Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production -- Contexts and Implications

Recently, a 55 page paper called Tipping Point: Near-Term Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production (PDF warning) was published as the joint effort of two organizations: Feasta and The Risk/Resilience Network, with lead author David Korowicz. We have recently published four excerpts from that paper, which can be found at this link. This is a fifth excerpt.

We plan to post one additional section relating to adaptations for Wednesday evening's Campfire post, two days from now.

7. Contexts and Implications

In this section, we discuss why switching from growth to de-growth is much more difficult that it looks at first glance, some implications of the current analysis with respect to climate change, and how the financial crisis translates to a civilisational crisis.

7.1 The De-Growth Delusion

Over the decades as the evidence mounted that infinite growth was not possible in a finite world, the question was asked if we could live sustainably by reducing growth. It has been noted since Epicurus and the Buddha, and buttressed by modern studies that beyond a certain level of wealth, marginal increases do not make us more content. Why not live with less and share our surplus with the destitute? In general we don’t do this, not by a long shot. Status anxiety, the sunk cost effect, personal/kin/tribal preferences and more ensure that the issue is far more complex in actuality.

More recently a number of authors addressed the issue of peak oil and recognised that economies must contract as oil availability declines[62][63]. Would it not be wiser to do a planned de-growth or powerdown, so as to avoid the worst economic shocks and ease the transition by moving in the direction in which the wind is blowing anyway?

These studies and arguments generally leave the energy-economy relationship unspecified, or assume the decline curve assumption. They have made suggestions including changing the debt based money system, pricing environmental externalities, reducing the working day, consuming less, controlling population, and increasing the lifetime of goods. In the context of the current financial crisis they often include some control on financial speculation.

So let us ask the question, could we do a managed de-growth, and what might it imply? In the dynamical systems perspective, could we find a stable or semi-stable path to a steady-state economy with much lower energy and resource flow throughput? The following reasons, in no particular order, suggest it is a vain hope:

We Can Turn on a Pin

We are close to, and may have already passed the peak of global oil production. We are in denial with no preparation; we have little time, torturous decision making structures, multiple competing interests, and live in a hyper-complex environment. We are locked into many welfare supporting structures. We are about to be hit by a full spectrum systemic crisis (in food security, mass unemployment, monetary system, global financial system, health, education, industry, security, public works, IT and communications…..). As this is far beyond what any government or civil society has ever anticipated and planned for, how can we be ready for it in the next year, maybe two?

Missing the Train

Once collapse begins we will lose the tools and infrastructure we would need to manage the collapse.

The Myth of Potency

We may look at our complex civilisation and say, 'We managed to reach this complex state, and if we did this, we surely can do almost anything!’ However we did not do this intentionally, with a plan that was executed; it is a self-organised system. The complexity is beyond our comprehension or ability to manage.


Governments do not control their own economies; neither does civil society. The corporate or financial sectors do not control the economies within which they operate. The fact that these sectors can destroy the economy should not be taken as evidence that they can control it. (This author cannot drive a car, though he is quite confident he could crash one.)


We are trapped in the current system. It has locked us into hyper-complex economic and social processes that are increasing our vulnerability, but which we are unable to alter without risking a collapse in those same welfare supporting structures. For example, our current just-in-time food system and agricultural practices are hugely risky. As the current economic crisis tightens, we are driving further efficiencies and economies of scale, particularly in food production, as deflation drives costs down. This helps maintain social peace and supports debt servicing, which supports our battered banks whose health must be preserved, or the bond market might not show up to a government auction. All of this makes it very difficult to do major surgery on our food production. There are countless examples of lock-in.

Uncertainty and Dynamical Chaos

Collapse breaks up the familiar stability of the processes we take for granted--the same processes which provide the framework by which we make judgements about the consequences of actions. The release of stored energy within the complexity of the global economy by collapse will make the prediction required for large scale control impossible to maintain.

Competing interests

Nationally and internationally we all hold different assets and liabilities (some carry deficits, some carry surpluses, some oil, some land, some have armies, and some think it’s all a conspiracy). From a game theoretic view, there is no stable solution that would give a fair distribution of risks and reward for everyone. Initiating a managed withdrawal and instituting a new one, irrespective of complexity, would probably trigger a stampede.

Financial Feedback

We saw that one of our positive feedback processes was driven by market recognition of the problem. The more we do to prepare, the more we confirm the hypothesis, which itself drives the collapse.

Stop Consuming/ Green Consuming

If we consume less of the trivial, we may reduce energy flows, but this will lead to rising unemployment and reduced discretionary income. We have also noted that the trivial cross-subsidises the critical. So as the critical begins to decay, it will hamper our ability to manage the transition. We could mandate the redeployment of workers into new ‘green’ businesses (an upfront cost--are there sufficient credit lines available for this?), with limited ramp-up rates. This would of course cost more energy, just as energy supplies are declining.

Monetary Magic

It is relatively easy to conceive and introduce a local non-debt based money system. It is quite another to unweave the current system from the operational fabric, while keeping the operational fabric viable continuously so that people can be fed, employment maintained, the trade system operational etc.; never mind doing it in a way that lets creditors, debtors, pension funds, and petro-dollars find a happy accommodation.

Complementary currencies may be introduced, which may provide some support. It must be born in mind that the great models of such currencies, particularly those introduced during the Great Depression, were built upon local economies that already had a significant local base of indigenous non-discretionary production. In our locally hollowed out economies, whose value and skill base is dependent upon globalised trade, little production is available to be traded whatever currencies are used.

7.2 Implications for Climate Change

The IPCC uses a number of scenarios based upon what they consider to be future growth trends to project future emissions of greenhouse gasses. These scenario families, A1, A2, B1 for example, all assume access to fossil fuels would not be a limiting factor on future emissions. A number of studies have recognised that the implications of peak oil, gas, and even coal on future emissions of greenhouse gas could alter the IPCC assumptions.

Kjell Aleklett has described the UN's future scenarios as “pure fantasy”[64]. However, researchers have pointed out that even with peak oil, gas and coal emissions could still rise beyond what is regarded as safe. Kharecha and Hansen argue that without corrective measures, atmospheric CO2 concentrations could still rise to 600ppm, while the safe level is 350ppm. This rise was mainly due to coal[65]. Brecha also included oil, gas and coal, but modeled their availability in a more careful manner. He concluded that world energy production would peak between 2030 and 2050, with CO2 concentrations stabilising between 480 and 580ppm[66]. Nel and Cooper, referred to earlier, generated production profiles for the three fossil fuels, and find a peak occurring about 2025, and maximum concentrations of CO2 are 550ppm.

This report takes serious issue with all these studies. Principally, it is because they rely upon the decline curve assumption, based on past patterns. They all effectively assume no or little coupling between declining energy flows through the global economy and the general operability of the economy. Included within this assumption is that there is no or weak coupling between different forms of fossil fuels. What the decline curve assumption gives to researchers are data sets of future emissions to put into climate models, but in our view, this decline curve assumption is wrong. It may be impossible to generate emissions data sets that properly reflect the much faster decline likely from a collapsing global economy.

Irrespective of any decisions by governments, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement manufacture are likely to undergo a significant collapse, as production and the operational fabric falls apart. In addition, the most carbon intensive sources of oil such as the tar sands are likely to cease to be viable as demand collapses, the purchasing power of customers drops way below the marginal cost of production, and energy infrastructure is lost to entropic decay.

Land based emissions may see various countervailing trends. A collapse in world trade may see emissions from fertilisers drop, and much reduced pressure on forests for the material resources for the global economy. However, the growth in demand for bio-fuels and food would increase greatly, but the ability to ramp up this trade would be compromised by the failing operational fabric. The outcome that seems more likely is a localised destruction of forests, and the tilling of pasture as people react to their own immediate shortages.

However, even with a collapse in emissions, lags in the climate system will ensure temperatures will continue to rise. Nor are we sure how close we are to crossing strong feedbacks in the climate system that could continue to drive total greenhouse gas emissions upward, even while anthropogenic emissions dropped. One way or another, we are likely to experience the growing effects of climate change on our lives.

Few if any studies of the economic impact of climate change assume we will be very much poorer in the future. The physical effects of climate change in the form of flooding or food production are expected to amplify the effects of an energy induced systemic collapse. Being much poorer will mean that the relative costs of adaption or recovery from climate induced shocks and stresses will escalate beyond our ability to pay. There may not be the resources to repair homes and infrastructure damaged by flooding, say, or re-settling residents. Furthermore the support of insurance markets (dependent upon the financial markets) will not be there to help us manage those risks.

Many of the policy instruments being discussed to tackle climate change are likely to fall apart, even if instituted. Carbon caps and prices, the adaption fund, and technology transfer are all likely to flounder as economies and markets collapse, and as the most short-term concerns are given even more prominence than today.

7.3 From the Financial to the Civilisational Crisis

The processes described in this report have only touched on the current financial and economic stresses across the world. If the optimism of some commentators that the recession has bottomed-out is confirmed, then we can expect growth in energy demand to begin soon. Following on from that we can expect a return to rising energy and food prices and a resumption of an even more severe recession.

What seems more likely is that the risk of sovereign defaults will rise, as will growing volatility in the currency markets, and growing stress in government finances. Even without energy constraints, we could see further drops in energy demand and prices as economies fall deeper into recession.

Growing credit constraints, declining productivity and further stress on public finances in many developed countries will hamper our ability to invest in renewable energy and other mitigating measures. Energy companies will find it harder to finance new production and maintain existing infrastructure as costs rise, prices and exchange rates remain volatile, and credit is expensive.

Meanwhile discussion and actions regarding peak oil are likely to move participants along the curve of the final frenzy, which may begin to drive up the price of certain land and other real assets, and constrict credit further. There may be a rush to renewable energy infrastructure but its expansion will be limited by the state of the global economy and its limited ramp-up rates.

Either the economy begins to grow again, or economies with deflation or stagflation may find that their already low energy demand is hit by further declines in production and higher energy/food prices.

All of this provides the uncertain backdrop to the main theme, that the defining dynamic of our civilisation is the withdrawal of energy from a complex and integrated system adapted only to growing. And when we look back at the history of this time, the anxious fretting about euro-zone defaults, Chinese bubbles, and US deficits may well be seen as the thinnest of froth on a vast bubble bursting.


[62]Simms, A. and Johnson, V. (2010) Growth Isn't Possible. New Economics Foundation

[63]Jackson, T. (2009) Prosperity Without Growth. Earthscan.

[64] Aleklett, K.(2009) The UN's Future Scenarios for Climate are Pure Fantasy. Energy Bulletin (12/07/09). www.energybulletin.net.

[65]Kharecha, P. and Hansen, J. (2008) Implications of 'Peak Oil' for atmospheric CO2 and Climate. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB 3012.

[66]Brecha, R.(2008) Emissions Scenarios in the Face of Fossil-Fuel Peaking. Energy Policy Vol. 36/9

Thanks, David, and the rest of the folks who worked on this analysis. You do a really good job of laying out many issues that may be ahead.

You do a good job of explaining why it is so difficult to change things now. It is frustrating, not being able to do more.

Also, the issue of climate change becomes different (although not necessarily better) when viewed in the context of the other crises surrounding us at this time. In many ways, there is less that we can do now regarding climate, but at the same time, if your view regrading being near an economic tipping point is true, the amount of CO2 will likely fall quite quickly, regardless of our actions.

All of this seems to fit in quite well with Limits to Growth forecasts, from the early 1970s, and updated since then. Your analysis would seem to suggest we likely will be on a fairly steep downward trajectory, much like the more adverse scenarios of foreseen under limits to growth. While we would all like to think these things won't happen, it gives us something to think about.

Well done on posting an article that discusses global warming as a major risk factor. Based on all available evidence, an economic collapse leading to much lower CO2 emission levels is highly desirable if our grandchildren are to have any sort of life here.

Sometimes I question whether the survival of the human species is a good thing or not. But given that most people wouldn't begin to question that, lowering CO2 for the chance of a world kind to humans would seem the what those same people would want.

Last week on Democracy Now Amy Goodman covered the Cochabamba Climate Change conference. Today she ran and interview with Father Miguel d'Escoto "One of the higher-profile participants at the Cochabamba climate conference was the former president of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto. A Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua, d’Escoto served as foreign minister in Daniel Ortega’s government from 1979 to 1990. He joins us to talk about the failures of the UN, the importance of the Bolivia climate summit, why Latin America doesn’t need the United States, and much more."


One quote "The world is now coming to a point, for the very continuation of the human species, it’s endangered. And the continuation of Mother Earth, her capacity to sustain life is being hurt very gravely. And it is this religion that the United States is imposing on people whose name is capitalism. It’s like a religion. They dedicate their whole military, and every kind of power that they have, to make sure you do not use alternative means of development. If you dare to show that maybe there’s another way to develop, not necessarily to live better, but to live well, which is our ideal, to live well means to live in harmony with nature and with one another. They instill a culture of keeping up with the Joneses, being better than the other. This is deadly. "

Thanks for posting this Gail.

A lot of great articles on TOD in the time I have been reading. But this one (and the comments with it) brings it all home. We are facing serious times. Most of the elites in government and industry are looking the other way, because it is something they do not want to think about. But it is getting very hard to ignore.

Even my friends who totally rejected (and ignored) all thoughts on resource depletion over the last 3 years I have been studying this have started to ask me to talk about it a little more. It is slowly sinking in. Or perhaps they are starting to pass though the denial phase. I know I went through a denial phase - being a tech nerd I was sure there would be technological solutions - but gradually realized that technology does not create energy and that technological solutions are futile without a sound financial system behind them.

I remain convinced that the percentage of folks who think in a systems framework is very small. When I try to explain to one friend that we will not be able to completely overhaul our global energy infrastructure to maintain BAU because we will not be able to afford it he looks at me in amazement - "of course we will - we have to!"

In the final analysis I have come to the realization of several other posters here today. It is too late to save what we have - I have to concentrate on how to help my immediate family and friends live thorough what is going to happen over the next few decades. I cannot worry about the next century.

Again - thanks for this post. TOD does not provide rose colored glasses - but helps me face reality.

The Myth of Potency

We may look at our complex civilisation and say, 'We managed to reach this complex state, and if we did this, we surely can do almost anything!’ However we did not do this intentionally, with a plan that was executed; it is a self-organised system. The complexity is beyond our comprehension or ability to manage.

Another way to put it is, it is a system that evolved without a plan (growth) by way of cheap abundant energy, and it will devolve without a plan (slow or fast collapse) as energy becomes relatively expensive and supply is constrained.

You could make the analogy of a tree that receives sufficient nutrients, water and sunlight to transfer into energy as it branches out farther and farther into greater complexity, then breaks down all together as the nutrients, water and energy source is drawn away. It doesn't devolve with parts of it maintaining its status quo, but rather descends in health fairly quickly as a single entity.

I'd perhaps say the more right analogy is that of how species tend to evolve complexity - one organ specifically designed to do one job and solves the amazing variety of problems that problem domain could pose by being a "specialist" problem solver. Stomach only worries about taking in nutrition while the job of protection is done by another complex system called the immune system. However, if energy supply to the body fails, immune system fails too. The organism evolved each of it's body parts over a period of time, exploiting the niches that it enjoyed. Giraffes, for example, evolved long necks to exploit the niche of tree tops. Long necks brings with it another problem - of supplying blood. Over time, many problems get solved by the organism (accurately, by the Selfish Genes). So any given organism is nothing but a collection of such complex organs that have evolved in lock-step together, helping each other while helping the organism itself "grow" in numbers, etc.,, In other words, an organism is an interconnected network of organs whose survival requires that all organs do their jobs right.

As the 'niche's exploited by the species change, the only determining factor is whether the change can merely be adapted to OR if the change is happening too rapidly to render adaptation attempts futile. Several species that once dominated have gone extinct. Let's take the case of the Woolly Mammoth: The entire design of the mammoth is perhaps not to be blamed but only the piece that failed to adapt to the newer environment. Perhaps, one must blame the mammoth's inability to shed hair fast enough? Whatever it was, there seems to be some aspect of the design which inherently made assumptions - in the case of the woolly mammoth: "that the world will always be ice cold".

Society too has 'parts' and that is essentially what constitutes complexity. When one critical system fails, several others are likely to fail because those 'parts' embody certain "solved problems". Someone pumps out water, someone loads up coal to be burnt at power plants, someone is taking care of everything so that you and I may walk in peace without fear or suspicion of strangers, without worry of collecting the next meal and partying at discotheques. However, when a basic assumption in the design is invalidated, the system has two choices: to adapt or to perish (if the changes are TOO much to make).

But the coolest thing about the oil age is that we can build up an Internet and discuss about their own predicament. I think we'll collapse/go extinct in really cool ways. ;)

Good descriptions of some seldom-pointed-out aspects of the human predicament. Our systems have evolved themselves without mindful direction or comprehension, for conditions which will not much longer prevail; and such evolved complexity does not have a "reverse" gear.

I suppose one could start a "Project Backfire" to collapse complexity and reduce connectivity in a controlled way, but it wouldn't be popular. It would be an apt name, too, since at this late date in our overshoot it probably would.

We're gettin' to the point that writin' down the ways we AREN'T screwed may a more economical use of paper.

The pursuit of knowledge has always been exciting to me. Problem is, sometimes you find it.

Yeah its a bit amazing in a sense. This brings out something I've realized as I study complexity. You notice that it seems we are screwed 1000 ways.

What seems to happen is that complex systems are effectively computation engines i.e they think. Thus once complexity reaches a certain level as the system becomes stressed its capable of finding a way out if you will to grow and increase more/longer despite the stress. Basically as its forced it finds one more way to cheat death or collapse if you will. Almost all the rosy scenarios are based in expectation of yet one more hole to fine in the array of problems facing us.

However the problem is this is certain to work until it does not i.e in the end the system is assured to have found all the ways out there are no more holes in the fence or cracks to wiggle through. Thus the many times it seems to have dodged certain failure to live a bit longer absolutely ensure that eventually its impossible to dodge.

So my little theory of complexity suggest that the system only collapse in the end when it has really used up all its routes out and its the end.

Next one additional factor that suggests this is the big one is one reason it runs out of routes or paths is because past dodges or moves eventually cut off other paths. In other words by escaping in the past in certain ways the system also cuts off hope of future escapes. And obvious one for us is the move to fiat currencies effectively ensures there is no real way to move back.

This additional set of constraints i.e past tricks working to block future moves is important as this is the signature you would get right at the end when no moves are left.

Thus complex systems seem to move steadily towards final collapse by creating ever larger moral hazards and ever more serious repercussions from past moral hazards until they literally cannot lie about their state. Eventually the system has to effectively settle its accounts or debts if you will not because it suddenly becomes moral or righteous simply because there is no way left to lie that makes a difference.

If we are not at the edge we are within spitting distance and if you look deeply enough it seems clear that we are already well past the edge and have been over it for some time. The last decade has really been simply a game of rearranging the chairs to make it seem as if something was happening.

Indeed that brings up the last signal of collapse that I think of right at the end the system behaves as a strange attractor moving rapidly around in a complex path but steadily spiraling inwards.


It looks complex and crazy etc but if you recognize that the system is not really expanding but now rotating about a center then you have the final signal that its on its death legs.

For our economy a big one of the circles is you will is the fact that globalization generaly was simply a shifting of jobs from one region to another. Basically no net new growth happened what growth there was was the cost of shifting things around. As jobs left one region to move to another a lot of frantic activity happened but no real growth. Growing debt served to stave of the day of accounting but did not change the fact that is was simple a big circle.

Thus way to many of my key signatures are now present for me to believe we are not at the end of our rope. Thats not to say that some more frantic games may not delay things but I'd suspect we are now talking about years at most not decades. Indeed it could even be months no real telling.

"So my little theory of complexity suggest that the system only collapse in the end when it has really used up all its routes out and its the end."

J Tainter also comes to this conclusion with his diminishing returns on complexity theory. They will try everything to keep the system going as long as possible.

Memmel, I think economic growth did occur over the last decade by globalisation but it was at a cost of even greater dependencies and greater consumption of tangible primary resources. When I read other people's assessment of globalisation it has the tendency to indicate economic growth by the monetary efficiency metric, i.e., look at economic growth we now get using less energy. But this seems to be delusional, that is, tangible technological and energy intensive goods that our societies so love are now produced in countries with lower labour costs.

The illusion that politicians and economists are signed up to is that our new service and information age businesses are some how not highly dependent on the cheap labour and energy in developing countries using up primary resources in a exponential way.

But for me it’s been difficult to judge what the signal(s) of collapse is or are. I was pretty convinced that the economic crisis we entered would be the trigger for much more and faster social disorder, but the politicians do seem to have created a ‘softer landing’ – for the time being.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is whether there will be a straw that broke the camel's back (catastrophic), whether there is going to be a more gradual degradation in complexity (keeping the wreck motoring a little longer) or whether civilisation can undergo a major shift in cultural consciousness and voluntarily undertake change (spiritual or awareness development).

Is the system capable of more sustainable emergent traits under enough stress? Hope over optimism :-/
But my gut feeling is there is a window between now and 2017, so years not decades.

Stanley Milgram
"It may be that we are puppets-puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation." (1974)

[From Milgram's reply to Baumrind's ethical critique of the obedience experiments] "With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority." (1965)

Memmel, I think economic growth did occur over the last decade by globalisation but it was at a cost of even greater dependencies and greater consumption of tangible primary resources.

One has to be very careful on how you define growth. I define it is a rising standard of living with falling levels of debt. Aka wealth creation. As long as debt levels rise then its simply borrowing from the future. As far as energy usage goes thats harder certainly the energy mix over the last decade has favored increased usage of coal/NG over growth in oil usage. However even here its difficult as manufacturing in western nations was gutted to achieve this.

Regardless if you agree that growth is defined by both rising accumulation of material goods and falling debt levels then no way did we actually grow no matter how you slice and dice it.

At its most basic level what we seem to have done is simply scrap the factories in the western nations and recreate them overseas leveraging chinese coal to accomplish the transition and rising debt levels to offset the fact it was not profitable to actually do it.

Faux wealth from the property bubble allowed this debt to be buried in notational gains on real estate.

Now of course rising debt and falling labor costs from globalization allowed the booking of massive nominal profits but this is literally simply and accounting trick nothing more.

End the end the whole game rested on rapid expansion of chinese coal production and cheap chinese labor along with rapid expansion of credit both in the US and China.

The world literally went on a 20-30 year binge buying spree payed for with credit.

The closest analogy is a war time economy were the credit of the government is used to fuel a effectively fake expansion.

Now what important is that if I'm correct and at the largest of scales the global economy was based on the rapid increase in chinese coal production then once this slows or even falls the economy is toast. We can assume flat to falling oil production and the infrastructure requirments for NG make it impossible to offset flattening chinese coal with NG.

Ignoring for the moment short term trends because of winter.


One then need only watch Chinese coal prices over the next year or so to see if the system has indeed reached its limits.

If so then no financial game on the planet can fuel further expansion.

Indeed it seems that prices are already on the rise.


Again I know its simple but really at the macro global level its simple nothing all that complex. Financial games can ensure a steady flow of capitol but without and energy source nothing happens and the system collapses as real goods production which can be used as collateral for further debt expansion can simply no longer be made regardless of games with the accounting. The faux economy fails at this point much less real growth.

Very interesting analysis. Sorry if this is a stupid question. Why can't China keep going with imported coal?

Same reason the US cannot keep going with imported oil. You have to pay "real" money for it and it shows in the account balances. For the US its and ever growing account imbalance for China it would be a steady drawdown of dollar reserves.

In this particular case the status of the US dollar as the reserve currency is important. Look at Japan as and example of and energy importer mired in massive debt and deflation.

On a macro scale exploiting local resources where you can print the money to pay for it makes the resources for all intents effectively free as the money flows back into local banks or government debt. Its recirculated. Sure some people get rich but thats ok its still your money supply thats being used. However when your importing energy your only netting the difference between energy costs and value add i.e your running a real account balance that cannot easily be printed away. Again look at Japan. The US as the reserve currency has been able to pull this off for a while but thats not easy for other currencies. In the case of China this would probably mean they would be forced to float their currency and that makes for serious problems if your playing the game of energy imports and product exports.

If you want to look at history in a sense this is the same thing the US went through back in the 1970's and Britain later on in the 1990's in both cases serious economic problems developed rapidly as real energy costs rose dramatically.

Obviously if your importing energy a substantial amount of money is flowing out into your exporters this money is what was previously internalized wealth creation regardless of how you do the accounting. China does not have the equivalent of US Treasuries to force the money to flow back into China.

Further more I'd argue its impossible for there to really be two large players playing the debt game i.e as long as the US is running massive deficits no one else can. Next assuming that China is paying for coal imports with dollar or dollar equivalents they are mobilizing huge amounts of money that previously had been locked up in Treasuries and out of the global economy. As they increasingly use this money to buy commodities its velocity increases substantially leading to generalized inflation.

I suspect that this redirection of dollars to commodities before they eventually land as treasuries is playing a big role in current oil prices and commodity prices in general. The problem is every dollar thats created is increasingly spent once for some good and service then once again for the commodities to create that good or service and often yet one more time for imports into commodity exports before finally being used to purchase some debt instrument aka Treasuries.

That may sound simplistic but at least for me considering how a dollar often travels before finally getting locked up into some sort of virtual debt investment is instructive only once its safely buried into various financial investments and not being used for the purchase of real goods and services is the short term inflationary aspects of a printed dollar eliminated. Only when its finally rolled into some sort of long term debt offering does it finally leave the current economy.

The trick is to spread the inflation out over decades via conversion to a long term debt instrument and assume absolute growth and mild inflation will ensure that as the debt matures its no longer onerous.

Printing money to directly buy commodities via exchange of money and for goods and services is simply not the same. This is real hard commerce and sensitive to the immediate values and real time accounting issues. Thus its simply not the same as money thats been converted to long term notational debt generally from the government.

Think about the difference between money circulating in the economy to purchase food obviously it has be circulated or food prices will rise rapidly. If farmers in some village with a closed economy saved every penny they made food costs would rise and non-farmers would literally be unable to pay. It literally cannot be converted to some sort of financial investment as its real money needed to balance what is in effect a zero sum barter situation. This sort of hard money trade is what happens when your importing a substantial amount of your raw materials and only making the value add.

Despite appearances not even Germany has really pulled it off because if you dig a bit you will see that German banks lent out a substantial amount of money to customers for German production. Again despite different tricks in balancing the books in the end the debt is still there its just that for the US,Japan, Germany etc the party that who is the creditor and who is the debtor is nominally different. On the macro economic scale this does not really matter as eventually the debtor defaults thus it really does not matter who has what title.

At the end of the day I'm simply saying that importing raw materials and exporting finished products using debt instruments to facilitate the trade is intrinsically unstable as eventually debt builds somewhere in the system and both creditor and debtor become locked into a death spiral that eventually results in default.

Once the vertical production of goods from raw materials to finished products ceases the wealth creation drops of dramatically and somewhere a debt bubble starts growing. If debt is not used then your generally going to end up with gold piling up at one end of the trade historically it was with the value add seller.

Before oil the steady concentration of gold into China was a serious issue.

Here is another example.


Regardless the moment Chinese coal production hits its maximum we realistically no longer have a cheap source of energy to fuel growth. Imports as you can see simply devolve to commerce or barter and a debt bubble if debt is introduced. With wealth now flowing out of the country to pay for raw materials accounting tricks to force the day when accounts are zeroed out into the future or fairly tight local money circulation with a trade surplus are no longer possible.

One more example consider a farmer in a small town that sells his goods to some remote party for cash then spends that cash locally for goods. This say forces the local goods providers to also purchase food from some remote source. Not a huge issue unless there is some imbalance in the system and the trades don't perfectly balance. If its local circulation all the way through not only do all the trades balance but all the net wealth remains local and eventually is forced to be recirculated.

Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with trade as long as its done for luxury or regionally unique goods using excess production not needed locally then fine.
Your simply balancing or exchanging excess wealth even if its for raw materials not a problem. However when it begins to be critical to the economy it becomes a real problem eventually resulting in some sort of fundamental imbalance as the the trade cannot be stopped as both parties become in effect addicted to the trade and its distorted the economies of both trading partners to the point its become a mutual suicide pact.

Obviously real economies are simply regions that can create naturally closed cycles of trade where the money and wealth creation can recirculate leading to a steadily rising standard of living for all. Surrounding these natural regions are some locked in specialty trade satellite regions that are exploiting some special local resource of some sort. Beyond this is the luxury trade I've mentioned to converts excess wealth to desired goods and works to balance true excess in production converting unneeded goods that have some value elsewhere to wanted luxuries.

Any other patterns suffers imbalances of some sort and esp simple value add trade where all raw materials are imported and finished goods exported. The massive build up of debt to date has made this fatally flawed economic model appear normal.

Got it. Thanks for excellent answer.

Japan and Germany started WWII trying to get access to oil (Indonesia & Russia respectively). Why wouldn't China simply invade Australia and other countries with coal and take whatever they need to keep going? If China is one of the last nations standing, who will oppose them?

Areas with coal will be able to exploit local resources with primitive tools as was done in the past, and people will burn it openly to heat homes and cook food, trains will burn it to exchange coal for food and other resources. It is easy to go back to a coal-based economy, which will worsen climate change because there won't be any filters on emissions as there are now on coal power plants (not nearly enough, but it beats people openly burning it).

Wouldn't increased coal use and decreased use of cleaner oil and natural gas make climate change worse?

In other words by escaping in the past in certain ways the system also cuts off hope of future escapes.

I don't want to let this comment pass by without agreeing with it.

I have flu or something this week and am a bit daft from it - sorry about that - but from the point of view of living systems moving forward, "options" are more important than raw energy and positional qualities are more important than power.

It's easy to use energy as a proxy for "options" since recently we've found so many pathways to making things possible, using ample quantities of what the world has available when concentrated energy is essentially free and geo-concentrated resources are essentially untapped. Nearly all the elements are ours to manipulate in quantity, for any reason or none.

Our tacit prevailing cultural assumption - if it can even be called that - seems to be that we've done so much in so many ways for so many decades that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing forever, existing on raw cleverness and self-satisfaction. It's not even generally recognized as a religion.

Yet what we're doing now is rapidly foreclosing entire classes of options for humans and for the earth. (We're also opening territorial options for sulfate bacteria, etc, but those options are simple ones.) Our relationship with the future is so dysfunctional that we don't think in these terms; of optimally inhabiting spacetime.

Death is an inherent part of complexity. New systems have fewer foreclosed paths, so can adapt.

Could humans have colonized space? I don't think we'll ever know. Maybe if Hitler had won, he, von Braun, and Walt Disney would have pooled their tech and megalomania and managed to get self-replicating O'Neill-type colonies spreading off earth. Who knows? What's clear is that isn't possible now, so IF space colonization was ever possible, it probably now isn't; and any subsequent civilizations won't remotely have the option.

Any deepwater oil which is not pumped while society has the ability to construct and maintain giant rigs, will remain permanently untapped, not an option, and that's probably a good thing in terms of the other options foreclosed by global heating and climate disruption.

How many options, and what sort of options, will be open to post-bottleneck humans and the other remaining species for the next half-billion years? This is the most important question for humans and life on earth, and it is seldom explicitly asked. We don't think of the options we're foreclosing for those people because we don't see the future as real or salient; having evolved a neocortex, we use it principally to rationalize our immediate hell-bent metastasis into the planetery lymph nodes and beyond, for no particular reason.

Collapse is inevitable; but the pattern of collapse will determine which and how many options are foreclosed. That's what we have to work with now: the pattern collapse takes.

Dominoes, anyone?

One of my Sci-fi storylines uses O'Neill-type space colonies. From the research I have done, they are hard to make, and we'd need to be able to harness asteroids to do it. Moving them into position to build from them to the stations, not something we have the tech savy knowhow to do right now.

If say there were only 1 billion people on earth and they had a complex culture and wanted to go out into space as a group effort, I can see it happening.

But as the world now stands, we are to many people with to many things we want to do, and not enough of us are willing to work toward a common goal.

The one thing that the internet is harnessing is the thought that we are all one globe, one people, borders aren't as hard as they were 30 years ago. We still have a long way to go yet, we have borders set up in our minds and attitudes. Getting rid of them and getting rid of the "me first" attitude that has been with humans for a long long time are just steps toward harmony.

I can see both sides of the issue, though mostly only on paper as it were. Maybe the coming downturn that is so predicted will be the cement to get us closer, and not the wedge that drives us further apart.

That was the one hope for me whne looking at the melting pot of the USA, but sadly there are to many "Us - Them" people still living here.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future for all.

What seems to happen is that complex systems are effectively computation engines i.e they think. Thus once complexity reaches a certain level as the system becomes stressed its capable of finding a way out if you will to grow and increase more/longer despite the stress. Basically as its forced it finds one more way to cheat death or collapse if you will. Almost all the rosy scenarios are based in expectation of yet one more hole to fine in the array of problems facing us.

I have a friend who is a database analyst, working on large mainframe systems. He runs tests to determine if there are sticking points that can be smoothed, usually by changing how the data is organized. Your point above reminded me of a truism he developed. Essentially, Hari is only called in to optimize database systems and suggest improvements when all other methods have been tried.

The last method before calling Hari is to buy a more powerful computer system.

He is usually brought in when the most powerful computer system available had already been installed and has been found to not solve the problem.

In other words, the system would not be managed or steered until it was so broken it was causing unmanageable pain. I believe this to be the dominant system of problem solving in the modern world, not merely in database systems. Just because a more optimal solution is not being sought does not mean that one does not exist. With enough pain, bureaucracies and entrenched interests can be moved.

I mention this not because I think we won't have collapse, but because I think we will have asymmetric collapse, and the promise of pain is sometimes as good as the pain itself. North America is still a major oil producer; it also produces massive agricultural surplus, particularly if you stop feeding so much of it to cows and making moonshine for cars. We will not be the first to starve or to stop moving. The only thing that might save North America (while I would like to save the world, I don't think it's possible) is if somebody else has a major die-off first, and sufficient analysis can then be brought to the problems at hand and the political will created to enforce massive change.

We (the world, in this case) have bought the biggest system, and it has failed to solve our problems. I hope that it is possible to steer and/or streamline the system; the problem is that no one sees the need for it, and it has rarely been tried (WWII is the working example.) I think we will have longer than anyone else because of the nature of our resource base, and because it's too hard for other nations to try and steal it (though as a Canadian, I fear annexation will be one of the ways the US will try to buy a bigger machine.)

So, North American isolationism, the apocalypse everywhere else, and maybe a gradual North American power down until climate change catches us in 60 years.

Not much of a legacy.

I like your analogy of bigger because if you think about it a bit its really a rotation not growth. This may seem strange at first but the system is actually rotating around in and attempt to solve the problem before in your case the availability of a silver bullet in the form of Hari is called in. Before then expansion to bigger machines does not actually result in growth perse as it does not solve the problem. This is what I'm calling and economic rotation the most mistake for growth. In reality a lot of money was spent to simply move sideways aka a rotation.

Another example of economic rotation is where a company takes the profits from one business unit to invest in another speculative unit that eventually fails in the end this is a rotation as the net was zero or even negative.

Using this analogy of a rotation and your probably correct thought that North America will eventually at least try and isolate itself I think you can see that attempted isolation is really simply and attempt to cause a economic rotation to stave off collapse.

I'd argue that the stock market is clearly executing economic rotation not growth over the last several decades with and additional final collapse in the offing.

Despite inherent distortions in the stock market on the larger scale I'd argue its a signal of the real economic situation which is one of massive malinvestment thats accomplished almost nothing in the end. I often wonder how much of what we have created to date will actually prove useful in say 100 years. My best guess is certainly the knowledge base will remain or at least enough of the basics to allow us to remain educated. I'm guessing telecommunications and some aspects of medicine and other biological advancements are also valuable along of course with material/chemistry knowledge. Certainly the future is not like the past yet still its hard to see what we will really pass on to our distant ancestors. Certainly the wealth from or scientific advancements pales in comparison to the damage we have inflicted on the earth both in climate and in stripping it of resources and devastation of the environment. I'd have to guess that the future generations would probably have been more than willing to give up their mobile phones in exchange for a stable and verdant planet.

In the end it seems our grand experiment may well have accomplished very little except perhaps finally convincing mankind to not try it again.

Whats really sad for me is realizing that once we had established the basic principals of science we could have at almost any point decided to step back from relentlessly using them to exploit the planet over the hundreds of years that have passed since modern science and mathematics at almost every point right up till the last decade we could have stepped back from the brink. We did not need to go into economic rotation of you will.

I have to dream that at some point in the future we will continue to advance our understanding but take a very pragmatic and slow approach to adopting advances into our societies. Somehow science has to become melded into a sort of cottage industry of growth restricting it to prevent another massive flair up. The link between science and economies of scale have to be broken for good. Perhaps something as simple as elimination of intellectual property is sufficient to keep knowledge free and thus difficult to use to create the concentration of wealth needed to execute economies of scale. Heretical today yes but I think something like that is actually probably very close to the right solution. Certainly it fits well with the basic tenants of real science. Indeed the open source movement has showed that diffuse advancement without concentration is possible so its not without merit.

Sorry to go off on a tangent :)

I just think your example of bigger without achieving a solution fits well with my concept of rotational economics disguised as growth its the final accounting or tally that matters not all the gyrations in between.

Hi Memmel,

Reading you is like a trip to the scrap yard, or a book sale-there is always tons of good useful stuff there that I don't need,having my share already, but I find something useful so often that I go at every opportunity.

[Yesterday I got enough galvanized heavy duty (they wiegh twenty pounds each!) steel posts to do the last fencing needed on our place.And I got then in essentially good as new condition for ten cents on the dollar.]

I would love to read your thoughts-expanded version-on intellectual property rights.This is an area I am exploring myself, and I have no doubt you will come up with many insights new to me, and most other readers, if you devote a long comment to this subject.

I hope you will go so far as to include intellectual property not only in the sense of copyright , but also in the sense of ownership by regulatory liscencure.

Here's a little example to get you started, not that you need it;I legally routinely and safely and economically castrate male farm animals myself.It only takes a minute or two, a sharp blade, and some antiseptic.

A bandage is appropriate if the animal is a pet or an especially valuable specimen.

I could save my nieghbors a considerable amount by doing thier tomcats for free or in exchange for maybe a loaf of good homemade bread or something, but only at serious risk of fine and jail.The local vet charge about ninety bucks the last I heard, plus the two forty mile round trips there and back of course.

Thanks in advance!

Interesting example. If we ever meet I have no plans to get drunk and pass out in your presence :)

If you think about it the basic problem is Jevon's Paradox or everyone greedily taking from the commons if you will. Thus the solution seems fairly simply people need to actively contribute to the commons indeed input more that they take.

The multiplicative nature of intellectual property i.e created once and used countless times for good makes it and ideal choice for contribution to the commons to give back far more that you take.

Certainly this can be generalized to include all manner of public works and public duties. Assuming population is brought under control the elderly will generally outnumber the young thus a civic duty to care for all the elders of the village when you are young makes sense.

And note I used the word village already first and foremost we need to regroup ourselves into optimal group levels for our species. We know exactly what the best group levels are and its a few hundred to a few thousand at the village level and perhaps a bit more at the town level. Thus we need to optimize the collective ability of humanity by returning to smaller groups.

And of course by breaking up the large collections of people you also dissipate the money and reduce concentration of wealth to a much smaller localized problem.

Regardless at the heart is the focus on giving back to the community both to support past generations in the elder years and to support the next.

Hi Mac,

We got an estimate, from the local vet, to fix our female Irish Terrier puppy and install a computer chip - $600.


Thanks for a generous helping of food for thought.

You have provided me ,and everybody else of course, with just the words needed to clearly elucidate one possible aspect of the whole enchilada with the words "so broken...unmanageable pain".

I have made several references here in the past to a possible "Pearl Harbor wake up event", or events,which might concievably be adequate to cause us to change our ways.

Any ONE such event might not be adequate of course.Some historians and military thinkers believe the Japanese did not initiate an immediate surrender after Hiroshima because the leadership was so (forgive this silly pun in advance) blown away by Hiroshima that they could not accept that it was was a weapon, rather than some unknown natural phenomenon, that destroyed the city. A repeat a couple of days later served as the scalding coffee after the vigorus shaking of the victim in this interpretation.

It might take several "Pearl Harbor events" , in fairly rapid succession, to convince tptb, and the public,that drastic change in bau is our only hope.

The collapse of most of the rest of the bau world economy in the relatively near future while we do indeed still have adequate resources here in North America, and probably in the Americas,to transition to a better way,might just be a "Pearl Harbor event" of the magnitude necessary to get the ball rolling and save our imperialistic Yankee asses at least.

I am sorry to say that I must share your concerns in respect to American hardball politics and the future of Canada, although I expect such an annexation would be quite merciful, by historical standards.At any rate it is not in the cards until after a general collapse.

A more pressing concern for your country might be a simple invasion of individuals , such as is happening in the US southwest.Pretty soon the Mexicans will have thier territory back,all nicely developed ( and protected from the Spaniards this time by the US Army! )and provided with a relatively decent educational system and welfare net to boot.

And hardly a shot fired has been fired!

Any ONE such event might not be adequate of course.Some historians and military thinkers believe the Japanese did not initiate an immediate surrender after Hiroshima because the leadership was so (forgive this silly pun in advance) blown away by Hiroshima that they could not accept that it was was a weapon, rather than some unknown natural phenomenon, that destroyed the city. A repeat a couple of days later served as the scalding coffee after the vigorus shaking of the victim in this interpretation.

I had thought the atomic bomb was basically demonstrated to the Japanese on a nearby Pacific Island in addition to the New Mexico desert prior to it being dropped on Hiroshima to give them a chance to surrender. Is this not correct?

No, there was no warning, other than possibly a "surrender or we'll do something even worse to you than firebombing". The Hiroshima device was the 2nd atomic bomb detonated and the first to use enriched uranium. Hiroshima was one of several Japanese cities specifically excluded from firebombing over the preceding months in order to preserve intact targets for atomic bombs.

I had thought the atomic bomb was basically demonstrated to the Japanese on a nearby Pacific Island in addition to the New Mexico desert prior to it being dropped on Hiroshima to give them a chance to surrender. Is this not correct?

No. Security on the atomic bomb program was extremely tight, and the Japanese had little or no clue what was going to happen until the skies lit up over Hiroshima. Even after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, they still didn't believe it, which is why the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Stalin knew it was going to happen, and in fact he apparently knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened, but he was not one to share his intelligence information with enemies or potential enemies. Nobody else had the intelligence networks the Russians had.

No, it is not correct.

although I expect such an annexation would be quite merciful, by historical standards.

Well that would make it quite different than the last time the US tried to annex Canada, in 1812. The Canadians opened fire and shot a lot of the Americans, which the American generals had not planned for in their rare moments of sobriety. They particularly did not expect Canadians to capture Detroit, burn Buffalo, and otherwise wreak havoc on their border cities. American troops retaliated by burning Toronto and other cities. At the end of it both sides did the rational thing, and declared victory and retreated to their original positions. Most of this is not generally covered in American high school history course.

If the US tried to invade Canada for a third time (the first time was in 1776), I think the defense plans involve F-18s from the base at Cold Lake bombing the Syncrude, Suncor and Shell oil sands plants near Ft. McMurry, plus the heavy oil facilities near Cold Lake. Canadian troops would launch attacks on all the export pipelines running past their bases. The expectation is the American army would run out of fuel somewhere around Red Deer, due to lack of Canadian oil, and have to walk back to Montana amidst sniper fire from disgruntled fringe groups, many of them American.

F-18s from Southern BC would take out the refineries in Northern Washington, and zip back home before US F-18s got there. Canadian guided missile frigates would hide in the coastal inlets of BC and whack oil tankers going down the coast from Alaska. When the US Navy showed up, they'd start uncrating the new supersonic anti-ship missiles the Chinese Navy loaned them because, "We thought you might like to test them for us."

And then some diplomat would stand up in the United Nations in New York and say, "You remember that bit about Canada not having atomic bombs? Haha! Fooled you! I've got one right here in my briefcase."

Okay, that's a bit far out there, but so was 9/11 before it happened.

A more pressing concern for your country might be a simple invasion of individuals , such as is happening in the US southwest.

Such is true. That is how we lost Oregon Territory and the Red River Valley. Realistically, large numbers of American refugees would be the big concern because Canada would be the place to go in a "global" collapse. The American army would be too preoccupied with keeping Americans under control to be much threat to Canada.

Do you really expect to be taken seriously? Everyone knows that Canada depends on the US for its security. That's why Canada has a defense treaty with the US.

Next you will be telling us that Canada is the next sleeping giant ....

And let's get over the apocalypse scenarios. This is for scaring children ...

Do you really expect to be taken seriously?

I guess you didn't know that Rocky's PhD thesis was about the complex issues leading up to all Canadian vs. US wars! You should read some of his books.

And you are the guy who likes to tell other people that they don't get it... ROFLMAO!

If someone is genuinely interested in the facts behind Canadian vs. US wars, a good source is Pierre Berton's books, The Invasion of Canada, 1812-1813 and Flames Across the Border: 1813-1814 . There's a lot of interesting reading in them.

When I was in University residence, one of the Americans on my floor was reading through the Congressional Record of speeches leading up to the invasion of Canada. He kept saying, "You wouldn't believe this stuff. They really thought they could just march in and the Canadians would just surrender."

Of course not, they opened fire, and the whole thing turned into a bloodbath.

And by the way, did the Canadian Defense Ministry share with you their plans for repelling a US attack?

Actually, my flight of fantasy was based on a humorous magazine article I read. The magazine, however, had gotten hold of an old copy of the Canadian military's plans to repel a US invasion. The plans included such things as a surprise attack on Fargo, ND. The magazine said, "That's stupid, the best plan would be to blow up the oil fields," and took it from there.

I hope it is no surprise that armies have contingency plans for all kinds of military events, both conceivable and inconceivable. After all, Pearl Harbor fell into the "inconceivable" category before it happened.

I wouldn't be surprised if the current plans included blowing up the pipelines and refineries. After all it did work well for the Russians in WWII.


If it ever gets down to such a sad state of affairs as the US trying to physically take over Canada we are all going to be so totally screwed an invasion or a draft notice won't even make the personal top ten problems of the day list on our refrigerators.

I just hope the liberal element of the Canadian electorate is somewhat more realistic than it's American counterpart when and if unconntrolled immigration becomes a problem-for Canada ans Canadian's sakes.

But if your southern border is as poorly defended as ours is now at that future time, some of my younger relatives might be able to make it across , and start over as sharecroppers and laborers, as my ancestors did when they arrived here from Scotland and Ireland not so long ago.

By then I will be a long term permanent resident of the nearby cemetery on the hill.

I wonder if any of the later generations might get back HERE to "the old country" someday to see the family cemetery.....

Good eye there, Oldfarmermac. Some people missed the not-so-subtle note of sarcasm in my posting.

Our southern border is considerably less well defended that yours and in fact most of our illegal immigration comes from the US. Neither country particularly wants to talk about this, but there are several hundred thousand of what could be loosely described as "American refugees" in Canada.

However illegal Americans blend in fairly well and kind of get lost amidst the millions of Chinese and South Asians that are flooding in, so nobody pays attention to them. If they learn to say "eh?" at the end of every sentence, and drink Canadian beer, nobody will notice them.

The Canadian West saw about 1 million American immigrants around the turn of the previous century, amongst the millions of British, Scottish, Irish, Ukrainian, German, and Polish immigrants. My own grandparents wandered through Minnesota and other states before they settled down in Alberta. They found there was a lot of high-quality farmland left, and being from Norway thought the Canadian climate was pretty nice.

I think the defense plans involve F-18s from the base at Cold Lake bombing the Syncrude, Suncor and Shell oil sands plants near Ft. McMurry, plus the heavy oil facilities near Cold Lake. Canadian troops would launch attacks on all the export pipelines running past their bases. The expectation is the American army would run out of fuel somewhere around Red Deer, due to lack of Canadian oil, and have to walk back to Montana amidst sniper fire from disgruntled fringe groups, many of them American.

Rocky...I had no idea you were really Richard Rohmer. :)

Hi Canuckistani,

Hari is only called in to optimize database systems and suggest improvements when all other methods have been tried.

I'm a retired software developer with considerable experience in designing large scale databases used for high performance transaction processing. There are some fairly well established techniques for optimizing databases (like the rules for data normalization). The problem is that these design process require lots of discipline and soul searching on the part of various stakeholders.

I had to smile at your description of Hari's work because it is so true (at least from my experience). I can recall numerous cases where throwing hardware at the problem was considered far more expedient than putting up with someone like me who wanted the stakeholders to actually think deeply about their business model and reorganize the data model (ERD sort of thing) to optimize performance.

stop feeding so much of it to cows and making moonshine for cars

I want to plagiarize this :-)

the problem is that no one sees the need for it

As I've said here many times: the problem is that very few people recognize the real problems facing humanity (and the rest of the planet). The question I keep raising is why we are so unable to recognize the problems? Many folks suggest it is simply because evolution did not wire us for long term thinking. Maybe - but I suspect that massive delusion that is nurtured by religion, economics and politics is more the cause.

Today I had another 'doom attack'.
Five years ago when I first started reading TOD I was relieved by posters speculation that we might, just possibly, find a way out of this mess. That there was a possibility that we could transition. Now everything I hear is all gloomy. There doesn't seem to be many 'true' PO optimists left.

I have tried as always to be a realist and not easily swayed by speculation. Now though, there is little if any information from the underground media that might suggest we are not nearly at the inevitable climax. 1000 problems for sure and millions that we can't even see. Our reality here in our PO community is so very different from the viewpoint of the masses. It seems though that they might be more susceptible to listening now, despite the fact that oil prices fell. Economic depression is allowing the opportunity for alternate reasoning. But its overwhelming to try and teach people, since so much personal effort is required. People have to want to understand. Thats how we all got here. I doubt few of us had PO forced down our throats.

Really, how many of us believe that this will end peacefully or easily? We are drawing closer to that critical moment and I fear it more than I fear death. Thats probably because I have at least some clue what death will be like. None of us knows how this will play out exactly or even who all the players are.

Then the best way is for you personally to be as close to the ground as possible. Make your life simple, or at least practice not having anything that is to high up on the energy food chain.

Not everything will collapse at the same time, but some things are not going to be easily maintained.

Some of this is just preparing your mind for what is going to come down the pike sooner or later, know that life is going to get really odd, then accept it like you did when you found out that Peak Oil Production was real, Take some time learning the age old methods of doing things. Even if you don't learn them as a skill, know that it is still possible to do them.

I think that some of our issues are that we are in the position to fall further than someone who grows all their own food, and lives without electricity.

One thing we'll have to realize is if the world drops in population to say 1 billion people, then those that are left will have a lot more energy available to them than we do. It might seem bleak for a while, but we have a lot falling to do, and that gets hits us hard.

I don't want to live in a sod hut, but I can live in it if I had too.

While hiking in the woods a few weekends ago, we found a small stone hut's foundations, it was near a creek which was spring fed. It was old, late 1800's. Made me do some thinking about living in those woods, instead of a city.

Just prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and go on about your life, trying to us less than you do now.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future for all.

While hiking in the woods a few weekends ago, we found a small stone hut's foundations, it was near a creek which was spring fed. It was old, late 1800's. Made me do some thinking about living in those woods, instead of a city.

You find these things all over the place if you know where to look. Homesteader's cabins, trapper's cabins, hunter's cabins, outfitter's cabins, miner's cabins. These people had a source of income, and just needed a place to stay while they worked. They're very cheap to build if you've got an ax, and a forest handy, and know how to do it.

The thing is, they aren't the most fun places to live in. They're cold and drafty, and they fill up with mice and other creatures that come in from the cold. If you chop your own wood, you may need a pile that is bigger than the cabin to get you through a cold winter. If you put in lots of insulation, you can get the wood consumption down to a reasonable level, but living without running water and electricity is still a lot of work.

I would run down to the lumber yard and get a bunch of 2x4's and plywood, and build it out of dimensional lumber instead. It's a lot easier and quicker. I built a backyard shed this way (took about a week, cost about $2000) and completely freaked out the neighbors. They called it an "outbuilding". One guy said, "I know families of four that don't live in places this nice". I had to make it extra large so I could store a canoe and four kayaks in it. The cedar siding was pieces left over from building the house. It looks really nice, like the million dollar condos down the street. The shed is better built, though. Okay, so maybe I overdo it at times.

My dad has built 3 full sheds and add on porch to another larger one all by hand mostly by himself, with some help from my mom.

With a bit of work I could make a nice spare room for guests out of the big shed if there were not so much now being stored in it. My dad had to pack up two shops from where he used to work and the sorting out of those items has not gone on yet, one thing or another keeps getting in the queue.

Having the skills to build something is good, keep them sharp and make sure your hand tools are handy when you need them. We have the power tools as well, more than enough of them really.

It was just neat finding it so close to the city, we were within ear shot of houses in that area of Huntsville Ala.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

You only have to look at the public reaction in Greece to the austerity measures. They know that the Greek government has been spending more than it could for years yet no one wants to be the one who has to tighten their belts. You end up with middle class citizens throwing bricks at police lines. I think we will be seeing a lot more of this throughout Europe and eventualy in the US too.

Everyone knew that the govt was spending wildly, yes. Those with their permanent public-sector jobs
certainly didn't complain, and they are the majority of the folks throwing bricks now. The politicians
and the well-connected stuffed their pockets with the majority of the money, though, by all the tried
and true tricks of petty corruption. Those in the private sector were squeezed for everything they had to pay for this. The middle class in greece? Those who actually work for a living are too busy working to
have time to throw bricks - so far. So far it is 90% whiny 'public servants' who are complaining that
they might lose their absurdly comfy jobs and pensions.

When the rest of the population really reachs the end of the road, THEN you are going to see a lot of bricks flying.

And you know what's really sweet irony? The people who are the most supportive of actually trying to
pay back the money - are the same private sector people who work for a living. The public sector and the
politicians dont even know what that means, it's been someone else's money for so long.

Greece is by no means unique in this. When you start seeing resentment on the street between the people
who are taxed and regulated to the point of exhaustion, and the people living the easy life at their
expense.. then you will see bricks flying.

One comment as far as climate change goes. I've done a bit of poking around and I'm convinced that the impact of sulfur dioxide in particular and other aerosols and particulate pollutants associated with our current fuel systems on the environment is not well understood. Similar to how we don't fully understand the impact of high altitude jet traffic on the environment since we don't have a stable baseline to work with. For S02 and friends extensive aerosol pollution from the coal age was already well advanced before we even developed to the tools to understand the climate.

My concern is this has created a bit of a paradox as global dimming effects from these sorts of pollutants work to offset general warming from C02.

The problem is of course if we do see systematic collapse especially in countries like China which generate enormous S02 emissions from their reliance on coal we could well see rapid climate change as the S02 clears quickly from the atmosphere once its sources decline.

This would act as a fairly strong trigger and if the system is itself now unstable changes could be surprisingly rapid. Thus a power down from simple collapse instead of deliberate steady slowing could easily result in destabilization of our climate via rapid changes in weather patterns as S02 emissions decline.

I have found little in the literature that convinces me we have a good grasp on how this would work. Although ubiquitous most of these particulate and aerosol pollutants have a fairly local effect on weather thus your talking about a sum of many disparate local weather effects resulting in and overall climate effect.

Outside of the current situation if you read the climate literature the relationship between when C02 levels increase or decrease and when the climate actually changes seems to be complex. This fits well with speculation that fairly short term aerosol and S02 concentrations associated with the C02 production can play a role in effectively masking the C02 contribution. Certainly the cooling effect of large volcanic eruptions is well understood and point towards significant short term climate change from these types of pollutants.

Thus variations in the relationship between C02 levels and timings of temperature changes are in my opinion probably largely a result of these secondary pollutants and their magnitude nature of emmision etc. Once they cease I suspect the climate changes rapidly reaching the maxima for a given C02 level over a very short time span decades and perhaps even years.

Next a rapid change in temperature and especially wind patterns that would result from such a fast even should really mess up the surface currents in the Ocean. If so I'd suspect some really wild weather patterns would result as long stable currents become erratic.

In any case I think its a bit ironic that we may well find that China's massive pollution esp of S02 may well be the only thing preventing us from already seeing much more severe weather and thence climate change.

You might enjoy the latest episode of the Radio Ecoshock podcast which focused on black carbon.

mp3: http://www.ecoshock.net/eshock10/ES_100423_Show_LoFi.mp3


The problem is of course if we do see systematic collapse especially in countries like China which generate enormous S02 emissions from their reliance on coal we could well see rapid climate change as the S02 clears quickly from the atmosphere once its sources decline.

I agree and along these lines, think there will be a one-two punch, as the (1) economy collapses completely or in part due to high priced energy, lower productivity will result in less emissions, and with a lower particulate count, global warming that had been held in check in part by dimming will be gone, with (2) quickly rising world temps as the 2nd punch.

The 2nd punch will be especially difficult to contend with due to reduced energy available for AC. Highrise living will be unberably hot, reducing the number of locales people can live. By many accounts, we have only been experiencing 1/2 of the impact from emissions thanks to dimming, which is approx. 1.8F. Particulates only remain the atmosphere short term, and once they are gone a 1.8F rise in temp will be that second punch we do not need. It will exacerbate attempts to reorganize after the collapse. It will act as a depopulating factor right along side lack of: food, clean water, sanitation, and medical care.

While AC use is just a portion of energy use and seasonal, it often is the load that causes massive stress on the e-grids during the hottest times of the year when the grid is already stressed (from the heat alone). I always wondered how much longer, physically, the transmission/distribution systems get (from expansion) during periods of high heat. How much does this increase losses due to resistance? This alone, IMO, increases the overall effectivness of distributed sources of electricity such as PV.

When designing our home I knew that a large forced-air AC system would be an unacceptable load in an off-grid situation. Careful design has allowed us to live comfortably without it. Use of fans, window placement/use, seasonal shading (such as growing seasonal vines on the sunny side of the house) and a tiny window unit in the bedroom (for those unbearably hot nights), along with simply adapting our bodies to the warmer season, allow us to do quite well.

Those who live in highrises and large collectives don't have many options.Those who live in single residences need to adapt to using less AC in summer because when costs go up or grids go down, you're all in this together. Good luck! The truly massive heat islands that we have created by paving huge cites with impermeable asphault and concrete is just one example of a system we have created that will be impossible to back out of or change much.

I stopped using AC thirty years ago when I lived in Florida. Our house had been eco-designed not to need it (an oddity, back then) and the car didn't have it. I found that if I spent a few minutes in an AC store, when I walked back outside the heat hit me like a punch to the gut- it literally made me feel ill. I reasoned that it is better, for me anyway, to avoid abrupt temperature changes. I never used it again, not even in the heat of the southwest.

Memmel, have you seen this video on global dimming? http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2058273530743771382#

Although the whole video is important (if you can stand the hyped parts and over dramatic music), at about 30 mins it begins to discuss what a scientist David Travis found when the jets were grounded in the US after 9/11. It suggests that if global dimming stops the results are quick and could mean a big increase in warming.

The particulates that cause dimming drop out of the air quickly while the CO2 is there for a long haul.

Economic collapse could certainly affect China's pollution and potentially send us into a very dangerous warming.

Meanwhile I see little about the acidification of the oceans and the possible impact on phytoplankton which produce about 50% of the world's oxygen.



Something that temporarily crashed the economy for a couple years now could be really important, in that it could make global heating realities clearer. It will happen sooner or later, so sooner would probably be better.

So ironically, convincing proof of peak oil could shake the "confidence" that underlies human fiscal transactions, and thus cause a depression that saves the world. Who knows? It's no nuttier than any other scenario.

Maybe, provided that we aren't already in positive feedback re global warming, or the reduction in pollution doesn't kick us into that state. Or provided that the depression doesn't give the excuse for no longer using energy (money)to mitigate CO2 controls on coal burning. Or provided the depression is not so steep that people start chopping all the trees to burn to warm themselves and cook food.

But Maybe....

Yep to all your caveats. But it's the only game left to be played.

In general, it's more likely we'll be into irreversible positive heating feedback in 20 years than two. CO2 mitigation - to the extent it even occurs - probably won't stop us from burning everything we can find eventually. And the loss of accessible forests during the first cold winters other fuels are unavailable is already baked into the cake.

What is actually helping the CO2 problem these days? Fiscal depressions, volcanoes, etc. Perturbations to BAU. The equivalent of radiation and chemotherapy for our uber-system.

Starting a run on the banks would probably be more effective climate activism at this point than chaining oneself to a coal train. We've come to interesting times.

"Well, here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem" - Albert Bartlett

Yep, it does look like financial collapse, perhaps worldwide civilization collapse is the only hope for the survival of our species.

I remember this discussed in a scientific paper in Nature, I think, about 18 years ago (by James Hansen?) and referred to as likely to prove a "Faustian bargain"; live now pay later, in spades.

Hi memmel,

we could well see rapid climate change as the S02 clears quickly from the atmosphere once its sources decline.

Strange you should mention this - I was just reading about this mechanism today. It is another one of those "tipping point" factors that we are just beginning to understand. Apparently, as you mention, the SO2 clears quickly but the accompanying CO2 has a much, much longer life in the atmosphere.

Clear, concise and to the point. The truth sometimes hurts, and in this case it is particularly painful. Nonetheless, it needs to be said. Chasing illusions while the system collapses is a waste of precious time and energy. The world cannot and will not be able to sustain a human population of 6+ billion. The transition to a much smaller and far less consumptive population will be exceedingly difficult at best, but it will be even more so if we pull the blanket of denial and false hope over our heads. The focus for the near term should not be on trying to convince others that peak oil is real and will bring enormous change to our lives, and we must radically change our energy intensive civilization. That train has already left the station. Now it is time to concentrate on making ourselves and our loved ones personally more secure.

The problem is that not all the 6 billion plus people are energy hogs. Some of them are getting by on very little of the energy pie.

But even in the US our homeless are better off than homeless in other countries, at least for the most part. We have safety nets in place and places for them to seek shelter if they are willing to do the right things and meet the demands of behavior.

There are other places in the world where just getting a decent bit of clean water is a problem, or getting food on a daily basis is a problem. They don't use nearly as much energy as I use in one day.

The world is not a smooth and equal surface. If the US were to start living like some third world countries, the protests would be something to see.

Powerig down for the western world is not going to be a pretty sight for most living in it.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future for all.

Governments do not control their own economies; neither does civil society. The corporate or financial sectors do not control the economies within which they operate. The fact that these sectors can destroy the economy should not be taken as evidence that they can control it.

Now there's something to worry about.
How can we get politicians to acknowledge this fact ?

Thanks for the article.

Even though I agree with the article's premise, I must say there are assumptions here, and this is analysis, not science. You see, the same exact things which seem so obvious to many here may actually be obviously wrong to others - namely mainstream economists etc. There are people out there who really do argue for fiat currencies, unending debt based monetary expansion, letting the free market work its magic, as energy costs rise alternatives will emerge etc. etc. So it's largely a question of point of view.

Even here there are those who argue emotionally for any combination of ways of life/technologies which can mitigate the decline i.e carpooling, shorter commutes, electric bikes/cars, mass transit, railroads, local food and other production, etc. Who is to say they are wrong vs. those who argue emotionally that we are facing unrest/civil war/totalitarianism/famine etc.? I of course agree with the latter but I'm not 100% sure, it's really just a hunch.

You see, what we don't know, the big X factor, is how knowledge of collapse affects collapse itself. In the Middle Ages nobody really knew what the plague was, they didn't have microbiology or antibiotics etc. So people just died, and that was that! And various causes were blamed, people were scapegoated and burned at the stake, there was social upheaval etc.

But now it's different in the sense that we know exactly what's going on. We basically do have naturalism, science, knowledge of world energy flows, etc. I mean it's really, really obvious that the government and military knows full well what it's facing. And the internet and mass communication, not to mention the connection to high/volatile oil prices etc. mean that eventually people will. Now people are not intelligent, but they are literate. As in they are not medieval serfs. They can potentially have coherent thoughts. So ultimately it becomes impossible to deny any longer. So imagine that - everybody and their dog knows that we are at peak oil, and that the world will collapse!

Once that happens the potential for systemic resets are huge. I don't think it will happen, but I must admit the potential is there. I mean if everybody decides collectively - stop consumption, no more driving everywhere with no aim/purpose, don't have so many kids etc., then oil demand drops dramatically, thereby forestalling the decline. Of course the economy crashes but that's not the point - the point is that we crashed one part of the system - oil based transportation - so that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down - as in we retain the basic ability to have decent shelter, food, perhaps some job doing something, etc., rather than aim for the perfect BAU.

-Of course the economy crashes but that's not the point - the point is that we crashed one part of the system - oil based transportation - so that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down-

OF course that implies you can take down the economy without massive worldwide damage to all the other interconnected systems. Which, given the state we are in after the last near miss should give you some idea of what to expect from that plan.

Humans won't reduce consumption, they will horde. That will be the "intelligent" thing they decide to do.

Hording is the intelligent thing to do. He who hoards in the past was he who survived famine and passed his genes downstream. He who did not hoard doesn't have offspring to carry forward that non-survival oriented behavior.

The problem that most people don't want to face is that the planet is not going to continue supporting 6+ billion humans indefinitely. And people can't get comfortable with that little problem because there's no cornucopian solution that lets them brush it under the rug, so it gets ignored, even on blogs like TOD that should know better.

I agree that the signs of overshoot are around us, but we really don't know what the carrying capacity of the earth is at any one point - it's simply too big, too complex of a problem to accurately model.

I mean, if we had 10 billion humans on earth, but they, on average, consume about half of the food, energy, products than we are now, then that would be the current equivalent of 5 billion humans.

It's the same mistake people make with real estate. They assume growing population plus increasing lack of land means rising prices forever, ala Los Angeles. But think about that for a second. People will only pay for what they are able to pay for. It's quite possible for a city to be rich with 2 million people, and poor with 4 million people. Which is not to say that the 4 million people necessarily starve - but they are definitely poorer.

So the number itself doesn't tell the whole story - it's also consumption and energy use etc. Now obviously we have had increased agricultural yields due to oil so I think that's a key problem, but really we waste so much food as well - the world could easily get by with half of the food we have out there, given equal distribution, knowledge, good will etc.

But ay, there's the rub! We are divided into nations, cultures, languages, religions, etc. The world is not an equal place with one world government. Which goes back to my point that what we are likely to see is mass social/political upheaveals, wars, redrawn maps etc. It's not as if we will fall from 6 billion people to 1 billion people, and all of our current political structures remain exactly the same. The U.S. won't fall to 100 million people while still remaining the U.S.

Tainter's Collapse of Complex Societies mentions how transportation was limited to luxury goods and how, therefore, food self-sufficiency was a must-have to support an area of population. The ability to support 6 billion hinges on the ability to get the food to those people.

HI Oilman Sachs,

if we had 10 billion humans on earth, but they, on average, consume about half of the food, energy, products than we are now, then that would be the current equivalent of 5 billion humans.

Hard to know for sure, but I suspect that 10B humans on the planet would be a totally miserable existence except for the very powerful. I think the issue is more than food and energy. Every new human has basic needs for food, water, shelter, air, defense, etc. All of these things require resources and space - regardless of how meager. We share these resources with the rest of the biosphere and depend upon the viability of that biosphere for our own survival. Every human, to some extent, degrades the capability of the biosphere to support some other organism.

I know it is popular to suggest that more humans could live on the planet with less consumption by the affluent. But, where does this thinking end? And, why does anyone think we should accommodate more humans on the planet - for what purpose? Why not establish a goal for the maximum number of humans that can live on the planet in an indefinitely sustainable manner? Why speculate about how we might tolerate something like 10B?

I think that people who like the idea of 10B humans are still living under the delusion that we are a "special" species with some kind of supernatural ties to some kind of god who favors humans over all other creatures.

Instead of speculating about 10B humans, why not think in terms of humans being just one small part of the biosphere and how we might coexist with other species - not dominate them.

GreyZone, that is only true in civilization. Hunter-gatherers don't hoard. They can't, especially those who live in harsh situations. And that was the mode that humans thrived and expanded in for many more centuries than the hoarding civilization mode. In fact within their tribe sharing was necessary to insure the bonds of the tribe, because humans succeeded to pass on their genes as tribal creatures.

Frankly sharing may well work better in our near future. Hoarding invites stealing. If one is known to have a stash of food when a large group of others are starving well the large group trumps. Hoarding fails too if care is not taken to prevent your hoard from deteriorating. Hoarding fails if you haven't hoarded everything you need as people don't want to share or even trade with a hoarder.

The intelligent thing to do is to have flexible strategies that are not fixated on one mode. If society breaks down we will need tribes of some sort and inner tribal relationships need to be built on trust and sharing is a biggie to build trust. Even Chimps do it.

But hunter gatherers did store food for times of less food. Acorns have to be stored for a while to leach the tannins out. Meat is dried and packed away. Pouchs and pots and baskets were made for storage. Hoarding was a group effort.

I can hoard can goods in my pantry, but if the folks next door come knocking I'll open the closet for them to eat some of it.

NOT everyone is willing to do that though. I know a lot of things I can eat out of my yard that most people would not even think of as food.

Peoples of the past knew a lot more about what could be eaten than people of today, most people look at most plants as just plants, nothing there to eat, they will walk on by starving.

Knowledge will be a key factor in the days ahead.

BioWebScape designs for a better future for all.

Storing and hoarding could be seen as the same thing but the words have a different feel to them. Storing would depend on many things. The !Kung in the Kalahari couldn't store meat, but they did store water in gourds in the ground. However they like many Hunter-gatherers had to migrate - in their case with the rain in order to get game. Unless a tribe had a source of food that was available in a small area year round, they had to have a large area to roam and then storing was not usually possible.

As you note CEO, knowledge is vital. And I would add skills (they are not available for someone else to appropriate unless you are kept alive).

I don't think the planet can support everyone living like the do in the USA but I think the planet can support all those 7 billion people if they lived a totally different lifestyle, and kept themselves from killing to much of the environment around them.

What we have been doing for all these years is bumbling along in the tide of time. We are now a bit smarter about what goes on around us, we could if we all choose to do so, live in peace with everyone else. I know that is asking a lot, but we could if we really tried and those that did not want to live in peace, we'd have to give them a choice, peace or death. I know this all sounds like a big brother 1984 type of system, but it would be possible.

I don't think it'll happen, I just say that it is possible.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed future for all.

“I mean if everybody decides collectively - stop consumption, no more driving everywhere with no aim/purpose, don't have so many kids etc., then oil demand drops dramatically, thereby forestalling the decline.”

This will not happen because humans are naturally wasteful. Look at former Vice-president Gore. He talks a good game but he lives his life like any other extremely wealthy person. Private jets, huge mansions, lavish parties. It’s just our nature to be terribly wasteful. I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Gore because almost everyone lives in a matter beyond what is needed, including myself. I will continue to gas up my cars and drive needlessly until the gasoline is no longer available. I’m willing to pay a lot more than I do now for that freedom of movement. I will keep my heat and air on whatever makes my body feel good, damn the cost. I will eat beef and pork as long as I can buy it and I’m willing to pay a lot more than I pay now to eat meat. I think I’m kind of like most people even if they don’t say these things out loud. So we’re screwed.

Good for you! I admire anyone who has the guts to say it like it is, even when society frowns on it.

Winding up on Social Security Disability has forced us to do now, what others face in the future. The severe income drop mimics the effect of severe price rises- it's all a matter of percent of income spent on the item. We have already had to nearly give up the car. Keep the thermostat at 65 for winter (tried 62, but just couldn't hack it). No eating out, at all, ever. No meat priced above $1.59 a pound- go,factory farms, go!- without them, we could afford no meat at all. Fish has completely disappeared from our diet- even junk fish is priced beyond our means. Beef is nearly as bad- try finding any form of beef, even hamburger, for $1.59.

We have adopted the assumption, that at some point in the future our rent will reach 100% of our income. At that point, goodbye phone, goodbye internet, goodbye electricity, goodbye city water. Food? Still trying to figure that one out.

While we raise some chickens, a local store sells (monthly sale) 10 lb bags of fresh chicken for $2.69. Under $0.27/lb. We make lots of chicken soup these days. I know....factory farms and all that, but times are kind of tough. We also feed our dogs raw chicken as part of their diet, as the quality dog food we buy is about a dollar a pound. This won't last, I know, but for now we "eat mor chikin".



Might I ask wht part of the country you live in? I live in central Arkansas, and am on a budget of less than $9,000. I live with my parents, I don't own a car myself. I do part of the gardening, like I did when the whole family moved here over 32 years ago. The house is paid for, so there is one less thing to worry about.

If I were to live here alone, I'd have to get a house mate to make all my potential bills paid for, But I could do away with that need if I gave up a vehicle, Something I am not as yet willing to do, but I would not drive it more than 100 miles a month if that much.

Hopefully you don't live in a high cost area of the country.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Just north of Seattle. Very high cost part of the country- I love the way they say 'gas is about to go over $3', we've beeen over $3 for months. My housing is not free, and budget only a couple thousand more than yours.

My dad's down there in Arkansas, Hot Springs.

I love Hot Springs, but don't get ther that often, haven't been there in over a decade. The only trips the family takes are to go see my brother in Huntsville Alabama. I used to live there as well, went through two wives while living there.

I miss my Mulberry and sassafras trees, and a lot of the wild things growing in that yard. I am trying to get some of them to grow here, in the limited space I have to work with.

Hope you make a go of it where you are at, if not Arkansas is lower cost than most places.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

People have "coherent thoughts" within the context of the cultural mythology.
People in the Middle Ages had coherent thoughts, but some of those thoughts were just wrong. Same now, the "coherent thoughts" of our mythology tell us that growth is unending because of the "principles" of economic substitution, and limitless human ingenuity in the mastery of complex technology. These thoughts are the product of our own set of "High Priests" whom reside in the elite business schools and centers of finance. And our leaders (and most of the lower level camp followers) believe these people and all their erroneous myths.

And people can lose knowledge. For example, just because we now know how to generate and harness electricity does not necessarily mean that that knowledge is now permanently "locked in". Generally, the knowledge necessary to maintain Roman technology was not widely known to the people of the early Middle Ages. They didn't maintain the aquaduct system for instance.

We have some serious issues with basic literacy right now. In some parts of the country, like right here in the inner city area of Philadelphia, functional illiteracy is estimated at 28%.

I don't have a lot of hope that we have the ability to "get outside" of our own mythology. I believe we will go down with our mythology in utter astonishment, disbelief and incomprehension at what is happening.

Interesting. You are certainly talking about our economic mythologies. However, science is quite different, I mean qualitatively different than religious/magical thinking. So I guess I mainly meant that we have science whereas they didn't have that in earlier eras. Basically in early eras people might have really believed that oil was a magical substance coming from a creamy nougat at the center of the earth. For the most part we don't believe that anymore.

Now of course if you are right we are in big trouble. More trouble than even I wish to think about.

The vast majority of the population does not "get" science. They subscribe to magical thinking in many ways. If anything, the last decades have seen a serious retreat from science towards magical thinking, especially in the US.

simkin, Amen!

One huge hole in mainstream analysis and even in proposed technical solutions to falling energy availability is concentration of wealth aka GREED.

People rarely talk about it and seldom consider it yet humans are incredibly greedy.
This eventually leads to concentration of wealth at the top resulting in money being effectively burned on luxury goods will little intrinsic value. And worse a steady increase in energy consumption from the bottom to the top of the social pyramid. Indeed once you leave the lowest rungs of the economic ladder energy costs quickly become a fairly small par of overall expenditures.

This pyramid of greed efficiently prevents any real power down as the top can always effectively afford energy at any cost as long as the social/economic system remains intact.

In general in the past societies that attempted to deal with this issue did so by instituting social orders or variants of the caste system. People born in a certain position simply where not allowed to rise above it. Certainly you still had concentration of wealth and associated profligate energy use at the top however it was closer to a static waste of the yearly excess with little or no expansion.

I'm not suggesting a return to such a restrictive society simply stating that past cultures the existed in a fairly static renewable energy environment also exhibited strong social conventions to force people to keep their energy usage constant by limiting their ability to accumulate wealth.

With our current fiat currencies and ability to borrow especially as you reach the upper levels of society the disparity becomes magnified perhaps say 100 fold vs even the wealth generation in a single year as the super rich not only have a lot but can effectively borrow infinite amounts of money for all intents and purposes.

Worse concentration of wealth becomes efficient ensuring that even with fiat currencies demand for money remains high at the lower rungs ensuring it continues to have significant value. Inflation runs rampant at the highest levels as competition for luxury goods is intense yet we don't see significant overall inflation as money is efficiently extracted from the lower levels generally via generous credit terms and an effective tax on the poor via interest on debt used to purchase expensive non productive assets such as homes and cars and other goods.

You can see I hope that we have created the worlds ultimate ponzi scheme that can never fail becomes everyone is all in and new entrants are massed at the bottom eager to join. Its a global lottery where everyone eagerly buys a ticket hoping to be a winner.

We literally cannot stop playing the game as it is a true ponzi scheme and if we stop it collapses rapidly.

However as I stated early energy usage follows this scheme rising steadily as you approach the top so the energy use curve is just as critical as any printing press for keeping the game going. If energy cost rise sharply they have exactly the same effect as people exiting the scheme. One of the main reasons is energy is generally produced by very large effectively infinitely wealthy corporations thus pouring more money into energy simply causes and immediate concentration of wealth at the top with little trickling up the pyramid.

The paradox is of course that the super efficient methods created for concentration of wealth which allow massive currency inflation without rapid devaluation start to fail as intrinsic costs start rising across the vast lower echelons of the pyramid.

Fiat wealth rapidly become impotent attempt to redistribute it back towards the bottom layer aka housing tax credits, cash for clunkers etc simply stoke price inflation on durable goods that require debt and keep consumption artificially high.

Attempts to offset debt default and deflation via moving debts to the government balance sheet have effectively the same effect again ensuring consumption remains high despite the intrinsic collapse of the ponzi scheme thats underway.

Basic insfrastructure and social norms ensure that attempts at reducing consumption either don't happen our happen via using even more debt to finance changes. Even if we had electric cars most would be built purchased and supplied with energy via debt leverage not stored wealth. We would literally not really pay for it.

Thus no matter what you do there is no escape if you will because the system is intrinsically a ponzi scheme and only works because there is drumroll no escape. Once people are forced out and forced to use stored wealth to live then it collapses. Its trivial mathematics.

Certainly you can decide to execute and orderly collapse to minimize collateral damage but thats the only choice as their is no other escape route from a ponzi system simply a decision on how your going to collapse it or of course no decision at all which practically ensures the most painful route will occur.

But all our food (except for a tiny, insignificant portion)is delivered by trucks. So much "oil based transportation" is delivering the sustenance that we need.

If we take all the jobs away and have everyone stay home (no shopping, no commuting) so that oil can be 100% devoted to delivering and producing food (at the behest of the government, trying to "save" people) I suppose that is another stop along the path to a sun-based energy future. People talk about that here sometimes---military control, rationing, and such. It would be the only way the government could retain legitimacy perhaps so it might be tried, or so goes the reasoning.

But the problem is that in such a scenario, what kind of forces would bring oil up from under the ground? There isn`t maybe enough wealth and complexity left to produce that remaining (hard to get)oil. Even enough oil to deliver food for a few years until people could ramp up food production on their own and try (!!!) to remove huge cement structures taking up crop-growing space might be truly impossible to pump.

I think that things look increasingly bad. I won`t go into all the details, but at work I have seen much evidence of desperation on the part of certain segments of the society to maintain BAU. The desperation I am assuming must be commensurate to the direness of the situation.

And my husband now wants us to leave the Tokyo area. But I am thinking we are too late already. He says he will look for another job somewhere else but I think no job (in his field) will be available. Truly I didn`t say "let`s leave"...he came around to this conclusion on his own. So I take that as another indicator, because I know him pretty well. He used to love the go-go atmosphere of Tokyo---for him to be talking about leaving means that things are getting silent and people are starting to leave the party.....

Now people are not intelligent, but they are literate. As in they are not medieval serfs. They can potentially have coherent thoughts.

I love that. But you missed the obvious qualifier. Didn't you REALLY mean to say "Now people OTHER THAN MYSELF are not intelligent", obviously. Reference please? eg. anyone with half a wit must acknowledge that there is SOME odds that your proposed absolute collapse scenario will turn out wrong, and if you're not including your working hypothesis of those odds in all your statements, you're more delusional than any greek oracle sitting over a methane source.

Now people are not intelligent, but they are literate. As in they are not medieval serfs. They can potentially have coherent thoughts.

Medieval serfs knew how to feed themselves and provide extra labor for the Lord of the Manor. That as many here know is no small feat. How many of us know how to grow all our own food, slaughter pigs, make our own cloth, make candles, make herbal remedies, build our own houses etc. All without attending a permaculture class or reading a book on gardening. There are many peasants in the world today that still can do that. I would say it takes very coherent thinking to manage all that.

Yes, I know how to do all those things. And train horses, and more. But without access to cheap land, it is all for naught. Unless things fell apart to the point where I felt confident I could squat some land without risk of eventual eviction.

Ummm...not so fast, it was more complicated and less romantically autarkic than that. In ancient Rome there were the feriae publicae, public holidays, when slaves were (supposed to be) released from work. The concept evolved into the Church "ferial days", feast days (the modern meaning has been turned around to, essentially, "ordinary days".) By medieval times the ferial days had multiplied in number to about 120 a year, roughly every third day. They entailed at least some brief respite from the relentless physical toil. The time was used, in part, to keep the peasants/serfs apprised of what they were to be doing and when.

After all, in an utterly poor agrarian society, few could be afforded the education to track such matters the calendar, so the peasants/serfs had to be kept up to date by officialdom. Apothecaries were severely and secretively regulated by guilds; with no science, even inside knowledge of drugs and herbs was rather abysmal, with folk knowledge worse still. And so on with other trades. The word "serf" carries terrible connotations for a reason.

PaulS per wiki

The usual serf (not including slaves or cottars) paid his fees and taxes in the form of seasonally appropriate labour. Usually a portion of the week was devoted to plowing his lord's fields (demesne), harvesting crops, digging ditches, repairing fences, and often working in the manor house. The lord’s demesne included more than just fields: it included all grazing rights, forest produce (nuts, fruits, timber, and forest animals) and fish from the stream; the lord had exclusive rights to these things. The rest of the serf’s time was devoted to tending his or her own fields, crops and animals in order to provide for his or her family. Most manorial work was segregated by gender during the regular times of the year; however, during the harvest, the whole family was expected to work the fields.

Can you build your own house, heat it, provide fuel for cooking, produce all the food your family needs while spending part of each week working for someone else? If we have a full scale crash of civilization we may all need to do these things or die. This skill set and knowledge base that the serf had did not allow him an easy life, none the less serfs passed on their genes. They were ignorant of words on a page but had self sufficiency skills that few in the first world have. While the apothecaries' might have a stranglehold on some drugs, I doubt that any serf was without knowledge of simple herbal remedies, such as comfrey compresses. How many in this country even know what comfrey is? Some such herbal remedies do have efficacy.

Think of it this way, if post (severe) crash you could tie up with a PHD in physics or a peasant farmer, who do you think is most likely to have the knowledge and skills you might need to learn?

Well, I'm a bit of an oddity I suppose, I'm both the peasant farmer and the PhD- in pharmacology- so that makes me the local apothecary as well. I did the PhD after I got sick and tired of being broke all the time as a farmer, but then I got sick, so now I'm broke again. Ah well. I guess I just wasn't meant to rise above the level of my peasant ancestors...

Comfrey works, comfrey also does nasty things to your liver. Refuse to use the stuff myself. Don't even grow it. I find mullein works acceptably.

VirginiaTech, you are certainly unusual.

Comfrey as a poultice applied externally causes nasty things to the liver? Per wiki "Internal usage of comfrey should be avoided because it contains hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). (Note: there are also non-hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.)Use of comfrey can, because of these PAs, lead to veno-occlusive disease (VOD). VOD can in turn lead to liver failure, and comfrey, taken in extreme amounts, has been implicated in at least one death.[6] In 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against internal usage of herbal products containing comfrey.[7] " but I was not talking about internal rather external use. Again per wiki "The herb contains allantoin, a cell proliferant that speeds up the natural replacement of body cells. Comfrey was used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was reputed to have bone and teeth building properties in children, and have value in treating "many female disorders". In past times comfrey baths were popular to repair the hymen and thus "restore virginity"[citation needed]. Constituents of comfrey also include mucilage, steroidal saponins, tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, inulin, and proteins." and "Most recently, in a placebo controlled study published by Giannetti et al., Comfrey was found to decrease back pain when used topically. It is not clear if these results reached statistical significance."
As a PHD in pharmacology you also know that dose is often the difference between good, neutral and toxic. Even if an external application allowed some of the PA's to absorb into the skin, one doesn't have broken bones, burns etc every day. Using it on a bee bite a few years back did relieve the burning and my liver is still doing fine.
I also mix a bit of comfrey in with our "salad" that we feed our chickens. It is high in protein. Per http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Growing-Poultry-Feeds-1.html which recommends comfrey for chickens and ducks:
"It should be added that in recent years there has been some “scare talk” from official quarters about pyrrolizidine alkoloids found in comfrey. The alkoloids are indeed present, and are indeed toxic to the liver in massive, pure doses. However, my conclusion from research I have done is that there is no toxicity problem, acute or chronic, associated with consumption of whole comfrey, by either humans or livestock. (See Comfrey Report , by Lawrence D. Hills.)"

The liver filters out poisons. Heck people poison themselves for years with massive doses of alcohol before the liver gives out. Moderation in all things is a pretty good way to approach life rather than giving in to the latest scare out of the medical profession. They flip flop all the time. I don't eat comfrey as I have plenty of other more appealing greens. Heck we are all full of industrial chemicals anyway, so I think I will continue to make comfrey poultices whenever I have something they might help.

OK, well this is the $64,000 question isn't it?

Can you devise a manageable decent model that provides for the continuation of society. I have to say that I'm more positive of the possibility than you are, but I doubt that any country will take the necessary actions. In other words its a matter of could but won't.

As a simple model for how you might arrange it, let's imagine that realisation strikes tomorrow. You start by rationing fuel to private motorists, to hit say 350 gallons per year, with a defined reduction in available fuel each year - so it can be planned for. You also make sure there are very few special cases, less than 5% of miles driven. You take the time you've just bought to implement a wholescale systemwide reorganisation of society - moving things closer together, increasing resilience, implementing new technology on roll outs etc. and playing the tax system such that all investment goes into energy efficiency and system change. To make sure the importance strikes home, you go onto an effective 'war' footing.

Some rough numbers, in the US half of all oil usage is private vehicle miles done. Thus a good 10Mbpd is addressable with the above scheme. Even taking a target of a 1Mbpd per year reduction in demand, you can keep up with the decline rate AND give people the time to adjust to a new system structure.

The result is a stable plateau in demand at about 50% current levels - from which you can then look towards continued change and replacements as oil drops away. Even with exportland and other inhomogeneous effects, you have smoothed out most key factors and for a producer (like the US) provided a viable route to continued civilisation with expected decline rates. For non producers (like Germany) the route is slightly different, but it is chartable.

Realisation and will are the key factors - and not expecting the status quo to be viable.

I am wondering if instead finding a model that provides for a continuation of today's society, we don't need to come up with a plan to a new sustainable future, which really doesn't use anything other than local inputs. Since our mines are largely depleted unless we use high-tech, international inputs and expertise, I expect this will result in a much lower standard of living that today, and probably than 100 years ago. No one will want to plan for such a future--yet without planning, the outcome may be even worse than otherwise.

Gail, there is no sustainable future from where we now sit. Nada, none, zip. Get total human population down to somewhere in the few hundred million range and then that discussion becomes possible but until then? Nope. And any discussion before then is purely academic because we won't know the resulting ecological conditions after the population crashes. How much more CO2? How much more acid rain? How much worse will oceanic acidity become? How much more plastic polluting everything everywhere? Until we know what those sorts of boundaries look like, we'd be very hard pressed to come up with any sort of sustainable long term human social structure, since human societies are essentially problem solving machines and we can't anticipate the particulars of the problems the downstream survivors will face (either in a few years or a few decades).

Trying to have that discussion right now simply steals time away from preparing for the bottleneck itself. And the greatest ideas in the world will be useless if those who possess such ideas don't make it through that bottleneck.

“No one will want to plan for such a future”
I agree, and this is why a managed de-growth is so difficult, because we assume that any plans we make will have the time to implement.

Like many others, I had hoped that by understanding what we are facing, we could somehow control the decent in manageable bite size pieces in a way that does least harm to the fewest people.
I felt also, that by monitoring the rising price of oil, it would keep me ‘clued in’ to where we are in terms of peak oil and the end of business as usual. A litmus test if you like, which would indicate when to (store extra dried food), (brush dust off the bug out bag), (crank up local Transition planning) , or whatever else you think necessary at $200/bl... $300/bl,... $400/bl.

But do we have the time we think we have? And, are our methods of gauging that time, reasonable?

For a start, I’m not convinced that the oil price will go to those levels. Maybe the price will hit higher spikes, but not for days/weeks at a time.

Imagine for a moment the centrifugal flyweight style of governor used to control the idling speed of diesel engines and old steam engines.
Using the governor as an analogy, does it not seem likely that oil prices will settle into a ‘governor range’ of (say) $65 to $125/bl.?

Below $65, and oil companies have no incentive for exotic searches of new supply. Above $125, and any notion of business as usual, global markets and industrialism is crushed underfoot. Thus the oil supply industry will modify its activities to feed the economy within the governor range for as long as it can.

However a governed engine is kept idling until the moment its fuel tank empties, at which point it ‘dies’. In other words an ‘idling’ plateau followed by a cliff edge drop.
I’d love to believe we can manage de-growth, but I simply raise this to ask the questions:
Can we assume the long decent will be slow or stepwise, indicated by milestones of $100... 200... 300... 400/bl?
What if the economy is sitting in ‘idling mode’ in a governor range of prices, with no way of knowing when the tank just empties?

We can't stay at idle to long, unlike the engine.

Price could spike up, but it'll be unable to stay up long, and we will step down to a point where someone out there in the world won't have Oil, and we or others will.

I don't think oil will get to expensive, nothing could support 200 dollar OIL, not in the world we are living in. If it got that high the demand for it would crash in a lot of places, even here in the US and the price would fall again. Unless someone was willing to loan the money to buy it into the system like they are for buying the $400,000 houses.

On one hand we have all the time in the world, on the other we have less time than it takes to walk down the block. We are in the middle of the changes and we see some signs of the events having already changed, and some signs of how they might change in the future, but we don't know all of the events that could change BAU. Just look at the volcanoes and earthquakes we have had recently and tell me you know when the next big event will happen and what will result in it.

One of the things I have learned is to stop worrying about the future and learn to live today better. I put down a small list of things I'd do if, and things I'd like to do if, and then go on about making today a happy day. No need to worry about something I can't predict, just be ready to handle it whenever it happens.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future for all.

I'd suggest that the primary aim SHOULD be to continue today's society, as far as possible. Anything else and we are stepping backward to a lower technology level, lower level of civilisation, a nastier society.

That means that a purely local approach isn't a starter, since civilisation level and scale are correlated. You can improve the level of local resilience, but at a certain level of disconnect, you break the bonds of society - something to avoid.

And you are right, planning for that level of civilisation is unacceptable to most people because to the relative hardness of that life. Therefore you DON'T plan for it, you plan to avoid it. Plan B is the purely local, for if you fail.

I think that in order to help people grow much needed food in the future, governments should be taking down all sorts of empty buildings now. Houses, offices, shops, parking lots...all should be turned into green space as fast as possible with the remaining oil. There should be an easy to understand slogan like "dedicated to the sun!" or "onward to the sun!" which points the way to the future.

Zoning would need to be changed. People would have to be able to form villages on their own. Governments might give some advice and education on this or help pay for taking huge roads, stoplights, highway interchanges, etc. away.

All sorts of plastic should be banned. It should be phased out. It is too wasteful. If people are going to start working locally then plastic can`t be part of that because it isn`t local. And it has waste disposal issues. Governments should help people think away from plastic.

Cars should be phased out and gasoline should be rationed.

People who grow their own food would get tax credits or something.

There is actually a lot the government can do--right now--to ease the impact of the crash. But all of the measures I suggested would be extremely unpopular with most people. Not me, sure--I have no car, I hate plastic, I have studied PO. But I am not most people!

Actually a lot of that is red herring.

Providing society still functions you can still use oil (or more likely gas) for food production and plastics. The percentage of the total consumption used in this way is a small fraction of the amount burn in commuting - and stripper wells, bioethanol or Fischer-Troupe are viable mechanisms to deliver it. IIRC plastics comprise ~4% of total oil demand, and farming is slightly larger (depends how you do the math, and much of it is actually gas)

While local food production is a nice to have, and becomes important if you get a societal collapse; its second order to reducing the transportation usage of oil. Opportunity cost and all, its not where you put your effort.

I think this "systems-think" is becoming the new fad, "systems" is the new cool word to drop everywhere you can.

I am not a system. I am an individual. I do not act in the aggregate, I act as an individual. I think people look at the hugeness of the world, and they despair. I don't want to give in to despair. So I don't try to come up with solutions at the world level; that way lies only pain, because the world isn't going to listen to reason. I can't stop the US from making terrible mistakes in foreign policy. I can't stop China from destroying itself in its perfectly understandable desire to "improve" its standard of living.

I work on solutions for me and mine. "Mine" includes my neighbors, if I can. My whole neighborhood, if I can. Beyond that level, I am sure to run into some damn muckety-muck who thinks he has the right to tell me I can't do something because it would step on his toes-of-power-and-authority.

People say we can't power down. I know we can, at the individual level. After I got my degree in agriculture long ago, I spent a number of years in the mountains of northern California. In this remote region, I lived without telephone, electricity, or running water for more than four years. (There was no internet yet in those days)

I went from modern life to this more primitive level nearly overnight. Know what? It really wasn't that bad. You get used to it. Humans are highly adaptable creatures. Daily hot showers? No. When a bath means cutting down, chopping and splitting the wood to fire up the woodstove to heat the water in buckets on top, the standards change. But you get used to it. Candles or hurricane lamps for light, woodstove for heating/cooking/hot water, and so on...

I think collapse, when it comes, will toward the end stages be patchy in nature. Some localities, who by chance have residents with the right knowledge to share, may do far better than others- I'm thinking about areas that have Amish communities. The Amish, and others like them, are one of our greatest national treasures. Having never given in to the temptations of technology in the first place, they can help the communities nearby cope. If nobody kills them for their food stores first.

As an aside, nearly everyone in my neighborhood is trapped in the present system by one single thing: the cost of housing. If there was a fairy-tale world where nobody had to pay through the nose just for a place to live, this area could convert to a much lower level with a possibility of success, for we are blessed with abundant fresh water. Too bad there's no such thing as free housing.


You are correct that people could adapt but the real question will they as long as it is not required of them? Do you have electricity now? Do you have a hot bath daily now? People are trapped in expensive housing out of choice. Options. A small house that can be paid for in a year or two. A double-wide mobile home. A single-wide mobile home. People don’t want a little house. It must be a 3000 sq. ft. mansion for two people. People suffer because they want more than they can afford. It’s not society’s fault. Humans are naturally wasteful.

It isn't nearly enough for people to adapt. We (most) are committed to systems that, for practicle purposes, cannot be adapted/changed.

Peak Earl mentioned Air Conditioning above. As I responded, our cities are truly massive heat sinks. Most of our cities would be unliveable without the ability to cool air. Improved efficiency/adaptation can only mitigate this situation somewhat, IMO. Other things can be done (such as planting trees, etc.), but it will still be necessary to expend prohibitive amounts of energy for cooling. In the past, the wealthy left the cities for their country homes during the hottest months. What now? I see this as another predicament, one that is aproaching a tipping point. There is no viable sollution. How do you adapt entire cities to little or no air conditioning in summer?

So I ask VT, what will you do when you have to compete for firewood or fresh water, etc with thousands of folks that have left the cities seeking a "better life", because their home has become unlivable or too dangerous? I admire your individuality, yet suspect that we are all more connected than we think.

The American South will be intolerable for most people, and will go back to being the agricultural backwater of its past.
Air Conditioning and the automobile made the South what it is today, and the worshiping of NASCAR is a bowing to finally being freed from isolation that the car freed the people from.

Atlanta will go back to being a city of 100,000 at best.

Atlanta will drop in population, partly because there is not a good agricultural area nearby, and partly because water transportation to the city is lacking. The soil is not very good, in part because it rains enough that nutrients are washed down to low levels of the soil, making the area better adapted to growing trees rather than crops with shorter root systems (unless fossil fuel fertilizer is available).

I don't see climate being an issue, though. According toWikipedia, the average high temperature in Atlanta is 72 degrees F (22.2 C) and the average low in Atlanta is 52.3 degrees F (11.3 C). Even in the hottest month, the average high temperature is under 90 degrees. A place like Dallas or Phoenix is much, much hotter. Atlanta is at an elevation of about 1,000 feet (305 meters). Of the large cities in the US, it is second highest after Denver. This makes water transportation difficult, but keeps the climate milder.

However, while the altitude helps by a few degrees, one must not forget the stifling summer humidity and the endlessness of the hot humid heat-stress season. A touch less bad than lower and closer to the coast, but those are still reasons why Atlanta only grew in earnest after air conditioning became widely available.

I think Gail may need to volunteer to go without AC this summer, say mid-June through mid-September, in her Atlanta area home (that was likely built to be air conditioned). She can do a post on living in the Southeast without AC next fall, and on the "avg. temp." :-)


Disclaimer: Been there, done that, before (and after) I-285, GA 400, Gwinnett Pwy, Cobb Pwy, 12-16 lanes of I-85 and I-75, I-20, and........

I lived without AC in Mississippi while going to Mississippi State University. I had a high ceiling house, with ceiling fans. It got a little bad some days when it was rather hot and humid, but it was okay most of the time.

What we face is that some houses just are not set up for suffering without AC or Heat, they can't cool, and don't heat very well.

Casement windows where you can open the top and bottom, tall windows, tall ceilings and better construction with weather in mind and limited energy are a must for all homes being built in the future.

Lots of things can be changed. And a lot of them will be forced into being changed. Over time each of us has changed, and over time will be changed again.

I like looking at the big picture of the complex web we live in, though the thoughts can be hard to grasp, and I tend to tone it down to one single item of concern, I still like to see the whole world wide fabric and start pulling on different threads to see where they are connected. Mostly it is idle thinking, nothing I think about will solve anything for anyone, but I still like looking at the complex whole. Several of my SciFi stories are based on world building, so you can see where my interests are.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Gail, climate change will be unpredictable. Atlanta might get cooler - warming is about the whole world not just one city. But unstable weather could increase tornadoes in Atlanta for instance. Or hurricanes. How about water. Climate change may make the whole Southeastern US into a desert. Increases in temps cut grain production - even 1 degree has an effect. Since Atlanta clearly cannot feed its people on its own turf, how climate change affects the rest of the US and even the world will impact Atlanta.

Hi Trekker,

I get your point, and generally agree with your sentiments, but the people of the South are basically stuck here.At least you can strip off in the heat at essentially no expense!

I personally see Nascar not as a sport worshipping the automobile as such, but rather a vicarious male fantasy that enables any given male to more closely identify with the actual competitors, and subconsciously see himself as one of them.

It's hard for a wimp or a fat old man to envision himself as a football player or boxer, but we all believe we can drive like Dale Earnhart in the bottom of our grubby status seeking hearts,and we can actually fuirther the fantasy by owning and driving automobiles at least outwardly similar to the ones on the Nascar tracks.Further more we can actually do so, at some substantial risk of our own necks and those of the motoring public of course,when we find ourselves on an on ramp at three AM and no cops appear to be in the immediate nieghborhood.

I must admit that in my younger days I once wore out a new set of high performance tires in a weekend.On public roads.But the roads were essentially totally untraveled , rural backroads,late at night, and it was possible to see the lights of another car well ahead of the time you would pass by ,allowing plenty of time to slow down.

But I could still have landed in somebody's bedroom, and I have known of that very thing happening when kids were street racing.

If you have plenty of money, or excellent credit, you can actually own a street legal versions of these cars, specially modified in shops owned
by some of the competitors.

Clarice Starling , in The Silence of the Lambs, owned a Roush Mustang.

When asked whether it could "take her Porsche" by an uber rich bad girl, she modestly replied only that it depended on "which Porsche".

We may never have the Guvenators body and chiseled features, but we can all have our male status stand in automobiles.

These days I drive an elderly econobox, having passed the age several decades back where such things are important to a typical male.


There are roads around this part of NC called Thunder Road, Devil's Race Track, Hell Town Road,and The Avenue. These roads were used for drag racing in the 50's and 60's. My brother totaled my mother's 57 Ford. I never wreak a car but it could have happen many times. We didn't care if the radio worked, we wanted loud pipes and big blocks. I'm much more sane than I was as a young man. We would work in the 'backer fields' all week and push our cars down The Avenue on the weekends. Very wasteful and foolish. In the 60's I started riding motorcycles. A love affair that lasted thirty years. I would be happy to be here if I didn't hurt so bad.

Why in hell does everyone always pick on the glorious South? My family has been here since the late 1600's and we have always prospered. I have over 1000 acres in a remote rural area, bout half of it in cultivation. My land'll grow anything, we are 100% organic and take care of our soil. Three of the homes I have built on the property, (for my kids for when TSHTF), I did not put in AC, just high lofty ceilngs and lots of cross breeze windows.
I would counter the North would be intolerable cuz its freakin freezing in winter and dark as crap. Whenever I travel up north I always want to tell someone to turn on the lights, I find ya'll's dim sun unsettling.


You want an honest, non-PC, answer? In my area in the boondocks, assuming anarchy, we'd shoot them. Would anyone take pleasure in this? Of course not. But when the choice is between dying because someone steals your resources and possibly dying fending them off, IMO, there is only one reasonable action - fend them off.

Let me give you a personal example: I have 57 acres and with dogged work and luck, it can feed 8 adults. Not 10-12 adults; 8. There are 8 adults in the area who would share my land. Therefore, as much as we might like, we can't help anyone else. That's reality. The right people might get a handout if they were moving on. If not, too bad.


PS Let's not get into the usual argument about it not being possible to fend of a horde. I'm not interested in such a discussion and I'm trying to get the garden tilled before the snow they are predicting Tuesday. Great spring - we've already lost the peaches and plums from frost/snow earlier this "spring."

Agreed, Todd. Shoot first, eat later (maybe).

We are starting a new larger garden this year (I forgot how hard it is to get virgin soil into shape) and have invited some new neighbors from FL to join in. They are really excited and gungho to start sticking things in the ground. We are almost ready, yet they can't believe that frost can come this late.

Forecast: mid to low 30s tomorrow night. Glad I waited.

BTW: Happy Confederate Memorial Day to our friends down in GA. (My wife just tried to order a copy of her birth cert. State offices closed. Look Away!)

Long pork- it's what's for dinner!

Ghung, Todd,

You may rest assured that whenever I have an opportunity to talk in confidence with the mostly self reliant types that inhabit the old family farms in this area, the decision to take law enforcement into community hands has already been considered, and made in the positive, should it become necessary.

There are a lot of "seen the elephant" vets in this area, who believe chaos can come here because they have seen it elsewhere.

There are also a lot of serious Christians who believe in approaching end times, and also understand day to day survival as only people who have habitually raised thier own food, fetched thier own water, and provided thier own heat can understand these matters.

A good many of these people will give someone in real need the shirt off thier own back, butg they also read and believe in the OLD TESTAMENT, and no modern novelist does murder and mayhem better than God's Chosen, when necessary.

Once the sheriff no longer answers the phone........of course by then there may be no phone anyway.

I have not until now seriously considered laying in a few two way radio sets with rechargeable batteries,but I believe I will do so now that I have thought more about it.Of course I can't repair them myself, but good ones can last for decades-longer than the post collapse chaos, more than likely, and certainly longer than I will need them.

Unless the horde is organized, when the first few start falling the horde turns tail and runs. Even if the horde is organized, it can turn tail and run when it's leaders start falling.

Todd I have a link to a post you made a while back about your place. How has it changed in the time since then?

Some days I just wished I could figure out how to eat grass, it does not seem to die as easily as other plants in my yard.

I've been trying to save several species of wildflowers that have been growing in my yard for years. Several plants that others think of as weeds, are part of my diet. Chickweed, poke, Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel), dandilion, white clover, wild alliums. Most of them are spring vegies and get added to mixed greens in a pot.

I am trying to grow a few odd vegies that aren't normally grown in these parts, Jicama and amaranth(greens and seed).

Hope you can grow other things this year instead of the fruits.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

You eat grass by passing it through a sheep first, and then eating the sheep.

You are absolutely correct. Humans are just like most other animals, wasteful. Ever watch a finch at a birdfeeder, throwing gobs of seed on the ground to get to that one, perfect seed? Or a horse carefully nibbling the leaves from their alfalfa hay, leaving the (perfectly edible) stems behind.

Sure I have electric now. I also have all the equipment I need to go off it, and fully expect I will have to in the next few years. Daily hot bath? No. The water is metered and already costs more per month than the electric does- not because of the water side of the system, but because of the sewer side. And the feds are forcing the city to upgrade the treatment plant, at a cost of millions, and our rates are to go up 50% in the next three years. At which point I will have to choose which to disconnect from, water or electric, or switch to a 100% rice diet.

And we are in a doublewide mobile home, and just love it. It saddens me that mobile homes have such a white-trash reputation. Ours is so super-insulated that at the height of summer, if we keep the windows open all night and close them in the morning, the house stays cool all day.

Or a horse carefully nibbling the leaves from their alfalfa hay, leaving the (perfectly edible) stems behind.-
how do you know what a horse needs to eat? Animals self medicate with various plants and parts of plants, how is that wasteful? There is no waste in nature...
Maybe from a human perspective, but what do we know?! ;-)
and here's the link to the book, quite interesting

I know what a horse needs because I bred, raised and trained them for years. Individual horses can become quite finicky.

And you are absolutely right, animals do self medicate. I ran a goat dairy for a few years. There was a creek bed with willow bushes growing all over- a natural source of what we call aspirin. After giving birth, the does would go straight to those willows and munch out- they knew exactly what they needed for post-partum pain.

I am not a system. I am an individual. I do not act in the aggregate, I act as an individual. I think people look at the hugeness of the world, and they despair. I don't want to give in to despair.

That's like stating an individual worker ant isn't part and parcel of the anthill when the ant hill streams its ants out into the fields to find dead insects and bring them back to provide food for the colony. The individual ant clearly does not act in the aggregate either but it is nonetheless part of the anthill system.

BTW you are the emergent result of multiple biological systems that support your neural system from which emerges your consciousness which in turn fools you into believing that you are able to function as an individual.

It all depends on the unit you wish to examine, individual, family, community, village, town, city, state, nation etc... At the end of the day it is the functioning and interacting of the various higher level aggregate groups that determine how the members must behave.

Say for example if your nation goes to war to acquire resources for survival and you are a pacifist, you will be forced to go against your "individual" instincts or you will be eliminated from the group and you can try to go it alone.

Of course I am both the product of and a part of multiple systems. Everyone is.

"It all depends on the unit you wish to examine..." Exactly. That is what I was getting at. What I was trying to say is that I cannot control those "higher level aggregate groups", and that for many this is a source of dismay. I didn't say they can't affect me. Of course they can, they can crush me like a bug. All someone has to do is change the numbers in my bank account to zero and I am destroyed.

I think we are mostly on the same page, but differ on the nature of the aggregate's control. You mentioned, "how the members must behave". If I were to behave as the average, I would have multiple credit cards and subscribe to cable. I have neither. I would be yelling 'drill, baby, drill', but instead am reading books on soil conservation and soil fertility issues- the ultimate basic resource upon which all life depends, and about which I got nothing in ag school.

How much can the individual affect the aggregate? Depends on circumstances. At the start of the civil war, general Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union army. After much agonizing, he turned it down. Affect on the aggregate? Pretty large. Imagine if the South's finest general had been working for the North instead. But little ol' me? None, unless maybe, just maybe, I make it through the bottleneck and am the only person within 50 miles with some critical piece of knowledge. I don't expect to be among the survivors, but that's no excuse to not prepare, at least not in my book, because you never know.

VictorianTech: You made some great points and I find myself in total agreement with what you said. We all love to discuss the big problems and what should be done to confront them, but in the end, the only thing that the average person can truly control is on the individual or neighborhood scale. Plan your garden, pick up a bunch of cheap garden seed packs at the store, learn how to "sprout" seeds indoors, learn some new sustance skills, pick up some reference books on potentally important topics for the future, etc. Many would recommend making a personal defense plan as well. Any planning that you do will serve you better than having no plan at all, and you will be miles ahead of the unprepared.

As to your aside about the price of housing, my thought would be as long as you have a fixed rate mortgage, you will most likely be fine in the housing department. My personal expectation is for hefty inflation when the nation's debt balloon finally bursts (probably very closly related to when the oil shocks really start to kick in), making the cost of housing trivial for those who had a fixed rate previous to the crisis. Those with variable rate mortgages however, will be truly screwed.

We may look at our complex civilisation and say, 'We managed to reach this complex state, and if we did this, we surely can do almost anything!’ However we did not do this intentionally, with a plan that was executed; it is a self-organised system. The complexity is beyond our comprehension or ability to manage.

This is one of the most succinct statements of the essence of the human dilemma that I've seen.

The Greeks called this mindset "hubris." Science, as wonderful as it is, doesn't reward us with omniscience or omnipotence. "Human exceptionalism" is our Achille's Heel. It's one area where religion and science overlap.

And God blessed them; and God said unto them: 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.'

Call it a "terrible beauty."

I like to say that humanity has achieved a lot to be humble about.

Excellent comment, Mikeb.

Unfortunately most of the antireligious element will see the biblical quote as evidence religion is a large and fundamental part of the problem-rather than what it actually IS-AN EVOLVED artifact of the great driver of life, evolution.

Religions are JUST ONE MORE way we band ourselves together into groups of 'us" in order to outcompete the "thems".

If there were no religions as such, we would simply coalesce into 'us " groups around some other loci,perhaps a political philosophy such as nazi ism, communism, or (gasp) capitaliasm of the unfettered "free market" sort.

Crashes occur on a more or less regular basis, continiously, on every scale,without any "outside " or "disruptive " changes being necessary.

These disruptions and changes are actually organic parts of the UNIVERSAL self organizaing system that is Darwinian LIFE;human crashes only appear to be alien to it because most of us fail to grasp the implications of the extended phenotype.(A beavers' dam is part of beaver biology, just as a club or a stone knife, or industrial society, are parts of human biology.)

From the crash of the population of microbial life that consumes a dead insect (if it is not sooner found and eaten by a larger organism),to the crash of the population of the yeast in the beaker of sugar water many of us observed and recorded in an intro to biology course, to the crash of the population of squirrels in an oak wood when the acorn crop is scanty,right on up the scale, its grow /crash, grow crash/ grow crash continously.

The only real difference this time is that the time scale is long and we are not used to observing population crashes of our own species, excepting the few of us who are interested in the study of such things, and consequently take Malthus, and Darwin, seriously..

Since or because the rest have no personal experience of a human crash, and no expressed intellectual interest in such things,they have no intellectual framework for dealing with it.The deer in the headlights is in the same situation- paniced, frozen, unable to intelligently or instinctually respond, because the circumstance is novel.The instinctual freeze response, which has saved many a deer from the wolf, and from my deer rifle , because the predator fails to see the deer,is, under these new circumstances, a disaster writ large.

I do not exactly believe that we are suffering from an instinctual freeze response as a species, but the analogy may throw some light on our behavior neverthe less.

Most of us, almost all of us, take our behavioral cues from our peers and those a step or two up the status ladder, hoping of course to mount those steps.The typical citizen will change his behavior only as the result of observing others changing thiers, andf then very often after it becomes obvious that the new behaviors are going to displace the old.

Greenish once remarked here that when two people or groups of have come to similar conclusions in respect to a given question by following two different sets of data and two different logical paths, this occurence can be reasonably accepted as a positive indication of the validity of the conclusions.

As Memmel says, we are screwed in a thousand different ways.I have read about probably a couple of hundred of them here on the Oil Drum.

It appears rather likely that if industrial civilization does not simply collapse, it will die a long slow death of a thousand cuts.

I'd only qualify that part about religion by stressing that what we call religion is actually an
adaptation that only emerged after there were agricultural surpluses available and opportunity for
real empire-building. Religions are a way to bind people together and get them to do things that
no rational self-interested man would ever do. They are an important cement in the building of empires, and
only the most rabid, aggressive, and totalitarian of them have survived the rough competition of
idea-viruses and their attendant political structures (often the ideologies and religions outlive the
political structures and even new empires find they have to accomodate the existing religions!), to be
observed today.
However, in the absence of a sufficient economic surplus to support the kind of power structures where
religion as we know it thrives, i am very confident that humans will revert to the less ideological, more
experimental and less rigid forms of superstition we often associate with 'primitive' socities and sometimes call animism. It will revert to the natural human attempt to find order in large complex systems, in the natural world around us, and in the absence of a binding political agenda (for want of sufficient energy surplus or even food surplus to make one viable), these vitriolic and hyperagressive religions will fade away into a more thermal mishmash of general superstition, open to reinterpretation more or less all the time, but subject to generally restricted ability to observe the natural world beyond our personal horizons, and the consequent tendency toward magical explanations for things.

Once collapse begins we will lose the tools and infrastructure we would need to manage the collapse.

That statement makes the presumption that the collapse would be manageable if we would only start before the collapse begins. That, in my opinion, is not the case. Human civilization is deep, deep, deep into overshoot. There is no manageable way out.

Of course nature will choose her own way and nature will do the managing... if you could call it that.

Ron P.

"Human civilization is deep, deep, deep into overshoot."

Ron, do you think a time is approaching where such a reality might be so utterly obvious? Followed by a Presidential Address or something?

Care to pick a date?

Regards, Matt B
Average Joe
Concerned Dad of three great kids

Naw, I cannot pick a date and don't think it will ever be obvious to the vast majority of the population. Even after the collapse and when the population of the earth is half of what it is today, people will still not blame it on overshoot. They will blame it on politicians, or big business, or greedy people or.... But they will never blame in on the real culprit, human nature.

Ron P.

OMG, if such a thing were to happen - wow! That would probably be peak suicide.

I hope that one of these public figures tells some truth during the collapse so that at least some people will have a clue as to why they must die. Seems tragic otherwise.

Aw, cheer up, Ron.
Why don't you just grab your credit card and hustle on down to Cabela's. Haven't you heard? You can SHOP your way outta' this mess. Just stock up on the freeze dried food, the MREs, the ammo, water purifier; you get the idea!
Don't forget a good sturdy pair of BOOTS.

Now GO!

I often wonder what I have to offer this community of those who contemplate the probable relatively imminent demise of the human race. I am not technically skilled, I am much more the artist, interested in great ideas. I am not a scientist, although I am science-minded. Screwed in a thousand ways seems like an apt title for this article for we are at the nexus of many great problems which have been listed many times. As a psychologist, I have been fascinated by human nature of the species as a whole and of myself and those around me. We do not appear to have much time, Memmel thinks maybe a few years, some think a few generations, to make monumental adaptations. We have survived a great deal and adapted quite well to the environment, yet we have not adapted to our own intelligence. Those things which allowed us to survive difficult environmental conditions have not helped us adapt to the unintended consequences of our intelligence: we have been so clever about our creation, but blind to our destructive acts.

Our history has shown that humans are quite adaptable, particularly when social environmental limitations require change. We have done so voluntarily in our democratic republic when under clear threat. Many of us in the US were adamantly anti-war prior to WWII until it became obvious that we could not avoid entry into the war. Pearl Harbor was an event which galvanized a nation. Once committed, we made rapid, radical changes to our lives at home, some compulsory, others voluntarily which enabled us to change the purposes of society to address the threat of fascist aggression. We grew Victory Gardens, recycled rubber, tin and other products, and rationed gasoline. We mobilized to deal with a shared existential threat of annihilation by a visible enemy.

Unfortunately, the threats we face are not visible unless we look. We have been able to avoid looking at the drawbacks of industrial agriculture (Food Inc.), the internal combustion engine, and unrestrained growth. At this point, many of us are able to continue to live in denial of the looming threats because they are not proximate but distant, or so many of us believe. It is very difficult for us to mobilize the greater part of the population against “invisible” threats such as overpopulation, climate change, environmental degradation, and resource depletion. There are those of us who look who can see all too well that the wolf is at the door. But when birds still live, trees still grow and food still appears at the table (in the areas of wealth), many of us choose not to look.

Someone pointed out the threat that Europe faced from the plague was mostly dealt with by near universal ignorance. Uneducated populations without scientific knowledge blamed Jews, witches, etc. for the pestilence and death. If we wait too long to respond, which I believe against hope that we will, then it is likely that we will turn against one another, blaming others when death visits. This is a horrible fate to contemplate.

Without strong evidence in any direction, I believe that other intelligent species have been at this crossroads before and have most likely become extinct on other planets. Stephen Hawking is convinced that there are other intelligent species out beyond our solar system since there are so many places that life could have spawned. Extinction is part of the natural order on our planet and it appears our intelligence is what will push us there. His fear, at least as I’ve heard here, is that contact with other species might prove disastrous to us because the alien species might be desperate for resources. I think this is unlikely because of the variable of time. While the odds of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe are quite high, I believe the odds of intelligent, industry- capable life in our interstellar neighborhood at this time are quite small. I believe that intelligent species rise and fall rather quickly in geological time, so that we have little occasion to meet our interstellar neighbors. Unless there are principles which would allow space travel with very little energy (doubtful) expenditure, I doubt that much interaction is likely to have occurred over the last ten billion years or so, that life may have risen and fallen many times without intelligent species developing the wherewithal to make contact apart from their home planets.

Whether or not my speculations are close to reality or not, we face our predicament. How then, shall we live, those of us who see the probability of a negative future for our planet and particularly our species? If we continue our destructive ways, we may make it impossible for many forms of life to live as we poison the ecosystems with hydrocarbons in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and medications, perhaps nuclear fallout if we war against ourselves. Perhaps we can lead the way toward adaptation, so that some of us will survive, perhaps not. All of us will die as individuals, but we hope the species will continue. But to die with dignity as individuals, we must act as if adaptation is possible. Sometimes we focus on the futility of our politics, the blundering of nations and feel hopeless. It may be hopeless, but of the choices we as individuals have, by far the best involve having hope and faith that some salvation is possible. All we can do as individuals is to live our lives the best ways we know how, so as to provide the possibility of living sustainably. We can lead whether others follow or not. Let the techno optimists pursue their dreams, let the permaculturalists pursue theirs. Out of our many paths may emerge a path to survival for some. If I as an individual try to become my best self, yet my species does not survive, I shall not regret living. If somehow we do survive and manage to find a sustainable way to live and grow and die within our means, then we will have learned something good. Either way, it is important to live.


I highly suggest you read Nate's articles on that which drives our consumption and collapse response choices.


I created an account just so I could acknowledge this post.

I resonate strongly with your views. The one point in which we differ, if I can call it that, is that I place so much emphasis on interstellar expansion that I consider a future without it a failure of our species / effective extinction. In its absence I cannot but help seeing an endless slog of reproduction and existence on the same planet for generation after generation for evermore - to me this seems a dead end, a self-contained microcosm of insignificance. Granted, it can surely be argued that expanding into the cosmos merely delays the same inevitable process but it feels to me as if there is purpose in the journey. Perhaps it's just the unsatisfied explorer in me, but assuming I was one of the post-collapse survivors, I'm not sure I could handle the knowledge that there may never be another Industrial Age and hence a window for our species to spread wings and fly.

Education starting to collapse, now. Little programs of excellence that will 'fix' everything hide the problems.

Oligarchy entrenching.

Press controlled by industry, Govt. owned by industry/wealthy.

People like Mish kick at anything Union. However, it is okay to gamble on the market and produce absolutely nothing....just take from others.

There is a growing lack of respect for most professions.

Extreme blame rhetoric on the rise. There is a question of who will be the next Hitler?

Cynicism on the rise, big time. My neighbour remarked that the Goldman investigation will either have a token sacrifice to hide the looting, or a violent defense will occur.

Perhaps just in time delivery and how it winds down is the least of our worries. I worry how the winners will protect their entitlements, not whether there is enough to go around.

Mish rightfully picks on the unions. And Mish rightfully picks on welfare state banks. You make it sound as if Mish condones the crimes of high finance yet Mish has been one of the loudest voices from BEFORE the crash about those very problems. Your post is very one sided with regards to Mike Shedlock. Truthfully the unions deserve every bit of what is coming to them when they have fought for ridiculous deals that cannot be sustained even for a generation or two without bankrupting their children or their grandchildren.

You make it sound as if Mish condones the crimes of high finance yet Mish has been one of the loudest voices from BEFORE the crash about those very problems

I suspect that the point that Paulo was trying to make is not that Mish condones the banksters actions, but rather that Mish is calling the kettle black as he makes his money as an investment councilor. What does Mish contribute other than shifting money around, a sizable amount into his pocket? Has he ever made anything, designed anything, contributed to anything concrete? As a tradesman this has always bugged me too. He is a moneychanger pure and simple.

Amen brother!

For every one money changer you could support 5 union workers and family. 100 if you count Goldman Sacks.

All too depressing. Everyone is singing the blues.

It must be stormy Monday:


This for a bit of cheeriness (still my favorite watch)...


Crank up the speakers!

I'll forgive the 'dynamical' and 'torturous' , maybe these are Newspeak. But non debt based money is hard to imagine. By definition all money is debt. When one has a unit of currency the society that issues it owes you a debt of that amount of relative value. When I have a buck in my pocket - or a 'localscrip' - the society owes me a cup of coffee or a bag of chips or whatever I decide to spend it upon from what is available. The issuing society holds the debt.

I am free to amass large numbers of these units and perhaps lend some to others who have fallen behind or wish to mortgage their future earnings against current consumption. I am also vulnerable to the society producing more of this currency thus devaluing my holdings. Sound familiar?

All money is debt and always has been; the vagaries of its creation and usage are not a result of it being debt based because it always will be. The problem isn't that but the problem of circulation and supply that are typically perverted against the common good.

Then you are misunderstanding the discussion.

A claim on an existing gold deposit is not what is meant by "money based on debt" here. In that situation the paper claims (the "debt") exactly equal the already saved resources.

However, money based on debt is money that is based on a future production of some sort that has not yet happened. The difference is pretty clear. If I must first truly save (store up grain, meats, wood, leather) before I can spend (trade it, make goods from it, etc.) then my rate of "growth" is limited directly by how quickly I can store up excess from the physical environment around me.

But if I allocate "money" not based on current savings but instead based on someone's estimate of future savings, I can greatly increase my apparent rate of growth. In truth though, this is nothing but another form of Ponzi scheme and must eventually crash, as the reach into the future must extend farther and farther to achieve the same current rate of growth.

Simply put, debt based money grows faster than the physical world around you truthfully could allow it to grow. Physically based money was acceptable so long as human population was relatively low and natural growth appeared to be relatively high. But as human population began to produce tighter and tighter limits on actual physical growth, a substitute was necessary to maintain the illusion of high rates of growth that society had come to expect. Because debt based money must steal from further and further into the future to maintain the current state of illusion, it must eventually crash. As an example of the absurdity of the debt based money consider that now there is (just starting) talk of century mortgages to be passed on to subsequent generations. Already the 5 year mortgage of a century ago has given way to the 30 year mortgages of today with some cases of 40 year mortgages being offered.

That is the difference between "money based on debt" and other money. Your misunderstanding is common. When what "backs" the money is a physical good it is not based on debt. When what backs the money is promise of future money from future production, then it is based on debt.

Why do you assume I misunderstood the discussion? I didn't. Do we have any examples of non 'debt based' money systems extant? Since Paterson's revolution all supposed metal based currencies have been a sham. While they may work in theory, such systems have tended to be either deflationary, subject to dilution or have focussed the society upon non productive avenues of endeavour - see Spanish Empire.

I understand economics and money very well. Well enough to know that the curing of the debt based money's ills will only bring on a different set of ills in its stead.

There is still a lot of coal lying around and irak still has a huge gas field. I would not say that this can help us out but we will by all means burn it all up and that is why I do not think that climate change is no issue. I think the world will follow the sawtooth / staircase down scenario and not a sudden end because if you think of our brain as the most complex thing that we know, it works even if big pieces are being cut out.

As I have pointed out before, the US has plenty of coal for electricity and quite a bit of natural gas. The problem is oil and Alberta at 200 Gb proven/500 Gb technically recoverable will do quite nicely.

About 30% is mineable and 70% is in situ. It takes about 800 cf of natural gas per barrel to turn mineable into synthetic crude and 1800 cf of natural gas to do SAGD. That means we will need would need 300 Tcf for 200 Gb or 840 Tcf? for 500 Gb.

The US has natural gas reserves of +1200 Tcf including shale gas.

Today about half of the bitumen is shipped by rail and the rest moves by pipeline.

Suppose all of that were sent to US refineries for processing by rail with Canada agreeing to be our sole oil import source.

he US might import 4.8 Gb per year(13 mbpd) or 430 million tons which is less than
half of the amount of rail traffic now taken by coal. I believe the railroads could be persuaded to add cars for this purpose. 200 Gb/4.8 Gb per year = 42 year supply.

The amount of energy to produce 13 mbpd from strictly SAGD would probably be 6.3 Tcf, less than the 25 Tcf the US currently uses, but we could shift 6 Tcf from natural gas fired electricity by substituting coal fired electricity to help out.

Our demand for natural gas would basically remain the same and
Coal production would rise from 1.1 billion tons to 1.5 billion tons.

We would be self sufficient with the help of Canada in oil for at least 42 years
and almost no change in BAU whatsoever...EXCEPT we would COOK ourselves as we'd be seeing temperatures at least 1.5 deg C degree warmer by 2050.

The TOD obsession with energy is trival compared to uncontrolled GHG emissions over the next 40 years.

"...uncontrolled GHG emissions over the next 40 years."

and its peak oil that will hugely exacerbate GHG emissions because we will NEED to burn coal, frac for NG, mine oil stained sand, pump heavy sour oil, you name it we will burn it. Why? FOR THE ENERGY.

Look up PETM on Wikipedia. The Eocene Thermal Maximum saw temperature rises of 6 deg C.

We are here, so obviously a 6 degree rise did not cook the planet. There was a mass extinction event in the ocean, and a mass speciation event on land.

I am not concerned about climate change.


#1 Humans were NOT around 56 million years ago.

#2 The temperature rose 6 degrees C over 20,000 years.


Can't you see the difference between temperatures rising 1.5 degrees C in about 50 years and 6 degrees C in 200 centuries?

Look at A1F1---BAU, dummy.

Your unreasoning, faith-based hubris is why the world is facing a mass extinction.

Temperature Change )
(°C at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)
Case Best estimate Likely range
B1 scenario 1.8 1.1 – 2.9
A1T scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8
B2 scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8
A1B scenario 2.8 1.7 – 4.4
A2 scenario 3.4 2.0 – 5.4
A1FI scenario 4.0 2.4 – 6.4


Heh. I knew if I posted that someone would totally freak out. I prefer to have discussions without stridency, rudeness, or name calling, but that is a risk one takes on the internet. 'It takes all types', First Amendment and all that.

Yes I understand that this time is different. I was onto the climate change issue first, did tons of reading to learn all about it. That led me to the peak fresh water issue, and while learning about that there was an author who said, peak water is more important than peak oil and peak oil will stop us from ever fixing peak water. And I was like, 'what is this peak oil thing?' and then I started in on that.

After learning about peak oil, I came to the conclusion, and everyone is free to make their own conclusion, that peak oil trumps all the others. I decided this because of the massiveness of the violence and desperation peak oil has the potential to cause.

I misspoke to say I am not concerned of climate change. I am. I just think that all the things people fear climate change will do, peak oil will do, but sooner, and worse. Mass migrations, wars, disease and starvation on a scale never seen before. And when the USAID bags of rice and corn stop coming, what will those desperate people do?

Eat every last tiger, every last rhino, and every last elephant, that's what they'll do. Cut down every last tree in every last national park on the face of the earth. Use dynamite to yank every last fish from the sea. A hundred years sooner than climate change seriously kicks in, peak oil is going to cause mass extinctions and genocides.

That doesn't mean climate change isn't important. But something has to survive peak oil before there will be something to save from climate change.

Your worries are greatly exaggerated.
The world hasn't even reached Peak Coal and Peak Gas and only just reached Peak Oil.
The average american uses twice the energy of the average EU citizens and 10 times the average human on the earth.
There is no reason to talk about genocide or mass murder in connection with energy at this point.
Actually the reverse, we need to talk about greatly reducing consumption of finite energy sooner rather than later, especially because the sources of energy cause Climate Change.

Rudeness is a risk, but it is frowned on at TOD, we usually police ourselves, but we at times have to calm someone else down and tell them to cool their jets.

Just the other day there was a thread elsewhere about someone claim another was rude, got into a lengthy discussion about having proof. But anyway, the point is try to look over the rude people that crop up from time to time, It is not the norm here.

As to the idea that Peak Oil is the game changer, you are right in my opinion( opinions vary from day to day, time to time and person to person it seems, so take opinions at face value), If the system that we know of that is tied into OIL stops or even lessens beyond a certain level we have chaos.

Just look at the skies of Europe, NightLine (abc) had a recent blurb about people not having a Plan B. That the Permaculturist and Mountain Man they had recently talked too, did have a plan B and they were ready for things to change, but all those 100s of thousands of people all looking like lost sheep were clueless to what to do.

Sell the clothes, and bags and get a train around the stoppage. Rent a bike, Rent a car, Walk. Oh well, its over with now, for a time, hopefully they learn to not depend on the system to work all the time.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future, with backup plans in case something goes wrong.

I graduated from college in 1955. While I was in college I heard about one of our professors, Leontief, working on a giant model of the economy of the USA. I was interested, but not interested enough to leave my physics major. A few years later when I was in graduate school, a fellow graduate student, but not in physics, was working on the rational design of tall towers. He was using computers to work out the forces, ALL the forces, on every steel member of a tower over a mile high. Both Leontief's and the graduate student's problem showed promise of being solved/solvable in the near future back then. Now, 55 years later, the tower problem is solved, and has been solved for many years. But Leontief's work seems to have been utterly forgotten.

This study, for instance, does not contain any references to his work, or to Operations Research or to Linear Programming, etc. What has happened? Thinking about complexity is not new. I wasn't paying attention, so I don't know what happened. Does anyone remember the promise of Operations Research? What became of it?

Why not live with less and share our surplus with the destitute? In general we don’t do this, not by a long shot. Status anxiety, the sunk cost effect, personal/kin/tribal preferences and more ensure that the issue is far more complex in actuality.

I live with less than I have in the past. From May 2005 to March 2008 I lived on less than (us)$3,000 a year. Now I am up to less than $9,000 a year.

Though I do have it easy as I live with my parents, in a paid for house.

So not realy needing all that I have I give away to the needy, to the tune of over $6,500 to two people for their rent and some of their utilities.

Now I don't know what I'd be doing if I did not have my parents to fall back on, besides living even closer to the bone than I do now. But even back in the lean years of 2006 and 2007 I gave away a lot more than 25% of what I took in. I know that there are other giving folks out there, not as many as I would hope, but they are out there.

If I let myself I know I can be quite greedy, as I have been so in the past. I can see myself in the future getting to the point that there is little or no money coming in, it'll have to all go to paying the taxes for the land that is now under my feet, if that can even be held onto in the future.

I do try to practice what I preach as far as my BioWebScape design theories, eating a lot off the landscaping, living with less energy use, less gadgets, but in the energy constrained future I most likely will be forced to use less than I do now.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future for all.

Hi Everyone, I've been spending alot of time here on a daily basis since I first found this site this past January. I came after watching the movie, collapse. I feel like I've learned alot from everyone here, yet I feel just as confused as when I first watched collapse. Since learning of peak oil this past January my entire world has changed. Everything.

Never thought of owning guns or weapons before, I'm getting a gun license. Never thought of food security, I'm stocking up on food (as best I can). I always had the outlook that my lifestyle would be better/easier in the future, I now have a difficult time believing that will be possible.

My family owns a chocolate business, I planned on working to grow the business, we had our best year this past year and I wonder whether we should try to sell it now, pay off debts and with the remainder purchase a house suited for a PO world, make it self sufficient and stockpile gold/silver among other things, or hold on since the business is on track to make nice profit and the continued cashflow would be greater after only two or three years then the sum received after taxes on a sale of the business.

I'm just confused. I know some people here have been around for years. It could be possibly be years of BAU or not. I guess I'm looking for advice. Sometimes I feel like I'm am losing it. I think it was a poster by the name of coldcamel who said something along the line of -its time to only be concerned with yourself, your family and loved ones, it sounds cold but after owning and running a business and dealing with people and money I believe he was right. I've seen the ugly side of people including myself when dealing with excess money, not even essential basic living means money and it can be quite dark. I almost never post online so I apologize if this post is inappropiate for this article.


Hello Dave, personally I'd prepare for potentially serious issues while not dropping everything if you're doing well financially at the present. If your business is successful there is no reason to move and start a new life else where. Things may not pan out as Ruppert says, but they will most likely not be a picnic either. Learning to use Firearms and garden are a great start.

Thanks for the input Floridian, I will be taking firearms training when I get my license and purchase my own handgun. As for gardening I need to get started learning, I live in an apartment but their is a community garden nearby, I think I need to read up before I give that a go.

Reading books on gardening are great, but hands on first is better. One thing I find that is most troublesome about reading a book is that you see pictures of what the plants are after they have grown and become picture worthy. Not a real life look at what plants do in the ground. I tend to get impatient with my seeds, I can check them every day and not notice many changes, I really need to get back into bread making (I've been on a kimchi and pickle making spree to long).

Get your hands dirty by offering to help others, ask questions, they will offer you all sorts of opinions and then later at night you can read some books on the subject, but first just get out there and garden by helping or making mistakes.

Trust me. I have been growing plants for over 35 years, I planted seeds before I read much, but I read a lot, and I've formed a lot of my own habits that are a mixture of dozens of books.

One thing you will want to do is see where your food likes and dislikes are, there are a lot of foods that you can grow that you have never tasted I'll be willing to bet.

Where do you get your cocoa from? And does your business have a website, you can email it me, check profile.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Ps, Keep your chin up, keep your business, just try to be mindful that things as you once knew them aren't now, but you can still live a cheerful life, even if you know you are going to die tomorrow or not.

Gee Dave I really, really feel for you. The only solace I can offer is that you are not alone in your dilemma.
You will probably receive advice but ultimately I think you will deal with your problems in your own way.

At this time you are probably in the anger stage of the grief process, it will pass and eventually you should reach the acceptance stage. I bet right now you wish you had never learnt of peak oil. I think we should keep that in mind when we try to enlighten the blissfully unaware.

Thanks Bandits, your right about dealing with it on my own, I think the advice part is me looking for reassurance that I'm not going insane lol. I think I'm pretty logical, so after reading here for only the first few days, many many hours and many many previous posts it just made sense to me. I think I am pretty much at the acceptance stage, I hope. What I have a hard time dealing with is the blank stare if mentioned to other people. Heard people say it here, before it happened to me, so I just don't mention it- hell my own family except for my brother doesn't see PO as important/possible. Actually, I'd rather face this problem and try to be prepared rather than have remained ignorant, however you are correct, I was completely blissfully unaware, hard to believe it now.

You have plenty of company. I've been aware and "accepting" for almost 2 years and its still making me seriously depressed. Just started taking some anti-depressants. They're not helping. Also reading the best selp help book on depression which says all depression is caused by irrational pessimistic thoughts. Given the effort and intellect it takes to get a deep understanding of our overshoot I am pretty sure I am not irrational and have very good reason to be pessimistic.

Hi Kye Bay, I have started doing a few things to "prepare", I really feel more positive each time I get something done or even start doing something new to prepare. Whether in the end it will ultimately improve my future is another matter. It seems I could easily be underestimating the scale of the problem even while being quite doomerish. A world war with current technology would be a serious downer considering I live between NY and Philly.

Thanks Doomerdave. I too am taking some steps to prepare. I am enrolled in a small scale farming course, do volunteer work on an organic farm, and try to consume less. But I still find it hard. Until recently I was a hard right capitalist executive caught up in the race to get rich. It's been quite a shock to my system. And I worry a lot about my kids.

I have started doing a few things to "prepare"

Prepare for what? This is called question-begging. There's a hidden assumption there--that you have an idea what the future is going to be. It's like the absurdity of the 'transition' movement: transition to exactly WHAT? There is no "future" out there waiting to be predicted by the right person. There is only an eternally unfolding present, with too many interlocking variables for any of us to figure out.

For example, does one prepare for war, famine, die-off, and if so, how? Or does one prepare for power-down, re-localization, bartering, and if so, how? Or does one prepare for the developed world to seize control of the remaining resources and keep us all fat and happy? Beats me. Do what you like to do, unless you find you can't.

Good question. Transition to what?
However, just a thought, Britain / UK began preparations for the WWII food emergency about 3 years before war started. At least got the numbers together. Not a moment too soon. It was fairly obvious; we had been there before in 1914-1918 and in late 1930s imported 70% of our food calories. (Had not fed ourselves since 1840s). During WWII we expanded mechanized cultivation, doubled NPK use and thereby doubled production and halved imports. It was a close run thing even with rationing and help from USA; US oil as well as armies etc.

Of course we can't predict the future, at least not in specifics. Determining trends, the direction that our society is likely to go (economic decline, constrained resources, social change) and using history to give one some perspective can allow one to make better choices.

One doesn't need to know how bad the drought will get to begin the process of living on less water. Even if a drought is mild or short-lived, it's a good exercise in efficiency, and history tells us that the next drought is coming, sometime. Learning to live well on less and incorporating that into ones lifestyle will free up energy and resources in any environment, feast or famine. It also gives one a sense of purpose and positions one to help others. Being part of a possible solution is always better than being a definite part of the problem, IMO. In my case, trying to do the right thing is always better than knowing I'm selfishly doing the wrong thing. If TS really HTF, as I say, just maybe I can hang on long enough to write my own epitaph, and yours as well.


I prepare for a rainy day, by putting buckets under the rain gutters and over hangs. I prepare for a day when I have no power and still need to find a light, by making sure my lighters are fueled and handy, that the candles are in the places they should be, and the flashlights test okay.

We all prepare for things in the future that we don't know will or won't happen.

It is like seed saving. All the seeds I have saved will be used my those I leave behind when I die in the morning, or not.

Granted there is only now, but in two hours there is a then that I can see now might be me in bed, or out in my garden depending on several issues, (I've been up all night reading I have no set time of being awake, so it is never normal).

The best advice is to not worry so much about the future you can't see, but to have a few just in cases lined up. Just in case I know that oil might run out, I'll have some books on how to build a house with hand tools, and maybe bone up on those skills needed to do that. Just in case there might be a storm in my area, I'll pack a few bags of supplies like water, food, meds and clothes and place them in storm proof caves/boxes/etc. Just in case of war I'll get my fallout shelter sign spruced up and ready to travel. (I have one of those from a place that used to have FallOut Shelter status here in town, it's nailed to my closet door, and has been for 25 years).

Just because you don't like transition movement/groups, doesn't mean they might not have some worth. I am not involved with them, but I can understand them helping people adjust to the knowledge that things are changing around them and they want to feel better about it all.

Change is part of life, but we need to know where we might be going, and see if we can get there in a safe way. There being not a real place, but a state of mind. I have several friends who are EMTs One of them is forest rescue, and he has a bag with everything needed to do a rescue anywhere in the state in his car at all times. He is in the process of making up more bags to hand out to his "CREW" when they are all gathered together. His transition movement ideal is, prepare for the worst, if it never happens so be it, but if it does he is ready.

Prepare for the worst and pray for the best.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

There is a school of thought out there, which says "depression" is actually the normal state. It is happy-happy-joy-joy which is abnormal. But once people have been convinced that everyone is supposed to be shiny-happy-people, they will spend endless amounts of money trying to find that state, but never do.

similar thought,we get 'moments' of happiness, not some static state/level.

The acceptance stage doesn't mean you won't feel depression. You will most likely have cycles of grief for soon-to-be lost world. In a way its like grieving for a loved one on their death bed. The most difficult part is how everyone else doesn't realize the loss. In a normal death situation your friends and family would at least be their to provide comfort, but in our grieving process our closest ones hurt us the most by their lack of interest or outright refusal. Its a heavy burden for us to bare. We often will question our own sanity. Sometimes the enormity of it will hit you hard, to the point of wishing for surrender. I suspect it won't get easier as we draw closer. Actions must be taken now or you won't be able to live with yourself later. In some ways I am jealous of the TOD old timers because they don't have to feel an inward need to survive; they can simply accept the consequences and not feel guilty. Then again many of them have children and grand-children which in many ways may be worse because of lack of ability to influence. Hang in there. Feel pride in knowing :-)

Being an oldtimer on TOD I can stay that some of us, knew about some of this before we got here. My parents grew up in the great depression and their lessions were learned the hard way and they passed them on to me while growing up. I have always had a back up plan in place almost all the time, back up for something going wrong in the future.

In a box in my room is Datek 3600 calorie food bars, and some odds and ends from two cases of MREs, plus several camping tenderboxs that I have a habit of keeping around. Likely I'll end up eating most of this stuff in the turn around cycle I have on it, but not because I have ran into trouble.

Just remember that in all this new information to you, to smile and feel glad you are alive.

Last year my second e-wife died. Knowing that she wanted to end her suffering, I was glad that she didn't have to suffer any more. I try not to worry about the lack of being able to call her up and chat about things, but I still shed a tear now and then.

Be of good cheer, for tomorrow you have to weed the peas/fill in blank vegie.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Hi, Dave. Remember that chocolate has been used for centuries as a form of "currency". Perhaps you should stockpile plenty of cocoa :-> When the going gets tough, people eat chocolate!

It could be that depression stimulates chocolate cravings as a form of self-treatment. Chocolate prompts the release of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, that produce feelings of pleasure.

I rest my case. Stockpile chocolate Dave. We're gonna need it!

LOL, I have seriously thought about that angle, ok I guess I am going nuts.

This is an EXCELLENT point. The plant we get cocoa from is what's called a "megatherm", they need gobs of heat to be happy. They will not grow in the US, and could become a high-profit trade good in the future. High enough to use as money.

Gee, maybe that's why the Aztecs actually did use the cocoa bean as money.

I know nothing about running a chocolate business, but, personally speaking, I would never give up chocolate! I can think of a 100 things I'd rather go without than chocolate. If I go without chocolate for more than a few days I find myself a little unhinged at 11 p.m., speeding to the nearest store to get some.

If there are others out there like me I'm sure you'll have customers, even in a poorer world.

As far as depression and chocolate, well, what can I say. Knowledge of peak oil tends to have certain effects on one's mood.

I've been very surprised how strong our retail sales have been, so far so good. With that said, our wholesale business has been tough-we only extend credit to a small amount of long time customers and when they fall behind its right to credit cards with everyone else. We've had numerous specialty gift shop accounts close over the last 2-3 years, I think many retailers are still struggling to stay afloat. Scary

I know nothing about running a chocolate business, but, personally speaking, I would never give up chocolate!

Have you tried Ritter Butter Biscuit? They sell them online and at Trader Joe's near the checkout stands. It's out of Switzerland! They use huge rollers that emulsify the cocoa until its a perfectly smooth consistency. The outside is incredible chocolate, and inside is a softer, creamier milk chocolate over a thin butter biscuit. You can let it melt in your mouth, or just bite through into the biscuit. Either way it's chocolate heaven! Oh my!

No I haven't, but I will!

My chocolate staple is Lindt Lindor milk chocolate truffles.

Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk!

The usual place I do a lot of online dealing food wise with is nutsonline and they offered raw cocoa beans, I got a pound of them, a bit pricey, but they do my fix for chocolate, without all the sugar. You can feel the cocoa butter in the bean nibs (crushed beans)just after putting a few in your mouth. If you like semi-sweet chocolate they are better, you might have to get used to the no sugar taste otherwise.

Even though they say we can't grow them in the US I bet with a good greenhouse system set up we could.

The one thing that we will still have is trade, even if it has to go back to shipping in sailboats, we will still trade for things that we could not do without.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

I came after watching the movie, collapse.

No wonder you're quivering with fear. You got off on the wrong foot, unfortunately. Ruppert is probably the worst entree into peak oil. He believes Dick Cheney engineered the 9/11 attacks. He blathered that Hurricane Rita meant the collapse of the U. S. economy. This is not an auspicious beginning for a tour into peak oil.

My own humble opinion is that you pay attention to the geologists and the ecologists and ignore everyone else. I make exceptions for J. H. Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov, who are at least funny, if often a little cracked.

All these years and I have never seen that movie, is it offered online? For free? Okay I might pay to see it, but likely not.

But from all the talk about it, some of the things I've seen online about the peak oil futures, have been scary and could lead to depression in folks.

DoomerDave, Remember to breath, and keep the chocolate flowing as long as you can, and then figure out if you can grow the plant here at all possible. Many plants that are native to the tropics are grown in the US even if under glass. It might be a way to prepare for the transition of FF peak.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

That thread got me thinking about chocolate, but I actually came here to post this latest article on real estate in China:


'In China, real estate fever is rising'

Taxi drivers boast of owning multiple flats for investment. Billboards hawk developments with names such as Villa Glorious and Rich Country. Frenzied crowds pack sales events with bags of cash, buying units that exist only on blueprints. Average home values in Hefei soared 50% last year.

The situation in Hefei is a symbol of the craziness in China's real estate market," said Cao Jianhai, a professor of economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank. "Prices in second-and third-tier cities are increasing more dramatically than in the first tier. It's very dangerous, and it puts local banks at risk."

When the cab drivers have real estate investments, that's probably a sign the bubble is close to bursting.

Once collapse begins we will lose the tools and infrastructure we would need to manage the collapse.tiffany rings

Hey Guys

We are all intelligent, aware beings. We know whats ahead, and whats the element we are missing? Nature itself! We are so fixated on getting machines to do everything or making something that will do the job for us. Its better than that, we already have it - The Hemp Plant!

It is a ready made liquid fuel source, turn it into methanol and off you go. Adjust car ignition to accomodate the fuel and there you go. It grows on wasteland, requires minimal water, provides nutritous seeds adn raw materials for making things. Come on, I live in the UK and the same thing is happening, everyone arguing amongst themselves, hoping it will all take care of itself. Is Hemp farming that bad? if everyone gave up one working day a week to work on co-operative hemp farms, we could lower business costs, grow a new resource and possible improve productivity!!!! what are we waiting for? We are stale, and rigid, lets become fresh and flexible!

Hemp was suppressed so crude oil products could get where they are today. If Hemp had been used instead, it would be a different situation completely. Back then it was about greed, they didn't comphrehend the long term implications, but we do. For the sake of getting a single MAN-MADE law changed, a lot of problems related to crude can go away. This is more about apathy and slackness than any real problem with the earths capacities etc. Two points about the threat we pose to the earth. a little volcano decided to spew some ash over england last week, shutting down airports and causing mayhem. Do you think that kind of power is threatened by us? No way!. Second - nearly a billion chinese peasants living off the land, and many more in india too. Have you ever watched these people? they are simple, god-fearing folk, who have lived that way for centuries. If the earth cannot cope, then they wouldn't be here. The issue with peak oil is our addiction to industrialisation - NON-RENEWABLE industrialisation.

Hemp cultivation doesn't mean we all live on farms and straw houses. Modern society can stay where it is, just enhanced with a renewable fuel rather than a 100% non-renewable one. Once you start producing methanol en masse with Hemp, you will create a cadence, using the methanol you harvested to expand production and harvesting capabilities, the same as we do now, just without as much crude oil (preferably, none)

Indeed, a collapse could very well happen, and the lunatics who are leading everyone off a cliff would like that, because it means they are the last ones standing, and pass their genes downstream. I don't know about you, but i think we all have the right to pass genes downstream, and not be led off the cliff by people who believe the contrary.

There will only be a collapse if people like us, dwell on it. We need to tap into the next most abundant source - the plant kingdom. Unless a falling empire reinvents itself, it will collapse, whats it going to be?? At the very least, if it comes to the worst, remember Hemps qualities, it could take you far in a tight spot.


Hemp cultivation doesn't mean we all live on farms and straw houses. Modern society can stay where it is, just enhanced with a renewable fuel rather than a 100% non-renewable one

Ok, put the bong down!

One thing you might not have to worry about if the manure hits the fan is government cracking down on those people that want to use the plant for the mental side of it.

Lots of things will change, and might be available, while we might not get to eat grapes in the winter in northern climes, we might be able to cut out sugary soft drinks that seem to be getting bad press these days.

Best luck with your campaign.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

Mrs. Napolitano gave a speech on 19 April where she defended the BAU by saying, quote "Our way of life is the most powerful source to survive".

Great article. But what I'm thinking is that this is the best argument yet in favor of continued economic growth. Once elites recognize the precariousness of the situation, they will pull out all the stops to save the system (and their fortunes). Already they've had little trouble coming up with an $800 billion stimulus and a multi-trillion dollar bank bailout. To keep GDP's growing they just have to keep government spending above the drop in private spending.

Stuart Staniford reminds us that the government was spending 37% of GDP on the war effort in 1945 (http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-does-surplus-resilience.html). Who is to say they can't do that again over a 10 year transition period to a low-oil economy? (Hopefully by converting to a Green economy and not a war economy though!) For instance, Al Gore has floated the idea of a 10 year conversion to renewable electricity.

I'm not an economist, but I suspect they could achieve this, either by borrowing while interest rates are so low or just by printing the money. As long as the productive economy grows in proportion to the debt (that is, investing the money in industries with multiplier effects) then hyper-inflation need not necessarily happen. In effect, the government would be taking over the global financial system, (while rationing oil to keep us all alive).

Can this be done? I don't know, but I think they would tend to go for it, considering the alternatives. Anyway, fire away...

"In effect, the government would be taking over the global financial system, (while rationing oil to keep us all alive)."

Uh, I think you have that backwards. The "financial system" will have taken over the Govt. It could be argued that this has already happened. It occurs to me that the line between finance and Govt has become imaginary, very blurred. Nothing new either.

Oil rationing? Perhaps OPEC's quotas were just a test-run of this concept. Once again, nothing new.

Have you considered that this "control" of the system is now just a delusion born from the hubris of power? Our hypercomplex system has developed a life of it's own. IMHO, no group of humans can control it at this point. What I see now are desperate attempts to maintain the illusion of control. We're on a runaway train. Hang on tight!

Indeed, hand on tight, Ghung!

I agree there is a blurred line and a revolving door between financial and government elites. But I still think we the people can have at least some influence on the government side of things. The more influence we can gather, the stronger our chances we can influence decision makers to come up with approaches that favor we the people. (One writer who takes this view point is Jon Rynn (http://globalmakeover.com/manufacturinggreenprosperity).

Of course we can't know in advance the course events will take. The economy is a complex system defying prediction, particularly when we tweak it by withdrawing primary energy. But I think we can make preaparations that add to our tool kit that aid our chances of protecting civilization. We can promote car-free living, local agriculture, raising awareness, etc.,all of which serve to lessen impacts of oil shocks. Other than that we have to think on our feet as events arise. The illusion of control has to go,as you suggest.

My litte book on what resource probems can lead to and on how to handle them is finished. But I have not yet translated it into english and the distribution needs serious improvements. I have no complete solution but it could be possible to ease the pain and save quite a lot of lives and life quality.