Unique Times -- and the Future

This is a guest contribution by Dr Walter Youngquist, best known for GeoDestinies, his classic text on global resources and their depletion that was first published in 1997. I had the good fortune to meet Dr Youngquist at the ASPO conference in Houston two years ago and since then we have shared regular correspondence. Dr Youngquist (now aged 88) is updating GeoDestinies and last week he sent me this piece, seeking opinion. I always find his prose to be eloquent, simple, often understated and as a result very powerful.

I asked if we could publish this short piece on The Oil Drum and he kindly agreed. Many readers of The Oil Drum might feel that they already know much of what is written here, but you need to stop and ask how it is that we know what we know? When the new edition of GeoDestinies is published I'd warmly recommend this to Oil Drum readers as a well referenced, well written source spanning energy, soils, water, metals and population.

Unique Times -- and the future

In various contexts throughout this volume [GeoDestinies] it is pointed out that we now live in unique times, unlike any in the past, and unlike what any will be in the future. Yet many people in developed countries do not realize the unique years we have had since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This fact, as a framework to understand the present and what lies ahead cannot be overemphasized.

We have developed technology by which we have exploited the Earth’s resources to a degree never before seen and which, in the case of non-renewable resources – fossil fuels, and metals as well as nonmetals, can never be repeated. We have drawn both from the past, and also mortgaged the next few centuries at least by degrading the vital renewable resources of soil and freshwater, which are not renewable within the span of several lifetimes. This is in contrast to many centuries of history when, lacking technology of today, things changed very slowly.

All this has resulted in a seismic difference in prospects for future generations. We, in these industrial centuries, and those seeking now to industrialize, have left very little for those who will exist for the duration of the presumably million years of life of a typical mammalian species. We have done all this for enjoying (for some of us) a brief degree of affluence beyond anything ever before seen, and almost certainly will not happen again. Think about it as you drive your car to the supermarket with myriad varieties of food from far and near, or to the shops at the mall, on asphalt-paved roads in a vehicle most of which are powered by fossil fuel directly or indirectly.

The future of less will arrive for citizens of industrial and developing countries by small increments of change, but which, in retrospect will combine to be seen as a century of profound changes to a degree of rapidity and consequence as never before. We now live moment by moment, only moderately aware of these incremental changes. It is unlikely, although not impossible, that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies. But slowly and inevitably the related problems of resource depletion and population growth will become increasingly apparent. We have the opportunity in various ways to modify the impact of these events, but so far there is little evidence this is being done. The industrial world and its political framework seems committed to the road of increased consumption and more people to consume, for that is what keeps the game going – for the moment, but is unsustainable very far into the future.

Walter Youngquist, November 2009

We are facing a massive civilizational crisis, which the current financial crash, though serious and destabilizing, is merely a symtom of a far more deadly desease. The first harbinger of what's to come, what's waiting just over the horizon.

Peak Oil is also an indicator, a profound one, of the collosal mess we are in, as collectively bump up against the physical limits of our small planet and its finite resource base and environment.

Rapidly growing population, climate change, environmental degradation, species exstinction, can all be added to the growing list of challenges we face, but it's important to understand that they are all parts of a bigger whole, the definitive end of the era of unlimited, human expansion at the expense of the rest of the planet. Now our breathtaking growth, once a source of wonder and pride, is turning against us, and threatens not, as in the past, the areas we conquered, but now we are actually undermining the very foundations of our own survival, we are sawing through the branch we are sitting on, with potentially devastating consequences just around the corner for all of us.

Depending on one's point of view, we may never get far enough down the road, because economic collapse will occur before environmental collapse, and the usual answer, in our western system to destabilization on a global scale, is war. A new world war would, apparently, potentially, solve a lot of our problems in the short term, but the risks would be tremendous. The 'cure' might kill the patient.

The fundamental, core problem, we face as a civilization, is that we don't really have a system for implimenting the profound, structural, changes, that we so desparately need to impose. Not only are there no mechanisms that work, in practice, to alter rigid inequalities of power and wealth in our society, but we are really pressed for time as the various crises grow, merge, and rush towards us with frightening speed.

Ideally, in theory, we could honestly and bravely face our global predicament together and solve our problems. It still isn't too late to alter course and pull back from the brink. This is, of course, highly debatable, as we may, as I suspect, have already gone too far in the area of manmade climate change.

We need massive political change on an historically unprecedented scale comparable to a revolution in our political system, something similar to the great revolions of the past, only with far more successful results. If one isn't keen on the English, French, Russian or Chinese revolutions, as models, one could, I suppose, opt for the American Revolution instead. I'm not advocating, per se, a violent revolution as a solution, I only mention these upheavals as examples of the scale of the political changes we have to push through, one way or another. Maybe the western model of society will simply collapse under its own weight, like the old Soviet system, and massive and fundamental change will be possible in a mostly peaceful fashion, but I doubt it. Our military/industrial system is still far to powerful to accept change on the scale required, especially in the United States, which has a historically has been characterised by a violent and brutal ruling elite prepared to use military force in pursuit of its interests and to protect its power.

Once political power has been wrested from the ruling elite and a whole new 'class' installed, only then will it be possible to radically reform our entire economic system for the benefit of the vast majority of humanity and ultimately the planet as well. Our economic system must be forced to serve the interests of humnity and the environment, not the other way around. We cannot allow narrow, selfish and deluded economic dogmas to sacrifice the future of the planet for the 'health' of our economic system. That would be insane, immoral, and ultimately catastrophic.

"Once political power has been wrested from the ruling elite"

And who will do the "wresting"? Unfortunately, there's no guarantee, or even probability of a group with the mindset of your average Oil Drummer being the ones to do this.

Here in the USA at least, I don't see anything like this happening. Far more likely the US will go the way of the old Soviet Union. Uncle Sam will collapse before he is overthrown, and he will likely be replaced with a number of smaller, regional political entities, each of which will end up sorting out its political structure for themselves.

Antoinetta III

I have been writing a little squib for a local newspaper on the huge dangers we face in the near future, and I have been having a little debate within my own head on how to end it- optimism or doom?

One ending is to say what I actually believe- I see no evidence whatsoever that we will collectively be able to get ourselves together to solve the mess we are in, on the contrary, we are accelerating toward the wall, and so we are doomed, sorry about that.

Another way is to say that, with any luck, some truly huge disaster- but localized- like a heat wave killing off a couple of million middle class midwest conservatives (meaning us), might shake us up enough to start an effective reaction. That is, the Pearl Harbor solution. But absent that, we are doomed.

A third way is to simply put it to the audience, (if any)- "So what would you suggest?".

Actually, the only reason I do even this little bit is that I would hate to have an epitaph - "Stranger, go tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to greed,sloth and nothing".

One ending is to say what I actually believe- I see no evidence whatsoever that we will collectively be able to get ourselves together to solve the mess we are in, on the contrary, we are accelerating toward the wall, and so we are doomed, sorry about that.

I like the first, but maybe as a question of likely-hood? - Something like...

"Will we wait for the consequences to force us? At which time it would likely be too late. Or can we really reduce our comforts, expectations and consumption enough, and soon enough to avert catastrophe?..."

Just a thought.

Hello wimbi

I too struggle with our outcome and what to do about it.

My (insufficient) efforts to date are to become actively involved in a Natural Step organization here in Wisconsin, engaging in discussions with seniors about life 60+ years ago, and to initiate group discussions on what it means to have a sustainable society.

The Natural Step organization is a very grass roots group of people trying to make a difference on sustainability. I would classify their efforts as incremental. Incremental is important, but not at the level that many TODers suggest. But I think the effort is still worthwhile, because society (at this point) won't listen to messaages of wholesale paradigm shifts.

Last night I had a discussion with my father-in-law, and we had a very interesting discussion on his life as a kid in the 30-40s. I asked a very focused question to him about whether the small town he lived in had a business that manufactured glass (something today's society does not even think twice about), and he said that glass was manufactured somewhere else. He then said that he had a Sears catalog from 1908, and we opened it up and looked at it. It was amazing what was all available back then. I asked him how much of the goods back then came from overseas (I already knew the answer). All he mentioned was a Japanese toy that used tin that we US citizens discarded. The other point he made was that they heated with wood, and he and his brother slept up in the attic and could see their breath in the winter (Medford, WI). I guess my point in this was to learn how things once worked so that we can prepare.

It is not clear to me just how fast we have to move to be ready for PO. But my intent is to do all I can to suggest, drive, and implement ideas through organizations like TNS.



As one of the TOD geezers, it seems to me you are focusing on stuff to the exclusion of social relationships. In many respects, relationships took the place of "stuff." This was true of adults as well as kids. While the adults would sit on the porch in the evening and talk (now and then). We kids would play hide and seek, red light/green light or kick the can.

The same thing was true on a community level where you knew everybody because you had all lived in the same area "forever."

The place I would start were I interested in sustainability (which I am) would be to determine why we were happy back then with little "stuff." When I was a kid our appliances consisted of a stove, refrigerator, a toaster and a radio. My "toys" were a BB gun, hatchet and a butcher knife (I lived in the country). We spent our time outside almost all the time.

Once you can understand why we were happy then you will be able to approach sustainability appropriately.



I limited the length of my post, so perhaps it appeared that I was simply focused on "stuff".

I am very aware of the social aspect of sustainability. The TNS chapter for our community has many social events to raise awareness of sustainability. The community itself was not designed to be truly sustainable, so to make it self-sustaining has enormous social and economic impacts.

I guess I don't agree that it is as simple as understanding why people were happy back then. We need ideas, we need influence, and we need action.


All interesting comments, thanks.

FYI, I grew up without a phone, not to mention toaster, my mother cooked for 8 on a wood stove, and we had no bought toys, just made them out of sticks, mud, rocks, discarded containers, rags, corncobs and so on. ( please note i have refrained from mentioning walking ten miles barefoot thru snow to a oneroom school house, the while fighting off ravening wolves with a club:.)

We had lots of fun, because we were kids. The grownups sat on the porch and told lies, each longer and more ludicrous than the last. My favorite being the tale of the great time had by all at the funeral of the meanest man in town, squashed by his own fed-up horse.

PS- I finally finished that piece for the paper on a wishy-washy pitch to the effect that we were doomed unless-long list of doogoodies that are technically possible but that everybody knows will never get done.

I had been warned long since that hot words of hellfire were not gonna get printed.

Hi Todd,
you are talking about a time when people had very little,that is true, but that was'nt a sustainable era. Things were already improving from industrialization even then though it was not as clearly defined as now. For example look at the large families that were common 100 years or so ago. Both of my Grandmothers had 11 siblings each even though they were so poor one Grandmother told me at christmas they only recieved a single orange each. These large families were already a product of increased agricultural yields and better transportation made available by industrialization. If we look back to pre industrialized times in Europe families were not so large because it was not possible to feed so many mouths.

One ending is to say what I actually believe- I see no evidence whatsoever that we will collectively be able to get ourselves together to solve the mess we are in, on the contrary, we are accelerating toward the wall, and so we are doomed, sorry about that.

We are in serious trouble, but we are not doomed. How far we'll regress before we turn around can't be known -- the future in a case like this doesn't pre-exist -- it depends on us. But there is no fundamental reason we can't get it together and make a go of it, i.e. surviving as a species. We have brains, we have science, and suffering will provide us the will. The empire is losing strength by the day, and eventually it will no longer have the power to throttle all meaningful opposition. At some point people will begin talking to each other, arguing about how to collectively survive.

We aleady have tent "cities" springing up all over the country, some in national parks (e.g. outside LA). There are now formerly middle class people in some of those tents. When they figure out that they are permanently out of the middle class, they will realize the only road to survival is collective action, including those who have been left out longer than they have. People will figure out that they can and must build a new life for themselves outside of the market economy, that the need land to do it, and they'll need to work collectively to fight the gov't for the right to survive. At some point the ruling elite will no longer have the strength to prevent the emergence of a political force based on these communities and the rest of the impoverished citizenry.

There is hope. There is no chance of it being easy. It is guaranteed to be extremely turbulent and difficult. But there is hope because there is nothing that makes doom inevitable.

OK, Dave, good to hear hope. Sure, doom isn't inevitable, just likely.

Now, for me, back to fun and games with solar stirling engines. I am getting close.

wimbi, sorry that this is a bit off-topic but can you recommend any good links for making solar Stirling engines? (2009-at-johnbray.com)

"they will realize the only road to survival is collective action",

when tshtf it is optimistic to think people will react in a rational reasoned way.A large percentage will not have the slightest notion of why things are coming undone and so only by chance could they engage the appropriate response.even if everyone did understand there response would most likely be emotional.
the social fabric has already come apart in many places of the world .if your wondering what it might look like here . . things tend to be reduced to there most base of human nature ,violence ,regional warlords ext.

"there is nothing that makes doom inevitable."
death makes doom inevitable. . .

but your right we should try, we do have brains and are able to consider the future .but collapse appears to be the solution.
im sure some humans will survive we are the most adaptive species ever yes? we were just a little to immature to handle responsibly all that free energy we found. imagine if we understood what we had in the beginning and took the long view in respect to the world we built out out of ff. we probably wouldn't be burning it in cars.

"When they figure out that they are permanently out of the middle class, they will realize the only road to survival is collective action"

Why do you conclude that people will realize this? Surely an educated understanding of political theory and some knowledge of social history would be necessary for this to occur.

Antoinetta III (has it been so long since Marie?)
I agree with you. I see the USA fragmanting. Here in Canada we are much more likely to have a central fascist government phase before Quebec and Alberta first and then other provinces seperate or regroup into their own little fascist domains. I think the future will be very dangerous, but not Mad Max. More like old China pre Sun Yat-sen or a present day Afganistan. As Orlov suggests, we will need to chose strong "friends".

Yes there is a lot of speculation here about the future. we only need look around social disintegration is the norm for much of the world. fav quote i got on oildrum "the future is here its just not evenly distributed".

I don't necessarily see Canada splitting immediately, though with Quebec as a fulcrum it might. Eventually, I think it's inevitable however. Maritimes, Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and possibly Alberta, and North Cascadia - (Alberta (more likely), BC, Yukon, NW Territories). I see that happening about the same time that the US itself undergoes its own fragmentation. Cascadia would probably absorb Washington and Oregon, possibly Idaho and Montana (I could see the mountain states breaking either way, though I see Alberta being a part of the mountain states as part of that). Big problem with mountain states is that they're land-locked and while resource rich are somewhat water poor. Similarly, I could see New England breaking away as part of the Maritimes.

It's possibly that you may see a Fascist Toronto, but I doubt it - Fascism is a state where corporate control of the government has reached a stage where it is indistinguishable from the government. It could be argued that the US is essentially Fascist at its upper levels (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Big Oil, etc.) but as a whole that's probably nowhere near to being true, and in my experience as an American expat in Canada (Victoria), the Canadian political system tends to vary pretty dramatically from a Northern European type social democracy a la Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands (especially on the coasts East and West) to a moderate conservative government in Toronto and Syndicate government in Montreal.

When the breakup does occur (anywhere from 5 years (unlikely) to 30 years (very likely) from now), I suspect that the governments that emerge will tend to reflect the local political flavor, though with a tendency as well towards organization complexity that favor city states and regional blocks (resource/energy availability patterns). This will hold in the US as well, with emergent governments likely to be anything from social democracies (Cascaida) to theocratic states (Utah) to semi-feudal aristocracies (the US deep south) to semi-fascist oligarchic republics (such as the California, Arizona, Nevada bloc). With a few exceptions, they will tend to reflect the political boundaries of existing sets of states (in outline) at first, though this may change over time, and the existing states and provinces will maintain their internal cohesion for some time to come even within these regional blocs.

The average Oil Drummer . . .

Let my offer the following observation. Readers and contributors at the Oil Drum are members of the “Remnant,” In Albert Jay Nock’s classic essay in the Atlantic in 1936 “Isaiah’s Job” we read this:

“The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles [issuing in what we know as the humane life], and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”

The Remnant has the strength, the capacity and the courage to set the proper course and to inspire the rest of us from sinking into barbarity, lawlessness and unprovoked violence.

The crazies at the top of the economic heap—a junk pile, if you ask me—are not the Remnant.

Conditions will have to get ugly before my brothers and sisters at the Oil Drum—scientists, engineers, highly educated analysts, professionals, concerned citizens—will be able to do their part. We are on the brink of making a difference, and the high level of consciousness here should encourage each of us that we truly are.

I kind of like that. That's a semi-optimistic take on things. Hope it works out that way.

I had a thought walking with my family in the woods yesterday. The problem with Cassandra is that she knew where things were going (Apollo's gift of prophecy), and tried to convince people to do things differently. They all ignored her. But she knew full well that would happen; that was the curse. She should have just kept her mouth shut and put herself in a position to be in charge, or at least not miserable, when things fell apart.

If we really had Cassandra's gift of prophecy, and I think many people in the peak oil community think we do, it seems like the best thing to do is avoid Cassandra's curse, i.e. keep quiet to avoid having people ignore us. Then be in a strong position to pick up the pieces to the extent it's possible. I'm still holding out hope for something like Staniford's plan for world solar power networks, but it's not looking likely yet.

Cassandra was enslaved, raped and murdered.

Yeah, see? She should have kept her mouth shut, slipped out before the Greeks surrounded Troy, and become an arms merchant to the Greeks. Even sneaking away to an island and living in isolated splendor would have been better than getting raped, taken away, and then having you, your husband, and your twins killed in a palace intrigue.

What's the moral of the Cassandra story? First, if one of the gods thinks you're hot, better to give in. Second, the Greeks don't appear to have thought much of people with the gift of prophecy that try to convince others of terrible problems. Maybe you have to start out as a hero to get away with that. Anyone around here the child of a god?

I think there's a moral and ethical imperative to speak out till one truly believes it is hopeless. At that point, you might have the right idea.

Taking another tack, or going off on a tangent we've discussed before, a huge, red flashing sign is how hard it is to get even like-minded people together to make preparations. Three years now, and I've not even come close till recently, and even that is a loose association.


Yeah, but I tried that at work (I work at the EPA), and all I got was silence. They had that look on their faces: "Riiiggght, the biker guy thinks we're all going to end up on bikes. Next nut."

I don't agree there's an ethical imperative to speak out. I think there's an ethical imperative to try to point things in a positive direction. I don't think talking is necessarily the best way to do that. From my experience, you're more likely to make people tune you out that way. Imagine if Cassandra had just walked up to the Trojan horse when no one was looking and lit it on fire. Much more effective than talking to people about it being a trick.

The Remnant has the strength, the capacity and the courage to set the proper course and to inspire the rest of us from sinking into barbarity, lawlessness and unprovoked violence.

Somehow, the revolution by the worthy has always been taken over by wackos. Witness the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. Undoubtedly those who began the sorry events thought themselves The Remnant of their day.

It is awareness of this likelihood that keeps aware people from starting such things, even if they believe themselves todays Remnant. TOD-ers in particular. There is really no project guide, no business plan for a revolution of the type being discussed. And the fear of failure in the
French and Russian models prevades all.

To whom do you suggest we turn. Who is our Messiah? What Ghandi of intellectual purity is available to us?

I have no answers. Only questions and a shared fear that we, collectively, have waited too long to begin, and the time has past for us. Our heirs will not have great love for us, if they even have histories to refer to that tell of the wonders of the Industrial Age - the Age of Oil.

The English Civil war too.

Apart from being an outstanding cavalry commander,Oliver Cromwell was a puritan who slaughtered plenty of Irish non combatants just for being Catholic. He qualifies as a wacko in my books.

Please don't use Ghandi and purity in the same sentence. He was a dirty old man who used to have his niece lie naked next to him. He also screwed up the independence of India as the British had already promised independence when he started his civil disobedience campaign in '42 (caused countless needless deaths). A Ghandi type is not the sort I would want to lead a revolution.

I knew that he was reputed to be a dirty old man, but his 'legacy' has been one of pure leadership. I thought about Sister Theresa, but she is as bad in her own way, worse actually, as Ghandi. So, Neal, who is an appropriate person of intellectual purity to whom we could have turned in the past, and having named that person, who in the future?

My point is better made in your comment, which shows that such persons do not exist now, and did not in the past. I am not aware of anyone who, by force of personality and sincerity of belief, could turn the world from its obsession with wealth and greed, vis-a-vis the BAU model of Capitalism and growth in the Industrial Age. If such a person does exist, I want to know about her. Or him.

Even Hal was insane.

TOd'ers should form there own community or transition town somewhere if your all convinced of the accuracy of your assessment of the situation and willing act as many here claim necessary , i would volunteer.

"What Ghandi of intellectual purity is available to us?"

Nate Hagens obviously. .8-)

yea the wonders of the age of oil. . the most potent resource ever and we had a stoned orgy for two centuries . . well y'know one thing just sorta led to another. .

Actually, most revolutions that take place may have more to do with technology than anything. We tend to break things down into Lower, Middle and Upper Classes, but I'd actually argue that there's actually at least a fourth class in there (there are many more, but that fourth one is critical) that I'd call the professional technologists. They are usually intellectual thought leaders, are typically more skilled with emerging technologies that provide a significant monetary advantage, and usually start out with modest to moderate incomes but are often at the forefront in terms of education. Especially when the technologies involved are in the information/communication space, this can have a significant advantage.

The lower class typically has very little effect socially, save perhaps as canon fodder, and quite often they are manipulated by the upper class in power to remain largely supportive of the existing status quo. They are, in general, very conservative, not terribly well educated, and unlikely to challenge the established media. The middle class, overall, are vested in the system as well, save that they envision being members of the upper class, and as long as they have those dreams, they are relatively pacified. The technical class, on the other hand, usually tend to be agents of change, especially as their own positions within the hierarchy are challenged. This is part of the reason why those in power tend to be very trustful of academia and intellectuals - they historically have been the catalyzing agent for change. They also tend to be supported by a splinter group of the upper class (typically of younger generations) that are seeking their position in the power game but are otherwise locked out for one reason or another.

A revolution occurs when this technology class is able to align themselves with a faction of the military, which typically comes when either the regime in question has reached a point of being too repressive or has become sufficiently insolvent to pay its debts. The military is usually quite conservative and supports the regime, but when you have a revolutionary regime change, it's almost invariably because factions within the military either "stood down" or even supported the rebels. Without the threat of repressive reprisals, the state loses its coercive authority (typically after having lost its fiscal authority) to the average citizen, and you see a shift as the technology class finds common cause with the middle class and the "progressive" elements within the military to bring about change.

So why do revolutions seem to go bad so often? In part, because the skills necessary to run a revolution are typically exactly the opposite of those necessary to maintain a stable government. Revolutionary leaders are firebrands, highly charismatic, often likely to be very inspirational, but also feel of zeal to see their reforms cemented in place quickly, even if its not necessarily in the best interests of the people. Moreover, during revolutions, people's emotions are up, and the necessary adrenalin highs that come about from changing a repressive regime often take a while to wear off. Those in the upper class who sought to take advantage of the situation also understand that during a revolutionary moment, its often easy to depose new leaders because for the most part there's still a lot of mistrust involved on the part of both the surviving upper class (who see their authority disappearing quickly) and the lower class (who don't see immediate change in their lives, and in fact resent the disruptions that any kind of mass social movement causes).

Moreover, once the actual business of running the country (itself actually a pretty boring activity) really gets underway, the potential for corruption sets in. People don't want to give up power and prestige once acquired. The US Revolution worked largely because it was distributed, the political structures that did exist were still in flux, and there was a certain degree of autonomy that was then taken away, and even given that, it would likely have failed if it weren't for the simple logistics and costs involved in trying to wage a war from the other side of an ocean. The United States was created because it was simply too costly for England to wage war across that divide - militarily the US lost almost every encounter they were engaged in, but they succeeded by making it too expensive for England to win divisively.

Fragmentation works the same way - the ability of the central government to keep border provinces from seceding diminishes beyond a certain threshhold, usually after a period of repression after having achieved empire. It's not the repression itself - most empires enter a repressive phases as those in power become distrustful of their ability to remain in power by political means - and in most cases while that seeds the ground for the technology class to attempt to take over, it's usually very unusual for repressive regimes to spontaneously explode. However, as the ability to hold the repression in place takes its toll (it is usually very draining on the treasury) you eventually get to a stage where you have the necessary preconditions for a revolution to take place.

What that means over the next few years is that revolution is likely to become a fairly constant state of affairs for most countries until they reach a stage and size where they are effectively governable again. I think there's a strong case to be made that a military coup will take place within the next twenty five years in the US, as well as probable secessions, I think the European Union will likely disintegrate in the next five years as the contradictory needs of individual countries reach their breaking point, and I think that Federated Russia will strengthen for a while before going through a second set of contractions within the next ten to fifteen years. China may undergo its own disintegration as well (though its long bureaucratic history argues against it), and I wouldn't be surprised to see Mexico become two or three countries by 2020.

I, too, anticipate a breakdown of the USA in the wake of economic and political crisis. Alaska and Hawaii are candidates for early disassociation given their geographical isolation from the main 48 contiguous states. Other states/regions likely to drift away from the national flock include Utah with its unique religious situation, California and the states bordering northern Mexico. Marshall law may briefly slow the breakup, but it would not stop the process. The breakup of the Roman Empire and the more recent disintegration of the former Soviet Union are models for how the process could play out.

I don't see Alaska and Hawaii wanting to secede...I don't think they think they could stand on their own. They'll want to stay associated with the center as long as possible.

Alaska already has an Alaska Independence Party (Gov. Palin's husband was a member) that advocates for Alaska becoming a separate country. The state is resource rich, which means it can be largely self-supporting. Alaskans are known for their contrarian views and dislike of federal laws and authority. Hawaii was an independent kingdom before being taken over by Europeans and then absorbed into the U.S.. There is a very active movement within the state to reinstate a version of the Hawaiian nation. The fact that the state is more than 2000 miles from the U.S. mainland means a U.S. government in crisis will find it difficult to maintain control of the islands. As the economy contracts it will become increasingly difficult to hold on to distant outposts. These states will likely be among the first to slip away. The mainland USA will be too absorbed in trying to feed and control the masses in urban centers to deal with these distant territories. The disintegration of the US could be likened to a person experiencing hyperthermia. The body's blood is withdrawn from the extremities and concentrated in the central core to maintain essential functions.

i live in Hawaii and have heard of the movement to reinstate "Hawaiian nation" . Im all for it as it was more or less stolen and was illegal.Hawaii is hugely dependent on mainland for food (90%) and oil (electricity and water pumps)tourism ext. They may want self rule but they dont want to be cut off. I think things would have to be very bad before they were abandoned by the u.s.(alaska too) as there both highly strategic outposts militarily.
If it came to being cutoff though i think most Hawaian islands could adapt and survive (Oahu with its huge pop would struggle) lots of rain year round good weather life would change dramatically but people probably wouldn't starve.

Don't forget that when hypothermia starts to get worse, the brain tends to suffer and become delusional, and when things are really bad, the brain might convince itself that recovery is right around the corner and start taking off their clothes because they're getting warm.

One the strangest experiences I ever had was on Kilimanjaro in 2004. Kibo camp (4,700m) is the final staging post for the assault on the summit. I had been fine for the three day walk / climb to that point, but that night with freezing conditions out, I began to feel cold in my sleeping bag, and so put on more clothes, and felt even colder, put on more clothes and could not get warm. Eventually I realised I was sweating and was over-heating and had to decide to take of all these clothes and lie outside my sleeping bag to cool down. I cooled down and began to feel warm again. Later I puked, and suffering from altitude sickness in this sorry state set off for the summit at midnight with a billion stars overhead, clinging to the side of this massive volcano. I croaked about 2000 ft from the top and had to turn and descend.

Also got a great snow hole story - but that can wait for another day.

I know that...and I don't doubt that eventually they will break away. I just think there will be a large group of citizens who will point out that going it alone in the middle of an ocean (in the case of Hawaii) where virtually everything is imported may not be such a good idea, at least until they have spent a couple decades getting set up and attrition has brought their population down a bit.

I know some people think Hawaii is a good place to set up a landing spot...I think it could become a deathtrap. They don't have easy access to the grains of the midwest, for instance, and obtaining parts for their machines will become close to impossible. People living in Hawaii should be making plans to leave, in my view.

if they go it alone it it wouldnt be there choice. the time distance they might see it coming? in the csse of kauai pigs ,goat, cattle, cats, fish ,chickens every where, you could always eat the rats.water aplenty and no hypothermia. though they are exactly in the middle of the two biggest military force the planet has ever seen.Im not here cuz i think its strategic, its a nice place to live now, who can tell best place to be when shtf? safely behind U.S enormous military might? i dont care enough about saving my own ass.

Angel, this makes no sense. The Hawaiians did quite well there for quite a while. Upon what basis do you think Hawaii to be inherently unsustainable? Mchines? I don't see why machines are needed. There are some nice advantages to Hawaii.

- The isolation can serve as a nice buffer, though I doubt ships are going to disappear from human activity.... ever. The problem you seem to have, though I've never read your materials, so can't be certain, along with AFBE, et al., is this desire to maintain BAU Green. (If I'm misreading you, do let me know.)

IMO, any form of BAU is a dead end. We need a new way of doing things, top to bottom. That includes adaptation in place. To continue with Hawaii:

- Volcanic soils... long term a very good thing. Got all that sea to pull seaweed from, too. As well as fish, etc. Even whales (though I hope that doesn't start happening till they've recovered significantly.)

- Constant temps, eliminating the need for heating and cooling.

- Good rainfall (they may need to cooperate on water and where food is produced, but that's the idea, anyway, right?)

Seriously, what more could you want? Food, water, no real need for shelter most of the time, so little need for clothes, either. As for the transition period, how many places are there that won't suffer large population declines if the worst cases come to pass?

There are some pretty bright people working on food production and resilience there already:


We need to think differently.


I agree for the most part. I lived in Hawai'i from the late 80s to mid-90s and was privileged to stumble into work doing archaeological surveys. A big problem is that (essentially) all the fresh surface water has leptospirosis parasites and must be filtered or processed in some way (boiling I suppose). I read a book (possibly titled "Before the Horror") in which the author presented his case that before the great die-off after contact with European sailors there may have been as many inhabitants in Hawai'i as there are now, approx one million. Currently about 25% of the population is military personnel and dependents. In the 19th century Hawai'i was self-sufficient agriculturally and helped feed the West Coast. I know from the work I did that the old Hawaiians had developed very good systems from irrigation of taro and had constructed fish ponds for aquaculture.

On the other hand at sea level on the windward side of O'ahu where I lived (Lanikai) it did get into the mid 50s at night on occasion and that is pretty cold without insulation and heating. In upcountry Maui and on the Big Island it gets cold enough to have woodstoves (2 chimney sweeps in the state when I was there, and snowboarding and skiing on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea when Hi'iaka spreads her white mantle. Of course it would be a very long hike without ICE vehicles.

If you understood agriculture and seed-saving, and were on good terms with your neighbors Hawai'i might be a good place to be wtshtf. I hope so for my sister's sake. She is a healer with good connections to the Hawaiian community, so she should be in good shape.

I'm definitely not BAU...you should take a look at my video sometime :-). And my posts consistently attempt to point out that the end of BAU has begun.

All those factors you cite are important but when it comes down to it the most important equation is:
Total Calories Produceable on the Islands / 2000 cal/day = People Supportable

If that number is less than the number of people who currently live there, the island can't support itself agriculturally i.e. it is in overshoot. To get their extra food, they will have to trade. They have no high value industry to speak of which leaves food production. They have about 1 million acres in farms but only 100,000 acres in production (see Hawaii ag stats). There are likely a variety of reasons only 100,000 acres are being cultivated.

I foresee a period when trade gets really really difficult as the web of agreements dealing with our fiat currencies breaks down. Yes, we will create new ones, but it will be no different than a company whose supply chain breaks because a supplier goes out of business who has to scramble to find another supplier. Sometimes they manage this before the production lines are shut down, often they don't.

During this period, even though boats will keep floating, it will take time to set up the transactions that make sure the food keeps arriving. Undoubtedly the farmers will put more land in production. If they get all the seeds they want/need they could even increase food production a great deal.

The parts are of course for agricultural machines. They don't run forever and until people realize that if they don't go cultivate the land themselves — by hand if necessary — the food won't get produced and people will starve. On the mainland, I see food being distributed by the government to hold down civil unrest and because, well, people will go hungry otherwise. (Mostly via the foodstamp program as now, but at least food will be available — probably.)

They will also want to buy medicine and other important supplies, like building materials to rebuild after storms and to repair buildings that suffer from regular maintenance problems. They will have to reserve some of their food production to trade for some sort of hard currency. They won't get to keep all the food they produce if they want those other items. (When a country has no hard currency, imports slow to a trickle.)

Transitions are messy things; in my view people don't think through all the problems that will arise and must be planned for. I can easily see a time when Hawaiin representatives are having conversations in Washington in which they are looking at ways to get emergency food there and/or relocating many people so that it's easier to supply.

So the question remains: will Hawaii be able to react in time to keep everyone fed? I doubt it. A few years of planning would go a long way even just to make sure there are enough hand tools and seeds to use on the farms. But they should be starting now, just like the rest of us.

You perceive Hawaii to be different because it is an island. Pretty well everything is cheaper there right now than in Toronto-how do you think 6 million people are going to eat in Toronto if there is no food for 1 million on Oahu? By that point places like Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta will look like the bad parts of Rio.

I won't reiterate what I just wrote other than to say that Hawaii has additional problems that mainland cities do not always have. Of course the transition is going to be messy everywhere.

If that number is less than the number of people who currently live there, the island can't support itself agriculturally i.e. it is in overshoot.

The entire planet is in overshoot. Population will fall. The questions are only by what margin and how fast. I.e., the point is a given, so I saw no need to go there. I.e., we were always talking about N population, with N being less than is there now, most likely. We do have **some** increased efficiency...

I agree with the analysis on both Hawaii and Alaska, but I don't think that either would break away until the economic situation had become so bad that the military presence in Hawaii was heavily compromised (i.e., the US Military would be unable to pay its troops there). Hawaii has only been of interest to the US for its strategic positioning as a fuel and staging depot, but that's a huge advantage. However, this also means that it has tactical value to Japan, China and Russia as well. I'd far more likely to see Hawaii as becoming a flash point between US and China, and that possibly as a counter to any activities in the IndoChina Sea (Taiwan in particular).

Alaska is similarly strategic for three reasons - it's proximity to Russia, it's proximity to the Arctic Ocean, and its oil reserves. Again, the US would have to reach a point where its military is no longer viable for them to give that up, though it is more likely that Alaska would be given up than it is that Hawaii is. If Alaska did secede, it would likely end up petitioning Canada for support and possible sponsorship. Alaska's too far north to support a viable agricultural system (fishing, yes, absolutely, but comparatively little in the way of grains, rice or vegetables), and has comparably minimal arable land.

Of course, one of the more interesting aspects of oil depletion is that the military is highly oil dependent. Once the strategic reserves are tapped out (and make no mistake, the strategic reserves exist primarily for use by the military) then the ability of the US to retain either Alaska or Hawaii will be severely compromised. However, that will manifest itself as a gradual reduction or forced expulsion of US military bases worldwide first. Given the loss of posse comitatis in the US, this would also mean that the military would be increasingly deployed to handle domestic rather than international unrest. This would act as a speedbump - seceding is harder with a strong military presence - but I think it actually increases the likelihood that the region in question would secede, especially if other factors (punitive taxes, conflicts between imposed military and local law enforcement, forced enlistment, loss of local representation, etc.) all served only to increase the unhappiness of the citizens of that region.

Writerman, I tend to agree with regard to the failure of our current political system. Democracy is turning out to be a curse - in the UK at least where popularity is increasingly over riding substance and need. But to replace this with what?
Do you have any ideas?


Put very simply, I don't believe we actually live in genuine democractic societies, not in the UK and not in the USA. Both countries have many of the characteristics of democratic states, but as to them really ruled by the people, well, I think this is highly debatable.

I'm not sure that democracy is a curse. I think it's a rather wonderful and noble idea, in theory. A society where the people have the power and rule for their benefit, and are not just pawns on a board, moved around by powerful men and interests. Only I think one can see that the UK and the US have become something other than true democracies. Perhaps one could call them 'totalitarian democracies' or perverted democracies, at least the mechanisms of democracy no longer seem to function in the interests of the majority, but rather cement the rule of very powerful minority.

What appears to be happening now is that the last vestiges of what one could call 'bourgeois democracy' are been replaced and eroded before our very eyes, and what is 'democracy' being replaced with in the west? The answer is a highly militarised form of state, much like Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar, when not only Caesar was assassinated, but the Republic as well, and its, admittedly, narrow and imperfect form of 'democracy.' One can argue that the murder of Caesar, and the civil war, and the military rule that followed crushed the developement of democracy in Europe for well over a thousand years, as well as leading to the fall of the empire, as the citizens became disconnected, and lost their faith, influence, and 'stake' in society.

I believe our form of democracy is being replaced by a new form of 'fuedalism', based on the creation of a corporate state, where those who control the 'marketplace' have effectively taken over the state for themselves, almost as if they own it and it is there to serve their narrow interests exclusively.

If one examines the United States closely, where this process is most advanced, one sees a society where the militarization of the state has reached extraordinary levels. In reality the US military has become a state within a state, and is becoming increasingly powerful, the core of the state infact.

I would like to see society move in substantially more democratic direction, only I can see that we are taking the opposite course, away from democracy and towards open oligarchy.

I'd like to see a radical rethinking of our national priorities, slashing our bloated, corrupt, and incredibly wasteful military budgets, diverting the resources towards solving our myriad problems instead of making them worse; only I don't see this happening without a tremendous fight, as those who profit and gain power as part of this system are not going to surrender their positions without resistance. I haven't totally given up hope, but I'm not optimistic that we are going to be able to wrench power away from the oligarchy and their military, before it's too late to matter.

Writerman, politics is not my strongest point. I don't see that the UK has become increasingly militarized. In fact quite the opposite, our military power has been waning for decades. Increasingly, senior military personnel are intervening in public debate, where they are supposed to keep their mouths shut, speaking up for the interests of military personnel and the public at large.

But I agree that our democracy is broken. I think this is a combination of greed, lust for power, disproportionate size of corporations, the media, velocity of information and government intent to do what is popular and not what is right.

In his closing speech to ASPO, Nate Hagens made the point that the creation of corporations, giving them rights similar to humans, was a landmark event on the path that has led us to this point in history. It is easy to argue that many of us have benefited from this, the prosperity that industrial society has spawned. But now, with global corporations bigger than many countries, they wield power disproportionate to any good they may once have done. This happened in the past with the growth and monopoly created by Standard Oil, but back then, when politicians seemed more motivated to do what was right, the beast was dismantled.

I do not like democracy the way it is being operated today. We should elect leaders and charge them with making decisions on our behalf that are in the best interests of the public at large, ensuring that the interests of minority groups, those who voted for the other side, are treated fairly. Their interests should not be ignored, nor should disproportionate effort be made to cater for these minority groups.

It seems at present we are being ruled by referendum and opinion pole, where vocal minorities are ensuring their voice is heard, the industrialists of course whisper in the ears of the politicians in private clubs. Basing complex decisions on the majority view of ill informed public minority opinion, or on the vested interests of massive corporations, is no way to rule a country.

In short we have a failure of leadership and integrity.

But I agree that our democracy is broken. I think this is a combination of greed, lust for power, disproportionate size of corporations, the media, velocity of information and government intent to do what is popular and not what is right.

In his closing speech to ASPO, Nate Hagens made the point that the creation of corporations, giving them rights similar to humans, was a landmark event on the path that has led us to this point in history...

In short we have a failure of leadership and integrity.

There is the old prayer:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Notice it doesn't say "the politicians," it says, "us." Is there a single momentous positive social change that happened without a fairly massive mobilization of the citizens? Suffrage? Civil rights? Democracy itself?

Until the general populace starts talking to one another and coming to some sort of group decision for it all to be different, it won't. We have got to stop thinking the politicians and the powerful are going to make the sorts of systemic changes that will lead to sustainable societies. They will not.

If you want a Washington or Parliament full of Mr. Smiths, then go shake your neighbors' hands, find one, and get them elected. Otherwise, this idea that government and business will fix what ails us is absolute folly.

We are they key, not them.


"It seems at present we are being ruled by referendum and opinion pole, where vocal minorities are ensuring their voice is heard, the industrialists of course whisper in the ears of the politicians in private clubs. Basing complex decisions on the majority view of ill informed public minority opinion, or on the vested interests of massive corporations, is no way to rule a country."
Posted by Euan Mearns

But how else could things logically end up, with governments being elected. It's physically impossible for representatives to meet equally with ALL their constituents, so they interact with a relatively few. These are also generally those who have the resources to fund the next election campaign, i.e. corporate wealth. The open nature of the system makes it unconstitutional to effectively ban corporate influence on government.

The election process has two immediately evil effects. First, it destroys any real ability for government to engage in long-term thinking, and second, it converts the political offices into prizes to be won, its ALL ABOUT WINNING!! Every election is a potential doomsday for any politician and the short-term nature of the election cycle makes elections the perfect choke-chain for the economic elites to yank if a politician should stray too far "off the reservation."

All this in turn insures that any candidates promising real change are vetted out of the process relatively early on, and that the final outcome of an election has little to do with the quality of the candidate or proposition in question, but on who can deploy the most get-out-the-vote troops, whose spin doctors and ad men come up with the catchier slogan, etc.

Antoinetta III

So you describe the problem we have. What is the solution?

I believe we need true statesmanship, that may border on benevolent dictatorship, where a leader sets a course and industry and society bends to fit the course. If it benefits society she will be re-elected. If not ousted. Its interesting to note that Merkel just got re-elected in Germany with very little fanfare or fuss.

a leader sets a course and industry and society bends to fit the course.

That can go the way of Bush (who disregarded his promises and good public policy) just as easily.

I think we just need more democracy - less private campaign finance (aka legalized bribery), more involvement by volunteers. The internet is a key element: information is flowing much more freely than it used to.

It's a big mistake to go in the direction of autocracy, just because we feel urgency. Autocracy almost always means inferior decision making.

We could do worse than to plan ahead with Dunbar's Number in mind.


Small is beautiful.

Slow food.

Slow money.

Let's hear it for a steady-state economy.


Let's hear it for a steady-state economy.

I dunno...I'm hoping for much better healthcare and education.

"So you describe the problem we have. What is the solution?
I believe we need true statesmanship, that may border on benevolent dictatorship, where a leader sets a course and industry and society bends to fit the course. If it benefits society she will be re-elected. If not ousted. Its interesting to note that Merkel just got re-elected in Germany with very little fanfare or fuss."
Posted by Euan Mearns

Euan, I don't know where you and Writerman are writing from, but I'm in the US, so forgive the US-centred focus of my observations of the functions of governments.

Where would the "statesmen" come from, how would they set up their borderline benevolent dictatorship, and how will they displace Uncle Sam to take over leadership themselves. It cannot come from the processes of the current system. Anything emanating from our current political structure that actually might accomplish something effective would be first watered down by the lobbyists and political opposition, and whatever survived this would be met with a hailstorm of lawsuits, effectively tying things up until the next election.

Your statement: "If it benefits society she will be re-elected. If not ousted", seems almost to be faith-based. In the US at least, anyone proposing anything effective that stepped on too many toes would, at the next election find themselves demonized in the MSM, cut off from substantial campaign $$$$, be facing a well funded opposition candidate, the whole spin machine would be out in force and re-election would be highly unlikely. And I don't see how the re-election of Merkel means anything, she seems like a run of the mill politician, and these, if they say enough of the right things and don't offend too many, frequently get re-elected.

And if your "border on benevolent dictatorship" was sufficiently authoritarian to proceed without all the institutional opposition that is part and parcel of the US system, it wouldn’t be Uncle Sam anymore and you wouldn't need to worry about elections anymore.

People always will have objections to any system that is suggested, citing examples of abuses of power or other shortcomings. Maybe we just have to accept that there is no "perfect" solution, ideal governments and political systems exist only on paper, and we need to accept that the best we can do is maybe a "least bad" option.

Antoinetta III


To give you an idea about a possible "true democracy", consider the following:

1) Through some set of media (electronic or otherwise), everyone is eligible to vote on the issue, not on the representative to support that issue. An issue could only be placed on the ballot for consideration if it is endorsed and ratified by a sufficient number of people (i.e., a referendum), but it is the responsibility of members of the populace, not an elected assembly, to "get out the vote".
2) If you do not choose to participate in three consecutive votes, then you will lose your right to vote for a period of five years. You could opt to simply indicate throughout the ballot that you are not interested on voting on this issue, which is legitimate (that is to say, a vote of "none of the above" is valid), but failing to vote on a regular basis would lose you the privilege of voting.
3) Every corporation within the voter's district beyond a certain size must be reapproved every seven years by an election process, and must similarly receive approval by the voters for every tax relief measure applied to them. This would have a tendency to keep corporations small, and make them comparatively good neighbors (it's hard to give the shaft to your customers or the city that you have facilities in if you're dependent upon them for your continued existence).
4) A corporation with headquarters not located in the region but with business outlets in that region would be required to register these outlets and go through the same approval process once every five years.
5) Referendums are in force for seven years, though can be rolled back with a sufficient "recall" vote after three years.
6) Petitioners can vote to create bonds which in turn are used to finance new projects.

It won't necessarily change the power of moneyed interests to influence elections, and it has the potential to spawn some truly popular but flaky legislation, but in general what you're doing is eliminating the middleman of the elected representative. It also serves a second purpose - it reduces the amount of spurious legislation, late night substitution bills, and back room deals. Nor does it eliminate the power of charismatic leaders, though it does keep from fully institutionalizing them.

The representative democracy that exists today is an artifact of the size of the original United States and the limited ability of people to vote on these issues directly given the distances involved. Even in the presence of a mass draw-down in oil resources, I personally believe that the Internet will manage to survive in some manifestation, meaning that, if you can effectively solve the identity issue (and there are solutions, just not always good ones from the standpoint of entrenched power players), you have the mechanism for performing this kind of democratic system. Of course, it also has the effect of reducing the size of administrative regions, but I think this is coming anyway.

kurtcagle, the referendum method of legislation you suggest sounds like California on steroids, and we all know where that ended up. I can't see how this would really change anything. It couldn't work alone as any system needs individuals in various positions performing certain functions simply to implement anything happening. There would have to be a bureaucracy to verify referendum signatures, put out the ballot, etc. Somebody has to supervise this bureaucracy, and in western societies, these are usually elected people of one kind or another.

Continuing to use California as an example, our annual budget, the actual physical document, is as thick as several LA telephone books. It would seem impossible that each of the myriads of aspects of this document could be discussed and then voted on by the public at large. Add to this all the other legislation, hundreds if not thousands of bills each year.

If it is computer/on-line operated, there is always the chance that a good hacker could infiltrate the system and change a proposition's results, or they could infect the poll-site with a virus and simply disrupt the vote.

And the spin-doctors and ad-men would still be out in force, they're just as good at their game regardless if it is candidates or propositions.

Finally, it assumes that a critical mass of the regular population is sufficiently politically "aware" so as to effectively participate. Personally, overall I haven't seen any evidence to indicate this.

As our economic decline proceeds, corporations will be disappearing, splintering up and vastly downsizing as it is. To insure that they do not return in the role of the 800-ton gorilla on the sofa that they have in the past few decades governments will need the authority to see that this does not happen. If everything is left to a vote, the corporations, and other Fat-Cats will simply keep sponsoring their own issues, and eventually, have the laws changed to reflect their interests.

Antoinetta III

What an excellent post.

So much of modern human civilization has been defined by a geography. We live on a planet that has required extensive technological invention.

Consider the barrier of vast oceans — Navigation away from safe shorelines required accurate timekeeping to see locations using celestial fixes. Whereas, land-based navigation only requires a view of any landmark - any map will suffice. Without the geography of oceans covering most of our planet, how great would have been our need to innovate?

The same applies to the invention of radio. Land-based transit and communications had been doing quite well with hard wired telegraph and telephones systems. Ocean barriers were well-tamed by wireless communication. Radios were first used as wireless telegraphs to communicate with shipping.

Continental layout has driven and directed technical innovation. The transoceanic underwater cable is still used today - but the high cost to lay thousand of miles of cable pushed for the deployment of communication satellites that more than replaced undersea cable functionality.

Imagine a world and history without such vast oceans. If our seas were small (like the Mediterranean or smaller), then land-based transit would still dominate - no need for as many ships. Trains might have been high speed. We would have no need for sophisticated navigation, no need for accurate timepieces, no pressing need for radio. Less need for satellite communication Geography is destiny.

Well, history will tell you than accurate clock were needed for navigation. But, it will tell you that they were absolutely necessary for train too. In Montréal, the local observatory was making money by selling time to train compagny.

Overland transportation was difficult until the era of canals (1700's)and railroads.
In the early 1800's it cost as much to transport goods by wagon 32 miles as it did to ship them across the Atlantic.

The Bridgewater canal was not the first canal, but the one that called attention to the dramatic lowering of cost, by halving the cost of delivered coal. A horse could pull many times more weight by barge than by wagon. That is why major cities were always close to waterways and why the majority of the US population lives within 50 miles of the coast, although that is changing.

Water transportation remains the most efficient. The two cycle diesel engines used in ships are 52% efficient, being the most efficient prime mover. They were introduced in 1921 and remain close to their present form. Container shipping dramatically cut manpower and saved time. These, plus fiber optics, are driving globalization and will bring international wages to a low level.

The major powers are playing out their own "self interest" roles, they are acting their part, in a tragedy of epic proportions!

The Global Population, Climate & Energy situations are joined at the hip, the hip pocket, the Global Economy!

In order to avoid the worst of all worlds, the Global Population & Energy (Fossil Fuels) use, must fall. In the case of Fossil Fuels, this will/is happenning "naturally", as reserves are already falling and no amount of Demand or Want, is going to change that fact.

In the case of Population, the rate of growth is already slowing, but the overall total is unlikely to start falling until around 2030-2040. But fall it must, otherwise in the longer term, the human species will not survive. So, all of the large Population countries (in particular) will have to lower, not increase, their total population and that primarily means China, India & the US.

Given the major economic driver (population) will fall, due to Energy (the enabler) & Climate constraints, the Global economy has no choice, it will collapse, the major actors are aware of what is coming, but each actor is playing to their own audience!

Let me put it this way, a Population Growth War between China & India, would have the same effect as a Nuclear War between the US & Russia!

In the case of Population, the rate of growth is already slowing, but the overall total is unlikely to start falling until around 2030-2040.

Not true. The absolute population-growth starts falling about 2015 and in 2030 it will be down nearly 20%, in 2040 nearly 30%. So your state is a little bit to mutch simplification.


I think you are misreading that. The growth rate will be down to 0.5% by about 2040 or so, but that is still greater than 0. As well, the graph you have showing a drop in population, is a drop in the annual growth of population. It is still growing, but more slowly.


@ dspady

I think you are misreading that.


Your first post sayed:

In the case of Population, the rate of growth is already slowing, but the overall total is unlikely to start falling until around 2030-2040.

The second link shows clearly that this is not true, the decline in the overall total population growth sets in latest in 2015 and not around 2030-2040 as you suggested!


Shares hit by Dubai debt problems

Do we see another episode how peak oil impacts on the financial crisis?

(1) Peak oil starts 2005

(2) High oil prices + accumulated debt problem

(3) Financial crisis

(4) Recession

(5) Lower oil prices

(6) Less cash in oil producing countries

(7) Many luxurious growth projects designed before peak oil no longer viable

Peak oil (2005-2008) and the financial crisis
Submission Fuel Inquiry Senate

From what I understand, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both part of the UAE but are autonomous within it. Dubai has virtually no oil. Neighboring Abu Dhabi still has money coming out its ears.

The best description is here:


One of the interesting facts are the population figures:

1980 1 million
1985 1.4 m
1995 2.4 m
1999 2.9 m
2003 4 m
2009 5.7 m

Nice input parameters for Westexas' oil export model

Dubai 1.8 m

Most of this growth is from slave-like immigrants who work construction jobs for $10 per day.

And Euan is righ, Abu Dabhi and Dubai are seperate emirates. They even have different visa and visa-requirements.

With some luck, maybe I will get a post on Dubai up later today.

A beautifully written piece.

The industrial world and its political framework seems committed to the road of increased consumption and more people to consume, for that is what keeps the game going

Since childhood I had the need to step out of the paradigm of the moment to try and get a good look at what was really happening, to see the forest and the trees at once, and consider both. I don't know where this need came from but I have often been amazed at the lack of need or ability of those around me to do this. Growing up in and around Atlanta (once described as the fastest growing human settlement in history), I noticed that those around me were always and desperately moving forward, rarely looking back, seeking ever larger pieces of the growth pie. This is the paradigm of our western (and now global) societies for the most part. Our ingrained special intrests lead us to treat the symptoms of our particular circumstance and to specialize around those circumstances. There seems to be little ability to see the big picture in our ever more hypercomplex societies. Solving the massive issues facing us will require the participation of most if not all of us. I have little hope that this will happen because we have overshot our species ability to see the forest for the trees. To borrow from Kunstler, "reality is going to drag us out, kicking and screaming to some woodshed of the national soul and beat the crap out of us".

Regarding consumption. The United States consumes around 25% of the world's resources and has only, what is it, four or five per cent of the planet's population. Clearly, this is a massively disproportionate allocation of resources, we'll leave aside the question of how 'just' such a distribution is for the time being; what seems blindingly clear is that this model of 'western consumption' is impossible to follow and sustain for the developing nations like China, India, and Brazil. There simply isn't enough to go around the planet at US levels, not unless we miraculously discover a few earthlike planets somewhere close. Yet, this appears to be the route that's been chosen, by the elites in these countries as well.

Obviously the people of China, India and Brazil, as examples, have the right to develope and enjoy the same standard of material existence as Americans and Europeans, but where on earth are the resources going to come from? Can we deny them the same rights that we enjoy so thoughtlessly?

The United States is in a terrible situation economically because the ruling elite has systematically destroyed the country's manufacturing base during the last thirty years, simply because one could make more money producing abroad and by creating a fabulous casino capitalism on Wall Street. Basically they've run the country into the ground and saddled it with a mountain of debt. They have literally turned the American dream into a potential nightmare. Only it doesn't matter to the ruling circles because they are so grotesquely wealthy and powerful that they almost inhabit a protected parallel society or world. The elite aren't even 'patriots' anymore. They've no use for the nation state, except its soldiers, to fight their 'pirate' wars over the world's bounty. Actually, I'm probably being unfair to pirates to compare them to the American/Western elite, who are really closer to a criminal conspiracy like the Mafia.

What's pretty certain is that the American working, middle-class, that's the great majority of the people, are going to be hammered hard in the coming decades, and they are going to see their standard of living hit really hard, as consumption follows production abroad to newer, greener, and most importantly,
more profitable pastures. There's going to be a lot of broken deams, suffering, and hardship, for ordinary wage-earners, cuts in social programmes across the board, and the elite don't give a damn about what happens to the rest of society, they regard them as little more than cattle to be prodded, herded, and exploited like beasts by their betters.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is that this current 'financial crisis' leads to a collapse like the Great Depression. This would be ghastly for millions of people, but at least it would slam the breaks on hard and shake things up, which is what we really need, a good shake up from the top to the bottom. The idea that there would be a positive result from a second Great Depression isn't given, after all the last one was a disaster leading tremendous destruction, suffering and loss of life, on an almost unimaginable scale. Unfortunately allowing the current economic system to continue is certain to lead us towards disaster on a global level, so realistically we don't have a choice. Either we 'kill' the system or it will 'kill' us.

Change is going to be incredibly hard to push through. The ruling, new aristocracy, have utter contempt for the rest of us, the peasants, and have absolutely no intention of sharing their power and wealth with the rest of us, in fact they've spent the last thirty years viciously and greedily grabbing even more for themselves, with disasterous consequences to follow. Our current economic system was built and benefits the interests of the elite, not everyone else, who don't matter, who don't count. The real distribution of wealth and power in the United States, is, arguably, less equitably distributed and just, than in France before the revolution. How can one have such vast disparities of wealth and power in a country that proclaims itself as a democracy? The simple answer is, that one can't. Real democracy and substantial levels of political and economic equality, go hand in hand, one can't have one without the other. After all, doesn't democracy mean, on a simple level, political equality?

To sum up, how does one break the vested interests and power of the elite, before they drag us all over the cliff? Is it even possible or realistic to challenge them for power over society anymore? Have we definitively left the era of 'democracy', even in its inverted form, far behind already? It's easy to be pessimistic about our chances. On the other hand there is a latent anger among the population, a fire smouldering, that may, like most revolutions, take some spark to ignight. The obscene rescue of Wall Street that was recently pushed through by the financial elite and their political strawmen, stands out. Let's face it, the elite are really pushing their luck at the moment, aren't they? Having gambled and lost in the great casino economy they created, they now impoverish the masses, and rob them blind, in order to cover their debts; it's a form of perverse, aristocratic, state-socialism, in action! All hail the 'free market' which never has, and doesn't exist, at least not for the rich and powerful, who really live by a different set of laws to the rest of us.

So, we're in a bind. 'Realistically' a revolt to topple the aristocracy seems unlikely, but 'realistically' we can't keep going down the road we're on, because that will ultimatley lead to disaster for all of us.


A well reasoned summary of the issues. You sum it up nicely in your last paragraph.

Here, in two simple sentences, are how I see where we are today and where we must end up if our economic system is to survive.

1. "The primary purpose of a corporation is to maximize value for its shareholders."

2. "The primary purpose of a corporation is to spend the money of its customers in its customers best interests."

Would you rather do business with a corporation who followed creed 1 or creed 2?

If anyone is not sure what the second creed is all about, it means that all company decisions are customer focused, with the intent of giving the customer the best product for the lowest price. That means no extravagant artwork in the building, excessive salaries, golden parachutes, overpriced office furniture and furnishings, not allowing product reliability and performance to be compromised by profit motives, and stock price not dictating corporate shortcuts and policy that hurt the customer. Also, real estate that is economical and focused on being productive, not an expensvie ego statement.

The best way to know if you are following the second creed is to ask yourself what would my customer think about a decision I made if they knew the details of the decision. Who benefited the most financially? The corporation or the customer?

"We" are being played by advertising and "spin" on so many levels that it defies belief. Why else do governments today engage in behavior that was criminal in 1960? Numbers games and other gambling plays, plus 'legal' interest rates that would have earned 10 years to life just a few decades ago are the new regressive taxation of today. And that is how they play us. You might already be a winner. What if you won the Lottery. Would you really want a 78% marginal tax rate and a 52% inheritance tax then? Think about it! You may already be a winner!

This is your new retirement plan, cum medical care plan, brought to you by Georgie boy and the Republican Right, most of whose voters are dupes of the first order and are clueless. Even their pastors are in on the game, encouraging it with the new "name it and claim it" entitlement theology.

I sure wish we had some good news... but I don't even know what it could be today. It does not seem possible that our 'democratic' government could vote in programs that demanded real sacrifice, even if that is the only way to survive. Propaganda engines of the right - protecting our economic overlords - will not allow any change, and demand BAU.

So, you are correct. A revolt is not likely, and may lead to our doom. Not having it is more likely, and more likely to lead to our doom.

Have a nice day.

I think the ecological view is the most fundamental. you can look at the industrial system and pick out countless things that are "wrong"(capitalism ,advertising,politics,the elite ext.)they are all just servants of growth. many of witch will cease to exist in a chronic recession brought on by net energy decline. We found an energy source and we expanded by accident and trail and error according to are nature, as any species would have.Our error was not realizing the unprecedented value of the resource we found and consciously and deliberately building the world we wanted with respect for what the environment could handle, who is surprised at that? we just went willie nillie, when problems arose we enacted solutions that in turn created more problems,always thinking we could stay a step ahead ,until now we're becoming overwhelmed, problems are intractable ,tricks aint walkin no more.but no one is to blame ,well . . human nature mabey. To think we can deliberately wind down or dismantle what we have built is naive , it is not how it was built.
We have never been in conscious control of our own fate collectively or individually. the dream is that with complete knowledge we could.
Perhaps that's when we reach maturity as a species.with complete knowledge and are lower brain under control of the neo-cortex then perhaps we can steer humanity.untill then we should be very carefull what we do ,hasn't history taught us that?

I too have had the pleasure of meeting Walter Youngquist at ASPO meetings. For a masterpiece on so-called shale oil see:


Dr Youngquist also provided the late L.F. Ivanhoe with editorial assistance for some of the other articles in the Hubbert Center Newsletter. There is a picture of Youngquist with Ivanhoe and Garrett Hardin on page 2 of the Garrett Hardin Society photo section. Scroll to the bottom.


I look forward to the publication of the 2nd. Edition of GeoDestinies.

One vote for shortest and best post on TOD.

Unique times, indeed. Which is why I am often somewhat dubious about any historical comparison (Roman Empire, Jared Diamond’s cherry picking, etc.) though they are usually thought-provoking.

The crux is that the actors on the World Stage - Nation States (see the UN for ex.) while being very bizarre entities on the geographical end are locked into one of two attitudes which meld and sway: competition, or maintaining the status-quo. Any Nation that checks out of the race forward or upward will be tagged a loser and will have to make concessions to others. This state of affairs partly rests on ‘free market ideology’, its practice, in various shapes and forms, including globalization - a higher reliance on international trade, finance, laws, treaties, deals, etc. Some form of ‘capitalism’ and ‘western culture’ has literally swept the globe post WW2, mostly in the interest of ‘development’, ‘peace’, 'democracy' etc.

Now, this may seem to be a rather static point of view, as the decisionary powers, and the discreteness of Nation States has been, is being, undermined by various forces. An obvious first are Corporations, or ‘industries’ loosely tied together in a monopolistic system, who act globally but think locally, with the locality not defined geographically but formulated in terms of a complex abstract web of coercion, production capacities, international relations, laws, money flows, etc. (They hide behind the Nation States, act within that status quo.)

Second is illegal trade (arms, drugs, etc.) which operates in the frame, and actually couldn’t without it. (See legalizing Afghani heroin.)

The third force, of a different nature, is cultural, ideological, and has, unsurprisingly, ostensibly pinned itself on religion, or more broadly ethnicity and cultural roots (see so-called Islamo-fascism, secular Jews, etc.) The third force is instrumentalized by all parties except Corporations. Other, more minor, and in my view ineffective forces also exist. For example: Mercenary armies are dependent on Nation States or Corporations that have a lot of cash. Localization movements are dependent on infrastructure, etc.

How these different forces will interact and clash, and for how long entities trying to keep up the present state of affairs will be successful is anybody’s guess.

Political change within the Nation State framework represents the only opportunity for avoiding descent into chaos, dystopia, etc. Imho. I don’t see any other avenue.

See writerman above: We need massive political change on an historically unprecedented scale comparable to a revolution in our political system ...

P.S. Yes the US will break up into parts, and the sooner the better, both for Americans and the rest of the world.

I wonder why Dr. Youngquist believes it is "unlikely that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies"? As others have pointed out when the fossil fuels and easily accessible mineral ores are depleted Homo sapiens are back in the stone age. That seems pretty catastrophic to me given that we aren't at all prepared for that. Is it just too horrible to contemplate?

I think Youngquist is expressing a view that many others who have studied previous collapses have come to (a good example - "Overshoot" by William Catton). What they have observed is that previous collapses, while definitely wrenching in scope, did not happen overnight. Complex societies have a certain amount of resilience and thus unwind over decades, not years. Hence his wording that it may not be catastrophic.

He could be wrong about this one - but examining history is often a good starting point.

TexEng wrote: "Complex societies have a certain amount of resilience and thus unwind over decades, not years. Hence his wording that it may not be catastrophic."

Then we better debug our systems quickly before the reset button gets pushed.
I have an uneasy feeling that history can only teach us so much about our particular situation. As some touched on above, geographic separation, economic separation, relative societal independence, differing world views and perceptions all lended a resiliancy and redundancy to humankind in it's occupancy of planet earth. I submit that we are in historically uncharted waters. While I often rely on history to teach me about aspects of our current situation, especially about human nature and behavior, unprecedented conditions exist today that have never existed in our past. Some are unprecidented in terms of scale, i.e.: population, levels of consumption, speed of communication and travel, etc. Some are purely unprecidented as in resource depletion on a global scale (when its gone it's really gone for good this time), degredation of our ecological systems and our entire biosphere, globalwide reliance on the same energy sources, the nuclear problems of weapons and waste. Never before have we been faced with the fact that, indeed, we all have to breath the same air. History can only give us snippets of how all of these things come together in the critical decades ahead. I noticed that Youngquist qualified his statement regarding catastrophic change being unlikely:

"although not impossible, that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies."

It seems he may share my uneasiness, aware that humanity now navigates uncharted historical waters.

Hitting the Reset button and reprogramming.

I have a good example of programming as it applies to banking.

I have accts and a few loans at a small hometown bank. I have never ever had a problem with any issues.

But lately I have had two. One was my wifes and my joint checking acct. She had presented a debit card a couple of times at the end of the month and the funds in the acct did not cover both because they allowed the debit withdrawal to proceed and charged the acct both and overdraft of $25...they did this 3 times.

I asked them how can a debit card overdraw? They said 'oh we must honor that transaction even though it will create charges'...I became irate and debated it with them hotly.

The upshot was that somehow merchants are in control of the transactions as to whether a card holder is recognized as being overdrawn...since they wish to make the sale they do not interrogate the database(?) to make sure and since the bank don't give a shit and wants those overdraft charges then both appear to collude in order to bilk the card holder.

They removed all but one charge finally. I said then "I want NO overdraft protection on this acct. They said "no can do,, we are not 'programmed' nor 'required' to do this."

Apparently ALL merchants and bankers have rigged the system to make as much money off the acct holders as possible!!!
Who says that the 'free market' works?

Not the end of the story.

A few days ago I went to the bank in person to make a loan payment. The amount due was $93.96. I made a mistake and wrote $93.36 on the check I handed them. They never verified the amount either.

Ten days later I get a notice in my USPS mailbox. It was a 'failure to pay' notice and charging me $30.30....the $30 for the charges for daring to make an error and the error was the $00.30.....

I became once more incensed and since it was lunch time, naturally all the employees and officers take lunch at the same time,,yes...NOON..and noon is when a lot of customers have to run to the bank!!! Really smart on the banks part!!

I was so angry the one female in her office almost screamed at me and I said.." I want the bank President in front on me in 1 minute...RIGHT NOW"...she said they were all in a meeting....I said "go in and get him"...I knew the guy.

I was then calmed down and told.."Oh this is normal and how the program works"...I replied "Look I was assigned the First National Bank of St. Louis as one of my accounts by IBM,,also the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Boatmens Bank as well. " "And this is NOT how programs SHOULD work. I think YOU and CSI(who does there accounting programming and infrastructure) have with FULL knowledge beforehand MADE this alteration SINCE I have never, never had it happen in over 20 years dealing with many many farm loans with YOUR bank!"...

Useless. Useless. They have stacked the deck. They have it as they want it. They will NOT change it.

This is how the merchants and bankster/gangsters work the system to line their own pockets and we are the sheep to shear.

Going to another bank might be even worse. BUT next month I pay off EVERY loan and will never take out another with ANY bank.

Again they removed the charges and I had to stand there until I got an apology.

I had many accounts where I resolved mainframe software issues/defects back in the 70's/80's with major banks and
other entities..such as Merril Lynch...etc. All big users of our software and hardware. Never have I seen greed operate on these levels. Never did I despise those entities like I have of late came to. Now I refuse to return the greetings of those who are bank officers of my acquaintance. They try to walk the streets and pretend their hands are CLEAN. They are as bad as the gangsters who used to rob them. Now the bankers rob us.


I have taken all my money out of Wells Fargo and use USAA who now seems to be going the same route as all the other crooks.
We need to go back to Credit Unions, Unions in general for that matter.
The Banking and Financial system should be a public utility owned by the people that deposit money with them. This is absolutely obvious and the private ownership of something like the banking system is akin to the private ownership of The water systems.
Privatization sucks and will always lead to criminals enslaving the people.
It is up to us to form unions and community owned services that all participants have a stake in.
USAA still pays dividend to all the depositors since we are the owners.

It is just amazing that the criminals feel so safe. They should be terrified that they will end up hanging from a Lamp Post.

It is just amazing that the criminals feel so safe. They should be terrified that they will end up hanging from a Lamp Post.

Thet fear nothing because they *own* the government and have absolutely nothing to fear from ignorant and complacent Joe 6pack. Joe is too busy listening to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin carping about ACORN and free abortions from the dreaded "socialized medicine" to bother himself with population overshoot, regulatory capture or AGW. Even if Joe possessed the intellect and attention span for such topics, he would dismiss them as lib-uh-ral conspiracies, and go back to watching his monster truck pull program.


PBS ran a show a few days ago that verifies everything you are saying.


Banks and credit card companies are using every possible scam they can think of to pull money out of their customer's pockets. I hope everyone will watch the show which is available at the above link. Just don't have any heavy objects nearby that could break the TV when you throw them.

In one segment, a bank president admits flat out that they program the debit card accounts so overdrafts must allowed, the owner of the account can't tell his bank to turn it off. In another segment, a banking industry trade representative claims "customers have told the banks" that, in the case of overdrafts, they want the largest checks paid first followed by progressively smaller amounts. This means a bank can more easily charge multiple overdraft fees in a single day, one for every transaction after the account goes below $0.

I urge everyone to use the smallest bank or credit union they can find in their community. They typically are more consumer friendly than the major banks.

In the UK, banks are replacing the concept of charging interest on overdrafts (because it is too complicated to understand) with the simplified concept of applying a flat rate daily charge of £1 per day for using agreed overdraft facilities up to £2500. So lets say you are £500 overdrawn on average for the year, the charge will be £365, an effective interest charge of 73%, or there about.

I was irate. Had a meeting with my bank to be told that this would not apply to my wife and I since we enjoy private banking priviliges. In other words, this extortionate levy is to be applied to the poor. The vast majority will be unaware what is happening to them, but they are going to find their debts rolling up out of control in order to line the pockets of the bankers.

I am still irate but lack the will to take this up with the Board and politicians. The banks are in any case owned by the people.

These fees are another reason to scale back the banking system in favor of hard money. There is no reason for having a financial system that is such a large percentaage of GDP. The financial system is not productive in that it does not actually produce anything and does little to bring down the cost of living. Productive enterprises like manufacturing and productive professions like engineering have been left to die. There will be an extreme price to pay for this, the current financial crisis being just the first chapter. The final chapter will be the end of free enterprise and it is a decade away.

Fiat currencies benefited from the deflationary bias of productivity since the industrial revolution; however, since the 1970’s it has become obvious that productivity cannot compensate for resource depletion and any excess currency creation will lead to inflation.
The current banking system operates as part of the government wealth confiscation system by taxing inflationary gains on savings, the interest being negative even before taxes.

It should be obvious that governments are desperate and will increasing be redistributionist in the end game we are in. Governments are declaring war on cash equivalents and forcing savers into riskier investments, with bonds in the risky category at current interest rates. There will be a true systemic breakdown, that is, beyond what the government can support, a few years out.

A wise investor will have an excess of debt over cash equivalents and hold intermediate term money in commodity linked assets and also have a reserve in precious metals.

After the complete economic collapse there will be a call for hard money, as well as a return to barter.

The government has shown complete incompetence in allowing the asset bubbles and ignoring the energy facts since the 1973 oil embargo. They are the problem and not the solution.

Usury was outlawed by the Church for a reason. Today's financial system has stooped so low that the wealthy bankers are preying on the paycheck to paycheck members of society. It was a mistake was to bail out the financial system at the expense of taxpayers. The government should be supplying only temporary support in order to do an orderly liquidation of the industry.

Hard money is power to the people. Even lowly paper money does not leave an electronic trail.

Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote "The Grand Chessboard..." and more recently "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower."

I do not have either at hand, but in one of these he includes a diagram showing the lifespan of various empires. As the earth becomes more populated and as technology advances, the lifespan of empires become ever shorter.

The US Empire, he believes, is the most recent empire, and lasted a very short time.

To check out Brzezinski, you can google him or check the wiki entry on him.

The thing that might bring a hard crash is our denial of our own habitat destruction and the strategy of violence -- war -- that we use as a solution to the problem which in articulated in terms of religious and ideological meta-narratives that essentially justify each "side" to itself and which also condemns the violence of the other(s) -- "them" -- so as to exacerbate the ongoing resource war.

My wife and I ditched BOA after 20 years and put our checking with USAA, where we transact almost all of the rest of our finances.

USAA has been great to deal with for the last 20 years.

However, if they go to the dark side, we will try a local credit union.

They used to be a officer only insurance and financial services company then they opened it up to enlisted back in the early 90s I think. Now I hear adds on popular blue collar channels such as ESPN when I am at the gym so I am wondering what they are up to. Either way it is not the old USAA that I originally signed up with back in the 80s.

Not everyone yet understands how foundational the financial system is. Most people haven't really examined it in depth so they go with their intuition and thus think it's a higher-order function of society. They think that somehow we can operate our modern civilization without it. Of course the reality is exactly the opposite. The financial system allows virtually everything to run that isn't an unaltered ecosystem service. Mines, factories, transportation systems, schools, businesses — every one shuts down without money circulating.

I suspect Dr. Youngquist simply hasn't looked in depth at this area otherwise he wouldn't have written what he did. Once he does look closely, he'll see that the bloodstream of economy is actually a mix of oil and money (or more precisely fossil fuels and money). The mix might be 50/50 or something else, but the ratio doesn't truly matter. Take away either one and the system fails.

With that established, the next place to look at is reasons why the money might stop circulating. That leads one to the debt overhang and monetary overshoot, where we have too much money in circulation for what the planet can support. The "money bubble" is currently in the early stages of deflating.

But how long can the bubble deflate before people get skittish and run for the exits? We have set up an unstable system and unstable systems very often fail catastrophically. The world's economies regularly experience stock market crashes, bank runs and so on.

Once a person sees that, it's difficult to see anything other than a hard crash. Once a person sees this logic, asserting some other way for how this is all going to end is, in my view, wishful thinking.


The transaction processing system that enables high speed transactions does not need to be part of the banking system that handles deposits and credit. Think of a system like PayPal but modified to where you deposited cash with PayPal but they did not pay interest or make loans but only charged merchants a processing fee.

Credit should be primarily for business to business transactions and for major consumer items like real estate and autos. Consumers should use cash for all day to day in person transactions.

Yes, but in each case currency is involved, which I include in the financial system. The alternative is barter and you can't run our complex society with its amazing machines, from computers to laser cutters, on barter.

It is unlikely, although not impossible, that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies.

I think the term catastrophic applies most to the rate of change. The same end point following decay and decline can be reached via a number of different routes.

This is what I wrote about Youngquist's summary article last night, but TOD would not recognize me at that time:

I think he’s summed up the human predicament nicely, but I don’t think the changes coming within the next 10 and certainly within the next 20 years will be nearly as gradual as Youngquist implies, at least for the cohort that live in industrialized society.

Easily accessible mineral and metal ores I would say are already depleted. We have over time moved on to lower grade ores for extraction. This could all come quickly to a halt if the energy needed to do so is unavailable or too expensive but this alone will not send us back suddenly to the stone age. We have plenty of metals already in use that can be recycled at least.

Hopefully not too much of those metals get shipped to China. They can have the aluminum though; except in sheet form for roofing and siding, I doubt aluminum will be of much use in the future compared to iron and copper.

I have aluminum roofing (standing seam). It is the ultimate and will last 100 years or more. Then it can be recycled into new aluminum. A conventional asphalt roof will cost about half as much (installed) and last 20 years.

Aluminum can be painted reflective colors, white being 70% reflective and will reduce atic temperatures significantly. The rough texture of asphalt shingles does not allow high reflectance.

I think many people believe that now the human experience is a global one, we are somehow immune to collapse, versus previous regional civilizations that did collpase, like the Mayans and the Romans.

There is also a sense from many that we are too technolocially advanced now to fall victim to collapse. Just look at those skyscrapers and this Blackberry - how could that not continue into the future?

We've always solved tech problems before, so why wouldn't someone or some business simply develop what will be needed, like a replacement for oil?

They are unable to see the big picture of how we got here, how we are depleting finite resources, how that will constrain the economy or what the eventuation is of that progression. Most people just do some specialized job, worry about their little world and expect the bigger problems to be solved somehow, someday by someone.

Although I'm not looking forward to the continued dismantling of our complex industrial, electronic age, in a sort of odd way I'm really looking forward to the point in time that will force people to really wonder what the heck is going on. I'm going to relish those moments because there are no words I've ever found that could dissuade them from their cornucopian perspective. So I'll enjoy the look on their faces when the shtf.

I also think humankind needs a good swatting down. Afterall we are causing the 6th extinction, which is diminishing the diversity of lifeforms. It's time to start humankind anew, and hopefully after the dust settles we will begin anew with a better attitude towards sustainability. One forced upon us, but nonetheless new and improved.

I have been a reader of "The Oil Drum" almost from its beginning, but have yet to actually post a message. I felt that this would be the best time to post one since it was Dr. Youngquist who made me aware of peak oil. My first exposure to peak oil came from his paper "Spending our great inheritance--Then what?" This single paper changed my life in profound ways. Not long after reading Dr. Youngquist's paper, I became aware of Campbell and Laherrere's famous article in Scientific American. That was when I got that sinking feeling in my stomach knowing these two pieces mean for the future. I have been reading about peak oil ever since.
So, let me express my gratitude for the excellent work done by Dr. Youngquist. Your work has changed at least one life, and definitely for the better.


Larry, thank you.

I am looking forward to the updated edition of Geodestinies. I am hoping to see expanded coverage of mineral production and reserves and which minerals are projected to have serious shortages.

It is unlikely, although not impossible, that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies. But slowly and inevitably the related problems of resource depletion and population growth will become increasingly apparent.

This is probably the only point I disagree with. I think that there could be very rapid and catastrophic change at certain points in the process of decline. I'm looking forward to the new edition -- I somehow missed the earlier edition, even though I'm obsessed with the subject matter.

EDIT: Hm, I should have scanned the other posts first. A lot of them made this point already. Oh well.


Has Dr Youngquist updated his views on wind, solar and EV's?

I looked at http://www.hubbertpeak.com/youngquist/altenergy.htm , and was disappointed to find the sections on wind, solar and electric transportation to be either superficial or really badly out of date (he concludes, incorrectly, that they physically can't replace oil). Now, the date is October 2000, so that kind've makes sense - is there something more up to date that can be posted instead?

No obvious details here of how electricity can be used to produce fertilizers or insecticides.

If we want to eliminate oil consumption (whether to reduce CO2 emissions, or because of supply problems), how can we produce fertilizer?

First, ammonia fertilizer is produced from natural gas, not oil (that's why it's not in the discussion of replacing oil I provided above). While is NG is also a non-renewable Fossil Fuel, supplies are somewhat larger, so the timeframe to eliminate it is a little longer.

2nd, we use a lot more than is essential. On the one hand, we can shift to crops that use less fertilizer (say, from corn to soybeans). On the other hand, it's possible to use a lot less fertilizer for the same crops: McKibben, in his book Deep Economy, says that low-input farming requires twice as much labor per acre, and that it produces twice as much food per acre, which equals no more labor per unit of food. See McKibben Deep Economy p. 68, 2007 paperback.

3rd, NG is used to create hydrogen as a precursor for ammonia fertilizer. Hydrogen can be produced by electrolyzing water with electricity. It's more expensive, but already about 4% of hydrogen is produced this way. If we first greatly reduce fertilizer needs, the greater cost is a manageable problem.

Regarding insecticides - when Indonesian rice farmers switched away from pesticides, their yields stayed the same but their costs fell sharply." McKibben ibid. I would guess that the volume of much oil & gas used to produce them is small enough that finding substitutes wouldn't be that difficult. Seen any info?

Yes, I am aware that fertilizer comes from gas rather than oil but being a simple (former) electronics engineer I tend to bundle all petrochemicals (or even fossil fuels) together as variations on a theme :o)

Up until six years ago, when I retired to a couple of acres in Spain, electricity had provided my livelihood for most of my working life. So I do have a bit of a soft spot for the stuff. Nevertheless, I am wary about claims that it can provide for all our current needs. And by "our" I mean the world in general rather than just myself and my wife.

We don't use and have no need for artificial insecticides or fertilizers. So I actually can agree with your comments that they are not strictly essential. But will the "developed" world be able to adapt to life without them? I suppose that my concern is that a lot of people might go short of food - in which case the ability to still drive to the shopping mall is of secondary importance. Being able to light your home on a windy day may be neat - but not if there's nothing on the table to eat. Poetry now even - too much fig-wine with dinner maybe!

If people are still driving around in fancy electric cars and watching daytime TV, cell-phoning and texting are they really like to turn into the next generation of farm-labourers? I think not :o)

"Seen any info?" Very hard to track down but maybe of the order of 5% of fossil fuels? So, agreed it's not a huge percentage. But the agrochemical industry is still a multi-billion-dollar operation so maybe not that simple a problem for which to find substitutes.

will the "developed" world be able to adapt to life without them?

That's not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that agricultural fertilizer requirements probably can be reduced by 75%, and the rest produced from electrolyzed hydrogen.

I suspect that pesticides account for less than 1% of FF consumption, and due to the small scale that any necessary hydrocarbons can come from biomass.

The main reason I can get away without artificial fertilizers is that, for centuries, what has come from this land has pretty much all gone back into it. Industrialised farming has a tendency to export the nutrients from the land to the town - where they eventually end up in landfill or flushed town the toilet and into the sewers. Reversing this process is not a quick and easy thing to do. In such cases, it may well not be possible to grow anything at all without artificial fertilizers for many years.

Growing plants to produce biomass to produce hydrocarbons to produce pesticides to be able to grow more plants? I bet there are government grants for such a scheme :o)

Industrialised farming has a tendency to export the nutrients from the land to the town

All that's needed is the hydrocarbons - sugars or alcohols - the rest can be returned to the field. The hydrocarbons come from air (CO2) and water, so that's sustainable.

In such cases, it may well not be possible to grow anything at all without artificial fertilizers for many years.

Switching from corn to soybeans works pretty well to dramatically reduce ammonia fertilizer needs. And electrolysis is already widely used.

Growing plants to produce biomass to produce hydrocarbons to produce pesticides to be able to grow more plants?

Sure - it's a question of Biomass return on Biomass invested (BROBI!). I'd guesstimate that a 640 acre farm might use 10 acres for ethanol (5 gallons of fuel per acre farmed, 350 gallons of ethanol from each acre grown for ethanol), and another 10 acres for other miscellaneous biomass cash crops for use for things like pesticides.

Phosphorous and potassium together constitute about 2% by weight of food. These elements eventually get lost, either by animals being sold off or losses to sewers and septic tanks. Also there is loss by leaching.

What is known is that in a few thousand years of organic farming and burning firewood that the soils had become severely depleted by the time Julius Caesar mentioned fighting over more fertile lands by the barbarians in The Conquest of Gaul.

When the P and K resources are depleted mankind in present numbers is forever over.

These elements eventually get lost, either by animals being sold off or losses to sewers and septic tanks.

That takes recycling. We don't recycle now, but it wouldn't be that difficult to do.

As best I can tell, we have a large supply of phosphorus, which give us some time to set it up:

"For decades, it has been said that the phosphate in Florida could be mined for about another 25 years. Technological advances and market changes, however, have continually lengthened the expected life of phosphate mining, allowing mining of rock that wouldn’t have been mined in previous years.
The Hawthorne Formation, which contains much of the Florida phosphate deposits, covers much of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. In the heart of the Central Florida phosphate district, the Bone Valley Formation overlays the Hawthorn Formation. The two are separated by a limestone layer of varying thickness. It is the Bone Valley Formation that has produced the majority of mining activity in central Florida to date. The Hawthorne Formation is being mined in North Florida. It is also the Hawthorne Formation that is being mined in the southern extension of the central Florida phosphate district.

Florida phosphate reserves alone contain about 10 billion tons of soluble phosphate rock. Based on the current mining rate in Florida, this would last more than 300 years if economic and technological conditions allow."


That takes recycling. We don't recycle now, but it wouldn't be that difficult to do.

from http://www.soilandhealth.org ...

"On the basis of the data of Wolff, Kellner and Carpenter, or of Hall, the people of the United States and of Europe are pouring into the sea, lakes or rivers and into the underground waters from 5,794,300 to 12,000,000 pounds of nitrogen; 1,881,900 to 4,151,000 pounds of potassium, and 777,200 to 3,057,600 pounds of phosphorus per million of adult population annually, and this waste we esteem one of the great achievements of our civilization."

It's not that I don't believe a lot of what you are saying is technically possible. I'm just nowhere near as optimistic as you about whether it will actually happen in practice. For example, "Sewage sludge use in organic agricultural operations in the U.S. has been extremely limited and rare due to USDA prohibition of the practice .... (wikipedia)". Is it likely that the USDA would change it's mind on this?

Mind you, Obama is currently proposing a cap and trade policy for emissions. What we need is a crap and trade policy :o)

Is it likely that the USDA would change it's mind on this?

Sure. Right now, it doesn't need to. OTOH, most people are wary of recycling of wastewater back to drinking water, but it's starting to happen: Las Vegas is doing it (and we know how sensitive Las Vegas is to public perception - image is everything for Las Vegas...).

I would guess that directly reycling sludge will never be a good idea (in large municipal systems, anyway)- it will have to be separated into it's pure constituents to prevent contamination with things like heavy metals. That's doable even now, but the tech is a bit undeveloped, due to a lack of need for it (and yes, it will require energy - fortunately, it's unlikely we'll have a shortage of electricity).

This article (Scientists warn of lack of vital phosphorus as biofuels raise demand) would appear to echo our concerns.

Yes, that was written at the price peak.

The USGS indicates that the "reserve base" for this resource is more than 1000 times the current world annual consumption.


And, it appears that the USGS resource is understated, if the source I found is accurate, and the footnotes on the 2007 report are accurate:
"Large phosphate resources have been identified on the continental shelves and on seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. High phosphate rock prices have renewed interest in exploiting offshore resources of Mexico and Namibia."

Offshore resources would certainly be more expensive, but they'd create a buffer to prevent overshoot - a zone where consumption became more expensive, and pushed us towards recycling.

It certainly looks to me like we have time to setup recycling.


Well we seem to have reached a consensus of sorts. I'm not greatly concerned about whether there will be enough resources left for my own purposes (I think I've got things as well covered as possible) and you seem convinced that any potential problems can be dealt with.

We may have reached these conclusions from differing routes but I am sure that there are others on this group able to point any errors we have made in doing so (should they wish to continue this discussion).

Thanks for the pointer on soya beans and I'll look to trying out a patch next spring - though obviously not the GE/GM versions as used predominantly in the Staes ;o)

All the best and good luck with your endeavours to change people's ways.

you seem convinced that any potential problems can be dealt with... I am sure that there are others on this group able to point any errors we have made in doing so

I hope people will jump in if they see any errors - that's how we make progress.

Thanks for the pointer on soya beans

My pleasure.

All the best and good luck with your endeavours to change people's ways.

Thanks! Good luck to you.

Отлично понравилось, как вы все описали, материал интерестный