Deepwater Horizon Blowout: This is What the End of the Oil Age Looks Like

This is a guest post by Richard Heinberg that was previously published by the Post Carbon Institute.

Lately I’ve been reading the excellent coverage of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill at, a site frequented by veteran oil geologists and engineers. A couple of adages from the old-timers are worth quoting: “Cut corners all you want, but never downhole,” and, “There’s fast, there’s cheap, and there’s right, and you get to pick two.”

There will be plenty of blame to go around, as events leading up to the fatal rig explosion are sorted out. Even if efforts to plug the gushing leak succeed sooner rather than later, the damage to the Gulf environment and to the economy of the region will be incalculable and will linger for years if not decades.

The deadly stench from oil-soaked marshes—as spring turns to hot, fetid summer—will by itself ruin tens or hundreds of thousands of lives and livelihoods. Then there’s the loss of the seafood industry: we’re talking about more than the crippling of the economic backbone of the region; anyone who’s spent time in New Orleans (my wife’s family all live there) knows that the people and culture of southern Louisiana are literally as well as figuratively composed of digested crawfish, shrimp, and speckled trout. Given the historic political support from this part of the country for offshore drilling, and for the petroleum industry in general, this really amounts to sacrificing the faithful on the altar of oil.

But the following should be an even clearer conclusion from all that has happened, and that is still unfolding: This is what the end of the oil age looks like. The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.

The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner, what we will end up doing anyway as a result of resource depletion and economic, environmental, and military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff. Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent American president (an oil man, it should be noted) admitted, “America is addicted to oil.” Will we let this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it? Good intentions are not enough. Now is the moment for the President, other elected officials at all levels of government, and ordinary citizens to make this our central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to make, and an enormous amount of work to do.

The Oil Drum posts a views of many different people, in order for readers to have a chance to consider and debate the point. Publication of a view does not necessarily mean endorsement of that view.

One issue I have is assuming the worst, before it happens. Maybe all these things will happen, and maybe there will be " deadly stench from oil-soaked marshes", but I am not certain this will be the case.

Another issue I have is deciding the fishermen have a right to continue pulling huge amount of fish and other sea food from the Gulf of Mexico. Isn't this just as destructive as an oil spill, especially if it is over-done? The fact that it has been done that way for centuries doesn't really justify our overfishing.

In terms of a solution, one which might be mentioned is going to a more plant-based diet. This would help with both oil utilization and overfishing (and CO2 emissions). This would seem to be more easily accomplished than other ways of "ending our oil addiction". But this approach is not popular with most people, so it isn't the approach that is likely to be suggested, even though it probably would lead to a major savings in oil use.

Our financial system is very closely tied in with economic growth which in turn is very closely tied in with oil use. Perhaps we can "end our oil addiction," but I expect doing so will mean loss of livelihoods of a lot of people (directly and indirectly--many people from dry cleaners to auto salesmen to hotel managers) and result in more debt defaults. Whether this can be done without crashing the financial system is doubtful. So while ending our oil addiction sounds nice, I am doubtful it really can be accomplished, and doing so would likely have consequences that need to be considered as well.

If the well is killed in time, I reckon a Cat 5 huricane may help clean up a a bit.

the solution to pollution is dilution?

(What I'd consider a hoot is if there are no hurricanes at all.)

Partly. If it disperses more it breaks down faster.

A problem being, if top kill does not work, and a huricane sweeping the platforms drilling the relief wells... O no, let's not think about that scenario.

Don't get me wrong, this has the potential to become the largest man-made environmental disaster in history and we have enough of that already.

This is an inconvenience; a large man-made environmental disaster (say, the drying up of the Aral Sea) kills people by thousands and by tens of thousands, this one will oblige people to stop fishing and migrate to Texas, and might add as much as 1% to the US unemployment figure.

Wommack: You are either an idiot or a Congress Critter.Sorry that might be redundant.

One factoid I've picked up over the past few days is that natural oil seeps ( throughout the Gulf amount to some 3000 barrels per day (, and assuming a petroleum density of 0.8 gm/cm^3, and assuming I got my conversion factors right), resulting in slicks which can be seen in the Gulf west of New Orleans (

It seems that these natural seeps are metabolized by oil-eating bacteria (

Anyone know more or better?

I can only begin to speculate how long it will take natural bacteria to break down an additional 100,000 BPD or so coming from the Macondo gusher. But it seems to me that part of the cleanup effort should involve injecting these bacteria into the area. (Update: Further reading says this has been tried before and doesn't work. Never mind.)

I've also heard speculation (hearsay) that the reason BP clung so long to the 5,000 BPD rate for the gusher is that they could then say that this is about the same as natural seepage in the Gulf. Hey, it's a big ocean, right?

Gail, Your commentary constantly baffles me. You know the hard limitations on resource extraction as much as anyone but you still seem to cling to ideas like this:

"Perhaps we can 'end our oil addiction,' but I expect doing so will mean loss of livelihoods of a lot of people (directly and indirectly--many people from dry cleaners to auto salesmen to hotel managers) and result in more debt defaults. Whether this can be done without crashing the financial system is doubtful."

First off, of COURSE it would crash the financial system. Secondly, you must certainly realize that the financial system will certainly collapse in relatively short order even if we try to continue as usual. Don't you realize the monumental changes that are coming? (yes you do) And don't you realize that every day we delay the necessary transition will make the coming fall even more disastrous? (you must) So how can you write such utter nonsense? I just don't get where the disconnect is.

The many faces of Gail. Relax! She's not the only conflicted poster here. I oscillate from technocopian to extreme doomer on a regular basis. That's what makes this fun!

Indeed, it is as hard to not be conflicted about our beliefs as it is to shake an addiction, for we are so inundated with propaganda from our culture, both actively from corporations and reflexively from friends and family, all of which tells us that growth and consumption are good and natural. That said, it is still vitally important that we charitably correct our friends, such as Gail (and encourage them to correct us), when they fail to see things clearly.

It often depends on what side of bed I got out of.

dan allen wrote:
Gail, Your commentary constantly baffles me. You know the hard limitations on resource extraction as much as anyone....

Gail the Actuary wrote:
One issue I have is assuming the worst, before it happens.

When one constantly makes predictions of doom that do not happen, one loses credibility. Thomas Malthus got the fundamentals correct but missed the timing by hundreds of years.

Gail the Actuary wrote:
One issue I have is assuming the worst, before it happens.


You ROUTINELY assume the absolute worst when discussing our ability to mitigate, adjust or cope with a post-Peak Oil world.


Alan, I think you need to take off your rose colored glasses and accept some of what Gail has been saying. It is now the middle of 2010, oil extraction has been plateaued for roughly six years now.

There has been no mitigation of PO whatsoever, we have capital markets in disarray, Eastern Europe is in a depression, Southern Europe is getting ready to fall into the Mediterranean Sea, U6 unemployment is over 20% in the U.S., the Euro is collapsing, Iran is pursuing nuclear technology, a South Korean warship was recently destroyed by North Korea, Northern Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places on the planet, Thailand is having major civil unrest, Kyrgyzstan has ousted their prime minister, we have an ecological disaster occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, and the population is still 6.8 billion and increasing each day.

Yes Alan... the world is in great shape.

OTOH, We no longer have GWB, Cheney and a majority of R's pushing for EXACTLY the wrong policies (everything from invading Iraq to a 1 year write-off if you buy a Hummer vs. 3 years for a Prius) and we are beginning to go in the right direction here.

Sweden, Switzerland and France have near perfect post-Peak Oil strategies.

So it is a mixed bag.

Best Hopes for the Tea Party insuring a Republican minority,


France has over 30 million vehicles and Sweden has over 4.5 million. So that's roughly 2 people for every vehicle, that's not exactly a peak oil arrangement.

Oh, they will use oil as long as they can afford it (although FAR lower VMT than USA).

But they are quite busy creating a Non-Oil Transportation alternative, in parallel, that they can switch over to.

No Republicans there to get in the way of this vital National Security plan.


But they are quite busy creating a Non-Oil Transportation alternative, in parallel, that they can switch over to.

Did you look at the numbers ? For Holland I read that to get 10% of the car users in the train they need to double the train capacity. For only 10%. So it's going to take a lot of time and money. Both could be a problem. Anyway, in an 'ever lasting' depression transportation is down a lot.

So they buy more rail cars and more people stand. And some car drivers bicycle instead.

One advantage of rail, the more it is used, the cheaper it is per unit.

In the USA, only ONE Urban Rail line is at capacity (Lexington Avenue in NYC) and work is lowly progressing on a 2nd Avenue subway to relieve it. Just add more cars to the rest.


For the Red Line in DC, they should have built 10 car and not 8 car stations. But since they did not and the Red Line is "close" to capacity, they should build a stub and break the Red Line into two lines during Rush hours.

One line should be existing Glenmont to Bethesda. New line would take existing Shady Grove to Bethesda, then new stub down to Georgetown and across Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and terminate at Union Passenger Terminal, where it would merge back into old Red Line.

Shuttle line (2 cars) from new Georgetown station to existing Foggy Bottom station.

Double Red Line capacity by adding about 7 miles.

"So they buy more rail cars and more people stand."

On outlying lines. On some lines in the Randstadt/Amsterdam region, they simply aren't going to double the number of trains (to raise 10% to 20%), much less multiply it by five or ten (to reach 50% or 100%.) But it's about the flattest place on Earth except for the bit around Maastricht, the "winter" is mostly a pussycat, and the summer isn't torrid as in so much of the USA, so the already high bicycle percentage might rise some more.

" is lowly progressing on a 2nd Avenue subway to relieve it"

Yes!!! Best TOD Freudian slip in quite some time. They've been fooling around with that 2nd Avenue subway on and off since, oh, 1948. It's even "lowlier" than road "work", where you hardly ever see anyone around, never mind actually "working". After many decades, they finally built, I think it was a three-station stub. WRT the rest, I'll believe it when I see it, should I live so long. It takes them up to twelve years just to renovate the utility lines and repave a street, the sort of job that might take six months in other places. There's nothing the need more urgently than some ambitious, fast-moving French bureaucracy.

"For the Red Line in DC," etc. etc.

Trouble is, to make any kind of measurable dent in metropolitan DC car traffic, they'd be needing, oh, maybe the equivalent of a dozen additional Metros. The overall car dependence always seemed to be all but 100% across a huge region, with Metro serving only selected areas, most notably and conspicuously the DC tourist district (i.e. the Mall and nearby area.)

The number of people that take public transit to work in DC (vast majority Metro or Metro + bus) is greater than the number that drive alone to work. (Add car pool and and cars still carry more than transit by a slim margin; add bike and walk to transit and it is close).

A MASSIVE change from the 3% or 4% transit (all bus) reported in the 1970 census (pre-Metro). DC Metro saves over 100,000 b/day.

Ed Tennyson# thinks adding 15 lines (mostly light rail) in DC area would increase ridership (first year, higher later) by 130% (ridership) and 150% (pax-miles) of current DC Metro base.

Some of the lines are:

Metro - Extend Silver line past Dulles to Leesburg, add stub above to Red Line, extend Green Line to Baltimore via Ft Meade

Light Rail - Extend Red Line past Shady Grove on old RR ROW as light rail, Purple Line as planned plus extend to Tyson's Corner, Light Rail Tyson's Corner to Pentagon, Columbia Pike, Light rail from Blue Line to Fort Belvoir (sp ?)

Streetcar - 4 lines in DC proper

From memory, I did not quite get them all.


# Ed, working for DC Metro planning, estimated ridership before the first line (Red) opened for the completed system. He was off by 3%. I told him he was lucky and his reply was "You have to be good to be lucky", which rings true.

France also has a sound strategy for nuclear power that has not only been formulated, it's been almost fully implemented to the point of providing nearly 80% of their electricity. And, this includes an already functional French industry for cost-effective recycling of nuclear waste into new nuclear fuel. This greatly minimizes the long-term waste storage issues that have vexed the American program for so long (except for the "success" of recycling into depleted uranium munitions).

With their electricity production in relatively good order, France has the option of moving to the use of more and more hybrid and all-electric vehicles, resulting in what could be called "nuclear-powered" cars (both safe and CO2-clean). The longer-term challenge to widespread adoption of all such stored electricity vehicles may be finding a mix of battery designs that do not push key elemental components into critical depletion and scarcity (e.g. nickel, cadmium, lithium, etc).

the French have MAJOR initiatives for:

High Speed trains (building three TGV lines at once)
Urban rail (1,500 km of new Tram lines in 10 years)
Electrify French railroads (100% in 20 years)
Bicycling (goal 10% of urban trips, up from 1%)

but nothing for EVs.

I approve.


Sweden, Switzerland and France have near perfect post-Peak Oil strategies.

So it is a mixed bag.

No, it's not. Few countries to make a big difference. Strategies there completely wiped out by activities in China, India,etc.
Besides, still a lot of traffic jams every day in Switzerland and France.

Gail, maybe I should start calling you Cassandra.

Fated to tell the truth, yet no one believed her. I am sure you will end up better then she did.


Gail, Ghung and I, along with I am certain many more, all hear on a regular basis that the economy will recover, that there is sufficient oil, that the PTB are on top of things, and will make everything better. It is part of the God the Father mentality we all have had driven into us from birth. We know, from the facts, that BAU cannot continue. Our friends, and even our relatives, all say it can. Like everyone else, we want to believe that, and we want to at least make allowances that maybe, just maybe, they are all correct.

Besides, what if, in 5 years or 15 years, there is more oil than ever, things are rosey, and we turn out to be all a bunch of dillusional fanatics? How embarasing! And, to our friends and relatives. This is a dangerous position to hold.

So, we think, maybe it is better to believe that oil is abiotic, that we will discover 3 Saudi Arabias worth of oil per year for the next 10 years or more, and that everything will be great. Or, we will discover or create some wonderful new way to replace oil. After all, we are really smart. Or, maybe there is an alien race watching over us who will help us out. Or, maybe our econbomy does not depend on oil and fossil fuels. Maybe global warming is all a hoax, and so is peak oil.

You see, Dan, we are living in a time of converging crises... economic, energy, political, religious, ecological, and overriding it all population crisis. The SOP for politicians is tell people what they want to hear, and kill the messenger. Gail doesn't, Ghung doesn't and I don't want to be seen by those I love and respect in a bad light. So, we try to 'present the controversy.' Even when we seriously do not believe there is one.

So, we are human, in the final analysis. Even Gail. Even me!


Good job, Craig! Every day I'm sort of like "Pinto", during the Toga party in Animal House:


In my world, every morning the little pessimist devil (in his gruff voice) tells me; "F*@K it. You know the score. You can do the math. Humanity is screwed, so sleep in, then go out there and consume, consume, consume! Eat drink and be merry dude, for tomorrow you will DIE."

Then there's the little do-right optimist Angel (with the squeeky little voice); "Get up! Today you have beans and peas to plant, solar panels to adjust, people to help! You don't know what the future holds. Even if things get bad, you must do the right thing. Fight! Fight! Fight!

In short, conflicted.

Gail is what I term a gloomer, she sees the doom on the horizon, and hopes for the best, though she knows that some things just won't be, but still hopes.

If the site were just doom and gloom all the time, few people were read it after a while, and we would gain nothing in the end. And her attitude sparks discussion very well, don't you think?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

My own opinion is that the "Oil issue" is a subset of a larger issue, that overarching question about why we live as we do.

If you ask "why?" enough, regardless of where you start (be it carbon based resources, fish, or hotel clerks) you inevitably end up asking why it's necessary to have a world like this at all. Why do we need to drill like this? Because we need the oil. Why do we need the oil? Because it fuels our cars. Why do we need cars? It is a hella drinking game at the least.

My own "beef" is with the rapaciousness of the legal corporate structure, devoid completely of morals and ethics, given a single purpose for being, and unleashed on the common resources of the planet without restraint. We just seem to love that for some reason.

Well we've already caused a crash to one of the most productive ecological systems in the world. Add the costs of the loss of that natural resource to the costs of all the other ecological damage we have done and will do.

After all those costs have been counted, compare those to the financial impacts of an orderly downsizing of our oil use and then proceed from there.

We know we will have to cut our oil use eventually. Let's start now and invest accordingly.

Destroying the ecology of the planet to avoid a possible reduction in financial output is suicide.

Our financial system is very closely tied in with economic growth which in turn is very closely tied in with oil use. Perhaps we can "end our oil addiction," but I expect doing so will mean loss of livelihoods of a lot of people (directly and indirectly--many people from dry cleaners to auto salesmen to hotel managers) and result in more debt defaults. Whether this can be done without crashing the financial system is doubtful. So while ending our oil addiction sounds nice, I am doubtful it really can be accomplished, and doing so would likely have consequences that need to be considered as well.

I dunno, the point Richard seems to be making is that an economy based upon steady fossil fuel consumption, especially oil, CAN'T be sustained no matter which way you slice it. So it would be better to engage thoroughly with the idea that we need to move on, and find the best sweet spots first for moving away from oil dependence that cause the smallest harm or greatest benefit. I think hotels, laundromats and automakers can manage, if they get with the times, i.e. convert to energy efficiency, renewables, alternative energy sources and storage technologies (hydrogen/renewable fuels/electrification etc.) It takes a little ingenuity and a little effort, yes, but I think people and the businesses they run are more versatile and adaptable than you are giving credit for. There has also been a decent amount of work done, and more still to be done, on shifting to a steady-state sustainable economy that does not require constant growth.

What is needed is an acknowledgement that this sort of transition is (and has been) inevitable, whether we are prepared to make the transition or not. The sooner we acknowledge the necessity of transition economies based upon sustainable energy sources, the better. Arguing for permanent oil addiction does nobody any good, the longer we prolong the inevitable the harder and faster we Heinberg has been arguing for a long time.

A more plant based diet? Are we not now using all of the arable land? As less oil is available how are you going to sustain yields on land that can't produce crops without fossil fuel inputs. You miss the real problem and that is too many people using too few resources. We need population control,but that is probably 50 years too late.

It's never too late to lead by example. But don't just disappear. Douse yourself in gasoline and then have that last smoke. Do it on Sarah Palin's show.

Don't listen to anybody who tries to tell you, that your gesture is meaningless, that a largely plant base diet means less plants on less land, that land can produce as much or more with a decline of fossil fuel inputs and more labour and improved technique and other such nonsense. These people are deluded.

You bear the light. Let it shine.

Thus you deny that over population is an issue.

Your suggestion is futile anyhow because any conservation will eventually be overwhelmed by the exponential increase caused by unrestrained breeders and capricious consumers.

Here is the solution you adore:
Let them send your sons and daughters to war
in a foreign land you abhor.
Let them fight for honor, glory and more...
stuff you adore.
Let them kill one of theirs and one of yours or a score
until there are no more soldiers who play at war.

Actually we are not now using all the arable land. In the U.S. the amount of arable land in production is about 50% of what's defined as arable. Across the world only 38% of arable land is in production.

As I drove around the last few years looking for my own piece of land I saw lots of perfectly arable land lying fallow. In the county I was particularly interested in (Milam County Texas) as I was doing my research I found that far more of the land was under agriculture production in 1933 than is now. The use of petroleum based agriculture resulted in great productivity improvements that allowed consolidation of farms to those areas best suited to intense, large scale production. Many areas not suited to mega-agriculture were driven out of farming because small family farms couldn't compete. Thus a lot of once farmed land is fallow.

The demise of oil based mega-agriculture will mean returning to small scale farming using natural methods like soil improvements through composting, etc. This type of farming is labor intensive, but that's just the ticket to replace the oil deprived mega-farms. The productivity per acre will likely go down, but I speculate that more people will be forced to farm anyway as reduction in energy available will result in reduction of service-type industries.

That happened in Cuba.

It solved some of the unemployment problem, but apparently it is still not a workers' paradise.

Arable land isn't the only limit to agriculture. Water, nutrients/chemicals, fuel/equipment, climate change will all affect the amount of food we can produce. I see local agriculture/small scale farming making a comeback.

I agree, though, that there is plenty of arable land not being utilized in the US. What there is a shortage of is skilled farmers.

97% of California's farms are owned by families or partnerships. California provides more for the world's foodbasket than any other state. It is already happening.

Speaking of California farming - I just finished reading "The Grapes of Wrath", which is a story of a family's plight migrating to California during the great depression. Beyond the fact that it is an outstanding read, the book describes events and statements that contains many parallels to today's "Great Recession". There's the "Monster Banks" taking the family's land over loans and farming with one farmer and tractor over acres and acres because that's more cost effective for the bank/landowner than sharecropping. I see analogies to those corporate profits over people decisions in the decades of stagnant wages and recent high unemployment due to automation and outsourcing.

You mention the 97% owned by "families or partnerships". This was one of the premises of the book that caused such hardship because all the farming was about profits and driving down the labor costs. I gather from the reading, in fact, that those same families and partnerships were ultimately owned by the banks which owned the notes who dictated to some degree what the owners needed to do to maintain their ownership. (Of course this book is a work of fiction and may or may not reflect the reality. Somehow, though I suspect large grains of truth exist there.)

Then there was the description of vast crops of harvested fruits and vegetables dumped to rot, even as there were people starving, because price deflation meant produce couldn't sell for any profit. Better to let it rot than give it away. At the height of the great recession I came across a video on youtube describing how a company went through the process of recycling a brand new cars (a Mazda 3 if I recall). The sales of autos fell off so quickly that the auto manufacturers just recycled the car for it's steel. They even shredded the tires! I only saw the Mazda example, but given the news reports of vast fields of BMW's, Mercedes, and other cars sitting idle at import lots, I wouldn't doubt a lot of those got the axe (crusher) too.

That was before I found TOD. I wonder how many barrels of oil were wasted recycling those autos?

We have to change that mindset of throwing away is better than giving away.

I've heard that one recent year's wheat harvest was so great that there was not storage room or the prices to be paid for it that heaps of wheat were dumped on the ground. I was horrifed to hear that even if it was not true, it still is a horror story to my ears.

Famine is something that more people suffer from than most people in the US seem to realize. It happens even in the USA. Food is sold, so if you have no money you can starve most nights.

We have the ability to feed everyone on earth today, we also have the ability to teach everyone on earth the results of their actions. We could if we really set our mind to it, feed everyone and reduce our over all gain in population. I know people have told me I am a fool for thinking this, but if we really wanted to do it, we could.

The thing is, who controls us wanting to do something? Do we control ourselves? Or does Global Corporate mind tell us what to think? Their are people out there, that think someone else is pulling the strings and making the events happen as they do, you all know their names, they are all over the net. But is that true?

There is no need to throw away good food, there are plenty of hands wanting to get fed, even in your own towns. Look at people like They help gardeners feed the needy.

Think about that in a global sense, when one country has surplus and feeds another in famine, free of charge.

BAU means we have to have a profit motive, why is that? Why not change that too?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

California leads the nation in food production because they dump petro chemicals on the desert to make it bloom.California also diverts so much water from northern rivers that Salmon fishing has had to be closed for two years.
California could not feed itself without fossil fuels. Santa Clara Valley,with its bountiful alluvial soils, has been paved over,so farming the desert with petro chemicals is how California farms.
Good luck with your tin hat and shovel in the desert!

Yes we are using all the arable land, even more than that if you count marginal land that shouldn't be getting used for agriculture at all.

But most of the output from the land is plant products that are fed to animals to make meat, resulting in a loss of around 90 percent of the food value. The available land would go much further if we consumed a lot more of our diet in plant products directly.

A more plant based diet? Are we not now using all of the arable land?

Lets say 100%.

Photon -> plant -> human feed
Photon -> plant -> Animal -> human feed

That extra animal step is 'expensive'.

The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people

That only works if the cattle are eating human food. If you don't feed them grains, and feed them grass, which humans can't eat, then you can still have a steak from time to time.

It is the feed lots, the factory feeding stations that get us into trouble. But not all those numbers can be pushed off on grain fed beef.

It does look great number wise, but it is not totally true.

The folks in the free range group don't feed a lot of grains to their livestock, though you'll have to get with them on the content of their feed. Traditionally livestock runs wild and eats the things humans can't and we eat them in return.

What you want to fight is the big stock yards that pump in grain by the ton and feed the animals in waste filled pens. I don't like that much as it can't continue for much longer.

I don't see myself straying far from a hunter gatherer lifestyle in the future.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future,

Traditionally livestock runs wild and eats the things humans can't and we eat them in return.

I see it as tradition allows the animals to do the work of harvesting Photons capture via plants and transfering that to human use as animal meat + manure for the ag crops + heat from the animals. (remember the sleeping space used to be above the critters)

Gail, think "circle of life." Humans are the de facto top-level predators in the Gulf (and elsewhere). It's not a matter of "have a right," it's a matter of how much is wise. There's a sustainable level of fishing which is not overfishing. (And neither you nor I know what that level is.)

Gail, the State of Louisiana does a decent job on controlling overfishing within our boundaries. No issues with oysters (which are close to farming), crab and shrimp. Redfish were being overfished two decades ago, so commercial fishing was banned and limits put on recreational red fish. There is some debate on speckled trout and red snapper are definitely being overfished.

The swamps and water of South Louisiana are among the most productive fisheries in the world. One could argue that the close in-shore fishery of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya delta is THE most productive fishery in the world.

The massive annual catch reflects this massive productivity.

Prior to BP, our biggest problem was corn ethanol.

Yes, massively subsidized corn farming uses large amounts of fertilizer (much more than the competing soybeans) and this washes downriver. A big corm crop means a large dead zone, a smaller crop means a smaller dead zone.


As far as food and feeding people goes, I try really hard to think about that subject with an open mind as well as filled with the facts as we know them today. Arable land is guessed ato being a little over 41,000,000 sqaure Kilometers. I am used to working with acres and inches and feet, so I did a bit of crunching last night(I have odd hours, it was really 9 am local time) before going to sleep, 2.47 acres per hectare. So the arable land divided by the estimated population of 6.8 billions gives you...1.5 acres or 0.609 hectares per person to use in feeding them.

I have heard on this forum the banted about phrase of needing 5 acres to feed one person or as low as my estimates of 1/4 an acre to feed one person. Well the facts speak that there is currently only about 1.5 acres feeding people today. I would also say that we have in the past gotten a lot of food from a seafood diet. How long that might be a case is up in the air, as we can fish farm a lot of food fish, but they eat a lot of plant foods, grains and such that could feed people.

There are no easy answers, but there are several I'll call them "fantasy solutions" because we could have them, but we won't be able to convince enough people to go that route fast enough to prevent suffering.

There are several people out there that are working toward feeding people off of land that is being reclaimed via several different methods. Will Allen is doing wonders in inner city areas to push aquaponics. Even setting up greenhouses on parking lots or vacant lots. Permaculture people have shown that non-arable lands can produce food, if care is taken to restore them. Forest Gardening has some potential to feed people within a new method of looking at spaces for food production. People following Masanobu Fukuoka are finding a new respect for natural systems as well.

But each of these methods puts the problem into a bigger light, Who will change the BAU to go a different route than the one they were following?

The Oil Spill is sending people to TOD and with that we here have the ability to speak to more people about our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and nightmares. I don't call myself a doomer, but a gloomer, I see the doom that could be, but hope that it won't be as bad as it could be. If enough people are willing to change, if enough people are willing to spread their personal change to others, if enough people want to have a better life for the future, maybe the dark days ahead will only be gloomy, not totally dark.

I am still working on my plans to make a different future for myself and others.

But I am not sure going to a total plant based diet is the answer. Maybe we don't have to strip mine the oceans of fish, when we can raise them in greenhouses in old mall parking lots. Maybe we can reclaim the Aral Sea with the water we save by only using the rainwater from our rooftops and recycling our own waste stream, letting the ground water restore itself. Maybe just maybe the people left in the future decades care more about extending a hand to their fellow man than we do today.

I try not to get lost in the fantasies, but I can still dream of better times.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

I don't like how our dependence on oil is compared to an addition. For starters, removing an addictive drug from you system makes you healthier. Taking oil away from our economy will be a disaster. Addiction is an attempt to self medicate. Using oil is how we do work. Withdrawal from addictive drugs can cause some temporary suffering. The end of oil will likely kill millions if not billions of people. It will be a permanent cause of suffering. For some addictions there are replacement drugs or medications for withdrawal. In the case of oil, there is no combination of energy resources that can ever take the place of oil. As we run out of cheap oil, there will be simply less work done. Less food to eat, fewer commodities, less travel. Even if we find the magical energy source, it would take 30 years or so to implement it. No one I've met can fast for 30 years.

The addiction metaphor is wrong, simplistic, and misleading.

I disagree. It is not "wrong, simplistic and misleading" to view overconsumption and acquisitiveness as some kind of addiction.

Carbon based life requires energy sources, and oil is a great energy source. No one argues that. Food is good, no one argues that.

But eating compulsively is an "addiction", and many of our cultural norms concerning petroleum can only be described in terms of "addiction" -- a maladaptive, compulsive search for more than we need.

Opium is good, too. But it can result in addiction.

Things are not bad or good in themselves (there is some theological disagreement on this point, but I don't accept it) -- the problem is in how things are used, and how they are related to each other. And that is anything but simple or simplistic.

I believe you put your finger on the problem, DK. "Even if we find the magical energy source..." We are also addicted to magical thinking. Someone or something else can solve our problems for us

The addiction metaphor is something I've been interested in for some time and I believe there are parallels. But to clear some things up first- many addicts coming off or deprived of their drugs do, in fact, die.

Some substances are inherently addictive, like heroin. If you use heroin, you will become addicted. Other substances or activities become addictive only to the extent that they aren't processed correctly by the body and mind (alcohol) or become substitutes or replacements for something else (like food and sex).

Oil may fall into the category of "not processed correctly" with regard to the biosphere, but I think the last scenario describes our relationship to oil. The question, then, is what is this something else.

My hypothesis is this: the replacement thing is POWER. This is why all 12-step recovery programs start with these two steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over x— that our lives had become unmanageable,
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

From here I would say we get into issues around mortality, the war against nature and so on, which I'm hoping will be a very LIVELY discussion.

I don't see the addiction metaphor as misleading. The problem is, we've been addicted for so long, that we can't conceive of any other way to live; comfortably and easily anyway. Removing oil from our 'system' would indeed make us healthier, it's just a matter of time scale. A junkie takes a few days to come down off their drugs, it would take us a bit longer to 'come down' off oil, but after a couple decades I truly believe we would be better off.

Our addiction is to a cheap and easy life. Oil is just the enabler. I wouldn't say we would be better off without a cheap and easy life, but we could probably survive on alot less.

The thing is though, the way we are do things has its own momentum, and things that used to be cheap and easy, no longer our, but we've backed ourself into a corner (or think we have) because of sunk costs.

There is nothing cheap and easy about the American transport system. Nothing is easy about commuting two hours into the city in a car creeping a clogged highway. There is nothing efficient about bumper to bumper traffic. There is nothing easy about a two hour nerve-wracking drive compared to a short train commute where one can read on the way. But the infrastructure isn't there for that anymore.

I think we could thrive on a lot less. My personal consumption in the last few years has fallen off a cliff. I live a better life. Yes, I realize consuming less means less work for people to do in some cases, but if we buy less, we don't need to make as much either. And anyway, there is just so much waste in the system. There is probably little economic loss to shuttling business men and vacationers around in slow trains when compared to hurtling them through the air at 30,000 feet at a 600 mph. There will be lots of work to do in implementing both low tech and hi tech fixes.

I will happily say it: we would be better off without a cheap and easy life. Our cheap and easy life comes at the cost of ever-intensifying exploitation. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" And by soul, here, I mean the core of our humanity. Some few of us do profit, but we do so by shifting values from people to things, which clearly imperils our survival and more insidiously imperils our happiness. We are isolated, never satisfied, and saddened. And I don't want to be any of those things.

We are isolated, never satisfied, and saddened

Very, very true...

We certainly have a severe dependency on oil. We know oil will end and we know before it ends it will be declining in availability. Given that, it seems to make sense to try and wean ourselves off oil as much as possible on our own terms rather than just sitting back with BAU and take our lumps. The fact that we are generally not doing that to the extent that seems warranted is why it is an addiction.

Not only is it at least misleading, but it's a handy-dandy tactic for shutting down any conversation about larger realities. After all, when a sociopolitical problem becomes bothersome, you normally have a political debate about how to cope with it, and rarely does any particular campaigner "win" completely. Reality is messy, so you make tradeoffs and come to a compromise. You do what's decided, and not always perfectly, change course when that doesn't quite work, and ultimately move on.

But if you, as a campaigner for whatever cause du jour might suit your fancy, can medicalize the sociopolitical issue instead, then your life becomes a bowl of cherries. Suddenly you have appointed yourself doctor and licensed yourself to push any means necessary to cope with it, no dissent allowed. Even when your pet cure is worse than the "disease", even if your means of administering it are draconian and tyrannical, you can paint yourself as savior (instead of some sort of 'fascist') since after all, who could sanely refuse curative "medicine"?

In other words, you may well get to bypass the hard political work and impose your pet cure willy-nilly. Or, at the very least, you can continually try to scare people out of their wits with doomsday scenarios trumped up by your (self-appointed) doctoral imagination until they finally ignore the many adverse effects of your pet cure, cave in and accept your self-appointment as doctor, and allow it to be imposed.

The old Soviet-style commissars were masters of these tactics. Recall that during the entire 70-year history of their way of doing things, never was there much hint of serious dissent. No siree, never happened. There were only insane crackpots popping up now and then, "medical" cases to be exiled to Siberia, locked up and drugged (or simply killed) for "the greater good of the greater number".

By 'Draconian and tyrannical cures', I suppose you're on about those evil bicycles and buses again, aren't you?

Paul, how in the world do you come to the conclusion that in calling this by the somewhat medical name of addiction, that the namer now assumes they have absolute power to implement their 'Rule the World' plan for solving it?

If anything, looking at the struggles we have in coping with the kind of Irrational and Compulsive Consumption that goes with so many addictions, I'd think it's fair to say that there's a large degree of despair at finding ANY solution to such problems.

So exactly which solutions to our Devotion and Dependence on Fossil Fuels is what you're calling 'worse than the disease'?

It's easy to jump into Stalinism from where you started your tirade, and extrapolate the appropriate hells from there on, but you didn't actually make the connection between them in the first place.

Where is this terrible censorship you warn about? Have you been censored here.. or just been told that such wild-eyed claims are full of beans?

Evil bicycles? Nah, good-vs-evil is about as applicable to an inanimate bicycle as "addiction" is to human activity. But I don't find mine to be safe, reliable transportation over rutted winter ice or on thunder-and-lightning days, so no use claiming as some here do that it's a substitute for a car. On the other hand, if somebody wants to do the "complete streets" thing and has a way to do it without gridlocking the place, I'm OK with that.

Evil buses? Nah, same issue about inanimate objects. Just tough to find a local bus in the USA driven by anyone who has the least concept of adhering to a schedule (or, occasionally, even following route directions.) Way, way, way too tardy, slow, and unreliable to use regularly and still have a life. (Also, from numbers that surface now and then, seems to cost about the same as solo driving when compared apples-to-apples, so execrable value-for-money.)

Medical terminology? Resource use is a sociopolitical issue involving many tradeoffs in a world that is not utopia. That may be about politics, economics, or geology. But there's no conceivable need for medical or even "somewhat" medical terminology or concepts other than for manipulative purposes. The notion that political disagreement calls for medical treatment, or even "somewhat" medical treatment, belongs on the ash heap of history along with the commissars.

"Solving" problems that genuinely earn the "addiction" label? I dunno, maybe problems like that will remain with us for as long as we're a species. It seems that when we are able to deal with them at all, we usually palliate or "manage" them rather than "solve" them.

Censorship? The customary way to shut down discussion these days is marginalization. In the public square that may mean those weird "free speech" (ha!) corrals. In conversations it sometimes means the unfitting use of medical terminology ("addiction"), or just painting someone as crazy (or full of beans.) If an interlocutor can be made out to be touched in the head, then move along, nothing there, no need or even use in paying attention. (Which pretty well summarizes how discussion of climate change, as seen through mainstream media, seems to proceed - everyone calling each other names, threatening legal prosecution, etc.)

"Medical terminology? Resource use is a sociopolitical issue involving many tradeoffs in a world that is not utopia. That may be about politics, economics, or geology. But there's no conceivable need for medical or even "somewhat" medical terminology or concepts other than for manipulative purposes."

I would add that resource use is also an ecological issue. Even environmental agnostics recognize the oil spill as an ecological disaster (though we'll soon be debating severity). The ecological trade offs are just as important (if not more in the long run) but there's no immediate payoff for restraint - a virtue we Homo sapiens seem to lack.

The addiction metaphor may not be appropriate in a discussion of the facts but why then has "energy conservation" (use less, period) been replaced by "efficiency" (same output on less energy gives way to Jeavon's Paradox)? It's because no one wants to give up their lifestyle "buzz." That's why cap & trade is unpopular - its a buzz kill. Same reason balanced budgets (at all scales) are so difficult. Cash and carry (pay-go) is a buzz kill.

I may not be addicted but I like a good buzz as well as anyone ;)


You should travel to Central Arkansas, where CAT, Central Arkansas Transit is both on time and pretty fast in getting places, when cars don't try to kill the buses. I have traveled a good many places, at odd hours, and they stick to the route and schedule very well, and for $1.30 plus $0.05 for a transfer you can get all the way across both cities just as fast as going by car. I used to buy a monthly pass when I was traveling a lot more than I do now, not worth it at this time though.

But there aren't enough of them for some of the outlining areas of the city.

So don't say every place is the same.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

It seems to have engendered quite a lively discussion.. so the idea that it quashes dialogue doesn't seem to bear out either.

PaulS, I hope you have enough of a sense of humor to see that your post is a classic. You have given us a perfect example of the kind of "conversation ending" hyperbole you decry. It is also a classic example of projection, in that your post embodies what it accuses others of doing, possibly without any kind of self-reflection, making it perfectly unconscious of the fact. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt, though and believe you are aware of this on some level. Is there a Godwins Law for Stalin?

LOL, there must surely be a Godwin's law corollary for Stalin. And for Idi Amin and other monsters too. OTOH I don't actually know anyone who lived under Stalin, just people who lived in Eastern Europe long after Stalin but before 1989. And that in itself has been more than enough to extirpate any feelings of sympathy I might ever have had for anything that even smacks in any way of that sort of totalitarianism - and I mean the later and milder version, never mind undiluted Stalinism.

With respect to the rest, I'm still not in the least bit persuaded that the use of oil (or other fuel or food or even NASCAR tickets) is a medical condition calling for treatment, which seems to be widest current usage of the term "addiction". Much less do I see those things as justifying the otherwise out-of-bounds or even felonius actions that are often necessary and integral to medical treatment.

Are you seriously that ignorant or are you joking?

I suppose that you think that 60 percent of Americans being overweight or obese is healthy???? We get in our trucks/cars and drive EVERYWHERE instead of walking or biking. This not only leads to us being fat and out of shape, but we are killing the planet through global warming. It siimply is a choice to live far away from our jobs and drive to work instead of living close-by and biking or walking to work.

It is also a choice to eat unhealthy meat diets which require a lot of fossil fuels to raise as opposed to a vegetarian diet which is healthier and requires the use of less fossil fuels.


Going cold turkey can sometimes kill people and its always an unpleasant experience. I think 'kicking the addiction' is a good analogy.

I wonder how often rehab kills, actually.

I suspect that it's far more prevalent that someone (ie ALL of us, in this case) being told that they have to kick their habit is going to quickly react with the belief that losing their fix 'will surely kill them'..

A best pal has finally kicked the bottle, with the help of some good Franciscans up in NY State. He was so regularly close to death over the last couple years, I'd pretty much done my grieving already. Rehab could have done him in, I suppose; but while rolling the dice with that bottle, it was just a matter of when.

What is called "addiction" is nothing more than the normal state of the human animal. And the connotations of addiction as being negative, these stem from religious beliefs.

Manic Overeating
Chronic Gambling
Sexual Obsession and Predation ..
- these are only negatives as seen by Religious Zealots? .. That last item alone is worth a Thesis study, esp. in relation to the church..

We've manufactured emotional crutches and built mighty industrial empires around them, CELEBRATING addiction.. But this is not the 'normal' state of the human animal. If it's really so normal where you live, I think your chances in a post-carbon environment will be slimmer than mine. You might consider moving..

Obey your Thirst.

Sigh. So, point out where the evil is. Where is the bad supernatural magic which makes humans not obey the laws of biology, neurology, system dynamics, etc., and cause Satan and evil spirits to infest the human soul and cause it to become addicted?


So, like I was saying, addiction is the normal state of the human animal. If you have a problem with it, the same way you would have a problem with a broken pot or a flat tire, I suggest you understand how it works so that you can change it or fix it.

Otherwise, we're all just howling at the moon, aren't we.

"removing an addictive drug from your system makes you healthier." after you go thru withdrawal. I had a lot of ( alcoholic) ventilator patients who damn near died in DTs; some who did.

My name is Mike, and I am an oilcoholic.

I've said it before. Hi my name is Charles, I use plastic to collect the rain to water my garden, I used Fossil Fuels today I need help to get off the crude.

Oh and I ate foods not grown in my area, but had to be shipped in from somewhere else and they did not use old sailing ships, or horse and wagons to get them here.

I need to turn in my coin, I failed to stay off the oil products like I've been reading about here at TOD.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

I read a book on alcoholism years ago when I was worried about my children's drinking. (They're all 40ish now and functioning, so my worry was unnecessary; my youngest, who worried he might be alcoholic because of heavy drinking during his drumming gigs, found he was simply accepting too many free drinks -- he didn't crave them when he wasn't working.) The theory in the book was that some people's metabolisms easily convert to run on alcohol, rather than on more nutritious energy sources. People in the Mediterranean have adapted to wine over millennia; people in the North and in the New World lack defensive adaptations. So alcoholism isn't a matter of moral choice or will power; it's simply how your metabolism handles alcohol.

In one case, a drinker crashed his car after leaving a bar; but he was functioning fine with alcohol in his system -- he was done in by withdrawal symptoms. The problem with running on alcohol is that, as well as leading to malnutrition, it wrecks your liver. But withdrawal is so painful that it does require will power, support, and moral choice.

The book's view was so convincing that the fact that it didn't become the standard version probably means it didn't test out. Still, we're doing fine on oil -- withdrawal will be the pits.

Now is the moment for the President, other elected officials at all levels of government, and ordinary citizens to make this our central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to make, and an enormous amount of work to do.

I am indebted to PostCarbon and TOD for invaluable information and insight and analysis over the last 5-6 years, but it seems to me that the left brain has stalled out.

Our culture -including me- is addicted to oil, to money, to power, to alcohol, to drugs, to weapons. It is not cool at all to say we should give these things up -- to do so is to be instantly branded some kind of kook, and either marginalized or imprisoned.

And to argue that we should be moderate in our addictions is to argue that we as addicts can control our addictions -- talk to AA about that one. One can not be a little bit pregnant, and an alcoholic can never take that first drink.

Yet to stop all the addictions is to end culture as we know it -- for the simple reason that the culture is grounded in addiction. And to continue will end culture as we know it through resource depletion, ecosytem collapse and pollution.

Can TOD lead a search for a new paradigm? Can we develop some kind of 12-step program for acknowledging oil addiction? Is there any way it can be applied to large groups of people? Who would lead such a movement, and what would keep it from backsliding into the quicksand of addiction?

You seem to want to condemn everything extant ("the culture is grounded in addiction") as "addiction" to be twelve-stepped out of existence. So once everyone makes the quasi-religious declaration prescribed in Step 1, then what? What human activities could possibly pass muster under this world-view? Anything at all beyond eating, sleeping, defecating, and reproducing? Maybe not even those?

Money has been around for millennia in one form or another. Exosomatic energy sources, albeit limited, have probably been around even longer - think "fire". Power has been around longest of all; a cartoon likeness of power exists even in groups of animals. And so on.

It seems to follow that "addiction" in the sense propounded here is just a synonym for "life". Indeed, let's twelve-step life itself out of existence in the name of an incomprehensible abstract yet-to-be "paradigm". How quintessentially puritan. How quintessentially sanctimonious. How quintessentially foolish and silly.

Steady there. I don't feel like I am "condemning" anything.

I was observing what seems painfully obvious, and not just to me -- as a culture, we seem to be involved in a lot of mal-adaptive and compulsively acquisitive behavior that doesn't add to our sense of enjoyment or wellbeing.

Maybe using the term "addiction" is too fraught with moralistic and medical overtones to be useful in discussion. We can pick something else.

Addiction is not "life." Life is desire -- for survival, for reproduction, for pleasure, for beauty.

Addiction is the antithesis of life.

Addiction is desire gone psychotic.

In addition to the medical terminology issues, I'm not at all convinced that various behaviours don't add to our sense of enjoyment. You could argue that there are other activities that are better, but that's different to saying those acquisitive behaviours don't give enjoyment. I'm sure that I'd enjoy acquiring a model from each tech gadget produced and book published (although the enjoyment would probably tend to an asymptotic level). The reason that I don't is because of the consequences, both for my personal finances and the environment.

For me, the point is that even when an activity may be pleasurable in itself everyone should be considering other effects, including sustainability. The biggest problem with human beings seems to be that we're very poor at associating consequences that aren't visually apparent at the time of the behaviour with a behaviour. I do genuinely wonder how many of the people who've decided the GOM is terrible would think of it as "one of those things" if there weren't various pictures and videos about it.

For me, the point is that even when an activity may be pleasurable in itself everyone should be considering other effects, including sustainability.

...which is a lot more nuanced than labelling all activity with a medically and morally fraught term that is commonly used as a trick to shut down discussion or dissent.

I think what sets us apart from the rest of the animals is our ability to question everything, including the embedded power structures of groups. Looking around at the evidence, and doing some projecting from that, there seems only two logical pathways to follow: (1) acquiesce to the hopelessness of trying to radically change in short order what is so immensely wired to operate in a fashion that will drive the entire modern civilization of industrial nations into a wall, off a cliff, etc.; or (2) quietly as possible move off the grid, out of the matrix, etc. and possibly save yourself or your loved ones from all the damage that will occur when option 1 above achieves the "event horizon". Option 1 is easy, just continue BAU, keep typing comments on TOD, etc. until one day.... Option 2 is much harder, and requires some real deep thought. Most of us will likely opt for option 1. That might be OK, because as most of you understand, oil is what sustains so many of us, and you can conserve it for awhile, just like you can bale a sinking boat and keep it afloat for awhile longer, but ultimately the ship will sink. Hard to argue with the math of the net energy curve.

I prefer to keeping typing some comments on TOD and getting off the grid where possible, and changing how I used to do things.

We are fine tuning rain catchment, working towards having over 450 gallons of water storage, to water the garden, without using city water to do so. The city uses river water for drinking water, not ground water, but I still have to pay for it both coming and going. To water the plants I figured over 275 dollars savings over the course of a year. We are paying for the barrels( reused )and pipe fittings and such, but we are getting most of the other stuff from parts already on site. As we skill bank things, we will be able to help someone else have designs for them to use on their land.

I don't know which "Most of us" you are talking about, but Most of the people who post on TOD or have in the past, have gotten themselves pretty far along the changing their mindsets and actions to meet going away from BAU. If you are talking about Most of Humanity say it that way, so as to leave those of us who are changing out of that catagory.

Sorry I just don't like getting lumped in with the BAU crowd.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

Sorry for the lumping. Yeah, I meant the editorial "us", including all the clueless and those deep in denial. Kudos to all that are trying to help, even if it's "just" leading by example. As pour moi, I've donated some of my personal and professional time to getting the word out. Strangely enough, those well educated ivory tower types that populate my audiences are usually the deepest in denial. And, I've noted a personal trend that as the evidence for collapse builds, my calls are getting answered less. Wondering if this was one of Cassandra's first clues that things were not going all that well for her....

Addiction is not "life."

No it's not, which is why applying the term as a blanket label seems so ridiculous - it's just another of those weird malapropisms endemic to the Bush family.

But the "addiction" worldview is widespread in these parts, and I'm still left wondering what possible human activity, beyond the minimum basics of mere survival as a beast, could ever pass muster under its ambit. It seems to me that for every art, every science, every enjoyment, every conceivable action, there's a puritan or three or three million condemning it as maladaptive, inappropriate, gluttonous, compulsive, whatever. Oil and energy discussions often seem to turn on these capricious and arbitrary philosophical memes rather than anything much to do with oil or energy. a culture, we seem to be involved in a lot of mal-adaptive and compulsively acquisitive behavior that doesn't add to our sense of enjoyment or wellbeing.

Perhaps. But then again it's not at all clear to me who the pronouns refer to, or even if there's anything or anyone they could conceivably refer to. The country is just too diverse to have a monolithic "we". Take Jim Kunstler's harping on NASCAR for example. I tend to agree with him that after a while it gets rather silly to be watching cars going round and round in circles ... but OTOH who am I - and who is anyone else here - to diagnose (i.e. condemn) the spectators as "addicts" who need us to play doctor, to "reform" them with a "twelve step program" or any other program? Once we get this close to coercion on such matters, it seems more like sheer bloody-minded arrogance than anything else.

It's all a matter of degree. Desire is good. Addiction is bad.

Who gets to choose which is which? If it is the government or the church it will be a different inflection point on the continuum than if we get to choose for ourselves.

As Blake said (more or less) -- you don't know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.

When your neighbor is heavily addicted to video games, it would be pretty invasive to decide you had to 'save him' from his problem, unless of course you're his friend and don't want him throwing his life away, and want him to be maybe a better dad to his kids.. but when we're talking about cultural addictions that are wasting our resources and spoiling our environment, no less than MADD, who try to make sure their kids won't get mowed down by a Drunk, these are problems that a society has both a right and a responsibility to take on, if it wants to succeed.

It's another kind of arrogance that says that "I can do just what I like, and the people around me have to simply let me.." We're actually connected, Paul, and how each of us live affects everyone else. It doesn't justify the Totalitarianism you seem to think is the only resulting action.. but it does mean that people will notice and have a say in each other's behavior.

I too think the culture statement you quote is too general. Culture is different from civilization and all that- it's all been talked about here on TOD somewhere.

In my experience, no one is an addict until they realize it for themselves, regardless of what others say or do to try to "help" or "reform" someone with a "problem." Usually the addict is the last one to realize the situation, and its usually too late. So the 12 step programs have nothing to do with being imposed by some puritanical Calvin-Stalin. Recovery starts with a self-realization of hopelessness.

I suppose it would be nice if terms like "oil" and "energy" could be kept in some scientific sandbox, described in non-philosophical terms and equations, but I'd love to hear someone argue the point, that oil can be extricated from its messy history, politics, rationalization, killing and so on. There's an ethic to oil, which I don't feel so clean about.

Once the consequences of oil outweigh the benefits of oil, the culture, or civilization (when we really become a "we") or "us average folks" will stand around going "WTF? What do we do now." Just like a bunch of addicts.

To Money, to power, to treasures, to wine, to women, to song, you just discribed the last little bit of forever, Look at Rome, or Greece, or Mayans, Or Egypt, everyone from the dawn of time. Everyone is seeking those things, besides maybe a few more. Culture through the ages was "in love with something" or the other, be they big stone tombs or big wooden boats to sail the high seas.

Just because we have Oil these days does not mean we have changed anything from our past, we just changed the means to get all the rest.

When the Oil is gone the love of stuff is not going to go away, we will still be the clutchy I want mine kind of people we have always been.

No 12 step program is going to stop us, because if you have ever done a 12 step, they always tell you that you are not cured, just in remission. Nothing to see here, move along, humans can't change, apply another paradigm to them if you like, it won't fix anything.

I know that sounds all doomer and the like, but I've been reading the news lately, something I rarely do to any depth, but nothing is changing in the headlines.

Maybe if we tied one hand behind everyone's back and made them work with others to get fed and housed they might work together for everyone's good.

Rant off.
BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, with less me-isms.


Not to criticize your excellent writeup, but crawfish from louisiana are (and I'm pretty confident in this) freshwater farmed inland and not subject to the issues surrounding the spill. I know its just a picture and I'd love to be able to get cheap crawfish because everyone's panicking, but in reality, yeah, not really the picture needed.

The post is Richard Heinberg's All I wrote was the first comment.

It seems like the crawfish farming issue is an issue with Richard's post. That is a good point.

Since we are nit-picking here, I suggest the commentator read Heinberg's statement before posting. Heinberg states that the citizens of New Orleans grew up on a diet of crawfish, shrimp and specked trout. Any problem with the truth of that statement? He also states that the oil spill will result in "the loss of the seafood industry." Any problem with that statement? So why draw a connection that goes beyond the authors words? Should Heinberg have included a chart estimating the impact upon every seafood species in the Gulf in this very broad opinion piece?
Seems to me that there are more important things to do with our time than debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Our four seasons are

- Shrimp Season
- Oyster Season
- Crab Season
- Crawfish season

will soon, perhaps in a week, be reduced to one season. And no finfish either.

And there are no crawfish worth eating now anyway. Crawfish season starts in mid-November.

Half the crawfish are raised as a second crop in rice fields and half are caught in the wild (mainly the Atchafalaya Basin).


And there are no crawfish worth eating now anyway. Crawfish season starts in mid-November.

what do you mean there are no crawfish worth eating now. May is the best time for crawfish as its at the tail end of the season and they're biggest now.

And really, they may flood the field in october/november to start growing the crawfish (where they're farmed), but the crawfish aren't really harvested until starting february

If you have calluses and very strong fingers, you can eat them now. But the shells are just too darn thick and hard.

The places that put out "boiled crawfish - $1.79/lb" with the price in chalk stopped that about a month ago. No one holds a crawfish boil now.

The early crop is wild crawfish, which I prefer.

Shrimp should be good now (were it not for BP). So perhaps we will have to become less choosy :-(


haha, went to a crawfish boil this past weekend. Yeah, the shells were harder, but they were also bigger. I guess they were from the lower atchafalaya, but they weren't bad for a $15 all you can eat special.

I do prefer the farm raised kind though. Thinner shells and they tend to soak up the spices more.

We have been known to ship stuff to Texas that we would not eat ourselves >;-)


Poor Texas. I seem to recall hearing "There's nothing a Cajun won't eat." :-)

One error.

The New Orleans Saints had a "crawfish eating contest" last weekend.

Perhaps pro football fingers are stronger than mine (and many others).

My apologies, Greg !


I turned off the live feed of the spill because it makes me ill.

Yesterday, I drove to town to visit my mother in a nursing home and pick up a few things. I asked myself, "do I really need to make this trip"? I look at my gas gauge and know that I share the guilt of the Horizon spill and know that we will be helping out financially at future pump prices.

As I/we take steps to prepare for a future of reduced oil supply, I know that eventually it will be the price and market dynamics that finally switch us all to a different life. Our kitchens/lives are full of oil, from the coffee makers and transported coffee to the flour we bake our bread with.

The change is coming, but until costs produce a change in all of us, a proactive switch makes about as much sense as the Cultural Revolution or the enforced poverty of communist Albania.

Personally, I would fight any Govt. who mandated anything ahead of the curve out of distrust and independence. Reduced speed limits, taxes on fuel to limit excess consumption would be good first proactive steps. Blatant social engineering is not on for many of us. Push too hard and a push comes back. I think there would be an outright revolt.

Prepare your bolt hole and do the best you can while sharing the guilt of the spill. Change will come soon enough and then we can look back at just how good our energy laden lives were.

Visit the loved ones when you still can, they need the hugs too. Save your coffee grounds for slug control. Grow your own wheat and make your own bread. To name just a few things to do with what you have said.

Coffee is from South America, and elsewhere nowadays. Tea can be grown in the US but not very many places. But if Iceland can grow bananas we could grow coffee in greenhouses in the US too.

Oil is a guilty pleasure for almost all of us, but we can be weaning ourselves off of it and still be unable to do away with its influence in our lives.

So let us face facts and say, I was born on a little blue green ball in space that used stored energy to get be where I am today. Now knowing all that, I am going to help myself project myself into the future, by changing how I do things from this point forward.

How many of you would be willing to fast for 3 days? Or say you fast for 1 day a week, all the money you would spend on food you do something constructive with it. Buy seeds, buy food for a homeless person, take cans or fresh produce to a food pantry, share a ride with another person. Just do Something, not making the planet worse.

How many of you folks are willing to only live on $60 of food for a month? How many of you are willing to share rides with people that need them? Go to an old folks home and be a friend? Help out at the homeless shelters, food banks, food pantries, or other places that need helpers?

Not because you are guilty, but because you want to help change the world around you.

Feel guilty all you want, but leave it at the door when you come in to help others.

I have ranted today on this thread, now I am over the gloom and ready to be positive for a while. Maybe it's because the temps have gone down in the house, it's hot in the summer here.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future for all.

Is it just me, or does anyone else ever wonder...

Just imagine, in the distant future, 30, maybe 40 thousand years from now, a Species descended from Homo sapien, but actually with much more intelligent, more empathetic to nature, more cooperative toward community, etc. They hold us in the same regard as we view Neanderthals and other primitive hominids. Imagine this new species actually has the talent to master fusion and space travel, and to colonize the stars. But alas, despite their talents and intelligence, they never have the chance because all of the resources to build and maintain fusion reactors or spaceships, the energy foundation to take that new species and their civilization to the next level, or even to the same as our level, the entire one time earthly endowment, all of it! was squandered by a bunch of brutish, selfish apes with the audacity to call themselves "Sapiens"


Here's a Fred Hoyle quote apropos: "It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on the Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing intelligence this is not correct. We have or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned."

great quote, and he was right, but of course his use of the word "intelligence" carries a heavy implication of techno-industrial "success", while he uses the word "competent" for what might be more reasonably thought of as "intelligence". The i-word is always problematic.

culturally, we look down on aboriginal people, human and nonhuman. Like the gulf dolphins dying of lipoid pneumonia from aspirating oil. Really, if they don't do what we do, how smart can they be?

best hopes for the survival of some competent aboriginal minds past the bottleneck.

Balderdash and poppycock.

First, the law of Conservation of Mass. Nothing is gone, with the exception maybe of some helium at the boundary of our atmosphere that reaches escape velocity. Second, coal and oil are renewable on the geologic time scale. Third, humans are not intelligent apes, we are sexual apes who hijacked the plasticity of our sexual brains to make it do other things. Fourth, even if we were "intelligent", nearly every other species on the planet isn't, so whatever "intelligence" is, it's certainly not a necessary prerequisite for existence, life, enjoyment, play, eating, sleeping, breathing, or screwing.

First, the law of Conservation of Mass. Nothing is gone, with the exception maybe of some helium at the boundary of our atmosphere that reaches escape velocity. Second, coal and oil are renewable on the geologic time scale.

You are forgetting a few things. Conservation of mass, yes, but in a dispersed state, remember entropy? What will be permanently gone is concentrated deposits of elements, requiring increasing energy inputs to re-concentrate them.

Also, there may never be the necessary conditions again to produce coal and oil, even on a "geologic" time scale, considering that we are rapidly destroying the biosphere. Anyway, the reference was to tens of thousands of years, not geologic time.


The reference from Hoyle was that humans were Earth's only shot, and we blew all our resources and they are lost, so there's no more hope for any living thing on earth for ascendancy or intelligence. Which is balderdash and poppycock.

Dispersion is not uniform, otherwise there wouldn't have been mineral and ore deposits in the first place. Do you think that our garbage won't form concentrated mineral deposits over hundreds of thousands or millions of years?

The only point I was making was that we have screwed ourselves, but the ecosystem will adapt.

Nothing is gone. Elements are made in Suns. Man can't destroy them. We can move them from one mine to another, a mine in the ground full of rock to one full of trash. If you grind limestome up and heat dry it, you make the building blocks for concrete. Iron turns back into Iron Oxide, which turns back into iron, which goes the other way again. Granted to have copper be used in electrical wire it has to be very pure, but if you need the electrical wire, you'll know that sooner or later and be able to make it again as pure as you could at first.

20,000 years from now, if the person standing on the seashore looking up at the moon bases blinking in the night sky, knows that we humans from years before dreamed of such a sight, they'd be right. If they don't even think about it, then so be it.

While I don't think all is lost for those that follow us, I don't think we'd be any more able to tell what they will think, than we know what the people who made stonehenge thought about the future people to come to their temples.

We have a limited ability to guess the correct future, even for ourselves, much less peoples a few decades away or eons away.

How many humans left does it take to make another billion people? Barring total meltdown, Earth should be able to support a billion people just eating the local produce, maybe a little light farming/gardening. Or say only 500 million. But how many folks do you need to start with to be a viable population maker? If you can really depend on the school of thought that only a handful of people, under 100,000 became us, then I doubt we'd be able to kill off ourselves till less than 100,000 were left, baring a nuke war or a plague. Plaques usually leave survivors.

Don't count on being around to see it happen, unless you have the gene to live forever.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

yes. To the extent it may have been possible for complex life to spread off-planet, we are precluding that option to all who may follow.

IMO, BAU will totter along until the oil-derived products' prices greatly increase.

Other factors seem minor in comparison: AGW will continue to be debated endlessly, and even if a significant deleterious effect is proved to the satisfaction of the most vehement critics today.

Many folks will likely shrug and go about their lives thinking since they do not live at the poles or at the beach then their lives are hardly affected.

More ash pond spills, oil spills, miners killed underground, Mercury and other heavy metals in our tissues? Oh well, that's a bummer, we like to be shiny happy people and watch American Idol.

When gasoline prices in the U.S. went North of 4 bucks a gallon, more people started to notice and some initial, tentative lifestyle amendments started to be made by some fraction of the populace.

U.S. stays involved and/or increases involvement in Middle Eastern wars? Empirically, most folks in the U.S. don't give a flip. The Blue Star and Gold Star Mothers and the USO et al. will stay in business and become a seemingly permanent part of our landscape.

If the price of gasoline continues to bobble between $2.50 and $3.50 per gallon, or increases very slowly but surely, people will not change their ways.

Based on some prognostications here, if gasoline in the U.S. is not over $8.00 per gallon average by the end of 2015, then the theory of oil production having peaked in 2005 would look pretty thin. Now, if we mass-adopted very efficient vehicles (trading ~20mpg for ~40mpg on average and up) then the oil demand would be lower (in the U.S.) and that would pull price opposite from the effects of reduced supply somewhat. Also, even if our vehicle fleet MPG stays about the same, but VMT per year decreases significantly, then gasoline prices will likely not increase greatly. If we reduce VMT and increase fleet efficiency, that would be great, but what about the rest of the World's consumption patterns?

However, if VMT/yr increases, and fleet MPG does not greatly increase, and gasoline is still fairly inexpensive come the end of 2015, then either supply will have increased to meet demand or there would exist some kind of hidden subsidy or price control. Remember, the U.S. population is supposedly on a trajectory to reach ~ 400M people circa 2050 or maybe a few years before, barring nuclear war, very lethal pandemics, etc.

Of course, a large gasoline tax increasing steadily over time would force the issue of consumption reduction, but no one has the gumption to implement that.

And so?

Hungry? The TV will tell us to eat soylent yellow and red, and we will, because we will have forgotten what fresh fish tasted like.

We will live increasingly crowded lives because we can adapt -- North Korea has 8 times the population of Oregon in half the land area, with apparent personal consumption a fraction of what we Americans would currently accept, yet the Koreans do not revolt. I presume that the TV can direct us all to live like that as it becomes necessary.

Already, adjustments are being made. The National Guard (military) has been directed to police the border by our "leftwing" president. Certain favored banks are being strengthened at the expense of ordinary people. Open protest gatherings are no longer tolerated, you have to go to a protest pen, a "free speech area." One can see the glimmerings of a developing autocracy right here in the land of the free, but it is coming on so gradually that kids actually believe that "freedom" is the choice between OS-X and Android.

I think you are probably right, Heisenburg. There is no hope for the masses or the planet as we know it now, let alone 50 years ago. Maybe we can find beauty and fulfillment close to home, but human beings are not going to create a future paradise -- we had one, and we blew it.


I agree with you.

I am as happy as I can be, given my knowledge of the situation...I can grok why truly/very religious people seem happy...ignorance is bliss...the concepts of forgiven sins and eternal paradise after life on this Earth are powerful narcotics to going with the Earthly mortal flow I guess.

I like your Soylent Green references...reminds me of the Euthanasia scene where Thorn cries when he sees the scenes of the World that once was, even as late as in Sol's youth...

For a while in the early seventies it seemed that the U.S. may have been developing initial, tentative awareness of the critical importance of good environmental stewardship, to include population impacts, waste streams, and so forth, but then the nascent awareness slipped away like a dream...

We all seem to be locked in our BAU rut...seems to me that a few individuals can break out of the Matrix and do their own non-BAU thing, but unless society's norms change then the individuals' efforts are akin to p!$$ing in the wind.

We need adult leadership willing to tell folks how things are, but there are tremendous vested interests who won't allow that.

In my case, I can't even convince my family of the structural imbalances in our humankind's Matrix which are not sustainable.

This brings us full circle to the price signal: As long as gasoline diddle-doofs around the high two-dollar a gallon range, people will look at you as if you landed from Mars if you opine about declining flows, finite resources, increasing population and demand...

And it is a non-starter to try to advocate a two-child-per-woman-per-lifetime replacement schema...The number of folks I know who sired three or four children is fairly depressing, as is the point brought up here and elsewhere that the simple math dictates that the over-breeders will dominate the zero, one, and two-child progeny over time...

The idea that decreasing standards of living may very well lead to bigger families is very bleak. So, we all live a more Amish-ish lifestyle but our population density trends towards that of India?

I dunno.

We need adult leadership willing to tell folks how things are, but there are tremendous vested interests who won't allow that.

Not to get into a religious firestorm, but as a Christian I am reminded that we did not follow our Parent the last time He told us what to do. Why do you think people will listen to an adult now?

I have been a step dad twice, from ages 2 to 19, and let me tell you, kids love to listen when they are doing something they want to do. But try and get them to do something they don't want to do is like pulling your own teeth.

So just saying we need to have adult leadership is all fine and good, but we the kids have to want to listen and want to change. Otherwise all you will have is an Adult leadership that is like most parents. Loving their kids and letting them make the most of their own mistakes.

I can count the number of times my parents whacked me for misbehaving, They didn't spare the rod per se, but they also did not spoil the child either. I don't know what happened to me when I was little and picked up a ballpean hammer to tap on a head light. My mom and dad were fixing the car (yes my mom liked to work on cars, and loved to help my dad, still does at 80) I was wanting to help too. LOL my parents have a great sense of humor.

But depending on humans to listen to an adult!! You have another tall tale you want to tell?

Where are you going to find an adult around here, that the normal kids are going to obey?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

Off topic as all hell, but the difference between OS-X and Android is HUGE. Apple took FreeBSD (an open source unix derivative), gave it a facelift, obfuscated the code, so you couldn't modify it, called it OS-X and acted like they invented the whole thing. They then pared it down a bit to make the iPod/iPad/iPhone OS, where you can only download Apple approved apps, which Apple reserves the right to delete from YOUR iPod/Pad/whatever at any time for any reason.

Android is a version of Linux that Google has adapted for mobile phones. It's released under the APL (Apache Public License), which means it can be freely distributed and modified. You can download the source right here:, modify it however you want, redistribute it however you want, hell, you can charge for it if you want (like Apple did with FreeBSD).

One represents freedom, as in freedom of speech, whereas the other has become a bad parody of what it once stood against (remember th 1984 ad? turns out the guy on the screen was actually Steve Jobs).

Sorry, didn't mean to rant, but I'm an open source guy. And I totally agree with the gist of what you were saying, you just picked a bad example.

Well, OK.

I use Ubuntu myself, having given up on Mandrake, and not being quite geeky enough to use SUSE or any of the hard core distros.

But the point was, people these days confuse ability to choose from a limited number of options presented by the corporatocracy with true freedom. I guess, "would you like Pepsi or Coke" would be a better example.

Sort of like parents, who if they are sane, never ask a three-year old "what do you want to do, Johnny?" They say, "Johnny, do you want to sleep with your teddy bear or your puppy dog?" We have all become 3-year-olds to the market makers.

Anyone tried to do a simple (and obviously incomplete) cost/benefit analysis?

Macondo prospect estimated recoverables, and their estimated value...

Cost of the disaster in terms of lives, equipment, and lost oil.

Cost of the disaster in terms of lost revenue from fishing, oystering, shrimping, tourism.

Cost of the disaster in terms of money spent on dispersants and vessels and rig/rov/ship/person hours.

Cost of the disaster in terms of cleanup costs.

Cost of the disaster in terms of lost wetlands and subsequent (potential) strengthened storm surges and damage therefrom.

It seems to be, back of the envelope, that if we estimate macondo at 50 million barrels, at 100 dollars a barrel, we get 5 billion dollars worth of oil.

Take out the cost of finding, exploring, drilling.

The cost of the disaster, imo, will run into the 100's of billions.

So... here we see that ONE disaster outstrips by orders of magnitude the value of one field, possibly of 10 fields, or even 100 fields like Macondo.

That is NOT including the so-called "external costs" of pollution, global warming, cancer, acid rain, and political strife/economic hardship that arise directly and indirectly out of the petroleum economy.

So... if ONE disaster outstrips the value, in cost/benefit terms, of the field the well was intended to tap... and if that ONE disaster outstrips the value of 100 similar fields...

When does it no longer make sense from a risk management or cost/benefit analysis to continue drilling?

There is a specific type of probability distribution in finance called a Taleb Distribution (named after the author of the book "The Black Swan"), in which there is a high probability of a small gain, and a small probability of a very large loss, which more than outweighs the gains (in finance, an example of this would be a risk where a loss would bankrupt your company and/or wipe out years of profits in hours- a Russian-roulette -type risk.)

I think that this is a more accurate description of what has happened here: the regulators and risk assessors responsible for resource management in the GOM didn't realize, or chose to ignore, that the probability of massive oil spills in the GOM was much higher than they thought, and was, in fact, a Taleb Distribution (though the term was probably not in use when the decisions were made.)

When does it no longer make sense from a risk management or cost/benefit analysis to continue drilling?

About 20 tears ago, unfortunately...

About 20 tears ago, unfortunately...

Strangely apropos

I'm more reminded of fire-chief Steve McQueen's line in "The Towering Inferno": "Now, you know there's no sure way for us to fight a fire in anything over the seventh floor, but you guys just keep building 'em as high as you can." The risk in the drilling at those depths might have been acceptable for various groups; I don't know the details. What seems really appalling to me is that there seems to have been not much thought about "when an accident does happen, what new problems are going to apply to our previous techniques, what do we have to test now to see what changes at that depth, and what new things do we need to develop?"

(Incidentally, theimdb page has some fun quotes


Just to play devil's advocate, because I don't disagree with you, but to show what the other side can say.

The benefit side of your cost/benefit analysis should be all the oil produced to date in the US GoM since this is the only enviroonmental disaster of this magnitude in the US GoM.

Which at today's oil price would probably be (I didn't take the time to check actual production) over a half trillion dollars against a total cost of 10 billion to 100 billion depending if you look at cash cost or long term consequences.

Drill, Baby, Drill

One last before I go to my very BAU job...

Zero population growth: 2 children max per woman per lifetime.

Power down: Forget 'The Cities that never sleep' B.S. ... to the extent that people drive at all, drive very small, very fuel-efficient cars with basic that have a max speed of 50 MPH or so...more people bike and walk, we gradually but steadily amend zoning laws to allow for walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. Turn off at least half of all U.S. streetlights at night. Cut the U.S. military/security/spy machines by at least 50%. Much more...

Wait, I can hear the Blackhawks and Ospreys coming with the black bag teams...

We hominids will sit here puzzling about this problem until the lights go out and the nuclear warheads fly.

Here's a true story:

A car full of Christians pulled into my driveway on Saturday morning. A guy got out holding his bible and said to me with so many horrible things going on in the world today many of us are wondering if there really is a God. What do think about that, is there a God?

I said no there is no God. The problem is too many people having too many goddamn babies. And I pointed at the kid in the back seat. That's the problem.

Now have a nice day I said and sent them on their way.

We have been over-exploiting this planet for our benefit for at least 40,000 years since Jared Diamond's "great leap forward". The end of our civilization will come and the vast majority will go to an early grave without even knowing why it all happened.

I need to go back out and plant some corn.

Oh the irony! Someone who does not believe God exists uses a god based profanity. Those who don't believe in God should quit using " goddamn" as an adjective before something they disapprove of.

Even with only a 2 child per woman policy population would still grow due to population momentum.

If there are two people now and they have two children, now you have four people living. Those two children have two more themselves so you end up with grandparents, parents, and children. Now you have six people instead of the two you started with in about a 40 year time period.

Umm chullo, we're on a rolling clock here. Between disease, accidents and age, if we limited women to 2 children max, we'd actually start seeing a population decline fairly quickly, probably within a few years.

Didn't work with a *ONE* child family in China (actually closer to 1.5 children/woman there).

Another decade plus till maximum population in China, after decades of one child policy.


Given that its actually happening in east europe, russia, japan and parts of western europe, my guess is that there are 3 possible reason china continued growing.

1. The life expectancy doubled in the last 40 years
2. The replacement rate actually is above 2.2 and is not published
3. China is either overcounting people now or undercounted them before.

The math works out and population decline really is happening elsewhere.

The USA has been growing at 0.9%/year for some time now, and that "age pyramid" is not going to change any time soon.

From memory, our fertility is already <2/woman and with zero immigration, we would still grow +0.4%/year.

Our truly best hope to achieve zero population growth is to 1) stop immigration and 2) continue increasing obesity. Diabetes and heart disease can cause enough early deaths (50s, 60s) to slow down our population growth !


Population growth is not a problem in developed countries. It's the African, S. American and Asian populations that are still growing at a rapid (but slowing) % rate.

The key to stabilizing population is education for women. Once women are educated and realize there are other options besides being baby machines they'll stop having so many. A corollary is that the men have to be educated, too, and subjugation of women (by men) has to end.

Population growth is not a problem in developed countries...

EXCEPT the USA. We have about the highest population growth rate (Australia leads I think) and our OVER consumption of everything is legendary !


It's okay Alan, due to nonsensical opinions in regards to immigration we will quite possibly wind up with anything larger than a dog going extinct in the wild. But who really needs an ecosystem or Florida Panthers? Us humans have techno-fixes for everything!

"...our OVER consumption of everything is legendary !"

I Agree. I think over consumption is the larger issue, here anyway.

While we're at it, why don't we promote cigarette smoking too! Anyone remember the last scene in Blood Diamond where Leonardo DiCaprio is bleeding out and lights one last cigarette?

Decriminalize euthanasia, decriminalize abortion, decriminalize drugs, decriminalize prostitution...

Ah yes, the moral dilemmas in a puritan state....

One small side benfit Alan: I adopted my little China doll in 2000. Of course, now she's more S Texas redneck than China doll. Several years ago her mom was dressing her in a Chinese silk oufit for a Ch. New Year party. Looked at her mom and said "You know, I'm really not into this China stuff". Mom's not thrilled with that attitude but at least I got a fishing/hunting buddy out the deal.

I question the whole premise that reducing or controlling population saves energy. Perhaps it reduces human suffering and misery, but to my mind the evidence is that a reduced/controlled population leads to a rising standard of living.

And with a rising standard of living comes increased consumption and use of energy for things like cars. This is happening even now in China which has had a draconian population control program for decades.

Diabetes is running amok as food becomes readily available and cheap.

Car sales and fuel consumption are increasing.

I fail to understand the logic of fewer people meaning less consumption. Fewer people means more consumption since resources are divided among fewer with more for each person.

And without the cost of child rearing money is spent on energy consuming luxuries like cars and the fuel to run them.

It is well established that very poor countries with high populations like Bangladesh and some Africa countries use little energy per capita. Human misery is high, but energy consumption is low.

So be careful what you recommend population wise, you may get it only to find out that the energy resource conundrum becomes even worse as human misery falls.

OTOH, the negative population growth nations do not appear to have an orgy of energy use in progress (that is those that got to ZPG without a major drop in life expectancy like former SU)

Nation: Current natural decrease; decrease by 2050

Ukraine: -0.8%; -28%
Russia: -0.6%; -22%
Belarus -0.6%; -12%
Bulgaria -0.5%; -34%
Latvia -0.5%; -23%
Lithuania -0.4%; -15%
Hungary -0.3%; -11%
Romania -0.2%; -29%
Estonia -0.2%; -23%
Moldova -0.2%; -21%
Croatia -0.2%; -14%
Germany -0.2%; -9%
Czech Republic -0.1%; -8%
Japan 0%; -21%
Poland 0%; -17%
Slovakia 0%; -12%
Austria 0%; 8% increase
Italy 0%; -5%
Slovenia 0%; -5%
Greece 0%; -4%


Russia information on Wiki:

The primary causes of Russia's population decrease are a high death rate and low birth rate. While Russia's birth-rate is comparable to that of other European countries (12.1 births per 1000 people in 2008 compared to the European Union average of 9.90 per 1000) its population is declining at a greater rate than many due to a substantially higher death rate (in 2008, Russia's death rate was 14.5 per 1000 people compared to the European Union average of 10.28 per 1000). However, the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs predicts that by 2011, the death rate will equal the birth rate due to increases in fertility and decline in mortality.

AlanfromBigEasy wrote:
Didn't work with a *ONE* child family in China....

Their policy of one child per family has many exceptions, such as no limits on the number of babies for rural people and minorities.

The limit is two for those special groups. Special rules for all if a child dies young (see differential mortality for girls).

And that is why I noted that it is effectively 1.5 children/woman.


The problem is you leave out men. You limit the women, but don't limit the men. Make it a 2 babies per man population growth as well as a 2 babies per female. That way you can control the men fighting over females.

But at 2 you still replace and don't reduce.

Lets say one per male, and one per female. Father has to take care of the child, not let the state do it, or the female do it alone.

Or we could say a bunch of other methods and degrees and ages limits and all that, but getting it done is going to be the issue.

Even a world wide King, Czar for life, can't control the population this way.

You could do what a few SciFi authors have done, generated DNA plagues that make everyone sterile, or just females, or just men.

I've discussed this on other threads before, and we have to agree that nothing is going to happen, unless you have someone in power that will force it on everyone, and then we know where that will lead, shooting and killing the old fashion way of population limitation.

It'd be nice to have a grand scale DNA bank to supply the best genes for the best babies, so we could have healthy babies and fewer things to have health care for in the long run, but that too leads down dark roads.

Back to needing a Father Leader figure, HAHA! If the Christian God created everything, we didn't listen to him either, so what makes you think we will listen to a human? If you don't think any god created us, then why would humans listen to someone telling them to change or else? Sure there are people that follow the leaders of today, but not everyone would be willing to do that.

Sorry no easy answers as far as population control goes, we will muck about on our own for a while still.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future,

The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.

Thank you Richard, for taking us back to the fundamental thesis behind Limits to Growth: As resources become more scarce they take more and more energy to produce, and they cause more and more side effects. Eventually resources cost more to repair the damage or pay for their extraction than industry can generate using those resources. That is the end of growth. Period. Inescapable.

The industry does not need to get to 1:1 benefit:cost before it cannot power our society. Dr. Hall has already shown that 3:1 is too low, because of all the other costs (refining, roads, car manufacture) that must be paid to actually move goods and services. Is it possible that deepwater drilling is already there?

And if it has already fallen below the benefit:cost, then what will happen to the US as the Export Land effect begins to take hold and the market for oil dries up in another 20 years? We could be down 85%-95% of our transport capacity in that short time. Down to the last dribbles of oil out of stripper wells that (in effect) convert natural gas or coal generated electricity into oil.

It is hard to maintain hope when facing such rates of change.

Then its time to invade Iran, shut down the straights of Hormuz, and start sending all those tankers west instead of east. The US is strategically set up for this.

Then its time to invade Iran, shut down the straights of Hormuz, and start sending all those tankers west instead of east. The US is strategically set up for this.


Let me explain the parameters. Iran has over twice the population and almost four times the land area of Iraq, it is much more mountainous, and the people are much less disposed to cooperate with any invaders.

IOW, if you liked fighting in Iraq, you'll love fighting in Iran.

Not to worry about the addiction. At present in the US the average family income is about $59K and the average family work year is well less than 4000 hours or average out about $18-25/hr. Regular gas here is about $3 so the average family works 10 minutes or less for a gallon of gas. When the average family works one or two hours for a gallon of gas, voila, no more addiction. It doesn’t matter if the price of gas goes up (inflation) or the family income goes down (depression), when the work to fuel ratio gets high enough the addiction will go away. If the grid goes down hard, an big asteroid hits, +10C climate change, or any number of other things can end the addiction too.

In the final analysis as often pointed out on TOD “ ‘it’s the population‘, stupid“. Solve that problem and the rest is easy.

Here in the high desert we may be able to plant in a week or so. We can get a freeze or snow next month but that is unusual even here above 5000‘. Life is not easy here and when TSHTF I believe (hope) most people will leave and go to California where the sun is warmer, land more productive and the surf is better.

I`m glad you mentioned the sun. The shrimp, the dolphins, the crawfish, the fish, pelicans, whales, all are dependent only on the sun for their sustenance. If only we had stuck with the sun!

But we will turn back to the sun. Probably it is happening even now.

I see this huge turning back to the sun as a wonderful positive thing, like finding a long-lost love......we used to live with only the sun. We are made for---I mean we evolved for---living with solar energy dissipation. The energy flows at a nice slow rate and doesn`t pollute.

We had this one time gift of an incredibly dense portable energy source that had accumulated over a period of millions of years which allowed us to consider energy to be practically free. This distorted the way we organized our living arrangements particularly after the second world war. We spread ourselves out in a ridiculous manner because the cost of each of us hurtling around in our personal conveyence contraptions was essentially nothing.

Now the binge is coming to a close. This seems like a catastrophe only because of the relatively short timescale of the individual human life.

Things will turn out OK. We have to only get used to harvesting energy from entropic sources. The only problem is that we don't think in these terms and never have had to in the past. Sorry, I have never been able to muster up a doom and gloom post -- too many ideas to mull over to get caught up in all that.

I have never been able to muster up a doom and gloom post -- too many ideas to mull over to get caught up in all that.

Come on WHT, there must be something out there with a fat tail distribution that would make even us doomers and gloomers happy ;^)

Let's not forget one BIG thing. The US dollar is backed not by gold but oil. By requiring that oil be purchased on the international market in dollars you in effect make oil the basis of the dollar's value. This has big political implications. Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been financed entirely by borrowing from China (about $1 trillion), the elimination of the oil/dollar regime will have devastating consequences.