Hubbert's Peak - John Kinhart's Comic

John Kinhart gave us permission to repost this cartoon from Sorry Comics.

A story we can relate to on so many levels. . .

"People will wonder why every new recession is a bit worse then the previous one" Richard Heinberg in "the end of suburbia"

Is Heinberg the one with the hat on then?

No; that's my buddy Radar.
His pipe, too. I use a corncob.

We have certainly seen flat to declining oil consumption over the past 10 years in OECD countries (especially the US)--as average annual oil prices rose at about 20%/year from 1998 to 2008, while non-OECD consumption was up significantly (especially China & India). IMO, this does not bode well for the US over the next 10 years--as we experience, IMO, an accelerating rate of decline in world net oil exports.

In any case, a very interesting article about India and emerging markets in the WSJ:
Indian Firms Shift Focus to the Poor

MUMBAI -- Indian companies, long dependent on hand-me-down technology from developed nations, are becoming cutting-edge innovators as they target one of the world's last untapped markets: the poor. India's many engineers, whose best-known role is to help Western companies expand or cut costs, are now turning their attention to the purchasing potential of the nation's own 1.1-billion population.

The trend that surfaced when Tata Motors' tiny $2,200 car, the Nano, hit Indian roads in July, has resulted in a slew of new products for people with little money who aspire to a taste of a better life. Many products aren't just cheaper versions of well-established models available in the West but have taken design and manufacturing assumptions honed in the developed world and turned them on their heads.

For the farmer who wants to save for the future, one Indian entrepreneur has developed what is, in effect, a $200 portable bank branch. For the village housewife, a wood-burning stove has been reinvented to make more heat and less smoke for $23. For the slum family struggling to get clean water, there is a $43 water-purification system. For the villager who wants to give his child a cold glass of milk, there is a tiny $70 refrigerator that can run on batteries. And for rural health clinics, whose patients can't spend more than $5 on a visit, there are heart monitors and baby warmers redesigned to cost 10% of what they do elsewhere.

Incidentally, world coal supplies are high, but there are some interesting anomalies:

Looking at the main demand drivers in turn, demand in China and India is already growing pretty rapidly, driven by the upsurge in electricity generation and strategic stock-building of the past months. In the first eight months of this year, China imported 74 million mt of coal, up from 29 million mt in the prior year, a truly mind-boggling increase. As exports more than halved in the same period, China firmly switched from being a net exporter last year (4.8 million mt) to being a net importer (59 million mt YTD) (Chart 12). China has been moving away from Australia and Indonesia, at the margin, and started to source coal from farther away places like Russia, South Africa, Canada and Colombia— helped by low freight rates.

With prices below $100/t, China will remain a net importer
Paradoxically, the higher Chinese imports have occurred at a time that domestic production has surged to a new record. As regulators have kept domestic coal prices high relative to seaborne prices, Chinese utilities have moved to imported coal. Regional distribution bottlenecks, particularly in the railway system, have also continued to prevent the domestically produced coal to travel from the inner regions to the coastal demand centers, hence supporting coal prices in the East.

Coal demand in Asia Pacific is improving very rapidly
In India, an acute shortage of domestic coal and a string of supply constraints have driven coal imports sharply higher. This material has come mainly from. Only 5 years ago, India hardly imported any coal but it now soaks up 70 million tons per annum. Bucking the global trend, Indian coal stocks are critically low due to a combination of monsoon rains, domestic mine strikes and stagnant production growth.

It looks to me that these country's have real money. Our money is dead in the water. It may look the same but it isn't.

Also important is the fact that they can make things with added value. We on the otherhand drive around in circles, pretending to be as busy as ever. The only work left is complying with all the rules we made ourself.
We are consuming everything we worked for, until we find something better to do.
Most of our produktion facilities are being shut and the equipment sold to our eastern friends payed with our old real money.
Savings can be pretty important when credit stops functioning.

Marc Faber's line is that the USA only produces two products at this point-prostitutes and beer.

That completely ignores MBSs, CDOs and other worthless paper, porn, violent video games and empty McCondos. Faber is far too cynical.

Yeah, he omitted Death, Destruction, and Mayhem.

Crops. Livestock. Feed. Cars. Military/security equipment. Planes and helicopters. Software. Buildings. Infrastructure. Science and technology. Hospitals. About everyhting else... most things are made elsewhere, but there are lots of US products too, from clothes to knick-knacks. I'm pretty sure we can remember how to spin cotton.

We still have lots of traditional industrial capacity that could be geared up fairly quickly. For the last fifty years we've been importing the world's resources for funny money... but that doesn't mean we can't or won't go back to manufacturing here... once we can no longer afford to pay for Chinese products with their expensive labor (not to mention transportation)costs. :)

I'm not saying it's not true that we outsource, but many overstate the problem (in terms of it being irretractable, which it's not).

Australia is not much differnt. The dominant cultute is now consumerism, with most Australians employed in the consumer industries such as retail, automtive, property "services" and tourism/entertainment. We have a very small number of us that produce vast quantites of minerals and agricultural products which doesn't quite pay for all the imported consumption of the other 21.5 million of us. We borrow the rest. Our economy looks relatively healthy (our interest rates went up this month) but we are hugely leveraged and now dependent on China to provide the markets for our our exports, the cheap products and trinkets that keep us amused, and the ongoing line of credit which is shifting the balance relentlessly towards Beiijing.

Australian median house prices are more than double that of the USA (after exchange rates), and we have less than 1/10th of the population density. The only thing keeping us going is resources demand by China's command economy and sufficiently high population growth that declining GDP per person is hidden in slightly rising GDP in total. Borrow money, spend it, don't count the debt in the figures and our GDP went up. Fantastic.

A large part of our housing bubble was due to the fact that the land in good locations-meaning close to the jobs-was already built out-so favorably situated houses could be sold for far more than iot cost to build a similar brand new house in some other place.

We did not have runaway house prices in my area because it the price of old houses could not really go up very fast-it was possible to build new within a few miles antwhere in the western end of Virginia.

How did this play out in Australia?

Are consruction costs out of hand there?Land costs in desirable communities?Or what?

Certainly you cannot be short of empty land, at least once your pass the "city limits" signs headed out of town.

About ten years ago, house prices in my area doubled in two years. For no apparent reason. Lately, we've been flooded with asian students (I presume). I suspect their parents, who are paying for their full-price Tertiary degrees, are looking for cheaper housing than what they can get closer in to the city (and more comfortable housing than they can get in the 32-students-to-a-house slums some Chinese-Australian landlords are 'providing').

The geography of Eastern Australia is such that we are concentrated in the roughly 100km wide strip of land between the sea and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Populations are migrating north and south of business centres, but not west. This is putting enormous pressure on transport links, as they must funnel tens of thousands of people from as much as 200km away into the city centres during the daily commute. Our road network is gridlocked (even on weekends), and Public Transport is above 'crush capacity' (not helped by the 'more roads' mode of thinking).

Vacant land close-in is virtually unobtainable at any price. Even land with houses on them are out of reach of the common working slob, requiring either creative accounting on the part of the banks, or dual income, or both.

Construction costs for a finished house start at Au$1000/m2. $1500 if you want all the bling. I've worked out it's actually cheaper to build underground from the start than to add a second story. House construction is following a similar path to the US: McMansions. But not on quite as grotesque a scale. Look-a-like subdivisions are popping up everywhere you look, with house occupying all of the 400m2 blocks of land bar about a metre around the sides and a backyard barely large enough to install a Hills Hoist.

The weekend birdcage liner ran a story this week about how the Gold Coast and Brisbane are less than 15 year from 'running out' of vacant land. The big developers said this was 'proof' that the government needed to release more land for development (read: native bushland/pine forest, or rezone farming land), and is hostile to the idea of denser living (5-story apartments etc).

The central mystery of money to me is how you can have brilliant and innovative engineers on the one hand, willing workers on the other, resources -- quite a lot, even in India -- on the other, eager consumers on the other (remember, some of those Hindu gods have a lot of hands), and even so, they remain separated by lack of money, and all the money there is piles up in a few places. When if it were better distributed, everyone would actually be much better off.

The Mayfair set (c.f. Adam Curtis) and the Thatcherites, Reaganites, etc. thought the free market would take care of the problem -- and they developed derivatives trading to a high art, supposedly to spread money even where it hadn't been before. I do believe that there were, and probably still are, people in the banking "industry" who think/thought that they were doing the world a service -- that modern banking methods were a far more efficient way to spread and generate wealth than the discredited Soviet scheme, and that they weren't just "buccaneer capitalists."

I guess time will tell whether there is really any truth here -- but for the moment, there is more than just a whiff of unreality to the idea of "For the village housewife, a wood-burning stove has been reinvented to make more heat and less smoke for $23. For the slum family struggling to get clean water, there is a $43 water-purification system. For the villager who wants to give his child a cold glass of milk, there is a tiny $70 refrigerator that can run on batteries."

I won't dissect this story, but in my mind at least, Mike Davis has a lot more to say about why people are poor than the Wall Street Journal. And unfortunately, neither of them really has a satisfactory idea of what to do about it.

Here is an interesting question, and some related questions, that I have been contemplating of late:

At what point does most of the world conclude that high US energy consumption is more of a threat to the world economy than a benefit?

Does is make sense for our creditors to continue to lend us money, in order for us to continue to live beyond our means and to buy imported stuff (and imported oil), when our high energy consumption contributes to higher energy prices in other countries, especially our creditor countries?

So, is it in the long term interest of the rest of the world that the US economy crashes sooner rather than later?

At what point does most of the world conclude that high US energy consumption is more of a threat to the world economy than a benefit?

The point at which our consumption of their imports and their subsequent improved standards of living no longer offsets the rising cost of their goods and services? Or asked another way, when their standard of living begins to decline?

I'd say it's in the long term interests of the US to break this pattern.

On the gripping hand it is in the short term interests of the US (and much of the rest of the world) for it to continue.

How things fall out in the end will depend on whose short term interests align with the long term first, I suppose.

They've already reached that conclusion. That's why the Petrodollar is threatened.

I wondered about that also. What if the recent story about the purported conspiracy against the dollar was mostly correct?

How could it not be? What in China's behavior makes people think they preparing for a US-centric future? The questions you asked above have fairly obvious answers over the long term, no?


Certainly the fall of the US will cause problems. I suspect a lot less than we think since most of its in the financial realm and with our recent mini-crisis the world has put into place extraordinary measures to deal with future crisis. People forget its not just the US that effectively broken all the rules of finance. Small wonder gold is finally starting to do well.

In any case the course of action is clear as parts of the world begin to suffer spreading systematic infections if you will they other slightly healthier parts will work to block off the infected part and if needed cut it off and cauterize the wound.

Before the US itself fails we should see failed nations in the second and third world. Maybe Pakistan maybe Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines, A rouge state like North Korea, perhaps eastern Europe somewhere in South America. No real telling Iceland was the first but not the last by any means.

I would not call it a back swan more so many potential areas of problems and no telling who is going to go down first. If fate likes irony it will be Argentina.

In any case this will roil emerging markets but more importantly lead to even more flight to the dollar with of course rising international defaults destroying even more paper wealth.

So even though the longer term trend is a collapse of the USD we should not be first inline other places that owe money in foreign currencies will go first or many.

It literally takes time for our massive financial system to collapse as long as protective measures work to prevent systematic collapse at the high finance level and they seem to be adequate then collapse should proceed in a bottom up fashion.

Now at some point as this bottom up collapse occurs attempts to shield the world from it will begin to fail and I think only at that point will valuations of major fiat currencies become a issue. If your a gold bug then I guess this means a major spike in gold valuations at least for a little bit however its bitter irony since unless you have something you need to buy or debt to pay converting to fiat makes no sense except to do a transaction. Probably one of the reasons for the spike in the first place what should happen with gold as sellers will refuse to sell and people desperately trying to get out of fiat will be trying to buy. Asset prices outside of the commodities are still heading downwards and the long term value of any asset is difficult to asses so I don't see this rush to dump fiat igniting inflation like many people do.

One that point I think one of the biggest misconception floating around by people that expect inflation has to do with the nature of our money as debt. Only if lending takes off is their actually more money than lendable assets. The amount of "cash" or high powered money in the hands of the wealthy although large is minuscule compared with the number of assets that are for sale. And of course rolling short term government debt or playing in the markets is far more sensible than buying up assets in such uncertian times.
And of course gold. Regardless the true wealth will focus on liquidity not fixed assets with a uncertain future.

I call it rich mans inflation poor mans deflation. The ultra wealthy will suffer inflated prices for highly liquid assets while the poor have no credit and little cash.

GS bonus pool of 23 billion should be convincing evidence we are now deeply into this situation. Of course the fact that they have managed to sweep the value of legacy fixed asset investment under the rug helps a bunch. It matters not because the worlds real money will effectively never leave the hands of the ultra wealthy from now on.
Every now and then they may buy a token company for pennies but this is a side show.

One wonders whats now happening in the land of the ultra wealthy well for every billion thats landing in GS's bonus pool some other ultra wealthy person or pension fund or other large store of money lost a billion. The sharks are eating themselves. The concentration of wealth into the hands of GS is no longer real as opposite are losses elsewhere. Its obviously simply a poker game at best. Sure some of the money is still being sucked out of the lower strata of society and this does not stop but increasingly its rich against rich with winners and losers on the score keeping side but nothing effecting the real world outside of buoying the prices of liquid assets primarily to date stocks.
Some of the rise in oil certainly can be attributed to this game however the fact that the wealthy consider it a valuable asset is fundamental so ...

One can readily expect that when the stock market finally heads back downward this high powered money will put even more pressure on commodities. As long a the physical supply and demand are in balance and or physical supply is constrained I simply don't feel given the financial situation that having oil move up in value is a bubble same for that matter gold they really are much more valuable vs literally everything else in the world and even now we have far more money then commodities so...

In a sense what I think is starting to happen in many places is a sort of triangle trade is really developing. China gets dollars and sends us goods instead of simply buying treasuries they buy oil with the dollars to keep their own country afloat. This leaves the ME stuck with even more dollars and forces them to invest in liquid markets for the most part. Sure they are investing internally but the flow of dollars overwhelms any attempts to build out infrastructure and diversify. These dollars are eventually the nucleus for various hedge funds and other financial vehicles so the top strata of the US GS etc make tons reinvesting these dollars into speculative investment. And sure plenty flow back into treasuries.

The problem for the US is now more and more dollars are diverted to purchase commodities before returning as treasuries and high powered investment money and of course we are no longer lending this out to the lower strata. And of course this same high powered money is speculating on oil so often the profits from the sale of oil are used to speculate generally bullish in the futures markets. Although Saudi Arabia for example claims it does not participate in the oil markets it does via some slight indirection.

It seems to me that the heart of the problem is the increasing use of overseas dollars to initially purchase commodities instead of simply buying treasuries.

At some point the US will literally be forced to act. This rapid dumping of the dollar ASAP for valuable or liquid investments is causing inflation at the high finance level for now its all well and good but it cannot last.

At some point either the dollar collapses as a tradeable currency or the US gets forced into a certain death spiral of having to raise interest rates to try and soak up the dollars in the world in exchange for US government debt. Given the size of US deficits its hard to guage how high interest rates would have to go to soak up these dollars.

If this is really true then Obama is a bit devious as we literally have no choice but to massively expand the government balance sheet to handle the influx of dollars that are no longer going into expanding debt. What he is not really telling anyone is that as time goes on this will be done at ever higher interest rates and the printing press will be forced to run to pay the interest. But all of this is stuck in the world of high finance and it does not stop the diversion of dollars to buy oil.

Thus for the US I think the key point and when we know we are in the final stage is when the US itself is forced to increase interest rates regardless of the state of its internal economy or face a rapid currency collapse.

Now some point after this is probably when plans to ditch the dollar start moving into high gear. As long as the rates on government debt stay low I think we stay in the same circulation pattern we are in. And of course the dollar is now being used as a carry trade currency. The super rich are borrowing in dollars at low interest rates and converting to higher yielding currencies. The Australian move is interesting in this respect since by raising interest rates they siphon off some of this flow.

However all of this is fragile as you have the paradox that the worlds reserve currency is now super cheap to borrow to use for speculative ventures a small change in sentiment can send the dollar sharply upwards crashing the whole delicate game. Thus the investments have no choice but to be highly liquid to avert being wiped out in a volatile currency market.

In general I think the final trend esp if US interest rates are forced higher is for gold and oil to go higher every time the dollar moves in the currency exchanges regardless of direction. Obviously if it weakens they go higher less obvious is if the dollar is strengthening only because of rising interest rates they also go higher as the future value of the dollar is falling rapidly. Any movement of oil downwards on dollar strengthening is seen as a chance to buy the dip and money piles into oil. We raise our interest rates oil falls briefly and money piles in sending it higher. We slow and our currency devalues sending oil higher. Same for the most part for gold. Basically gaming the fiat currencies no longer diverts the flow of money into anything thats either liquid valuable or both.

Now outside of commodities and gold all I can see is volatility the stock market is way beyond fundamentals but is also the only game in town big enough for the ultra rich to play in. The need for a market large enough for the sharks to eat themselves to some extent outweighs fundamentals at least for a time. As the winners steadily concentrate wealth for the losers however the size of the market needed to allow the game to be played declines. Underlying all of this is of course continued defaults so even as financial games go on between the rich the total amount of money both as debt and as notational capitol is really falling. Eventually of course even the wealthy will have their credit lines cut and the game becomes increasingly a cash only affair.
Volatility in dollar values disrupting the carry trade may play a big role as speculative carry trade driven investments blow up.

Many of the smarter wealthy people will give up buy gold and a big hacienda or probably several and simply hunker down until this blows over. Bush seems to have already made this move. This could lead to a paradox of farm land prices bubbling even as rising costs send more and more farmers into technical bankruptcy forcing them to sell their land.
Given that actually farming the land leads to a loss maybe a lot of it will be left fallow esp given various subsidies. This hoarding will of course lead to higher land prices making farmland even more tempting for speculation. Probably crop prices simply won't increase fast enough to cover rising costs leading more and more real farmers to cash out and sell to the speculators. Liquidity of course is important and its not clear if farmland meets the requirements to be pushed into a higher speculative bubble but its certainly a longer term store of wealth so maybe. No real telling obviously I think things are going to overall get even crazier the only given is that credit will continue to dry up for the lower classes and assets they used to buy with debt will steadily fall in price outside of this damn near anything can happen. And the other is commodity prices should remain well supported and on average increasing. Outside of those two things its volatility as the rule not the exception.

So yes "the end" is rapidly approaching but I think there are events we can watch for obviously I could have guessed wrong as to the nature of the events but regardless big things have to happen along the way down or we don't go down. Underlying all of this of course is that debt deflation continues and even speeds up. Until the debt is either destroyed are effectively all on the balance sheets of the governments that issue the currency we can't collapse. So for a while at the macro level its simply debt default and massive expansion of government balance sheets as all fiat currencies are rejected.

And to finish obviously you have little choice but to purchase government debt in general to rid yourself of the currency but eventually you can and will demand ever higher interest rates in and attempt to extract value from the worthless currency.

So no matter how I work it I always come up with the result that if interest rates start increasing even though lending and debt deflation continues thats it we are on the last downward spiral with no escape. The worlds one big third world country at that point.

It seems to me that the heart of the problem is the increasing use of overseas dollars to initially purchase commodities instead of simply buying treasuries.

I've suggested that we are going to see somewhat of a reverse game of musical chairs, where the last one sitting when the music stops is not the winner, but the loser, i.e., the last one holding all of the currency when people decide that the currency has little or no value is the loser.

+1, brilliant, many thanks. Another fascinating memmelogram :)

I posted something on that a week or so before the story broke.

In short, we'll probably see an accelerated (or "enhanced") version of ELM: shortages due not only to geological constraints, but also due to economic constraints.

it certainly makes sense as long as the U.S. Govt continues to enforce collection of the debt. There can be little doubt that is what is going on right now -- what better demonstration than the spectacle of the "bonus" payments to "bankers" in the face of misery --all over the world, but specifically in the U.S.-- caused by their activity.

It will not make sense when the mass of the US population thinks they are getting a worse deal than the rest of the world. That's why,for now, U.S. citizens line up to shop at Wal-Mart, using their unemployment checks and food stamps.

It may not last forever, but revolution is hardly just around the corner.

It's not just money, though the money economy of the last couple centuries has certainly been an extreme example- it's technology itself. The whole purpose of technology is to concentrate power to the user's advantage. There is no way further investments in technology will ever _close_ the gap that the very application of technology creates. Us lucky few in the industrial west
might feel like technology has liberated us, but indeed what has hapened is that technology
has allowed us to enslave a far greater share of the planet itself than ever before possible,
and those lucky few of us are sitting pretty high on the totem pole, actually. Nonetheless even we are keenly aware that those very technologies have, even if they've given us cars and hot
water on tap and the internet, they have also created classes of billionaires and mega-corporations which dwarf our power even more than our relative power (or wealth, as we often see it) is quite spectacular compared to those villagers in india, for example.
technology (and civilization, which is itself dependent on technology) _create_ poor people.

Well said, zurisee!

Civilization in the end seems to be an unsustainable way for humans to live. All previous ones have failed in the end and this one is certainly teetering on the edge. Hunter-gatherer humans however were successful for several hundred thousand years.

I think the Mammoths would disagree along with god knows how many species which managed to conveniently extinguish themselves when the hunter gather was around.

There is no evidence that in general we have ever lived sustainable certainly as long as the population was relatively low we where able to slowly migrate around the world destroying a habitat and returning later after it had recovered after a fashion.

Now before you give me hell this is in general. In practice a number of regions seem to have supported what are by any measure sustainable cultures. As far as I can tell in the PNW the salmon based cultures lived pretty much in balance with their environment. For the most part again as far as I can tell many tropical societies also did. And of course you have Egypt as a more advanced example. In all cases the underlying them seems to be a steady seasonal source of renewal or food or energy or something similar and a culture adapted to stay within the bounds of its "golden goose".

So there are plenty of examples where certain cultures developed sustainable living arrangements and plenty where they did not regardless of their level of civilization.

The key factor seems to be the creation of some sort of balance and interestingly enough this has to go back to population i.e the population had to somehow reach a static level.

Thus underneath this balance often lies a black truth of infanticide,slavery, tribal warfare endemic diseases etc that resulted in static populations.

Not all bad

But obviously these societies had to develop good long term population control methods.
Disease and general lack of medical care in primitive socities makes it less of a issue but even the most primitive society seems capable of sustaining enough population growth to destroy the environment unless cultural conditions cause more constraint.

In the middle east of course the solution seems to have been warfare and multiple wives.
Now I've never seen the stats on multiple wifes but I'd guess that cultures that allow polygamy have lower overall birth rates.

I googled around but could not find the answer. One would expect more men to die in battle under these conditions and its reasonable to expect the the polygamous would have less resources per wife and probably less children. Some male based polygamous cultures exist these would be even more capable of lowering birth rates. As far as I can tell in more advanced cultures prostitution was rampant ( has it gone down). Again I have no numbers but a prostitute can only get pregnant once is is far more likely to commit infanticide. Also homosexual activity esp among younger males is often common in many cultures either explicitly condoned or implicitly allowed often to a certain age.

We actually finally have decent alternatives to all this crap and male contraceptives seem on the horizon so we don't have to create warped cultures to control our birth rate.

At most assuming we continue to have effective birth control methods a culture need only be very supportive of people that choose to be single and couples that choose to not have children and to some extent lax in regards to recreational sex outside of stringent birth control concepts. I think this is required since forcing people that want to have children to have only one or two is difficult Again not that smaller families are not well supported culturally and larger ones should be met with disapproval. But it does not have to be a harsh culture simply one that encourages people to be careful about having children. In such a culture children should be treasured members of the community and treated as blessings in general. My point is its now possible to consider zero growth cultures that actually are in general not all that restrictive and that most would find comfortable. The only real sticking point vs many of todays cultures seems the need to except recreational sex with birth control as normal. But this taboo is rooted in male dominated societies anyway. If women are given choices they can do as they wish. Some might perhaps enjoy being prostitutes I really don't have a clue. I suspect however that prostitution would be uncommon and or expensive in a society where women where treated as true equals and free to do as they wish. So overall surprisingly it seems sexual activity might actually become more often and act of between two people of equal rights actually interested in each other ( at least for the moment :)

Its interesting that in the end it seems that having our cultures realistically come to terms with our human sexuality has to happen or of course we can follow the alternatives and periodically kill and enslave each other at various ages.

Memmel, "The typical rate of extinction differs for different groups of organisms. Mammals, for instance, have an average species "lifespan" from origination to extinction of about 1 million years, although some species persist for as long as 10 million years"

I was merely making the point that hunter-gatherers existed longer than civilized man has and likely will. Surely you can see the truth in that statement. Sometimes humans move to a new environ like the first settling of Australia. When they do, whether hunter-gatherer or civilized man they run through resources as fast as their technology will let them. Aborigines ran through the large fauna on Australia and then settled into a more sustainable lifestyle that remained stable enough for anywhere from 125,000 to 40,000 years. The second settling of Australia with civilized humans with higher technology will not last that long.

You seem to have taken my point and read more into it than was there. Humans may never be sustainable and since mammals have a species lifespan of 1 to 10 million years, it is highly likely that even if we had not formed civilization we human mammals would at some point reach the end of our species lifespan. However human civilizations have a much shorter lifespan and this one will likely be no different.

I am not talking right or wrong, good or bad, just the historical facts - homo sapiens over 150,000 years, farmers 10,000. Perhaps not sustainable, but more sustainable in the end. Perhaps if we don't nuke ourselves extinct we will like the Aborigines, create a less rich world that takes more struggle to survive in, and that might be the world we need to become sustainable. Perhaps no species can be sustainable in an over rich (for them) environs, but can be sustainable in a resource poor environ. Seems like that would be wrong, but we see over and over how a species introduced into a place with abundant resources and no predators overshoots, while those who are in limited environs over time evolve for sustainability.

Sorry your right.

The question remains what does sustainable mean ?

It seems to me that it actually a hard question to answer. And obviously as you move towards higher technical civilizations the lifespan of the civilization seems to fall.

Depending on when you define the start and end of a new civilization of course. I'd argue that the industrial revolution marked the death of a old civilization and birth of a new even though it was the same people and generally same countries. Same with the period 1920-1950. I'd argue that the civilization in existence by 1950 bore little resemblance to the one that existed before 1920. I marked the end of the coal age and beginning of the oil age.
Just like for example the bronze age ended and the iron age started with effectively the same civilizations in place.

If we take the oil age as starting at 1950 then there is a good chance it will be over by 2015 it lasted only 65 years even if you push it back a bit earlier say 1940 your still talking effectively something on the order of a single persons lifetime.

Communism in general lasted about the same length of time it just started a bit earlier.
You could put it at say 1920 to make things easy. Its lifetime was effectively of the same magnitude as the expansionist oil empire of the US.

Thus how on earth is it possible to take a form of civilization that technical based and even with two extremes in governmental style only results in a civilization that lasts around the lifetime of a single person and convert it to one that say lasts 10,000 years much less 40,000 or more.

Somehow constrains seem to be the key rich or poor I might add it seems to be in the extremes where stability is reached as you said in the harsh landscape of Australia and in my opinion in the lushest regions. But this is with fairly low tech or at least natural technology based civilizations.

A high tech civilization achieving something similar ???

I hope its not after we have reduced the world to the state that Australia is in.
One wonders what role man played in the Sahara natural climate changes aside.

Nothing wrong with Australia its a beautiful place but large parts are pretty danged desolate.

Needless to say I find it difficult to make the leap from our rapid high tech civilizations to one that can be comparable in length to the hunter gather societies.

The gulf is enormous and can it be crossed ?

It seems only if we figure out a way to control our population and live not only within our means but at a density that does not disturb the natural ebb and flow of biodiversity.

These are population levels approaching hunter gather levels. Of course I'm assuming retaining agriculture so the footprint will be more concentrated i.e we fairly intensivily cultivate a small region so we have less of a impact on the animals. We can of course and probably would practice more gathering of natural plants as they returned.
But agriculture/domestic animals would solve the problem of hunting pressure. It would be much lighter than in a full hunter gather society. Or at least thats the hope.

We would have to force ourselves to remain in this stable regime and probably periodically abandon or settlements for others. It does not have to be sudden but over a period of several generations you could allow the population in one region to dwindle to zero and allow it to grow in another. Initially say via migration so genetic diversity is not lost. But allowing a region to lay fallow for hundreds or even thousands of years with no permanent human presence would go a long way to allowing things to balance.

Regardless it seem no matter how I do it the absolute number of people no matter how they live their daily lives seems to need to be very small.

Looking at the historical record.

We target the end of the bronze age as a sort of possible reasonably stable population capable of supporting high technology.

As far as how small that is we can look at say Britain or California or Spain and not a lot of redundancy in these populations as far as skill set so certainly half the population could readily retain the requisite level of still required for a high tech civilizations. Not a lot of people around to be high tech for.

Massachusetts has a population a little over six million and expertise in a wide range of high tech areas. And again understand that technolgical engineering needs my be very low over time one has to imagine that even after a few thousand years that technology deemed useful would be refined to the point it would change little if at all from year to year.
Most technology workers would really be researchers or doing R&D and of course they would be forced to refine the technology for some time before its accepted in such a society.
Rough tech no matter how cool would be hard to market.

In any case picking 5000BC with a population of 5-20 million seems to be the sort of number that makes sense.

Fascinatingly we find if you read the history during this period that they actually lived in this sort of limited agriculture semi hunter gatherer mixed society.

Certainly technology aka the coming of the bronze ages allowed expansion shortly thereafter but I find it interesting that the population density I consider sort of a min for technology is actually the one we hit right before technical advancements really started taking off. And also the last time before human settlement really started altering the earth at a fast rate.

With a population of just 20 million we could readily leave whole continents completely abandoned of permanent human settlement for centuries or longer if we wish and large regions permanently set aside. And if we actually manage to limit our population why go higher than this ? Its more than enough to provide a adequate gene pool and if one takes technology forward for even a few thousand years we would have full control of our genome any way. The stars beckon for those with a thirst for adventure beyond what the planet can offer. I'd argue such a society would probably leave a light footprint on even the most desolate moon or planet.

Actual high tech work or needed industries would probably move into orbit or beyond so even the minor need for materials for such a low population is readily met say by mining the asteroids at a leisurely pace. Assuming and obviously efficient society that probably replaces rarer metals with complex organic or organometallic compounds that use common metals and say can readily isolate its other needs from seawater or orbital mining I see no reason why it can't last till the end of the Sun itself. Gaining in knowledge and simply enjoying observing the complexity and beauty of nature all along the way and if it wishes to continue eventually after much thought picking a new star to start from. Recognizing of course that by invading they kill a potential new system. Or perhaps not preferring to finally just watch from afar and live in the void of space and let life be life. Who knows ?

And of course given the age of the universe and this conclusion one cannot help but wonder if others have made a similar set of choices for their species ?
This light footprint solution seems to be the only one that leads to very long term species survival and given how long the universe has been around someone one else or many someones may have well traveled this path. So if there are "aliens" outside of what seems to be a brief period of technological insanity they we could well be a extreme case of it seems that the natural result is to increasingly become a race content to watch and ponder as technology itself loses its luster and making gizmo's offers no challenge.

So it does seem that if this concept is correct then for us at least the heavens would seem empty of civilizations as we conceive of them with lots of starships and heavily populated planets and advanced energy sources. When in fact if the aliens exist they are civilized and discreet it us who are the barbarians. And if so it sure would be nice if they can give us a bit of a hand sometime soon we could use just a touch of help :)

What really sad esp as we get better at finding planets and realize that the probability of life and probably intelligence life increasing is the possibility of and avanced civilization having already discovered us increases yet realistically they don't talk to us. For a long time I wondered if this was true why not ?

Now I'm ashamed to admit it but I understand why nothing can help us as we are now giving us more technology would simply eventually allow us to wreck havoc on this ecosystem and many more its sad to admit it but now if I was a high tech alien I would also quarantine this world as being full of a potentially threatening semi intelligent species. So if they are out there and watching I can't see them talking to us any time soon. In fact as time goes one I wonder if they are watching why they allow us to continue. One has to hope that intelligent of rather potentially intelligent species are rare enough that even mucks like us are given a chance.

Funnily enough then our continued existence although it does not disprove intelligent life elsewhere more advanced than ourselves or even none could prove its rare enough that any potentially intelligent species is allowed a destructive childhood despite the damage it does to the planet or so rare we are the first in the region. Either way we need to grow up esp if we are effectively alone.

What does sustainable mean? It means a society that can exist in its present form into perpetuity on the resources contained on this planet. The hard part is adding in economic justice, etc., in which case it might be something like a society that can exist in a state of economic, social, political and environmental equity into perpetuity on the resources contained on this planet.

Or something like that.


It means a society that can exist in its present form into perpetuity on the resources contained on this planet.

Methinks most of the regulars here on TOD would say 'the present form' won't be an option. Some new form is on its way.

I would say that "its present form" should read "A particular form."

Antoinetta III

Which is why I used "a" and "its." But, yes, that would be clearer to some readers.


If any life escaped into the cosmos and replicated it would likely be fully technological and will have evolved beyond its organic progenitors. But I think this unlikely. We always seem to think there must be more and better somewhere - out there, somewhere. It's likely that advanced technology snuffs itself at the hands of the irrational apes that created it while their primitive minds pray for salvation from some benevolent space culture.

There is no more meaning to technological life than there is to organic life, no great secrets to expose, no supreme destination. As soon as we realize this, and we probably won't, then we will have a chance at extended survival. In the meantime, man programmed by evolution, will continue to compete for limited resources and find ways to rationalize the most heinous behaviors.

In a sense thats what I'm trying to say for a long time there are interesting mysteries to explore but the end it seems simply watching the majestic march of time seems to be the final fulfillment. We do this already watching a sun rise watching children at play, watching sunsets. Simply watching itself becomes just reward once you have done enough.

Thats does not mean we won't dig deep to understand more of the universe and to watch it at ever deeper levels if there is a end to pushing your ability to perceive and understand its well beyond where we are now. But if we discover something we won't rush to recklessly deploy the results of our discovery.

As and example if we where a older wiser race and had for some reason advanced slowly in agriculture with the green revolution coming later maybe we would have gained a better understanding of the population problem thus when the first new crops came out offering higher yields maybe we would not have deployed them instead maybe we would have continued and looked for a more balanced solution. Say we had already decided to solve the population problem and population was in decline and average wealth increasing.

My best guess is instead of rushing out and planting the new varieties we would have instead hybridized them with local varieties and worked for years to develop new varieties with maybe only slightly higher yields but better suited to a given environment.
Thus we probably would have combined population control with a agriculture focused on specialized varieties suited for a particular micro-climate. And instead of increasing population with the higher yields would would have reduced the amount of land under agricultural use allow the rest to go back to nature. The farms would have shrunk not expanded.

With just a bit of thought this alternative seems obvious to me at least.
However you have to set back take your time think and ponder and maybe experiment and then experiment some more and move slower. There is no reason to rush matters no pressure.
If even with all of this somehow a mistake is made at worst you go back to older varieties and expand the agricultural usage again assuming that you allowed population to decline in these "experimental" areas even then it would be less land put under agriculture than before. So nothing is lost just gains might not be held.

If anything on the research side your working far harder than we do today and learning a lot more before you make a decision. The research itself would be well advanced of solutions going into field use yet these would probably be altered in process based on advances.

Another example maybe you build airplanes say piston planes but recognize the limits and stop working on prop driven planes and say move on to discover jets and refine jet air craft in terms of our own air travel may plane evolution slows along the lines of say 1930's aircraft and the next time something new comes out its jets whith say results of learning about pressurized cabins making it back. And perhaps you even decide jets aren't the right answer because of efficiency and thus eventually settl for and advanced turboprop as the best design.

But along the lines of flying zeppelins would not be dismissed and perhaps a solar powered zeppelin although it moves slower it offers a more luxurious travel arrangement.
Luxury style and solar powered in such a laid back society its a winner. Nice living is well excepted as long as its not destructive. Perhaps the airplanes are simply abandoned and say communication systems used for instead of travel where speed is important.
Fun that has a low natural impact means far more than speed.

I know if I could travel pleasurable on a zeppelin over the arctic to Europe or vice versa it would beat every single plane trip I've ever taken say touching down on the north pole or Greenland icecap depending on the weather. Or watching some polar bears cavort on the way over. Or whales etc. Sure I'd do what I went for business or pleasure but the trip itself would be a treat. And hopefully even this small example hints there is a much better more enjoyable way to live if we wish all we need to do is control our population and take our time.

Also, the paleontological record has a bunch of apes who didn't make it.
The extinct hominids were unsustainable in the other sense of the word.

Nothing wrong with Australia its a beautiful place but large parts are pretty danged desolate.

The end of the last Glacial period coincided with the arrival of the proto-Aboriginals. For several million years after Australia split from Antartica the climate had been drying out, but the arrival of Humans vastly accelerated the process. The arrival of Humans and the extinction of the Megafauna is far to coincidental to be attributed to normal natural processes. Humans hunted the Megafauna to extinction, which allowed the grasslands to grow taller unchecked. Lightning strikes then ignited this fuel, and massive fires raged. I suspect that pretty quickly, the new inhabitants figured out that of they wanted to continue eating Mega Kangaroo straks and not get torched every summer, they had to conduct periodic burnoffs. The burnoffs killed the non-Eucalypt type trees, giving the eucalypts room to grow. The eucalypts themselves feed fires (and depends on them to open their seed pods), further changing the floral and faunal landscape. The upshot of all of this was the extinction of a wide range of animals that kept the environment in check, and the growth of species that fueled the 'tip' into a new equilibrium. Thorougly denuded of it's vast rainforest and non-Eucalypt woodlands, the Human 'invaders' were forced into an extremely low-entropy state of living. Unforseen consequences.

Hunter-gatherer humans failed, catastrophically, which is precisely what led to the first population crisis. We were too efficient as hunters and gatherers, ultimately crowding out other predators and our population grew to levels not sustainable by hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This, in turn, led to the rise of agriculture. Agricultural societies, in turn, decimated remaining hunter-gatherer societies.

People who wish to turn back the clock are living in a dream world. Homo sapiens must find a path forward, not backwards, through this mess, or simply go extinct. A return to hunter-gatherer lifestyle will simply result in the reinvention of agriculture when global hunter-gatherer population exceeds carrying capacity. Homo sapiens either learns to live in balance with the world (and hunter-gatherer was not balanced, though it caused problems more slowly) or we die.

End of story.

Hunter-gatherer humans failed, catastrophically, which is precisely what led to the first population crisis.

And yet we've had people on this very system mock 'the city people' because they would not live 'off the land like he was going to'.

Homo sapiens must find a path forward, not backwards, through this mess, or simply go extinct.

That very same poster in other posts was advocating Blacklight power as being a reality and all one had to do was wait to see results. The technofix seems, in most cases, to introduce more problems.

So is the way forward meditation or some non-technofix?

Reading the discussions here... it occurred to me that natural evolution through "survival of the fittest" is contradictory to sustainability. Why?

The most "succesful" organism is the one that beats out the competition. As a result its success makes its numbers grow until they eventually become the victim of their own success.

"Sustainability" seems to require "just enough" success:
- not enough success => numbers dwindle and the species goes extinct
- too much success => numbers explode until the species consumes its required resources and then collapses.

Sustainability is impossible?

Examination of the fossil record shows extremely long periods (millions to tens of millions of years) of biological stability, versus relatively short (hundreds of thousands to a few million years) of instability that usually peaks in large scale species die offs.

One interesting point to note is that it appears that the planet was already entering one of these periods of biological instability well before homo sapiens ever appeared. As such, homo sapiens appears to have evolved wholly inside the context of an ongoing extinction event. In other words, as a species, we have absolutely no idea what biological stability even looks like.

Also, your definition of "fittest" seems short sighted. Those species that did survive millions of years with very few changes were clearly more sustainable than a species that explodes to population excess. That alone means they were more "fit" (for the era in which they lived).

Sustainability is clearly possible because it's shown in the fossil record for millions of years. The fact that it happened is sufficient proof that it is possible. The question before our species is whether we are going to become sustainable or become extinct.

Those millions of years are quite compressed in the record, we really have no idea what they looked like on our time scales.

I suspect that even the "stable periods" had considerable species churn.

yeah we do get a bit carried when refering to what are incomprehensibly long (or short) time frames, distances, masses and so on. A humble critter that rarely manages to gaze about itself for a mere century best take care when extrapolating out that far.

It's not just money, though the money economy of the last couple centuries has certainly been an extreme example- it's technology itself.

And yet if you compare the average salaries of the Swiss technology corporation Sulzer with the Swiss financial corporation Credit Suisse, the average Credit Suisse employee earns over 400% more - even though Bankers neither develop nor produce life-improving artificial hips nor life-improving water pumps.

It's not the technology's fault that bankers and politicians prefer to invest and support companies which build weaponry instead of companies which develop renewable technologies and improve efficient use of non-renewable energies.

The Mayfair set (c.f. Adam Curtis) and the Thatcherites, Reaganites, etc. thought the free market would take care of the problem -- and they developed derivatives trading to a high art, supposedly to spread money even where it hadn't been before. I do believe that there were, and probably still are, people in the banking "industry" who think/thought that they were doing the world a service -- that modern banking methods were a far more efficient way to spread and generate wealth than the discredited Soviet scheme, and that they weren't just "buccaneer capitalists."

I have no doubt that many people benefitting from Crony Capitalism (including their professional defenders: FreshWater, neo-liberal, noe-conservative and Cornucopian economists) have convinced themselves that by ruthlessly concentrating power and exploiting natural resources they are doing "good". Nonetheless, for the men holding the levers of power and constantly re-writing the game rules to their own benefit, capitalism has always been about one thing: the concentration of wealth and power in their hands, and the subjugation and disenfranchisement of everyone else.

Capitalism/Globalism is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Next phase: Feudalism 2.0.

Capitalism has always been about one thing: the concentration of wealth and power...

I have to second this. I quoted from Ellen Meiksins Wood's book, "The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View" further downthread regarding this book, but it's relevant here as well. EMW argues that the creation of a market in leases, as the mechanism by which peasant's in England had access to land, first produced agrarian capitalism and then generated the conditions for industrial capitalism.

What's so fascinating about her book is that she analyzes the various theories that exist about the origins of capitalism and compares them against the various societies that existed at the time to see whether the proposed factors actually explain its development. What she finds is that capitalism was not bourgeois - meaning merchant - which derives from the French word burgher - meaning town dweller. In other words, she argues against the "commercialization model," in which the merchant class seamlessly transitions into the capitalist class via a quantitative increase in trade.

Rather, capitalism was a product of a specific historical context in which the English aristocracy - who owned the largest portion of English lands - lost access to their "extra-economic" means of exploitation (i.e. the ability to levy arbitrary taxes against the peasants working their lands) as a result of political centralization of the English state. Thus, they made use of the only other "means of survival" they had open to them: rents on their property. In other words, English landlords created a market in tenancy, leasing lands to the highest bidder - rather than charging fixed rates determined by custom - as their only mechanism for extracting as much wealth as they could out of the peasants working their lands, since they had lost their previous means of doing so: taxing them.

Consequently, capitalism from its inception was a continuation of the exploitation of the masses of the peasant class by a wealthy and powerful aristocratic class. From the very start, the aristocracy leveraged their privileged access to the political system to reinforce their legal rights to this new form of exploitation. (They also leveraged their privileged access to universities and knowledge-creation to provide the philosophical justifications for its purported legitimacy.) In doing so, they simply created a new mechanism for concentrating wealth and power. That they were ultimately forced to share it was merely an unintended consequence of the initial strategy they employed to attempt to sustain a lifestyle of luxury; they certainly didn't give ground easily or willingly.

Its not a thing about money. Its a thing about concentration of wealth. Whenever there is a concentration of wealth the whole economic machine begin to stop working. Debt-based interest is a tool for concentration of wealth where a group of people feed on incomes and hard works of other people and have increasing power as they are always in benefit. When they become very, very powerful they start buying governments and when there is a resistance from public the media they had already bought is used to cool down the public and to confuse the public.

Wealth must never be concentrated more than a certain limit. It would work naturally if people have to work to earn money instead of just eating interest. There could be investors that invest in other people's businesses and take share in both risk and reward of the business and their income is aligned with the percentage of profit made by the invested money. Since very few people would invest in other people's businesses due to trust issues and there is a limit of how large a business a person can run, there would be no concentration of wealth after a certain limit. That would mean govts whatever form they have would be more representative of people's wills and fears rather than that of an elite class.

Once a sahabi (early followers of Prophet Muhammed (sas)) Umro bin Aas has gathered a lots of wealth, all from the right means but the caliph of the time Umar Farooq took half of his wealth and put it in govt money. Such kind of a thing is needed today. A billionaire in dollars is too powerful to be useful to society. Half of his wealth should be grabbed by a true govt and distributed in public. That would give people more confidence in the govt and country and they would work harder. There would be a rise in consumption and economy would be back on track.

Of course in a peak energy scenario, economies have to inevitably decrease. There is more need in such a situation to re-distribute wealth than would be in a stable economy. It should be rich who should suffer the most in a falling economy as they were also the ones to get the most benefits when the economy was rising.

The elites would not like re-distribution of wealth but what power they have. They basically sit on hard works of other people. On their own they can't feed or cloth themselves. A working person is a need of all the economy. If those people learn the reality about economy and how they are exploited they would stop keeping their heads down and demand a just share in the incomes. The elite class should be razor thin in number and their average wealth and income should not be very larger than that of the working class. It do takes resources to stay in the elites, a higher level of education and general consumption is needed so its justified if the society provide them a higher share in wealth and income, but it not means that a society have billionaires on one hand and "thousandaires" on the other hand. One single person should in know way be more powerful than a million person in the same economy and society.

Just putting a higher rate of taxes on rich people would not be enough. Such progressive taxes basically makes govts go bankrupt in times of economic contractions because a large amount of revenues vanish pretty fast. The right thing to do is to simply take away half the wealth of the rich who are excessively rich, that is who are billionaires and divide that wealth in the general public. It would be drastically inefficient if govts keep that wealth to themselves and try to use it for public services.

The argument given against it is that some level of concentration of wealth is needed to make capital to produce goods. I am not against all kinds of concentration of wealth, only the excessive ones. Upto a certain limit concentration of wealth is needed and its a good thing, it helps people make factories and companies etc but there should be an upper limit on how much rich a man can be. If wealth is kept on concentrating in a few hands there would be lots of production but no consumption, there would be no buyers left. Some wealth must remain in hands of working class to consume goods and services so that the rich man can make a profit. Its a circle.


I would guess that most working class Americans feel some anger about the extreme amount of income inequality in the US. But other than some petty complaining little is said and less done about it.

Hard to say why other than maybe hoping that one day they too will be able to join the ranks of the elite just like they saw on TV...

Written by WisdomfromPakistan:
Wealth must never be concentrated more than a certain limit. It would work naturally if people have to work to earn money instead of just eating interest.

A purpose of the high U.S. federal inheritance tax on the amount above the deductible is to prevent the formation of an American aristocracy addressing your issues. Anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws are also intended to counter the accumulation of excessive wealth and power through corporations. If the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose had been enforced, Microsoft Corp. would not have been allowed to repeatedly sell the same defective, incompatible operating system for more than two decades. The U.S. government has failed to regulate the monstrosities properly.

wa'alaikum salaam.

It really begs the question, to my mind, of what happens in a 'game' where an ever-shrinking number of players garner an ever-larger portion of the 'tokens'. Even without all the limits to growth, overshoot, politics, etc, surely such a game must result, at the end, in a situation where a majority have simply nothing to gain by participating in the game, and would have to be coerced to continue playing .. like russia 1917, or france 1789 perhaps.

It's interesting that the q'uran forbids usury - as near-eastern history is far deeper and richer than even europeans appreciate, I wonder what historical perspective or lesson gave rise to the need to state that restriction.

Its not a historic lesson. Quran is not written by any human. It is a book from God. Surely God's wisdom is infinite and is the ultimate guidance for all.

Then surely God had a purpose for putting it in there.

Though even the infinite wisdom of God is surely limited in the recording of it by his chosen instrument and the capacity of his people to understand.

Its not a historic lesson. Quran is not written by any human. It is a book from God.

I didn't mean to imply it wasn't - just that I'm curious as to whether there are any interesting stories about that sort of thing - usury and it's effects, etc.

It's not just in the Quran. From what I've read, it seems that almost all ancient societies had rules against usury/interest. A big no-no in Christian, medieval Europe as well.

Antoinetta III

In fact, it was the use of accounting tricks to get around usury that led to the rise of the Medici, the Wall Streeters of their time.

Go figure.


Quran is not written by any human. It is a book from God. Surely God's wisdom is infinite and is the ultimate guidance for all.


Normally how fact checking works is you go back to the source and take the measurements for yourself if you doubt the data is correct.

Because there are a whole lotta people claiming that they have 'A book of God' and what it says is different then the others.

How can you prove what you say is true?


It's time for all of humanity to grow up and get past this childish belief in some deity being all wise and all powerful etc.. etc..

look out at the cosmos for crikey's sake there are billions and billions of galaxies out there each full of billions and billions of stars. Just the other week we have discovered another 32 planets orbiting some stars. What do you think the religion of the super intelligent giant squid like beings on some planet orbiting on the farthest fingers of some spiral nebula at the edges of the know universe is like do you imagine that their god is the same as yours?

Right now Godchecker's Mythology Encyclopedia features over 2,850 deities. *ALL* of them are, or were at some time the only true God or gods of some group of humans!

My guess is that you already do not believe in 2,849 of them. Well there are a growing number of people who are becoming adults and taking responsibility for their own actions and are letting go of that last one as well.

Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity etc.. etc.. are all one great bunch of very beautiful stories and myths. They were the best stories we had to help us understand our world a few thousand years ago. We now exist in the 21st century and there is no evidence that those myths of the past are true. We are very much alone and left to our own devices on this little tiny blue dot of a planet orbiting this rather ordinary star. If all of us don't grow up and start doing the right thing for ourselves and for the planet you can pray all you want but I'm pretty sure there will be no help coming from any God or Gods.

Best hopes for rational enlightenment and people who are good for their own sake.

people who are good for their own sake

where in science does 'good' come from

You start bringing in concepts like 'good' and some kind of greater connectedness ('god') creeps right back into the conversation, a slippery slope for those certain we are alone.

If someone claims to believe in gnomes, elves, faeries or invisible pink unicorns then the burden of proof is on them not on those who do not.

where in science does 'good' come from

You could Google the evolution of altruism in primates for starters. The Chimp in the wheelbarrow has passed away, can you see yourself in any of her chimp friends behind the fence?

Considering the fact that I neither believe in a deity nor do I have an enormous amount of respect for authority in general how do you explain the fact that I am not out and about raping, murdering and pillaging? Or the fact that I have friends and love my partner and my son? Heck, I even have pets.

Read this you might get a clue, Good without God:

Loved your coffee graph by the way F but to this post

you might note you capitalized 'god' not me. It is your certainty I question. Our emotionally colored story loving memory bank doesn't seem well equipped to handle that sort of certainty. Faith in no greater connectedness is still faith the way I see it. Science relegates what? about 90% of the universe to 'dark' matter and energy. It appears those unknowns and currently unknowables are required to hold what we can measure and our mathematics together. Now call that 'dark' 'wholey transparent' or 'clear,' there would be no difference in our inability to perceive or measure it but a great difference in the nuance the language imparted. 'Clear' and 'light' are much related in our language. Bang! religions love to speak of 'the light' (and 'the dark' for that mattter).

Speaking of bang, somehow there was an incredible small, incredibly hot 'point' that started to expand. Marvelous stuff to try and comprehend, but that still doesn't explain how that 'point' came about, whether it emanated 'from' 'where' 'all' 'is' incredibly concentrated energy, or how in hell it found empty space to migrate to and then expand. It is a wondrous universe to try and comprehend, but certainty is no bigger a part than faith in the process we use to try and do that. We use language, slippery, mutable, colorful, fully grey scaled language in that quest, we create wild constructs to try and hang balanced numbers around. Certainty almost certainly seems unachievable.

My question was where in science does 'good' come from, I wasn't doubting its existence. If 'god' created 'good' or 'good' created 'god' is both unknowable and unimportant the way I see it, and on this topic viewpoints appear to be subjective necessarily.

You start bringing in concepts like 'good' and some kind of greater connectedness ('god') creeps right back into the conversation, a slippery slope for those certain we are alone.

Well, not exactly. 'Good' because of threat of punishment or promise of reward isn't altruism, and altruism does exist.

Once a sahabi (early followers of Prophet Muhammed (sas)) Umro bin Aas has gathered a lots of wealth, all from the right means but the caliph of the time Umar Farooq took half of his wealth and put it in govt money.

Ok, *POOF* there is a redistribution.

How will the money not flow back into such a situation over time?

Wealth must never be concentrated more than a certain limit. It would work naturally if people have to work to earn money instead of just eating interest.

I agree that wealth shouldn't be overly concentrated, but your second sentence simply isn't true. Consider winner-take-all markets, in which concentrations of wealth are a by-product of the particular form that competition takes in them: positional arms races.

There are plenty of examples: actors, athletes, musicians, racing of all kinds, prestigious law-school graduates, best-selling novelists, etc.

From "The Winner-Take-All Society," by Robert H. Frank & Philip J. Cook:

[A winner-take-all market involves] a contest whose payoffs are determined by relative rather than (or in addition to) absolute performance... In the markets that economists normally study, by contrast, reward depends only on absolute performance. For instance, a production worker's pay - to the extent that it depends on performance at all - depends on the number of units he assembles each week, not on how his productivity compares with that of his coworkers.

A second feature of winner-take-all markets is that rewards are concentrated in the hands of a few top performers, with small differences in talent or effort often giving rise to enormous differences in incomes. (p. 24)

We see huge prizes in some winner-take-all markets because there are a multitude of buyers each with a small interest in the winner's performance. Thus, champion boxer's earn so much more money than champion handball players because there are so many more boxing fans than handball fans, and cable TV's pay-per-view makes each one an effective bidder for the champion's services... We will call markets of this type "mass" winner-take-all markets.

Large prizes in many other winner-take-all markets result from a small number of buyers who are intensely interested in the winner's performance. Examples in this category, which we call "deep pocket" winner-take-all markets, include the markets for top painters and sculptors, for attorneys who are effective at keeping organized crime figures out of jail, and for geologists who are unusually good at finding oil. (p. 26)

Although I agree that interest is one important means by which wealth is concentrated, you can see that it is by no means the only one. We can't just eliminate interest and expect everyone to wind up with largely equal proportions of a society's wealth.

For the villager who wants to give his child a cold glass of milk, there is a tiny $70 refrigerator that can run on batteries.

And for journalist who thinks that 'a cold glass of milk' is what the average villager would
be using their refrigerator for .... there are cheap flights to India.

Those Indian companies are taking the smart road. Western companies will have to follow suit, not just to compete overseas, but to compete right here in the U.S.
Here's an example; if Gillette were smart (yet to be seen), they would reintroduce the economical (and excellent) twin blade Atra shaver instead of trying to push over priced multi-blade razors at substantial price premiums. I know lots of men on other posting forums who have switched to old fashioned double edged shavers because they won't pay the freight for the expensive new multi-blade cartridge shavers. I'm going to do that too after I work through my two year supply (I saw Gillette's marketing strategy coming from a mile away) of Atra blades. they target one of the world's last untapped markets: the poor.

Actually, this is nothing new. Ellen Meiksins Wood, in her book, "The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View," discusses how this has been a central feature of capitalism from its inception. (We apparently just forgot about it with the temporary dominance of the "middle class" for the past several decades.)

Specifically, the agrarian capitalism of 16th-17th century England produced a large number of dispossessed peasants who simultaneously became both the impoverished proletariat of England's early industrial capitalism and the first mass market for its products. In other words, "the creation of unfixed, variable rents [on tenanted land] responsive to market imperatives," (p. 102) - as opposed to customary access at fixed rates - stimulated commodity production and generated the imperative to increase productivity.

The same process created a highly productive agriculture capable of sustaining a large population not engaged in agricultural production, but also an increasing propertyless mass that would constitute both a large wage-labour force and a domestic market for cheap consumer goods - a type of market with no historical precedent. This is the background to the formation of English industrial capitalism. (p. 103)

It was certainly a novelty that so many working people were now consumers, but the specific logic of this novel market depended as much on the poverty of its consumers as the luxury trade depended on wealth. It is not, however, enough to say that first England and then Britain saw the emergence of a historically unprecedented mass market for cheap everyday commodities. What finally distinguishes this market from earlier markets in basic necessities is the fact that, in the context of capitalist property relations, the consumption needs of relatively poor consumers became the driving force of a new kind of market also in the sense that this market affected production in wholly new ways... British industry developed on the strength of cheap basic goods, like cotton cloth, and their accessibility to that growing mass market. (p. 138-9)

We have certainly seen flat to declining oil consumption over the past 10 years in OECD countries

I'm not sure where you got that data, westexas, as the EIA's STEO shows something different over that same period. From 1998, OECD oil consumption rose almost every year (with 2002 the only very slight reversal) up to, and including, 2005, equivalent to a 0.8% year on year rise over that period. Only in the last 3 years have we seen a decline (presumably due, at least in part, to ever increasing prices, followed by a recession).

For example, US oil consumption in 2008 was back to the same level as 1999, 19.5 mbpd, while most non-OECD countries showed significantly higher consumption in 2008 versus the 1998/1999 time frame.

By the way, my Slow Decline / Quick Crash presentation from the Denver ASPO-USA conference can be downloaded here (PDF).

Is this post really such a good idea? Have to be stoned to believe peak oil? I think pot should be legal and that the war on drugs is horribly counterproductive... but I feel uneasy about seeing this being posted on TOD. Maybe I am just being a mother hen but this was my first impression when I saw this post.

I think it is more about many people having to change the subject--move on to something else--even when they understand peak oil. It could be a football game instead.

Yes, the idea that it's something outside of the personal experience. And maybe its simply pointing out an academic discussion that is out of our a thunderstorm. Might as well get a buzz and watch the light show.

It could be a football game instead.

Coincidentally, one our local congressmen, the Hon. Joe Barton, was on the radio this morning discussing a critically important item--whether there should be a college playoff system instead of the BCS system.

I am sorry, but I must say that I do share the uncertainty about drug-related cartoons on this site. Even a harmless cartoon as this can be twisted and misused against TOD. And I'm of the opinion that TOD are promoting a subject that many powerful greedy people and corporations do not want the general public to have a detailed insight in and that would like discourage readers from taking it seriously. Smear campaigns are by no means a new thing, but cheap and proven effective with even small munitions.

Those who want to have an objection will find an objection. Time will show that we were right.

Gail, what a gem this comic is. Poignant and pretty spot on. What do we do now that we know this?!?
I love how the comic artist puts it: "Hopefully, you'll find (these comics)to be humorous, self-effacing, awkward, funny, uncomfortable and humiliating (for both you and me)."

As Nate might say... there's not enough dopamine easily available once it sinks in how much PO sucks. In all reality and earnestness, I foresee legalization of of marijuana as one of the few tools the govt. has left at it's disposal to pacify the mobs as we ride this economy down into ashes. In stead of circuses and free bread, our Govt. would be wise to legalize pot and make television free, otherwise Kunstler's vision of a highly armed and angry Fox-News-Loving-Red-States may get ugly.

In stead of circuses and free bread, our Govt. would be wise to legalize pot and make television free

The Free TV would have its 1st shot if the 'swine flu' is 'bad' and we are all asked to stay in our homes.

"A story we can relate to on so many levels. . ."

I use alcohol instead of a medicinal drug

The only Question that needs to be answered is this:

What is money?

If we can answer that one, we can move on to the next.

What is the relation between our monetary system and energy.

That has been the struggle since we started to use some form of I.O.U.'s

Fast/slow; it will be a mix of both and we can influence it!

Just answer the first question.

Money is nothing but trust. Or as John Michael Greer wrote recently an abstraction

I can't see what that has to do with the future and I sincerely doubt that anyone can influence the future because this is not so much about money or energy but how addicted people act. You can save addicted individuals, can you save a world of energy addicts?

Why not? When it runs out, everybody who hasn't changed their thinking, will go cold turkey.

or will die earlier than they had expected to die (although denial seems to keep us from expecting that we will die at least until we get old and decrepit)

With two choices of possible outcomes (i.e. slow decline vs. quick crash) the final outcome is likely to be somewhere in between.

I expect the future will follow the pattern as outlined in the cartoon, but some of those recessions are likely to be big enough to resemble quick crashes.

Also, some of the "recovery" times may just be stagnant, or even slow downs in the rate of decline.

Peak oil and pot in the same conversation. Joe six pack might just check it out.

at least we don't have peak pot - it being a renewable resource.

well, given that most domestic marijuana is grown hydroponically in an energy-intensive manner in very controlled settings -- and thus the best strains available have been selected for how well they produce THC in a laboratory style environment (with all sorts of exotic synthetic and organic fertilizers... e.g. peruvian bat guano and sea kelp) gives me pause about future marijuana availability. certainly its cultivation will return outdoors as cheap energy availability decreases and as law enforcement has to scale back (because helicopter flyovers are not only costly but energy intensive). But as the transition occurs, we may see many of the potent dutch strains -- bred for "perfect" indoor environments -- fall by the wayside in favor of the more vigorous and often less potent outdoor strains. Maybe not peak pot, but peak potency.

Maybe not peak pot, but peak potency.

I believe one can take solvents and extract the THC - thus the CO2 extraction system used for many herbals should also work for that purpose. (2500 psi, based on my reading. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction of Scotch Bonnet as an example ) If one has such a system, you'd only need more raw material to extract.

Oh and if you were to ever do such an extraction I believe you move up the drug crime scale in the US of A in the same way its not a crime to make 200 gals of beer ofr yourself, but if you distill it you are breaking the law.

It looks to me like that last panel undercuts the credibility of everything spoken in the previous panels.

"Ha, ha. Those peaker/doomers are a bunch of potheads."

Lets have a cartoon of a drunk explaining ELM.

I don't have that, but here is a beer explanation of peak oil:

(you): Imagine you have a giant barrel of beer, 100,000 gallons. What size of party could you have if you have so much beer?

(person you talk with): gigantic, 100,000 people or so.

(you): Not so fast, don't you miss something?

(person you talk with): ???

(you): you need taps. If you have only one tap on that big barrel, 99,990 of your guests will start to riot when they realize how long they have to wait. With peak oil it's the same thing (insert peak oil spiel here)

Great analogy! Now imagine if half your beer is frozen beer slush...

I agree with Anne. The cartoonist does a nice job explain "slow crash" with minimal words, but the pot theme pulls the rug out from under it.

Perhaps he should have changed the subject another way. We all have been to groups where the people attending understand peak oil, but would prefer talking about something else more uplifting.

The author is 29 years old, so perhaps runs in a different circle than many of us "older folks".

My understanding is that pot was invented some time in the 1940's by some black musicians, and that it was spread all over the country by some disreputable individuals called "Beats".

So even people of advanced age, such as me and Gail would have some basic understanding of pot, and we might just "get it."

I don't think the cartoon is so off the mark -- most people, whether 29 or 69 understand Peak Oil, but they either dismiss it as something that can't be dealt with by individuals, or they imagine all sorts of technological fixes. The former are definitely in the majority, and they just go shopping, or smoke pot, or both.

For a 29 year old I think he nailed it literally and figuratively. Being stoned is a great metaphore for denial, powerlessness, detachment, BAU, what else?

For being stoned to be a great metaphor for denial, powerlessness, detachment and BAU, both characters would have to get high after the conversation. The conversation begins, before they are stoned, proclaiming the expected societal collapse has not occurred, that is, the peak oilers are wrong. They begin smoking before the stair step decline theory is related. At the end the cartoon reveals that both of them were high during the conversation. The meaning conveyed is that one has to be out of one's mind to believe in peak oil.

"Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica." - Abraham Lincoln (from a letter written by Lincoln during his presidency to the head of the Hohner Harmonica Company in Germany)

Maybe he's suggesting they won't go cold turkey...

Cold Turkey

i think it is excellent just the way it is, Gail, thanks for posting it. I really in the expression, "Hey! I resemble that remark!"
let's face it, the demographic of TOD readership is skewed towards middle-aged, middle-class white guys (many of whom "experienced" the '60's)and who now have a somewhat aloof relationship to what we see as a coming maelstrom of social and economic upheaval.
But at least we have some self-awareness of how we 'doomers' appear to others.
I was listening to NPR this morning and it seemed every segment was tinged by a phony sunny optimism and it occurred to me how trapped most Americans are by their misperceptions of the cold, hard facts.
they can't see that they are the ones in the bubble...what a shock they are in for.
at least we know when we are getting stoned.

John Kinhart, the cartoonist here. After reading some of the comments, I just thought I'd insert some explanation of the above comic: First, I never made this comic (or any of my comics) as promotion or propaganda for any idea or movement. I can see why some folks feel the element of pot in the comic might undermine the credibility of the argument and therefore be counterproductive to persuading the general public of the reality of Peak Oil. However, like I said, I'm not trying to convert anyone. My comics are intended to be a personal expression (with that comes all the self-doubt and contradictions of life). As you can imagine, the concept of Peak Oil has been cause for a great deal of depression in my life. And despite the fact that I have taken several measures to prepare to live a self-sufficient life, I still deal with depression and fear due to the upcoming energy crises. This, I suppose, is where the pot comes in.

I'm certainly not expert in any field that would give my predictions any weight. I'm just a regular guy, scared and trying to cope.

Thanks again. I hope everyone is doing well.

Cheers. I enjoyed your cartoon, and I think it stands by itself without too much explication.

There was life, good life, before OIL. And there was even civilization before oil, though some (John Zerzan) feel that humans took the wrong turn at the Neolithic.

Please don't be depressed -- you are 29, you say. The world is your oyster. You obviously see what is wrong, and you are in a position to do much to alleviate it-- your obvious talents demonstrate that.

"How did primitive man survive?
Bound by lust he couldn't count past five,
In the hustle to stay alive he side-tracked,
He put on clothing and an ordered mind,
Left his instincts all far behind,
He dropped his rhythm and picked up time,
And now he's out there looking for a ride back." — from the song "Nova" by The Holy Modal Rounders

Just don't eat that oyster in a month with an "r" in it...

Thanks John! I thought it was brilliant! Fear of powerlessness can easily lead to withdrawal from effort to change, whatever escapism you choose.


Old fart here, though I myself haven't actually smoked a joint, or anything else for that matter in over a quarter of a century, I salute your personal views and expression. Yeah, life can be depressing at times but don't let it get you down too much. As for the comments from the folk saying that cartoon characters smoking pot undermines the credibility of an argument, I wouldn't worry about it. That's their problem not yours! If you were blowing smoke rings in their faces they might have a point. Or they might mellow out a bit...Next thing you know folks will get upset about cartoon characters wearing explosive devices in their head gear.


Well said and thanks. You are not alone. Keep drawing and expressing!

John, when I found your comic the other day, I found it absolutely brilliant; to me, it's brilliant because, like with any good art, it can be interpreted so many different ways by so many different lenses--which is exactly what one sees in this comment thread.

In my opinion, we need more art like this, art the encourages engagement with these important topics through people's own perspectives. Also, IMHO, one of the real problems with this movement sometimes is that we too often tell people what to think instead of provoking them to open their mind, consider the evidence, and come to their own conclusions.

Please keep up the good work.

Comic Book geek here – the work you have previewed was in the alternative vain – ie Robert Crumb, bros Hernandez, Adrian Tomine ect… They are meant to be anti Super Hero – depicting scenarios with an eye to the contradictions of existence.

The form got its initial start at head shops – because the subject matter was a bit too crude for anyone else. Today thanks to the web you can get them at dropped off at your door.

Thanks for drawing me. I'll burn a bowl for you.


Brilliant Strip! I think I got it.. or I got something, cause I laughed.. it was a good laugh, too, you should be pleased, if you're into that sort of thing.

I thought the joke was that even though this guy seems to have a pretty good grasp on what's going on and why, that the 'Good Pot' line is simply how the rest of society will find a reason to disregard his conclusion. If his message is unacceptable, there must be something about him that's just seriously wrong.. 'oh yeah! see? He's just a wastoid.. forget about him! Turn in here, we need another case of Jamison's.' (Or Coffee Brandy if you're in Maine..)

Hi John,

I thought that was absolutely brilliant in so many ways!

It reminded me of a day last year when I was sitting on a mountaintop near Ulaanbaatar, enjoying a bit of wild growing Mongolian stuff with a friend, and talking about PO. When we got to talking about the coming financial collapse, we were cracking up so intensely that the idea of coming down from the mountain seemed like something that couldn't possibly ever be done... Hey, is that kind of metaphorical? :-0


My personal take is that anyone who would dismiss the content because of the context isn't someone I need concern myself with because they will likely never be part of the solution.

If we make the two guys corporate lawyers with cigars, should it not be published so the pot smokers are not offended?

Great work. Ignore those who choose not to see.


Thanks, your cartoon really touches a nerve, you are succeeding as an artist.

It's true that the fact that the people making this argument are potheads undercuts the credibility of the argument; I'm not sure I'd show this cartoon to someone to convince them of the importance of peak oil. But the pot angle is precisely what gives the cartoon its "punch." It takes us to a space where the people who "get it" are disaffected, powerless, and self-medicating.

If these potheads get it, and can even discourse about fast crash versus slow decline, then why doesn't anyone in power get it? Of course there are some highly intelligent and respectable people who do get it, but society marginalizes them just as much as the potheads. That's why even those of us who don't smoke pot and don't want to, nevertheless identify with the potheads, in spite of the fact that at another level this makes us uncomfortable. Just some thoughts.

Wow, thank you Kieth.

It takes us to a space where the people who "get it" are disaffected, powerless, and self-medicating.

I hate to admit this, but that cartoon is me and my friends- And it ties into the comments/conversation from BrianT and Gail.
Let me explain. Here at the Oildrum I am the draftsman or machinist on a periphery of conversation by engineers, scientist, and accountants. I find it all fascinating, but being the machinist, there is little to contribute.
I and those close to me go about our own P.O. remedial activity, have our own informal discussions about the news and problems of the day over beer and an occasional reefer and that is as good as it will get for us "saving the world".
Nobody needs/ wants/ or asked for my take on Peak Oil or AGW, so why bother?

When the SHTF, those folks who "don't get it" can ask me about getting their tools sharpened or guns fixed, or my best friend how to maximize green house yields in November, cuz everything else will have already become self evident.

You pose a very telling question here..

"..then why doesn't anyone in power get it?"

or to extend the sentence, 'Why don't people in power see the problem of powerlessness?' As you said, there are some who do, but in our generally overpowered society, a great many people through the top and middle classes are hard-pressed to bother imagining a life where access to volumes of power (be it political or physical) can become uncertain.

John, I think I totaly got your meaning with your most excellent comic. You expressed an emotion and state of mind that thousands and thousands of words here on TOD haven't expressed as well. Me too:

...just a regular guy, scared and trying to cope.

Hi John, I thought your comic strip was totally brilliant. We all struggle to explain this complex subject and you managed to capture some of the concepts in just a few simple words and pictures that many non-technical people might understand.

No need to be over-depressed by the slow crash, continuous recession sceanrio you depict here. We can all get by with a lot less - and still be perfectly functional and happy - so long as that supply of dope* or red wine doensn't get turned off.

There is a minority in our society - called bankers and market traders - who I beleive should have to learn to get by with nothing nothing at all. I'm afraid they are leeches trying to suck the lifeblood from society.

[* for the record I never ever did drugs and brought my kids up that way too. But have been known to accept the occasional glass of red:)]

There is new federal policy on pot as of yesterday-no more federal arrests of medical users in states with medical use laws.Good news .

The cartoon is fine because it is for the audience targeted by that cartoon.Linking peak oil and pot is A GOOD MOVE for that audience-the cartoon audience is counter culture in terms of pot-and therefore primed to be receptive to a message from the cartoonist about oil as coming from a person within thier own culture.

Believe me, this cartoon does not run in the newspapers that are delivered to the houses where the straight laced puritans live-they will never see it.

There might possibly be a reference to it once or twice on a talk show if that much.

Not only that, but the majority of Americans favor legalization and there's a strong bias against marijuana among older people and Republicans. It is only a matter of time. Gallup polling data linked below was published yesterday (10/19/09):

I agree. the pot thing spoils it. I've met too many people who have fried their minds smoking pot. It ain't cool seeing a mate who used to be an intelligent extrovert become a caked zombie with psychosis.

Good cartoon all the same.

Surely the comparison is very valid. The public coming to terms with the logic behind peak oil is the same as the public coming to terms with the logic behind complete decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.

Both make perfect sense when considered objectively; both will never be accepted by the powers that be.

I am willing to bet a substantial(to me )sum that you will be able able to buy your smoke in the liquor store within ten years.

Large numbers of people in positions of leadership in academia,business, and the arts are either users or former users these days.

The generation of people who never tried it is dying out fast.

The generation of old fogey conservatives that is just hitting the retirement rolls includes millions of former long haired dope fiends.

There are more millions of people who don't really give a hoot except they are afraid thier kids will get busted.Or else thier kids are borrowing money for lawyers.

The fundamentalists aren't nearly as opposed to a little fun as most people think.

Tptb are gradually coming to recognize that once the dam breaks they can get a lot more votes by collecting taxes on the pot and providing services to the public rather than locking up voters and taxpayers..

Of course the law enforcement and court industry will remain opposed but there are even some open minded cops these days.

Smart politicians who expect to get elected , reelected or move up to higher office are saying very very little about maintaining pot prohibition these days.If they say anything it it's a cuatious comment to the effect that we need to consider our options.

OFM says:

I am willing to bet a substantial(to me )sum that you will be able able to buy your smoke in the liquor store within ten years.

I agree because the "government" is starting to realize that allowing legal pot sales is one of the only options left that will provide enough federal income to pay off a portion of the interest on the national debt. It is also another way to extract money from the less than wealthy. The rich will have their cocaine without ever having to pay tax on it. Perfect solution. lol


Question, could it be that your friend was using cannabis to self medicate his growing mental illness? Been there, done that. I suspect that people who become dependent on pot have underling issues that need to be addressed.

For me after years of taking psychotropics, first pot then the legal stuff I finally figured out that most of my mental health problems were from sleep apnea. Yes, I was treating sleep deprivation with psychotropics.

Is now the time to get on a rant about our (US) overpriced, incompetent, corrupt,... medical system...

Question, could it be that your friend was using cannabis to self medicate his growing mental illness? Been there, done that. I suspect that people who become dependent on pot have underling issues that need to be addressed

Nope. In this case it was a good friend. We both went up to university together and he had no issues and had never smoked even a regular fag let alone drugs. Long story short, one day he started out with a bit of weed, then a bit more, then three spliffs a day. Then came the resin, then more stronger pot and within two years he was in a psychiatric ward, dropped out of classes and was utterly wrecked. Pot/weed/resin is not a harmless drug. There is plenty of medical research to show that it can take a healthy mind and mush it up for life, as happened with my friend.

Are you against casual alcohol use as well? Alcohol has surely ruined far more lives than THC, if only because it is more widely used. Many foods we eat are drugs (if not all food), but we have been used to using them for so long, millions of years, that we hardly notice the effects. I've fasted a few times, just water for 3 or 4 days. One of the first things I noticed was how obsessed with food our society is, and it seemed to me at the time, we use food like a drug, for its effects on our minds, not so much to satiate hunger. HAcland, i've also seen friends ruined by drug use (mostly alcohol,but not all), and others that it doesn't seem to impair at all, possibly even help. (self-medication, etc.)

I don't think it's a simple "these things are dangerous and bad" or "these things are harmless". They should be respected if used. I think we have lost the original meaning of the word Respect in our society. We used to respect nature because of its immense power, and the awe we felt from the natural world, its fury and its majesty, was also due to its inherent danger. The climb up the energy curve was also very much about our attempts to tame nature, and to turn it into a room with padded walls. I think we will be re-educated (by the fury of the natural world) in how to respect nature on the way back down, and that means plants as well.

just my thoughts,


I've fasted a few times, just water for 3 or 4 days. One of the first things I noticed was how obsessed with food our society is, and it seemed to me at the time, we use food like a drug, for its effects on our minds, not so much to satiate hunger.

Fasting 3-4 days is not healthy. The brain needs a certain glucose concentration in the blood to work properly. After a night sleep your liver glycogeen is well depleted. Eating 3 times a day is not a luxury.

Dunno, research done by Mark Mattson at the University of Kentucky suggests that some metabolic stress has beneficial after effects. There's no denying that physically and mentally you aren't up to snuff if you haven't eaten in more than 24 hours, but that's just a temporary condition that you rebound quickly from. Alternate day fasting for a while improves insulin response, those who fast one day a month for various religious reasons have a statistically significant reduction in the rate of coronary heart disease. Alternate day fasting in mice produced results similar to the recently ended caloric restriction experiment with the rhesus monkeys.

With regard to our evolutionary history eating three times a day probably is a luxury. I can see how traits that enable an organsim to thrive under moderate but chronic metabolic stress would have selected for strongly.

research done by Mark Mattson at the University of Kentucky suggests that some metabolic stress has beneficial after effects.

Interesting. Metabolic stress requires adequate levels of many different anti-oxidantia however, that a lot of people don't have.

Alternate day fasting for a while improves insulin response, those who fast one day a month for various religious reasons have a statistically significant reduction in the rate of coronary heart disease.

I prefer regular vigorous excercise to achieve this.

Amazingly a very physical job can manage about the same with the added bonus that it doesn't send you home with a stress hangover so many modern jobs impart

While extremely heavy use of marijuana has been correlated with mental illness in a number of studies, it's a bit silly to single out marijuana use in this way, given how much more harmful virtually every other commonly used psychoactive (including alcohol) is by comparison. Responsible use of marijuana is the norm- cases like your friend's say less about the drug and more about the person involved. People generally don't give themselves over to non-physically addictive drug without some underlying issue, be it nascent mental illness, depression, etc.


Sorry about your friend. You could well be right but if it's not to late at least consider the possibility that it is an underlying issue. Also remember the old adage that research follows the gold and there has been lots of funding for any research that reinforces the reefer madness mentality.

In reply to all above on my sub-thread:

1) why oh why is the first fall back position on your side of the argument always alcohol. This is about as dumb-ass'd an argument as Mssrs Yergin and Lynch bring to the PO debate: totally out of context. Yes booze is a drug.. Yes it soaks the liver, clogs the arteries and dulls the senses. Well done for understanding that. Weed has terrible health consequences too. It is not a harmless drug.

2) people who smoke pot are no different from any other drug users; from beer to heroin to adrenilin with the exception pot users are more often than not hiding from the world and are less able to get a grip and live in the world and interact with it. With out going into details, I know coke users, drunks, smack users and heroin junkies but the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users. Not every pot user becomes a clinical case, of course, but more than the average of smack users.

It is just plain irresponsible to pretend that there are no mental health problems associated with pot. It is a powerful drug which is more than just a trip.

Should it pot be banned? I think not; I hate the idea of man banning man from doing his peaceful will. But that doesn't mean the science stops at the liberal doorstep.

people who smoke pot are no different from any other drug users; from beer to heroin to adrenilin with the exception pot users are more often than not hiding from the world and are less able to get a grip and live in the world and interact with it. With out going into details, I know coke users, drunks, smack users and heroin junkies but the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users.

Oh, I'm sure that most alcoholics or say heroin addicts are MORE able, than pot smokers to get a grip and live in the world and interact with it.

BTW why exclude one of the most powerful and addictive drugs, nicotine, from your list? Or the abuse of prescription drugs? But I digress.

Anyways, I say hogwash! Could you produce the scientific data that backs up the rather extraordinary claim, that the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users?

What are you smoking?!


"claim, that the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users"

There is some truth here but it is backwards. People with mental health issues do use pot at a higher rate than the general population. That does not mean that pot causes mental health issues. What it means is that people with mental health issues use pot to self medicate.

People with mental health issues do use pot at a higher rate than the general population.

Sounds plausible but I'd still like to see clinical data that its use is higher than all other drugs combined, I'm not buying that assertion.

What it means is that people with mental health issues use pot to self medicate.

Based on personal anecdotal evidence, I have to agree.
Weed seems to (or feels as if it does) quell the inner demons.

Everybody is different.
For some people, pot does more than just give than a buzz. For some people, booze does more than just give than a buzz. As for me, I'm a sugar and caffeine addict.

With out going into details, I know coke users, drunks, smack users and heroin junkies but the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users. Not every pot user becomes a clinical case, of course, but more than the average of smack users.

Nice assertion. Now back it up.


Yeah. HAC, it's time to break out of anecdotal here and come up with some credible sources.

I strongly suspect you're improvising.

1) why oh why is the first fall back position on your side of the argument always alcohol. This is about as dumb-ass'd an argument as Mssrs Yergin and Lynch bring to the PO debate: totally out of context. Yes booze is a drug.. Yes it soaks the liver, clogs the arteries and dulls the senses. Well done for understanding that. Weed has terrible health consequences too. It is not a harmless drug.

It's not at all out of context. Drug use is drug use. Alcohol is demonstrably more physiologically toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to mental health than marijuana. If you're suggesting that marijuana is enormously harmful to one's physical and mental health, by extension you're implying that alcohol is even more so. Would you have had the same reaction to the comic if the substance in question were a beer? Probably not. To repeat, it is possible to use marijuana responsibly, and most users do, in the same way most people who have a drink now and then aren't alcoholics.

2) people who smoke pot are no different from any other drug users; from beer to heroin to adrenilin with the exception pot users are more often than not hiding from the world and are less able to get a grip and live in the world and interact with it. With out going into details, I know coke users, drunks, smack users and heroin junkies but the most severe mental illnesses always come from pot users. Not every pot user becomes a clinical case, of course, but more than the average of smack users.

If you can speak from your knowledge of "junkies", allow me to speak from knowledge gleaned from a pair of degrees in toxicology and pharmacology: "With out going into details," you have no idea what you're talking about and clearly have never bothered to look at the literature on comorbidity of drug use and mental illness.

It is just plain irresponsible to pretend that there are no mental health problems associated with pot. It is a powerful drug which is more than just a trip.

No one is "pretending" anything. Everyone acknowledges that drug use (of all kinds) is associated with mental illness and vice versa. Schizophrenics smoke tobacco. A lot. In fact if you take any random smoker off the street, it's significantly more likely that they'll be a schizophrenic than a non smoker! Is tobacco a causative agent for schizophrenia? No! Correlation is not causation. As many people have pointed out to you, this is a complex issue, and no one has ever shown a direct causal link between marijuana use and mental illness. What they have found is that marijuana use appears to interact in a complex way with genetics and environmental influences to exacerbate mental illness in a small proportion of the population. If you had said "some people shouldn't use marijuana!" I think everyone could agree. Blanket condemnations of a substance used responsbily by tens or hundreds of millions worldwide are, by contrast, irresponsible and do a disservice to the scientists who have devoted their lives to studying these problems.

But that doesn't mean the science stops at the liberal doorstep.

Science is non-partisan. Citing it does, however, require the user to have half a clue. Beware!

I had a lot of young (45-55YO) alkies die on my ventilators over the years. I think I saw 3 people come into the ER complaining of MJ problems. We patted them on the head, let them sleep a bit, and either sent them home or called their parents.

Imagine if there was a new illegal drug that got the users wild and manic with the common side effect of causing violent sickness and vomiting the next morning. 60 Minutes would be all over the "epidemic" along with the rest of the MSM.

Datura or Belladonna, except they aren't illegal. They usually scare the daylights out of the would be recreational tripper and they don't try them again. I've seen one claim that Datura was involved in the recent sweat lodge deaths (link), no other mention of it anywhere else though.

It only undercuts credibility in the minds of those who dont know how much creativity and original thought comes out of a good smoke. Exhibit A: near every jazz musician from the start in the '30s. Henry Anslinger at one point declared all Jazz musicians as suspects under investigation.

It only undercuts credibility in the minds of those who dont know how much creativity and original thought comes out of a good smoke

nonsense! Plenty of people have creative and original thoughts with out going within a country mile of 'a good smoke'.

By-the-by, the last person I would want 'lecturing' on PO and the very serious debate of how we adapt is a spaced out hippy with a Jay hanging out the side of his mouth. Give me a nice clean-cut, articulate fellow over that any day.

Give me a nice clean-cut, articulate fellow over that any day.

I've known more than a few coked out clean cut(very) articulate business people.

BTW, you try and take away my white crystalline alkaloid (caffeine, in case your wondering), and you'll have quite the fight on your hands...I might strangle you with my tie!

Love the graph! Yup, 6 cups in the AM is right where I get titrated back to being a happy human. Now, the downside of the curve can be tapered to a "bumpy plateau" if you keep adding coffee. Then, when you get home from work, you can start titrating it back down with alcohol. This may not be the healthiest regimen but I've done it for years and I guarantee it keeps the kidneys flushed out!


Loved it too.
I'm a two humped coffee addict myself. Late afternoon boooster shot helps one to finish through the remains of the day.

Aaaand saved to disk! :D

My caffine consumption is work-related. At home, I don't touch the stuff, but at work, I'll probably have three or four weak-as cups through my shift. Just enough to keep me awake and upright.

Again with the extreme stereotypes!

The truth lies somewhere in between.

I'm sorry about your friend, too. But I know a LOT of folks who smoke or have done it in the past, from mild to extreme, and unless other chemicals are involved, severe psychological issues are rare and generally only in proportion to the extremity of use.

.. and Hitler was a teetotaler with very nice Hair, and excellent at public speaking.

I believe it was Woody Guthrie who observed that "there's lots of good ideas in a pint of whiskey...
hardly none in a quart."

I'd guess the old man would have said 'coming into Los Angeles, carrying a couple of keys' tilted Arlo toward the quart end

re WTs WSJ article - there was a great review of wireless communications in the economist a few weeks ago, and how it is playing out in different countries
the average monthly bill in the west is approx $50. the average monthly bill in India is $7. and the companies there make a good profit
i think we have a lot to learn

the old saying
"use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"
"We had everything but money," A suggested guidebook for the Greater Depression

This may be a good time to contemplate EELP--Emergency Economize Localize Produce

Also re the pot comic above - a harsh comment:
After the Chinese revolution in 1949, Mao was faced with the huge problem of the millions of opium addicts on the streets.
He had a simple solution. He shot them. Anyone found to be using opium was shot, no questions asked.

whats that quote about charity and generosity being a function of surplus?

i can see the new bumper sticker already:

"What Would Mao Do?"

Pot is not comparable to opium. Here in the Netherlands we have a strict distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs. Soft drugs like marihuana and pot, while still formally illegal, is tolerated and you can buy it in coffeeshops, which pay taxes over the profits (or so they ought to). Hard drugs, like opiates, are not tolerated and only available on the black market, except for the worlds best known harddrug, alcohol.

I would not recommend anyone to smoke pot, but alcohol is really much more devestating. No addiction is a good one (except TOD).

We have similar policies in Northern California, but you need to pay $100 for a marijuana permit every year (they call it medical recommendation).
You can even fly out of Oakland or San Francisco Airports with 8 ounces legally with your permit, but you are on your own when you land.

"You can even fly out of Oakland or San Francisco Airports with 8 ounces legally with your permit"

The Mexican Mafia Dope Courier Relief Act of 2009. A $400RT trip to NYC to sell $4K of dope on the street.. Wonderful. A chance for me to see the country and get paid for it. I can smuggle Sarconal, too.

I have a political history that makes flying, even under normal conditions, a bit sideways. This would just increase my paranoia.
It took 5 hours of interviews just to get on a flight to New Zealand not long ago.
You are all safe, if I'm a security threat.

My other half and her travel-buddy made several short-duration trips to the US a few years ago. One one trip it was explained to them that the new marks on their passports meant they were 'risky'. Not bad for a couple of travel junkies!

I have read, and friends who travel have told me, that the "tolerance of pot" in the Netherlands is really a cover for huge multinational "mafias" to fight over and try to control the European hard drug trade.

I agree that alcohol is the most devastating drug -- far worse than pot, and probably worse than heroin -- but the legal and social arrangements that make some things "illegal" make them much more lucrative.

The present hierarchy of drugs suggests that the mafias have discovered that alcohol will stand on its own, because it is such a powerful drug, but the rest of them need the assistance of the government to convert them into profitable commodities.

Alcohol is tricky since any old apple tree can make it and most people enjoy it.

The legal and social arrangements thus have come about to deal with those simple realities.

Most other drugs are a bit more involved.

Even ToD. Take it in moderation :)

You say that but have you ever tried to get off TOD eh? Have you really tried???

I tried. I resolved to read the articles but not Drum Beats. Or not to read the comments. But my resolution failed and now I'm back to reading everything :)

TOD is almost, but not quite as addictive as StumbleUpon.

Each must be taken in moderation.

Left click on image to read "5 Most Addictive Social Media Sites"

No, but when on holidays I generally have no internet acces, and it doesn't lead to cold turkey symptons :-)

It seems like the Netherlands has it about right. I would not encourage pot use--I see too many young people who are lost in a marijuana haze. I do think marijuana has medical uses which need further research. However, neither do I think users should spend time in jail for using a drug which is usually less harmful than alcohol (the incidence of psychosis in marijuana users is much higher than the general population). Numbing out on pot is one response to peak oil.

Great cartoon, thanks.
Smoking pot is like using oil.
You can use too much, causing harm, or use a little for good benefit.
When I smoke pot on my days off (not every day off...) I just take one good hit from a bowl.
That is enough to get me to where I want to be.
To smoke bowl after bowl is counterproductive, wasteful and expensive.
Just like our oil habits.
In that vein, my oil use is like my pot use.
My major transportation, the Metropolitan scooter, gets 100 mpg, and sips oil.
Both techniques are frugal, less wasteful, longer sustaining, and put me in a good place in many ways.
A BTU saved is a BTU earned.

*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

The thing that makes any substance dangerous is when it loses socially meaningful context. That is, many substances have been used ceremoniously (peyote, tobacco)or practically (coca leaves, alcohol), but get divorced from uses that involve ceremony, mystery or practicality and become ways to just get stoned.

The evil, if any exists, is in their mis-use, not their use or existence.


*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

I applaud your comments too! For a great historical summary of human mind altering substance use I highly recommend Terrence McKenna's book "Food of the Gods". You can't take this deep seated desire out of us humans, I agree with McKenna in that it is this desire and ability to expand our minds that most likely separated us from the apes. As part of ceremony and mystery even ahyahusha with strong DMT trips can be helpful and legal.

The evil is in the mis-use AND the cause so many seek out drugs is the deep amount of suffering and pain that is endemic to the human experience.

"the incidence of psychosis in marijuana users is much higher than the general population"

Just because there is a correlation does not mean you have a cause and effect.

This likely means that people who have issues with psychosis are more likely to use marijuana maybe because it helps them somewhat deal with their psychosis.

I've had experience with medical uses. I was treated for bone cancer 20 years ago and chemotherapy typically make you puke for about 10 days. So I got some pills against sickness, which made me even more sick. But smoking a bit of pot drove out the sickness and gave me an appetite, which is obviously beneficial when recovering from chemotherapy's damage.

Again, smoking in general is bad for your health. As has been pointed out, smoking your productive life away to a useless, numbing zombie is a problem too. And it is true that smoking pot may lead to psychotic illnesses in about 10% of users.

Hard drugs, like opiates, are not tolerated and only available on the black market, except for the worlds best known harddrug, alcohol.

For the difference between hard drugs and soft drugs you have to look at the quantities (dosis) and the timescale it harms the body (and brain) and the addiction properties. In this definition alcohol is a soft drug. It is true that alcohol is more devastating, but this is because it is used by very many people. The result is that a lot of people are unable to work and dying because of alcohol abuse. The majority of alcohol users is doing fine (or even better when use is moderate). In the past they prohibited alcohol in the U.S., after that a lot of people started to make alcohol at home and the use of alcohol increased, so the law was changed again.
Researchers found out that nicotin has the strongest addictive effects. It is still considered a soft drug because it usually takes a lot of time before the lethal effects come out.

The list of drugs used and encouraged in our modern civilization is unending:
1. Sugar
2. Salt
3. Coffee, tea (and biscuits of course)
4. Soda pop
5. Cheese burgers (super sized of course)
6. Booze (a.k.a. social lubricant)
7. Deep fried potatoes (a.k.a. chips)
8. ... gasoline, napalm and other sweet smelling odors of the morning

Please do not abuse terminology.

1  /drʌg/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [druhg] Show IPA noun, verb, drugged, drug⋅ging.
1. Pharmacology. a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.
2. (in federal law)
a. any substance recognized in the official pharmacopoeia or formulary of the nation.
b. any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals.
c. any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals.
d. any substance intended for use as a component of such a drug, but not a device or a part of a device.
3. a habit-forming medicinal or illicit substance, esp. a narcotic.
4. drugs,
a. chemical substances prepared and sold as pharmaceutical items, either by prescription or over the counter.
b. personal hygienic items sold in a drugstore, as toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.
5. Obsolete. any ingredient used in chemistry, pharmacy, dyeing, or the like.

There is no basis for calling sugar, salt, coffee, tea, soda pop, cheeseburgers, or deep fried potatoes as "drugs". Yes, these things are very definitely problems in that they are inappropriate foods for the digestive system with which we evolved but they are not "drugs" and using such terminology simply muddies the water.

Are you arguing that caffeine and sugar arn't drugs? That people don't stuff their faces with burgers and soda to "enhance mental well-being"?

Effectively what you're saying is: (Socialy acceptable -> Not Drug) (Socially unacceptable -> Drug)

In that case, we'll be able to move pot of the "drug" list in twenty years. Some days I just can't wait for the older generation to die...

They are foods, not drugs. If you cannot get that distinction separate in your head then there is no further need of dialog between us. I do not have time to educate you on the difference between drugs and foods outside of our normal evolutionary diet.

And further, it is poor usage of terminology like this that makes TOD a shell of its former self.

Finally, do not put words in my mouth. Re-read what I wrote if necessary and if you still cannot comprehend it, then we are simply destined to not communicate - by your own willful refusal to recognize accepted definitions.

Certainly, sugar is a food. Coffee, as far as I know is 99%+ water and has zero calories in it, but I would consider the caffein in the coffee (rather than the coffee itself) as a drug.

Antoinetta III

But the line between drug and not-drug is blurry. Many of the plants we have adapted to eat have secondary metabolites which in some instances are clearly drugs. Some of the edible members of the nightshade group of plants have alkaloids, escarole and lettuce have lactucin and lactucarium. Spinach has rubiscolin, an opioid peptide. Gluten has exomorphins, an opioid peptide. Another opioid peptide, casomorphin, forms during the digestion of milk proteins. Capsaicin which was intended to keep mammals from eating the plant containing it causes endorphin release. Most plants have a measurable amount of something that has a drug like effect.

They are foods, not drugs.

Grey Zone,

I used to consider you one of the more rational commentators on this blog.
However, when it comes to these particular Anthropogenically Emitted Noises, "food" and "drug", you seem to have a spasm of irrationality.

Mother Nature gives not a care about the nonsense noises you throw at these events. It's all basically the same: Take a healthy living breathing human specimen, introduce into his or her body a test quantity of one or more chemical compounds. Observe results. Whether you call the applied compounds "food" or "drug" makes no difference as to outcome.

The only way in which homo sapiens can reliably attempt communication with one another is to have common and agreed upon definitions for those "noises". So, like it or not, we need definitions and we need to adhere to them. Otherwise why wouldn't I call you a fat pig? Do you know what I mean by a fat pig in that context? Well, I'm not telling you and you have to guess and I don't mean the definitions commonly used. See? Moving away from agreed upon definitions reduces our communications to nothing but noise. You, of all the people posting here, should know better. Mother Nature may not care but in order for you and I and other homo sapiens to have any chance at successfully communicating and therefore at successfully addressing a problem, we must share meaning. The more the language is mangled, the less useful it becomes.

The cartoon does illustrate rather clearly how people think gabbing about things is doing something about them, displaying the basic detachment of our minds from how things in reality happen.

To go to the heart of it, there are quite a variety of natural economic systems that begin with growth and stop all by themselves. The do it without threatening their environments or themselves.

The principle difference in why is almost as simple, though the details take being looked at differentlty in each case. They stop doing what made them multiply, and do it BEFORE it wrecks them. They use the resource freed up by that (their peace dividend for ending growth?) for some other useful thing... That's it, the Keynes-Boulding principle of economic balance (a.k.a. "widow's cruse"). Understanding the complete certainty of the diametrically opposed consequences should help motivate facing the real problem, or... we're just gabbing.

Gabbing is OK, to fill in, but using knowledge to lead to better choices is the purpose.

Does anybody remember the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers' comment about "Weed will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no ..."?
I've forgotten the rest of the quote.

At the risk of being a pain in the asterisk, let me point out a situation yet again that this cartoon brings to mind: The negative effect of the Internet on educating mainstreamers about PO. I personally have had this experience: I give a presentation, people go home and Google "peak oil", and they wind up on one of the doomer or "it's all a game by the power elite to control our lives" sites, and they instantly lump anyone who uses the term "peak oil" into the same whackjob category, and then happily dismiss everything they heard from me or anyone else on the topic.

I even changed my presentation to talk about an oil crunch, but never use the term "peak oil". I still talked about individual countries peaking, the inability of cheap sources to meet world demand, Hubbert, predictions from various quotable people about when the daily oil supply will max out, etc., but I avoided the official name, since it's become so incredibly loaded with the wrong connotations (about those who use it).

I think I get what the cartoon is saying--that even the people who do know are just talking to each other about it and then filling their lives with trivial details; you could change the pot smoking thing to any of dozens of other activities to make the same point. The problem is that the activity chosen carries the implication that those of us who do know what's going on (I call us the "reality enhanced community") are not worth listening to and very likely are wrong about the whole thing.

So let me put out this challenge to everyone here: When you post on this site or others, are you sure that a newbie seeing it as part of his or her very first introduction to peak oil won't misinterpret it as another stupid Internet conspiracy theory, or will your contribution help move that person to learn more and become active in helping to reshape public policy and their own consumption patterns?

I have seen many otherwise intelligent people 'misunderstand' facts so that the inconvenient truths fit their unicorns-and-skittles view of life. These people have what I call 'the fear.' They fear change, they fear learning new things, and they fear those who do the things they fear. (Which brings a whole new meaning to the word ignore-ance!) I am not too sure where this fear comes from, but I suspect it comes from the MSM. After all, how many murders/car crashes/bomb explosions do you have to see before you start to worry? And all of us monkeyminds really do think that seeing is believing and are not quite able to instantly adapt to a world with talking electronic boxes controlled by fictional entities called corporations that care only about making money.

No cartoon is going to be a one-size-fits-all explanation of Peak Oil. However, since I think pot use is far more prevalent than the MSM is willing to admit, many people will read this and think it credible. Good. We need to reach many many people in order to 'make things not as bad as they might otherwise be.' Any change will have to come from we the people, as those in power like things the way they are and seem willing to play 'vampire squid' until things collapse.

BTW, are you the same guy who runs this site: "The Cost Of Energy" ???? It is a good internet resource!

I sure hope the editors of this fine site don't decide to start self-censoring its content to material that won't offend, depress, or otherwise turn someone off.

[Make] you sure that a newbie seeing it [your take on PO] as part of his or her very first introduction to "Peak Oil" won't misinterpret it as another stupid Internet conspiracy theory


Truth is that PO is a just a gateway issue to the bigger problem of Unending Growth on a Finite Planet.

If a reader cannot comprehend the basic idea that no tree grows to the sky and beyond or that no person grows to be 50 feet tall (and lives to be 500 years old), then what hope is there?

I interpret this cartoon differently than all the comments I read-maybe I missed one in agreement, but my take is that the author is wisely lampooning the bad habit of over analyzing the world's problems while failing to focus on personal achievement. The guy in the cartoon is doing nothing to protect himself even as he correctly sees what is coming-even worse, he has not seen the situation as an opportunity to be seized to improve his lot in life. Again IMO this site should focus more on opportunity for the readers and less on saving the planet to avoid accurate satire such as this cartoon.

this site should focus more on opportunity for the readers and less on saving the planet

So what are you thinking about?

Investment advice

Fossil fuel based partial solutions (Natural gas busses, coal to liquids, etc.)

How to keep our current system going longer?

How to garden etc?

Gail: IMO anything that can be implemented on the individual or small group level. Investments,careers,relocation,home energy saving and anything else. IMO any positive change out of this mess will occur locally first or not at all. I realize you often have posts covering these topics so my comment was not intended as a direct criticism.

Sorry for intruding.

Tod~discussions about energy and our future. Is stated above this website.

Maybe some history about energy.

Something about the peaking of coal in the early 1900's.
A lot of country's in europe and also the us experienced this event. Might be interresting.

A little attention for the energy density is also important.
Because this is also a big factor.

Some background information gives people a better perspective to judge this time.

Gail suggest's
"How to keep our current system going longer?"

Something about future oil predictions(based on what we know for sure) in relation to "voluntary" energy reductions in the western world.

Can windmills be used without the grid, and how difficult is it, if not, to reverbish them for local grids and what is needed.

Something about the human brain and how it functions in slowly changing envirements.

How to tell your kid's about peakoil.

I agree with your analysis.

I'm not so sure. Not being a credentialed scientist or engineer (though I love charts and graphs) this kind of right brain exercise is a good way to get out of the "fact box" and into the "psycho/social" box. I get just as much out of the National Gallery as I do out of the Smithsonian. And art is something we will have regardless of the outcome of peak [X].

Good balance. Thanks Gail.

I live with an artist, and she would also---

Always interesting to see how the subject of Marijuana gets people so emotional.

Good post.

Glad I don't use that junk any more. It's been quite a few years and damn, I'm glad. It's "Benefits" are quite misleading.

But, I digress.

Oil is now up to 78.xx - is this one of those waves? Will this wave kill any recovery that may be about to begin? (MSM says the "recession" is over but the millions of people out of work disagree. I do too).

I look at this oil situation alot like a restaurant or other business that you walk in to. The line will be self limiting; as the wait becomes longer more people will leave because the wait is too long. So, as the price of oil increases it curbs growth, the higher the price the more people cut back on spending in other areas. (No pun intended on the word "Higher"). :)

Forget about the dope aspect. I'm far more interested in the fact that oil hit $80 and the Dow is at 10k at this stage of the game. I can see the USA ecconomy being hammered on the anvil of Hubbert's Peak next year ~it will be obvious to everyone at this stage. Can you Imagine the panic!.

In OZ we'll just sort of press on whatever but the US? It could get a bit rough. May want to shop monthly...

I start to think Simmons could could still win that bet.

The thing that struck me first about this comic, wasn't the pot use depicted or even that it was about peak oil. What I saw, and I don't know if this was intended, was that the character on the right was trying to convince himself that it would be a slow crash, not a hard one. I'm not convinced that we won't have a hard crash. And like many have pointed out, better sooner than later, when we still have a relative supply of energy to do at least some mitigation. I believe if we have some wake up call, then we will get real mitigation in the united states. My bet is on something happening with Mexico, that could lead to Simmon's "topping off the tanks/run on the gas station" scenario. That would give us in the united states a right good scare, and hopefully wake us up.


I am wondering if finances won't be what determines the shape of the downslope. It could be debt defaults that cause the problems--and these might not even be in the areas we expect--it could be local governments defaulting, or electric utilities, or a host of other things. We don't associate debt defaults with peak oil, but the whole system is so interconnected that peak oil impacts are likely to ripple through the system.

Absolutely. We're looking at increasing weakness in ALL of our complex systems. Probably impossible to tell which particular physical system will fail spectacularly first. The damage/destruction of derivative systems like our financial and economic ones are real enough, but there is still a difference between a person not being able to buy food at a grocery store because they have no money, and not being able to because there is no food in the store. There is still a tremendous amount of waste in our systems, for sure, but i think it's the collective issues in all the systems, not each particular one, that is creating a growing risk of fast collapse, or some sort of temporary fast collapse. These systems are all intertwined. Thus the clear need for redundancy and resilience, which are not the same as waste and inefficiency. It's the difference between sending up three space shuttles to put up a satellite, each shuttle having no back up systems, or sending up one shuttle with triple redunant systems. (lol, probably not the best metaphor, but it's what came to my mind)


p.s. there is also some evidence, that even if we didn't have peak oil/peak resource, we would be facing (some sort of) collapse from increasing complexity coupled with diminishing returns of technology and over-specialization within the world economy.

p.s. there is also some evidence, that even if we didn't have peak oil/peak resource, we would be facing (some sort of) collapse from increasing complexity coupled with diminishing returns of technology and over-specialization within the world economy.

Intresting you say this I've considered and rejected this possibility.

The underlying logic is that continued growth no matter how inefficient serves to allow the complex system to survive. The efficiency of the soviet system was certainly atrocious yet the steady influx of hard cash from oil and other resources allowed it to continue. Only a combo blow of falling oil prices and debt primarily from grain sales finally took it out.
It seems some sort of basic unsolvable problem has to happen before the beast actually dies.
Otherwise it seems capable of growing to overcome virtually any obstacle.

Thus for the globe it seems that no the only thing capable of killing the complexity is a combination of rising prices and falling absolute production levels of several critical commodities. Its so big and diverse only a fundamental blow right to the heart if you will is capable of destroying it.

Otherwise no matter how inefficient the borg if you will can find a way to grow to overcome lesser problems.

So in the case of the global economy in my opinion it actually only stops when critical resources start to fall in overall production and growth becomes impossible.
Nothing else can kill it even rising population and less per capita only wounds the beast as long as the overall wealth in the system is growing. So increasing the number of very poor people although it slows the system down does not alone stop it. The killer blow has to be falling resources.

so nuclear deterrence is at the heart of this mess. Otherwise large wars would keep popping up and putting the brakes to growth on enough huge sections often enough to allow overall growth to continue for a long, long time.

that could lead to Simmon's "topping off the tanks/run on the gas station" scenario.

Just showing up at the pumps with many gas cans will get the tounges a click'n. Or at least that is what happened one day when I was filling 5 cans and putting 'em in the back of the car.

Good cartoon, kudos to artist John Kinhart, and to Gail for bringing it to us.

Regarding the discussions of solutions, it seems to me everyone is perhaps missing the core problem, which is our society's setup of relationships between the three legs of the stool which support us. Labour, Capital and Resources. Up to now, we've seen systems which enshrine the supremacy of Capital (feudalism, neo-liberalism) or Labour (theoretical socialism), but none which grants the proper place to the "third corner" of the tri-corn, the fragile spaceship which supports us.

The criticisms of "supremacy of capital" systems are becoming quite well known due to the revolutions of the 18th to early 20th centuries plus recent economic disasters of unrestrained capital and neo-liberal economics, and need no further repetition.

The criticisms of "supremacy of labour" systems (eg. systems as so far tried) are so far poorly done, being essentially limited to critiques of the failed communist dictatorships and ignoring the relatively very successfull social democracies of the scandanavians etc. These criticisms more rightfully belong in the area of criticisms of failures of control of power, as do those of rightwing dictatorships. Better analysis comes from Gad Horowitz and Phillip Blond as Red Tories. Esp. P Blond identifies marxist socialism as being profoundly individualistic and therefore counter to the needs of a co-operative society.

I think only the contributers to the Oil Drum have put much thought into the (coming) "supremacy of resources", but no doubt interest is about to increase. It is also true that many environmentalists, in fighting against ruthless exploitation of scarce commons by water ground and air polluters, surface coal miners, poorly handled nuclear waste etc. are in the forefront of the same movement. One difficulty is that it is hard to study in detail the many prior civilizations which have overstepped on abusing the "third leg" because they very soon cease to exist and archeology is a somewhat esoteric and inexact science.

Post peak oil could occur in the manner depicted in this having a good toke comic strip. But it could also occur in other ways. For instance, what if initially it occurs as depicted with each pulse up in the economy followed by a pulse down to a new lower point each time, builds to a threshold where it loses so much momentum that business sector by sector completely stop. It starts in fundamental ways, like defaults on mortgages on a scale that dwarfs the recent collapse, then oil and other commodities stop moving in such great bulk, then food outlets get so much pricier there is unrest at first. People angrily demand food at a price they can feed their family. Then the realization that no one is going to solve the crisis, not the govt. because no one will lend us the money, and not the local community because there is no food storage to fall back on to feed the people for more than a few weeks at most, and then panic spreads and with it complete chaos, like we saw in Baghdad after the U.S. toppled their regime, and at that point it just descends into a post peak Kunstler type aftermath.

That's the way I see it. Not a pretty vision I know, but what other eventuation besides cornucopian mirages are likely? Either we are on a net energy descent, and with that is eventual collapse, or we find some way to find energy ascent to attain positive net energy to continue BAU, expansion, population increases, more boats, cars, food, etc.

A perfect conceptual parallel is the Universe itself. In 1927 LaMaitre said if Einstein's Theory of Relativity is correct, then the Universe must be expanding, otherwise it would have collapsed long ago. He was later proven correct, and so it can be said of humankinds civilization, that it is either expanding or it will collapse, and the medium by which we determine that direction, in or out, imploding or expanding is net energy. Either it is increasing or decreasing. Well, its decreasing, right? So that means eventual collapse.

Your hypothesis rests on the theory that "civilization" follows a set of laws nearly identical to the laws of physics, which is immediately obviously an error.

Read Joseph Tainter "Collapse of Complex Societies" in which he develops a theory of what leads complex societies to collapse. There may well be a set of laws about why collapse occurs, and I expect that if examined there is some pattern to how they occur. None of this is as neat as theories about gravity, but then take weather, it is complex and hard to nail down in specifics, yet it has to be subject to natural laws and can be seen to follow those laws in general ways.

"Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He currently is the Head of the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University."

"According to Tainter, societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial "energy" subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a "problem," such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge."

I met Joseph Tainter last week at the Biophysical Economics Conference in Syracuse NY. It was interesting to hear him talk about these issues. Perhaps when the slides for the various talks get up on the web, I will write something about it. I gave a talk also.

Hope you will Gail. I would be interested to see what Tainter thinks now vs what he thought about Western Industrial Civilization's chances when he wrote his book. Besides you write well and I always enjoy your posts.

I stand by my comparison, lengould. In fact the same can be said about people too. Ever know someone that failed to improve themselves or learn anything new and as a consequence they became neurotic? As people we need to keep our minds active, or if you prefer expanding our knowledge to remain interested in life and to seem interesting to others. As soon as someone stops growing, learning, etc. their personality tends to narrow. We've all seen it in people we know -- they reach a point of saying this is it, this is who I am and they stagnate.

So there is a direct correlation between something complex either expanding or it starts to contract. That's a simple idea, and its doesn't take away from physics.

Either we are on a net energy descent, and with that is eventual collapse, or we find some way to find energy ascent to attain positive net energy to continue BAU, expansion, population increases, more boats, cars, food, etc.

You provide not a whit of proof by reference, nor does any data elsewhere available as common knowledge on this site which might be assumed as not requiring a reference, that those are the only two paths available for the future. I am convinced that there IS available a future which is neither the doomer's fantasy nor the cornucopian's fantasy, and am developing the proof of same. The key is in establishing new means for our society of setting the relationships between Capital, Labour and Resources. Present western liberal representative "democracy" is too easily co-opted by money (Capital) and by votes (Labour), while the third leg of the stool (Resources) is ignored and gets no voice except from volunteerism. It is a terrible system, the worst except for all the other alternatives (absolute monarchy, oligarchy, marxist dictatorship, corporatist dictatorship, socialist representative democracy) which have been tried thus far.

There must be a better way. If so, I will find it. I believe the first part of it stands with pure non-representative democracy enabled by modern communications systems, and the second part of it with elimination of the nation-state (gradual and perhaps). The part of it wherein an appropriate voice is found for earth and its resources is not yet clear. Others as well.

There must be a better way. If so, I will find it.

The first question is; better for whom?

As long as there have been people, there have been some who are better negotiators than others.

Example: In Feudalism, King convinces lower downs that God picked him to be boss.
Example: In Capitalism, Rich guys convince lower downs that Go(l)d picked them to be boss.
Example: In Communism, Party bosses convince lower downs that Ghost of Lenin picked them to be boss.

What will be the new and better paradigm in LeninGoldism ? ;-)


Ha ha. See, some people simply cannot imagine a human who is "in it" for anything but personal gain. Wait until you become my age.

To your question What will be the new and better paradigm , the reply is obvious. Appropriate valuation. Of resources, labour and financial capital.

Wait until you become my age.

OK. The minute is up. Now what?

(Just kidding with you. Of course I understand that some human actions are driven by limbic portion of brain. Take this conversation. What's in it for my egor?)

As for "valuation": that's purely subjective.
I value my activities as being "very" (very valuable).
I value your activities as being "not" (not very valuable).
Sounds like "fair" and "appropriate" valuation to me.

I gave a speech on peak oil in my college speech class today. It went really well. I ended up answering questions for a half hour afterwords. It was really nice having answers to most of their questions, thanks TOD! I was surprised how receptive people were. I got the feeling that a lot of people had made the connection between high gas prices and the recession, and I was able to fill in the missing part of the story about why gas prices had risen so high.

I can definitely relate to the characters in the cartoon. While I can see the story of peak oil unfolding, there's not much I can do about it except burn a bad one and watch the show.

This short video shows how dangerous pot can be

I was in the field all day yesterday to I missed the ongoing discussion of pot, drugs, etc. I doubt the cartoon was meant to lead down that path. I take this diversionary route as an indication of the frustration many on TOD have with the general situation. We reinforce our thoughts of a sad future amongst ourselves while highlighting the lack of public awareness/reaction to PO. The scene from the Titanic movies where the band plays on comes to me. Though their future is obviously bleak their camaraderie comforts them.

I think tangents, such as this discussion, add to our process. A little mental recess from the cold, hard facts of PO is a good thing from time to time IMO. Congrats to the original poster for the (perhaps) unintended consequences.

I doubt of many will read it this late but I think there is another point worth discussing in regard to pot and politics.

If we were more oriented to the older days when we had more local govt and less fedreal control, I have little doubt that in some states they would now be collecting megabucks in pot taxws and saving megabucks on the courts, police and prisons.

And the rest of the country would be watching and making plans to make the switch from prohitition to tax bonanza.

Too much federal control locks us into bad positions in many respects.

It seems as if Texas is doing so well with wind in large part because the industry can operate within the borders of the state, meaning that it is much much easier to get things done.

The IEA oil report described OPEC as having more than 5 million barrels a day spare capacity.

Wonderful, another implication that peak oil caused the credit crisis.


Can't relate to pot smoking. But I can relate to them needing to change their focus to a modern psychological crutch. Contemplating collapsse is so emotionally exhausting!

So yeah, after talking TEOTWAWKI, I end up discussing the benefits of a vacation plan or a fashion design or a home decor selection or a restaurant or the iphone. It's bizzarro to watch oneself reset like that. Like having a split personality, or like having one foot in both worlds.