 100.000 years ago.

However, evidence points towards Hunter Gatherers having a life expectancy much higher in prehistorical times than that of the poor peasants or slum dwellers today. Also much higher than 1800 peasants and XIX century industry workers.

A first place to look is hunter gatherers today: Many work between 14-20 hours per week, ... having much more leisure than westerners. Also, if you discount infant mortality (more on it later) and violence induced mortality, they reach the world average life expectancy around 66yr.

Of course infant mortality drives the statistics down. As a coarse example (5% dead at 1yr + 95% dead at 60)/2 = 57yr life expectancy. Now should new-born deaths be included in the statistics? Of course it's a matter of convention. Maybe in a different societal paradigm, where babies a few months old are not considered as properly human yet this might be equated with abortion or death before birth. (Disclaimer: I see child mortality as something to avoid, and wish some societies wouldn't kill their new-born either).

In any case my point is that people are quick to describe pre-agricultural societies as brutish, with mal-nutrition and disease ... but it's not clear at all whether this was the case [and there are many paleontologists who disagree]. Child mortality and violence, possibly... but never in the scale of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Armenian Genocide, Irak, etc. Leisure, rich varied diet, long life expectancy if you made it past the young age, very likely. Now, the middle ages, the roman empire, the poor farmers, that's a different story.

You also talk of peasants doing little to preserve bio-diversity. That is wrong too. When small 1 acre farmers can choose what to plant there is more biodiversity than when corporations plant hundreds of acres of coton, jatropha, or whatever cash crop which impoverishes the farmers.

So to wrap up. Stating that farmer gatherers were poorer and had a harder life is not so obvious. Many farmers and workers today live much worse and more brutish lives than the ones our ancestors lived for 2 million years. About the silver lining ... we will not go back to the relatively hard life of hunter-gathereing as there are not enough natural habitats and resources ... so I agree that it will be a difficult transition.

For more info, [Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture]
or for an intro, Jared Diamond's article
(works of Mark Nathan Cohen)

A lot of different threads of ideas...

A few thoughts:

I don't believe we can discount child mortality. I think parents naturally bond with newborns. If 50-75%% of children die before maturity that's hellish for parents.

I agree that high life expectancy is new in the 20th century. I would argue that there would be no silver lining to losing that achievement, however recent.

Child mortality and violence, possibly... but never in the scale of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Armenian Genocide, Irak, etc.

That's a common mistake of rising expectations. The % of the population lost to violence has never been lower than in the 20th century.

I agree that small farms often are more bio-diverse. I'm thinking more widely: of farmers not worrying about Brazilian rain forests or African wildlife.

Nick, I think when you say "hunter-gatherer", i think you mean "early agriculturalist", since you next mention "pre-industrial Europe/US". Please consider these two categories of people separate. And when evaluating hunter-gatherers, you can only evaluate health and longevity on a case-by-case basis, as the differing habitat for wild humans would create wide differences.

it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

That's really not true. Big disparities in wealth/income are very guilt and stress inducing, even if it's well hidden.

I'd like to see your source on that. I don't believe that more than a small proportion of those at the top of a society with large disparities and wealth/income experience "guilt and stress."


Google "mirror neurons".

Google "mirror neurons".

Oh, so your source is BIOLOGICAL research, rather than sociological or psychological. Interesting.


I also rely on the findings of child developmental psychology and personal observation, but I thought you'd like to see the hardest evidence first.

Others have made most of the comments I would make in reply.

Regarding the happiness of Huntergatherers I suggest the book and recordings made by Luis Sarno who married into a tribe of Babenzele Pygmies who live on the interface of H-G life and civilization. He records them as becoming themselves when the go into the jungle to hunt as they have for eons. Their songs of everything from big hunts to mushroom gathering expeditions resonate with feelings of being right with the world.

Re happiness surveys see:

Re what it means to live on $2 a day not being a true measure of how much people have or don't have - I volunteered at Mother Theresa's Childrens Home in Port-au-Prince Haiti. When I returned to the US people tried to tell me that people in Haiti weren't all that poor because they had a non-money economy. Frankly I wanted to slap the face of every person who said that. Many of the things that can be bought with money are MORE expensive in a country like Haiti. I had to live more simply than I was used to because of that. A can of tuna if I remember was 3 or 4 times what it was in the US. It would take pages to describe what I saw on a daily basis. $2 a day is just a way to help rich people who are used to thinking in $'s get a handle on how very poor 1/2 the people of the world are.

Regarding the Adams Quote you wrote "Big disparities in wealth/income are very guilt and stress inducing, even if it's well hidden." I disagree. American lifestyle for all but the poorest in the US is derived by sitting on the backs of the third world. Most in the US don't even understand that they are poor so that we can be wealthy. One doesn't feel guilt and stress for what one doesn't even acknowledge to be the case. While slave owners knew whose back they rode on, we have offshored slavery to the sweat shops and mines of the rest of the world. We think we are floating on air because we don't even see the "horse" that is carrying us.

You wrote "Living with painful and unpredictable death around you, on a daily basis, is miserable - there's no way around it." Guess what, most death in the US is painful and often that pain is extended unnaturally. I have spent many years visiting nursing homes. At least in most third world countries people get to die at home cared for by family. Hospice tries to replicate that here and many people welcome returning death to the home and family and offering palliative care rather than futile extension of painful dying.

Well, you said a lot - I may not read and respond to all of it as quickly as I'd like to. Let's start with something that's getting lost: we agree that poverty is bad. Really bad.

I think we got sidetracked a bit on the question of 3rd world poverty. I agree that a lot of it is miserable. OTOH, most of the world would be much, much worse with collapse.

One item which puzzled me:

American lifestyle for all but the poorest in the US is derived by sitting on the backs of the third world.

The US became affluent with very little trade with other countries. Most of the 3rd world industries that export to the US did so relatively recently, and replaced domestic US industries in manufacturing, farming, etc. That displacement hurt the domestic US industries, and arguably helped both the overall US economy (up to a certain point) and the economies of the countries which exported to the US. After a certain point, much of those imports appear destructive to the US, such as Chinese manufacturing and oil in general.

Would the 3rd world be better off if the US were to decide to eliminate those imports and go back to domestic production?

Oh my Nick America got rich on first the backs of the Indians whose land we stole. Since they didn't make good slaves we then got rich on the back of blacks and then Chinese (think railroads) and other imigrants. We also stole the guano from islands off of South America by passing a law that allowed us to claim any guano rich island that was uninhabitated for ourselves. That allowed us to keep farming until we could mine mineral phosphorus and make nitrogen. As England waned we became the biggest empire of the world, taking over much of South and Central America (United Fruit for starters) and Asia (think cocaine profits for starters), When elemental copper was used up we began mining copper sands -think Chile - think of all the coops we helped happen or made happen in South America. Think of gold and silver that comes cheap from mines in Africa where people live in horrific conditions. Watch this documentary about a Bolivian child who mines silver - The Devil's Miner

What do you think Iraq is about. We can't have any of our suppliers get uppity now can we. They have to be taught a lesson. They succeeded and taking control of their own futures when they formed OPEC and now with oil peaking we have to show them that we get it or they get attacked.

You really need to read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins to understand how the IMF and the CIA keep our hidden empire going.
Or you can listen to an interview here but the book gives more detail


You sit on that horse and don't even know it You know nothing about the world outside what is comfortable for you to see

Lots in the 3rd world will die as will lots in the US in the coming disruptions. Should we cut of imports now the same would happen, lots die both places. For instance I imagine that most our hospital supplies are no longer made here. IMO the 3rd world was better off when they were hunter gatherers, we all were. It is the state evolution designed us to live in. I won't say hunter gatherers were necessarily happier, but that they felt right. To return humans to that state will mean lots die earlier than expected - but everyone dies, this is only a matter of timing and the way we die and not a matter of IF we die. We all die.

You are afraid aren't you Nick. That is why you trash against anyone who says collapse is coming and near.

Well, no question that Europeans invaded an occupied land. Also, no question that much of the US was built on slavery; many older US immigrants profited off of newer immigrants (and continue to); and that the US has made serious mistakes and done harm to many countries (like Iran in 1954) in the past.

But, I'm asking about the present, and the 3rd world: Would the 3rd world be better off if the US were to decide to eliminate imports and substitute domestic production?

Now, if you really feel that the world would be better off if 99% of it's current population were to die, and that humanity is better off as hunter-gatherers, perhaps you have a different frame of reference than I do.

"everyone dies, this is only a matter of timing and the way we die and not a matter of IF we die"

Timing and manner of death are important. I think everyone is deeply happier with 1% infant mortality vs 75%, or 85 year lifespan vs 30 year lifespan.

"You are afraid "

Now you're getting personal and ad hominem. OTOH, it's a very rational thing to be afraid of collapse - you should be too.

On the 3rd hand, I'm just trying to get to the facts. For instance, I agree that we're in the midst of a deeply tragic extinction event, and that we're likely to face a lot of pain from climate change - see

I just don't see much likelihood of collapse, and I certainly don't think it would have any silver lining.

Nick, you shift - you said "The US became affluent with very little trade with other countries." and I answered that question (became is a past tense word). Now you say you are talking about the present. Hard to have a conversation when I respond to one statement you made quite clearly and you then assert you were talking about something else.

I bring up the "you are afraid" because I think that permeates the discussions on this site. I should have made it clear that I felt that it was true of many posters so it did not seem an ad hominem. What I see are lots of people trying their hardest to deny the hard realities that become more apparent every day and grasping at any new plan or technology that will save our lifestyle. (I think that many fear the loss of lifestyle more than death itself)

There are two ways of looking at things. One is personal. I am worried about the future. Not so much physical hardship but the signs of rising anarchy, a world turning mean. OTOH there are many ways to die and perhaps a bullet is better than starving. Since I don't dread being dead I can easily consider the ways I might die and evaluate which dying would be worse or better. Death and dying are two very different things. If one thinks there is an afterlife with punishment death might be fearsome. Funny tho, those who think there is an afterlife with reward still don't want to be dead. I think death is just simply the end (like sleep only final) and once dead one cannot rue whatever living they missed. However living and dying can be pretty awful and I worry for my kids and grandkids.

But one can also detach oneself from the personal and look into the future. Heck economists are making figures on how to discount the future to see just how much we in the present should invest in protecting the future climate. When I detach and look at the sorry history of humankind, with torture, burning of humans, slavery, serfdom, wars, starvation etc I don't think civilized humans is much of a way for anyone to live. Nor is civilization sustainable IMO. If hunter-gatherer life is not better then I do wonder if it might not be best for all, future humans and the planet, if we did manage to extinct ourselves.

Proposing endless techno solutions is IMO a denial method for people afraid of collapse. The longer we try all these proposed "solutions" the more that will die IMO. So while you think that I am proposing something (stop trying for solutions and power down) that will result in earlier deaths for 99% of the population, I believe that all the "solutions" may well end humanity entirely. Given my ambivalence on the issue of the survival of humanity perhaps I should keep quiet and let the solvers solve us into extinction.

But in the end I think this is out of human hands. We are part of the natural world and we will follow brain programs designed for a different life and the planet will react and what will be will be.

Nick, you shift - you said "The US became affluent with very little trade with other countries." and I answered that question (became is a past tense word). Now you say you are talking about the present.

Well, I was trying to acknowledge your points. OTOH, I was trying to get at the US's dependence on imports, and as far as I can tell, my statement was true: the US's imports have always been a relatively small % of it's GDP. It seems to me that if United Fruit had been kicked out of Guatemala it really wouldn't have made much difference to the economy of the US. Similarly, I think the US's involvement in the Middle East has been counter-productive to the US's long-term interests: the US would have been better off it had imported less ME oil, and hadn't interfered in the domestic politics of the ME.

I bring up the "you are afraid" because I think that permeates the discussions on this site. I should have made it clear that I felt that it was true of many posters so it did not seem an ad hominem.

Well, even if it's a broad statement, it's still ad hominem. Just because people disagree with you is no cause to question their motives.

What I see are lots of people trying their hardest to deny the hard realities

And I could reply that I see people indulging their peculiarly American-style hopes for apocalypse and redemption: the fact is that a collapse would be a catastrophe for all living beings, and this peculiar idea that there could be a silver lining (possibly with a return to a pastoral Garden of Eden) is very odd indeed.

I think that many fear the loss of lifestyle more than death itself

I think you're getting distracted by moralizing and being judgemental.

When I detach and look at the sorry history of humankind, with torture, burning of humans, slavery, serfdom, wars, starvation etc I don't think civilized humans is much of a way for anyone to live.

I'm sorry you feel that way. I think you're mistaken: modern civilization is safer and more humane than anything in human history, and humans are at least as benign as animal-kind: have you ever watched nature documentaries? The recent series about Meerkats is an awfully good example: those cute little creatures have a very loving, cooperative culture, but there's an enormous amount of violence in their lives, both with intra-clan and inter-clan warfare (not to mention predation and a hostile climate). Their lives are short, nasty and brutal, as Hobbes would say.

Proposing endless techno solutions is IMO a denial method for people afraid of collapse.

And I simply disagree. I thnk if you look at the reality, the future of civilization is..ok. Not perfect - we've have ups and downs in the past, and that will continue. The transition from FF will be somewhat painful, but we'll make it. Climate change will be very painful, but we'll make it.

Given my ambivalence on the issue of the survival of humanity

And you don't think that colors your judgement??

Oxidated,I have followed your comments and Nicks this thread and both make sense although you are more eloquent and argue from a stronger position-I must agree with you mostly.

But not entirely.

Nick has some good points.

In the short run-and do not forget that we live in the short run,permanently and without any possibility of escape-many of the exploited peoples are by any objective measure better off-the kids who died in the first factories that made matches in Europe have starved faster than they died of chemical poisoning.

I use poisons that are not good for the environment because I must-unless I give up farming.I can't get boutique prices and I have no shot at selling to those who do.I could quit but that would not get rid of the problem.

That old short term is a very harsh master.

We will all continue to do what we have to do to survive day to day.That's basically what everyone has always done-although some are many times more successful than necessary.

History and circumstances are bigger than we are.

This is the environmental Kuznets curve. Achieved mainly by exporting dirty industries to poorer countries. As the "knowledge" and "service" economies start to decline those dirty industries will return.

the environmental Kuznets curve. Achieved mainly by exporting dirty industries to poorer countries.

Have you seen documentation of that? As far as I can tell, there's still quite a lot of heavy industry left in the OECD, and it's a lot cleaner than 3rd world industry.

It seems like our care of the earth depends mostly on the number of people on this earth.

I'll agree, though I'd say "impact on" rather than "care of". The place for billions of humans is, and should have been, spread out nicely over thousands of years.

Unless the environmental groups start a campaign to reduce incomes by 90%, the situation will continue. So I am fairly pessimistic regarding direct impacts of our attempts, unless population starts dropping, and with it resource use.

Environmental groups don't have much power, and certainly would be lynched if they tried to cut peoples' consumption of stuff by 90% across the board. So your pessimism is matched by mine there.

I will note that there are classes of action other than those usually promoted by environmental groups, which might have better odds, but that's for another discussion.

Yes Gail. Unless we get a handle on a global unified approach to human overpopulation, all efforts of a future with us in it will be futile. I look at all the social, economic, and ecological 'issues' in the global media. The core problem and the snookering of any workable solution is overpopulation. Given that, the disparate ideological, cultural, and economic views held by humankind, prevent the opportunity to agree on a global population policy.

Don't worry, Nature will step in and sort things us out.

Unless the environmental groups start a campaign to reduce incomes by 90%, the situation will continue.

I assume you're aware of Naomi Klein's book "Disaster Capitalism"? That sentence could well be substituted for any of the other neo-liberal mantras which have been foisted off on us since Reaganomics / "trickle-down capitalism".


Sometime back you mentioned looking after your family elders as a "sacred duty."I could not agree with you more.I am sure all the regulars here are with you in spirit.

I agree that the world to all intents and purposes is headed to hell in the proverbial handbasket but I don't think there is there is any way to predict just how far thngs might go "downhill".

It appears to me at least that there is some reason to think that things might not collapse back to Darwins Dog's rats and starlings.

If we accept the premise that the current exceptionally high extinction rate is our fault,then I cannot see that it MUST continue apace if WE suffer a truly major dieoff or become extinct ourselves.Granted it appears that the climate will continue to heat up overall for a good long while even if we are gone or almost gone but why should we expect the grasses to fail to extend thier range to the north and south and the grazing animals(maybe even a few remmant domesticated cows)to follow the grass?I trust that this one example will suffice -there should imo be many other surviving animals.

Of course you are dead on if the collapse is slow and lasts a long time-the seas will be vacuumed and every last large animal will likely be eaten.

My personal guess is that the worldwide bau economy will suffer a heart attack sometime in the next decade or two as the oil dries up and that the likeliest major short term consequence will be WWIII.All bets are off at that point.

If we survive the fighting and the current govt is still standing I would guess that with a little luck most of us here in the states will avoid starvation by dint of a draconian reorganization of our society,which will necessarily be carried out under martial law.

Farther into the future than that ...the glass is simply too dark.


Based on recent history, it doesn't even require a collapse to cause people to over-harvest, nor does the decline have to last a long time. I grew up in the rural South; according to the old-timers, during the last depression every tree over 12" had been cut down and whitetail deer were locally extinct by the time WW II started the mini-dieoff and migration to cities that provided some relief.

IMO, the hope there will be a soft landing this time around is not supported by history.

Errol in Miami


I don't have any arguments with your comment.

I most certainly am not talking about a soft landing-unless you consider a soft landing to be the survival of many(as opposed to most) species of animals,living over WWIII, and not actually starving while living under martial law here in the states.

And there I left things hanging .....

If you will click on my "other comments " you will see that I am a LONG way from complacent about the future.

Hey there Mac. Didn't think I'd be posting anything today, low IQ day from lack of sleep, but I guess one thing leads to another...

I agree that the world to all intents and purposes is headed to hell in the proverbial handbasket but I don't think there is there is any way to predict just how far thngs might go "downhill". It appears to me at least that there is some reason to think that things might not collapse back to Darwins Dog's rats and starlings.

I'm not weighing in with any particular collapse scenario here, and you may have seen that I've pointedly taken issue with DD's 100% certainty of dieoff of all large critters including homo sap. It's best to think of the future as a range of probabilities, I think.

And my position is that it's our responsibility to PREVENT the mass extinction getting to those levels, or die trying our damnedest.

If we accept the premise that the current exceptionally high extinction rate is our fault, then I cannot see that it MUST continue apace if WE suffer a truly major dieoff or become extinct ourselves. Granted it appears that the climate will continue to heat up overall for a good long while even if we are gone or almost gone but why should we expect the grasses to fail to extend thier range to the north and south and the grazing animals(maybe even a few remmant domesticated cows)to follow the grass?I trust that this one example will suffice -there should imo be many other surviving animals.

No disagreement with what you say. Again, I refer to a probabilistic distribution of possible futures. There are millions, trillions of possibilities depending on how finely you slice it, and they are not equivalent.

If a killer ebolapox birdswine plague were to knock us mostly off in a month, it would not only be a boon to the other species, and probably for the climate, but it's quite likely that by preventing the slow grind of catabolic collapse, it would also maximize the future amount of human life on the planet. How odd that we live in overshoot times where what seems good causes terrible results, and what seems terrible might cause good results.

I agree there will probably be many other surviving animals... and there will probably be more surviving current species than if I hadn't been born. In a meaningless universe, that suffices for meaning to me personally, and I'd like to recommend it to others.

Of course you are dead on if the collapse is slow and lasts a long time-the seas will be vacuumed and every last large animal will likely be eaten. My personal guess is that the worldwide bau economy will suffer a heart attack sometime in the next decade or two as the oil dries up and that the likeliest major short term consequence will be WWIII.All bets are off at that point.

For the earth, I'd prefer to get the human presence to a lower level of complexity as soon as possible, but I think the slow grind is very possible and it's what I fear the most.

If we survive the fighting and the current govt is still standing I would guess that with a little luck most of us here in the states will avoid starvation by dint of a draconian reorganization of our society,which will necessarily be carried out under martial law.
Farther into the future than that ...the glass is simply too dark.

Well, during my lifetime I won't need to worry about survival; indeed, I've decided not to make a big deal of it, though I'll probably last better than many. Talk about a project that's a guaranteed loser.... personal survival just doesn't seem like a worthwhile goal to me. On the other hand, we're now in a situation where priceless stuff is being lost rapidly. Even a duffer like me has been able to make a dent in preserving a good deal of it. I wish more folks would try.

Clearly we don't know collapse is in the offing, so we continue to work on taking better care of the earth.

Clearly we do. I have known it for over 40 years, I just didn't know when. And it won't be pretty. There will be no silver lining. There can be nothing silver when over five billion people die from war, famine or disease.

It is obvious that the carrying capacity of the earth is declining fast, even faster than fossil fuels are declining. Simultaneity, that's the word. Everything is happening at once. Peak oil, climate change, rivers drying up, lakes drying up, water tables dropping, massive extinction, and dozens of other problems. And on top of all the energy and environmental problems we have a worldwide financial crisis. Our public and private debts are many times what we could pay off in several lifetimes.

As long as people wear blinder and refuse to look at all the problems, refuse to read all that "doomer porn" out there, they can deny. And perhaps it's best to deny. And even if you do know, just pretend that you don't know, look away and smile. That way you can stay relatively happy until.....

Ron P.

Yeah, I'm weary of the "we don't know" nonsense. Sure, we don't don't know the day and the hour or all the details, but we damn sure know enough. And it's quite clear we won't do anything, as we would be doing it if we were going to. Given all that is more than clear enough now, people are starting to say "Hey, this doesn't look so good, something bad might happen". Gee, ya think?

Regarding any silver lining, I think John Michael Greer covers that very well in his latest. It is not going to be fun, and we won't wake up in the Shire one day. This is going to be a long event - longer than the lives of anyone here - so think about what you might do to make it easier on future generations. And hope that there will be a few.

I find John Michael Greer an eloquent writer and I like to read what he has to say but I think his idea of a slow collapse is wrong.
If we take a look at how other species die offs occured like yeast or the deer of St Mathews Island then we find it happens suddenly because a tipping point was reached.

It is the same thing with these collapse dynamics models;

I don't think Greer expects a die off, rather a long and rather difficult decent (as in the title of his book). A prevailing theme in his articles is that we are not so unique as we think we are. I find that I am in agreement with most all of his viewpoints, but I'm unsure about the one area in which we do seem to in fact be unique - fossil fuels, and the resultant rate and extent of population increase. These issues are all about rates - the faster things change that harder it is to adapt.

A difference between a population collapse of yeast or deer and humans is that yeast and deer do not manipulate their environment to produce their food supply. Humans modify and adapt which may slow down the rate of collapse. A fast collapse would require something catastrophic to occur, such as a large scale nuclear war, super volcanism, large meteor impact, the rapid destruction of the o-zone or a severe pandemic. Without such events, the decline in crude oil & phosphorous production and the destruction of arable land will likely be drawn out on a human time scale.

The fact that the fate of the human specie is, unfortunately, likely to be what we deserve, that does not lessen our responsibility to care for an amazingly beautiful and hospitable planet. Insofar as the future of mankind (kind?) is concerned, anyone who does a bit of in depth reading on such issues as climate change, peak oil, depletion of essential resources, etc. the writing is on the wall. The world population almost certainly will contract drastically as these chickens come home to roost, quite possibly within the coming two decades. Sadly, our massive collection of toxic substances will render parts of the world largely uninhabitable, at least for humans, for centuries to come. However, I have a great deal of confidence in the ability of Gaia to heal herself over time. Those people who remain will be forced to revert to a more basic and more sustainable way of living. My wife and I spent many years living with and learning from Native Alaskans who practiced a subsistence lifestyle based on renewable resources. As measured by Western standards, they were poor. However, most - especially the elderly - believed that they were rich, and they thoroughly enjoyed life.

Hi Greenish,

But "things" we destroy are not going to straighten themselves out, and any thinking citizen of the planet should be anxious at the very least.

I wonder exactly what human actions a "Thinking Citizen" thinks might have a good chance of preventing an Easter Island scenario? Here are some assumptions (no particular order) about some of the most critical factors in this equation. You decide what potential they have for being addressed successfully.

- Assumption: planet can’t support more than 2B humans by the end of this century. Means: Plan B Brown says global education of young women. China says a one child national policy. Impediments: religious, business, and cultural factors will strongly oppose this goal.

- Assumption: endless “growth” and consumerism (as in our car culture) must end quickly (for many reasons). Means: massive re-education of first world and emerging world societies about the negative impacts on the environment. Impediments: corporations, governments, and to some extent religions (more $ in the collection plate)

- Assumption: financial systems based upon private banks and fiat money must be radically overhauled so governments have more direct control of money and credit. Means: elimination of things like a “Federal Reserve” that is based upon private banks. Impediments: Extremely powerful worldwide financial entities.

- Assumption: US national defense is based upon a model of global control that is highly resented by many factions around the world and leads to less security –not more. Means: cut military budget in half and focus on true “defense” issues. Impediments: military industrial complex that has only grown in power since the term was first used.

- Assumption: Global warming is real and caused by man – it will cause significant damage and must be reversed. Means: return from current 380 ppm of GHG to 300 ppm. Impediments: corporations, consumers, taxpayers.

- Assumption – species extinction is not only happening at an unprecedented rate but this lack of diversity can significantly impact humans. Means: strict control of fishing, forest clearing, mining, etc. Impediments: corporations, governments, cultures, religions (only man is important)

- Assumption – fossil fuel sources such as oil and NG are depleting and alternative forms of energy need to be developed. Means: taxation to put a realistic value on these resources and drive investment to alternative sources. Impediments: corporations and taxpayers.

- Assumption: many natural resources such as water, topsoil, rare earth elements, etc. are also depleting and need to be conserved. Means: taxation and regulation. Impediments: nearly everyone.

- Assumption: the western world (and soon China/India) is based upon a car culture that is at the heart of our environmental issues. This car culture must be changed. Means: very high taxation of fuel, licenses, HP when purchased, etc. Impediments: nearly everyone on the planet. Humans deeply love the idea of a “car”.

I could go on, but the idea is to look at all the variables and decide if there is the political will to address each item in a meaningful manner. You can make your own list. If the answer is “yes” then we could have a bright future. If “no”, then we face some variant of “painful muddle through” or total collapse. I firmly believe that there are solutions to all of these issues (via Conservation, Efficiency, and Alternative Enerygy - if we have the will to pursue them in a rational manner).

Hi BikeDave, all best... and same disclaimer as I gave to Mac. Having a stoopid day from fatigue, so shouldn't be allowed to post in public; then again, that's another great thing about psuedonyms, "greenish" will evaporate in another month or two so a typo here and a mistake there is of no great matter.

Even so, I'll be briefer here than your post deserves, I only have a few minutes to rest here...

I wonder exactly what human actions a "Thinking Citizen" thinks might have a good chance of preventing an Easter Island scenario? Here are some assumptions (no particular order) about some of the most critical factors in this equation. You decide what potential they have for being addressed successfully.

Actually, these are exactly the sorts of things I have been mulling, and the nature of what I and/or others may do - the nature of "phase shift" activism, for lack of a better term - makes it not entirely advisable to telegraph strategy by blogging about it in advance. This is the sort of comment which is often rejoined by someone calling it egotistical, delusional, fascist, etc, yet it's the sort of campaigning I've done for 30+ years and it's quite effective when done right.

Not many people do it right. I may post a few of the concepts before I leave; more likely I'll do a more general post, a campfire or something, and let people get in touch with me if they think they'd like to try it. No guarantees of course, but the best chance of success lies in the middle ground between the top-down and bottom-up approaches.

Yeah, I know, cryptic.


I think you've left out the most important and underlying assumption: Inequality of opportunity and in part, outcome (at least as far as basic survival needs) is the core cause of nearly all the problems you list.

Hi Lengould,

I agree that "Inequality" is a fundamental issue. Healthcare, education, inheritance, employment, etc, all come to mind as huge violations of the "all men are created equal" concept. Having started my adult life with nothing but the "clothes on my back" I can relate to this sentiment.

However, I'm not quite sure how inequality will adversely affect survival. Maybe many of the more affluent folks will be less capable of survival than the folks who have learned to survive in an unequal world.

Lets assume that the poorest 1% of a population are just barely avoiding starvation on 1% of local GDP. Reduce GDP by 25% or more as many claim dramatically reducing oil supplies will do, and they die.

Many people who achieve various levels of wealth by self-earning fail to acknowledge the "luck" factor involved. Of a hundred people starting with precisely the same ambitions and abilities, some will drop out due to unavoidable illness, but most will simply fail to be "in the right place at the right time", though everything else (effort, savings ethic, etc. etc.) is equal. Though the concept runs counter to the typical US "narative", it explains far more than any alternative, and needs to be much more widely acknowledged. I was getting 99 language, 99+ maths SAT's in school, have never qualified for unemployment coverage, etc. etc., yet the only person I know of who has actually retired much better off than the average was a fellow with less education who once worked for a company which was going bankrupt so they gave a large portion of the shares in the company to the employees. Many years later, the company recoverd and was bought out at a good price, though he had forgotten he even owned them until discovered by an advisor.

Greetings, Dave,

I like your idea.

Perhaps you could write it up as a guest article and post on TOD. I hope so! :)

It would also be interesting to expand the "impediments" section.

It occurs to me that many things happen or don't happen because of: money, police/military power (brute force of different varieties), personal brute force (see my reply to memmel above), cultural norms, I suppose (for lack of a better word), i.e., what people are willing to allow others to do and/or not allow them to do without some kind of social "cue", approval or disapproval...In other words, to get very specific about the nature of the impediment and what it means (how it functions) on a tangible and material level.

In other words, is the impediment in a specific case a matter of (some examples): enough people voting for X, people silently allowing X when speaking up could prevent it.. and so forth...

Great post gail. I see things playing out very similiar to u, & u’r post.

1. Folks will work together to an extent most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes [or not survive].
2. We will get close to Nature [overall a huge positive].
Carolyn Baker’s; ‘Sacred Demise’ seems to make this her primary point- I’m ½ way thru- & I think this being close to Nature will solve many psychological ills; & even bring a ‘sacred’ sense about life.
3. Because we will not be able to amass material goods and store/save longer term we will actually [if peacefully surviving/living] have ,more free time mentally & likely be happier as we focus on more immediate needs day to day [in connection with others, & Nature] – as Gail points out in her post.

I don't think you will see a collapse at all. Our economy and our lifestyles in North America contain large amounts of "energy waste" which could be curtailed. Instead of eating mango's, we will eat peaches. Instead of drinking Stella Artois, we'll drink our local microbrewery. As fuel prices soar, we'll embrace electric vehicles and because of their limitations..we'll drive less. The rise in demand and use of electric cars will push society to embrace solar and wind. We see these forms of energy capture as inefficient now, but when the first cars came out they were often seen being towed by horses back to the garage and the "old skool wagon drivers" mused as the pointlessness of the automobile.

And world trade will decrease but it won't be eliminated. We've been drinking tea & coffee for centuries & we'll continue to drink coffee from Brazil, tea from Asia & computers from Taiwan. None of these products has a shelf life and can sit on a ship that is either wind powered or nuclear powered. We have nuclear submarines, no reason we can't have nuclear powered cargo ships.

Just a mere 10% cut in oil consumption would take us down to about 76 million barrels a day. I would gather that 10% could be cut today without ANY effect on the economy. Call it conservation. It might mean our weekend "recreational shopping" comes to an end but we'd still spend the money..just locally.

There is no shortage of energy in this world..just a shortage of fossil fuels. As long as the sun continues to exist we have a never ending supply of energy. We just have to figure out how to capture it.

this is primarily a social/political problem, so i don't really disagree overall about energy; but unless we mature as a species i expect not only collapse within a few months- to-years, but eventual extinction.

A frightening number of straw men in your arguments there. I also despair of the 'we can cut oil use by X% easily' argument as it glosses over the fact that global oil production falls essentially forever on the downslope of Hubbert's peak.

My point is that if we cut out the excess in our personal lives, we could probably shave off 10-20% of our oil usage with only a minor adjustment to our life. This would shave off 8-16 million barrels a day. As production fell, we could still continue to live our lives WHILE we push toward alternative energy

Let me explain another way. Envision your monthly budget. You wonder where does all the money go so you decide to do a spending audit on yourself. You discover that you spend $65 dollars a month on coffee, $100 dollars on fast food when you could cook and eat a better lunch for $40 dollars a month. And you discover that if you just drove to the local mall rather than the one in the north end of the city you'd save $50 on fuel. And if you used transit and walked more you'd save another $100.

We could do that with energy. We waste a lot of it. I would hardly call driving to the nearest mall versus the mall in the North End a "radical change to your life".

In my view, you are missing several key points. Leaving aside your assertion that in a falling energy world we will have it together enough to even consider doing what you say (building alternative energy systems while hundreds of millions are unemployed), you assume that the current economic system will continue as the energy declines. I think that's a poor assumption. Last September the whole thing nearly came crashing down when people lost confidence in the system. This will happen again in the relatively near future and no amount of central bank intervention will "fix it."

As Jeffrey points out, what value do the ten largest banks have without the ten largest oil fields? Global currency collapse in, in my view, inevitable. That's a major reason why so many transition groups are looking into local currencies.

My point is that if we cut out the excess in our personal lives, we could probably shave off 10-20% of our oil usage with only a minor adjustment to our life.

Most peoples' jobs depend on the excess in our personal lives. In America, 2% of the population grows food. If we cut out the excess in our personal lives, most everyone else will lose their job, and then lose their ability to buy food. Then the 2% who actually grow food will no longer have a market to sell it into.

Yeah-and you just destroy fast food jobs by practicing these very reasonable economies.

And as more of us adopt these strategies,more become unemployed in various other fields,and the snowball chasing Daffy Duck down the hill gets bigger and bigger.

The primary source of problems is solutions.;)

And no I don't have the answers.

I have not been to Trinidad, but I know someone who has. They are in a situation where those "other fields" which are set to face severe job losses (starbucks, mcdonalds, ect...) never had jobs, so basically the same situation North America will find itself in eventually. In Trinidad, you need very basic things to survive, basically just something to keep the rain off, food and water. In North America you need a heated home and food and water. At the hardware store there, there is an excess of employees - all very low paid, with far more employees there than necessary. This keeps the customers (few and far between) happy, and probably helps with theft. It is also an anti-corruption measure; unless literally everyone there is in on the conspiracy, then nobody can get away with stealing money or good systematically.

My point is that, if catabolic collapse over decades is indeed our fate, we are headed for a similar kind of arrangement. My guess is that minimum wage won't move much upwards but the dollar will get a lot less valuable, so employees will be cheap and giving good customer service to people who can keep spending will be a priority. Zbigniew Brzezinski has his own idea: "tittytainment". Basically, he imagines a future where 20% of the population is required to support the other 80%, with the economy having no use for them. Basically, it is a mixture of propaganda and entertainment meant to keep the 80% as docile as possible. I believe that the "titty" part is meant to compare it to breastfeeding and has nothing to do with pornography. Anyway, Brzezinski is an interesting guy and probably knows about peak oil.

I do believe you have a good point.

I remember an exchange in some old English novel wherein the sensitive young daughter wants her rich daddy to help out the poor people-and he explains that he is already helping out many many poor people by giving them various jobs that paid only a pittance plus room and board but that he really would be much better off without most of them around since the work they were doing was of no consequence.

He went on to explain however that it was a case of supporting them with a job or without,as they went with the estates, and that things were much more orderly with jobs.

The system in Trinidad also has built-in resilience to deal with a social convention that is common in tropical places where most people will be poor for life, where young men will work only as much as necessary to keep their basic needs met, so they cannot really be trusted to show up for work. This is probably a more healthy attitude towards work than the North American attitude. North Americans will be more reliable and therefore less resilience is needed to deal with absenteeism, which means a system of 4 hour work days or 3 day work weeks would be possible. Such a schedule would work well if people end up growing some of their own food. After all, the only scenario which does not involve mass famine and total collapse involves some industrialized agriculture to provide staples. Either way, it will not be fun.

That being said, my "fantasy collapse" (put two TODers in a room together and you get three collapse scenarios and an acronym) is something like the last chapter of Jeff Rubin's book. I remain doubtful that I will get to see that happen (instead of something worse). Either way, we do have the unique privilege of living at an inflection point in human history, which is something.

Anti_Elvis, you misunderstand our present economy. That "10% cut today" may provide activities and services that are not essential, but those activities and services are peoples' paid occupations. If you add another 10% to our present U-6 unemployment rate of 16%, the resulting economic contraction will make the financing of energy alternatives even less likely than it is now.

I've also figured out how to capture that "never ending supply of energy"! I have developed a self-replicating solar-collection system; in fact, you eventually have to destroy units of it or it will overrun areas. I'm calling it 'photosynthetic plants'. (The name 'green plants' was already copyrighted by a complex of chlorinated hydorcarbon factories in Cleveland :) Kunstler is quite correct that many more Americans will soon be involved in growing food during the Long Emergency. As soon as we figure out how to make hoeing till you hurt in the hot sun glamorous, we can all start marching toward that happy future where the threat of collapse was just a bad dream.

I agree wholeheartedly with Anti_Elvis. I've long suffered from a conceptual discontinuity between all the talk of collapse on the one hand and consideration of my own situation (and those around me) on the other. I live in the UK rather then the US and accept there may be fundamental differences but the simple fact is that I could, with minimal inconvenience, reduce my car use by over 50%. Even getting rid of the car altogether wouldn't be life-changing in any way that really matters. Same for most of the folk around me.

I could also eat and generally consume a lot less. I do get the argument that if everyone did this then a lot of the jobs based on discretionary activity/spend would evaporate but that's not neccessarily the same as collapse - people would eventually shift back towards non-discretionary activity/employment. Yes, there would be discomfort that comes with change but that's different from saying everyone would starve.

And if the current financial system cannot cope then it too will dissolve. But many countries have faced currency collapse before (which is probably what we are talking about) and survived the experience only to recover and subsequently prosper. Prosper in this case will mean not increased consumption but a move towards a more frugal (happier who knows?) lifestyle. After all, the infrastructure, labour force, knowledge and skill base and other 'stuff' is still there even if the paper money is not.

Where it doesn't work of course is if TPTB decide to resort to all out war to preserve the status-quo. If that happens, and it turns nuclear, then it probably is all over. In which case the silver lining is that the planet is purged of our species and all the other lifeforms can breathe a collective sigh of relief and get on with the business of doing whatever it is they do. After the fall-out has settled of course.


I'm not saying there won't be economic dislocation, what I'm saying is that it could happen slowly enough that there wouldn't be worldwide calamity. I can have a bottle of Stella Artois or I can have a bottle of locally brewed beer. One has an incredibly huge carbon footprint, the other has a much smaller one.

In short, what I'm trying to say is that money, like people, will remain more local. But that doesn't mean an "end to it all". 40 years ago American was a far more "local" economy yet it was hardly a 3rd world nation with rebel bandits in the street. At that time we didn't catch Whitefish in Lake Michigan and then ship them to China to be packaged to be shipped back.

This coming Friday I can spend 12 dollars on some Stella Artois or I can spend 12 dollars on locally brewed beer. Buying local will simply cut my carbon footprint..NOT what I spend nor my economic activity level. When I sit down to a plate of fruit, it'll have apples & peaches rather than mango's and pineapple. There will be a shift where money is spent, but overall economic activity doesn't need to decline.

I'm not saying that there won't be difficulties..there will be economic dislocation just as there was with Free Trade, etc. But I don't believe it will be the be all and end all

In the end man...the growth and the crash of the American economy was due to the fact that the Western world is built on debt..and the high price of oil just tipped the economy over the edge. Had there been less or no debt, we might have seen a different outcome. Oil or not, the path we were on was unsustainable and now it's come crashing down.

The mortgage crisis was not caused by peak oil. It was caused by socialist policies in the US. Jimmy Carter (The Community Reinvestment Act), Bill Clinton's expansion of the policy, ACORN, and their lawyers (BH Obama & Associates). Prosecuting and suing banks because they wouldn't give mortgage loans to people who don't pay their bills was a bad idea. It still is.
There's a whole host of even worse ideas currently being implemented. That's why the economy is getting worse not better.

The economy will turn around when the left wing nuts are thrown out of office, and only then. There's plenty of oil (10 trillion barrels).

The mortgage crisis was caused by GWB and the Republicans.

THEY had control !!

One cannot blame those who were completely out of power.

Slightly over $1 billion in "non-conforming ARMs" had been issued on January 1,2001 (A few hundred million more could have been issued in Clinton's last 2+ weeks in office).

A very limited scale experiment to see if lower credit score people could actually pay off. If all went bad, $1.x billion would be absorbed by the system without a ripple.

GWB and those irresponsible Republicans issued almost $600 BILLION in "non-conforming ARMs" and added low document loans (aka Liar loans). They also gave zero regulatory oversight to the entire derivatives that ballooned during the years of Republican control.

Get your history straight,

Democrats - Bad

Best Hopes for the Truth,


Alan,you are generlly better informed than I am on energy issues but I'm not so sure about politics any more.

The democrats played a truly major role in this whole financial mess from day one-there are such things as tactical decisions and strategic decisions,and world views that underlie both.

Somehow I doubt if you understand just how much influence bau has on the democrats,or say for instance how big a role certain key democrats played in creating the credit bubble via subprime loans.

Barney Frank had as much to do with it as any two republicans-I do recognize that he had the best of intentions.

I can only type with two fingers and poorly at that and I can't write it up here.

The conservatives have a couple of good magazines where you can read the conservative side of the story.The circulation of these magazines is miniscule.Talk radio is necessarily geared to the lowest common denominator audience and repeats the same first grade level hot button talking points over and over because it is not organized and has no other way to pay it's bills.

Npr and the msm are sophisticated in fact and by comparision.They control the content of the message absorbed by the general public and it is no suprise that so many people do not know who is actually responsible in whole or in part for so many different problems.

Sometimes I think I am all alone when it comes to keeping informed in regard to both sides of contemporary politics.

There are always three sides to any political story-lthe left, the right, and the "truth" wich is a squishy concept more like a greased pig that a stone monument,but it is always somewhere between the other two.

"Wrong Party" senators still have some residual influence, even if the other party has a majority and the President.

This is NOT true of House members. Whatever Barney Frank's intentions, he had no power from 2001 till early 2007. And as a liberal gay D, if he pushed anything the R's in control would likely oppose it out of spite.

Last night I went on a bit of a rant, (under a lot of pressure finishing a white paper at the same time) and a new poster "set me off". I just wanted to blast him. Not good TOD etiquette I admit.


I'm really thinking in terms of the whole shooting match since back about a hundred years ago-whatever the democrats pushed thru is still on the books mostly.

Ditto the republicans.

There is at one level a lot of difference but at the fundamental level ,not so much.

Both parties have had a hand in shaping all important policies but more impoprtant is the fact that any program once established is essentially immortal.

Maybe if for the sake of argument I say the republicans are responsible for the housing bubble-just how many democrats went along to get along because THIER constituents believed they were getting rich?

ALL OF THEM-if they represented a prosperous district.If not they did all they could to bring the bubble to thier district too.

It was caused by socialist policies in the US. Jimmy Carter (The Community Reinvestment Act), Bill Clinton's expansion of the policy, ACORN, and their lawyers (BH Obama & Associates).

Ever heard of the American Dream Downpayment Act?
Ever heard of the Glass-Steagal Act?
Ever noticed the policy of low interest rates from the Fed since the 1980s?
Ever noticed the policy speech by Bernanke complaining that the Chinese "saved too much."
Ever wondered why Bush II suggested you go shopping rather than buy war bonds?

Take the partisan blinders off.
You will discover a whole new world.
And maybe find the ring in your nose.

Contemplate this, my child, on the Tree of Woe

Actually, it was the repeal of Glass-Steagal, but no matter.

The last two years aren't on this graph yet, and those will set a whole new slope to the debt rise.

It's interesting that the only flat years were during the juxtaposed Rep congress vs Clinton presidency, while they also had the post-coldwar, post-Gulf War peace divident to squander, and the whole tech bubble.

Looking back, the years 95-99 were good years for me professionally and personally. Funny how that seems to align.

This is a joke, right? The bulk of the bad loans were made between 2002 and 2007. Neither Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton nor Obama were in charge then.

Right. Obama was a lawyer for ACORN then suing banks. He had nothing to do with it. lol

It was the socialist democrats that caused the mortgage mess, make no mistake. Republicans (including McCain) were warning of the impending implosion.

Clinton is probably more to blame than anyone. Read this article from 1999. The writing was on the wall then.

The whole concept really goes back to Jimmy Carter.

Wrong, It is the Republicans that. literallly made 99+% of the mortgage mess.

12/31/2000 is a good divide between Administrations (no audited data for 1/20/2001). Non-conforming ARMs issued by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were less than $2 billion. GWB and his happy band of spendthrift Republicans issued almost another $600 billion.

Sorry if facts show that Republicans are the worst, and cause of our current economic problems (and many other problems as well).

Ds - Tax and Spend
Rs - Borrow and Waste#


# I am trying to think of ANYTHING of lasting value we got from the Rs doubling our national debt.

Nope, can't think of a thing.

GSEs increased lending because of rules put in place under Clinton in 1999. Clinton's expansion of Carter's policy of giving out loans to people with bad credit. You can easily see from the youtube hearings who was against lending reform - the Democrats in Congress.

And if we're talking about increasing the debt, let's talk about how Obama has increased the budget deficit 800% in 6 months to $4 trillion. He's breaking all records, including some State unemployment records just released:

As noted, Clinton did start a VERY limited, small scale experiment. Less than $2 billion. Even if 100% went bad, would not cause even a ripple in the mortgage market.

It was GWB and the incompetent Republicans who issued over 99% of such loans, taking a small pilot program and turning into fuel for a housing bubble.

The facts show the Ds are blameless and the Republicans have destroyed our economy !

May we NEVER let such incompetent and evil people into power again !

Best Hopes for the Return of the Whigs to replace Republicans,


Right. The Pareto Law always points to the people with the money. Republicans are usually the moneyed interests so they are always guilty -- by definition.

Anybody can do the math and find out that defaults on poor people's mortgages is a drop in the bucket. The old 80/20 rule in action.

The only reason that this is not known is that the strong will always blame the defenseless. They thus frame the debate and project their crimes onto the poor.

Sorry, but the rich don't get sub-prime mortgages. The failure of the mortgage industry started with the sub-primes. Of course now that Obama and the Democrats have complete control, the entire economy is failing.

The problem, con, is not that you are a tool.
The problem is that you are such a dull tool.

Please spend some time on this site. Really.

You will discover an amazing fact.
There is more to the world than (D) and (R).

I don't read Denninger but I hear him referenced here all the time. I guess I will look at him.

" There is more to the world than (D) and (R)."

If you mean that both sides of the Hegelian dialectic, binary, Left/ Right paradigm are nothing more than meat puppets for the Big money machine shadow government comprised of psychopaths that want power and total control................well then I agree.

"the rich don't get sub-prime mortgages"

Depends on which side of the mortgage you are looking at.

Some of the Rich got VERY rich on Subprimes.. all perfectly legal.

Alan I've read a bit about how American Mortgages work and you can look to the middle of the Depression with the founding of the FHA and later loan programs for returning Vets as to the roots of the housing crisis.

Its not a party politics. And before we claim GWB as the big winner lets see how Obama does. I'll predict right now that he will at least tie if not beat GWB at losing money.

Its way to deep of and issue to be just about part politics.

Underlying the housing problem is of course the mentality that Americans deserve homes. Homes should be treated like any other article and sold according to market rates and ability of the borrower to pay if debt is used.

Once we started off this path in the depths of the depression it was certain to become a train-wreck.

Thats not to say redlining and other issues in the mortgage business are right just those should have been problems solved within the mortgage industry preferably via crippling fines showing no mercy. You don't need banks that profile people beyond their income statement. Plenty of other banks around to take their place.

And I bring that up because a lot of the games played where done under the guise of affordable housing for minorities in reality they where simply ways to enrich bankers.

The fact that the US government was unable and or unwilling to punish banks for improper mortgage rules basically tells you all you need to know. The systems been rotten for a very very long time.

In fact the loans in the 1920's were fairly bogus also but whats funny is the cards where so tilted towards the bankers that when they got what they wanted and foreclosed on homes with 50% down payment and balloon notes they found that they where worth far less than 50%. Even when the rules where entirely in their favor they still messed it up.

And of course you can go back to England for the original laws. In fact the lender did not have to even return title to the land once the mortgage was paid and they could sell it even if someone was paying a mortgage on the property.

So they started life completely titled towards the lender in my opinion as attempts have been made to give the borrower rights in the transaction the banks have worked to ensure any rights are made irrelevant is fast as possible.

The reason I bring all this up is once you read about the history you see its a continuum stretching back to England and probably further on to France and then Roman law. At no point along this trail has one political group stood out. However its obvious that the moral hazard associated with mortgages has increased steadily along the way. Sometimes it tilted the playing field towards the borrower sometimes towards the lender but the overall level of moral hazard steadily increased overtime requiring ever more Government intervention to keep the game going.

The only reason it lasted this long was because generally housing retained its value and did not deviate to far from equivalent rents. But that just keeps the game from collapsing it does not ensure its fair.

Indeed the nature of mortgages played a large role in allowing the creation of fiat currencies central banks and steady inflation esp amortizing mortgages where the lender gets paid most of the interest before the money is devalued. Almost as good as all the interest up front with the added benefit that the little bit of equity built up kept default rates low and also reduced the book losses from foreclosure.

The perfect scam and the bankers even messed that one up in the end as equity values rose and they tried to cash in.

And before we claim GWB as the big winner lets see how Obama does.

GWB inherited a budget surplus and a good economy. QUITE the warm bed !

Obama inherited the worst financial and economic crisis in US history, rivaled only by FDRs first days.

Given the delta in starting points, NO WAY can Obama do as bad a job as the Republicans did (unless the United States dissolve before 2012 that is).


Conserv, don't jump to conclusions about the real estate business. There have been real estate bubbles in the past - during Warren Harding's administration, for instance. There may not be any more at least for awhile, but the potential exists. Part of bubbles is human nature - the desire for something for nothing.

Real estate speculation is very complex. I've done it, I've made money at it and I know. Generally Federal laws don't matter except for the mortgage deduction which effects lenders more than it does borrowers. Any subsidy is cakculated into the size of the loan; the subsidies drive prices higher. There are other subsidies, but those to mortgage originators and support for derivatives have been more effecting than those to individual house buyers. This would certainly include funds distributed by organizations such as Acorn.

Right now, the defaults are appearing in high value and commercial lines. None of these have any connection to 'community development'. Instead, the reflect the intent to speculate by high income individuals. Most 'liberal' development has been supported by real estate businesses. These all represent money to them which is just as good as anyone else's.

One of the economic arguments within the US is about production vs. speculation. The government has actively supported all forms of speculation since 1982 and has done so because speculation shows greater returns than productive activity. Can't blame that on polical ideology particularly. It's also not just in the US, but in all countries.

Speculation is a hedge against the rising energy prices that constrain productive activity so I will let you put two and two together.

As for the '10 trillion barrels' ... umderstand the pricing regime for the greatest history of petroleum production has distributed profits downstream @ all links of the petroleum supply chain in order to benefit the entire economy which in turn benefits the petroleum industry. A happy economy expands and creates more customers for petroleum. This regime is a cash- flow model that is relatively easy to scale.

Right now the economies of the entire world are under severe stress. The credit generating mechanisms of the world's developed countries are pouring credit into markets and banks as if there is no tomorrow. Nevertheless, the stress increases. Why? Because the source of the stress is distortions to petroleum pricing regime. Profits are now being concetrated in the hands of producers and intermediaries upstream of refiners. This will eventually cause great harm to producers. Meanwhile, the rising prices are giving ordinary commercial activity the bends.

The solution is for producers to put more product onto the market and cut costs, pushing profits downstream into the petroleum supply chain. But ... they don't do this. Why?

Because they can't. The producers are between a rock and a hard place as well. If they overproduce, they will bankrupt themselves by depletion like the Mexicans and the British. If they underproduce they lose market share and the resulting price bankrupts their customers. The constraint on oil prices is now economic collapse rather than oil sourced from new supply coming onto the market. Oil has gone from a game of 'Beverly Hillbillies' to a serious business with bankruptcy like daggers all around. It's not fun, anymore.

If the industry had 10 trillion barrels oil would be flowing cheaply and there would be no economic crisis. Think about it.

Oil would be flowing cheaply if the left wing Democrats would allow US oil majors to produce oil in areas that are now off limits. Bush tried for many years to open up ANWR and offshore, but was unsuccessful because of Democrat opposition in Congress.

If the US doesn't develop the oil, China, Russia, and other countries will. Your theory that oil is causing the underlying economic problem doesn't seem to apply to China does it? They still have growth even as the US economy is in decline. It's because their oligarchy government has finally figured out that socialism doesn't work, and are adopting pro-growth policies. Ironically, the US and western EU are now adopting failed socialist policies.

Of course now all type of loans and businesses are failing. Liberals have complete control of the federal government.

Bush tried for many years to open up ANWR and offshore, ...

Are you for real?

Bush II did not lift his father's ban on drilling in ANWR/OCS until his last year in office, seven months before the end of his eight years as President. He could have lifted the Executive Order banning drilling at any time but chose to wait until a few months before the 08 elections.

Oil would be flowing cheaply ...

New in town, aren't you!

Well, done! I've been played a fool by a fool. :lol:

'Oil would be flowing cheaply..'


Turn your head and cough, friend.


In this forum you are only giving conservatives a bad name by painting them as energy cornucopians.Since the readership is 99.9 percent convinced that there is not enough oil left under our control to matter ,in terms of the big picture,they assume that you are are either niave,ignorant, or a cynic set on making a buck somehow.

This naturally leads most of the readership to conclude that ALL conservatives are niave, ignorant, or worse.

Think about it.

Not to worry, Mac.
You and Lynford and other conservatives here do plenty to remind me that we have lots of common ground to cover, and can have productive conversations. I hope my own input is as reasonable.

Not to simply accuse Conservationist being wrong, I would just ask him (her) to support such rash statements about supply. I suspect it's not something he CAN back up.. but that would be the avenue to take it down.


At one time I was a long haired almost hippie and a rather liberal sort-if you are not a liberal when you are young you have no heart.

Now that I am old,I tend to lean more in the other direction-if you are not a conservative when you are old you have no brain.

But really I am niether these days,although I tend to think that "conservative" solutions and world views are more realistic in some cases.

Please understand that republicans and conservatives are not necessarily the same species.

As a thinking conservative I realize the our current health care system is unworkable,inefficient, and un just-poor people who have worked hard all thier life are the foundation upon which the fortunes of the rich have been built.If a few tycoons have to live on only a hundred million a year to change this situation,so be it.

The only politically workable way to fix it is to go to the European model-as bad as it is,it is still better than what we have.

So I am a liberal on health care.

I just found out that an acquaintance who is a veteran was told that he has a progressive untreatable eye disease at the veterans hospital-that he is going blind.Fortunately another friend of his convinced him to see a private practice doc,who said the "other doc"
was an idiot.Cataracts!So hes had the cataract operation in one eye already and he can see fine with that eye now.Whether he will be reimbursed is an open question-but there is someone on his side-me- who knows how to disturb a buercrats peacrful afternoon nap and bring such things to the attention of the public.

So is his problem the result of socialized(military) medicine,or incompetence?We are divided-some think this was a case of rationing at the local level by just lying to this guy who has not long to live now anyway.Others think the doc was /is just either overworked or incompetent.

I expect to remain a conservative on defense because frankly I believe that in this respect the liberal establishment has had its head up its butt ever since WWII.

We will never have good schools across the board in this country so long as the liberal model holds because the system is incapable of reforming itself.A good school voucher program could easily solve this problem but this solution will never get a fair trial in this country because the liberals will not allow even a fair trial to take place.

We will continue to die from eating too much grease and sugar because the conservatives believe that if we are dumb enough not to know better..well the freedom to eat what we want-really to SELL WHAT we want to sell-is more important than staying alive.

I have had the sad experience of visiting two old friends during thier last days who spent years railing about the liberals taking over because of the fight over smoking.One of them had quit smoking too late and we did not talk about tobacco.The other rather ruefully admitted that he wished he had paid more attention to the arguments of the other side.He brought the subject up himself.

Lung cancer is a very hard way to go.

Labels.Who needs them?

I would say that most conservatives dismiss peak oil altogether as left wing propaganda. A lot of effort has gone into convincing Americans that there isn't any oil in the off limits areas anyway. Well if that's the case, then why not allow drilling there??? The liberals really aren't very bright. lol

Listen to T. Rex, he knows the score:

That can turn out to be a terrible mistake when the problem is physical.
When the cheap oil runs out the conservatives will essentially have
teached people that the left wing has the correct world view...

Oil would be flowing cheaply if the left wing Democrats would allow US oil majors to produce oil in areas that are now off limits.

This is fabulous news. Please show us where all this oil is. Although the people on this site have about as good a handle on remaining oil resources as anywhere, we clearly have missed something big (according to you).

Then, once you've shown us where the oil is, compare that to the world daily consumption and calculate the rate at which your new oil would come to market. My guess is that you really haven't looked at the numbers much and are simply repeating what someone else has told you.

Here is your chance to make your case. Are you going to take it?

You missed something big alright, the fact that the oceans cover 70% of the Earth. The oil is there, it's not being developed now because it's not needed. When it's needed (and the price is right), it will be developed.

Just as I thought.

I think you've demonstrated adequately to me that, well, you haven't done sufficient research to have a fruitful conversation about this. Good luck with your worldview.

We can extract Light Sweet Crude from seawater now? :lol:

The real reason that Oil isn't flowing fast and cheap from places like ANWR and offshore US is because there's bugger all there!

I say: call their bluff. Open them up. Rush et al have been bleating about how those damn commie hippie greenies have been preventing god-fearin' 'Merkans getting the oil they deserve for years now, so let them have it. In ten years, we'll see who's got a red face. I'd be surprised is some leases even got any bids.

That budget surplus under Clinton was bogus stock flipping capital gains from the tech bubble. Just another illusion.

Conservationist is demonstrating why civilization and human population will collapse: too many humans are unable to comprehend what is happening.

Civilization and population will not collapse. The US economy will be fixed as soon as the left wing socialists are voted out of office. A few more years of this mayhem and the voters will be ready.

Ha ha haha!

Civilization and population will not collapse. The US economy will be fixed as soon as the left wing socialists are voted out of office. A few more years of this mayhem and the voters will be ready.

The economy might not collapse provided that real left wing socialists are voted INTO office! Cuba didn't collapse when a large percentage of their oil was cut off along with most foreign exchange. They succeeded because of their government, not in spite if it. There are no sure paths to success or failure, only credible or non- credible narratives.

The narrative of 'left wingers' destroying economies leaves out all the right wingers who have destroyed economies. That is the real issue, the destruction of - and by - economies. It is the economy - which is neither left nor right wing - which is destroying everything leaving the non- economy first, then the economy itself with nothing. Both wings are equally capable of nuclear- scale devastation ... a new narrative is necessary.

If you believe that this country is bursting with petroleum reserves, more power to you. I hope you can figure out how to get rich in the oil business, since you clearly know something that the 'msjors' don't.


Has either party shown an ability to provide a political climate where adequate investemnets for the future can be made? The physical economy is a slow moving supertanker, it cant be fixed in a year or three.

I would argue that the later Clinton years did. There was the clear potential to pay off the national debt, inflation above 3% seemed unlikely, decent economy, etc.


You mean the later Clinton years when there was a Republican Congress in charge. It's the Congress that really runs the show, that's why things have been so screwed up since Pelosi took over in 2006.

It is the oligarchy that really runs the show through payoffs and bribes of all sorts and death threats if necessary.
Who is watching the watchmen?

Your point about trying to "save" the oil that is still under Western control speaks to common sense but it is just a very good guess.

These other guys here that refute you have an awful lot of good research and in particular the cost in energy units of obtaining new energy is the best explanation for depletion.

How hard it must be to get deep water oil.

How hard it must be to get deep water oil.

There are many different opinions on this. I would give the most weight to those that are actually working on the rigs. The Chevron manager in the video says the sky is the limit.


Do you know what Prudhoe Bay pumps today ? And what it did at peak ? And how much longer till it drops by half again ?

Do you know that with "Drill Baby Drill", Texas (with no significant restrictions on drilling) cannot produce enough oil, on + offshore, to keep it's Hummers rolling in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Ft. Worth, El Paso etc. without importing oil ? Texas, were it an independent nation, would be an oil importer.

Did you know that offshore oil is mostly found around the mouths of major rivers, deposited many millions of years ago (or do you think it all started 6.000 years ago ?)

Did you know that geologists have no hope for oil in the vast majority of the ocean ?

Did you know that it takes a decade (or more, see Thunder Horse and Kashagan) to put a new field into production. And by the time 2020 rolls around all the planned new production will be less than depletion (see Prudhoe Bay & Cantarell) ? There will be less oil on the market.

I could continue, but I have made some points.

I suspect the answer to all of the above is "NO", because, well, you do know.


Did you know that offshore oil is mostly found around the mouths of major rivers, deposited many millions of years ago (or do you think it all started 6.000 years ago ?)

Did you know that geologists have no hope for oil in the vast majority of the ocean ?

Do you have any references to these assertions?

Jeffrey Brown, also known as Westexas and an independent geologist, mentioned this and was seconded by other petroleum experts on the this board.

We have quite the expertise here. Euan Mearns has characterized all but one oil field in the North Sea, Rockman reports from the on-shore US gas plays, etc.

It makes total sense. Oil require large amounts of organic sediments, and then these sediments need to be covered with caprock. Large rivers can provide both. In the middle of the Pacific, neither applies.

Also, above a certain temperature oil breaks down into natural gas and tar. It turns out the the deep Gulf of Mexico is unusually cool. Fast sediment build-up by the Mississippi River is considered to be the cause.

In most places, no oil, just NG, below about 15,000'


Just leave out the production data for a minute and look at the price. The entire oil industry orbits around price and the structure that makes the wellhead price work for everyone.

The lowest price in the long- term timeframe for crude oil was @ the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999. This was around $11 a barrel, some grades were less; as low as $6.50 a barrel. What did Mr. Market say? That there was a lot of oil around to drive down the price regardless of demand.

Prices doubled than doubled again within a couple of years. Why? The balance of leverage shifted from the consumers to the producers. When consumers dominate the market, the wellhead price is low enough so that all participants in the energy consumption chain can earn a small profit. The overall profit of the entire chain is large. This profitability allows the chain to expand which benefits the producer. More links in the chain means more customers for oil products. Shifting market power upstream to producers concentrates the profits there. The rest of the chain does not have any more margin and goes out of business. Profits increase becuase the producers can control their output and force the consumers to pay more or do without. In a nutshell, this is what happened last summer.

With excess (spare capacity) amounts of oil available or even perceived to be available, the producers cannot risk controlling output as they would sacrifice market share. (Demand destruction has the same effect.) Excess oil put onto the market cheaply as was the case during the late 1990's means that no small cartel of producers can concentrate market share into monopoly power.

Conversely, no excess oil means pricing power can be concentrated without risk of harm to producers from competitors.

The long term price trend and the continuous failure of more and more businesses suggest that the pricing dynamic favors producers exercising monopoly pricing power. In turn this indicates that the supply of oil is constrained. Since there is little spare capacity and what exists which lies with Saudi Arabia and perhaps Iraq, there is no market competition to drive prices lower and spread cost benefits downstream.

This is what Mr Market is saying. If you want to argue with Mr Market, go right ahead!

Do you have any references to these assertions?

If you have to ask for references, you completely slept through earth science.  The deep ocean floor is far too young to hold oil; once we reach the end of the continental shelves, that's it.

Hopefully a few more years of this mayhem will destroy both the Republican and Democratic parties.

It is a two headed snake called the money class.
If there are two "parties" at all it is now the "have party" and the "have not party" the problem being that the "have not party" doesn't have any representation.
This whole thing will eventually blow up.

Thank you for saying that!

There are so many people out there whose lack of ability to understand this situation accurately is making the whole thing worse.

It makes me wonder just how many total fantasy mirages are just held together by oil?

(my own included.. Reality Bites, but all I want to know is whether I can ultimately take it or not.)

If only a one time 10% decrease in oil consumption would be sufficient, but likely we are going to need to decrease consumption 10% per year.

Besides the oil decline dynamic there is also the growth of developing nations. Manufacturing in developing countries is growing at such a high rate that the developed countries will soon be uncompetitive in almost all manufactured goods. And developing conutries have similar rates of growth of oil consumption.

See: Manufacturing a Better Future For America

It depends where you live. If you live in certain parts of Asia, where every square inch of arable land is already used, and if your agriculture is heavily dependant on fossil fuels, and if you already eat fairly low on the food chain, then you're probably toast.

Elvis, you are forgetting about peak phosphorus which will impact food growing along with peak fresh water which is already impacting food growing and peak ideal climate which will impact food growing and water and disease spread etc.

Just because something has gone on for centuries does not guarantee that it will go on even in a few decades. I suggest reading "Collapse of Complex Societies" by Joseph Tainter if for nothing other than to find out all the societies that did not go on....

First I have heard of Carolyn Baker. Looks like she has written several interesting books.


she [carolyn baker] sees collapse as an 'initiation rite'-as found in indigenous cultures.

i have found her book amazing in that it stares clearly in the face our horrific scenarios, but takes a view that we are better off doing so psychologically/spiritually as we -we pass/make it thru this 'initiation rite'.


agree, so few see this, I do what I can to open eyes and not fall into despair

thanks; yes, i've given up re larger circles, & focus on family & close friends. tis hell sometimes!

Concerning transportation three and four wheel recumbent(with chairs not saddles) bicycles can replace automobiles with 1/20th the resources that autos consume.Although they are slower than cars they can handle most transportation needs. Check out the following sites and envision these vehicles replacing cars on the roads: and also


The question I see is not lack of resources, but the lack of the ability to bring together diverse resources from around the world to make things. In my view, it is really our ability to combine resources from diverse locations that has enabled all of the high tech devices that we make today. In fact, the manufacture of nearly everything depends of computerized controls, and these computerized controls use far more materials for production than we can put together in a 50 to 100 mile radius.


Shipping doesn't require oil. Really.

Long distance land shipping can go by electrified rail, local can go by plug-in hybrid truck, and water shipping can find substitutes for oil.

Substitutes for oil for water shipping? Pshaw, you say.

No, really. Substitutes include greater efficiency, wind, solar, battery power and renewably generated hydrogen.

Efficiency: Fuel consumption per mile is roughly the square of speed, so slowing down saves fuel: in 2008, with high fuel costs, most container shipping slowed down 20%, and reduced fuel consumption by roughly a third. For example, Kennebec Captain's ship carries 5,000 cars from Japan to Europe (12,000 miles) and burns 8.5 miles/ton of fuel at 18.5knots, for a total of about 1,400 tons of fuel. At a 10% lower speed of 16.6 kts, the ship burns 21% less fuel (about 300 tons).

Size brings efficiency: the Emma Maersk uses about 320 tons of fuel per day to carry 220,000 tons of cargo, while Kennebec Captain's ship uses about 60 tons to carry about 23,000 tons (see ), so the Emma Maersk uses roughly 60% as much fuel per ton.

Other substantial sources of savings include better hull (I've seen mention of "axe cleaver" designs) and engine design (very large (3 story!)marine diesels can get up to 50% thermodynamic efficiency), and low friction hull coatings (the Emma Mærsk saves about 1.3% that way).

Wind: kites mounted on the ship's bow have been shown to provide 10-30% of ship's power - this is cost effective now. See and It's astonishing what can be done with modern materials, computer-aided design, and electronic control systems, to turn the old new again.

Solar: The first question is: is it cost effective? Sure - it's just straightforward calculations: PV can generate power for the equivalent of diesel at $3/gallon (40KWH per gallon @40% efficiency = 16 KWH/gallon; $3/16KWH = about $.20/KWH, or $4/Wp, which large I/C installations have already surpassed.

Let's look at the Emma Mærsk . With a length of 397 metres, and beam of 56 metres, it has a surface area of 22,400 sq m. At 20% efficiency we get about 4.5MW on the ship's deck at peak power. Now, as best I can tell it probably uses about 10MW at 12 knots (very roughly a minimum speed), 20MW at 15 knots, and 65MW (80% of engine rated power) at 25.5 knots (roughly a maximum). So, at minimum speed it could get about 45% of it's power for something close to 20% of the time, for a net of 9%. Now, if we want to increase that we'll need either higher efficiency PV, or more surface area from outriggers or something towed, perhaps using flexible PV.

Here' a fun example of a boat that's 100% PV powered:

Batteries: Large batteries could provide most of the remaining power needed, to be recharged at frequent port stops, as used to be done with coal (just as they picked up coal 60 years ago - that's why the US wanted the Philippines military bases, and why they're not needed in the oil era). Let's analyze li-ion batteries: assume 20MW engine power at a cruising speed a speed of 15 knots (17.25 mph) or 20MW auxiliary assistance to a higher speed, and a needed port-to-port range of 2,000 miles (a range that was considered extremely good in the era of coal ships - the average length of a full trip is about 4,500 miles (see chart 8 ). That's 116 hours of travel, and 2,310 MW hours needed. At 200whrs per kg, that's 11,594 metric tons. The Emma Maersk has a capacity of 172,990 metric tons, so we'd need about 7% of it's capacity (by weight) to add batteries.

So, li-ion would do. Now it would be more expensive than many alternatives that would be practical in a "captive" fleet like this - many high energy density, much less expensive batteries exist whose charging is very inconvenient, but could be swapped out in an application like this. These include Zinc-air, and others. It should be noted that research continues on batteries with much higher density still, as we see here and here, but existing batteries would suffice.

Hydrogen fuel cells: they can't compete with batteries in cars, but they'd work just fine in ships, where creation of a fleet fueling network would be far simpler, and where miniaturization of the fuel cell isn't essential. If batteries, the preferred solution for light surface vehicles, can't provide a complete solution, a hydrogen "range extender" would work quite well.

Hydrogen has more energy per unit mass than other fuels (61,100 BTUs per pound versus 20,900 BTUs per pound of gasoline), and fuel cells are perhaps 50% more efficient, so hydrogen would weigh less than 1/3 as much as diesel fuel.

Electricity storage using hydrogen will likely cost at least 2x as much as using batteries (due to inherent conversion inefficiency), but will still be much cheaper then current fuel prices. Fuel cells aren't especially heavy relative to this use: fuel cell mass 325 W/kg (FreedomCar goal) gives 32.5 MW = 100 metric tons, probably less than a 80MW diesel engine.

Hydrogen would have lower upfront costs versus batteries, and a lower weight penalty, but would have substantially higher operating costs. The optimal mix of batteries and hydrogen would depend on the relative future costs, but we can be confident that they would be affordable.

Are shipping lines working on this?

Yes. Here's an example:

"The Auriga Leader, operated by NYK Line, was launched in December 2008 and can transport up to 6200 vehicles. NYK Line has set a goal to reduce car carrier energy consumption by 50 percent by 2010 through solar power generation, ship operation improvement, redesigned hull form, propulsion systems energy savings and improved cargo handling."

What about nuclear propulsion?

It would work, I would be skeptical that it could beat the alternatives on cost or speed of deployment.

Don't forget that commercial nuclear plants are built as large as possible to maximize cost-effectiveness. The US Navy doesn't have to worry about cost-effectiveness - it chooses nuclear not on a cost basis, but on an operational effectiveness basis (maximium range without refueling).

The US Navy maintains a rigorous, labor intensive, costly safety program. Per Wikipedia, "A typical nuclear submarine has a crew of over 80. Non-nuclear boats typically have fewer than half as many. " The Emma Maersk, the largest container ship in the world, sails with only 13 crewmembers!

My litmus test for nuclear proposals is their effect on weapons proliferation, especially relative to the complete fuel enrichment cycle. Per Wikipedia, "reactors used in submarines typically use highly enriched fuel (often greater than 20%) to enable them to deliver a large amount of energy from a smaller reactor." This doesn't seem encouraging.

What about the NS Savannah? It was designed as a show vessel, not a workhorse, but it was only a few years after it was decommissioned as "uneconomic" that oil prices shot well above its parity point.

That parity point compared operating cost (excluding 1950's era capital costs, maintenance and disposal, etc) of nuclear to conventional operating costs, including fuel oil at $80/ton in 1974 dollars. I was comparing nuclear to non-oil alternatives - they will be more competitive.

What about air transport in this age of just in time supply chains?

I would estimate less than 5% of plane transport is represented by the kind of small industrial components that go by air. The ratio of fuel cost to product cost is probably .1%. If Fedex fuel costs were to go up by 10x, it wouldn't have any significant effect on the affordability of sending such a part by air.

Shipping does require some kind of functioning financial system and partners who trust each other. Bilateral trade agreements based on something like barter can take up a little of the gap. The problem is trying to keep a fully functioning system going, on a big enough scale to give all of the various inputs needed for manufacturing (both raw materials and the equipment needed to do the manufacturing, including computer controls and an electrical supply). It also helps if the local electrical utility has not gone bankrupt. It is these issues that I see to be the real problem.

the manufacture of nearly everything depends of computerized controls, and these computerized controls use far more materials for production than we can put together in a 50 to 100 mile radius.

That appears to be addressing transportation problems. So, you agree that transportation problems won't be the primary barrier to global trade?

Instead, you feel that the financial system is the problem. Why would finance collapse?

Why would finance collapse?
EASY! Many possibilities.
1/ US debt levels are over 300% GDP (plus without the govt stimulus the GDP is decling) so the interest on the debt is unsustainable (result: foreign lenders may pull the plug at any time collapsing the bond market plus the stock market plus the currency)
2/ The banking system is bankrupt (morally and financially) with huge unrealised losses and only propped up by the Fed. Once the losses can't be hidden then finance will collapse (FDIC and other guarantees will be toilet paper)
3/The Dow and other indices are being propped up on TARP and other money, not on fundamentals. Reality will rear its head and the indices will collapse.
4/The consumer is tapped out (or unemployed), HELOC is history and come Christmas the number of stores going out of business due to poor sales will squash any talk of green shoots with talk of a W recession. When that happens it will be impossible to hide the problems and the markets will collapse
5/ whatever applies to the US is also applicable to most countries (and sometimes worse- look at Spains trade deficit, housing collapse and unemployment rate). So even if the US can kick the can down the road the collapse may start in Europe or Asia and everyone will bolt for the exits at the same time.
=financial collapses, loss of insurance cover, counterparty risk, loss of key component suppliers, trade embargoes, wars, revolutions, piracy, sabotage(by unpaid workers and others) etc.
Do you really trust that the FED, GS, Congress and the banks can stave off reality forever?

US debt levels are over 300% GDP

Is that Fed and consumer debt (including mortgage debt, which one expects to be a multiple of income), or the unrealistic Federal figure that includes Social Security (which isn't guaranteed, and therefore isn't a debt)?

The banking system is bankrupt (morally and financially) with huge unrealised losses

Do you have sources for that?

Good summary !

Earlier, I figured that a 5 masted schooner, displacement about 3,000-3,500 tons, was a "sweet spot" for sail only.

Adding some solar PV and a small screw could help things along more than sail alone.

On the other end, I imagined a new Panamax (after 2014, new locks open and allow larger ships) with one nuclear reactor and a FF backup "just in case". Fast & large. A fleet of, say, 25 such vessels could maintain a lot of trade. And 25 are well within our technical and financial capabilities (USN has more than 25 nuclear subs).

Cheap cargo by sail, time sensitive and expensive cargo by nuke shipping.

An "Iron Silk Road" could connect China (and Korea & Japan) with the EU with standard gauge electrified railroads. Other new rail links are also quite possible.



Those are some good ideas, too.

The possible solutions are interesting. Interesting too, is the path by which we get there.

I suspect that container shipping will be able to out-bid other uses for FF, like personal transportation, for quite some time. Perhaps we'll see the gradual addition of direct wind propulsion, like the Skysails, along with gradual engine electrification and the addition of PV. Later might come gradually growing batteries, and finally the development of entirely new forms, such as pure wind/solar or pure nuclear.

My apologies, that link should be

The assumption that 90% of the human population would give up on life and go quietly into the sunset is fanciful. Think of it this way: If the government selected 90% of the population at random and instructed them to report to death camps within 30 days, would even 1% of them obey?

If the food wasn't there, or the fresh water wasn't there, there would be a lot of the world's population that wouldn't survive.

If you look at the population graphs, a huge share of the growth has come since the start of fossil fuels. We know have a complex system built around fossil fuels. We somehow need to keep our industrialized food system going (bad as it is) if we plan to keep the huge number of people we have alive today, still alive.

We can keep some people alive growing food with only simple tools, but it won't be nearly as many.

Most of the discussion here and in other TOD threads related to decline or collapse takes the view that it is a technical issue and much discussion is given to technical responses and solutions. The real problem is political and the success of any of the technical solutions will be determined by how the politics plays out.
Loosly, politics is the process of mediation of conflicting human demands for control (of resources). As resources from capital to energy etc decline, politics will simply degenerate into out and out physical struggle. To paraphrase: "war is politics conducted by other means". Those who survive long enough will be forced to side with larger power groupings for protection and will live or die on that choice. Individuals, no matter how well armed, how good their organic agriculture is, no matter how many back to basics skills and knowledge they posess will not last long without making hard political choices. Maybe some can hide in the hills so to speak but eventually even these will be confronted by bigger forces. As all this plays out effective relevant technical solutions will gradually emerge. Sustainability of these solutions will likey be determined by time and not grand intellectual decision making. I don't think we can predict any winning technical solutions. My feeling is that we will pass through a phase of fear and danger before any stability will be found. Environmentally we are sure to see a "human locust" phase as millions desperately struggle for survival, followed by the "Easter Island" phase as many more die. I expect to be long gone before this but I cry for my grand children.

You paraphase von Clausewitz on war and politics. Perhaps this film of a speech I gave in London last year will interest you. I agree with the post that heads this thread: accepting the inevitability of collapse is just the beginning.

A more accurate translation of what von Clauswitz said is;

"War is an extention of state politics"

But von Clauswitz was a product of his time and had only a limited understanding of what war is as was presented to him in his lifetime.

If you look at war from a greater historical perspective then war is better described as 'the acquisition of recourses through violence' and can occure on all levels.

If the nukes dont get you your neighbours will.

Thanks for your reply. To quote the old joke, when two Russians meet they form three political parties. Even conflict between neighbours is politics. I agree that war is about the allocation of resources but so are politics and diplomacy. The latter two are simply trying to do it peacefully. In any event, to repeate my original point we should be paying more attention to Orlove and thinking about the psycological adjustments we will all have to make in order to survive. Only those who have followed successful survival strategies will get the chance to really take part in the struggle to implement ongoing technical solutions. It will all be messy, uneven and unpredictable. I support everyone trying to crate present day solutions, however they must be prepared to confront the stormy seas before they will know if their particular life boat will still float.

Intellectualizing on politics is equivalent to designing technical solutions for an uncertain future. I would disagree with you on your fundamental political outlook however I must agree that the real fascist leaders you seek are probably not yet identified. Fortunately cabals of people running around with modified swastikas on their shirts are not the ones the rest of us need to fear. You will simply be co-opted by the really dangerous ones and the vestiges of your organizations will be destroyed by your allies. I would hope that I raise my family well enough that my descendents will be on the opposite side to yours.

+10 Excellent analysis. Best post I've read here in a long while.


Hi Lilith, I am not sure you are responding to my original comment but thank you if you were.

Yes, very good comment. I am convinced that a new policy area will come out of this called depletion management. As a policy is enacted via politics an effective depletion management strategy will occur only through people working together.

WHT I would want this as a goal .. i.e. peacefull allocation of depleting resources and voluntary cooperative approaches would be best. I am just pessimistic that we will peacefully evolve into this. I think the resource allocation, at least in our transition stage will be forced, organized and violent.

I nearly always address my comment to the nane of the perrson I am responding to as it makes it easier for everyone to understand the arguments made-especially when there are lots of comments spread over a couple of days.

Sometimes both te name and time are helpful.

If there is no reply I have no need to feel slighted.

Oh, where do I begin, Gail?

I have no debate with your scenario of population collapse caused by a lack of food. The things you are citing as positives during a population collapse would be trivial, overwhelmed by the reality of the situation.

"Appreciation for what we have today"

The attitudes expressed by Derek in "Life After the Crash: Lessons from Kenya" are not remotely those that would be present during a population collapse. 90% of the people are not dying in Kenya. The population is still increasing. He is talking about people getting along without materialism, not with insufficient necessities, like food, water, heat and shelter.

Derek: "What I experience there is a society that does pretty well with VERY little energy...."

Try telling that to someone in Russia, Canada or New York during the depths of winter while freezing from a lack of energy. Being situated on the equator, Kenya is a bit warmer. After a certain fraction of the population dies (maybe ~20%), society will begin to collapse due to a loss of skilled workers. It does not matter whether one is considering USA or Kenya.

Replacing "less pressure to get ahead" with worrying about whether you and your family will ever have another meal is not a positive.

Replacing "less pressure to pay off debt" with no shelter or worry over an eviction is not a positive.

"Reduction in worries about later life" means one has succumbed to despair by giving up on a future.

Past human behavior suggests ultimately few people think that saving Mother Nature is more important than saving themselves.

Fewer people with a higher standard of living would be nice, but I doubt it would result from population collapse.

I completely agree with the above post. Also I'd like to add that when someone loses hope, you should be very careful of him. If there were just the hint of population collapse and people started losing hope, I expect very violent and inhumane acts of violence all over the place.
Kind of explains why every authority on the subject is talking about population increase and stabilization only.

Think of it this way: If the government selected 90% of the population at random and instructed them to report to death camps within 30 days, would even 1% of them obey?

Perhaps not, but when they do, perhaps the shot they get should be "the antidote".

It would be a PR mistake to call them death camps, though.

Blue Twilight, what a strange comment. No one thinks anyone is going to give up trying to live. A few might but evolution programmed us to try mightily to live although I think that wanes with old age, possibly a program to help the elderly accept death so the tribe can live.

Starvation and disease are always the agents of dieoffs and humans add to that war. As oil becomes scarce it becomes more plausible that a nuclear war will erupt. But overpopulation in any species either ends with depletion of the food supply, or the opportunity for disease to bring things back to a more stable situation. We may just off ourselves ahead of nature's solution.

Isn't this part of the real problem, though. If the general populace really believed that only 10% of the folks currently residing on Planet Earth would make it past 20 years hence, they would do anything to be part of that 10%. And, when food is scarce, they ain't gonna sit around the house playing video games... And, that is when TSHTF.

In my opinion, total collapse of our way of life in the USA is inevitable. I do not have a date for the collapse but expect it to occur within the next decade. Accordingly, all my energy (limited at age 76) is focused on preparing my family and community for that event. I will do my best to insure that they are numbered in the 10% (?) that make it through to the other side.

The financial/economic model is broken because it is based on continual growth. More devastating is the exhaustion of resources; water, energy, metals, fertilizer, etc. Even so the beast will not reform its behavior.

The silver lining is that nature will do what we refuse to do. Since I believe collapse to be inevitable, I hope that it happens rapidly thus minimizing the human suffering. Then the 10% can start over with out the resources to repeat the tragic error of the last 150 years.

Thursday evening my 18 year-old granddaughter and her young man stopped by to show me her marriage engagement ring. She has mastered most homemaking skills, can manage the milk cow and the milk goats, and pull a calf. In short she is an ‘Oregon Trail covered wagon’ sort of woman. The three grandsons are equally trained in their areas of interest and all are trained in the use of personal defense weapons. They are the reason that I prepare and fore go many of the luxuries of our consumer economy.

I will do my best to insure that they are numbered in the 10% (?) that make it through to the other side.

Try to wrap your mind around the idea that there will be no 10% who survive human population collapse. Collapse will be all the way to extinction, or sufficiently close to extinction that genetic & demographic stochasticity will take surviving relict populations down to extinction within a few generations. Once you come to terms with this reality, you no longer need to strive to ensure that your descendants or community will be among the survivors. There are no effective preparations that can be made. There is no "other side" to "make it through to." You can no more forestall human extinction than you can avoid dying. So just live your life & stop obsessing over the future.

What an odd kind of wishfull thinking...

The "wishful thinking" is on the part of those who think that humans can somehow precipitate a mass extinction event yet not be consumed by it.

The past is our only guide to the future. In each of the five previous first order mass extinction episodes, organisms of large body size have been underrepresented among the survivors. In fact, about the only reliable predictor of extinction during a mass extinction event is having a body size greater than the mean for the clade. Humans are large primates, mammals vertebrates.. Also, when a species exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment its population crashes. How hard it crashes is a function of the degree to which its population exceeds the carrying capacity. Human population exceeds the carrying capacity of the biosphere sans fossil fuels by about an order and a half of magnitude. Never in the history of life has a large vertebrate exceeded its carrying capacity to such an extent. These are the facts. This is what natural history & the fossil record teach us. No "wishful thinking" involved.

In opposition to these facts I've seen presented in this forum nothing besides anthropocentric hubris to the effect that humans are somehow "different" and therefore the past is no reliable indicator of the future so far as humans are concerned. When pressed, the person that spouts this rhetoric is illogically liable to say that human cultural "inheritance of acquired traits" is what makes humans "special," as if this hypertrophied cultural propensity weren't what got our species and the rest of the biosphere in the predicament we're in in the first place. As if more of the same thing that got us into trouble is going to get us back out of it.

We are of course different. There is no fossil indications that any animal ever have come even close to our technological ability. What is the relevance of comparing us to say beavers?

We got the technological ability to have a large population surviving on much less resources then today and we got the technological ability to wipe each other out. I wish I will live for as long as possible to see how this pans out during the nearest decades.

There is no fossil indications that any animal ever have come even close to our technological ability. What is the relevance of comparing us to say beavers?

It's this lauded "technological ability" that has caused humans to exceed carrying capacity by such an unprecedented degree and to have poisoned the atmosphere & surface ocean with oxidized carbon & precipitated the sixth great mass extinction episode of the Phanerozoic. By what (il)logic do you conclude that that which got us into the mess were in will likewise get us out of it?

Beavers altered landscapes profoundly. By trapping beavers nearly to extinction humans have degraded watersheds, destroyed lotic & riparian communities and fostered massive erosion - literally turning lush river systems into depauperate arroyos. I wouldn't insult beavers by comparing the damage we do to the beneficial community structuring they accomplish.

Becouse it is in our nature to try to survive and we now got a very big toolbox.

This do of course not guarantee that our success will be the best outcome for other species.

But I am a specicist, all outcommes with continued humnaity and continued human culture are good outcommes. But the more that survives of the rest of the biosphere in addition to humanity the better it gets.

DD, I think you are wholly and completely wrong on this point.

Humanity is indeed special: we have the ability to adapt to the widest ecological range of any species on the planet.

The only other species that even come close are the ones for whom humanity itself is their niche.

Human extinction is certainly not impossible, but you are overextending the St. Matthews Island case beyond it's limits to claim that it is inevitable and imminent.

Humanity is indeed special: we have the ability to adapt to the widest ecological range of any species on the planet.

Huh? We are terrestrial and land only covers about a quarter of the globe. There are pan-oceanic species ranging from forams & diatoms to sharks & tuna & whales. The ranges of many marine species extend from the tropics to the arctic & antarctic. Even on land dogs, rats & houseflies have as large & diverse a range as humans. So far as humans being "special," of course we are, as is every other species. All species have their "special" characteristics & attributes. A bat might not be overly impressed with the "special" attributes of an ape that can't even echolocate, or a dolphin with a species that can barely swim. Your laudation of human "special"ness is nothing more than an exercise in species chauvinism.

DD, I think you are wholly and completely wrong on this point.

People should have at least a rudimentary knowledge of basic biology before expressing an opinion about human population biology. Use facts to counter my assertions, which I back up with evidence from the fossil record, genetics & population biology. No one really cares what you think, if you can't or won't employ facts to substantiate your opinion.

It will be very unlikely to see humans go completely extinct in every part of their range. No hunter gatherers left in Tasmania, Australia or Patagonia ? No part-time agriculturalists in New Guinea, central Africa or SW China ? No group left on one isolated Pacific island ? Or the Faeroe or Canary Islands ? A small community growing potatoes, apples and a few cattle on Prince Edward Island ?

Recently, the first expedition went into a 3 km2 volcanic crater, 500 m sheer cliffs on all sides. 200,000 years of isolation resulted in some interesting evolutionary adaptations (kangaroos living in trees, world's largest rat, etc.) Such "islands" could support a residual human population.


I agree that insular populations, primarily limited to the Southern Hemisphere, may survive the initial population collapse pulse of the developed world. Many of these populations, however, are dependent on trade and would be hard pressed to survive solely on the local resources they have available to them. On the other hand, there are some surviving scavenging/foraging cultures with neolithic levels of technology, that are fully capable of surviving on the resources their local environments provide. The Andaman Islanders and highland tribes of Irian Jaya come to mind in this regard. I would expect these peoples to be the last relict human populations to go extinct. This said, the anthropogenic environmental challenges even these peoples will face are global in scope, profound in magnitude and wholly unprecedented in rate of onset. The environments of even isolated tribal peoples well adapted to these environments, are changing rapidly. I don't expect cultural adaptations to progress sufficiently rapidly to keep pace with these environmental changes, nor for cultural adaptations to be sufficient to cope with a collapsing resource base. Isolated populations will go extinct one by one due to genetic (inbreeding) & demographic stochasticity, and due to the rapidity & profundity of environmental change to which they can not adapt.

Humans have shown an ability to adapt to different ways of life in a generation or less. The introduction of the horse into North America is one example.

In a population collapse, a wide variety of strategies will be tried and several will succeed. Urban dwellers can become hunter gatherers, at least some small percent, to illustrate the range possible.

Additional climate change stresses will affect these different successful strategies and some will adapt, some not.

The minimum population required for genomic stability varies, but the starting population will have a wide variety to chose from in many areas. I have seen some estimates that the humans that left Africa and have descendants today may have been as few as twenty. Similar numbers for those crossing the Bering Strait.

Low level hunter-gatherer may not be the most successful strategy.

One possibility, of many. Prince Edward Island, pop 140,000 today with 10 metric tons/capita of potatoes grown there today, a small commercial apple crop and many home vegetables. And the percent of farmland has fallen in recent decades. Not too far from historically productive fishing grounds (and some sport fishing around the island).

They grow seed potatoes for export to 50 nations, so they have genetic material for a variety of climatic zones.

Absent fossil fuels, one can plant potatoes and harvest them. Same for apples, cattle, sheep and nut trees. Add wheat, rye and other staple grains and some fish. As climate changes and sea level rises, I can see how 30,000# could survive there for an indefinite period even with dramatic climate changes while spinning off small groups to the now un-inhabited lands around them.

They could also seasonally forage in New Brunswick and even plant "guerrilla gardens", groves of black walnuts or blueberries or cranberries for annual visits.

# Current productivity would give almost 50 tons of potatoes/capita for that size population.

Just one of many survivor places. And 30,000 may be large enough to keep the germ theory of disease (adds to survival) and some other bits & pieces of useful information (basics of plant breeding & husbandry, tree grafting, balanced diet and the diseases of deficiency).


Alan I understand your thinking and if humans were nice your scenarios could eventuate but my presumption is humans are not nice, and as long as the survivor locations can defend themselves they will survive but only for that long.

As I have said many times, no person, family, community, state or country will be an island of plenty in a sea of want.

The expertise required to exist in an uncivilized locale is not trivial. If these areas of plenty are ravaged by those in need, what knowledge will they (the invaders) require to carry on the traditional survival techniques (or industry)? I have serious doubts that if we collapse in a spiral of hunger and desperation that we will die and let live peacefully. Everywhere will be plundered for resources to feed a war machine and homeland.

There are absolutely no hiding places in the world of today. We can't say "we will set up, live there and survive", rest assured, every location on the planet has been explored and will be thoroughly exploited. If you don't believe me have a look at Haiti with Google Earth up to the border of the Dominican Republic. That’s what we do to our habitat when we have no economy, few resources and no prospects.

When it's all said and done, opinions and specualtion (certainly mine) on the end of days are just that..........but if we had run out of FF's when we were two or three billion souls.........

It's scary to think that the one thing that could save the ecology of Hispaniola is a plague which rips through the slums like Cite du Soleil and kills 90% in a month, removing the pressures on farmland and forests and letting them recover.

I'm afraid that I 99.8% agree with you about the extinction scenario.

I'd also add that, whoa wtf, humans are adapted to the savannas in Africa, and that's about it. We have no body fur and we are next to completely useless unless in a group of other humans.

And everywhere else on the planet, we didn't adapt, we adapted the environment to us, which always involved some level of chewing it up and radically transforming it.

The remaining 0.2% disagreement I reserve due to human neuroplasticity. See "The Brain That Changes Itself" (amazon) / (worldcat), by Dr. Norman Doidge.

How many different ecologies comprise the oceans? What is the range of wide-roaming ocean dwellers between those ecologies? My knowledge of ocean ecologies seems to indicate that the major differentiation is by depth, with few species (such as sperm whales) making visits across the depth boundaries to forage, but living primarily in one domain.

Dogs and rats have humans as their ecological niche. The good old bluebottle fly might have us beat, but I suspect that there are places where the common housefly is something else. Bugs have never been my thing, though I have noted that the infamous cockroach doesn't spread through wild areas in most of the places I've been, so they might not outlive humanity except in a narrow range.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is ignorant, and to assume so indicates a level of arrogance that can blind a person to basic failings of their own position.

Personally, I know that you must have studied biology extensively to reach the conclusion you have. You probably have studied it more extensively than I have. You might even be smarter than me.

All that together doesn't make you right when you leave such obvious gaping holes in your hypothesis.

Only fools are certain. While I agree that extinction is possible, and over a long enough time span almost certain, it is not certain. Or do you have some way to see the future?

As I point out to my political friends:
"You will get to view the end of capitalism"
Of course, this ideological victory will come with the many other ends also.
But as they "it's a start"---

We take a lot of things for granted.

As Joel Kovel so astutely stated:
"Capitalism goes, or we go".
Of course he could be wrong, and humanity can expand indefinitely in a finite world. Of course, we will need to suspend the Second Law of Thermodynamics (I forgot, we already did that).

"you will get to view the end of capitalism"---yes, perhaps, a joy of course.

But, also as I point out to my family members "you are getting to see a major inflection point in energy supplies---WITH a cosmic connection". Yes, you are connected to the universe. In ways you never understood until peak oil. The earth accepted a quantity of energy from the sun and stored it for millenia until we came along. Then it was over.

Peak Oil will reconnect us in a basic way with the earth and this will be a precious gift. Fast crash or slow crash this connection will take hold and it will strengthen. I can already feel this difference when I take my dog out in the evening and the number of cars passing by on the road is just less...and less..and less. Every month, little by little. A local mall has more and more blank shuttered retail spaces. We live in a place that will be filled with empty abandoned cement buildings, is already so in fact. it was once the go-go center.

I have long wanted to move to the country because of nearer access to good water and food. But I have to say that viewing it all here in a place that was basically built for high energy flow is like watching firecrackers. Because the difference is so stark here. Of course, in a rural place the difference will be much less, therefore it`s obviously the place to be.

I`ve disliked cars and plastic and cement for a long time and felt they were unfairly foisted on customers ignornant of (and unable to understand) their dangerous consequences. So I don`t actually care if the crash is slow or fast or if I live to see it or not, as long as I get to see the number of cars going down (this is happening) and the amount of plastic going down (I suspect this is happening) and the amount of cement going down (well, at least they have stoppped generating it at anything like the former pace!)

So I`m actually already very happy about what I`m seeing on a day to day basis.
Do I want to starve? Of course not, and I hope my family will be able to survive but the crash Gail envisions seems by definition to be not survivable by most.

But then again death claims us all in the end anyway, and that 10% that survived Gail`s scenario would also one day fade away with time. Such a scale of devastation implies that (due to lack of media and electricity) they would hardly even be in a position to know that they had survived the Great Peak Oil Die-Off event, they would presumably be too busy watering their seedlings and looking for antibiotics. I`m sure they would feel a great and cosmic connection to the world...maybe even an intense and panic-stricken cosmic connection to the world as a result of viewing lots of empty buildings and abandoned cars and thinking about all the activity that used to be associated with these things.

So in a sense now is a good time to enjoy the whole cosmic connection aspect, while there is still food to fuel the brain!

Personally I have started to feel much more relaxed about PO they more I find out about it. It is putting an end to all our ambitions and also to our fears that these ambitions would fail even while others` ambitions succeeded. Now everyone`s ambitions will most likely fail, through no fault of their own. A great comfort, and I`m not kidding. Competition and fear of failure while others succeeded was unpleasant.


You stated that you are currently seeing the number of cars go down.


Are you referring to your observations of your immediate neighborhood, your town or city, your country, the World, or what?

I ask this because I have read in numerous sourced (The Economist being one of these) that the number of crs is greatly increasing in India and China.

I live in Japan. Toyota has closed one of its plants. Car production is way down here, and sales are down too (although not way down anymore).

But people don`t have money to waste on driving around anymore with food prices staying up and salaries being cut all around (all govt workers got a 2% wage cut this year) and lots of companies cut salaries and bonuses.

So rush hour traffic is about the same as before (with much smaller cars)

But my evening dog walk is around 8 or 9 and roads are pretty empty by then. And they didn`t used to be so.
In fact just 4 years ago trucks drove all night on this same road (next to where I live) that is now empty all night.

Of course in Japan the population is already going down. And young people won`t buy cars because they don`t need to with all the trains.

With no oil or coal Japan maybe reflects the starker energy situation faster than others.

Needless to say I like the peace and quiet. A gift from the cosmos!!

Peak Oil will reconnect us in a basic way with the earth and this will be a precious gift.

[page 18] Nov. 9. I deal so much with my fuel, — what with finding it, loading it, conveying it home, sawing and splitting it, — get so many values out of it, am warmed in so many ways by it, that the heat it will yield when in the stove is of a lower temperature and a lesser value in my eyes, — though when I feel it I am reminded of all my adventures. . . . [page 30] All the intervening shores glow and are warmed . . . as I repass them in my mind. And yet men will cut their wood with sorrow, and burn it with lucifer matches.
-The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, Vol. 8

Better after the crash, could be if we can use the experience to clean house and drop some of our dysfunctional, suboptimal belief systems. It appears that the crash will be dramatic enough to convince the few who survive that humankind’s basic belief system was not serving us well and could be greatly improved upon.

Some of my thoughts are

1) Right, wrong, good, bad, moral, immoral are all manmade concepts. There is no natural basic for these concepts. They are something that was made up to serve a hierarchical agenda.

There is a natural concept that these concepts derive some meaning from. That is the basic concept of win win, win lose and lose lose. In every interaction some fraction of these three things happen. If we can find the maturity to work in a win win non-hierarchical society this would create a much more pleasant life environment.

2) Part of living a win win life is to truly value and live honesty. We live in a society that condemns honesty. We tell children to be honest then teach them not to be. An honest person in our society is considered a Gomer Pyle protégé. We need to get to the point that getting someone to believe something that is not really true without really lying, is a lie.

3) Mankind is not the sole sentient being on planet earth.

4) Accepting that we are at least somewhat responsible for the actions of others and that no one is totally sane.

Your ideas 1 through 4 are beautiful, but I think they're only possible in the minds of a majority during good times: easy transport, universities and libraries, semi-decent school systems, stable populations.

During a collapse, with its runs for food, the conflicts, displaced people and squalor, sacked libraries and forgotten intellectual works, what kind of ideas will be forged in the minds of the young, and how? What understanding of the past lays the groundwork for forming the best street cred of the post-collapse local leader? There could be countless tales of collapse, each enveloped around a just-so story:

"Human civilisation collapsed because God ordained it."
"Human civilisation collapsed because we're too greedy. Give your riches to me so I can redistribute them fairly."
"Our society collapsed because barbarians (who look and behave different from us) felled it."

And so on. I suspect that as society becomes simpler, so too will sets of ideas about civilization. And sure, there'll be some pockets we'd consider enlightened compared to surrounding societies, but post-collapse societies we'd consider crude and unjust could reach an equilibrium just as easily, if not more easily, than fair and knowledgeable ones. My take is that the Golden Age of Human knowledge is now.

( ...and you're right, no one is totally sane.)

Sure the post was a could be better if, not what seems now to be most likely.
Long term equilibrium without enlightenment? Maybe but I do not see this.

Scarcity and chaos have been experienced before, albeit on a local/regional level. What we think of as BAU is a relatively new phenomenon whether you date it from the 15th century or the late 19th century. The discovery of the western continents, and the exploitation of Africa, breathed a breath of fresh air into moribund societies on crowded, famine ridden Europe... of course if you were a member of the peoples living on those continents it was the beginning of a dark night for your societies. It is very difficult for us to think in any other way but from a metaphysical base of abundance. Even for those who live in relative scarcity the abundance experienced by the dominant culture is part of the mental landscape, like the sunrise on the horizon, even if it is only the open doors of the furnaces in Wm Blake's Satanic Mills.

We, at least in the West, have shed so much of the understanding about human relationships that were important in smaller, more linked communities which existed without the illusions about abundance that form the unconscious bedrock of our thinking. This shedding has been so thorough that it is likely that our ability to regain any kind of stability without passing through a kind of collective Dark Night of the Soul is slim. Because, ultimately, I view this as a psychological problem, or a spiritual problem if you prefer, in which we are confronted with our illusions about control and consequence.

Mother Nature is in control and she has always been in control. For a fairly short time humans have tried mightily to wrest control from the Great Mother and in doing so we have done great harm to Her and by extension to ourselves, both physically and psychologically (Consequence!). We have filled the water with substances we didn't even think of looking for, but now are beginning to understand may have devastating physical effects on unknown numbers of generations of human and animal life. We are using up millions of years of banked sunlight, we are destroying our topsoil, etc., etc. We all know the list. (But if you wonder who is in control think Katrina, or an level 8 Richter scale quake, or Yellowstone going off.)

All this profligacy cannot help but have consequences, and I am not even talking about economic or societal consequences. In the face of the inevitable disruption of our civilization that that will flow from the loss of our energy resources and degradation of the our life-support system, and from our CARELESSNESS, the associated gap in our understanding of the reasons for the collapse may well doom us in the end. Without grasping the ways in which our thinking about be-ing have disabled us (once again, at least in the developed economies), we will have a hard time orienting ourselves constructively under drastically changed conditions. Not technology, nor conservation, nor enlightened business practices, nor any facet of BAU will save us without a change in the way we view ourselves as beings on this finite planet. This is not a new observation...

"Don't seek fame or profit, glory or prosperity. Just pass life as it is , according to conditions. When the breath vanishes who is the master? After the death of the body, there is only an empty name. When your clothes are worn out, repair them over and over; when there is no food, work to provide. How long can an illusory body last? For its idle concerns would you increase your ignorance?"
— Zen Master Dongshan Liangjie (b. 807)

I have traced the problem back to its roots, and I'm now writing a book to explain it. The answer is quite simple, in the same way that Daniel Quinn's core thesis is simple, "'Man was made to rule the world, and the world was made for man to rule it', is ass-backwards".

I plan this book to be a whistle-blower's report on the human race. I'm sure my book will piss off a lot of people. Including many on this board whom I haven't already pissed off.

The problem is that it takes a lot of explaining as to why the world is ass-backwards and how it came about, and the source of the problem goes back much, much further than Quinn suspected.

1. Basically, moral concepts are real, but morality is relative. All 'moral' concepts at the individual level derive from experiences of pain and pleasure within social context, and what is right and wrong actually exists within the bounds of individual perception. But systems of morality at the social level, like law and hierarchical class structures, are always constructed as win/lose. And there is no other way to build a system of morality other than win/lose.

2. Because the problem stems back so far into evolutionary timeframes, several hundred thousand years to a few million years, most people have evolved defenses to the core problem which includes -- surprise -- large amounts of internal and external deception, delusion, duplicity, and denial.

Only a tiny fraction of humans are even capable of the honesty of which you speak. The rest, not.

3. Humans can be broken up into two sub-groups. It is only one sub-group of humans that are actually "sentient", also a very tiny fraction. And, no, you don't want to be sentient. And, no, you don't want to a member of the other group, either.

4. No-one is responsible because the effects on any given individual come from everyone and everywhere. This is why the idea of responsibility continually fails, leading to various types of documented crime and misbehavior for at least the last four thousand years since the invention of law.

In other areas, I am not responsible for my birth gender, the language I speak, the location I was born, my name, my parents, my schools, my priests, what was available around me in books and media for much of my life. Even if I were to change my name now, it still wouldn't re-write the history of the world I and every other individual was born into, without say, without option, without choice.


So, ass-backwards would mean that the world was made to rule man and man was made for the world to rule? What sense I can make of this I mostly disagree with. Hierarchical idealization is a severe detriment if the goal is a more peaceful, sustainable society.

Moral concepts, as this term tends to be used, is used for control of others. I am in control so my morals are right and so I have the right to force you to live a moral life... I think a concept like "do as you will as it harms none" is a more optimal outlook.

True about honesty and I am afraid that this could well lead to our demise.

Sentient, to be self aware, I have horses that are much more self aware than a lot of people I run across. Unfortunately few people are but if we hope to survive I believe that we must become sentient beings.

We are responsible for how we set our sails and we influence the sea we all must sail within.


I guess "ass-backwards" isn't really the phrase I wanted. I would say, "man is a part of the world, not apart from it", and that this statement is the polar opposite from how most humans have lived their lives for most of human history.

Is it a moral concept to be careful around fire, or is it common sense? Is it a moral concept to wear a condom, practice safe sex, wash your hands after using the water closet?

Or how about one of the most basic fundamental ideas at the core of nearly all human societies, reciprocation: you do something for me, and I help you in return, and we both benefit far more than if either of us acts alone.

I need you to fletch arrows so I can go hunting. I know how to fletch arrows, but I suck at it, like you suck at hunting. But we do something for each other, and soon we both are no longer hungry.

Is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" common sense or morality?

I think the difference between morality and common sense is exactly the same difference between religion and science. And the difference arises from the problem that any "science", any common sense, or any knowledge wrestled from the physical world, once no longer questioned, can become a "religion".

I liked your comment on horses. I would say the same thing about dogs.

I think you can go much deeper than that.

Morality and common sense and yes even science belong in the same domain -- language. They exist only in language. Take away language and all disappear. The cougar does not wonder if it is moral to eat the antelope. The human does and only because he has a tool (language) the cougar does not. Nor does the cougar conduct science.

The atoms and molecules of the world are doing their thing and we layer on top our interpretation of them. The interpretations vary widely from human to human. Your common sense is another's absurdity, but both people think they are "right." Only a few people have figured out that humans operate in the realm of language, a realm unique to them.

We do not relate to language and its derivatives as though it's all made up, which it is. That's why it's sometimes called 'symbolic language' because these words I am writing are not the things themselves but instead just symbols standing in for the things. There is reality and then there are the symbols we use (expressed via language) to describe reality. In my view, the set of symbols we call "science" may get closer to describing reality than other sets (like "religion") but it is still a symbol set merely describing reality and not reality itself.

Try pointing out the role of language to people and that their beliefs (whether "religious" or "scientific") all exist merely as a byproduct of a relatively recent evolutionary quirk and then you'll see people really get angry. They are trapped by language and cannot see the trap. But for those willing to look at what I am pointing to there is infinite freedom from the trap of language, and thus the tyranny of emotions.

Language is a map to our perceptions which are a map to reality. I agree that the map is not the territory. Yet understanding of, for lack of a better phrase, "how the world works", can precede the ability to express it through language.

Nor is language even necessary for mice to learn a maze, for dogs to catch objects in flight, for the cougar to anticipate, based on her experience of how antelopes work, predict the movement of stalked antelopes. Likewise for the antelopes who learn to evade cougars.

Language, being another technology, is only binding and restricting to those who don't know how to use the tool. Or to those who see it as the only tool available.

I appreciate your pointing out that the truths about language can make people angry. I plan to put this information to good use.

It's interesting to spend time away from language. Not just other people talking, but being out of "language" mode in your own mind for significant periods.

There are some kinds of abstract logic which are not language-based, unless one defines all logic as language by fiat. Visual-analog can be pretty powerful.

Concepts like "morality" are clearly language artifacts, but a code of behavior and aesthetics is possible without it I think. Better without it, in some cases.

I fully agree with your point made here about the traps of language-based thinking.

I agree that it's interesting, I'd also add that it's useful and beneficial.

"I think every day all children should have three hours of daydreaming, just daydreaming. You could use a little of it yourself, by the way. Just sit at the window and stare at the clouds, it's good for you." -- George Carlin

When you have a traditional definition of morality, I agree that it can be a language artifact. But in implementation in an argument or discussion or shouting match, whatever, I'll bet that the core reason for using "moral" to support a position is because the position somehow gives pleasure to the person debating it. And the core reason for using "immoral" to attack a position is because the position somehow gives pain to the person debating it.

For instance, in agreeing with you that "morality" is a language artifact, we're somewhat saying that traditional applications of this kind of idea of morality has led to unpleasant results. We're somewhat suggesting that the idea of morality has counter-intuitively caused harm.

In the right discussion and context, I could be pressed into saying that morality can be immoral. But the meaning I want to communicate, based on my experiences, is that the actual pleasant or painful consequences of human behavior have little to do with whatever moral banner flies overhead.

Whatever you think, it's more than that.

What we in the west call morality is a pretty complex matter. Many of us carry some very powerful reactive patterns which come into play whenever the idea of "religion" or any of the concepts constellated around religion even are whispered.

One source of "morality" was technical instructions for certain persons who were involved in deep psychological research... to put it into a modern idiom. Some things are to be avoided if one is pursuing a certain result. Just as it would be if one were doing deep research into any complex and all-encompassing subject. Exploring the very depths of the mind is about as all-encompassing as it gets.

Another source of "morality" is hardwired impulses. An example is the sense of fairness which is evidently present in chimpanzees, I don't have the reference for the research but I am sure a quick google search would find it.

At any rate, language has its uses, but much of spiritual practice (for lack of better terms) has little to do with language.

I don't know about the rest of you guys but I think very frequently in visual analogs. I guess all of what I am typing here is language based thought though.
As far as science............anything that can be tested with sense perceptions seems to me to be a scientific approach to thought and not necessarily dependent on language.
Seems to me that even the chimp that uses a stick to root out his ant dinner is practicing science. First he has a problem then he thinks of a way to solve the problem then he tests his idea and gets his hunger satisfied.

I don't know, maybe I am interpreting the language verses the true ideas behind each poster!

Could spend a lot of time on this topic alone.

Noam Chomsky better watch out.


I am afraid you may be a little behind the times.

You were undoubtedly taught a theory referred to as Linguistic Determinism (which is part linguistics,part cognitive psychology) at a good university.

It seems to be one of those things we know that ain't so any more,even though it still has a serious following.

I was a fan of this theory once myself and not that long ago either.

I refer you to Stephen Pinker's The Stuff of Thought for a comparision and introduction to some other theories that have not held up ,and some that do-for now ,at least.

We no more have conscious access to our thought processes than we have conscious access to the processes that control our fingers and hands.Thought precedes language-this seems extremely self contradictory but it must be true according to the evidence.

It's a fast moving field.Theres no way to condense it,ya gotta read it.

The Stuff of Thought sounds like a good read, thanks

I am a asberger type person and I have always though that I think in pictures but maybe it is more accurate to say that I think below language and then must translate into language. This makes a lot of sense. It takes heavy mental effort to make the translation so this is a serious handicap but maybe this is why asberger types see things that most people have not a clue about. Or course there are many social skill type things that I just have not a clue about.

I have always though that I think in pictures but maybe it is more accurate to say that I think below language and then must translate into language. This makes a lot of sense. It takes heavy mental effort to make the translation


the translation to language is the hard part, and for a lot of it words and referent concepts aren't readily available.

I came late to verbal reasoning, and for me it's a prosthetic, an imperfect interface.

Those who primarily think visually have a harder time fitting in, but may sidestep a number of verbal-reasoning traps.

Hi, Mac.

I am afraid you may be a little behind the times.

Not at all. I'm quite aware of Pinker's work and that of the neurologists who study the thought arising before it reaches consciousness.

But that doesn't negate what I'm referring to at all because they operate at different levels. The gates of a transistor in a microprocessor flip billions of times a second working their magic while the programmer operates at a higher level of abstraction, either assembly language or a later generation of programming languages. My comments are directed to the higher levels.

In a nutshell, I'm pointing out that the language concepts that guide us (regardless of how they arise) are all made up. The religions, the science, the grand emotions that come from operas, the sorrows that come from loss — all of it. Unless there is a physical stimulus, our emotions are due to patterns in the brain i.e. language for humans, just patterns for other species. Is there "right" and "wrong"? Yes, but only in a context in which you've defined them as such. They don't exist in reality outside of language. The universe does not care one whit what we do here on this planet, regardless of what the shaman or priest or soothsayer says. They too are all trapped by language, convinced of the rightness of their views because they think there is such a thing as "the truth."

But of course I could be wrong ;-).

Aangel,You have stated my own case or having once been a fan of linguistic deteriminisn better than I could have done so myself.

I do agree with you (and I can't speak for him but I suppose Pinker would too) that language is a very powerful controlling force in the short term.

But over the longer term,many many new concepts not amenable to discussion within the limitations of older language have become commonplace and the languages have evolved to keep pace.

Languages will continue to evolve.

Hi, ofm.

Yes, languages will continue to evolve. And they will continue to be only a layer superimposed upon reality, but never reality itself.

Aangel ,agreed,languages are imposed on reality-but as we discover new layers of reality languages are our only way of relating them to each other.Somehow I get the idea we agree but that like the English and the yankees we are separated by our common language.

We are like puppies trying to catch our tails.Did I not say that thinking occurs at a more basic and deeper level than language?

And as to the nature of reality, I agree that many "things " "exist" only as constructions of our minds and that these things can only be related thru the medium of langauge which MODELS our mental constructions at second hand.

That here is such a thing as objective reality I do not doubt but we will never in my estimation truly understand it at the deeper levels because our brains are evolutionary artifacts only partially perfected by the blind watchmaker to deal with monkey type problems.

The tool is not up to the job.i am amazed that we have been able to accomplish what we have-apparently intelligence is a strongly emergent property and only a few small changes were necessary to improve our reasoning abilities geometrically.

Somehow I think we are more in agreement than not.I can see the light as Pinker explains these things but I cannot quite relay that vision accurately,its too complicated and too near the edge of my own understanding of these matters.

You may indeed be right!

But since I don't altogether understand the implications of your replies I 'm not not convinced I'm wrong.;)

Every once in a while I experience thoughts and mental pictures that are clear internally but I simply cannot find words and concepts to express them.


Careful around fire, safe sex, hygienic practices and such I think of as common sense. If you get hurt while being flippant with fire you are careless not morally wrong. I guess I see morality as being a right wrong judgmental type of concept created by language (religion). While common sense is based on something real (science). My horses have not a clue about morality, but they understand common sense quite well.

I agree that it is optional to work toward win win exchanges. Two people work together for the good of both. When people play win lose or lose lose games to me this is stupid, not immoral.

"do unto others as you would have them do unto you" Common sense. I would say however, treat others the way they want to be treated not the way you want to be treated.

Whether common sensical or moral, the issue remains that people do not behave in a Golden Rule-ish way most of the time under most circumstances.

If it were actually an option to have win/win arrangements most of the time, why don't people take the win/win option?

Can it be that win/win is not actually an option most of the time? Maybe, for reasons of limited human understanding in a complex world, for being at the mercy of your development during the first decade of life, for an inadequate educational system, for ignorant parenting, and a roll of the dice in genetics.

I think another thing that can upset people is seeing the massive odds against their own personal existence, much less the odds against an minimally dysfunctional existence, much less the odds against an enlightened existence.

Put another way, it's extremely unlikely that humans are here, that we were born, and that we understand and experience what we do.


This brings up a big question for me. I feel that for mankind to have any chance to survive on any meaningful level we must live a win win life. How can this be done? Your points on the difficultness of this have much validity. As much as I believe this to be true I myself fall way short of this goal. I do not have a answer, not yet anyway :). But at least now I better understand the question. Thanks.

If there is going to be a sudden and catastrophic collapse,
the kindest thing we can do for future generations is to plant fruit trees, nut trees, and berries.

Come to think of it,
that's a damn good idea with or without a catastrophic collapse. :-)

Good point!

Absolutely agree about planting fruit and nut trees.

Nearly everyone of us who lives in a rural area has a Soil and Water Conservation District. They have federal $$'s to plant trees. They are usually wind break and fast growing trees- not fruits or nuts. I'm working with our local SWCD to incorporate fruits and nuts into the tree plantings-- Hazelnuts, plums, chokeberry, walnut, chestnuts, etc... We're planting nearly 3 acres of fruit and nut trees.

Also, I worked with our local, rural food shelf and as part of the area's community food security we planted a fruit tree (large 8 foot trees- some bearing fruit in year 1!!) at the home of every elementary child in the school district. We planted nearly 200 apples trees in one weekend.

We've won a national award for the project and now we have funding to do plums in 2010, pears in 2011, cherries 2012. Here's hoping the core (of society) holds long enough for us to get a few more years of trees planted.

I am planting papaya (quick and heavy nearing), satsuma oranges and other citrus, figs, muscadines, blackberries this winter and next and encouraging others to do likewise.

Best Hopes for edible trees and vines,



Best hopes indeed! We are planting north of the 45th parallel and so you have quite an advantage over us with your lucious tropical fruits. We are excited that there is finally a sweet cherry that may survive in our far northern climes.


If there is to be a collapse, it wouldn't be the first time.

Perhaps the most noble thing we can do is provide for the protection of a better gene pool to come out the other side of such a bottleneck.

Question Everything

The last time we went through a bottle neck like this one(70,000 years ago, as I recall), we were down to a few thousand individuals.
Lets hope we do better this time, if there are any survivors.

We have about as many collapse scenarios as we have TOD posters. While some may be more informed and seem more reasonable than others, all of them are pure conjecture. No one knows what the future will bring. Many of the major events in human history were largely unanticipated by the supposed wise men of the day.

So here's my two cents (and worth every penny).

Long before the physical scarcity of energy, food, and other vital resources takes full effect on a global scale, we will experience something far more immediate and wrenching, a major and highly destructive military conflict sparked by resource competition but blamed on any other convenient excuse. The Middle East is the most likely place where this will get started, but who knows .... there's always Pakistan and India, the two Koreas, China and whomever, or some other combination of rivalries. If it gets out of hand (and wars have a way of doing that), it is not inconceivable that the conflict could by accident or design go nuclear. For some time now, many of the powers that be in both the US and Israel have been trying their damnedest to initiate a military conflict with Iran. They may yet succeed, and the unintended consequences of such an eventuality are considerable.

What is particularly disturbing is the mindset among some of the more right-wing and fundamentalist religious elements that actually welcomes an apocalypse or the End Times. Even among more reasonable people, there is often something very seductive about the notion of wiping the slate totally clean and starting all over again, which I suppose is why it is such a stock theme of so much science fiction. Some people are really itching for something big to happen.


If I could type faster I would have beat you to it.;)

itching for something big...

Maybe because of a knowingness, conscious or subconscious that life could be so much better and the anger that it is not. Unfortunately there is no way to know if a bad crash will facilitate needed change.

"What is particularly disturbing is the mindset among some of the more right-wing and fundamentalist religious elements that actually welcomes an apocalypse or the End Times."

I think a bunch of naked flying Christians would be cool!
And think of the resources available to the rest of us.

Our children and their friends told my wife and I about Eternal Earthbound Pets a few days ago, and they and we think it is clever.

I read their provisos, and they seem to have their backsides covered...I love the caveat stating that if the pet owner is not raptured then EE-BP will not take the pet, and neither will it give a refund...

I would to interested to know if there are any dopey folks who are sending their 110 ducks to these scammers!

Interestingly, as the World situation gets worse their sales will increase...same can be said for organized religions...

I love it. A bunch of atheists agree, for a fee of $110, to take care of the poor pets of good Christians after they are raptured up.

Really this must be a joke. Nobody would be stupid enough to give them the money...

Would they?

Ron P.

You know the answer.

Darwinian -

One of my favorite bumper stickers is one I saw a few years ago:


That was a very good laugh, thank you.

I'm no christian but I thought that when the good christians were taken up to sit by the side of God in the Rapture it meant they were all going to die first.

You may be right-- I'm not totally literate on the Bronze Age Fiction that this has been extracted from.

Not necessarily-that depends on your favorite preacher's interpretation of scripture.

Unfortunatly, if we take an honest look at human nature, this is the most likely outcome I think.

Good question(s) Gail!

The phrase that has come to me over the years is:

"Sustain Absolute Vulnerability."

We are all vulnerable all of the time. For a hundred years or so, our access to an abundance of energy -- primarily through consumption of easy-to-get-and-burn fossil fuels -- has misled us into thinking of ourselves as entitled to a kind of eternal life of ever-increasing consumption.

This religious fanaticism has infected even many of the poor, who strive to consume as do the most affluent of our species.

We've managed to combine the most self destructive of our emotional traits with the worst of our intellectual traits and the most clever of our technical ideas.

This results in a species that acts just as the worst of addicts -- running riot over the planet while spouting off the bizarre absurdities of religion and ideology and wielding godlike technology, especially devoted to war.

The ecological collapse of the bottleneck will probably destroy most of our species, and that will be a terrible enough experience.

But this does not concern me nearly as much as the fact that we humans have trained ourselves to fight to the death over diminishing resources.

We will -- no -- we already are killing for control of resources and also exporting record amounts of weapons to encourage people around the world to fight proxy wars and to simply kill each other off to leave more for us.

So the biggest difficulty with regard to the next thirty years or so seems to me to be our propensity to violence as the ultimate solution to our problems.

Fighting over the world's resources is not something I "connect" well with. I think wars have historically been a male pursuit.

I would like think that resources will drop enough that fighting will be less of an issue. I think more likely, the problem will become local skirmishes--neighbor against neighbor--as much as international wars.

this is dimitry orlov's thinking too, even for nukes; prayerfully u two are correct.

"Affluence breeds impatience, and impatience undermines well-being."

Quote from Avner Offer.

Avner Offer is the author of "The Challenge of Affluence: Self Control and Well Being In The United States and Britian Since 1950."

I've not read his work, but wiki and Offer's own web page give a good overview of this Oxford economist's work.

I see our affluence as weakening us very much, even as we enjoy the comforts of affluence very much -- I know that I do.

You may be right that we humans will soon be mostly capable of relatively localized violence. The critical time between now and then may see global violence that leads to apocalyptic scenarios such as that imagined in the book "The Road." (The movie opens in October, I believe.)

Here in the USA we already see the meta-narratives developing amoung right-wing religion and politics. Affluent, rapacious and yet egocentrically self-righteous, we have leaders shaping arguments which will justify war that is bound to spin far out of control.

There are plenty of global counterparts to Pseudo-Christian Fascism. I think that many religious and ideological narratives will be used to justify terrible atrocities of a magnitude that is almost unimaginable.

Use of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons will occur, and will make the Resource War thus far look rather quaint.

This is the war where the survivors will be jealous of those who died.

People who have already embraced vulnerability -- and celebrate survival now -- have far greater ability to survive in a hostile habitat.

People who have embraced all of the comforts of affluence are selfish and impatient, with a veneer of civility and even altruism. The egocentrism of many Americans, for example, make us increasingly vulnerable to the kind of demagoguery that will unleash the worst of our arsenal -- with a song and a prayer.

I am less anxious about species survival than ever before -- our chances seem remote, and the outcomes are truly out of my hands.

I focus more on now and more on caring for those I love. There is no future. We do not control ourselves or our species -- we are ungovernable. We surely do not control the planet. We have huge impact on the planet, but do not have wisdom to manage our godlike technology.

Unfortunately almost half of us are males.

Again,unfortunately,the more desperate the resource situation becomes, the likelier the fight becomes.

Even when making a good bow was a years long job and shaggy little horses not much bigger than ponies were the last word in transportation,some of us were prone to fight even if we had to ride for weeks to find someone to fight with.

Fighting over the world's resources is not something I "connect" well with. I think wars have historically been a male pursuit.

I would like think that resources will drop enough that fighting will be less of an issue. I think more likely, the problem will become local skirmishes--neighbor against neighbor--as much as international wars.

War seems inevitable and natural; chimpanzees do it too. As for sex, in ant-termite wars females do the fighting. Thousands or millions of times more females have died fighting in ant-termite wars than males have in human wars.

You like to think that if resources are low, fighting will be less of an issue. Resources were low in the distant past, yet there were great wars. Resources are low among chimpanzees, and yet there are wars among them today.

They say that in academia people fight dirty, because there is so little at stake.

The troops (male) that fight and die don't fight over resources either.
They have to be given an idealogical reason be it religious (Iran-Iraq), race (WW2 Germany), defence of territory (Russia-Germany) or even political like regime change (Vietnam and Korea).

Front line troops never really understand the true reason why they are at war. They have to demonize the enemy to justify the killing. They rationalize the death of friends and civilians the best way they can. Mainly the rationalization goes "we have to stop them here or they might threaten my home and family".

Indeed. You have to be very careful discussing with them the blatantly obvious fact that the Iraq War was to protect the Persian Gulf oil shipping. "No blood for oil" is not just a slogan. "Blood for oil" is a reality which they have fought through and lost friends for even if they are more comfortable framing that experience in 'democracy, freedom, and national defense.'

I've read the stuff posted here, from farmerMac and others, regarding their fears and expectations of huge resource wars about to break out at any moment with considerable impatience. Might as well say something. We've tried it and it doesn't work. Case in point: Iraq. Not only do you spend a lot more than the resource is worth you don't end up with the resource. You get nothing and might possibly destroy the resource in question. Of course people are irrational when it comes to war and fighting but going after a resource is a cold, hard question of cost versus benefit. If somebody started tossing bombs at Iran the significant global impact would be the price of oil would quickly head toward $200 a barrel. That's why the rest of the world will sit hard on Israel to prevent it.

There will always be plenty of things to fight about but destroying resources to obtain them just doesn't add up. Neither does burning down the village to save it, as has been so often been pointed out.

The problem is not todays USA since USA wants to be a moral country that tries to do good. An agressor like stalins sovjet or nazi germany would probably have won hugely on invading Iraq since they would have eradicated populations in the cheapest possible way untill the ones left submits completely. This do of course only work if the resource extraction needs the local population to work. Resources like the taiwanese integrated circuit industry disapperas if the population disapears.

Cheapest way to win is to kill 'em all?

I believe Paul Harvey back in 2005 pitched the use of nuke weapons in Iraq.

It is probably even cheaper to kill everybody who wont allie with the superior power.

All out war is extremely ugly and it is not what we have had in Iraq.

It is probably even cheaper to kill everybody who wont allie with the superior power.

I listen to podcasts - or wack job radio as I refer to it. (now he does talk about ways to retain water/recycle water thus if you filter out the wack parts the average TOD reader would gain something from just that MP3 series.) clued me into that there's a part of the Bible that talks about how when you invade a country you put to death ALL of the natives. So, your advice is well within a historical norm. (course that historical norm doesn't seem to be filling my "Candian Slave" "need", now does it?)

Oh and no need to listen to this one as the 1 line says what to do.
Put a shut off valve in your sewer line
And the water rights are found in may of 2007 so you can filter past most of the rest of the stuff.

Its not my advice, its what I fear.

Ahhh, ok.
If I want to point at my fears I point at then repeat "Have you met your fellow man?"

"Have you met your fellow man?"

Unfortunately, I expect huge numbers of people to meet a lot of future #119198 who have grown accustomed to their task:
by Tadeusz Borowski, #119198

"They weren’t bad people, they were simply accustomed."
This is the polar opposite of My Fair Lady where a person has fondly '..grown accustomed to her face'. A heavy boot or lead club to the face is a better example..

To a large extent at least for Taiwan I don't see a Chinese invasion of it for economic reasons. As you point out its the factory and people. Obviously if the threat of invasion become and issue the money will disappear via the international banking system and/or into portable gold. Generally most wealthy chinese keep very little money anywhere near the Chinese communist party and this includes top ranking Communist party members. Never know when your going to have to skip town.

It actually makes me wonder sometimes how much of the Chinese stack of billions of US dollars in the CB actually exists from what I know about China a lot of the wealth should have been drained into private bank accounts a long time ago. The archaic nature of the Chinese banking system makes it difficult to know where the money really is. However I'd suspect a lot of the wealth thats supposedly in the world is counted multiple times as its not where its supposed to be. For example take Nigerian banks they probably claim X amount of capitol but the money is actually in the Bankers personal swiss or American account and is credited as a deposit with the Western banks.

Thus in effect a lot of the concentrated wealth is not only concentrated but booked as a deposit in two or more banks.

All kinds of issues like this are probably going to surface over the coming years and if things start going badly in China I expect that the Communist government will soon find out that most of its wealth has been successfully looted primarily by its own party members. Basically if the riots start china is broke shortly thereafter or more probable will be forced to expose the fact its broke as party officials head for Vancouver BC and the real books come to light.

The Chinese Government calls itself the "Communist Party", but does this mean anything. I mean, the current Chinese government/economic system doesn't seem like anything that Chairman Mao, or Marx or Lenin or Brezhnev would recognize.

Antoinetta III

China can best be described as a "Feudal Capitalist State", with left over Confucian Guilt to control the sheeple.

So the Roman Empire did not "work" or the British or the current American?

War works just fine if you win an invasive war.

The treasure we are currently expending in men and materials is trivial in relation to what it makes possible-many, many times as much treasure ,if you consider the American way of life a treasure.

Now it truly is a tragedy and a shame about the men our our own and the civilians over there,as well as the victims of 9/11,etc.

But we love our cars well enough that we use them to kill more people in highway crashes every month than we lose in the war every year.

I do not like any of this and do not advocate any particular policy in respect to the current wars as no policy I have heard of is in my estimation any better than the current one.

Any body who thinks that we could pull out without a more or less immediate collapse of bau world wide is in my estimation so woefully ill informed that I don't think I could discuss the matter with them until after they read a little about the history of oil and current middle eastern politics.

I am simply trying to describe reality as I see it and as practicioners of global power politics see it.

Of course the gains from fighting are going to be temporary and gone all too soon-but the game is never won.

The Old Man and the Sea is maybe one of the best hundred books ever written.We are the old man and the sea is the reality of which we are a part.

You can never defeat the sea-you can only survive a day at a time ,a vogage at a time,a war at a time.

As far as our weapons failure is concerned,the likelier that possibility becomes(say due to an anticipated fuel shortage)the LIKELIER THE OPENING SHOTS..

The waepons of offense are so incredibly far ahead of the defensive weapons at this time that when the next serious backs to the wall conflict breaks out there will be no need for a protracted fight.
Those who have spent little or no time studying these things do not realize that the Afghans were able to kick the Russians out for one reason only-the Russians did not want to win bad enough to simply kill the Afghans indiscriminately on a wholesale basis.

We say we are at war right now in that part of the world but truly we are not-we are conducting a police action or putting down a rebellion in conquered territory if you prefer.

If we were in the habit of doing things the way the Japanese did in WWII things would be very peaceful in that part of the world-there simply wouldn't be anybody around who was interested in resistance.

We are damned if we do and we are damned if we don't is the way I see things-no one knows how to turn loose of the tigers tail.

Conservation and renewables,etc,will not suffice because the general public is too ignorant and spoiled to see what's at stake and will continue to insist on bau.And democracy will continue to deliver-bau.Including the next war-it's just MORE BAU.

Maybe we will get lucky and WWIII will not be fought over oil during our lifetimes-and after that maybe there won't be enough oil left to fight a major war for it.

I believe Einstein said something like: "I know not what weapons will be used in WW3, but WW4 will be fought with sticks & stones."
At the postPeak grocery store

Old Farmer Mac, you might be interested in the book "The Irony of American History" by the theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, recently rereleased with a new introduction by Andrew Bacevich. He talks about the moral ambiguity of power. And though he was, I am sure, unaware of the idea of peak oil he writes of the consequences of our culture of "profligacy." The book was written in the early years of the Cold War but it has truths we could bear in mind today.


Thanks I'll put it on my list.

One of the best things about this forum is that I don't have to spend much time anymore examining books at random to find really good ones.

I never have much luck going by reviews.

The waepons of offense are so incredibly far ahead of the defensive weapons at this time that when the next serious backs to the wall conflict breaks out there will be no need for a protracted fight. Those who have spent little or no time studying these things do not realize that the Afghans were able to kick the Russians out for one reason only-the Russians did not want to win bad enough to simply kill the Afghans indiscriminately on a wholesale basis.

I think that's probably accurate. When you get in a fire fight, you win in short order -and less expensively in terms of your own troops- if you are able to sufficiently elevate the level of violence faster than your adversary is capable of responding. You "saturate" his defenses, and I'm speaking of at least one or (even better) several orders of magnitude. Nobody has really done that on a megadeath kind of scale since Nagasaki, and the Americans gave it a couple of shots then at least in part because it was believed there was no possibility of response in kind (or worse). Those days are gone forever. A likely scenario now is that any nuclear power that decides it needs to win so badly that it wages "total" war, runs a substantial risk of getting several much larger radioactive holes punched its national territory. Once that happens, it could easily be "free-for-all" time and it'll all be over in an afternoon.

Estimates put the number of Vietnamese dead at over 2 million. Yet the US still lost that war.

We lost -in the usual sense, yes.

But we lost because we ran out of will power and because we were not willing to fight a really fight.

If our SURVIVAL had been at stake we could have just wiped out the human population of that part of the world.I'm glad we dodn't of course but my poin t all along in this thread is that once the combatants backs are to the wall the next time around a major power like the US will not need to put troops in harms way to any large extent to DESTROY an enemy rather than occupy his territory.

So far the power of television and the court of public opinion has sufficed to prevent this kind of massacre,but this may not always be the case.

In the Vietnam era ,we would have had to use nukes.

Not any more.Conventional munituions are now enough because they can be used so sparingly-one guided bomb per target rather than a ship load per factory.Herbicides -a single plane load could take out thousands of acres of food crops ,etc.

Military equipment is so sophisticated and so specialized that a long period of fighting using modern military equipment (particularly true of the US military, less so for other countries) is impossible. The lead times alone on a piece of military hardware in 2009 compared to 1940 are prohibitive. Tanks consume spare parts almost voraciously as they do fuel, and smart weapons are made from hundreds of components which are sourced from around the entire world. This is a good thing; it will level the playing field and actually keep the military's fuel consumption down in the future; all those M1A1s are not going to be working well enough to burn through much fuel, and the jet fighters will only work until the last of the spare engines is burned up, unless smart bombs and missiles run out first.

Yay, yay, yay and yay!

I`ve long suspected that the military was full of people who were much more in love with technology than with good common sense. Let`s hope most of their machines break down and go out of commission and FAST. The last thing we`ll need is bombs dropping etc.

See my post above. I think your shorting the military. They will figure out how to kill people. If smart weapons become difficult to deploy and I agree with your basic thesis then we will go back to more brutal methods. Probably the US will work on perfecting city wide firestorms napalm on steroids. If petroleum based incindery weapons become the premier ones the irony is interesting to say the least.

In any case I'm sure that the military of most nations is up to the task of killing people for the cheapest price possible worst case they will simply adopt the machete method refined in Africa and killing people can be done for about the same cost as cutting sugar cane to fuel the cars of the wealthy. Assuming a Machete Killer costs about 2-3 dollars a day but can cover most of his costs looting the homes of the people he killed I can't see why killing people can't even be done for a profit.

For wealthier countries you can sell your older weapons systems and mass produce the simpler ones to cover your costs but we already do that in fact one of the problems in the future is we have so saturated the world with guns and bullets it may be hard for military to even use this approach to cut the costs of killing people. Of course localized shortages of bullets in conflict areas along with aggressive recycling of military waste and indeed moving to more recycling friendly arms should really help. I could see a lot of the renewable concepts being picked up by future armies to keep kill ratios high as budgets are cut.

Of course the army that finally figures out how to make delectable dishes and fuel out of its victims will do quite well in fact I could easily see some armies resort to rendering the killed to fuel their tanks and as and added bonus they can sell the leftovers to organic farmers. I'm not sure exactly what the energy and fertilizer value is for a human corpse but its got to be fairly decent fat Americans would probably be sold for a premium.

So overall esp if you consider moving to more sustainable killing methods and heavy use of recycling I don't see much problem for the military keeping its killing efficiency high for many decades to come.
We have not even begun to really work on the problem so lots of low hanging fruit out there or in this case you would probably call it low hanging heads.

Of course the army that finally figures out how to make delectable dishes and fuel out of its victims will do quite well

I know you're slightly tongue in cheek here memmel, but I'll jump in here and note that your posts strike me as some of the more realistic comments here today, though there are other good ones.

The toll of all previous "world wars" and "genocides" will amount to trivial rounding errors in what goes on this century, and I think you're correct about the way human aggression may assert itself.

Indeed, cannibalism will be an inviting ecological niche which will confer a large advantage in some contexts. The 21st century is going to do for cannibalism what agriculture did for bread.

In WWII it wasn't all that rare for Japanese soldiers to eat the flesh of their enemies when it seemed prudent. They considered their enemies sufficiently nonhuman that it wasn't a big deal. And that was in a relatively resource-rich time.

Human flesh is reportedly tasty; the trade in "bush meat" - nonhuman primate flesh - is booming today and wiping out our cousins because it's "deliciousness" causes it to command a premium price. It is pretty much identical to human flesh. So is that a silver lining? I guess it's a matter of perspective.

Yes it was only slightly a jest.

Realistically there is no limit to what humans will do to survive. Given this I find it funny to consider rosy scenarios involving developing some sort of happy society post peak.

Its a pretty simply problem we have six billion plus people on the planet a tremendous amount of technology and we are rapidly running out of resources.

I don't think the outcome of this situation is in doubt given human nature.

Thats not to say eventually some sort of high tech renewable society won't develop but I suspect the population will be less than six billion at that point and probably much lower.

We in general probably won't live to see the outcome but will live to some point in the interim period.

One of the biggest reasons I moved to Oregon was it has a high potential of having a significant amount of its population survive without testing the limits and depths of what man can do to man. Its not that I'm super confident in my own survival although the odds are better here than LA I really moved in hopes that me and my children will not have to see the horror that could unfold and I won't have to know what I would do with my back to the wall.

Like the Jews that fled Hitler early on esp with children missed the worst even if they died for other reasons. If I live or die is up to chance but regardless I hope to keep my human dignity and hope that it remains in the community I finally settle in.

Its not really about survival but living and maybe dying without turning into and animal.

So sure technology will both help and hurt in the future but you can be pretty sure that the place where humans are not being pushed to the edge will shrink probably dramatically in the future.

And as far as technology goes its neither good nor evil and in our future I can readily see technology being used in the near future for the greatest good of mankind and for the greatest evils our species may ever commit. Technology is agnostic and capable of both and sadly I think we will choose both.

What an extraordinarily bloodthirsty bunch of posts in this thread. I wonder where it comes from as I doubt a single one of you has ever killed or eaten another person or even done much barroom brawling.

I do think things will crash at some point. There is very probbly some minimun level needed to keep the global industrial machine going, although we don't know what it is.

But I don't think we need give up on survival. I think we are in for very difficult times, but I don't think it has to mean as much doom as you describe. I think that a return to the soil with a lot more labor, attention, and science can allow us to survive. It is likely that our current population (world) is too great. But re-connecting ourselves to the soil will make us much more aware of resource limits and much more aware of the need to control our own numbers. I'm not saying that it is certain we (meaning most) can survive, I'm simply saying it's possible and worth striving for.

I also think that if we are able to establish some sort of collectivist mentality, we-are-all-in-it-together attitudes, there could be a happiness that is missing in our driven, desperate, isolationist way of life. Reconnecting with the soil in a scientific way will require that we work in coordination. I'm a little bit optimistic about that, once we get past the collapse itself, which I admit could be quite ugly.

I'm close to 69, my two younger brothers' days are numbered. So I'm keenly aware that life is also finite. But I enjoy every day, despite seeing huge difficulties ahead for my me and my wife and my kids and grandkids who I am very attached to. I believe it is possible to be happy today at the same time as preparing (even if mostly just mentally) for a much more difficult tomorrow. I don't believe in just passively accepting doom if there's way out. It can't be done by racing around like a madman trying to pile up money or building an empire. The American way of life, which is the global middle class way of life, does not produce happiness. The system needs to be changed here so that we can start cooperatively and goodnaturedly adjusting to the new realities.

The Africans have it much closer to right than we do. There have been other studies of African happiness. Resignation is good if there's no choice. But I think there's a good chance we can find a path to survival, so we need the sense of community the Africans have, but combined with a sense of lets-see-if-we-can't-find-a-way.

Someone suggested that we need a reverse Peace Corp, and get the Africans to come to the United States to show us what we should be doing. In fact, we should have started that years ago, instead of the direction we went.

Not unreasonable idea in principle. Part of "An Inquiry into the Reasons for Chronic Unhappiness in the USA"?
Spare a thought however for the Kenyans just now.
Someone up thread wrote about population in Kenya.
See however complex picture of forced change:- Climate Change (or bad luck - serious drought) meets 'post-colonial' economics, meets modern demographic trend and typical 'refugee' urbanization? 3.8M or one-tenth population needing food aid:

Kenya was once considered one of Sub-Saharan Africa's success stories: the country possessed a relatively stable government, a good economy, a thriving tourist industry due to a beautiful landscape and abundant wildlife.

In my last job I met other consultants 'working' in East Africa and it was all about increasing export crops; up-market 'thirsty' horticulture and ornamental flowers to EU etc.... air-freighted on the back of tourist air-travel and so on. So it goes.

Getting rid of television commercials is worth almost any price.

A collapse will get rid of the goddam*d cars. $4 gas put a real dent in the mindless, insane, out- of- control traffic. Imagine what $10 gas will do? $20 gas?

A collapse will mean the Wall Steet jackasses will disappear. The smug, contemptuous 'masters of the universe'. Wall Street is staring into the abyss right now. How do I know? Because the Fed is running and gunning the markets for all they're worth. This has never happened before in the US - in Japan and China, yes. but never in the US ... even during the Great Depression. Wall Street is talking success while walking disaster. A(nother) big crash and a lot of people will be gone.

A big collapse will mean the end of 'real estate developers'. I can't wait. These as a group have almost single- handedly destroyed this country; there is no part of it that is immune to developers' well developed sense of 'ugly'. By ugly, I mean ballistically ugly. So ugly you want to stick your head into a toilet and flush three times in order to make the pain go away. A collapse will have box stores, strip malls, McMansions 'designed' by some dude who stands during the day in front of Home Depot rotting gracefully or covered in vines. The endless hectares of 'free parking' will be dotted with weeds and saplings. In a few short years, the horror will be subsumed into nature's bosom. Ditto, the developers.

A collapse will mark the end of the 'World's Remaining Superpower'. Sometimes I think hubris is the root of stupid. Trillions spent to 'rebuild Iraq'. How about New Orleans? Detroit? Cleveland?

I can go on but you get the idea. Modernity imagined by the imagination free ... is depressingly worthless. In this light, any direction is an improvement.

Right now there are two big ideas battling it out for intellectual/moral supremacy. One is the idea of progressivity (from Tainter). This has our destiny in the universe, battling the Zarkons in giant space ships, colonizing the galaxy. The other is harder to define. It tends to shunt that ambition into the realm of fantasy, relegating us to tending our own little planet ... carefully. This concept could be called conservative.

In the one concept, humans make the rules, the imperative is to maintain the rate of progress whatever the cost. The overall rewards are too great, the ambition is large but within the reach of human cleverness. Here, nature has to fend for itself and if it goes dark ... there are other worlds. The universe is large, there are many, many Earths that are waiting to tremble under our heavy boots. In this narrative, our various constraints change names, but are conceptually static. Wood shortage last century, oil shortage this century. These constraints represent the past and must be retired there by the sheer force of innovation.

The second idea looks to the past as a good model for the future, not just for us but for all the other life forms that have preceded us. In scrutinizing these, there is a sense that little exists in the universe that doesn't lie just under our noses, all we need is the wit to look out and take notice. In this concept, wantonly destroying the species that accompany us is, in the end, self destructive. Even if we have a greater destiny, we will never achieve it because we will have destroyed the tools in ignorance.

To the first group, the necessary tools have always been made available by human genius in the nick of time. Our jump from the savage to the spacial has been amazingly rapid. Why turn away now ... just when greater progress is just outside our grasp?

To the second group, the grasp has become more and more destructive. Instead of giving the world space travel and lives free of toil, want and disease, the same venal masters who have dominated the greatest history of the human race continue to do the same. There are wars, violence, enslavement, and increasing waste. The ambition of greatness has become a marketing campaign. Instead of making large plans to elevate the greatest number, the energies of the human race are given toward luxury and idleness for some and hopelessness for most. In place of a strategy that would make the ambitions bear fruit, the strategies are purposefully thwarted or turned toward the accumulation of power. Humans cannot come to the basic conclusions about what we want to do. 'Improve things' is vague. It has become a camouflage for petty crime.

The first group sees the second as ill informed. The price of progress is high. It will get higher. But stopping now would be a mistake as so much progress has been made already and to stop would mean an abandonment of all that has been accomplished.

This argument has not been decided but is coming to a point of inflection. The weight of the argument at this time falls most heavily on the progressives. Four centuries of industrialization have improved the lives of a few ... at a heavy -fatal? - cost. Our genera/species future has been brought forward. How far forward? That is the question here. To the progressives, the future is brilliant. It is whatever our imaginations can make of it. To the conservatives, the future is extinction because of errors by the progressives. I suspect that the four centuries of scientific exploration have given the human race a pretty good idea how humans can fit into the universe. Right now, the tools available to propel the progressives into the post- space age are too meagre. A progressive success over the next four hundred years might give some of us flying cars ... then again it probably won't. There won't be any parking.

At the same time, the caretaking conservatives don't have the organization to succeed even on their own terms. The have an idea about what's wrong but little else.

I don't know how this argument will end. A part will end pretty soon as the economy is unbalanced and this amplifies the resource 'issues'. Ironically, a rational pricing scheme and simple conservation would take the edge off the energy and resource problems, without the need for any new technology. There is no devine right to a car, a television, a boat, an airplane, a flat screen or any other device. This is true in the USA as well as in India. The humans are one generation away from ending the population problem. Everyone gets old and dies, automatically. No additional inputs are necessary, only the humane care of the elderly and the mandate not to breed like houseflies. The currently bedevilling social problems of religion and race also cannot withstand critical examination. Who says that someone not admitting some stupid prejudice is an 'infidel' who requires execution? Nobody, so true also with the 'right' to get rich at the expense of others - getting rich is always at the expense of others.

With discipline, these issues can be addressed and solved. It would be unpleasant. Nevertheless; this is the challenge to the progressives; there is the great faith in machines and thermodynamic cleverness. If the future of the humans is great then the administrative skills must start to match up with the technical skills.

The challenge to the conervatives is to add a narrative; a sense of direction to a chaotic natural concept that does not adhere to arbitrary, linear human rule- making. If conservatives mimic nature too closely, we will be unable to allow for the natural checks on us to work in ways that will allow anything that is humanly possible. The progressives are right in that humans ARE different from other creaturs. The conservatives need to find the needle in the hay that allows a human/nature compromise.

Resolving this argument is the silver lining.

Certainly, the progressives can't think about the possibility of collapse. On The Oil Drum, these might be the ones looking a electric cars, wind turbines everywhere, and super efficiency advances.

But I am not sure that the conservatives can exactly think about collapse either. If these are the ones who think permaculture will save us, they would just as soon not think about the possibility permaculture and other traditional techniques won't save everyone.

If there is a fast collapse,permaculture is not going to save us-anymore than wind and solar are giong to save us.

If we die back to a few hundred million world wide all these questions will be forgotten except by a few lone academics sitting high up in stone towers and known to the locals as wizards.

A few centuries later we will be back up to a billion again and ready to spin the cylinder again.

If the collapse is slow and long drawn out ...everything counts,especially history and philosophy-if anything changes it for the better it will be the result of work in these fields.

The philosophy of sustainability is getting a good hammering right here every day.

"A few centuries later we will be back up to a billion again and ready to spin the cylinder again."


Not so certain about that. It is only the availability of cheap oil that allowed the first run up of population... without commercial fertilizer, coming from natural gas as a feed stock, and cheap energy from any source to re-start factory farming, it won't be possible to get much past 750 million. Maybe 1 Billion, but I doubt it.

The trick is going to be to maintain the store of human learning so our descendants will not have to repeat every stupid mistake we have made. I share the optimistic view that we can do this, and will have to become comfortable with a no growth economy consistent with our resources.

Perhaps one day we will return to space, and even to the stars. I believe we will first have to find a way to cooperate as a species.

I see no reason why an oil collapse should wipe out all the world's libraries. Even global nuclear war would probably spare many private collections of books.


IOthink the odds are pretty good that if we survive the projected n ear term collapse that the next flowering of civilization will learn to get by just fine thru a combination of efficiency ,changes of life style ,and development of new renewable sources if energy.

Additionally most of the hydro and wind in place now will probably be salvageable providing a base to start from.There will still be some accessible oil too,and lots of salvageable machinery.There will be many usable buildings and lots of the most useful commodity of all -knowledge.

There is no reason in principle that we can't build houses in the future that need almost no energy -we know how now.

We may have to have a lot higher proportion of farmers but we already know how to grow enough food without ff to support a billion people-we just aren't willing to do it-yet- because we don't have to.

But growth will almost certainly be much slower than it has been for the last three centuries or so.

Certainly, the progressives can't think about the possibility of collapse.
But I am not sure that the conservatives can exactly think about collapse either.

Conservatives think reality and talk fantasy. (hypocrisy)
Progressives think fantasy and talk fantasy. (self-delusion)

If anyone's considered collapse, it's the conservatives. Obama's a conservative, and his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote "The Grand Chessboard" - the book for proper imperial response to energy resource decline.

Uh, can you provide your definition of "conservative", please?

A) First of all, kudos to Gail for a very thought- provoking article. I've been reading through the comments and everyone here has switched their brains on 'overdrive'. I expect a lot more comments, particularly as the wine starts to kick in.

B) Defining the terms. For the purpose of this I'm calling those who promote and support the use of machines and technology to move the human experiment to a larger sphere 'progressives'. These individuals adhere to the concept of technological progress and a machine solution to any problem that effects the human condition. Machine solutions include machine management economies, which are more or less essential for the development and deployment of new levels of technology.

This idea comes from Joseph Tainter; in fact Gail's article isn't really a surprise, coming hard on the heels of Nate's article posted a few days ago:

Cultural complexity is deeply embedded in our contemporary self image. Colloquially it is known by the more common term “civilization,” which we believe our ancestors achieved through the phenomenon called “progress.” The concepts of civilization and progress have a status in the cosmology of industrial societies that amounts to what anthropologists call “ancestor myths.” Ancestor myths validate a contemporary social order by presenting it as a natural and sometimes heroic progression from earlier times.

Those whose aim is to preserve as much of the natural world as possible and thereby gain a place for humans that doesn't carry as much natural systemic risk would be referred to here as 'conservatives'. These have no connection to the current no- nothing branch of the Republican party which does not understand evolution or mathematics. Conservatives here conserve, consequently the name. In fact, this was the original meaning of the word in the political scheme, to preserve the best of the past and avoid the 'innovations' of the rising and uncultured hoi poloi.

C) Defining terms means also defining collapse. I suspect the understanding is a general malfunction of institutions and business, with these eventually disappearing. An example of this definition is here. Any collapse is conjectural. Put another way, the establishment is investing huge amounts to create a faux 'recovery' which ain't. In this context, what is a collapse?

I personally don't consider an overall crash likely unless it is accompanied by a large nuclear exchange. Markets fluctuate, there are reasons for individuals to loose wealth and security, this is not a collapse. Most places in the world have not collapsed, even failed states have not collapsed, witness Haiti, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Ruwanda, Republic of Congo, East Timor, Liberia or borderline failed nations such as Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka ... the United States is nowhere near collapse. It produces half of its own energy domestically, most of its own GDP (China is a part of the US so GDP growth in China counts to some degree as growth in the US), all of its own food, is demographically balanced compared to other developed nations such as Japan or Italy; that is, its population is young and productive rather than elderly and dependent.

A decline in output is inevitable and the outcome of this is going to be extraordinarily stressful. The cause is two- fold. One is the energy backdrop, that has existed since 1970 when domestic oil production peaked. Since this is the ongoing examination of TOD, there is no need to get into details here. It is important to note that in the opinion of this commenter, the energy backdrop has been the mainspring for the exponential expansion of credit, the purpose being to hedge via asset values the increase in cost of fuel. Since 1973 in Japan and 1983 in the US, the dependent consumers have switched from a goods production regime to a financial speculation regime founded on expanded credit; bubble economics, in other words.

This is an ongoing strategy, both in the US and elsewhere. That the strategy is expanding in an economic context where alternatives would be more effective indicates the energy crisis exists in the form of an ever- widening pool. See this and this and this and this and this and this.

The outcome of a decline leaves a lot of alternatives and time to implement them. This last is NOT a given. Downward momentum in financial markets leaves little resources available at any given time; the desire to convert illiquid non- money to cash swamps all other impulses. That we collectively are in the midst of a financial unwind tends to illuminate chaos scenarios as these present the greatest danger. We are still wild animals, even as we wear shoes.

A decline is damaging enough. It is the worst of all possible worlds as it allows for the continuation of destructive behavior. At the same time, the resources necessary to alter the behavior by incentives disappear in the deflation vortex.

The issue of narratives is important here. The progressives have the advantage as the entire progress process is triumphal. Nature is continually overcome by the imagination of heroes who innovate around situations and elevate large numbers to each successive social level by entrepeneurial effort. Without a narrative, the conservatives are left with pointing out the follies of the progressives and little else. It's hard to catch the public imagination with an agenda of ... halting all development. Granted, the overall situation leaves little to develop and less resources to do so, but the social impulses through long training connects the pieces into a coherent development whole. Setbacks are considered temporary and leaving a basis for future progress is part of the social dialog for progressives. This is one rationalization for the continued stream of government subsidies and bailouts of failed institutions.

They may, after all, not fail tomorrow.

While this has been taking place, the progressives have fatally undermined their efforts by diverting their innovative energies toward speculation in finance rather than making investments in productivity - 'core businesses'. Over the past twenty years - leaving out the internet - there has been little to improve either social management or productivity. In fact, the great innovation in the US over the past twenty years has been to send its manufacturing jobs to China @ a lower wage rate. In China the manufacturing jobs are done with US- made machinery using 19th century methods - the lower wage rate is a substitute for US industrial productivity. This is anti- progress or commercial 'ungrowth' and return to Recardan plantation economics. Rather than a step toward a more humane future, what is represented here is more like the antebellum South in a place like Alabama.

The progressives have had the opportunity - to develop alternative energy; wind, Thorium/MSR, concentrated solar, interim light- water reactor, smart meter, dispersed solar, tidal (from the 1970's), flywheel power, fuel cells, peroxide fuels, ammonia fuel cycles, refrigeration energy storage, in situ gassification ... etc, etc, etc, etc and the innovations have instead been Credit Default Swaps, Special Investment Vehicles, derivatives against life insurance policies, commodities option writing, real estate development, gambling and other nonsense - all supported by governments, all of them. With these allies and initiatives - in the context of the unwind of primary energy with no replacement - it is hard to see where progressives have any credibility remaining.

By their actions, progressives suggest that there is no future to progress.

At the same time, the conservatives point out (accurately) what's wrong, but only go so far as to extrapolate a collapse. This is intellectually too easy. It's also not likely. The suggestion that the alternative to society is hunter gatherer is absurd. Civiliaztion is a new phenomenon in the geologic sense, there are reasons that it doesn't work as desired, it needs twenty or more centuries to develop fully. Given time, evolution/natural selection works. Positive, constructive criticism that goes beyond the collapse dynamic is necessary ... for the conservatives. Some group going forward must build credibility.

I used to have these arguments twenty years ago with my ex- girlfriend and I would point out that the planet does not need saving, that life endures and has survived far worse, that human presumptions are always amplified for effect/drama and that the humans are good at adapting. There may or may not be twenty bazillion of us or far less than are around now ... but the question itself is an 'angels dancing on a pin' issue and irrelevant to the task at hand. After all, Primo Levi survived Auschwitz and wrote about it, afterward.

Personally, I understand that the continuum of the past fifty or so years will continue in diminished form until the ability to proceed is foreclosed. By this, I mean the 'American Way of Suburban, Car Centered Commercial Consumption' will continue until the easy, cheap oil runs out. At issue is the direction of investment. Most investment is in consumption rather than production. Promoting population growth expands consumer markets and increases consumption. This is counter- productive. It made sense in 1950 when resources were cheap and the wherewithall to transform these to products was available. Investing in consumption accelerates the loss of capital for the productive economy. Overconsumption is the reason for the current economic decline. The solution is to measure investment against its capital return. This idea is not from Hotelling or another economist, it is from my mother.

Common sense, in other words.

Size and number of cities tracks the size and number of reservoirs produced.

Population growth was partially enabled by the convenience of oil. What happens when the reservoirs turn into "ghost fields"?

(I didn't realize I was a conservative :)

Permaculture won't save anyone unless they find out what it is!

Perhaps I should have been a little less cryptic and said permaculture will not save us because it it too little too late ,like wind and solar,if there is a collapse.

It will save a few people who are early adapters and have paid thier dues by making extensive preparations.

Scaling it up to support tens of millions of people is impossible in the short run,and even if it were possible the effort would not be made until too late.

Certainly, the progressives can't think about the possibility of collapse

Quite Wrong !

Liberia and Cambodia both had complete collapses of civil society (above the village level, and often even that basic). Significant die-offs (from memory 12% & 20% of the population) YET rail infrastructure still had some residual value.

I have seen where the railroad was the highest form of visible social organization in the much of the 1870s & 1880s Western USA (new homesteader areas).

I have looked into North Korea (a prototype for future warlords ?). 1920s and 1930s China and other near collapse states. Railroads usually kept operating as millions died of starvation alongside the tracks.

I see rail as a robust partial "solution" in a wide variety of partial social collapses. It adds value to society in a way that cars and trucks do not.

And I can see where the "last man standing" as society collapses is the railroad organizations.

Best Hopes,


I don't agree that the industrial revolution has only benefitted a few, and I believe the data supports me on this. Take a look at GapMinder. Like they say themselves: "Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view."

Of course we have seen excesses on a new scale the last 100 years, but on average everybody has benefitted, even the people in Bangladesh. This has of course been mainly due to the availability of free energy (=oil).

There's also a nice TED video available about this presented by Hans Rosling: TED-TALK: LET MY DATASET CHANGE YOUR MINDSET

I like your first one best: Appreciation for what we have today.

I've always been an appreciative sort of guy, but since my becoming Peak-Oil aware, I've truly enjoyed and appreciated every single hot shower I've had. And the furnace in wintertime. The rye-bread-and-cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches with mango chutney I had for lunch. The list of little things goes on.

The silver lining I realized most: Seek contentment (it's sort of almost the same thing)

As you and other posters have commented, finding happiness/contentment seems to be easier for many people who live in much more miserable conditions than Westerners. But it's context-independent (who cares which civilization you live in?) and has as a prerequisite some form of knowledge of how to survive. Seeking contentment seems a worthy goal now, and a thousand years from now.

Open the pod bay doors Gail.

The British physicist Charles Galton Darwin speculated about possible collapse scenarios in his 1953 book The Next Million Years. This short book is available on the internet at no charge for those interested. His silver lining - if it can be called that - is that human life may continue in spite of population reductions.

Rather than dwell on our own demise (which, like peak oil is a certainty, only the timing is debatable), I have been studying my own personal road map and striking new trails. I have found two books, Stumbling on Happiness (Dan Gilbert) and The Happiness Hypothesis (Jonathan Haidt), to be constructive. You can see brief presentations by both authors at

Over the past decade, Gilbert has pioneered a field of research called "affective forecasting." He studies why people sometimes incorrectly predict their reactions to future events, and why we often guess wrong about what will make us happy.

Gilbert was recently featured at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Thanks Debbie. I particularly liked Haidt's talk on conservative and liberal moral values. I think Joe Bageant also sheds some light on this so I just ordered Deer Hunting with Jesus.

Deer Hunting is a great book, and Joe paints and makes a good case as to why our conservative and downtrodden class continually vote and act against their own interests.

It may be the next thing to heresy to say so ,and I have already agreed that a collapse is coming,but we COULD all be wrong.

Maybe the unthinkable will happen and we will come to our collective senses-it is at least possible that we will get a jolt of something that will convince us it's necessary.

A plague or two that wipes out ten percent of the population and a virus that wipes out half of the wheat and rice might do it-collapse need not be total.

Of course the odds are rather high that such a scenario will not come to pass.

There are no silver linings to a collapse. We are talking about the death of billions, the greatest calamity our species has ever experienced. Under current trends, the world population will hit 7 billion by 2015 and 9 billion by 2050. A collapse would put population back to a billion or less by 2100. Each of these deaths is a real and personal tragedy, which makes the persistent lack of attention to this looming disaster by both us and our elites unconscionable.

We have already exceeded the planet's carrying capacity for us. This can be seen by how quickly we are burning through the planet's resources and damaging the environment. It can also be seen in zones of chronic instability and failed states. Peak oil and global warming are yet further signs. Conceptually, this can be expressed by a formula like the following: PT = ER, where P is population, T is technological level, E is environmental impact, and R is resource usage. The left side is the demand side, the right, the supply side. The product like our planet is finite. As a result, any term acting by itself or all of the terms interacting together (the actual case) can trigger a collapse. We still have the capacity to modify the terms and bring them back into balance, but I do not think we have the unity or the will to do so. We remain fragmented, with insular agendas that take no heed of anyone or anything else.

the world population will hit 7 billion by 2015 and 9 billion by 2050.

7 billion should hit in 2012 (July?), 8 billion around 2025.
I don't expect us to reach 9 billion. Or even 8b really.

In fact, I think around 7.5 (about 2020) will likely be our peak.
The water and food shortages and climate problems will likely be so severe by then that the beginning of the population decline will kick in.

- Ron

I think you are a bit optimistic. I am predicting a peak of about 7.2 billion by 2015 and 6 billion by 2020.

Ron Patterson

6.8 billion +/- 200 million by 2012, 2.5 billion +/- 500 million by 2020, less than 250 million +/- 200 million by 2030.

I realize it's optimistic.

Numbers plucked from the ether?

The last time we lived in a real time energy world, was about 1700, when Earth had 1 billion people.
This was with oceans full of fish, and 4 continents to loot.
I think some view, although not precise, and with many feedback loops, we can at least make an assumption as to what direction population is heading.

The developments I find most likely are indeed depressing but even with a fraction of todays oil we will still have a vast ammount of electricity to enhance the use and availability of other resources.

With a fraction of your blood volume, you still have vast quantities of lipids, carbs, and proteins to power your body.

Oh, wait, it doesn't work that way.

People assume that since the technology exists it can be implemented. Such as termites being able to digest wood.

When will humans be able to naturally digest wood? That's the answer to the technology problem.

When there is talk about brand new technology that will "save us", no, it will only save the structures, systems, and people who are adapted to it.

Everything else gets selected out, extinguished, through evolution.

So, sure, some day in the future humans might eat trees. Homo arboreus. Homo sapiens would be extinct. As would Homo oleum and Homo navitus vilus (oil humans and cheap energy humans).

There were some wood digestion going on in Sweden during the second world war. There were a shortage of feed for cows and pulp plants boiled the pulp longer then for making paper and turned it into a passable feed. People then ate the milk and meat.

With a fraction of your blood volume, you still have vast quantities of lipids, carbs, and proteins to power your body.

I like that!

People think that if we have shortages, substitution will solve our problems. Not really--it is Liebig's Law of the Minimum that becomes the number one issue. Also the amount of investment dollars to change infrastructure, and the long lead time to actually build new cars or whatever.

There is currently a belief many that we can live "move away from fossil fuels" with no adverse effects. If we are already on the edge of collapse, it seems to me that voluntarily moving away from fossil fuels may move forward the timing of collapse (or perhaps not--things may already be set in motion).

When will humans be able to naturally digest wood? That's the answer to the technology problem.

Humans have been "naturally digesting wood" for centuries, using mutualist organisms.  The fungi called "wood ears" have been a part of oriental cuisine for a very long time, and they convert wood to a form humans can digest.  Other fungi convert straw.

Subcritical water treatment at around 215°C converts lignocellulose into free lignin and simple sugars (about 50%).  The number of products possible is literally too long to list (food, fuels, chemicals, you name it).  The lignin fraction can be converted to fuel compounds using supercritical water oxidation.

When there is talk about brand new technology that will "save us", no, it will only save the structures, systems, and people who are adapted to it.

Machinery based on combustion engines is more efficient than draft animals and more flexible in their energy supplies.  If you are looking for adaptability, technology evolves orders of magnitude faster than biology.

We stopped living in a real-time energy world the moment fire was widely discovered. It's just that the pace of draw-down seriously ramped up around 1700.

Just a small correction - 7 billion by 2011-2012.

I think collapse is being viewed as an event that will take place somehow, then there will be a period of post collapse. Unfortunately I don't think it will be that uniform or so orderly.

My take on collapse is there will be two types of responses to the frog realizing the temp. of the water bit, with under-developed countries simply adapting to much less or starving, while developed countries are going to get whipped up into a very aggressive mood.

In less than 4 years there will be another Prez election, and between now and then I think the black and white thinkers (not the intellectual gray area thinkers) will be looking for a leader that understands their frustration. Someone like Mitt Romney who ran his campaign partly on the idea of ramping up the military with a trillion dollar a year budget. Where the money will come from I have no idea, but he will have the support of the angry masses.

I'm sure some country or group of countries will get blamed and off to a massive war we will go. As this progresses, the world economy will descend into chaos, people will riot in the streets for food, leaders will get frustrated and someone will launch a nuke and some other country will respond and fhawoomp, we will all go up in cloud of dust. Those that survive will breath in radioactive dust and die or die from the nuclear winter.

Either that or we will all work together understanding our collective plight and learn to live with less - yeah right!

Someone like Mitt Romney who ran his campaign partly on the idea of ramping up the military with a trillion dollar a year budget.

Almost there. Currently 900 billion not including the VA or DOE nuclear programs.

Mitt Romney was not including anything for the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or any indirect costs. He meant simply the money for equipment and troops. He also talked about increasing the troops ready for war to 1 million. What the total direct and indirect costs associated with defense would be above one trillion is hard to pinpoint, but it would certainly be much more.

He along with McCain seemed to be advocating a willingness to wage war with Russia over the situation in eastern Europe's Georgian province. Presuming McCain is a non-starter due to his loss last time around and his age, that leaves Romney. Huckabee is too nice a guy for the angry masses, so we are back to Romney. Palin is too dim, so again we have Romney. Anyone willing to strap his dog to the roof of his car is probably the type of person the right will be looking for in the next prez election.

I realy hope there still would be some benefit in trying to do constructive things and trying to be a good man even in a 90 % collapse scenario since it would be terrible to realise that trying to be good is the wrong choise.

I think a collapse is likely given the direction our culture is walking. But what does collapse mean. Isn't the nature of collapse important? Just as oil is not distributed evenly around the world, most other natural resources are not as well. Nations and regions which have Energy AND Industrial Resources will fair better than those without, providing they can also feed themselves. As post peak decline sets in, energy providers will have a choice of feeding their own, or trading for other resources they can not self provide. Regions that currently depend on imported food will will be in a tight spot. That would include many cities. The level of mechanized society will drop as food becomes more important than "stuff", just as in Kenya. In the U.S. we are well past peak local oil production. If imports nose dived, it is not the end of oil, but a collapse to what we can self produce. Perhaps 20 percent of what we are used to, with continual yearly declines. How would you allocate such scarce resources? Would "the market" handle this? I think we can already see that would not turn out so good. But would you want someone dictating to you what share of resources you get? Who is going to deem you worthy and how? Does our current Health Care debate foreshadow anything positive there? If there were a real lot of needy people, would you be willing to help? Would you have anything to "hand out", or is that even the best approach?

Keep in mind, many things can be done by hand just as well, just not a fast, nor in the expected quantities. For example, a sail driven cargo ship, built with hand tools and wood, is perfectly capable of shipping any dry good globally. Its been done before. Energy decline will not be the end of Saffron from India for your dinner table, or Indium from China for LCD screens. But the price would surely change, and you might see the same computer model on the store shelf for a very long time, providing you can afford it. Oh, and that one is for display only. Your order will arrive in 8 weeks. However, it could mean the end of Indium if China does not have enough energy to process it, and it would certainly be the end of fresh Bananas from Equator and Pineapples from Hawaii because they would spoil on a slow boat. You may have to get used to eating sun dried fruit, instead of fresh. Would 20 percent of our current energy diet be enough to keep the elevators running, and food deliveries to the corner store? If that was a priority, what changes in your workday life would be needed to free up for that the energy you would have used for other things? Would your current job even be possible on a 20 percent energy diet? What could be done to make it possible? If you imagine yourself a creative and resourceful person, start changing your life now, or someone else will do it for you, and you may not like it. Do you want ambulance service, or a new big screen TV? Sorry, can't have both. Is that the end of the world? Hardly. Consider this, I've been told by an aging museum curator who used to work them, that the typical steam driven locomotive was specifically designed so that any blacksmith shop along the route could repair most of the moving parts on the engine. Remember also that the American west was crossed with rails set in place by hand, and mountains moved along the way with a little blasting powder, pick axes and hand shovels.

One thing is for sure, there is not enough wood in the world to keep us all warm in our current living arrangements. How long do you want to be dependent on a complex corporate structures for basic survival? Is there something you can do for yourself now to become more resilient? Sharing how you become resilient will make goodwill instead of envy. Friends are always a good thing. As long as we have enough to eat, it is our expectations of daily life which will change the most. Still, we haven't even begun to see the political turmoil this will bring about, because what we are really talking about here is a radical change in our culture, and cultural change is emotionally hard.

It may seem like the end of the world now, but in a few years the Democrats will be voted out of power. Then everything will be back to normal :)



This is a keeper, and worthy of sending to all my teabagger associates!

Their reply should be one sentence long.

How do you plan to pay for that basket of goods?

Hint: You could eliminate the entire DOD and it would still not be enough to put the budget back in black.

Conservationist, by normal do you mean:
1. Debt increasing from 5.4 to 11 trillion?
2. Pre-emptive invasion of a soverign nation with no proof of WMD?
3. No healthcare coverage for 47 million and counting?
4. More tax cuts for the super wealthy?
5. Reduction in water saftey levels, for arsenic and mercury?
6. Study to find out if depleted uranium can be used in every day U.S. products, like rakes and shovels?
7. Massive subsidies for huge oil conglomerates that already make billions every quarter?
8. No foreign drugs allowed for sale in U.S.?
9. The firing of judges for political reasons?

You mean that kind of normalcy?

There are three major influencing factors, that are influencing current events -
1) Population - Aging & Total
2) Peak Oil
3) Climate Change

To be blunt, these were the responsibility of the current generation of Politicians and they have not dealt properly with any of them!

In fact, it would be more accurate to say, they have not addressed these issues effectively, at all!

Regrettably, I suspect that Self Interest will win out!

Even if deals are struck overtly, they will likely be destroyed covertly! The end result, regrettably, will be a collapse or worse. If we cast our mnds back, the thing that finally stopped the Great Depression, being WW2 and a repetition of that would certainly have no silver linings!

I earnestly hope that I am wrong, but I suspect that Self Interest will prevail, until it is almost too late and our back are to the wall, so to speak!

That said, we really needed 30-40 years to start an orderly change over or at least 10-20 years for a crash diet, we got neither, because of "Self Interest"!

That transition period was/is vital, it's not something that markets could never have done, it was the role that government/s should have, but did not play!!!

Is there a silver lining, I don't know, but there is (now) NO SILVER BULLET!

I think you are leaving out a 4th major factor:
Species extinction - Humans are crowding out all other life forms. This directly impacts humans from the fish we catch in the Ocean to the plants we eat. Monoculture agriculture destroys all the other types of a particular plant.
" ---There were 7,000 varieties of apples grown in the US at the turn of the century. There are now less than 1,000.
----There used to be 30,000 varieties of rice grown in India. Today more than 75% of the rice comes from just 10 varieties."
This holds true for language and culture as well. Half of the languages spoken in the world have been extinguished, and we are rapidly extinguishing the ones that remain."

The human phenomenon of population overshoot afforded by abundant fossil fuels will be dealt with during this century; unfortunatley, Mother Nature is a harsh taskmaster. The ultimate hubris is that of humans who believe they operate outside of the laws of nature and control those laws.

The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

We are all Kenians

- seen from the viewpoint of future generations, which will hopefully a more sustainable mindset. These will consider ours horribly short-sighted, just as we consider the backwardness of the people in the medieval Dark Ages.

Gail, there is no reason you have to wait for a collapse to have these things. I have been living them since 1998!

I want to note first, I am not promoting Buddhism, I am just sharing how it worked for me to gain these insights BEFORE any collapse occurs.

A very good book on these topics is "A Still Forest Pool" which is a collection of stories told by Ajahn Chah. It can be found here:

Here is a taste:

A Monk’s Life

Here in the forest where a monk can learn to contemplate the nature of things, he can live happily and peacefully. As he looks around, he understands that all forms of life degenerate and eventually die. Nothing that exists is permanent, and when he understands this, he begins to become serene.
Monks are trained to be content with little-to eat only what they need, to sleep only when necessary, to be satisfied with what they have. This is the foundation of Buddhist meditation. Buddhist monks do not practice meditation for selfish reasons but in order to know and understand themselves, and thus be able to teach others how to live peacefully and wisely.

Meditation does not simply involve being at peace with the world. On the contrary, confronting the self can be like walking into a raging storm. Beginning intensive practice, one often despairs at first and may even want to kill oneself. Some think that a monk's life is lazy and easy-let them try it themselves and see how long they can stand it. A monk's work is hard; he works to free his heart in order to feel the loving-kindness that embraces all things. Seeing that all life rises and falls, is born and expires like the breath, he knows that nothii1g can belong to him, and thus he puts an end to suffering.

Thanks for that link CB,a real gem.

90 posts already!
I live in the present for the sake of my sanity. When it gets too bad I ask myself where am I now, at this moment.

However that is a refuge. High discount rates have a penalty.
In "The Histories" by Herridotus, Oricles were well paid. Survival depended on forecasting. It still does.

I intend to enjoy the trip, as bad as it is going to get. I intend to be an anomaly in the general data. Consider the general course of this catastrophe as Entrophy. I shall be Life that reverses entrophy. If only briefly.

The mothers cry as their babies die...
Two million under-5s starving in Bangladesh: UN

"The population is beyond the razor's edge.."
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

thanks. sobering.

Looking for a “silver lining” is probably time wasted. There may, however, be a “silver bullet”. The only poster, so far, that has come close to shooting in the direction of the target is ryeguy on September 19, 2009 - 8:22pm.

The recognition that … after the crash … all will be lost, or at least continue along the same self-destructive behavioural pathway, without a change in our thinking seems lost on most folks.

A change in thinking involves understanding “why we think the way we do”, and is no easy task. I think anyone who has been involved in cognitive therapy will agree.

The forces working against such a change … political, economic, religious and military … are extremly powerful and doing their best to prevent humanity from ever recognizing they are being conned.

For example, it’s hard to imagine folks will suddenly recognize the vulgarity of capitalist economics and the fact that there can never be rationality in the markets.

Our lives have been built around distortional thinking that accepts and reacts to judgment as reality with out questioning the process that allows us to think that way.

But presumably these powerful networks of elites wouldn`t be able to influence people in the sort of crash that Gail is talking about here. There would be loss of communicating/media/govt controls if 90% of people couldn`t survive I`m guessing.

The ones that were left would have to be able to start thinking clearly and for themselves, maybe it would be difficult at first. Who is to say they`d be any more "rational" when they made a "decision" in a "market situation"? But they`d surely be HUNGRIER!!

I think TOD's contributor are excessively obsessed by a collapse scenario which prevent them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Though I concede that collapse is always a possibility I am no longer encline to think that it is the most likely possibility, at least at a global scale. We know that collapse happen localy (URSS, Somalie, Afganisthan) and my understanding is that Yemen is next on the list, but I don't think that these cases are necessarily a good example for our industrialised countries. Let me be clear, I am a long believer that perpetual growth is not a sustainable scenario beyond more than 2 or 3 decades ahead and soon our world will have to learn what is an economy with zero growth and eventually negative growth,and population stabilization and then decline, still that is not the end of the world. I am more and more encline to think that we can envision a soft landing in a transition from a growth addicted civilisation to a negative growth civilisation. It is all about state of minds, once the population will be educated and aware that our earth has limits that we have to accept, behaviors will change, even if people don't like it.

The problem is that TOD look down too much at potential technological progress than can help us in the future to overcome problems of energy and resources depletion. Potential gain in energy efficieny are enormous (please read the last article of Lester Brown who has never be on the optimism side, he reckons that he had underestimated that point and he is now more optimistic than ever when he see that we are in a turning point on CO2 emissions in US). Potential of renewable energies are significantly more than initialy thought (except biofuel). TOD also neglects too much human adaptabily which has proven to be one of the most incredible feature of our species across human history (asides of mosquitoes no other species can survive under any climate, though tigers are doing pretty well in that regards).

Well far from me the idea that the future will be rosy, we have colossal challenges ahead, bigger than humanity has never faced before: global warming, oil depletion, resources depletion, soil erosion, Ponzi like financial system, overpopulation in emerging countries who want consumer lifestyle. We will have to change our life and the meaning of our exsistence, population will have to scale back. But we have means and knowledges like never before, more we have the key to increase our knowledges very fast when needed, we can also learn that life can be exciting even in a declining civilisation and without consumering fever.

It is not a characterists of the human nature to think too much about the future and for one single good reason, each day brings enough challenges to keep us busy. So why should we ? mother nature and facts will bring us to reality when we deviate too much of it and we will act consquently.

So all this to say that a soft landing look more likely than a havoc like collapse a la "kunstler"

Lester Brown who has never be on the optimism side

How interesting! I've always found Lester Brown one of the most optimistic people out there. In any case, Lester is being very selective in what he writes in that piece. Yes, emissions are down but at the cost of millions of unemployed globally. Those unemployed are tinder waiting to catch fire when the the unemployment benefits run out. Take your pick: lower carbon emissions (via a contracting global economy) or civil unrest. The way our economy is set up now one cannot have both. (As you undoubtedly know, politicians must maintain economic growth to employ the new population that enters the workforce each year or civil unrest follows, or the politician is thrown out of office, or both.)

So all this to say that a soft landing looks more likely than a havoc like collapse a la "kunstler"

We shall see. You will make choices according to that worldview and I wish you luck. I assert that the tinder is being set out now and that we are all just waiting for the spark. See memmel's comments above. When people are hungry, or worse they see their children being hungry, they become nasty and often murderous. Just look at how people act when a small thing like their mocha caramel frappuccino is missing the sprinkles they ordered on top. As a species, any peaceful collaboration we've enjoyed is highly dependent on everyone being adequately fed and sheltered and even that guarantees nothing.

Mike, do you have links to that footage you reviewed? I may not watch all of it but I'm wired such that looking at the footage might give me reason to move faster rather then send me into resignation and inaction.

Sorry but I don't see the connection between less carbon emission and rise of unemployment. Countries like spain and others in south-america or north africa have lived for decades with unemployement in the 20% range, and still nothing happened like what you describe, ok some social unrest in Venezuela in the end 80s. Long term unemployment in the double digit range after having hit europe in the 80s is now coming to US. US will learn to live with it, just as did europe, not a good enough reazon for a general collapse.

Again I am not arguing that the future will be as easy as the 30 past years, but just that more difficult times doesn't necessarily means "collapse" or "havoc". In the history, times have been mainly "difficults" easy time has been only for the 50 past years, so don't tell me that humanity cannot cope with "difficult times" that is simply not true.

You possibly don't see it because you see BAU lite.
Consider economic growth a thing of the past. No more growth for everyone.

Growth for one business simply means another one or more businesses are failing or have already failed.
All that is left is a scramble for the diminishing consumer spend and to outlast the next fellow.
Feedback loops kick in because business takeovers, mergers and rationalization leading to employee layoffs
leads to less consumer spending and less taxation and less for the business cycle and rationalization begins once more.

Twenty percent unemployment in a growing or stabilized (world) economy is manageable.
People adapt and work in the hidden economy, they barter, live with less, good food, medicine and shelter,
and endure a reduced life expectancy. I don't think there is much hope of unemployment stabilizing at 20%
for "decades".

I know what the solution to unemployment will will be war.
Chronic unemployment makes an offer to join the armed forces and fight for your country for three squares
a day plus a roof over the head a tempting proposition. I think the danger of a war reaches a critical point
when poverty becomes prevalent, probably 25-30%......similar to the great depression. People become expendable
because they are a drain on the limited resources.
To cure chronic unemployment just get rid of the unemployed, they become troublesome otherwise.

You don't see the connection between fossil fuel use and economic activity (and thus employment)? How odd.

Perhaps this graph will help:

It shows that economic growth requires energy in direct measure.

Or review the article on energy intensity, which describes the efficiency of an economy to produce GDP using primary energy.

Since our energy mostly comes from carbon sources, this article is also appropriate:

Also, as Bandits points out, why ever do you think unemployment will remain at 20%? You appear to have been a member of TOD for over a year so my guess is that you understand the concept of a declining oil supply and the economy with it. Or do you think that we will be able to move off of oil as production declines and maintain the current level of employment? That would also be a very odd assertion, in my view, but is more likely a fundamental misunderstanding of some basic economic relationships.

For a thorough examination of the likely impact peak oil, please see my blog post:
Estimating the Economic Impacts of Peak Oil

It reviews several important papers on the topic. The paper that deals with it most directly is Hirsch's (Mitigation of Maximum World Oil Production:Shortage Scenarios), unfortunately behind a paywall.

Aangel I won't post them I actually did not keep the link its easy enough to find. I only looked for research reasons I don't enjoy it.
Periodically every few years I'll look at war video and images from the time of the US Civil War up through what ever the current date is to see if I can discern any differences. So far the camera continues to tell the truth that nothing has changed.

The one that really ripped me was some Chechen's filming slitting the throats of some Russian soldiers. I'm not picking sides on that conflict but given that info and a bit of googling the video is easily found.

I suspect that most of the proponents of rapidly spreading Nuclear technology around the world don't really understand the depths of human depravity.
I'm pretty sure if the Chechen's had any nuclear weapons they would have used them in their war with Russia.

Just read this ...

Personally I'm not against nuclear energy I think the technical hurdles or solvable I just don't think the social ones have a solution esp as resource dwindle. Or chance to set up something like France is past. The only positive is I think things will fall apart fast enough that nuclear war will be limited.
At least initially. Much later any area with high tech will probably have a significant amount of nuclear capability and be armed so the threat of nuclear war actually is low at first but probably grows later on in time.

Thanks, Mike. I've decided that I don't need to see the footage.

I think I'm sufficiently aware of how nasty our species can be.

And you may be right about the nuclear weapons; an interesting and not very surprising article.

I can't think of much positive coming from a collapse. Most of us currently live under the illusion that technology will make everything better and prolong our lives, perhaps sometime giving us everlasting life and vanquishing our greatest collective fear - death. When it becomes apparent that the technology paradigm has failed we will rely more on faith in the supernatural, something our technological society has not come close to extinguishing. Under current conditions theocratic forces seem to creep around the periphery ready to put the stake in the heart of the scientific endeavor. I'm afraid the T.H. Huxleys of the world will be burned alive in furtherance of religious fundamentals when a propitious moment arises.

I don't think we will ever accept "reality" or "the truth", not because it is unfathomably complex but because its pursuit does not offer immediate rewards and therefore few will bother to make the journey or will turn to something less intellectually strenuous like GameBoy or X-Box. The truth, as far as we can journey into it, may not offer the same comfort that can be found in a construction of the mind unbounded by the physics and chemistry of the mundane.

When I think of catastrophic collapse I always think of the World Trade Centers. How big does the fire have to be before the floors of our society begin to pancake. Has the first plane hit the first tower and our financial firemen have poured a trillion dollars worth of water on the fire. Are they emptying the vaults in the basement before an inevitable collapse occurs.

Our cellular organization has great resilience built-in. It has been through many 9/11 events throughout our history. We are bilaterally symmetrical so that if one organ gets knocked out, we have an extra in most cases. If we get a hole poked in us we have a fast acting damage and repair system. We can store fat for days when food is not available. We have an adaptable immune system. We have an excellent surveillance system that can recognize danger and avoid it. Most importantly, our building blocks circulate and cycle freely in the biosphere that allows for a perpetual reproducing existence and our food is produced by the energy of the sun. Our technological societies do not come close to this ideal and they will have to in order to survive.

But why should we assume that humans will necessary have the wrong attitude ? they will probably at first, anger, frustration, despair, surnatural shortcut but I think it will be temporary. I think the nature of human is much more passive acceptance of "sad unavoidable reality" than angry reaction once past the irresponsible optimism that we are enjoying riht now. As I have travelled a bit in my life i can tell you that passive fatalist attitude is much more a problem than social unrest as a whole, way more. American people are really amazing in that regards, look the debate that is going right now on the health care, not a single protest in the street to fight the selfishness of powerful lobbies and groups of interest that are trying to kill Obama's reform, nothing, nada.

Yeah I see what you fear, the domino effect that would trigger a in chain collapse, please keep in mind that we are a civilization of the futile, you can pretty much slash 50% of our energy and resources consumption and still our civilization will work, though at a slower pace.

Also keep in mind that in the 6th centuries the black plague killed 50% of the population of the byzantine empire pretty much overnight (can you imagine worse ?) but still the Byzantine empire survived until the 14th century.

I am not a happy believer in the "technology will always solve all our problems" many problems will not be solved at all, but technology is part of the equation to help us moving toward this sustainable system that you describe at the end of your contribution.

When I say "soft landing" I don't mean without suffering, there will be suffering and even starvation and move of populations, but we have seen this many time in history, still hisotry didn't stop. It is quite interesting to think that in europe life have been incredibly difficult from the 14th century up to the mid 19th century, climate was cold, war, starvation (the 30 years wars in the 17th century in Germany killed 30% of the population) still all the advances of the occidental civilization on the rest of the world took place during that time period, sciences made progresses and technology as well, europe conquiered the whole world, the industrial revolution was essentially made by people with empty stomach, US was populated by people who were litteraly fleeing the harshness of life in europe, still no sign of collapse between the 14th and 19th century in europe only steady growth, sometimes punctuated by wars an revolutions.

So maybe the word "collapse" need to be more clearly defined

There can be numerous catastrophes on the trip up the resource availability curve without greatly interfering with its general trend and direction. WWI and WWII barely caused a blip in population growth because available resources and continued technological development allowed even greater growth to smother their impact. The same sorts of misfortunes on the way down the resource availability curve will result in permanent damage and reductions in population.

The availability of energy and other resources have allowed us to cover up many of our past sins. Soon, there will be no Marshall Plan coming to the rescue, we couldn't even adequately respond to hurricane Katrina.

IMO it is more likely that we will see a further concentration of remaining wealth as small players are squeezed out of their remaining assets through deflation and inflation and lack of credit. Perhaps at the trough of the current deflation the remaining productive assets will be cherry picked by those able to obtain cash or whatever medium of exchange is extant. Then, as the wealthy dump their paper assets into the remaining real world assets, there will be a hyperinflation that sends the savings of those still holding paper assets into the toilet. It will be too late to buy productive land, commodities and infrastructure whose prices will be permanently out of reach for the working poor or the small-time capitalist.

Regarding the fall of civilization, I don't think we have achieved civilization yet. We occupy a world of corporations that pass resources through their processes just as quickly as they can to garner a maximum amount of profit. The profit is funneled into more growth, research and human consumption, most of which is unnecessary to the continuance of our species. We are not wise and as a society we are not civilized. The collapse of the matrix we find ourselves living in and possibly our extinction will be no more important or meaningful than the loss of the trilobites, but we should leave a much greater variety of fossils.

You are basing your scenario like if we were tranistion from abundance of resources to nothing left, that's not serious. Peak oil is very clear about that it is just that the flow will decline moving forward, not stop. Asides peak oil that TOD focuses on is peak light oil. So far the technology doesn't allows to think that heavy oil can displace peak oil. I think that moving forward the breakthrough in technology in the oil industry will be in the extraction of heavy oil and oil shale, I don't think that we will anything spectacular on Enhanced Oil Recovery where we are the point of diminushing returns. Breakthrough in technnologies happen and that's not TOD who is going to change that, look at natural gaz, 2 years ago we were running out of natural gaz in US, introduction of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling gave access to gaz shale and reserves are muliplied by a factor 10. For unconventionnal oil I think that in situ combustion for example can be a game changer, if it works it can break the EROI limitation, since you are burning an oil that would be left in the ground anyway with traditionnal technologies. I know you are going to say "but we don't have time left" breakthrough can be impleted quite fast when needed. Being said, breakthrough in extraction of unconventionnal fossil energies might not be the best view considering global warming. My point is just that collapse scenarios are based on the assumption that we have absolutely zero margin in mitigating the problems of oil depletion, which is BS.

As we move to lower and lower EROEI energy sources the human population of the earth will contintue to increase. Net growth will cease to happen as total energy availability declines precipitously. There will be increased tensions amongst governments that strive to provide sustenance and employment for their populations. Eventually there will be some contested energy source, an incursion upon someone else's territory. War will happen. Overstretched supply lines will be broken, gas will be rationed, unemployment will spike, war will intensify as anger must be vented. That's just one scenario, there are others.

Many bacteria behave as we do, they eat the highest energy content molecules first and when they are depleted they produce a new set of enzymatic tools to eat the next best thing in the culture medium. Their population growth continues but begins to slow, and then after the last tool has been utilized to eat the last nutrient, the population growth stops and a massive die-off begins. As we move down the energy and food availability curve, imagine a larger and larger population, eating less and less, faster and faster until a rapid and sudden die-off occurs. I don't think we will glide slowly into some simpler past condition but rather accelerate all the way down the curve. IMO a population that grew for 300 years may collapse in as little as 30 years. I think a good indicator will be the increasing price and availability of food relative to your decreasing income and increasing unemployment rate.

That's your view but it is not supported by any serious data or facts or even real trends, an I engage you to re-read the book "Collapse" history shows that collapses are not unevitable soft landing happened like Iceland civilisation, they shrunk from an unsustainable systme to a more sustainable one.

Yes, you've outlined the basic "faith in technology" argument.

Here are some areas that I think your line of reasoning is missing:
1. Peak credit and collapsing currencies
2. Broken supply chains and brittle, interconnected systems
3. Resource hoarding and minor (or major) wars over the remaining resources
4. Based on your comment about burning oil that wouldn't be burned anyway (in shale and tar sands), I don't think you understand EROEI as well as you think you do (but I'm not going to go into it now, I'm going to bed to read Catton's latest book).

I could add that TOD mistake in its reasonning is "absolute unfaith in any technology progress" which is not a reasonable statement.

I perfectly understand the concept of EROI, my point is that you can extract energy with an EROI even lower than 1 that can be still economical.

As we extract oil to day the input of energy is external so the EROI has to be more than 1 (ideally more than 5) but on average 65% of the oil is left in the ground. Now supposed you have an extraction process based on in-situ combustion to process heavy oil in lighter oil and provide the pressure to push the oil, suppose that you burn 65% of the oil in the ground for this you will still have access to 35% (jsut a s today) of the oil in place with and EROI less than 1.

Low EROI is not always a barrier for economical extraction of fossil fuel

Got it ?

As I understand it, at least in New York State, the extraction of NatGas from the shale there hit a major roadblock due to toxic substances in the fluids used to open the shale and allow the gas to flow. These substances can allegedly find their way into drinking aquifers and contaminate them. The news reports in this region were not positive, and the drilling companies were not, seemingly, forthcoming about what was in these "proprietary" materials. Much handwaving and bland assurances abounding, with little convincing of those concerned about their water.
So just because a technology is developed and reserves balloon on paper, doesn't mean anything will happen, or that there will not be some catastrophic side effect for some (perhaps many) people.

So maybe the word "collapse" need to be more clearly defined.

My definition of a very bad collapse would include bats going extinct from White Nose Fungus. If we are all trying to swat a mosquito every six seconds**--we won't have time for much else. Of course, this is a minor blood loss compared to the blood lost from migrating tundra reindeer from incredible swarms of mosquitoes. Recall the Youtube video I posted earlier.

**Recall that a bat can eat up to 600 bugs/hour [one every six seconds], 3,000/night [source: US Dept of Interior].
Fooled by Nature - Caribou Migration [2:01]

Their 6,000 mile annual North American migration route is determined by mosquitoes. They will even avoid good pasture if the swarms are too heavy. Each caribou can lose up to 2pints per week...

As I have travelled a bit in my life i can tell you that passive fatalist attitude is much more a problem than social unrest as a whole, way more. American people are really amazing in that regards, look the debate that is going right now on the health care, not a single protest in the street to fight the selfishness of powerful lobbies and groups of interest that are trying to kill Obama's reform, nothing, nada.

Heh! :lol:

I voted for Obama and still this makes me laugh out loud.

Those people in the streets - those tea-baggers - they are the people out there fighting powerful lobbies and special interest groups. While I can't join them as long as they are primarily an Obama Haters Club, I can at least recognize that they are trying to turn back the constant stream of debt funding our government. They are ignorant in that they believe this debt is a recent phenomena, or a "Democratic Party" phenomena, but at least they recognize the problem. The United States cannot continue borrowing to finance its day-to-day government operations.

Reagan's answer to the oil crisis, to US Peak Oil, was to 'borrow our way to economic health.' Every President since then has taken the same tact. I had a slight hope that Obama might try something new. "More of the same" is not really something new.

He's taken a $500 million deficit and turned it into a $4 trillion deficit. And taken 6% unemployment and turned it into 16% unemployment. All in about 6 months. That's something new.

100% credit for that belongs to GWB and six years of R congress.

I looked back and GWB inherited the best economy and federal budget since Woodrow Wilson came into office in 1913.

He left with the biggest economic/financial crisis ever, rivaled ONLY by the FDR inauguration in 1933.

GWB and Republican control (49.5 R senators in last two years) systematically destroyed the foundations of the national economy and federal budget.

And Rs have the hypocrisy to complain about the results of THEIR policies ?

Ds - Tax & Spend
Rs - Borrow & Waste !

I was an R from age 19 till GWB cured me,


Alan ,I have learned to put a lot of trust in what you have to say about the technical side of all our difficulties as you are always willing to tell both sides of the story and you have obviously spent a lot of time studying such things as nuclear power.

But in respect to the budget and the deficit you are way off base.

The first problem is that the budget really is a joke,since there are so many things that are "off budget".The things that are at least on the books are almost as bad.The social security trust fund for instance is no more than a cosmic joke.The money has been spent but the government considers a pocket full of its own oius as assets rather than liabilities.

Another is that the democrats (mostly) have been pretty free with the public purse when it comes to passing out the goodies on the individual level.

The republicans (mostly and until very recently at least) have also been quite free with the taxpayers money when it comes to either just giving it to the big boys or fixing the tax laws so they can just make it and keep it,leaving us working jerks to pay for everything.
The democrats seem to be catching up in this area howeveras evidenced by the auto bailouts,the bank bailouts,......

The liberals got the basic underpinnings of the welfare state.

The conservatives got the military they wanted.

Together they agreed that everything would be on the never never.

The liberals pass legislation knowing that they don't have the power to pass the tax bills to pay the costs.Ditto the conservatives.Both parties believe that bubbles in the making are good times that will last forever.

Both either believe in eternal growth or pretend to do so.

Both parties have sold us out as far as sound fiscal policy is concerned.

I have been from end to end of the political spectrum myself at one time or another.

At least you and I capable of changing our minds.

Thanks for the kind words :-)

Please note that I do not absolve D's of any mistakes (D's - Bad as one example), but they are blameless for what happened from 2001 to 2006 and almost blameless for 2007, 2008 & 2009.

Clinton left as warm a bed as any new President got since 1913. Complete lack of power from 2001 till Jan 2006 means no fault then. Obama has just been reacting to the crisis he inherited.

The budget is an imperfect metric, I agree. But it is the one we use. And *IF* the Supreme Court had selected Gore instead, we might have a nominal budget deficit 1/4th to 1/6th of what it is today. This would make dealing with the "swept under the rug" issues FAR easier to deal with.

Four years before the financial crisis, Iceland had paid off their national debt. This gave them much more credibility in dealing with emergency loans, etc.

Instead of a continuation of responsible leadership in 2001 (when the debate was "how quickly should be pay off the national debt"), we got GWB and Republicans.


Nice post Alan - I agree 100%

Democrats: tax and spend
Republicans: squander and borrow
Obama: squander, spend, tax and borrow

What's needed: reduce spending, eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt

What we need is a well informed politically active populous.

He's taken a $500 million deficit and turned it into a $4 trillion deficit. And taken 6% unemployment and turned it into 16% unemployment. All in about 6 months. That's something new.

Try again:
2008 deficit: -458,555
2009 deficit: -1,841,188

The exaggeration meter only reads: 120%

This tends to be a fact-based site.
Try to be more careful in the future.

For instance: Bush II nearly doubled the national debt. Obama is likely to do so again.
(Of course, I am assuming an 8 year term and no international boycott of US notes.)

U.S. fiscal year 2009 began on October 1, 2008, and includes Bush 2's $700 billion bailout of bankers. Obama, who voted for the bailout out bill as a senator, is only partially responsible for the deficit in FY 2009.

"a $500 million deficit"
I believe you're off an order of magnitude there.

[July 28, 2008]

US officials: 2009 deficit will reach $482 billion, record driven by economy sag

(Associated Press WorldStream Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WASHINGTON_The next president will inherit a record U.S. budget deficit of $482 billion, according to a new Bush administration estimate.

A Bush administration official said the deficit was being driven to an all-time high by the sagging economy and the stimulus payments being made to 130 million households in an effort to keep the United States from falling into a deep recession....
...The new figure actually underestimates the deficit, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition _ and in violation of new mandates from Congress _ the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.

"turned it into a $4 trillion deficit"

And you're off there too.

US deficit climbs to 1.3 trillion dollars

(AFP) – Aug 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — The US budget deficit reached 1.3 trillion dollars for the current fiscal year in July, official data showed, news set to fuel opposition to US President Barack Obama's ambitious health care and climate change proposals.

"and turned it into 16% unemployment"

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in August (-216,000),
and the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. Although job losses continued in many of the
major industry sectors in August, the declines have moderated in recent

million, billion ... it staggers the mind.
I'll grant conservationist that was probably just an honest typo.

You're right, it's not $4 trillion, it's $9 trillion!

Obama to raise 10-year deficit to $9 trillion

Real US unemployment rate at 16 pct: Fed official

you are really pathetic in your blind hate, and obviously basied and of course

Yes, I should learn to love the 16% unemployment rate and $9 trillion deficit. I'm sure that by the time Obama leaves office the numbers will be much worse.

Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Uncertainty avoidance
Need for cognitive closure
Terror management
"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

Assistant Professor Jack Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and Visiting Professor Frank Sulloway of UC Berkeley joined lead author, Associate Professor John Jost of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, and Professor Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland at College Park, to analyze the literature on conservatism.

The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The avoidance of uncertainty, for example, as well as the striving for certainty, are particularly tied to one key dimension of conservative thought - the resistance to change or hanging onto the status quo, they said.

The terror management feature of conservatism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views, they wrote.

Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article.

people in the street, oh yes a few thousands,m in Europe a debate like the healthcare reform would have put millions in the street. In US lawmakers are litteraly hand free, no debate in the media, no protest or so little. US people are just sheeps, the only thing that can put them in the street is the price of gas or the word "tax" for the rest they have no clue

Even though I am american now, having gotten my citizenship in the late 80's, I agree 100%. Even with obvious vote tampering in Florida in the 2000 Prez election, and later with Diebold vote tampering in 04 people never protested. The only protests that have taken place were against the Bush's war in Iraq, which made zero difference.

I've observed this culture since 63 as a youngster and I can tell you unequivacally that it is a culture in decline. What has caused this I have no idea, but when you see massively obese people with stupified looks on their faces shopping in Walmart or the grocery store via an electric cart, you know its gone downhill. People take all sorts of prescription medications, mix and match them. The mainstream movies are devoid of any intelligence. There seems to be an effort to convert all foods served to include melted cheese. Screaming or freely crying seem to be badges of honor.

Yet there remain vestiges of intelligent reparte' on the web via sites like this one, books of interest available and independent films via Netflix. So life goes on...

Washington DC is 2,500 miles away from my home, a bit far to join a demonstration unless one is a wealthy energy consumer. The only European country that has similar distances to overcome is Russia. I sent emails to all three of my Congressional critters expression my opinion about Obama's health insurance reform bill (H.R. 3200) despite their predilection to ignore their constituents in favor of party loyalty.

dhou40006 I enjoyed your posts and many others. Looks like 90% of the sentient humans on the planet are TOD subscribers!
Just to pick up on your observation about steady growth in the 14th-19th centuries, it is clear that natural resources were effectively unlimited at that time, and 21st century man has a whole different landscape to negotiate.


Thank for your appreciative comment, but I disagree when you say that resources were unlimited in the 14th -19th centuries period, it is quite the opposite, resources were the problem and the limitation to growth at the time, or rather access to resources, that's what Malthus wrote what he wrote.

There is a lot of resource we cannot not tap today that we will tomorrow, solar, geothermal, thorium, wind and they are huge not really limited in quantity. We can imagine that Carbon fiber will substitute metal in most of application and there is not short supply of it, aluminum can replace copper in 90% of case, ceramics can replace metal in tough applications, Al2O2, SiO2 are plentiful, plastic can be made from biomass that is renewable, and metal can be recycled indefinitely. Bamboo grows so fast and is close to the best composite in mechanical properties, you can do light and strong structure by stucking its fiber at the infinite.

Asides I don't think seriously that a global financial collapse as serious as it could be would put our civilization in danger. It already happen in the past in some countries it was very painful but didn't alter the course of the history. In turns I think that long term inflation is a sign that your system is not sustainable, the roman empire is a good example of it, the content in silver of coins steadily decreased from almost 100% down to 1% from 100 to 400, then collapse.

But don't get me wrong there is no silver bullet, population will level off sooner than people think and for the better rather than the worse. Sure frustration will trigger unrest and local wars but again that won't be the end of the world

Asides focusing on the stigma of an eminent collapse is the best way to have most people not looking at the real problems we have.

Re world population estimates, you can see the US Census ones here:

These are midyear estimates and show world population hitting 7 billion in 2012, 8 billion in 2026, and 9 billion in 2043. The formula but not the assumptions for the yearly rates is given. TOD being a site which focuses on peak oil and peak energy generally, I think, is an excellent place to begin the conversation about how population and energy interact according to the formula I discussed in my previous comment. Just as with peak oil, the first thing is to recognize that there is a problem and go on from there to the discussion of what we and the world's government's can do about it.

Appreciation for what we have today:

Humanity is an interesting specie. We can only appreciate something by experiencing the lack of it. There is no appreciation for what we have today, and will never be. Everyone thinks of it as “normal”, and actually, insufficient.
New generations are even worst, so used to having everything handed out without effort, that life is just becoming unbearable...

Less pressure (about the future):

Actualy that is not the case. The first thinking is to maintain the same degree of quality of life we have now in the future. I had to stop myself from it several times by remembering the bushido saying “what is called the Spirit of an Age is something to which one cannot return...”; roughly translated to: televisions and computers are useless when you starve.

Are We in Charge, or is Mother Nature?

We where never in charge, just fool ourselves into thinking we where... The immensity of time available to “mother nature” is completely beyond our understanding. If we where to destroy every living creature on this planet, life would certainly return, and in one million years earth would be as filled with life as it always was. But..., different.
It appalls me when people talk on saving the earth, like some kind of charity... As if making holes on a boat you are using was ever a good idea, and patching the holes a work of altruism.
We should be praying for this planet to maintain the present state of equilibrium, because the planet will certainly survive in any other set of conditions, but we won’t.

My silver lining is an appreciation of what "being human" is really all about, something which has become more and more remote to most people in western society since the 1960s (driven by the self-serving capitalist machine and the brainwashing power of advertising and the media). Less is more - we will grow our own food; establish networks of support (both social and economic) within our communities; take pleasure from the simple achievements of life.

Once the global house of cards begins to crumble I hope to see strong local societies rising from the ruins. I think the transition movement is about getting infrastructure in place before the shit hits the fan, and gently influencing those around us such that the intelligent/compassionate/co-operative side of human nature wins out over the stupid/selfish/individualistic side which rules the present (David Korten's Empire to Earth Community?)

The scariest posts from this topic are the predictions of terrible violence and local competition for resources. This is what we must try to avoid in our local communities and that process is underway now - so don't despair 'cos there is work to be done & I am optimistic.

The extraction and use of fossil fuels and uranium might also wind down quickly, eliminating most electricity and nearly all commercial food supplies. World population in this scenario might drop to perhaps 10% of its current level, in a matter of years.


The world currently produces 200% the food required to supply the entire planet's nutritional needs. So to wipe out 90% of the people you'd need to lose 95% of the food.

Which would be a remarkable thing, since around 50% the basic grains, tubers, fruits and vegetables are produced with just about zero fossil fuel input anyway. Not that they don't want fossil fuels, they just can't afford them.

The North Korean famine of 1995-97 killed 5% of the population, and they not only lost their fossil fuels, they had floods (due to deforestation by expanded land-clearing over the previous generation), tidal waves, and deliberate hoarding and restriction of access to food supplies by the Pyongyang government.

If even a bunch of corrupt tyrannical incompetent commies, faced with fossil fuel depletion and environmental catastrophe simultaneously can only see 5% of the population die off in a few years, I don't see how the rest of the world is supposed to wipe out 95% in the same sort of time. What's going to kill all those people?

What exactly do you imagine is going to kill 90% of the population in a matter of years, if not famine? The middle classes of the West rioting when they can no longer afford to fuel their SUVs?

This is the problem with the doomers. They present a nice graph of oil peaking and align a population graph with it, and then say, "see? SEE?!!! DOOM!" without explaining just how it's supposed to all happen.

Kiashu said;

This is the problem with the doomers. They present a nice graph of oil peaking and align a population graph with it, and then say, "see? SEE?!!! DOOM!" without explaining just how it's supposed to all happen.

Why don't you start by reading Overshoot and take it from there.

I'm reading Bottleneck: Humanity's Impending Impasse now.

You should read more, Kiashu.

Looking for positives in a collapse.. ok, here goes!

* I like gardening, and tending my chooks.

* As an IT person, I'll have a lot less to work worry about if there is no electricity. No boss. No office politics.

* Soylent Green is probably delicious! Like space food sticks but more meaty. Mmmmmmm. I hope they work out how to get rid of the bones.

... and I'm done.

Ask yourself this question - seriously - is it a net positive result for the earth if 90%+ of the people died? I believe there are probably bio weapons which could achieve this, sealed in military jars right now. A cross between H1N1 and H1N5 might even do a lot of it, "naturally". I just don't want myself or anyone I know to be in that 90%. There's the rub, as everyone thinks that.

And as a parting thought - I recall the speech that Obama gave very early on in his presidency, where he stated that the "American way of life is not negotiable". I felt a stab when he said this - he doesn't get it (yet). I believe he will be hamstrung by these words. The American Way of Life is going to change, and he can't stop it. I had assumed during his campaign that the "change" he was talking about WAS the change to the American way of life - although I was aware that it was deliberately ambiguous. Someone needs to prepare the population for this change, at some stage, don't you think?

I don't know if there is any "silver lining" to a collapse scenario or not. What I do know is that I won't be around to see it. To be realistic, my life expectancy is only another 20-25 years or so, given BAU. If everything starts crashing around me, so does my life expectancy. If things get bad beyond a certain point, I just don't see that as being survivable for most people, and certainly not for people like me, at least on any long-term basis.

Does that mean I don't care? No, not at all. Of course I care for the future of the planet and for humankind. However, if we do go through a collapse, then once the crash begins then there is very little I will be able to do that makes a difference, mainly because I will be unlikely to be around very long to be able to make a difference. What that means, then, is that if there are those of us who would like to see a "silver lining" of one sort or another, and wish to influence events in the direction to producing one, then the time for action is now, not later, because "later" may be too late. It might already be too late, but since we are not actually at crash stage yet, one might as well try to do what one can.

Over 300 comments and no one did the simple math. Losing 6,000,000,000 people over a 30 year period works out to 600,000 more people dying every day than are born. That's 250 9/11 disasters every day for 30 years. That is a loss of population of a NYC every 2 weeks for 1570 weeks in a row. Just the rate of deaths in a "slow" collapse is emotionally overwhelming. What sort of painful mindset would the survivors live with and how would that affect future generations?

The average person knows about 200 neighbors by name. How would the loss of one of these people every 7 weeks year after year start to change your view? How many of us attend 7 or 8 funerals every year with 2 or 3 of those people being folks you closely interact with every day. Being in a constant state of grieving for decades could make one either extremely appreciative of life or extremely callous about the suffering of others. I would suspect a sort of emotional numbing would more likely happen as the years went by.

I believe that Germany lost 3/4 of it's population in the 30 Years War (black plague helped). It is supposed to have helped form the national character (and anyone religious died out in that religious war).


Your maths and examples assume a linear decline. I think it's much more likely to be a really big quick hit of some kind. What could do this to us?

Nuclear War? Somewhat unlikely... at least, for now. Nobody sane wants to live in a world where that has happened. Conventional resource wars could kill millions though.

Famine? Might get a few hundred million, but would likely be isolated geographically. Could grind on in the scenario you outlined.

Deadly virus? This, to me, seems the most likely - either man-made or natural.

Still, I appreciate the comment on the emotional effects of any major kill-off. The question becomes one of what society will look like under those circumstances - if it holds together at all. As a species, I think we will survive. Just not in the numbers we have today. We can't, it's impossible due to the resource limits of the planet.

Positives from collapse?
The thought of all those pomposically-titled talentless judges having to beg for help from the likes of The Honourable Mr Engineer Jones, not to mention His Honour Agricultural Labourer Donalds, QA, etc.
I'm trying not to indulge in schadenfreude, but I'm not trying very hard.