Solutions, Mitigation, Adaptation, etc.

When I first started my Phd 4+ years ago, I was fascinated, concerned and rather obsessed with the various details surrounding the limits-to-growth phenomenon, a situation I had been blissfully unaware of up until around 2000. I delved deep into the specifics of peak oil, non-energy input limitations, and neuroscience based drivers of our resource demand that would be difficult to work in reverse. My advisor, Robert Costanza was much more 'solutions' focused - and much less interested in such details as the date of Peak Oil, subsequent decline rate or debt/energy relationship. He had analyzed and written about net energy and biophysical limits decades ago and had seen the general writing on the wall. Via possibly different paths, I've now arrived at the same place as he: I've learned enough of our complicated socio-economic tapestry to stop delving into the details and start to think about solutions.

This Campfire is a brief announcement of a new publication, "Solutions", and some thoughts in that direction.

There is a new hard-copy and online journal pertaining to 'solutions', overseen by Robert Costanza, David Orr, Paul Hawken and John Todd. (I encourage everyone to read the great essay by Dana Meadows on leverage points linked above and below).

Here is an excerpt from their main page:

The aim of Solutions is to encourage and publish integrative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems: climate disruption, loss of biodiversity, poverty, energy descent, overfishing, air, water, and soil pollution, and human population growth, to name a few. There is already plenty of discussion about these problems, along with an abundance of isolated and technical solutions, some of which may prove to be extremely valuable. Solutions is a forum for putting the pieces together, prompting intelligent discussion of what can be done, and what should be done. To read Editor-in-Chief Robert Costanza's vision for Solutions, click here.

Solutions is an online and print journal, a hybrid between a popular magazine and a peer-reviewed journal. It is intended for a broad audience that reaches beyond traditional academic journals to the informed public. It will provide a much-needed forum, devoted to whole-system solutions and the design of an integrated human and natural world.

Solutions uses a much more constructive, transdisciplinary review process than typical journals. We encourage collaboration and co-authorship between original authors and reviewers.

This constructive review process improves the quality of articles and enables the development of innovative, integrative, and whole-system solutions. It allows for broader, more transdisciplinary perspectives on a topic, creating articles that appeal to a larger community, with a stronger chance of being implemented.

What qualifies as a solution?

We are looking for solutions that are seriously creative: they should be novel, perhaps even surprising, but also well-thought out and credible.

We prefer solutions that take a whole-systems approach. What do we mean by that? A system can be a community, a corporation, a government, or even the entire global environment. If you want to solve a problem, you need to look at these systems in their entirety and at several, nested scales, from local to global. Rather than focusing on a single link, look at the whole chain. When you start looking at the world this way, it becomes clear: everything is connected.

What are examples? A solution can be local, such as the development of a sustainable eco-village or eco-city. Or it can be grand and global, the development of an atmospheric trust to cap and trade greenhouse gases.

It doesn’t have to solve all problems, but it should recognize what problems it can solve, and what others it might cause. Solutions should address the institutional and cultural changes that may be required.

Problems can be solved at many levels. Dana Meadows, founder of the Sustainability Institute, described the most effective places to act as leverage points. At what point in the system–from a corporation to the global environment–can you make a small shift and spark a major change? A solution can be as simple as a shift in taxes or subsidies, or it can try to change the global economy. We welcome concrete goals, but we won’t shy away from efforts to think outside the system or transcend a paradigm.

Nate here. When we discuss “Solutions” we should be aware that under wide boundary conditions, there are of course NO solutions optimal for everyone/thing. Different demographics, different generations, different species etc will be better or worse off. I prefer the term 'mitigation' as the problems facing human civilization probably have a collective empty set solution. CLEARLY however, there are many many benign paths relative to the current default one, and I applaud the efforts to create a Solutions Journal instead of further scientific refining of threads of a tapestry whose emerging image is pretty obvious. Irrespective of whether you call it 'solutions' or 'mitigation', I think the time is well past for analysis and ripe for bold, surprising action. Before we see either bold or surprising actions, however, we might need to define, either consciously or otherwise, what our real goals are: solutions or mitigation for whom and over what time scale? If we never address the 'who' or 'what,' the 'how' will be difficult to achieve.

My own feeling is that sustainability or sustainability-lite are both dead in the water if we continue to focus on supply side changes. Unless we address a) the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines and b) self-deception and belief systems inhibiting behavioral change, we will probably slow the descent of the current paradigm but not change its trajectory. These are the two areas that I will personally be researching, exploring, and writing about going forward.

I have obviously not had time to review the article; with this in mind, my first thought after reading the main post above is that a 'solution' should be to a problem that is capable of resolution. Following the thread found in "The Long Descent," perhaps there need be two books, one for "solutions" to problems, the other for "dealings" with predicaments. IMO we have passed into having to deal with much of the impact of PO, and creatively dealing with the consequences is much needed. If we focus on trying to solve problems that are past resolution, we will lose focus and become frustrated. Indeed, I find myself in that condition frequently of late.

We also need to consider more than just the economic and ecological work arounds that immediately pop to mind. There are serious legal problems lurking that have their roots in our system of English/American law, particularly in the realms of property and inheritance.

For instance, a serious suggestion that we return to small farms sounds very good, but is frustrated by the monopolistic land holdings that are the norm in the Western world. A suggestion that these holdings be broken up and distributed to those who wish to farm carries great peril.

If PO results in the breakdown of national energy distribution systems, it may well create political chaos as well. How should local governmental bodies react; how large a unit will survive? If any democractic institutions are to survive, and I submit that the should and probably will, new constitutions must be drafted to take into account new realities.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the beliefs of the neo-Cons when they took over the government of the U.S. in 2000, it is not possible to force reality to become what you want. These will be difficult times, and very interesting ones. I will read Suggestions with great interest.

I agree with the suggestion that a return to small farms sounds good, but another perspective comes from why we turned away from small farms (at least as far as a government policy) to begin with: during the great depression the drought in the midwest left thousands of small farms in ruins and unable to farm enough even to feed themselves. In a stable climate, a small self-sufficient farm is the ideal form of independence and potential prosperity, but, as always throughout human history, climate change hurts the small farmer first and hardest.

Another issue is that there is no substitute for the large mechanized farm when it comes to producing the maximum volume of a crop. One way or another, breaking up the big industrial agriculture will reduce the net food available, and this bears most strongly on the population problem. The suggestion farther above of only dealing with problems that can be solved might apply, as agriculture and population are problems best considered together, but I don't see a good solution myself at present.

daxr wrote:
"Another issue is that there is no substitute for the large mechanized farm when it comes to producing the maximum volume of a crop. One way or another, breaking up the big industrial agriculture will reduce the net food available, and this bears most strongly on the population problem. The suggestion farther above of only dealing with problems that can be solved might apply, as agriculture and population are problems best considered together, but I don't see a good solution myself at present."

As has been discussed on other threads here, smaller more sustainable types of agriculture usually produce more consumable and useful KCals per acre than factory farms over time, especially when you factor in EROEI. Industrial agriculture relies on huge amounts of fuel and synthetic fertilizer. I can show you productive organic operations that use neither. Also, your statement regarding droughts during the depression seems ill considered. Droughts, blights, dust bowls don't know how big a farm is. In fact, it was the adoption of early factory farming techniques that helped create the "dust bowl" effects seen in the 30s. The distributed nature of small farms and the varied crops they grow adds redundancy and resilience that huge farms, with their monocrop economy can't provide. Further, the modern corporate based system of agriculture is a debt based system which is unsustainable. Just ask the family farmer who sold his soul to Monsanto or Cargill who their Landlords are. Ask him if he has a choice as to what crop he grows.
I agree that solutions are fleeting.

I have no certain link to point to, but it has been my understanding that the "Green Revolution", which we are still in the grips of, brought together synthetic (petroleum based) fertilizers, efficient irrigation, and engineered crops; the combination resulting in a doubling of production over traditional methods world-wide.

I have an open mind (as I have a big organic garden myself) but the one credit I would give to industrial agriculture is that if there is a conceivable way to maximize yield and profit, that's what they do. I'm not sure what you mean by "over time, especially when you factor in EROEI".

The Green Revolution is not sustainable. It destroys the land, requiring more chemicals to sustain production over time. There are plenty of sources for reading about this. I recently read Brace for Impact, which begins with explaining this. I recommend reading it.

"I'm not sure what you mean by "over time, especially when you factor in EROEI".

By the time the massive amount of food produced by large factory farms reaches your plate it also has massive amounts of energy embedded in it in the form of fuel, fertilizer, irrigation, transportation, storage, etc. Food is energy and the amount of energy contained in ratio to the energy invested, (energy returned on energy invested), is poor for "factory farms" compared to local, more sustainable agriculture. Over time, especially when you factor in the subsidized nature of factory farming and the petro-chemical industries, this ratio becomes more pronounced. I'll try and post a link from a study at UGA (having trouble finding it). Beware of "the efficiency of scale". Nature always exacts it's price. I ask you this: What happens when the fuel and fertilizer become so expensive that most can't afford the food factory farms grow? What happens to the large scale farmers when the govt subsidies aren't there? What happens to these huge farms when the aquifers that they rely on dry up? Where will the food come from then? I submit that that time is near. Plant your gardens well!

I agree completely, and thus the "population problem". Massive amounts of energy invested in producing massive amounts of food is what we have now. My point was that in the decline of massive amounts of energy inputs, you necessarily have a decrease in the volume of food production.

I would concede easily that if this decline is inevitable anyway, the best form of the decline should be by the break up of industrialized agriculture into small sustainable farms...but getting there are here is pretty difficult to work out, given population pressures.

Yep. No matter how we slice it or dice it, the math gets ugly.

The exploitation of the aquifers you mentioned is particularly difficult. We might be able to get around some of the other issues, but if the water that the green revolution drew down is no longer there, the crash will be fast and furious.

And of course all these problems are exacerbated by biofuels.

As has been discussed on other threads here, smaller more sustainable types of agriculture usually produce more consumable and useful KCals per acre than factory farms over time, especially when you factor in EROEI

This is great. So who do we kill today "so that more may live tomorrow". (letting people starve, or raising the price of food to the point where they do, is obviously murder)

Every solution that "goes back to little farms" will do this. Every solution that "goes back to nature", goes back to the past, will obviously reduce crop yields, and massively increase the risk of bad harvests.

Bad harvests today means 10% less food in a given year. That's the certainty industrial agriculture brings. On small farms, bad harvests will mean 90% less food in a given year, and will probably mean those little farms holding on to a large percentage of that small remaining 10%, exacerbating the problem.

So the question remains : who do we kill today "before the benefits materialize" ? Do you at least volunteer to starve, or are you just demanding others do so for you ?

I never suggested that we eliminate all factory farming and move to smaller more sustainable agriculture. My point is that we have been reliant on yet another unsustainable paradigm, as with the growth based economic model and our reliance on FF based energy. I've understood for a long time that overpopulation is massive and what its implications are, well before Jay Hanson's came along.
How many have gone hungry because we convert millions of tons of grain to fuel?
I'm no longer surprised at some of the venomous responses to posts regarding population control, a return to the earth, etc. People are scared, and they should be. The more they know, the more they realize how dire a situation humanity is in. And as for your question regarding volunteering to be one of the ones to die, I'll point you to my last post from Thanksgiving Open Thread:

"I don't live in the woods, make my own power, grow my own food, etc to save humanity. I do it to save me, and maybe just long enough to write your epitaph. Those who don't help themselves are usually in a poor position to help others. I'm reasonably sure that I breath more of your carbon than you do of mine. I also know that there is no "The Answer". My concern is that there aren't enough answers."

You are correct. That is why this is a predicament and not a problem. Read up on what Greer says about predicament.

Go to

It really opens your eyes to how much we have gone from Just doing things on a small scale to the industrialization of almost everything we do in a Modern world. There are several episodes about farming that bring to light all the added tech we have enbedded in how we get our food.

How many of you eat whole foods that have not been packaged in boxes, and stored in a freezer, or on the shelf till you pop them in the oven or Microwave? How many of you eat fruit out of the season you would normally find it in your area?

Little things that are part of the Solutions to fixing our world, but not all of them are easy to reposition our way of life as we know it.


You are right on about getting away from industrial sized farms but doing so is not as simple as most people think.

I agree that we need to move back towards a smaller scale , more diversified , highly localized style of farming and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel based inputs and that these things need to be done yesterday.

But a wheat field in Noth Dakota or a corn field in Nebraska is much better suited to producing monoculture corn or wheat than it is a mixed crop of vegetables , grains, friuts and so forth for climatic and practical reasons. Very little infrastructure exists in those places such as houses for the hypothetical small timers to live in for example.

A corn variety that is planted early and harvested late in the season utilizes just about all the sunshine and warm weather available in a given season on such a farm.Double cropping works well when winter wheat follow corn or sybeans, etc,but that's still a rotation of staples.

Yields of crops such as fruits and vegetables will fall of substantially from the yields obtained currently , everything else equal,if we move the production of such crops into most of the areas currently devoted to big corn or big wheat because these lower volume crops are currently produced in locations that are better suited to thier production.

I believe land use regulations that favor the preservation of farm land such as is still available in the more populus parts of the country is the most important single policy we need to pursue at the moment ag wise.This land is already broken up into small tracts of from an acre or two up to a few hundred acres for the most part and it is near markets , roads, processing and storage facilities, housing,and other necessary infrastructure-including a biggie-labor.

It is thus suited to a lower volume more labor intensive diversified mix of crops.Furthermore such crops are the ones that necessarily sell for the most money by far on the wholesale market, which makes labor intensive small scale production possble.

Such land is also better suited to highly diversified agriculture (on the average) than the land currently in monoproduction because it varies more in elevation , slope, exposure, soil type, and availability of water.Grapes and apples for example are well suited to moderately steep land as there is always a soil cover (grass and similar plants ) and therefore very little erosion.Staples such as soybeans and corn need to be on land that is as near dead level as possible to avoid erosion even when herbicides and no till methods are used(crops are harvested and replanted without plowing in no till systems).

Most people seem to be stuck in la la land in one truly critical respect to understanding organic agriculture.

A FARM IS NOT AN ECOSYSTEM. (The niceities of the definition are not the issue for those who wish to quibble.)

When you harvest a crop and REMOVE it from the locality-meaning the boundaries of our own small farm for instance- the nutrients so removed wind up in the pooper anywhere from a mile or two to hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Now I have read many descriptions of organic systems, and visited some organic farms, and virtually all of them are still dependent on hauling in something-from composted manure purchased from poultry farms to the leaves raked into the gutters in nearby towns to the bedding out of thier rich nieghbors stables.

Even when I do a bit of "sort of " organic gardening on our place by using fallen leaves and chicken manure from our own chickens I am using some ff input because we buy our chicen feed-we don't use enough to grow our own.And when I use the leaves and geass clippings I am gradually robbing Peter the lawn and Paul the woodlot to pay Pete the garden.

In the subsistence societies of Asia, where the locals have often lived for many centuries at very high densities and have learned to use every single iota of organic matter virtually nothing that will decay escapes the compost heap.

In an energy constrained over populated world we will have to emulate thier methods in order to successfully transition away from ff based ag and towards organic ag on the grand scale.This necessarily means that farms in the very long run will be located very near to the people who eat the food produced on the farms or else it will be impossible to pay the frieght in both directions.

Every mineral substance that leaves a farm must eventually be returned to it if it is to produce for the indefinite future-including the minerals in our personal wastes, the waste paper, the old clotheing, and so forth.

The big monoculutrure farms are located well awy from the major population centers for the most part.Hence eventually we must move the people-an impossibility imo in the short or near term, move the farms, or develop enough renewable energy sources to run a fleet of trucks and a bunch of railroads to haul food and waste products.

It seems inevitable to me that once we are back at the small scale of production that food will be considerably more expensive than it is now because diesel fuel, fertilizer, and tractors are cheaper than labor.This is not to say that it will be unaffordable but I expect the averarge comsumer will spend a higher portion of his income on food for quite some time.There is a good possibility however that small scale organic production will eventually be cheaper than industrial production,especially if the price of ff inputs keeps rising, which seems inevitable.

The bottom line is that I expect the bulk of our food to come from big ag for the forseeable future-at least twenty years or more.

The real problem with establishing small farms is the food marketing system and the habits of consumers.I would be willing to place a substantial bet that most of the regular here on this site who talk a good sustainability game buy apples one or two at a time, salad ingredients prechopped in plastic bags, and cereals in boxes that cost as much as the contents.

When the consumer is willing to once again shop in a locally owned store where I can sell my apples to the owner we can have locally grown food again. The chains wont give a local producer the time of day.

When the consumer buys food rather than the brand name associated with it small farmers have a shot.But the corporations and thier advertising arms have us so well trained that we eat twinkies rather than fruit.

This is no small job we are looking at.But if somebody can figure out a way to change the brhavior of the public there will be no shortage of small farmers.The work is fulfilling, the freedom to run one's own small business is gratifying, and there is no shortage of capable unemployed workers.

If the marketing problem can be solved, the one truly big problem remaining will be obtaining land at affordable prices.Most of the potential new farmers are broke and most of them wil not be inheriting farm land.

Hey Mac
Yeah, we're in a tight spot. Like our transportation systems, energy systems, monetary systems, etc., our food system is approaching it's expiration date. Too bad it all seems to be happening at the same time. You do have my nomination for Sec. of Ag. though. At least you seem to get it.

Indusrial agriculture uses only a small fraction of world energy usage. Farms make good sites for turbines and panels for local usage, which could go to power stationary equipment and factories and grain evlevators, etc... We're not talking that much power, so storage should be possible, especially given that the grid isn't going to fail anytime soon. If hydrogen can run a bus, it can run a tractor.

The immediate problem is our transportation systems, not the agricultural system. I don't know why everyone wants to keep jumping on the NEXT new doom train when the real problem is apparent and imminent.

For farming, phosphorous is maybe a hard problem, and will take a new approach. But we use too much of it anyway. There is still plenty for the forseeable future, and amount needed is more flexible than many let on. I don't expect to starve for a lack of phosphorous, though I won't speak to later generations. More research needs to be done on reducing use, recycling, and efficiently gathering it from dilute reserves.

Aquifers are also a problem, but doesn't this have more to do with cities wasting water than actual agriculture usage? Doesn't it make more sense to capture and recycle rainwater for cities than to let farms collapse?

In the near term, people are going to give up their cars before they give up their meals. Veggies can produced locally. SO can eggs and chicken. Grains can be nationalized, if need be (and will be), if capital becomes a temp problem. We need to eat less meat and shit chemicals like MSG and aspartame and Coca Cola anyway.


I would like to reply to this statement by Zaphod42.

"but is frustrated by the monopolistic land holdings that are the norm in the Western world. A suggestion that these holdings be broken up and distributed to those who wish to farm carries great peril."

First the largest 'holdings'are in the prarie states. Those with vast cast stretches of open land. Little woodlands there.

And IMO of course, you would find it hard to survive there in a homesteading style of livelihood. Or a small farm trying to be fully self-sustaining. The Native Americans could do it because they had the buffalo. And they were capable of far more than us plus they had an environment that was far different back then rather than currently.

So you really need a more diverse area. More like Indiana,Southern Illinois,parts of Missouri, Ohio and basically the areas east of the Mississippi where forests can survive and will and there is a far more varied species that can provide food and fiber. You get my point.

And further MOST of those 'large' holdings are not all owned by one man or family. A lot of it is rented from others who own the land.

Most big ag farmers in Ky almost always rent the majority of their land or use it in a 'sharing' agreement.

My buddy farms 3,000 acres. He only owns 100 acres. The rest is own by about 8 different landowners.

So you need 1. Biodiveristy and 2. Land you can buy in small parcels of about at least 10 acres or so.

In many of the areas west of the misssissippi 10 acres is no where near enough but eastwards it can be plenty, depending on the lay of the land, etc.

So its not as bad as one may think. In fact there is always some land shifing around between differing owners. Some most always available for purchase. Some that will be totally empty if one intends to be a squatter.


And IMO of course, you would find it hard to survive there in a homesteading style of livelihood. Or a small farm trying to be fully self-sustaining. The Native Americans could do it because they had the buffalo. And they were capable of far more than us plus they had an environment that was far different back then rather than currently.

Also the fact that America had probably 100.000 natives, certainly less than a million, whereas we have 300 million mouths to feed might (just might) have something to do with it.

Also when native americans had overpopulation, they simply fought it out to the death. That seems like a good idea. Next week : Seattle versus Portland. Of course they have to keep fighting until over 99% of the people is dead, in order to reduce population to the point where buffalo's could be reintroduced and support the population.

So even if Seattle or Portland won, by killing enough enemies, they would have to keep fighting until nearly all people in their own camps would be dead too.

Are you seriously suggesting this ?


Not to belabor a point, but your comment above about it being a "fact" that.... "Also the fact that America had probably 100.000 natives, certainly less than a million, whereas we have 300 million mouths to feed might (just might) have something to do with it" wildly inaccurate.

A quick consulation with anyone who knows their anthropology or has access to Wikipedia will come up with a number of "native Americans" pre-Columbus of about 100-110 million. The vast majority of these peoples did NOT subsist on buffalo but were actually living via what can only be classed as diversified farming operations. In the American midwest there were large agricultural operations. The popular mystique of the plains indian forgets that much of the plains were largely unpopulated until pressure from the colonists forced the native Americans west.

Your characterization of warfare amongst them also needs some research.

Just saying.


Wikipedia says this ....

In 1965, American anthropologist Henry Dobyns published studies estimating the original population at 10 to 12 million. By 1983, however, he increased his estimates to 18 million.[35]

... and not much more.

I know very little about native American population levels. I am only posting this link to add info to the thread.

I do wish you would have provided some evidence or links. Based on this alone, it seems to me that estimates of 100,000 and estimates above one million are both, in your words, "wildly inaccurate"


You didn't check very well.

Type in "Native American Population" in Wikipedia and the 1st reference states that...

The native American population of the New World in 1492 is estimated to have been as many as 112 million.


My son is a historian and, by chance, he and I were discussing this very issue over Thanksgiving and he told me that an unbiased, non-idealogicaly estimate is about 100 million at its peak for the Americas. Many of the lower estimates are provided by those seeking to minimize that vast "die-off" of the natives triggered by their introduction to Euoropean diseases. Even conservative estimates indicate that the die-off was in excess of 85%.

Is that enough for you. His estimate IS wildly inaccurate and it would have been easy for you to have really checked it out. Curious that.


Perhaps the confusion was "Native Americans in the US" vs "Native Americans in the Americas". The debate between "high counters" and "low counters" is quite lively, and modern research tends to favor the high counters.

Thanks for that. It is interesting to learn more about I subject I should understand better. And I do agree that the first estimate is wildly inaccurate and will retract that claim regarding your figure.

However, since the original comparison was against a current population of 300mn, I do think the 18mn figure is the proper one in this context and my link correct.

I also think it would have been much more helpful for you to have included the link in your first post. Again, anyone seeing the 300mn figure would look at the link I did and conclude that you were wrong.

This is not the site to spew BullSh@t Trust me I know from being wrong on details.
You will get called on it.

Airdale, much of what we think of as the prairie was only kept grassland by regular and mostly intentional burning. The soils and conditions in most of the eastern prairie can easily support trees, as anyone can see by the plantings of wind-breaks that are now ubiquitous after their planting was encouraged by policies put in place since the dust bowl days.

Until the roll of fire was discovered, paleo-botanists were at a loss to understand why much of this area had not been colonized by forests.

But I agree that wooded, hilly terrain seems to foster smaller farms today--they are most common here in the hilly areas of SW Wisconsin and SE Minnesota, areas deeply etched by streams and rivers flowing toward the Mississippi.


Back in the 50 and 60 I traveled thru a lot of the upper midwest, the praries of upper Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and much of the rest.

This was prior to huge ag changes and yet I saw mostly praries.

You could be correct but all I have ever read or observed was of the huge praries of grasslands that covered those regions.

Bluestem and many other varieties now likely extinct. I assume that natural fires and buffalo created this. Possible weather also.

But be that as it may currently it has little woodlands. Versus the areas I mentioned west of the Missithippee(as the Shawanee named it) there is vast or was once vast woodlands. Different entirely than the other praries lands.

A different type of soil perhaps as well.

I still stand by my contention as to livelihoods in that area are regards homesteading.

IMO vast areas of the USA are not amiable to subsistence small farming, what I refer to as homesteading.

I will check later with the history books and reply in another DB.


"Bluestem and many other varieties now likely extinct."

To allay your concern on this front, I have both little and tall blue stem growing in my urban front yard, along with about 100 other grasses and forbs once native to this area. But it is true that there are very few spots, as far as I've heard, where these natives have continued to thrive continuously in their own habitat without some kind of disruption.

But again, few habitats have been completely undisturbed and unaffected by human behavior, and the tall and short grass prairies are no exception, as I understand it. Fire, in particular, has been consistently used since its control was discovered, to alter a variety of habitats, from parkland dispersed woods to prairies.

These early fires, though, don't hold a candle, so to speak, to the grand conflagration of the entire communtiy of life we have now ignited.

As I was looking at the journal's site, and the emphasis at looking on the level of broad systems rather than focusing in on any one place, I was thinking, "Ah, another attempt at fixing things without addressing the possibilities of specific analyses and practices to shift human psychology." But then I get to your last paragraph here, where it looks like your personal interest is precisely in bringing in psychological questions. Now, the specific notion of a "reward superhighway in our neural structure" strikes me as typical bogus pop psychology (sorry, I should allow you to explain before reacting that way, except it's an old sort of claim and doesn't fit my experience of a world in which most people are averse of, rather than seeking, rich experience) ... but the "belief systems inhibiting behavioral change," yes! It's not a Marxist means-of-production critique we need (your "supply side"?) but more like what Buddhism in its best instances hints at: the prospect of a fast transformation of character to something at once less materialistic and more directly attuned to the world in the breadth of its nature. I'm not claiming any current school of Buddhism has the answer fully worked out; just that the best examples from Buddhism and the like are a good rough sketch of the kind of solution we need to be pursuing. Obviously it's not a sure thing that it's even attainable, on a broad social scale. But to write off its possibility risks discarding the one research project that, just if it should bear fruit within a relative few years, would be entirely critical to the success of every other project we must be about as we meet the coming crises.

As a Nichiren Buddhist - it it possible to transform as long as the self wants to do so

Now wanting is a part of desire and desire unenlightened causes more suffering

The social transformation needed then is an ongoing process of enlightening the inner desire to harmonize with the exterior reality is a way to minimize suffering

That would make for some spiritual practice akin to the personal discipline of Islam with the viewpoint of Daoism - its possible, I worked with inner city kids in the 1980's during the crack epidemic in South LA, but its a lot of work and sacrifice

It seems to me that the basic solution we need is food and water for a reasonable number of people--if not 6.7 billion, something very close to 6.7 billion. The catch is that we don't know what resources we have to work from to provide that food and water. People would like to make the assumption that we are starting from either BAU, or something very much like BAU. If we are really starting with local resources, and what can be made from local resources, that is very different.

So knowing where we are starting from is critical.

There are things we can do in either case, but they are quite different, and that is a real issue.

Another critical item is maintaining electrical service. It is critical there to understand what the real risks are. Is there a risk that electrical providers will go bankrupt? If so, the solution is quite different than if the problem that there is not enough electricity to go around. I think the real risk is probably bankruptcy, but that is not on people's radar screen, so they are busy looking for solutions to different issues.

It seems to me that the basic solution we need is food and water for a reasonable number of people--if not 6.7 billion, something very close to 6.7 billion.

'Scuse me, but what's so "reasonable" about a world population of 6.7 billion? Why wouldn't something closer to 200-300 million (our average for most of recorded history) be a whole lot better? Every "problem" on that list (climate disruption, loss of biodiversity, poverty, energy descent, overfishing, air, water, and soil pollution) is a *symptom* of overpopulation, so how can any purported "solution" simply ignore the root problem?

If one cannot feed the entire group, this presents another issue--and it is difficult to see a good way to deal with it.

Perhaps I came off a bit harsh on my first respone. You are a regular contributing writer here and deserve much respect.

Nonetheless, I get a bit weary of reading posts by/about well meaning policy wonks that naively dance around the elephant-in-the-room. I just don't see any practical way to reverse the tide of pollution, environmental soil/air/water degradation, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, etc. without addressing overpopulation head on.

Contrary to what some posters here seem to think, there are a number of ways to reverse human population growth and achieve a sustainable population, none of them employing nuclear or bio-weapons or otherwise inducing mass murder. Here are a few that often come to mind:

--World governments recognizing overpopulation as the single greatest threat to the environment, as well as civilization and humanity's own continued existence.

--World governments reversing their long standing tradition of incentivizing large families via tax codes (or in some cases direct cash subsidies), and either adopting 1-child per couple laws similar to China's, or dis-incentivizing large families via the tax codes. The more heavy-handed Chinese approach is likely to work better in third world countries, where most citizens are illiterate and birth rates are extremely high, while the financial incentives approach is likely to work better in western countries with high literacy rates and incomes.

--Western countries should *tremendously* increase spending and advocacy efforts on birth control in the developing world. What we spend on it now is pitiful compared to what is spent on wars over oil or protecting Wall Street executives from the consequences of their own recklessness.

--Western countries should be ramping up R&D to develop much cheaper and more effective forms of birth control that would be practical to administer in the third world. Condoms and birth control pills are just not going to cut it in places where women have zero rights or social status, much less any disposable income to spend on those things. Immunocontraception comes to mind.

You forget:
--Western (and other) governments should be freeing up immigration to allow for movements of over-stressed populations to areas of the world better able to provide for the people.

Actually when I re-read your points I can see that you are obviously from a western country and believe that the world's environmental problems are caused by too many people in the developing world. This is not supported by the facts, which are that most resources are consumed by the rich - mostly people in Western countries but also including the rich sub-segment of countries such as China and India. All this talk of forcing poor people to have one child whilst rich people get to be "financially incentivised" is not going to get you very far at all.

I can see that you are obviously from a western country and believe that the world's environmental problems are caused by too many people in the developing world

I *am* from a western country --in fact the biggest resource hog of them all: the USA. And don't get me wrong, I am NOT pleased with the wasteful consumption, borrow-and-spend, import goods/export trash, growth-driven model the U.S. has been pursuing for... as long as I've been alive and then some.

Nonetheless, the lion's share of population growth is NOT happening in the western world. It is happening in the developing world, as the chart below proves:

I think *any* country, poor, rich or in between, whose population is rapidly rising and has already outsripped its own natural resources, has an obligation to confront this issue. The obligation is not just to rich countries, but to all living things and especially to its own people who suffer as a result.

If you base environmental degradation on per-capita resource consumption alone, then, yes, westerners are the world's biggest offenders. Problem is, this alone is not an adequate measure.

For one thing, there are roughly 4 billion third world inhabitants all WANTING to achieve a middle-class western lifestyle. We can all empathize, but this clearly cannot happen as there are not enough non-renewable resources on the planet to go around --and never will be. In the meantime, the environmental damage that they --and us rich westerners-- are doing and will be doing is horrendous.

Secondly, the world is adding roughly 70 million people per year --the lion's share coming from third world countries. Even if the U.S. Europe, Japan, Aus & NZ all suddenly cut their energy and resource conumption in half, it could only offset the net impact of those additional people (remember --all striving to achieve a resource-intensive higher standard of living) for perhaps a decade. After that... net consumption reaches same levels and then continues to rise.

Like it or not, a world citizen's standard of living is very positively and strongly correlated with energy and resource consumption. If you wish to trade your current living standard with that of a low-consumption Sudanese refugee, be my guest... but no thanks. The ONLY way I can see the whole world rising to a western standard of living everywhere is by drastically cutting our population levels everywhere.

All this talk of forcing poor people to have one child whilst rich people get to be "financially incentivised" is not going to get you very far at all.

It's a matter of matching incentives to the level of literacy, education and social development of the country in question. Passing out family planning pamphlets and condoms to people who can't read the pamphlets or understand *why* using the condoms is important (or some Imam is telling them birth control is part of some evil western plot) will definitely not get you very far.

Poor, unstable countries with poorly developed (or nonexistent) markets or public institutions are also in no position to be setting financial incentives, assuming they could even effectively be administered --doubtful. Consider trying to implement such a program in Sudan, Afghanistan or even the K.S.A. and I think you get the picture. Of course, once they develop to a certain level, the picture changes.

It is very easy, medically speaking, to sterilize males.

If we can agree that the problem is population x consumption, the best place to start a mass sterilizing project is where population is consuming the most. If you are from a Western country, that is you. So step up Western males to get snipped, and to encourage, cajole, bully...all your male friends and acquaintances to do the same.

Don't like that idea? Perhaps, as a rich (by global standards), white (guessing here), Western male, you prefer to think of the fundamental problems on earth being essentially those of poor, colored, non-western females--that is those most utterly 'other.'

Not much of a surprise here, psychologically speaking. Humans have a strong tendency to blame nearly any problem on those they identify as maximally 'other' from themselves (most famously, Jews in Europe), thereby hoping to maximally deflect blame for these problems from themselves.

But perhaps, just perhaps, the thoughtful posters on these threads have enough powers of self reflection to recognize that this is what they are doing when it is gently pointed out to them.

Or perhaps not.

Humans have a strong tendency to blame nearly any problem on those they identify as maximally 'other' from themselves (most famously, Jews in Europe), thereby hoping to maximally deflect blame for these problems from themselves.

WARNING! Godwin's Law Violation!

Ah yes, the typical reactionary knee-jerk reaction to this subject. For the record, I have no children and would be happy to "step up" if getting snipped were required of me (and every other male) to fix the overpopulation problem, which is at the heart of virtually every other world problem.

If you think a one-child-per-couple rule is "harsh", consider the alterantive: doing nothing and "enjoying" the real-world version of Soylent Green unfold. And besides the Bible, Torah and Quran (among other bad religious literature), where is it written that human beings should be allowed to breed every other species out of existence --and then finally themselves?

Unrestricted breeding, given the current state of the world, is insanity.

Note that I nowhere said that I thought a one-child-per-couple rule was "harsh" so I'm not sure where the assumption (or the quotation marks) comes from.

Whether through a "rule" or through some set of incentives, it is pretty clear that such a rule is actually insufficient at this point to bring down numbers fast enough to avoid crash. I prefer a policy that aims at a goal of one child (max) per couple after age thirty. If effective and implemented immediately would produce an immediate reduction in population, probably something a bit under the current global death rate of ~56 million/year, so a drop of about a billion in about twenty years.

I was just pointing out that, important as population issues are, we as western males, should always ask ourselves, when we start obsessing on pop to the exclusion of other areas, such as consumption, whether we are avoiding addressing our own behavior in favor of pointing at the behavior of the other.

I prefer to work on reducing my own footprint (I prefer the calculator at, but there are many others), encouraging and educating others to do the same, and working against the worst developments in my area, like proposed coal plants...

I guess I did touch a sore spot though, based on the tone of your response. Perhaps because I got too close to a truth?

For me the "sore spot" is automatically equating every effort at population reduction with Nazi eugenics. Basically, the favorite technique of overpopulation-deniers to shut down the debate before it has even begun. If implying this was not your intention, then my apologies.

As far as combatting western overconsumption goes, you'll get no arguments from me. As I said earlier, I amd not happy with America's model of borrow-consume-waste... and then borrow-consume-waste even more! While I hardly live like an ascetic monk, I try to keep my own footprint as small as possible --short commutes, recycling, buying local produce, using hand-me-down equipment/furniture, making energy improvements where I can, living below my means, etc.

As one other poster above noted, it's not just population OR consumption. It's population X consumption. Unfortunately, right now BOTH are going in the wrong direction.

"automatically equating every effort at population reduction with Nazi eugenics"

I did no such thing. I merely pointed out that people tend to blame the "other"--choose any "other" you wish. Do you think people don't tend to blame the other?

For me the sore spot is that population obsessors always assume those critical of them are mindless drones who think in purely Manichaean terms of good versus evil.

"As one other poster above noted, it's not just population OR consumption. It's population X consumption."

Hmmmmmmmm, I believe that poster was..........ME, actually.

Look, I think we are mostly in agreement that there are huge problems with both consumption and population. If I saw myself post on here about population without fully confronting consumption, I would take myself to task.

Get the chip off your shoulder, and don't assume everyone questioning you is an idiot, foaming at the mouth. (I may, in fact, be an idiot, but no foam has been perceptibly oozing from my mouth in the last few minutes, at least. 8o] )

This is not supported by the facts, which are that most resources are consumed by the rich

Its far too easy to get sidetracked into a rich vs. poor debate, which IMHO is completely beside the point. If I look at the population problem what I see is a bottleneck at food production, particularly when you figure oil energy inputs into industrial agriculture.

As far as food goes, we are all approximately equal in our consumption. That being the case, the rest of the resource imbalance is mostly beside the point. In a SHTF scenario, a populous Latin American village of farmers is better equipped to set its own course forward than a populous Manhattan apartment complex.

Harm, good points. The reason people want to provide for 6.7 billion is because if we don't a lot of people are going to die (earlier than expected) It is nice to wish that people now alive could live out their expected lifespans (which vary by which world you are in - 1st, 2nd or third). But if there is not a significant reduction in world population two things happen

First the 6.7 billion keep having babies aggravating the problem

Secondly as we go down the oil slope the world will be scoured for fuel and denuded making it more difficult for humans and other species to continue as well. (as is already happening in Haiti)

I have about 100 chickens free ranging on 1 acre. The only reason that population is sustained is because we bring in food from outside in the form of grain. I suspect that if we did not feed them 1 acre might feed 2 to 4 birds in bugs and veggies. If we suddenly stopped feeding the 100 they would denude the acre so badly (not to mention turning on each other to cannibalize for food)that for a long time it would not sustain any chickens.

I wish it weren't too late for strict population controls to solve the problem, but it is. Like it or not the population is going to crash and the question is, when it is done will the world sustain any humans at all?

It is reasonable that 6.7 billion people want enough food and water to survive as long as they have reasonably expected they will (copper miners in South America 45 years) but it is not reasonable to expect a world without ancient sunlight to exploit to be able to sustain more than it did before we started our mad oil party.

Everyone alive today will die. That has never been in question because we are mortal. The only questions are when, how and with or without passing on genes. It helps when we look at potential futures to remind ourselves that our stay here on earth was always a temporary condition. That is not changed.

but it is not reasonable to expect a world without ancient sunlight to exploit to be able to sustain more than it did before we started our mad oil party.

Well put.
I would also add that *voluntarily* reducing world population now (before nature and resource depletion does it for us) also pays us additional dividends:

--The nonrenewable and "bridge" energy stores we have will last longer, and the lower the population, the longer they last.
--A lower world population allows nature to recover/regenerate more quickly.
--A lower world population allows the overall standard of living to rise more quickly in developing countries, as the ratio of natural resources:population becomes more favorable.

A couple of articles in Mother Earth News pertaining to population control resulted in a backlash of outrage and cancelled subscriptions. One short article:

Just the mention of controlling reproduction in any way offends a lot of people and religions. I fear that any reduction in human population will be involuntary.

Just the mention of controlling reproduction in any way offends a lot of people and religions. I fear that any reduction in human population will be involuntary.

I'm well aware of the widespread unpopularity of this topic. Many people will reflexively dredge up the term "eugenics" and invoke memories of the Nazis' Final Solution and other atrocities. Others will point out the Chinese cultural bias towards male children, when combined with 1-child policy, has resulted in too few girls. None of this changes the reality of the human race hitting and surpassing the earth's sustainable carrying capacity.

It doesn't really matter if this subject "offends" people and their religious sensibilities --it's high time we MADE this subject socially "acceptable". Consider that there were lots of subjects that were considered "off limits" in polite society only a few generations ago: sex, most race issues, gender equality, etc. If we do nothing, nature will impose her own form of "birth control" (and her way won't be gentle).

It's a doleful thing to have to suggest, but it seems to me that we can be fairly confident about three things:

1) Human population +will+ start down again soon (if it hasn't already, unknown as yet to the bean-counters; that's not a precise science with no time-lag). We've overshot any balanced, sustainable level on artificial and inherently temporary support, and it can't stay like this much longer.

2) Despite our constant chattering about it, we won't volunteer to do this humanely. Collectively, across the whole global population, we won't volunteer at all; it will be imposed on us by planetary forces that we're powerless to defy.

3) For the victims everywhere -- and it will be everywhere, rich and poor countries alike -- of this enforced untimely death, it will be exceedingly nasty.

Having let ourselves drift into the present situation, where the Synergising Global Crises are already begun, and are now cranking up, we're just stuck with this result. Mitigation is good, and can help to reduce the sum total of suffering, both for this species and for the planetary life-web as a whole. But by now, our population crash just isn't dodgeable, I suspect.

But what does that mean, in fact. Will it be some sort of Mad-Max catastrophe, really; or something else?

For some time, I've had a growing hunch (please note the very tentative word), based on a sort of self-assembling gestalt of widely gleaned hints, that perhaps it won't be a MM thing at all, but actually just an extension of what we have now -- have had, in fact, for all of my 69 years, and longer.

What we've had all that time is a vast, largely silent and widely-ignored pool of absolute poverty, worldwide, causing blighted lives and excess, untimely deaths. A vast pangenocide, in fact. Genocide, because of course it could have been prevented, along with the population ramp itself, by wise, humane policies universally applied; but that just seems to be beyond us: technically simple, but psychologically impossible; collectively, we're just too damned feckless to bring ourselves to do what's necessary.

So now the ordinary population-control negative-feedback mechanisms so well observed by a whole generation of ecologists studying other species finally overtake us too, whatever we do.

Imagine that that awful excess-death-through-chronic-poverty process just screws itself up notch by notch until silently, unobtrusively it edges past the global birth-rate. Imagine that, as for so many years previously, those of us not down in the main pit of this hell scarcely notice that the death-rate down there has ramped up higher yet. After all, we've scarcely noticed it for decades. Why would we change now? Picture that screwing up of the death-rate slow notch by notch continuing even after it's overtaken the birth rate. It doesn't have to stay very far above for very long for the absolute numbers of humans to start on that steep downspike that seems to be the inevitable other half of any steep upspike in natural processes.

This says nothing, of course, about the drop in overall fertility in humankind, already widely observed, as life conditions worsen. Nor about a second increase in the excess untimely death rate brought about by social, economic and agricultural chaos in times of collapse.

Seems to me that people implementing solutions and mitigations will have to live within that overall dire process, maintaining a resolute strength of purpose in the face of terrible times, and doing what they can to ease the totality of suffering and loss, and to salvage what can be saved, for the time when the die-off is completed. But I suppose that the back-handed good news is that we surely +can+ do that, since we've been doing it already for decades, during the upspike.

This hunch is why I'm shoving myself as fast as I can go into permacultural food-getting competence on my own place, why I practice as extensively as my ingenuity can devise low-impact, neo-peasant living in the midst of all the mindless, feckless consumer-partying that's only just starting to falter at last here in crash-bound Britain (60+ million in an island that might sustain about 5 million in the long term), and why I'm also a steadfast member of a local, thriving CSA farm as well as doing my own growing/stock-husbandry work.

Of all the far-seeing minds around today from whom I glean my unconsidered trifles of knowledge to form my tentative gestalts, I think that I'd place John Michael Greer near the forefront. He isn't the Archdruid of AODA for nothing. You may have noticed that he doesn't push his druidry practice obtrusively into his socio-political commentaries. But that ancient practice is one of the many old ways that we can bring our intuitive faculties up to full twinned power with our rational faculties (a rounding process for the mature human psyche much neglected and even derided in our aberrant, transient Western social order). This -- I believe -- JM has done, since years back. For this reason, I treat his foreseeing with considerable respect. The kind of future which he sees in 'The Long Descent' seems to me to be where we are bound to go now, with greatly reduced numbers as an inevitable part of that journey.

Hi Rhisiart,

growing hunch ..... actually just an extension of what we have now -- have had, in fact, for all of my 69 years, and longer. ... a vast, largely silent and widely-ignored pool of absolute poverty, worldwide, causing blighted lives and excess, untimely deaths.

In 1970 we read Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" book and thought his argument was valid. Over the years we were somewhat dismayed that the world population kept rising without the consequences he predicted. Of course, he could not foreseen the so called "Green Revolution" that cracked open the piggy bank of stored sunshine and dumped most of it on the planet in short order.

Beyond the Green thing however, there as another major factor that he did not seem to appreciate and we failed to grasp also - and goes to support your point - it is truly amazing how much poverty and misery people will tolerate without any really effort to control breeding practices. Only after my job took me to some 3rd world countries did I start to understand how the world population could continue to grow as it did. I still think Ehrlich was essentially correct.

"the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines and b) self-deception and belief systems:"

My observations, having traveled in severely impoverished areas, are that poverty and malnutrition beget a sort of "laziness" regarding, especially, consequences. There is a point where consequences such as pregnency are not taken into account and any opportunity to "reward the neural structure", as in sex, is a "no brainer" in the literal sense.
Self-deception suggests prior consideration. Most people, I think, never get that far. Their filters, situational, religious/cultural, environmental, personal, preclude consideration. These filters clear the way and eliminate competition for "higher and higher reward baselines". As my very southern grandmother often replied: "I just don't want to think about that right now". Problem solved.

Excellent point. And one that actually buttresses my earlier point about financial/tax incentives being generally ineffective in third world countries --or among *any* poor population.

I actually met Erlich probably in 71 when he was evidently on tour. He spoke as a visiting scholar at Va Tech and afterwards hosted discussion group open to students and faculty.Not very many people showed up for the discussion although the lecture was very well attended.

Malthus and Erlich are right and unless there are at least two positive Black Swans soon thery will be vindicated in the worst possible way-by a massive die off.

One is that for some reason the world embraces population control is a very vigorous way very soon.

The other is that someway or another -maybe by using ng-we manage to hold food production steady and rising until the population begins to fall.

A communicable disease that sterilizes people could accomplish the first.

A paradigm busting breakthrough in genetic engineering or renewable energy could accomplish the other.

The odds agaisnt either are overwhelmingly bad.

My son-in-law ranges games on about an acre. At any one time he may have 50-60. He rarely feeds them and his biggest chore is, dare I say it, population control. He gets plenty of eggs and finishes some for meat using grain. Maybe you need different chickens or need to divide your acre into four sections and rotate your pastures. I'm sure 100 is pushing it. So is 6.8 billion.

How does your son-in-law keep your games in? Our birds can almost all fly over the fence (we have mixed games with other varieties and banties so have some that are small and light and can fly well and some with Rock or Orphington in the mix that a much more land bound). They don't usually fly over except to hide a nest. If we fed much less than we do I am sure that many would fly over. We don't rotate. Our yard is 1/2 treed, the rest has become bare despite our feeding and providing greens from the garden every day.

At any rate what I am saying, is that unless your son-in-law has a very high fence I am sure his games fly out when they can't find food in. I can't imagine a game that wouldn't. A friend of ours who has game has a fence and feeds daily but still he always has a contingent who choose to live outside. In most cases and in ours the fence is more about keeping predators out than keeping chickens in.

BTW how many rooster can he keep unpenned. We have about 12 loose in our yard but none is pure game. They establish flocks and work out their dominance schemes. But when our crosses result in too much game in a roo we usually have to pen them or cull them as they will sometimes fight to the death.

He clips the wings of the birds he wants to keep. Painless and effective. As for birds escaping and predators, its part of his population control. His southern Appalachain family has done it this way for generations with little additional feed and they always have chickens to give away or for the plate. They even have chickens to feed their dogs sometime. The games do a good job avoiding predators even when they escape, so he has a reserve of feral chickens to draw from. I stopped allowing my chickens to truely free range because I got tired of cleaning poop off of my tractor, etc. While in the population, roosters usually will work things out. Once confined for a while, its all over. If you return them to the population they will fight, especially games. Cull your unneccessary roosters if they're not for the pot. Waste of feed. Just a fact of chicken life.

For anyone reading this discussion who does not know much about birds, clipping the wings means cutting of the last set of feathers on the wing on one side to make them unbalanced. I once told my then young sons I was going to clip the wings of a bird and they were horrified thinking I was going to cut off the whole wing. We haven't had to do that as our birds are probably overfed and almost all except an occasional rooster seem glad to stay in their acre. It has been several years since any hens have flown out to hide a nest and the last two that did that were part game banties.

So since your son-in-law does feed them some the carrying capacity of an acre seems to be less than 60 but more than my estimate of 4. But my example is true none-the-less. If your son-in-law stopped feeding them at all and they were confined so they had only that acre to live on they would denude and debug the property and render it unfit - it just might take a bit longer than my 100 as they are closer to a sustainable number and they are used to a leaner fare. If you also stop culling for a brief while their numbers would rise before having a steeper decline.

The point of course is that to live sustainably in the world you have to have to start with sustainable number of creatures. If you have more than that the damage they do to the ecosystem before they start to die off will reduce how many the system can sustain.

Since our world is over full there is no fence to fly over unlike 2 centuries ago.

Obviously, you haven't heard the Word from Bjorn Lomborg -- population isn't a problem.

LOL --thanks, I'll have to read up on his body of work. Along with my extensive collection of tomes by Julian Simon and Thomas Gold.

It seems to me that the basic solution we need is food and water for a reasonable number of people--if not 6.7 billion, something very close to 6.7 billion.

Actually, world pop. surpassed 6.8 Gig on November 28 at 5:25pm.

Actually, world pop. surpassed 6.8 Gig on November 28 at 5:25pm.

Assumed / approximate population of course...
The clock I always look at is a little behind that.

It says we will reach 6.8 billion in February.

And lucky 7 in mid 2012.

I agree that the starting point is food and water. Most people start with BAU and work backwards, saying "O. K. we'll have to find alternatives to this and different ways of doing that," but really you should just start over (conceptually) with nothing and build up from what we can do sustainably.

When you do this, it would seem to me that we will be looking at most people being mostly vegetarian most of the time.

Could you elaborate a bit more on your comment, "we don't know what resources we have to work from to provide that food and water" -- ? Don't we have FAO reports on cropland, etc.? Or are you saying something like, "we only know what resources we have under BAU assumptions, but if financial collapse, no international trade, etc., we have only sketchy ideas" -- ?

When I say I don't know what resources we will have to work with, it seems like the usual assumptions is that we take what we have now, and substitute something or other. I think the real issue is that we are dealing with a networked system (international trade, finance, lots of people with computers, imported fertilizer, electricity for almost everyone, etc.) and the assumption is that it will all hold together indefinitely--all we have to do is substitute this or that.

I think that at some point, we are going to discover international trade is greatly reduced--mostly because we can't really pay for the things we want to buy, but there may also be an element of not enough oil to go around as well. If there is not enough to go around, why sell oil to countries that can't pay for it? If this happens, we are going to have a terrible time keeping up the whole system--replacement parts for automobiles, new computers when the old ones wear out, and new parts for the electric grid, when these need to be replaced.

It seems like we need to figure out how to make the whole system work, using local resources only, because eventually, that is the point we are going to have to get back to, even if it theoretically could be 50 years away (or much less--we don't know). But as long as we can rationalize that we are working on the problem by adding electric cars, or wind turbines, or biofuel, no one will look at the much more difficult question of what we are going to do when we cannot keep up our current high tech world, on which we depend so much.

"It seems like we need to figure out how to make the whole system work"
We, Humans, are the system. It is us that is broken. My poodle told me that.

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

"If we never address the 'who'"

An interesting question, academic in a growth situation. But when there are severe constraints you will soon get conflict. In a medium company you get the conscientious, the slackers and the go getters among others. If the cake to share is increasing, the go getters can take the most and still leave the rest feeling OK but... Does it have an answer? Will people modify their behaviour? Have the bankers?

a) the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines

I don't think this is a universal state if you mean craving for more material rewards. I think the way you are brought up can enable you to seek other type of reward. Education and appropriate role models could go a long way.

b) self-deception and belief systems inhibiting behavioral change

A far bigger inhibitor is inertia. It is a lot easier to carry on as normal even if you know it is a temporary state of affairs and a change would be in your best interests.

Thanks so much Nate for reintroducing me to Donella Meadows, a name I had almost forgotten. I had somehow missed her Leverage Points essay. I have just finished reading it and it is truly a stunning piece of work which merits a lot more thought and study. It is such a shame she was taken from us at the tender age of 59 from of all things, bacterial meningitis which is one of the more uncommon ways to die at that age in these united states. I dearly miss her wisdom and the world could surely use her intelligence right now. Hugh MD

Seeing the picture of Donella Meadows at Solutions I am beginning to see a connection with all of the big picture thinkers.

What is it about keepers of ruminants?

The words "whole system" sort of jumped out at me as my TOD friends started breaking the problem down into little pieces, as they always do so well. It occurs to me that the system isn't broken so much as that the entire premise that our systems are based upon is inviable. It does't matter how well we understand the subsystems or how much energy we expend trying to fix them so to correct the overall system. Until we stop seeing our collective self as being above or outside nature and the natural laws, until humanity can behave according to nature, the rest is pointless. How do we legislate the laws of thermodynamics, etc. so that if our behavior doesn't pass the nature test it is culturally or legally unacceptabe? If we create our systems contrary to the system in which they exist we will certainly fail.

This is one of the strengths of ecological economics. It takes into account both the laws and limitations of nature and helps us to look at alternative and more desirable measures of human well being.

We enjoyed hosting Dr. Costanza as a keynote speaker at our recent Conference on Michigan's Future: Energy, Economy and Environment.

Dr. Costanza lead an envisioning session to consider possible solutions to help the people in our state adapt to the many profound changes that we are experiencing. One of the attendees, a professor from Michigan State University, commented that looking at things from these very different perspectives was quite encouraging and uplifting. He was previously unaware of peak oil and its implications. Let us hope we can all feel this way as we explore possible solutions in our transition to a new and different world that is more in harmony with the earth's biosphere and natural laws.

We are already experiencing demand destruction and powering down is a key part of making our world less unsustainable. However, we must also continue to search for more sustainable energy supply solutions as we can't cut our way to success given all the work that needs to be done as we power our world of 6.8+ billion people into the future. This is an unending task and will remain an important topic for our discussions here at TOD and in our communities.

"Unless we address a) the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines and b) self-deception and belief systems inhibiting behavioral change, we will probably slow the descent of the current paradigm but not change its trajectory. "


one of the things i am focusing on with those 'in theory' who we will team up with is how to not only to form a tight knit group but to set up processes which help with the above.

one idea i have concluded is when not in crisis or very heavy work demand that 'group' time is regularly required to focus on how personally we are relating, & coming 'down' from our gluttonous lifestyle, losses, ways to cope, etc.

if we don't do this 'work' - nate underscores- we will probably not make it as a group/community but as well we'll just repeat the same patterns.

still working...

I have a localized food "system" that I have developed over the last year and would like to post more on it very soon.

I have carefully explored a multitude of options, some that are currently attempting to be implemented, and some that are proposed, and I feel that I have addressed the dominant issues...except...economics. It's not clear how it might be possible to get from here to less than 20 years...20 years of a sound economy that is...a tanking economy makes it, and many other great ideas, nearly impossible.

My idea is to take a page from "Shock Doctrine" and have everything ready to implement once we have a point of inflection. This requires insinuating the concept into the consciousness of the people (who matter) so as not to be dismissed off hand as "out of left field".

Otherwise known as "The Pie In The Sky Project", or simply PLAN P (for pie).

Make Pie, Not Guns.

By the way I'm not kidding. For more info click on my handle.


Nate Hagens - "My own feeling is that sustainability or sustainability-lite are both dead in the water if we continue to focus on supply side changes."

Completely agree here. I get exasperated with people who think that the solution is simply to roll out 10 000 nuclear reactors and all will be well. Incidently they also want greenies to get out of the way so they can do it.

Even someone as well educated and qualified as Prof. Barry Brook can put at the end of this post at EC:

"If society realises that it has to build 10,000 nuclear power plants in a period of 20 years, then it’ll do it (as others have pointed out, things happened incredibly fast in the early years of nuclear power — the first 15 years saw a staggering rate of technical development). We’ll find the way to make it happen — of that I have little doubt. India and China might have the head start here (and good wishes to them for this!), but the rest of the developed world will quickly catch up."

My response (and what I said in the comments) to this has always been that we need to change the way we value energy well before we consider supply side considerations.

Reading the full Brook post you linked to stunned me. Not sure why, it seems obligatory to end any dire scenario with hope. But he doesn't seem to understand a number of things
1. That climate change can reach a point of going into negative feedback that is strong enough that no resilient, ingenious humans can stop it. It may have already.
2. That nuclear power plants are built using oil
3. That every resource on this planet is limited and that the more of it we use the more energy it takes to get the rest.
4. That Americans might once have been resilient but a large bulk of them are no longer resilient. Hard times, struggle creates that in humans. Many Russians were resilient and ingenious when their country collapsed. The women already had kitchen gardens since the Soviet food was bland fare. How many people in this country don't even know how their food is produced much less have ever worked up a callus on their hands from using a hoe.
5. Ingenious can come in different forms. We need more than designing a better solar panel. For example folks need to learn once again how to put trash to good use. I suspect we are breeding some resilience and basic ingenuity in the tent cities springing up around the country. (interesting movie to watch that illustrates this kind of ingenious use of whatever is at hand is The Cuckoo I highly recommend it.)
6. Since technology got us in the fix we are in perhaps it is not the way out.

Nice to hear of this project. So saying, a "solution" is a very subjective thing, and in a long activist career I've usually seen "solutions" that not only don't solve anything, but make the underlying problem much more intransigent.

One reflection of this was in this morning's Drumbeat, with James Hansen noting the problems created by the approach of EDF to CO2 reduction.

Since potential elegant simple adjustments to systems are few compared to the near-infinite potential for added-complexity boondoggles, paper victories, rationalized compromise victories, etc, it may not be surprising that the former are seldom seen. There is simply no demand for them; egalitarian process is considered more important than results.

Indeed, I've been given cause to wonder if the process of publicly hashing things out in an open and democratic manner should ever be expected to accomplish much of anything elegant. And while the elegance of solving many things simultaneously may now seem to be a luxury, it will be utterly necessary in the relatively near future, just as it is within an evolving web of species in a rainforest.

CLEARLY however, there are many many benign paths relative to the current default one, and I applaud the efforts to create a Solutions Journal instead of further scientific refining of threads of a tapestry whose emerging image is pretty obvious. Irrespective of whether you call it 'solutions' or 'mitigation', I think the time is well past for analysis and ripe for bold, surprising action. Before we see either bold or surprising actions, however, we might need to define, either consciously or otherwise, what our real goals are: solutions or mitigation for whom and over what time scale? If we never address the 'who' or 'what,' the 'how' will be difficult to achieve.

I think Nate nails a good part of my feelings in this comment; both commending the effort and being aware of the gulf to be spanned. In particular, I favor bold, surprising action and my personal history is liberally sprinkled with it; in my experience, though, bold and surprising stuff comes from a small core of folks who are very careful how something goes public. We monkeys dislike secrecy on principle, but really it's necessary for any useful strategies to work.

But the "for whom and over what time scale" is the biggie. This morning, I posted to an email discussion list:" I'd recommend the abstract goal should be the optimum inhabitation of spacetime by self-aware life." Admittedly general, but something that's a "solution" for keeping an extra billion people happy in the near term might preclude the existence of 100 times that many over a longer timescale.

I wish the project luck.

The "for whom" is everyone and the "when" is now. It occurs to me that the value of this project may be that those who participate will go down in history as some of the few that "got it", and tried to do something about it (if there is history). The most valuable aspect of this project may well be it's usefulness in creating a new paradigm for those that remain after nature's "big correction". Maybe the minutes of the project should be preserved as "What we did wrong and how we could have fixed it if we had figured it out in time".

Does "everyone" mean every human, or are other creatures included? Does it mean all alive to day, or future humans/creatures?

"Everyone" of course is the problem to the solution. As Nate points out, "there are of course NO solutions optimal for everyone/thing. Different demographics, different generations, different species etc will be better or worse off."

The answer for the starvation currently underway of the world's poorest billion might be to reduce the amount of food and other resources devoted to the over-consuming top billion. Maximal gain for minimal pain. But such "solutions" have generally been seen as political non-starters.

Of course, there when we drift into this kind of language, eventually someone will start wondering about "final solutions."

To me the biggest 'problem,' if that's what it can be called, has to do with our mindset. Here the distinction between analysis and solutions gets a bit blurred.

This supposedly is why neutron wepons were banned. They were too convenient as final solutions weapons, eliminate the occupants, leave the resources and real estate intact. Really spooky stuff. Jay Hanson's bunch explored the concept that we are genetically programmed to reciprocate and made the case that using war to secure our resource base is the norm throughout history. Question is, to what degree are some willing to take this concept?

I think some, like say Dick Cheney, are quite comfortable with consciously using war as a strategy to secure resources. Most of the rest of us in the so-called developed world are happy to have others fight such wars for us while we enjoy the secured resources, but we don't much want to think about the moral consequences of our situation.

To me (in rough agreement with some others here) the main goal or "solution" is to have a widening number of people engage in a process of ever deeper reflection on our complicity in the destruction of the world.

Once the chips are down we are all comfortable with the cncept of fighting for resources.This has been proven often enough by some poor woman resisting robbery at great risk of injury or death when the last few dollars she has and her groceries are on the line.

Everry single day nearly every one of us meets people who earn thier living by behavioral proxies for fighting- I have as much respect for honest street thieves as I do for divorce lawyers and corporate raiders.

I have a lot more respect for the small time dope dealers who put thier lives and liberty on the line-if they use thier profits to get thier kids teeth fixed or buy thier wife a washing machine, as many of them do.

The ( mostly) black kids who are right out on the street corners dealing are literally already engaged in small scale war.

I agree with Nate's 2 caveats for sustainability, however, I believe that we must consider these without losing sight of the supply side. We need to ensure that the supply side is lean, clean and green, if at all possible.

As for the "Limits to Growth" gang and solutions-- There is already a hockey sock full of solutions. We all know what they are. We just need to get busy and implement them on all levels - personal, community, government, industry. To me, therein lies the crux of the problem...too many self-interested players (this links to Nate's argument!).

On a lighter note, for a look at the astounding world of the future (and a good chuckle) check this out:

I figure we've got nowhere to go but up from here.

Hilarious! Thanks for the link.

ditto. very funny if it weren't so sad

That is funny and very true to life. We need to change the channel.

Ishmael says:

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will act as the lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now."

I think the "solution", once we get past the population issue, is to change the fundamental stories and myths that we are told as children.

As Joseph Campbell said, the stories and myths stopped changing in important ways when we wrote them down.

we need more oral sects

Are you saying we need more cunning linguists?

Does a Tiger's wood in the tank qualify as one?

Apparently Tiger wasn't cunning enough...

This is the aim of the Dark mountain project

I must respectfully submit that some problems are not solvable. That is, as defined in a specific way, there is no feasible solution space that can be explored. Problems have requirements and constraints that need to be observed to say that you have found a solution, and I suspect rather strongly that the predicament of humanity may be in the category of insoluble as described.

Alternatively, I suggest that solutions for whole systems come from, have always come from, evolution. Problems create selection pressures that sort things out as a kind of satisficing process. The "solution" may not resemble anything that someone, a priori, believes IS a solution. And you can't second guess evolution.

For example, if we define the problem as saving our current population and BAU, it is obvious to most reading this site that this is infeasible. We imagine that the constraints of peak (net) energy seriously limit the population size and the per capita consumption rate. Probably no argument there.

But if we then back off a bit and define the problem as saving the species (along with some semblance of civilization) -- something that is generally implicit in most of the commentary on this site and elsewhere -- then we have to assume that there exists some combination of energy sources and modest consumption rates that will allow some form of sustainable population to exist. This doesn't quite address the additional problems associated with radical climate change that seem to be in the offing. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that most people will assume that our objective is to save (salvage) Homo sapiens as it exists today, just at some much reduced level of aggregate activity so as to be in balance with the Ecos. In this problem solution scenario we have to explain how we are going to get down to the "right" number and "right" consumption pattern in time to avoid extinction and not have a horrible die-off. Many still hold a hope that this is possible; many others assume that a bottleneck event is inevitable but there will be survivors.

Now what if even this is not a feasible solution space? What if the real problem involves not saving the species but saving the genus? What this means is simply this: You cannot solve the problem at all. Rather you need to have a very deep understanding of evolution and a grasp of (dare I say trust in) the fact that humans are every bit as subject to future selection as any other life form on this planet. Sometimes nature works by hitting the reset button, either at the genus, or family, or even order level of phylogeny (and levels in between). Sometimes you go up blind alleys and have to cut off that line of exploration.

I submit that there may be no real solution as sought in the context of this post. There may only be adaptation -- bioculturally. The solution may not be something we can orchestrate, that we need to recognize that evolution will do its job and do it better than we could ever intellectualize. This may not be a happy thought. But it may be a realistic view.

I raise this only because I am not as convinced that we sufficiently understand the problem, indeed we may not be capable of understanding the problem no matter how 'whole' our systems view might be, in order to discover a solution. Does this mean we shouldn't continue to try to find a solution? No. It means that the quest for a solution has to be put in relation to asking questions that may help us better understand the problem. Consider it an intellectual form of trial and error search. The only problem is that we probably don't have time to realize a payoff from what we learn. Interesting conundrum that.

This particular perspective requires that you take whole systems thinking to a logical conclusion, as in stepping outside the system and observing it from outside. A hard thing to do when you really are inside that system. When (and if) you do, you no longer have a vested interest in there being a solution that fits your a priori assumptions. You might see that clinging to such assumptions is futile.

Just something to think about.

Question Everything

The "solution" may not resemble anything that someone, a priori, believes IS a solution. And you can't second guess evolution.

First, as someone above suggested above we can not legislate the laws of nature, if we try to break them there are consequences and there is no appeal to a higher authority despite a deeply held general belief to the contrary.

As an example, the dilemma of population overshoot in nature is a problem that perhaps only has no palatable solution from our human perspective. However nature has a solution to this problem, it is called die off. When the carrying capacity of a particular ecosystem to sustain a population of an organism is exceeded that population crashes. The mechanisms of the crash may vary, opportunistic disease, increase in the population of predators, starvation, territorial aggression, etc...

Sapiens of the genus homo are indeed an exceedingly clever group of great apes, as such they are still subject to *ALL* of the laws of nature. They are not now nor ever will be immune from the harsh (only from our perspective) consequences of attempting to live outside the bounds of natural laws such as the laws of thermodynamics.

BTW there is voluminous data from nature's history of evolution,( a scientific fact still disputed by large segments of our ignorant population) that natural selection of inviable species can and does lead to extinction of those same species. The only escape from this predicament is the the evolution of a new and better adapted species.

Perhaps the forerunners of such a new species are already walking among us ready to fill the niche which will be left when Homo sapiens is naturally eradicated from the face of this planet.

The planet is fine, it's the people that are fucked!
George Carlin

Perhaps thinking of situations as problems with solutions IS the problem?

Most of our problems are the results of earlier "solutions."

Having said that, I am a great admirer of many of the people behind the "Solutions" project, and will be following their work carefully. Thanks for the heads up.

I often think that it might have to be like this too, George. The buddhist idea of non-attachment is a useful practice when facing such thoughts. Still not easy though.

Why would we want to save such a destructive species?

The question of what System we're talking about when we talk about a Systems-approach must be asked. On what scale do we approach this? If we scale things up/back to the level of the Universe, which we may as well call the Infinitum, there is no problem and there is no solution. Or rather, the Infinitum is a problem that solves itself. Call it 'Zero' or call it 'Sunyata' or call it Shiva dancing. It is nothing we need to do anything about, because there is nothing to do.

On the scale of our lives on this planet planet, a little humility must bring us back from the scale of the global. Certainly, zipping about in jet-planes and rocketing up into the heavens flattens the world, brings the "Earth" into perspective as a unit, however on the scale of individual human experience "Earth" is an abstraction. Much of environmentalism has attempted to spread Awareness of the whole Earth, thinking this will trigger a sea-change in our collective decision-making, but the obstacle to the environmentalist agenda remains: The hive never acts according to the individuals within it, it acts of its own accord, seemingly blind and metaphysical. In the case of the human, the Hive-Mind -- the Steersman if we want to speak cybernetically -- is not human but is still manifest in the Technological Apparatus. Nothing guides the collective direction of industrial civilization as does its Techne. This is a force against which we as individuals can gain no traction. If we framed Techne as the problem, then a kind of neo-luddism smashing spree is on the table. But any such fantasy run up against the overarching power of the Technological Apparatus.

The Madness of Modernity can be faced by taking up other Madnesses; a mystic path in a sense. Sitting quietly at the banks of a stream, the Infinitum unfolds coursing and spiraling through stones. Back to barrows, sowing seed, breaking a sweat while the mass of industrial humanity remains imprisoned in air conditioned cubicles and suburbs. But the mystic path, or whatever you want to call it, cannot be imposed from without. No program, no paper, no plan can make it happen. But it happens anyway, in spite of everything. That open door, beckoning.

So we trade one type of magical thinking for another........Oh boy, here we go again!

Pardon the obvious, but all thinking is magical, isn't it?
Starry-eyed, the ape thinks "I?"


So, there's the rub.

"But the mystic path, or whatever you want to call it, cannot be imposed from without. No program, no paper, no plan can make it happen. But it happens anyway, in spite of everything. That open door, beckoning."

Wild Eyes states the above.

I wonder if any here have read Adam Frank' 'The Constant Fire'.

and astrophysicist and one who wonders about that 'open door' and the mystic areas. Published in 2009 it has much about all the problems that are diverging.

He seems to tie science with the 'sacred'..not with Orgainized Religion at all. But that which speaks to the inner man as he contemplates nature and what its all about.

A very worthty work and he also blogs somewhere. Forget where.


Evolution takes a long time. We have groups that have been reproductively isolated for about 3,000 generations that are still subspecies of homo sapiens. Survivors of a future catastrophe could be those who have genes to resist a pandemic, but that doesn't make them a new species.

Or the survivors could be a national group that is ruthless enough to kill its enemies/competitors, but smart enough to do it without fouling the nest.

I've learned enough of our complicated socio-economic tapestry to stop delving into the details and start to think about solutions.

About damned time you joined us!


Elsewhere in TOD is a review of a book that asks; does mankind as a species have the WISDOM to survive the coming crisis of peak everything and climate change?

Much as I like the idea of Solutions, without a sufficient proportion of the population of the nation and the world being behind it, no solution will be implemented in time to make any difference.

But mankind's track record around wisdom is pretty bleak - even the most recent. Have a look at some recent elections of political leaders; in so many cases the winner (who on a good day with the wind behind her may possess the most relevant Wisdom at the time) is ahead by fractions of a percent from the losers - who are frequently the scariest extremist nutters you can imagine. And those losers are the best choice for nearly half the voting-age population.

Until every home owner has fire insurance, every parent sees the Wisdom in their children getting the most intensive and fitting education in civics and agriculture, every citizen obtains for themselves a sufficient and necessary education in enough 'science' to see the train coming, voluntarily walks instead of rides, gets a job within bike-ride distance, grows as much food as they can on the land they have, refuses to eat anything but local, has a composting toilet, collects the water they need from their own roof and goes to bed when the sun goes down there is no evidence that we stand a chance.

Mankind is poorly adapted to perceive and adapt to the threat of a slow-moving spear. Until our internal mental wiring changes, until we become a species that truly deserves the name Homo Sapiens, we don't stand a chance.

But please Solutions, give it a crack. We are all entitled to do what makes us feel we are making a contribution, because in the end its not how we die, but how we live, that matters.


"Elsewhere in TOD is a review of a book that asks; does mankind as a species have the WISDOM to survive the coming crisis of peak everything and climate change?"

I missed that. What was the book's title. Sounds very much to my liking.

I sometimes ask my student to chart the increase in societies knowledge and use of technology across recent time--they generally chart some kind of exponential curve.

I then ask them to chart increase in wisdom, however they wish to define it, over the same time frame. Most show a flat line, some decline linearly, some a slight linear rise.

They always end up with a huge gap currently between technical know-how and wisdom (know-why). Many then accept that this is a problem, but few know what do do about it.

Neither do I.

What humans have in abundance is an elevated position of themselves in any 'grand scheme of things'.

IMO, at the human-scale level there is no scheme, its just a moment in evolution (fighting for resources, life, death, eating smaller things or those that have not developed defences).

This is nature, the way the 'rules' are designed, the way the dice have been cast...

Along comes a particular branch of mammal that happens to have the brain power to unleash masses of stored energy and bang! For a few brief centuries its numbers multiply while feasting on jammy crumbs of energy in the petri dish.

Whether we can outlast the removal of those last crumbs of concentrated energy and live on the renewable, weaker abundant sources of energy that flow around us is the story of the next 200 years. (Hat tip to possibility of using mass-fission or fusion at a pinch)

If not then we die off big time and are replaced by another mammal at the top of the food chain, more suited to a less energy rich form of living -a giant sea crocodile perhaps...

Ultimatley though the stars die, the black holes evaporate and even the protons decay to nothingness. This is the scheme.

Have a nice day! :o)


Yes! Big ideas from big thinkers and tinkers ;-)

Before we seek solutions, we need to have a good idea of what problems we face?

Following is the Future Formula, let’s see how it fits?

P(+-) +- A + E (+-) +- I +CC = EA
Population (+-) +- Aging + Energy (+-) +- Innovation + Climate Change = Economic Activity

P = Population
Population Growth is THE MAJOR DRIVER of Economic Growth!
However, the Global Population has limits and at some point the Michigan situation will translate into a declining Global Population, which may only be 20-30 years away?
Link -

The Dilemma
What are the likely scenario's of Global over-population Vs a Global Population Decline?

A = Aging (Population)
An Aging Population, is a Major driver of Economic Decline!
The Global Population is now Aging rapidly due to the Baby Boomer Generation and the Economic effects of that process have actually been under way for some time!
Link -

There is NO DILEMMA, this is happening, NOW?
The likely scenario's involve those laid out in the above article!

E = Energy
Energy is the first of two major Enablers of Economic Growth.
The Global Energy Production has limits, as is shown in the following article, which may only be 20-30 years away?
Link -

The Dilemma?
What are the likely scenario's of trying to continue with the Status quo, as long as possible Vs bring the public onboard now, to assist with a massive transition to the next Energy source, if one is possible? Given that 2005 was probably the year that Peak Oil effectively passed into history, we are now very short on time!

I = Innovation!
Innovation is the second of the two major Enablers of Economic Growth.
It would be true to say that Innovation occurs as KNOWLEDGE EXPANDS, but there are a number of ways in which Innovation usually happens -
1) War – As shown in the Nuclear power industry, which came into being, following the massive "Manhattan Project", to develop nuclear bombs that ended WW2. Clearly, major wars are no longer a viable option, because of their capacity for destruction outweighs any benefits.
2) Commercial Advantage - The two primary sources are the business itself & Customer suggestions.
3) Research & Development - This could be Business related, Government or pure science via Educational centres, such as Universities.

That said, all of the Innovation derived from these sources, can be put into two categories, PLANNED OR ACCIDENTAL, with many great Innovations be purely accidental.

The Global level of Innovation over the last 200 years has been stunning, but the next 20-30 years will need Innovations not yet thought of, in Energy & Productivity, if we are to avoid a massive Once in History Economic Decline!

The Dilemma?
Anything less than a "Manhattan Project" endeavour, to secure these new Innovations, will see us fall short. Whilst, the Fossil Fuel industry & Politicians, clearly prefer the status quo.

CC = Climate Change
Climate Change is both the barometer of human influence on our environment, but it is also Mother Nature’s Economic Tax (ETS /Cap N Trade) on humanity. Our Climate is our greatest asset, it has enabled, along with Fossil fuels, an explosion in FOOD Production, to feed to growing human billions. However, with the likely lack of fresh water, together with droughts, the melting of the Polar Ice Caps & rising sea levels, as well as other more severe Climate events, are set to play “Russian Roulette with the survival of future generations?

The onset of the human Industrial & Military complex over the last 200 years has impacted on our Environment and major tipping points will now prove difficult to avoid!

The Dilemma?
We may need to select the better of two undesirable options, as WE CHOOSE BETWEEN A LIVING PLANET & LIVING ON A PLANET?

Over the longer term, we will be faced with choices never before required from humanity!

Population - How many of us are there to be? I would suggest we are already too many, but if a complex society is to be possible, how few, is too few?
Aging – It would seem that Aging Baby Boomers & a drastic fall in the birth rate, will shortly assist with a voluntary (?) reduction in the Global Population?
Energy – The race is on to see which will expire first, the Global Population, the planets Environment or the Supplies of Fossil Fuels?
Innovation – This may be the final decider? A Manhattan type project dedicated to rescue the Climate and create a new source of Cheap, Abundant & Sustain Energy or perhaps a simple freakish accident of research, may solve our Dilemma’s?

Whatever the outcomes, I can guarantee that Economic Activity over the next 200 years, will be nothing like the last 200 years

Many good points, but on population, you seem to be confusing demographics of the US/developed countries with the age distribution of the world. While there is a real baby boom bulge in the population pyramid for the former, the developed world, where most of the population is, is very heavily weighted toward the young side--27% of the worlds pop was below age 15 in 2006.

So the die off of the boomers will now be much to depend on for over all pop reduction. But it will reduce the pop of those most likely to mass-consume most conspicuously.

Older populations consume and covet less. It takes much less to provide contentment. They can if required be as productive as a younger generation.
Balanced against that, is their physical and mental health liabilities.

I'm also of the very strong opinion, that in the main, teachers are too young and basically ignorant.

Sometimes that is true. A lot of the people I know and am related to over 65 regularly take long plane trips to (mostly warmer) places quite regularly. They also like to keep their houses piping hot. You can use a lot of resources on travel and house warming.

They can also get quite rigidly set in their ways, if you hadn't noticed.

Yes I understand what you mean. Many of my friends, 50's and 60's still working in relatively well paid jobs, are busy spending as usual, they are blissfully ignorant.

The wealthy retired do what they do because they can for now.
Times are changing though and as the decline bites deeper and deeper, that which I alluded to with the older generation will hold true.

The younger generation will have to learn kick the can, stick ball and respect all over again.

"The younger generation will have to learn kick the can"

Better yet, perhaps they will learn to kick their elders' cans, and get them to consume less of their offsprings' birthrights?

How's your dissertation going Nate? You at that point yet? I've been following you for a while, and it is interesting to see your evolution. It is safe to say that yours mirrors many if not most of the long-termers here at TOD, and I include myself in that group even if I seldom comment.

Best wishes for a speedy PhD finish.

everything done but 3 papers. and each of them is 2/3 done. I'm hopefully within a few months away. I think I'd be long finished if it weren't for my steep discount rates and many distractions...

Edit: had you asked me the question 12 months ago, the answer would have been the same...;-)

I'm afraid that when it comes to the whole system of the entire planet, I am pretty sceptical about the prospects of any real solutions to planetary-wide problems. We don't really have a world government - the UN is just baby steps in that direction, and of extremely limited effectiveness. Absent that, the only real hope for any solutions to any global problems is getting enough of the countries that really matter (and the G20 is probably as good a group to work with as any) to agree on something that they all see as being in their own national interests. It is not necessary to get 100% buy-in from every single country around the globe; Pareto's 80:20 principle is very much as work, and the G20, with less than 20% of the nations, does represent over 80% of the global population and GDP. Nevertheless, getting agreement even among that smaller subset is extremely difficult - but not impossible. We have seen a few more-or-less successful global treaties, including the ban on CFCs to solve the ozone hole problem, the nuclear non-proliferation agreement (although that one is now getting pretty frayed around the edges), and the Antarctic treaty. IMHO, though, it is a pointless waste of time and pure dreaming to talk about any sort of global solution to global problems that is not premised on that same pattern of international negotiation and agreement with big-power buy-in. That is reality. To the extent that doesn't or can't happen (and it is increasingly looking like that will be the case with regard to any carbon controls to combat GCC), then the default position is that problems will just play themselves out, and each nation and its people will have to cope with the consequences as best as they can.

When you get to the national, level, though, you have functioning governments that really could accomplish something. At least this is the case for the most part among the G20 nations (which, as I have explained above, are the ones that really matter). This is the reason why I am more focused on solutions at the national level: there is the real possibility of something actually happening. Just because a problem is theoretically solvable at a national level doesn't mean that a solution will be adopted and implemented, of course.

Good point about the fact that it is only the really major players that really have to get on board right away. Even that seems almost completely hopeless at this point. Someone above noted that only five countries have 76% of the worlds coal reserves--I think they were US, China, Australia, Russia and maybe India. If we could get them to as a group steadily and rapidly cut back on the mining of coal, moving quickly toward a total ban on coal use by these major players, that would be a huge step. Canada would also have to agree not to exploit its tar sands any more. These two measures would be a minimum requirement for avoiding a strong probability of very nasty CC upward of 4 degrees C.

As far as I've seen, George Monbiot if the Guardian is the person of any stature calling for an end to coal mining. The debate tends to focus on the consumption end, but it is fairly obvious that if it is mined, it will be burned.

Of course, every nation should be doing all it can, as should every individual and every institution at every level. But if there are a lot of major 'rogue' nations, efforts by individual nations get swallowed up.

Just what the doctor ordered. Certainly the problem has at least the two components that you talked about;

a) the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines and

b) self-deception and belief systems inhibiting behavioral change

"b" is a mechanism that protects one from a careful examination "a" . I remember once (about 12 years ago) asking a co-worker why he felt it was important to buy a V8 SUV, when he was single (software developer) and didn't really need the space or power. He looked at me for a few moments like I was from Neptune.

"There shouldn't be any need to explain something as obvious as this. If you have to ask, then you just don't get it", he said.

"Pretend I'm from another culture, and explain it to me", I said.

"It's not something that one simply understand it or you don't", he said, with a clear hint of condescension. That was my clue that he was using condescension as a defense mechanism to protect himself from further inquiry into a position he had no idea why he held.

So I might suggest (if is is not already within the scope of "b");

c) mechanisms that resist or dissuade attempts to engage/examine/introspect

Some of these are implanted or reinforced by;

- advertisements of products that induce or increase the reward/craving
- bloggers, news sources, and shills that are biased to the belief system
- groupthink with like-minded individuals or organizations

As I see it the only real "solutions" to many of the problems discussed here involve radical re-engineering of homo sapiens and the phasing out of our species as the dominant intelligence on this planet. This is where the transhumanists and the Singularitarians "get it", and a lot of you "back to the farm" doomers don't. There's no going back folks -- the genie is out of the bottle. The logic of technological civilization is such that it can only go in one direction, and that's toward superhumanity.

I don't know why this obvious fact makes so many people uncomfortable, but I suspect it comes from legacy religious thinking that has convinced people of such obvious absurdities as "all men are created equal" and "man is the measure of all things", and programmed them to think that life on this planet can only be so good, but no better. Once you leave your self-limiting human-centric thinking behind and welcome "the rise of the machines", the way forward becomes rather clear. If you need spiritual guidance read Nietzsche and Sri Aurobindo and throw your holy books in the trash. If you need scientific vision read Hans Moravec, Eric Drexler and Ray Kurzweil. Whatever you do, stop thinking like depressed old men longing for the good old days, because they aren't coming back.

As Sri Aurobindo so beautifully stated:

"Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth's evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature's process".

The 21st century promises to be catastrophic, evolutionary, revolutionary and quite possibly the end of humanity, and I have no problem with that.

For more thinking along these lines, visit my blog at .

"I'm sorry Dave. I just can't open the pod door"..........


What in blue blazes do your comments have to do with mine??


I fear you and your singularitatarians and transhumanists have missed the boat altogether in understanding evolution and have fallen into another trap much the same as religion.

There is no evidence whatsover to support your thesis of soaring evolutionary change according to some grand vision or cosmic plan except wishful thinking.

There is every reason to think that we CAN go back -way back that is - to the way things used to be, once our numbers are sufficiently reduced.

Of course it IS possible none of us will survie the die off-but imo the odds are good that some of us will.

Oh Oh, I can't help but bite. But Nietzsche philosophizes with a hammer and so, I must too, or rather, forget the hammer, I'll just pick up the nearest stone. Yes, this smooth sedimentary rock from the creekbed, she'll do. She'll probably break with the blows, but it's no matter. Stone wisdom is rather deep, and I trust it does not mind the formation and reformation. The unification and the diaspora.

Nietzsche declares the death of God at the very time in history when the machines are making their ascent, right? Nietzsche's proclamation is indeed about the Industrial Revolution then, about how all former gods are being killed, usurped, and this time not by other gods-from-without, but gods seemingly from within -- Us, maybe, but more reasonably -- the Machines -- Deus Ex Machina and all that.

But these machine-gods, what are they, but mere manifestations of Oil and Coal and Uranium. Dark Magic we could call it. Bad blood, those Karmic resonances of the comet that killed off the dinosaurs and buried much of organic materials that led to the formation of our fossil fuels. Those Death fuels. Oh that Darkness rises again from the Earth, Death come Flesh. Why then should we presume these machine-gods are worth our effort and energies. Tricksters have their ways with or without us.

But it's all a myth. This thinking about humans ending and machines taking our place, or that transfiguration of ourselves into their likeness. Strange that you've read "Industrial Society and Its Future" and missed the part about surrogate activities. I can understand where you're coming from. It's a little bit tempting, right, to dissociate our "minds" from our "bodies," to think as if thought is not a biophysical process but transcendent.

Here's the deal. We're not the only ones here. Hickory trees, Mosses, Squirrels, Rabbits, Earthworms, Aphids, Bees, Ants, Herons, and so on. They're so quiet you might be tricked into believing they're not communicating, they're not acting from some Intelligence. And our intelligence is a result of them. Buber indicates it with "I and Thou," but we could look at it from the evolutionary perspective. That the hardwiring of our brain over many generations came about from interaction with the living world and all its constituents. Is it the pinnacle of human intelligence to leave all that tree-wisdom, all that stone-strength, all that animal agility behind for the mechanical? The pinnacle of human folly more like! David Abram in "The Spell of the Sensuous" traces western philosophy on these lines from their origins, much as Nietzsche does as he dissects the sages of the ages as signs of degeneration. Only Nietzsche, being city bound and very near the end of his cognizant life does not have an "Other" to draw upon. He does not have the more-than-human, he has only himself, the city, and the human world.

Because the conclusions we draw are all about context. You could say I'm foolish for my back-to-the-land approach, that I'm so behind the times. Well, I'll eat and drink well enough with these calloused hands thank you!

But for the historical context, let's think about the Rosicrucians and the mania surrounding them but a few hundred years ago. It is the same with this Singularity nonsense. The Rosicrucians did not deliver, though I'm sure they fooled a great many with their guise of a new age. The Singularity Folks will go the same route. There's never a new age, there's only this here now.

Oh but this twilight of the idols! Try smashing this idol: Anthropocentrism (and yes for all your transhumanism anthropos still stands at the center, if only as the prefiguration of the final product. What would transmousism look like?)

I welcome the Solutions project, and am grateful that Costanza and others are opening a high level dialog on this, especially a dialog that bridges between scientists and the public.

A sailboat analogy. We're all in the same boat. On the upslope of the oil age, the wind kept getting stronger. So the focus was on how to increase sail size, or add more sails, as well as where the boat should head (at least, who should be at the helm). Lots of jostling, but nonetheless the "problems" seemed to have potential solutions, especially considering the increasing wind.

On the downward slope, the wind is tapering off. There will still be a focus on where the boat should be headed (what sort of future on the horizon should we be tacking towards). But there will be a lot more focus on how to keep wind in the sails, which sails need to be reduced/removed, and if there are better designs that can be hoisted (nuclear, alternative energy). The nature of some problems will change dramatically, and some problems become predicaments (too many sails, too many passengers and too far from a safe harbor).

Given the high level of uncertainty, a meta-solution should be to maintain as many options as possible (in economics, this is called Real Options). Clearly, society has done an exceedingly poor job of this. But nonetheless, perhaps some leverage can be found by seeking actions that are consistent with multiple possible outcomes. The scenarios identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Project suggest some broad directions that may be played out (

This site reminds me of this song. Check it out, it should be the TOD anthem.

Since I’ve been following TOD for the past couple of years, I’ve read a wide variety of very practical, rational actions that can be taken to mitigate a transition to a world with less FF and more CC impacts. I have little doubt that many of these “solutions” can significantly benefit humanity in the approaching years.

However, I question the value of “Solutions” if the people who have the means to implement these solutions are not persuaded to do so. By their very nature, most solutions require commitment if not also sacrifice (at least short term) and they most certainly require priority setting. For example, a significant amount of human disease can be avoided by not smoking, but it took a very long time for the general public to understand the problem, see smoking reduction as a health priority, set some goals and implement various solutions. And, still lots of people smoke.

As much as I admire the Solutions effort, it does not strike me as being the most important place to focus effort if one is inclined to help save humanity. Perhaps it will be a great resource for a very small number of people who are looking for survival tips.

My experience involving the design and implementation of fairly complicated business information systems led me to the belief that the most important step is getting the stakeholders to truly understand the problems and to agree on the goals. With this in place, there can be a productive debate about the best solutions. Without this understanding and agreement, most solutions are little better than a “crap shoot”.

A quick read of the comments for this post, demonstrates the depth of opinion that global human population is a major component of the “problem” - even leaving the issue of uneven per capita consumption aside. It also seems that most commenters recognize that the world at large does not share their opinion about this issue. So, I find it very difficult to see how the articulation of more sophisticated solutions is going to make much of a difference if there is not widespread recognition of the problem?

The model I find most useful is to first define the Context/ Background of the issue and from there the sequence is: Problem Analysis (symptoms and causes), Goal/Objective setting, and finally exploring Alternative Solutions before committing to Implementation.

Again, it seems somewhat premature to focus on Solutions when so few people in the world really understand what problem needs to be solved. There are organizations like Population Connection, ASPO, IPCC, various UN agencies, etc. that do understand the problem. It seems to me that some kind of effort to leverage these organizations into some kind of “catchy, trendy” movement that can educate the masses and influence governments is the better cause. However, as many others have pointed out – it may just be too impractical and too late for this approach also.

Maybe there needs to be a sibling publication "Problems" in which global problems facing humanity are articulated in the same peer-reviewed form that is also accessible to the public proposed for "Solutions".

In Costa Rica the University of Vermont through both the Gund Institute (Costanza et al) and the Community Development and Applied Economics Department (Josh Farley et al) we are implementing Dana Meadows' leverage points into a turnkey operation. The ECOTICOS project ( takes Meadows' approach and focuses on three basic tenets to find solutions on the ground: Technichal, Institutional and Conceptual Solutions - forget 12 leverage points - 3 points. I agree with Haggens - there's no time left and we must act on the ground now. This concept was first looked at by Beddoe et. al. 2009 under the WIT acronym "Worldviews, Institutions and Technologies" more on that here: - just this morning over breakfast I debriefed J. Todd about the next steps in Costa Rica, from the trenches I have to tell you it seems like there's some hope but we really have to focus on the way forward and avoid getting trapped in the the ivory tower bullshit. Ooops.


Re: "the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines"

Are you able to post some links to info about this? I would like to look at how this idea is supported.

I am asking because in my life and in the lives of many of my friends/associates behavior supporting that statement is rare. I recognize that social networks are self selecting and my cohort is skewed, but based upon my experience I would say that the above statement is not generally true.

I know that this is behavior which is encouraged by mainstream consumer driven business, and that it is behavior which is modeled incessantly in the media*, however, without sufficient supporting data it is not a statement to which I would give much credence.

*Perhaps therein lies one 'solution'. If the behavior so described is actually aberrant, supported only through the ongoing machinations of BAU driven media - well, we know what to target. Unfortunately, the (likely aberrant compared to the norm) behavior of a group of financial elite will never let us modify the media message. lol

Thank you for any info you can point me toward


Look around you man, do you have children? Do you aspire for them to have it better, have it easier than you did? That has been the goal of every generation this last century. The growth paradigm has distorted our thinking.

Compare what is expected to that which was unexpected.........
Higher education, a motor vehicle, cell phone, alcohol, food, drugs, sex, entertainment, detached residence, travel, consumerism the list can be expanded ad infinitum.......Each has grown in size, abundance, ease, availability. That which was once a privilege or earned is now taken for granted, or considered a right.

Humans are pleasure seeking there is no denying that fact. Technological advances has pulled a veil over our thinking processes, we have been deceived into thinking that bigger and better has no bounds.
I expect during the collapse of growth and expectations that if drugs and alcohol are readily available they will dominate the pleasure goals of many.

Ummm, actually bigger and better don't really have bounds, that's the point. Compare where we are to where we've been, then tell me how you can arbitrarily conclude that we have now reached some upper limit on human (and superhuman) potential. These kinds of comments say more about "peak imagination" and "peak ambition", which many on this forum seem to have passed long ago, than any scientifically factual "limits to growth". My advice to people who think this way is to lose your religion. The real "Good News" is there's no dour god limiting your potential power or joy in this universe. To quote Freeman Dyson, it's "infinite in all directions."

It seems to me that you are confusing individual mental/spiritual potential with the finite potential of our species to exploite the finite resources here on Spaceship Earth. You may be able to mentally translate your spiritual self to some higher plane (as the Yaquis flew over the desert in their drug-induced trances) but I submit that your physical self is stuck here on planet earth with all of us mortals on TOD. When the SHTF, your physical self is just as screwed as mine is. Unless you want to transport your physical self to my livingroom and discuss it further, I'm going to go explore reality-based ways to improve our chances as a species to survive a little longer. When it comes to "imaginative potential", don't test me, 'cause I'm pretty good at it. Right now I'm more concerned with 'imagining' a few extra watt/hrs from my solar panels. Some of us have to work really hard at staying grounded, eyes open. There's a lot of value in that. When you reach your superhuman state, fly over here and visit.

Hi All,

Thanks for the comments.

Very basically I will have to disagree with some of them. My children are born into the same world I was. They have opportunities within the constraints of their day just as I had opportunities within the constraints of my day. Do I want them to have a better life than I had? Hard to say. I have had good and bad times, as have my children. What I want is for them to be able to find a place which fulfills their need for beauty. Does that mean a bigger, newer car each couple of years? does it mean a mcmansion? I would hope not, and looking at my kids I don't think it will be the case.

Do I want life to be easier for them? I honestly don't know. The kids I know who have been floating through life with every need/whim easily accommodated certainly don't have the depths that my kids do. Failure and success are equally valid parts of the human experience, and by valid I mean that they exist for everyone. Wishing that my kids have only the best and only the positive in life does nothing to enable their growth as humans and does nothing to prepare them for the inevitable downturns that life will cast their way. I guess I do hope they don't have to deal with major issues like war and famine, but I have no way of preventing that. What I do hope for them is that they will continue to have the support and love of friends and family to work through whatever is coming, good or bad. And the best way I can think of to make that happen is to be there for them and to model the behavior I think will see them through.

Things don't bring contentment. My kids realize this and we generally live the sentiment.

As I said earlier, my social group is self selected. We value similar things. Perhaps we are outliers and that is why the statement rings falsely to me.


If you continue to deceive yourself with rationalizations then there is no hope for you coming to grips with the consumer problem.

Just for a start think of what you upgrade and never downgrade.
Your phone, car, furniture, home, travel destinations, television, washing machine, software, hardware, fashions, I could go on for a day.

The affluent society depend on growth, you are a part and contribute substantially to it.

Edit: Please read Reinventing Collapse By orlov. If you begin with that I'm sure you will be inspired to learn more.

For meaningful change in the world, I think we need to consider three steps:
1) How to foment change in the individual
2) How to promote small-scale advantage to the like-minded new group
3) How to influence the whole

For (1), my issue is conquering my own cognitive dissonance. I understand the math (exponential growth versus fixed world), the peak oil prospects, debt bubbles, etc., but I find myself falling into old habits at every turn. I carry no credit but the mortgage, and I'm working on that, but I still buy pizza for the kids and luxuries for my house, and the kids still go to private school and play their sports. Perhaps I COULD shut everything down and pay off the house in three or four years....but I probably won't. I'll continue to split the difference -- throwing $x a month into plans for austerity (some savings, some energy savings, some tools, etc.) while spending $6x or $10x per month on "life" as usual.

Why don't/can't I change? Probably the same reason I don't lose my extra weight and I only go the gym 1/4 as often as I should, and why the attic isn't cleaned out and the porch isn't painted. Somehow we need a "faith based" conversion to planning for the eventual future....once it's obvious what we should have been doing, it'll be too late.

For (2), I think we need to be thinking in terms of joining forces, locally and via the web. I personally would LOVE to see a do-it-yourself solar PV system installation with some peer support and group pricing (not much profit in it for anybody). I can go buy a hot rod and find just such solutions....people joining together with a joint purchase to get a great deal on some special parts from a fabricator. I've bought the Easy Digging stuff based on comments here an TAE...I'd love to have similar user-feedback and shared value/profits for food storage products, gardening supplies, insulation, windows, hot water heaters, GSHP systems, and so forth.

Cooperation just among the "believers" would improve efficiency and prod more action, just as bible study and accountability partners can refine behavior at church, and a work-out buddy gets you to the gym at 5 a.m. Industry groups often craft standards with collaboration between competitors and with input from vendors and customers. Open source projects leverage one or two anchor personalities to do amazing things, with little or no face-to-face meetings....why can't we?

For (3), we would need to grow the groups from (2) to being politically active, with a public voice and marketing much like climate change activists, gay rights, and breast cancer groups have managed. To me, that's both the most valuable and furthest target. I'd be happy with finding a path through (1) and a good start on (2).

Our niche was expanding. Now it is shrinking.
Our ethics have to be destroyed and replaced by a set more suitable to a shrinking ecological niche.

Points to consider.
1) Life is not that sacred. Parasites must be eliminated.
2) Breeding is a privilege.
3) Quality matters.
4) No-one is equal to anybody else.
5) Our genes are there for us to manipulate.(On consideration, a ruthless selection process is already in place. It is morally correct to remove the pain involved.)
6) Sexuality must be divorced from breeding.

Our present set of values is the result of lazy idealism. Failure to grapple with the form of our future moral code will result in an ad hoc mess.

Nate wrote: "Unless we address a) the reward superhighway in our neural structure that results in cravings for higher and higher reward baselines and b) self-deception and belief systems inhibiting behavioral change, we will probably slow the descent of the current paradigm but not change its trajectory."

Nate, a question -- what is the relationship between (a) and (b)?

For example, do self-deception and belief systems exist as a result of which inputs trigger a reward response? Do they themselves trigger a reward response without any inputs? Do they substitute for reward triggers in the absence of any? Does triggering a reward response with some novel input help break down self-deception and belief systems?

I'm wondering if the relationship between these things can be considered a system in its own right, and whether it has its own leverage points that can be disrupted.