Peak Capital - Our Ultimate Limit?

This post was published in June 2009 under the name The Fifth Problem: Peak Capital.

The five main elements of the world model developed in "The Limits to Growth" study according to Magne Myrtveit .

The world's global positioning system (GPS) is in trouble. The US government accountability office (GAO) has published a worrysome report on the situation. The GPS satellites are wearing down and, if no new investments are made, the accuracy of the positioning system will be reduced. Eventually, the whole system may cease functioning.

What's happening here? The GPS system is a pinnacle of modern technology, a demonstration that the thing we call "progress" exists. If you have a car navigator, the idea of going back to clumsy printed maps just seems impossible. And that is just one of the many uses of the GPS system. How come that we left such an important system degrade? How can it be that someone forgot that satellites need to be replaced after a while?

The degradation of the GPS system may be attributed to mistakes, incompetence, bureaucracy or even conspiracies. But the problem may lie at a much deeper level. It may be a symptom of the degradation of the whole economy. But why is this happening? People mention evil banking practices, speculation, subprimes, terrorism, and what you have. But, with so many things going on at the same time, what is really the origin of the problems and what is just a consequence of other factors? To find an answer, you need to understand how the world's economic system works. One of the first attempts to do that in a comprehensive way was the 1972 report to the Club of Rome known as "The Limits to Growth" (LTG).

The LTG study was based on a rather complex model which, however, can be summarized in terms of five main elements, as you see in the figure at the beginning of this post. The five elements are 1) population, 2) mineral resources, 3) agricultural resources, 4) pollution and 5) capital investments. This is just one of the many ways to build such a model. Other choices are possible, but the LTG model, improved over the years, is a good way to capture the essential elements of the world's economy. Despite the persistent legend that the LTG study was "wrong"; the results of the study have been found to be remarkably accurate.

None of the five elements of the model is a problem in itself. But each one can become a problem. In that case, we speak of 1) overpopulation, 2) mineral depletion, 3) famine, 4) ecosystem collapse and 5) economic decline. Often, these five problems are considered as if they were independent from each other. People tend to attribute all what is going on to a single problem: peak oil, climate change, overpopulation, and so on. In particular, economists tend to see the economy as independent from the availability of natural resources. Of course, this cannot be true and in a "dynamic" model, such as the LTG one, all the elements of the economic system interact with each other; either reinforcing each other (positive feedback) or weakening each other (negative feedback). To understand how the economy behaves as the natural resources are exploited (and overexploited) it is important to consider the role of the "capital" parameter. The behavior of the capital stock directly affects industrial production and other parameters which are counted as part of economic indicators such as the gross domestic product (GDP).

In the LTG world model, "capital" is created by investments generated by industrial activity. Capital is assumed to decay at a rate proportional to the amount of existing capital. This is called obsolescence or, sometimes, depreciation. To keep capital growing, or at least not disappearing, investments need to be larger than, or as large as, depreciation. Since investments depend on the availability of natural resources, the buildup (or the dissipation) of the capital stock depend on the progressive depletion of these resources. In the original LTG model of 1972, there were three kinds of capital stocks considered: industrial capital (factories, machines, etc.), service capital (schools, bridges, hospitals, etc.) and agricultural capital (farms, land, machinery, etc.). In the latest version (2004), industrial capital and mining capital are considered separately, as you see in the following figure ( from the synopsis of the 30 year update of LTG). Note how the "capital" parameter (in its various forms) affects the parameters which determine the GDP.

Here is a very clear description of how capital interacts with the other elements of the world model in a synopsis written in 1972 by the authors of the LTG report:

The industrial capital stock grows to a level that requires an enormous input of resources. In the very process of that growth it depletes a large fraction of the resource reserves available. As resource prices rise and mines are depleted, more and more capital must be used for obtaining resources, leaving less to be invested for future growth. Finally investment cannot keep up with depreciation, and the industrial base collapses, taking with it the service and agricultural systems, which have become dependent on industrial inputs.

Here are the results of these interactions, expressed in graphical form as what is called the "standard run" or "base case model" of the LTG study (from the 2004 edition)

In the graph, you don't see the "capital" parameter plotted. However, industrial capital follows the same curve of industrial production. The other forms of capital have a similar behavior. All reach a maximum level and then decline, carrying the whole economy down with them. Overall, it is "peak capital."

When do we expect peak capital to occur? According to the "standard run" of the LTG report, it may arrive during the first two decades of the century. It may very well be that much of what we are seeing now is a symptom of peak capital approaching: airports, roads, bridges, dikes, dams, and about everything that goes under the name of "infrastructure" are decaying everywhere in the world. The whole economic system is becoming unable to maintain the level of complexity that it had reached just a few decades ago.

So, the degradation of the world' GPS system is not something unexpected, nor it is unrelated to such problems as peak oil or the depletion of mineral resources. It is just another kind of peak: "peak capital." Maybe GAO has been too pessimistic; maybe we'll decide that the GPS system is so important that we can't let it decay. But, in any case, it is a sign of the times: the fifth problem.


Two posts by Ugo Bardi on "The Limits to Growth"

Cassandra's curse: how the limits to growth was demonized

Peak oil and The Limits to Growth: two parallel stories

Other "Limits to Growth" posts:

Dennis Meadows - Economics and Limits to Growth: What's Sustainable? - By Gail the Actuary

New World Model - EROEI Issues - Guest post by Delores García

Limits to Growth Article Worth Another Look by Dave Murphy

In car navigation systems while the most widespread use of GPS technology are trivial. Far more important will be the impact on marine and aviation navigation. It was actually developed for military use (to guide cruise missiles accurately). I guess if the GPS system has failed there will be other limitations on the ability of agressor nations to fire cruise missiles anyway. Not many people can navigate using astro-nav, DR etc. I sailed from UK to Oz and although I could theoretically navigate with a sextant, in fact without constant practice is actually very difficult. I remember the frustration of trying to fix the north star one night; and could clearly see it with the naked eye, but just could not find in my sextant view finder. I always suspected that the GPS system would be an early casualty of PO or Peak Capital. I suppose aircraft can use ground beacons, but will have to revert to astro for long flights over oceans. Those that are still flying that is.

The Sovjet GPS equivalent Glonass got degraded into uselesness after their colapse. But Russia has rebuilt enough of a functioning economy to fill in the system with new satellites.

Eu has started building the more advanced Galileo system and it got a high priority.

Globally we have an increase in navigation satellite investments and organizations capable of building such sophisticated systems. I find it likely that your observation of the US problems with the GPS system is more due to inefficiencies in the US military-industrial complex then peak oil.

I sailed from UK to Oz and although I could theoretically navigate with a sextant, in fact without constant practice is actually very difficult. I remember the frustration of trying to fix the north star one night; and could clearly see it with the naked eye, but just could not find in my sextant view finder.

Years ago, I took a celestial navigation course from an old salt who had sailed everywhere aboard every kind of ship. One time he was on a freighter headed for Australia, and they were not able to get a sextant observation for six weeks due to overcast. However, every morning the Captain came on deck, looked at the ships log, looked at the waves, felt the wind, did a little math and marked a position on the charts. Then, one morning, the Captain came on deck, did all of the above, and then sniffed the air, looked at the color of the water, and said, "In about 15 minutes a church steeple will appear over the horizon." And sure enough, 15 minutes later a church steeple appeared over the horizon. And the Captain went below to have breakfast, having dead-reckoned his way to Australia yet one more time.

If you come on deck all bleary-eyed from a sleep, and someone says, "The depth sounder says there's only six inches of water under the keel!" you should be able to say, "Yes, that's the Comox Bar, turn 90 degrees to port." in a completely calm voice without looking at the GPS. Later on, when you're in the Comox Bar (the one on shore), you can tell them, "You guys really screwed up badly, don't you pay any attention to the charts?" and they will say, "But we had an accurate position on the GPS!"

I think the moral of this story is that you should always know where you are even without a GPS. The GPS is a great tool, and I always carry one to confirm my position, but you should never depend on it. It doesn't tell you everything you need to know.

Another story from the Old Salt (I love these old seafarer's tales). He was Captain of a 500-passenger ferry in the Caribbean one time. The First Mate was in charge while he was below sleeping during the night, but the Captain came up on deck before sunrise, looked around, and said, "What is that light in front of us?"

The First Mate said, "It's some kind of navigational light, I guess." The Captain said, "Don't guess, tell me WHICH navigational light it is!" And the First Mate said, I don't really know, the navigation instruments went out in the middle of the night and we've kind of been just motoring along." And the Captain said, "STOP ENGINES!" accompanied by a few deleted expletives.

So, they waited until the sun rose, and it turned out to be a light in the front window of somebody's house on shore. At that point the Captain unceremoniously fired the First Mate, who never got a nautical position of any responsibility ever again in that part of the world. The Captain made sure of that.

Again, the moral of this story is that you should never count on the electronics. You should always know where you are without them. (Although they are extremely useful when they do work.)

We used 2 independent inertial systems checked against each other and a wet compass flying off and on the Carrier all the time without a problem. No GPS required.

Excellent discussion material, thanks Ugo and Gail.

This points to a broader analysis of interdependence of the critical infrastructure, composed of several sectors;

- Energy
- Chemicals
- Nuclear Reactors
- Materials and Waste
- Defense Industrial Base
- Dams
- Banking and Finance
- Transportation
- Postal and Shipping
- Information Technology
- Communications
- Commercial Facilities
- Agriculture and Food, Water
- Public Health and Healthcare
- Government Facilities
- Emergency Services
- National Monuments and Icons

Just the communication between sectors alone is fraught with considerable complexity and fragility.

The way our civilization has self-organized has morphed over time. We've become highly dependent on highly interdependent critical infrastructure, though we can continue to morph our organizational model to include re-localization of some goods and services, to reduce (or eliminate) long distant JIT dependencies that will become more difficult to sustain.


Excellent 3D visualization.

Is there any way to add another plane to the far right:
"Infrastructure and its Maintenance" ?

I'm thinking roadways, bridges, tunnels, airports, pipelines, etc.
But GPS will be yet another part of the modern "Infrastructure and its Maintenance"

What I believe you are referring to is included under Transportation, though pipelines would be included under Energy.

Note the list of infrastructure sectors above the picture. Yes, even National Monuments are considered critical infrastructure, though more from a sociological perspective than a business continuity need.

Thanks, Ugo.

Dennis Meadows (one of the authors of "Limits to Growth") also emphasized the importance of capital in a talk of his that I transcribed. He felt this was the factor that would likely cause a permanent shift down (or even collapse).

As the price (and amount of energy) of required to extract oil goes up, and the excess energy (and real profit) from extracting oil goes down, it becomes more and more difficult to keep the system operating. We have more and more infrastructure that needs to be maintained, this takes a lot of energy (and capital) too. Remember Charlie Hall's cheese slicer model:


With Charlie's model, after a certain point, each year the output gets to be less and the input required gets to be more to maintain a constant level of production.

Building renewables add to the capital requirements as well.

You are just addicted to Apocalypse, Gail. Have you considered substitution away from energy? When energy prices all the American air conditioners will be turned off. Your car will become a two seater.

You continue to undermine the credibility of Peak Oil.

Much of the world, as built, is uninhabitable without air conditioning.

Umm, much of the North American continent, as built, is uninhabitable without air conditioning. In general, there are certainly plenty of areas of the world which are uninhabitable without air conditioning, some of which are for that reason mostly uninhabited, some of which are inhabited with air conditioning. There's also large portions of the globe where air conditioning isn't used and, with the exception of extreme mid-summers, it isn't a problem. But assuming "all the world's America" is as misleading as assuming "all the world's a VAX".

I meant the world we have built and do inhabit.

And yes, I remember VAXes, and CDCs and ...

It might come down to what "uninhabitable" means. If it means "people would prefer not to inhabit" then I sort of agree, I was taking it to mean "can't practicably inhabit".

I can believe there are areas of America which are genuinely uninhabitable without air-con.

I'm still struggling to think of an area of the built environment I've been in in Europe which (a) had air conditioning and (b) would be uninhabitable without air-con. I'm sure that there are many buildings which would be less pleasant, and quite possibly even actively unpleasant, but the only buildings I can think of which are actually uninhabitable are a few expensive ultra-modern buildings which actively prevent windows/doors being used for ventilation. Maybe I've hung around primarily low-class places, but I don't think there's that high a proportion of those buildings in Europe, and quite probably in other areas of the world. (The UK has stories of occasional MPs fainting and objecting to the smells when the Houses of Parliament had open windows during the extremes of summer back in the 1700s, but it wasn't by any means uninhabitable.) Now if you were talking about uninhabitable without heating...

FWIW, I'm actually too young to have had actual access to a VAX.

I meant somewhere between "strong preference" and "not practical". I think even the hottest American deserts would be habitable with thick-walled adobe buildings and a siesta culture. But Las Vegas, as built, needs AC. I suspect many modern buildings all over the world are similar -- they have no operable windows or passive ventilation.

This is just one example of how we have built a world that requires a lot of energy to operate, when we could have built it differently. Now we may be scraping for enough energy to rebuild it.

they have no operable windows or passive ventilation.

Oh, I don't believe that constitutes an insurmountable problem...

Hi Greg,

no operable windows

When working in Bangalore (southern India) my company put me up in a 5 star Hotel - magnificent marble floored building with wonderful gardens, spacious rooms, etc. I hated it because none of the windows could be opened and the mold in the AC system produced a smell that prevented me from getting one wink of sleep.

I checked out after the first day and went back to an older hotel I used a few years before - got on the top floor and opened all the windows - no AC required - loved it!

The LTG model lumps energy in with mineral resources and so missed a key dynamic. Or rather, the dynamic was left as implicit (i.e. work requires energy and depletion of material resources requires work to extract, mold/construct/ and dispose). Charlie Hall's model, above, makes this connection explicit and demonstrates the dynamic under conditions of declining EROI.

At risk of repeating myself, I offer that all of this can be summed up in a boundary condition exploration (model) that shows ALL assets (capital as well as widgets as well as non-food human created biomass) as a function of energy flow.

In this graph, net energy is what is left over after paying the energy costs of extracting raw energy from a finite resource (fossil fuels). Assets are produced as a result of work directly derived from the net energy (the greenish line, assumed to be exergy, and assets,the purple line, are thus measured as emergy).

The meaning of the colored areas and 'debt ...', etc. has been explained in other posts. The point is that just considering energetics alone (forget limits on minerals, water, etc.) we can see the effects of declining gross and net energy on the economy (measured as assets). With all the additional complications of politics, financial chicanery, human incapacity to see the big picture, and real limits on the LTG factors, etc. the real curves are going to be well within these boundaries and very messy.

Question Everything



Very nice, must have missed it in the past. Why bring eMergy into the equation?


The graph only makes sense if all units are in energy (joules). emergy is the energy measure of past work (in the sense of energy memory). Ergo, assets are measured thus. The function that relates assets to net energy shows this.

Here is the original story:


The late Donella Meadows on reaction to The Limits to Growth.

Another canary in the mine. Unfortunately this "mine" is all there is. We can't flee the mine. Thanks Ugo for the article. If we only had this one problem we could deal with it, but all the infrastructure is aging and much is not being replaced or updated. The people who trashed Limits to Growth, instead of letting it be the realistic warning that it was, are idiots or criminals - take your pick.

Who was it that elected Ronald Reagan and then Bush Sr?

Infrastructure is not aging in the Nordic countries or Germany or France ...

You guys make this stuff up ...

I have posted an article on Peak Raisin Bran, half of you would be congratulatory comments on brilliant insight.

The modern era is based on technology progress, not just cheap natural resources. You ignore technological progress at your peril.

Actually we haven't ignored technological progress Roderic.
It is on page 222 of Limits to Growth , the 2000 update in a sub chapter "Why Technology and Markets Alone Can't Avoid Overshoot."

To be fair, of course infrastructure ages everywhere at approximately the same rate. Europe just seems to keep on top of things much better. You do have a point, however, that perhaps the US infrastructure issues now are not so much a sign of overshoot as a sign of poor choices. While Europe seems to have looked after its infrastructure investments well, in the US we seem to have spent all our money blowing up stuff in other people's countries, which we then had to spend more money to rebuild, and then found ourselves with no money left...


". It may very well be that much of what we are seeing now is a symptom of peak capital approaching: airports, roads, bridges, dikes, dams, and about everything that goes under the name of "infrastructure" are decaying everywhere in the world. The whole economic system is becoming unable to maintain the level of complexity that it had reached just a few decades ago."

is pure hyperbole.

From my own personal knowledge of Spain I've seen nothing but improvement to date, both in the quantity of infrastructure and its maintenance since the end of the Franco era, and more especially since Spain joined the Euro. Even my electrical supply is now largely reliable, whereas before it could best be described as 'whimsical'. It remains to be seen how the current financial/banking/sovereign debt crisis which has been running since 2007 plays out and effects things long term. Negatively no doubt, but in the short term it has had a positive effect on infrastructure, as the Govt. has pumped billions of Euros to the local level in an attempt to shore up the collapsing construction industry. An exceedingly dumb policy, methinks, as it has been largely untargetted (beautified roundabouts do not constitute an investment towards long term wealth creation) but that's for another thread.

When you are at the peak and looking back, everything seems to be going amazingly well. (Have a look at US oil production up to 1970.) The problem is, at the peak, the future isn't going to be anything like the past.

Spain is in serious danger of debt collapse, and is working out how to cut government expenditure in every way possible. No doubt maintenance of infrastructure will be amongst the things cut, as will be subsidies for solar energy and building electric cars.

Building new infrastructure on a national/worldwide scale, such as the entire transport system, requires gigantic amounts of energy that will not be available when oil becomes scarce, and it will be too late to start building it.

If Spain cuts its infrastructure investments I hope some of the contractors and workforce moves to Sweden where we have a more solid econmy but capacity bottlenecks making it hard to increase the infrastructure investments more then we did during the financial crisis.

I guess we in some way are cashing in on the export surplus and that the paying down of governmnent debt made it cheap to lend during the crisis. Our government debt peaked in 1998 at 1448 billion SEK, it were down to 1025 billion SEK in juni 2008 and then we lended more during the crisis and had a smaller peak in december 2009 at 1189 billion SEK and now it were 1061 billion at the end of july. Goverment debt as a fraction of GDP has gone from almost 80% to lower then 40% and some argue that we should aim for 20 % as we had before we made a mess of our economy in the 1970:s. The policy is that we shall lend during bad times and the debt shall be lower over each economical cycle, this policy has held for capping it and then one full cycle and soon one more depening on when the next phase of the financial crisis hits.

Our finance minister talks a lot about the economical turn arund but also for the risk of a renewed crisis and the need for savings to prepair for it. The latest days has the proposed sales of government owned companies been top news in the election debate. We have a number of government owned companies that mostly dates from our socialistical period and their value is close to the size of the government debt and most of them are up for sale when we get a good offer. These sales took a pause during the financial crisis, a kind of exception were the break up of the government drug store monopoly and it has resulted in massive interest for establishing new drugstores. I think this leaves Cuba and North korea as the only countries left with government drug store monopoly.

This debate about selling excess government capital is interesting from an energy perspective since on of the companies being debated is the electricity producer and distributor Vattenfall who kind of ran away out of political control and bought a large part of the German coal power industry and grid and then dutch gasfields and powerplants. There is a growing interest in selling these assets to finance investments in green power but this conflicts with the policy of paying down the debt. Vattefall do deliver a good profit to the government budget and they need to keep a lot of the cash to finance grid reinvestments and renewal of old nuclear powerplants wich means that we cant tap it too much. And a large part of our heavy industry is interested in buying a part of Vattenfall to guarantee that they dont get shafted on electricity prices.

Regarding the crisis I think we have a decline in manny corporate debts but manny families are ledning like crazy with the low interest and our housing bubble is intact, perhaps since it is centered on urban areas and not suburbia. There are suggestions for regulating this market by capping the mortgage loans to max 85 % of the market value and I think it is a good idea.

Sweden has been one of the worlds richest countries up to the 1970:s, then we failed too keep up with other countries due to toying too much with socialism and this socialistical experiment are being slowly dismanteled since about 20 years to get a better running market economy and keep up in the globalization competition. Most of the changes are due to forces outside of our control and we have to do the best of it and it intrigues me how different kinds of resource issues can benefit form the same policies, much of what makes sense for demographic challanges also makes sense for post peak oil and so on.

You undermine your own claim that it is pure hyperbole by your next paragraph.

The construction industry is collapsing for a simple reason, there is no longer any money (in the form of debt) to pay for building anything.

The fact the the Spanish govt has "created" more debt by fiat will, as you say, only make the problem worse, not only because it has not been invested in wealth/resource/capacity creation, but more importantly, because it is in the form of debt.

That means not only that the principal has to be repaid, but so does the interest.

Which requires a growing economy, which is no longer happening because economic growth is fundamentally driven by surplus energy which is shrinking.


I envy the high speed rail lines built by the spanish government, that is an investment that will last since it has a high utility and low maintainance cost.

So many things we think are critical. GPS has spawned a whole generation of GPS dependent drivers imho. Maps anyone? So we have to go back to maps, is this going to hurt GDP? Other than GPS device makers?

They are replacing bridges and culverts all over Oregon. So yes we are fixing as needed for the auto-dependent culture we live in. Can we fix infrastructure? Obviously yes we can. To me the bigger question is should we fix it?

We navigated on land and water before GPS. Why would the loss of this technology so mourned, except by military and aviation? And even then which country will be the last one dependent on this technology for long term military purposes or airplanes for travel.

We have beat the dead horse of things must change because of PO or PFF that this mourning the loss of technology such as GPS makes me bored. And there is nothing exciting about buggy whips either.

I'm well on my way to becoming a grumpy old man.

We navigated on land and water before GPS. Why would the loss of this technology so mourned, except by military and aviation? And even then which country will be the last one dependent on this technology for long term military purposes or airplanes for travel.

GPS is extremely useful for ships and boats of all sizes. As land transport becomes more expensive and difficult, and air transport even more so, we might expect increased reliance on water transport. Inland water transport on rivers and canals does not really need a navigation system such as GPS (though it could reduce the risk of errant barges taking out railroad bridges in fog), but coastal and especially ocean-crossing vessels are much safer with such a system.

With this increasing reliance on sea transport we need to remember the horrific accident rate in earlier days of shipping: a couple of sobering statistics: in the winter of 1820 more than 2000 ships were wrecked in the North Sea alone, with the loss of 20,000 lives; by the 1860s, in spite of new safety requirements, more than 2000 British ships were lost annually; in 1882 more than 3000 seamen and over 300 passengers were lost in over 1100 accidents to British vessels.(see The History of Safety at Sea[MS Word])

The increase in safety over the last hundred years is partly due to SOLAS regulations, but these have been made possible by electronic innovations, starting with radio (which was responsible for the rescue of the survivors from the Titanic). GPS is only one of the most recent "aids to navigation", but the cost of it is small for worldwide coverage which will become even more important in the future.

But I don't think the decision-makers involved realize its importance. To most politicians it is probably just another boondoggle, earmark, or gift to constituents, depending on where the money is spent.

You're conflating two issues: whether being a GPS dependent driver is a bad thing (quite possibly), and whether GPS failure would hurt GDP. I know many people nowadays who undertake more business trips with shorter planning time and less "travel time safety margins" than they would have done before GPS, so that they cram more travel in. So I can't see how it could not affect GDP. But that's independent of the issue of whether that loss of GDP is actually from sustainable actions, and whether the world would be a "better place" if it we took the GDP hit and moved on, etc.

I don't hold any candle for GPS, but I can see how it's being used as an example of a technology which if it went away suddenly through neglect rather than planned removal would have a small but noticeable effect. (Just like deciding you're going to transition to the cash economy over a couple of months is different from having your bank account frozen.)

Hi Delusional,

So we have to go back to maps, is this going to hurt GDP? Other than GPS device makers

This is a very interesting question. I really like GPS. Since I got a GPS map for Western Ireland, I can now bicycle down quiet country lanes that I would never have tried before - what a marvelous bit of technology! I can explore the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior without wondering if I I've just taken a path to "Lost".

But, this is a guilty pleasure. What is the real cost for this technology? Certainly, most of us don't really need it. I biked and boated for many years without it - yes, I got lost more than a few times, but I did seem to survive.

We need to seriously integrate into "The Oil Drum" a section on advanced alternative energy such as Subquantim Kinetics, Dr. LaViolette, PhD-physics. One of the limitations on "The Oil Drum appears that the site is closed to any consideration of the consequences of considering sub-quantum kinetics (SQK). All institutionalized public science (as opposed to militarized-black-Ops science) does not recognize "genic energy. The laws of thermodynamics and genic energy are divorced from each other by a paradigm of reasoning differences. Genic Energy assumes an open universe constantly fed energy from the (currently not measurable) sub-quantum realm, while our laws of thermodynamics assumes a closed universal system with all energy simply changing form within this universe. These cosmological differences are well explained by the serious works of Dr. LaViolette. To disregard SQK and shut out consideration does not serve "The Oil Drum’s stated mission statement. It would be wise, in my opinion, for "The Oil Drum" to allow responsible and out-of-the-box alternative energy ideas which institutional science simply ignores. The otherwise high-minded mission statement of "The Oil Drum" fails us by ignoring serious, emerging science and new ideas for energy production on earth.

"The Oil Drum" thus appears to otherwise lock itself into "the establishment" with blinders, and its objectivity needlessly disallowed unless new energy production methods are introduced through establishment science only. The test for introducing a new energy production idea, even if it is an apparent perpetual energy device that violates all establishment scientific laws, should be empirical evidence: Does it work? Does it achieve what its developer claims? Take for just one of many examples US Pat No 6,960,975, publicly accessible on line.

Show us a working prototype, with detailed inputs and outputs. We would love to take our 'blinders' off, though have seen many a scam over the years, and hence do not fall for smooth talk intended for the naive peppered with condescending overtones attempting to deflect those with experience in smelling out BS...

I am pleasantly impressed that some intrepid souls among The Oil Drum readers are open to consider evidence. Right on!

This is in response to: "Show us a working prototype, with detailed inputs and outputs. We would love to take our 'blinders' off, though have seen many a scam over the years, and hence do not fall for smooth talk intended for the naive peppered with condescending overtones attempting to deflect those with experience in smelling out BS..."

One reasonable starting point for such evidence, with prototypes liberally described in some detail include the following:

"Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion" by Dr. Paul A. LaViolette, Ph.D.
"Genesis of the Cosmos" by Dr. Paul LaViolette.
"The Trouble with Physics" by Dr. Lee Smolin.
"Warped Passages" by Dr. Lisa Randall
"Endless Universe - Beyond the Big Bang" by Dr. Paul J. Steinhardt and Dr. Neil Turok
"Quatnum Physics, The Quantum World For Everyone" by Prof. Kenneth W. Ford, PhD
"The Cosmic Blueprint" by Paul Davies
"A Briefer History of Time" (unabridged) by Stephen Hawking
"Quantum Secretes of Photosynthesis Revealed" April 12, 2007 reseach paper by Deputy Director, Graham Fleming of Berkeley Lab

"Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion" by Dr. Paul A. LaViolette, Ph.D. is the best place to start. However even before reading the book, I would recommend first reviewing a brief "Comparison of Subquantum Kinetics to Conventional Physics and Astronomy" which Dr. LaViolette provides here:

I'm easy, I'll settle for seeing their personal and business electric bills for the past 5 years.

Electric generators are blindingly easy to make, if you have a consistent source of power for input you should never need to pay a dime to your local utility. In many jurisdictions you could even sell the power back as a source of funding!

I wouldn't be impressed by a US patent. The system has been a joke for decades. I recall there is a faster than light time machine in there somewhere..

But it has QUANTUM in it! It's the new "atomic" or "nano". You don't need to understand basic physics, just repeat several buzzwords from modern science (fiction) enough times and allude to a nebulous idea and how no one else "gets it", and hey presto: instant funding.

.....sub-quantum kinetics.....uh..o.k....well, let me put it another way.... no wait... uh...geeez....

"In this house, we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics!" Homer Simpson..

from the good years.

LTG also talks about a scenario when the amount of energy available is extremely high (the SQK scenario?). All other things remaining same, stuff like, say, food output faces other limits (such as depleted soils, etc.,). Of course, theoretically a huge amount of energy can be used to create food artificially in a world that would resemble Asimov's fantasies... and then eventually, the success of SQK deployment leads to more food and more population. What fun.

Traditional science can not explain gravity. Everything on physics and chemistry we learned from school could thereby possibly be wrong or incomplete. There is no evidence that distance and also speed and energy as we know them now, are independent from gravity. On earth or with our near-space experiments we cannot prove anything. As you look at distant galaxies, they all seem to turn around a centre, which means there is a huge gravity field holding the entire system. So assuming that our earth-orbit experiments are the ultimate proof for claims concerning the reaction of stuff without gravity is wrong. For being sure we should go far out of the galaxies and do all the experiments again.

For being sure we should go far out of the galaxies and do all the experiments again.

Ever hear of gravitational lensing? BTW, we are quite far out from lots of galaxies...We understand quite a bit about cosmology, gravity and the Universe. We might even finally be close to a grand unified theory.

Hi Fred,

Thanks for the link - very informative (beats me how you find all this stuff).

The folks that wish for a magical energy source seem oblivious to actual problems of the planet. A magical new source of bountiful energy could very well kill the planet.

Good idea to re-post this. Perhaps a few others?

Thank you Ugo,

I am just finishing off a great book, (albeit somewhat dated with the election of Obama), called, " The End Of America....Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot", by Naomi Wolf. It describes ten common attributes that all facist and totalitarian states embark upon to limit democracy and seize power. It was interesting to see that in the period post 9/11 and through 2006 just how far along that process evolved, and how complicit the American people were in allowing the march towards this end. With the limit of capital and lurching from failures to crisis and back again, it is easy to see the swelling need of priorities....and an apparent decisive leader to make this happen. When? Baby first steps in November and the jump 2012?

GPS a priority? Maybe. Healthcare and global warming mmmm? Foreclosures? Why, when the banks can take over an insured product, underwritten by the Federal Govt.? Grid limitations, high oil prices, unrest due to unemployment and endemic shortages in the richest country in the world, + (those failing schools and lazy 'unionized' teachers) all suggest a population used to believing in 55 minute solutions seizing upon a simple fix of leadership to get things done. A kind of drill baby drill slogan just waiting to be heard.

"But, in any case, it is a sign of the times: the fifth problem."

The US has already swayed to Facism over the rise of rights and importance of the corporation vrs. the values of the Constitution that focused on citizens and democracy. A private army has been used on American soil to enforce security (Blackwater at NO Katrina). The president now has the right to imprison citizens without trial or contact at undisclosed locations (offshore brigs and secret prisons); a power granted by Congress that is ultimately controlled by corporations. Not only are email and internet accounts spied upon, I would suspect that there are files on numerous TOD members. The military industrial complex our parents might have warned us about has been supplanted by the security industry and Homeland Security, itself.

Scarce capital will shaft many into unrest as "the way it used to be" becomes the mantra for a new approach to fix this mess once and for all.

As the MSM has declined, I have enjoyed turning to the Net for news and a way to share ideas. I was pleased to see the reporting by cell phone videos on blacked out protests. I believed that this would help to keep us free to stumble on in our private lives. I'm not so sure, anymore. Will the new leadership cadre be good men/women, or will it be Dick Cheney and Karl Rove? How about nice little Donny Rumsfeld?

Best hopes the Military Commissions Act is repealed, and all troops come home to country worth working for.

Respectfully, Paul

Files on TOD members? Talk about paranoid.

As a very minor and very nonviolent player in peace protests during the Vietnam Era, I was followed some by local police and other types that I could not identify. Of course, the Establishment filmed every protest. So I probably did have a file at that time.

I understand the paranoia.

Is the FBI or some other group keeping files on the folks here at TOD? Don't know. Don't care.

Besides, federal prison might be a better retirement plan that the current one I am living with. :-)

I don't actually think anyone is scanning TOD for any particular reason related to security issues, to any greater extent than any other public forum would be scanned.

But given the capabilities of computerized systems to collect and store information at extremely low cost,and spit it out on command;and given the black budgets of some govt agencies, I would not be suprised to find that some well concealed gungho types in out of the way office buildings don't have files on some of us, as well as millions of others, simply because we occasionally use certain combinations of words.

I doubt if any existing laws are capable of putting a stop to this sort of thing. The desire of the govt/and/or/individuals involved- to maintain the secrecy of the surviellance-especially unauthorized surviellance undertaken by - would result in the data being used in a very conservative way-for the time being at least.

It is quite possible that such programs exist and that the people at the upper reaches of govt are ignorant of the existence of some of them.

More than likely even if an agent in such a program uncovered some run of the mill criminal activity, the agency would not release the info to the cops-for now at least.

Of course I have no proof;I am simply speculating, based on a healthy level of cynicism and pragmatism developed by keepin up with the news for the last few decades.

For what it is worth, I am a pretty much of a right wing nut on the TOD scale. ;)

Edit:There is a link in todays Drumbeat that indicates we have more than enough people with top secret security clearances and jobs involving terrorism /spying to not only keep an electronic eye on us;there are so many of them a lot of us probably know such a person personally.

second edit:MSN is running a leader right now about the images taken by airport security machines being stored and transmitted off site even though it is apparently against the law.

Evidently all the machines used for this purpose were spec ed at purchase to include this feature.

ASPO-USA's Advisory Board is chaired by Matt Simmons, who was once part of Dick Cheney's Energy Taskforce. Other Advisory Board members include Tom Whipple, who has openly admitted that he worked for CIA for 30 years, and Scott Pugh, who works for Dept of Homeland Security and has worked for US Navy Pentagon Special Programs including "Oversight of highly classified military programs".

While their belief in the Peak Oil cause is not in question, I do find that particularly scary. If the powers that be wanted to keep an eye on the Peak Oil movement and their message, that threatens the continued existence of BAU, they would be well-placed, wouldn't they ?

At some stage the more excitable members of the Peak Oil movement might suggest rebellion as the only path left. So it would be remiss of TPTB to not be monitoring TOD and all the sites listed on the blogroll.


What limit to capital? This is not self evident. In fact, it appears to have been pulled out of thin air. Travel across Europe and show me the inevitable aging infrastructure. Not true in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, China, Japan, Canada ...

What limit to capital? This is not self evident. In fact, it appears to have been pulled out of thin air. Travel across Europe and show me the inevitable aging infrastructure. Not true in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, China, Japan, Canada ...

The biggest determinant of underinvestment is skewed rewards for decisionmakers. In US government, the reward system is all for short term partying (of the voters), and as little as possible for longterm investment. In corporate America it isn't much different, spike the numbers for the next quarter or two and cash in your stock options dominates over longer term investments. It is less the fact that the players are bad, it is that the system practically demands this sort of shorttermism. Apparently our disfunctional decision making hasn't yet infected the rest of the world.

I noticed you didn't put the UK on your list with its crumbling infrastructure. Maybe it's an Anglo thing.

There are lots of doomsday scenarios here, but not much perspective.

150 years ago, most everyone lived in poverty. Today, 1/2 the world lives as kings did back then. The other 1/2 is still living in poverty and needs development and technology to catch up.

And the poor 1/2? Their infrastructure is crumbling worse than ours- until capitalism and free enterprise and development are introduced and modern infrastructure is put in place.

One of my friends has invented self-healing coating. Put it on steel and the steel will never corrode. And if it doesn't corrode, it won't collapse. Never. our infrastructure crumbles around us (speaking for the 1/2 of us living like kings), we are supposed to impose free enterprise and capitalism on the "poor 1/2", and watch as the market (I assume) gifts them naturally with development and a modern infrastructure?

That sounds similar to the US plan for the middle that turns out is still up in the air but I wouldn't be in a hurry to replicate the mess elsewhere.

In any case, any realistic model of energy supply - past and future - is all you need for a good perspective on why 1/2 of us live like kings now, and why not so many of us might live like kings in the future. Capitalism and free enterprise don't get you much without surplus energy.

There are different perspectives on the current ideas about living standards

global capitalism has resulted in more people living free of poverty than every before... This is true I think. However it has also put more people into abject poverty than ever before. This is true too?

The absolute numbers for either are massive. The total numbers of people living in abject poverty is greater than the entire worlds population in the 19th cent. In no small part there must be a relationship between the two brought about by fossil fuel use. The geopolitical bias in the distribution of consumption appears to be a factor here (colonial legacy etc)

what is disturbing is even though the third world is playing catch up to a great degree no doubt due to market forces aping the previous history of consumption growth in the first world,the absolute numbers for the poor remains massive

But bear this in mind- birth rates decline with increased living standards. Birth rates in Europe and the US are below replacement level- our country would be shrinking without (mostly poor) immigrants.

So if you want fewer people, the solution is development. The sooner, the better. We have the capacity (too much of it idle) to make this difference now.

Instead, we still opt for natural population control as practiced in North Korea and Africa (and formerly Communist China and USSR), where millions starve to death due to lack of development.

Here's the one thing I'd like anyone on this board- ANYONE- to show me: what we will run out of before we can build enough energy sources to supply 10 Billion people enough energy to live in a house with heating and a/c with running water and 1500 calories a day and a broadband internet connection to a television and 5 lightbulbs- assuming we don't limit that development with empty worries over sustainability, global warming, or bureaucracy. And assuming that the loans necessary to build all this out can be repaid via agricultural surplus (including raising zebras for hunting), tourism (Sahara dune buggy racing), mining, or information (including Bollywood movies).

Will it be coal? Water? Silicon/Germanium/Indium/Aluminum? Uranium? Land for wind turbines?

Anyone? A simple calculation is all I ask: 10 Billion people times X of resource - # resource < zero. I'm pretty sure it's not the sun, land, or saltwater. But feel free to tell me what it is.

The answer, in my opinion, is only vision and will. And the fear-mongers of the Club of Rome are more to blame than most- along with those who attack private property rights and deny those who would make investments a reasonable chance of return.

remember its not the absolute resource endowment/reserve sizes but also the possible rates of extraction

coal will deplete far faster than a lot of people suggest...

but that aside you really hit on a issue..on paper there is no reason why everyone shouldn't have more or less the life style you set as the benchmark NOW.

what is going on here?

you must be right in so far that the problem has something to do with the geographic distribution of resources/development

A MASSIVE source of capital

Reduced consumption.

In particular the USA consumes too much for our own good (see retail space/capita, obesity and much much more). Redirect, over time, 15% of that consumption into investment and capital is no problem.


China invests/saves almost as much as it consumes. See the explosion of infrastructure and productive investments.

Consumption is mainly a function of income; when incomes go up, so does consumption. I think the real income of Americans is likely to fall over the next ten years as increasing inflation will outpace wage increases.

With regard to corporate investment, this is based on expectations of profit from an investment project. To get more profit, sales have to increase. For sales to increase, incomes have to increase first or people must go deeper into debt. Thus I think business investment may go negative in response to a long-term decline in real incomes.

However, I expect there to be much idle labor and machinery; these resources could be used to invest in infrastructure, but it would require government subsidies or governmental control (command economy) to utilize idle reasources. Hence, I expect the role of government in the economy to increase.

Government utilization of idle resources = General Motors

Welcome to the future:)

Consumption is mainly a function of income; when incomes go up, so does consumption.

The two are linked, but not tightly coupled. Even in the USA, consumption has risen faster than incomes (see declining savings rate).

It is entirely possible that declining income will trigger an even faster decline in consumption (perhaps coupled with a cultural revulsion against conspicuous consumption).

Income down 4%, consumption down 9% leaves 5% for savings/investment as one example within the realm of possibility. And would result in rising wealth coupled with lower income.

Best Hopes for Finding a Better Way,


Recently Americans have been paying down debt and increasing savings; let us hope that these trends are harbingers of things to come.

However, if consumption goes down then business sales and profits also go down, so I do not expect much corporate investment over the next ten years. Thus, for lack of any other means of mobilizing idle labor and idle (physical) capital, I think the federal government--with its ability to run deficits--will have to pick up the slack.

The real burden of the national debt will, I think, be substantially diminished by substantial inflation over the next ten years. I do not expect any significant deflation, because the Fed has the ability to inflate through quantitative easing ("printing" money).

China wont be a happy bunny if the US prints its way out of trouble.

There is a different type of business activity that is not driven by consumption. It is the construction of long lived, productive assets.

Different workers, different multipliers, different resources required.

Some is self employment (see me climbing into attic to carefully install R-60+ insulation) that only interfaces with the general economy with a one time purchase of insulation.

However, lower utility bills combined with savings will allow me to buy a solar hot water heater. Another once every few decades purchase.

Warren Buffett (owner of BNSF railroad) may decide to electrify the Trans-con railroad line (LA to Chicago) and both electrify and double track the Great Northern line (Chicago and then splits to serve both Seattle & Portland OR).

Both the Trans-con (recently double tracked) and the Great Northern also have a few curves straightened out, some at grade crossings eliminated and a couple of rail over rail bridges added to speed traffic up a bit. A once every few decades purchase.

Both Warren Buffett and I end up richer, that is we end up owning more valuable assets that now have superior function at a lower operating cost. Warren Buffett will be richer than I, and the general economic impact of his improved railroad will be greater, more diverse and profound.

Best Hopes,


There is a term in economics that describes the efficiency with which an economy uses resources, and I cannot quite remember the term. That word is what I am trying to increase.

AlanfromBigEasy said.
"The two are linked, but not tightly coupled. Even in the USA, consumption has risen faster than incomes (see declining savings rate)."

A trend which has recently reversed.
Savings are on the up and credit card debt is being paid down

Much (one report said most) of the reduction in consumer debt is due to increased write-offs of bad debt by the banks.

Still, I hope the balance shifts, because it needs to.

Best Hopes for Frugality,


Any world model like the one leading off this thread has got to focus more thought on the model's central element, population. Each of these elements are not of equal significance when we consider the future of human wellbeing and environmental health. If we successfully address the human-driven global challenges posed to the human family by capital, agriculture, pollution and natural resources but choose to ignore and, thereby, leave the population element unaddressed, we could end up with 4 Pyrrhic victories and still lose the war for survival of life in a planetary home fit for human habitation.

Another way of looking at this situation could be by thinking of the population element as belonging to the denominator and the remaining four elements belonging to the numerator in a common fraction.

Population is the proverbial "mother" of global threats, is it not?

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

I find it suspicious that the 30 year update of LTG that was linked to deliberately punts on the population question, as if the people behind it have been browbeaten and cowed by so much blowback over the years that they are no longer willing to properly sound the alarm. I mean, given everything we know about overshoot and ecological draw-down, how realistic is it to think that the planet could indefinitely support 8 billion people? Yet that's what the PDF written circa 2004 implies.

Dear mos6507,

The great work of Alexander King and Aurelio Peccei was abandoned years ago by most of the members of the Club of Rome who came after them. Following such splendid leadership could have been too damn hard. A catastrophic failure of nerve appears to have occurred. The courageous efforts of King and Peccei were replaced by conformity to the needs of the wealthy and powerful, and their intellectual honesty substituted with whatsoever was politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable and culturally prescribed. Among other significant omissions, extant scientific research of human population dynamics and human overpopulation has been willfully hidden in silence. What we have been noticing in our time, I suppose, is the most profound betrayal of science, sustainability and humanity in human history.

Where are members of the National Academy of Science? Critiques and interpretations of credible, unchallenged scientific evidence regarding the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers have not been responsibly and objectively reported in professional journals by top-rank scientists with appropriate expertise. Even though apparently unforeseen research by Hopfenberg, Pimentel and others appears unbelievable, virtually irrefutable and exceedingly inconvenient, and therefore forbidding, there is no way we can take the measure of the most formidable, human-induced global challenge looming before the human family as long as experts consciously suppress open discussion of the evidence regarding the overpopulation of Earth by the human species. Once the measure of this challenge is taken, movement toward sustainability can begin. Until then, soon to become unsustainable business-as-usual activities will continue for a while longer, just as it has for past forty years.

Open communication of the best available evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation is vital, I believe. And it cannot wait. We cannot sensibly address the most formidable human-driven global challenge if knowledgeable people willfully deny it even exists. It seems to me that the children deserve more and much better than they are getting from my not-so-great generation of leading elders.

Somehow all of us have to help one another more adequately see how the world we inhabit actually works and, as important, how the human species more realistically fits into the natural order of living things.

As things stand now, many too many leaders are adamantly advocating and recklessly behaving as if the planetary home in which we live so well is an unbounded cornucopia and the human community has ‘inalienable rights’ to endlessly plunder its natural resources; relentlessly overproduce unnecessary stuff and pollute it; and righteously propagate more billions of the human species on Earth without regard to its actual size, its frangible ecology and its evident finiteness. Leaders are living conspicuous, fantasy-driven lifestyles and misguidedly expanding the global economy to the point of its unsustainability… come what may for the children, coming generations, life as we know it, and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Too many scientists have been acting as if they are hysterically deaf, willfully blind and electively mute when it comes to responding ably to the threat the human overpopulation of Earth poses to the future of children everywhere.

Never in the course of human events has a single generation commandeered so much for itself, left so little for others, and committed such widespread destruction on Earth. One generation appears to be destroying the very things it claims to be most ardently protecting and preserving.

Perhaps necessary change toward sustainability is in the offing.



word . .that's exactly why i started using drugs

A very good text covering the effort toward population management is : "Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population" by Connelly. Its a catalog of abysmal failures, misguided efforts, and a whole lot more simple xenophobic hatred than I expected.

In any case, I'd say its an essential guide to what was tried and didn't work, as well as what, unexpectedly, did work.

Did he cover our (Rhodesian) attempts to control population?

We got our ladies to organise coffee mornings with the aBantu ladies.
Our ladies tried to instil feminism into their minds.
They said "You are not just baby making machines."
" We can give you this pill so you can space your babies out."

Isn't that soo Evil?

It worked.
And then the aBantu men defeated us and put a stop to all that nonsense.

So when AIDS hit Zimbabwe Bob Mugabe said that it was just a ploy by the evil white man to scare the aBantu.

Of cause he knew the facts, but he had to increase the death rate.

Everybody please forgive me in advance for being an unreconstructed redneck, but I get tired hearing about xenophobic this and xenophobic that as if not being in love with people different fron one's ethnic/cultural group is equivalent to molesting little kids or torturing puppy dogs or (gasp!) maybe even holding to somewhat conservative views of the way the world works. ;)

The world is and will forever be a Darwinian place.This cannot be changed, not by edict, not by pc ,not by all the kings horses, not by all the kings men.Not by education.

There will always be "in" and "out" groups.

We are territorial creatures, like wolves or chimpanzees.We are programmed, to the bottom of our dna, to recognize our own, "us", and to look after our own,at the expense of others, "them".

Of course being flexible in our behavior, we are able to deny and defy this tendency,when we percieve it is in our interest to do so.

But it is most emphatically not in our interest to do so in a lot of cases, depending upon the particular "in" group under consideration;and remember the working definition of the "in" group is also flexible.

In some cases, it may be "America", in other cases the elderly residents of a single nieghborhood in a single town.

The people who talk condescendingly and contemptously of "xenophobes" are in my experience either isolated from the issue physically-by prosperity, by professional liscensing and training, by geography,by zoning laws, by other devices, and thus never suffer from the ill effects of an invasion of "others" into THIER local environment;or else they simply have fallen for some or all of the "perpetual growth is good" argument, and are themselves by default falling back to the Darwinian argument( if the locals can't compete with the newcomers, that's thier tough luck, I have nothing further to say about this matter, having gotten my cookies by advocating my morally superior position of allowing free immigration,etc).

Perpetual growth is niether possible nor good,and it behooves us to look upon our nieghborhoods and our country as our own particular lifeboats, which are in fact already loaded to or near to capacity.

When I discuss this issue with people who use the word with a condescending sneer, I find that they always fall into one of two basic groups,with certain characteristics in common.

The more liberal types never suffer, in the short term at least, from the competition,as they generally live in nieghborhoods where the immigrants only show up to do the chores, and they are not at risk of losing thier jobs to an immigrant , because they are a lawyer, or teacher, or owner of a business beyond the reach of the immigrants skills and resources.

The more conservative types are firm believers in "more is better" and eager to hire as much low paid docile labor as possible;to put the labor so hired in cheap but very profitable rental housing,to avoid to the extent possible all regulation of thier business activities.

On the other hand, there is a vast class of workers who suffer immensely when thier nieghborhoods are the new homes of the immigrants;rents go up;taxes go up;jobs become scarcer, and much harder to find;nieghborhood cohesion is lost;peace and quiet may become memories;things can and often do go downhill in a hurry.

And in the end, everybody suffers, except the newcomers, who generally are much better off than formerly.The excess of working people without specialized skills or training pushes wages down,leading to the necessity of more and more govt programs to maintain a minimum standard of living for the unfortunate.Taxes go up;more people are necessarily employed in non productive work, such as welfare administration and law enforcement-and tax accounting.

The workers may not understand the whole situation very well, but they understand enough to ascertain that one party is publicly in favor of shutting down or severely limiting immigration, and the other isn't.

CLASS, let us all together say B-A-C-K-L-A-S-H in in unision.

A failure to think things thru can lead to all sorts of undesired consequences-such as maybe a change in which party controls congress and the presidency.

I'm not advocating for myself-I have personally benefitted from immigration, especially when I was a capitalist piglet.

I am simply trying to get people to take off thier rose tinted glasses, and see the world as it really exists..

I hire a couple of young Mexican guys whenever I can afford a helper for a day-our little farming operation gets smaller every year- because they are superior cheerful workers.

They will own this part of the world within fifty years, just as they own a lot of the southwest now.Of course I will be long dead.

These things are niether right nor wrong;they just ARE.

I know one guy personally who is a formerly very prosperous programmer who used to be pretty liberal in respect to globalization and so forth;all that changed when his company outsourced his job to India;he hasn't been able to find another job paying half as much as his old one after several years looking.

He at least understands that his problem is not the fault of either party, but both parties-very little of substance happens in American politics along party lines.

Everybody please forgive me in advance for being an unreconstructed redneck

LOL! Nope, I see you as a rather deep thinker, actually, and probably agree with you 86.7% of the time...

A failure to think things thru can lead to all sorts of undesired consequences

True at all levels (International, national, state, local, neighborhood, and dadgumit, I forgot to take out the trash this morning) and timeframes (from planning out the day, week, and month to taking into consideration how our actions today affect the next 7 generations).

I am simply trying to get people to take off their rose tinted glasses

Which are a form of defense mechanism, and a refusal to recognize situations that may result in a reduction of comfort, luxury, and status -

Perpetual growth is niether possible nor good,and it behooves us to look upon our nieghborhoods and our country as our own particular lifeboats, which are in fact already loaded to or near to capacity.

Which is right in line with the Transition Initiative

In my younger hippy days I suffered plenty of discrimination from rednecks. They wouldn't rent to me, wouldn't serve me in stores, insulted and threatened me, and one cop kicked me out of Arkansas just for standing by the road. I guess I was a threat to their "neighborhood cohesion", but I call that xenophobia, and figure I got it a lot better than a black or Hispanic person.

I could have just cut my hair I guess, but over the years it's become a useful leading indicator of people who are going to hate me soon enough anyway :-)

I later went into computer science, and though not hurt as bad as your friend I did see my career completely stall as Oracle (like most everyone else) rapidly moved almost all their new hiring to India. It wasn't our fault or the Indians' fault, but did indicate that American management does not care about the well-being of its workers, and neither does American government. I think the process could have been managed to be much less painful for American workers, if only by slowing it down a bit.

I was using "xenophobia" in the context of the population policies around the nationalistic struggles of WWI and in the US fear of Japan's drive for a larger and more productive population, and Japan's fear of the US drive for a larger and more productive population - each with the intention of depriving and subjecting the other. Its just one example among hundreds during the 20th century, but it led to a typical set of policies - each trying to get biggest fastest, and to end the game with the most stuff.

So maybe there is a better word, but generally I would mean fear and loathing and manic competitiveness demonstrated against one's neighbor, particularly where it leads to stupid and mutually self-destructive activity.

I hope that type of thing is behind us, and everything would work better if we minded our own borders and managed our own business well. At any level - community, city, county, state, etc, - we might do well to learn to live with what we have, and live within our means.

Dear daxr,

Along with Connelly's "Fatal Misconception", please be reminded of a "fateful misperception" about the relationship between the human species and its food supply. What happens if it turns out that human population dynamics are common to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species? What does that mean? From my humble inexpert perspective, it means increasing production of food the world over to feed a growing population equals increasing numbers of human organisms worldwide; less available food for consumption equals less humans; and no food equals no people. Perhaps human population dynamics is just that simple.

And regarding human population dynamics, human exceptionalism is as complete a fantasy as the Earth viewed as an ever expressive teat at which humankind can eternally suckle.

Please consider carefully our failure to acknowledge that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species as the greatest misperception in human history because this failure could eventually result in a global ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort. In such dire circumstances would experts not have responsibilities to communicate science as well as a "duty to warn" humanity that would lead them to correct so vital a misperception of what could somehow be real? It appears to me that many too many experts have willfully rejected the best available science of human population dynamics by ignoring it and chosen to let stand, as if scientific, preternatural thinking based upon specious understandings derived from inadequate 'scientific' investigations.

Extant research of human population dynamics appears to directly contradict the near-universal misperception that humanity needs to increase in a seemingly endless way global food harvests in order to meet the needs of a growing population. The best available research indicates just the opposite: that, just like other species, the size and availability of the human food supply is the independent variable and absolute global human population numbers are the dependent variable.

Please note, too, that this relationship cannot be conveniently passed over as a "chicken and egg" situation. That appears to be one of the ways many experts have found to miss the point of the science. Because an adequate enough understanding of the relationship between food supply and its effect on human numbers worldwide could have profound implications for the future of life as we know it on Earth, perhaps this relationship the human population and its food supply could be made the subject of authentic communication.

This may come to seem like a refrain when coming from me, but I would like once again to request of the editors of TOD that an open discussion of any and all credible evidence regarding the population dynamics of the human species begin with all deliberate speed.



increasing production of food the world over to feed a growing population equals increasing numbers of human organisms worldwide

...up to a point, and sometimes the opposite is the case. In the US we have an overabundance of food, but if immigration is factored out, we have had a birthrate below replacement for some time. Counter-examples abound, of food-poor nations with very large birthrates.

The statement is a good example of why your own call for open discussion is needed, and why I recommended some reading material and a good overview of the topic, as the "popular" side of the field is a huge muddle of misguided notions.

we need a central plan what to scrap first then put the rest of money in essntial things.

My suggestion - freeways

"Limits To Growth was right"
"Limits To Growth was wrong"

what do these two statements in common? They are both wrong. Limits to Growth predicted approximately exponential growth until 2020 and then collapse (standard model). Until 2020, LTG is difficult to distinguish from All Is Fine. Therefore, no judgement can be made until 2025 apporoximately. So, call again in 2025.

Where did you get 2020 from? From most of the charts it looks like it peaks at around 2050. I read both the original and the latest version, and my impression was that unless both population growth and industrial growth are stopped, we'll have overshoot followed by collapse. The graphs all end in 2100.

There is nothing at all exponential about growth after 2000. Which graph are you looking at?

There are no limits to growth considering the size of the universe.
The real limit is excuses from people who think small.

Could you shoot me the warp drive plans again, I must have inadvertently deleted them...

The universe is God's territory. Jeez, he gives us a hard enough time on this little rock of ours.

There are no limits to growth considering the size of the universe.
The real limit is excuses from people who think small.

yes lets think big... real big

so if we left earth and colonised the universe the human race could expand indefinitely at current rates...approx 1-2% a year? call it 1.5 (it less now but with the entire universe what the heck)

strikes the casual observer there must be millions upon millions of years growth in the universe..

well after 600 years the earths surface is a densely populated as downtown New york

after 4000 or so years every planet in the galaxy (assuming 10 planets per star) is as densely populated as New york

after 7000 years every ATOM IN THE UNIVERSE has been converted into human flesh

even given near instantaneous transportation and almost magical matter manipulation the universe couldn't sustain current population growth for even this geologically insignificant period of time.. roughly a bit longer than recorded history but a bit less than from when we invented agriculture (the neolithic revolution)

from agricultural to universe crunching numbers in 15,000 yrs

starships traveling at 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% the speed of light couldn't access much more than a third of the milky way in that time span

Asimov thunked it out over half a century ago

I am hoping that technology could help us out here. We need to make ovulation an act of volition. Then unwanted pregnancies would be a crime.

There are professional ethicists who could make a living with this one for a long time until the issue is wrenched from their hands by circumstances.

Genetic engineering is one of the little fantasies I allow myself.

BTW there is talk of genetically modifying algae to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen.

This must be stopped.

In his book The Gaia Hypothesis James Lovelock argues that life owes its existence to the oceans; and the Oceans owe their existence to Life.
How so?
Under high temperature, in the presence of a catalyst such a iron,(magma) water disassociates into hydrogen and oxygen. The Hydrogen is light enough to escape into space.
Over millennia, no more H, no more oceans.

So who saved the oceans?
There are organisms that get their energy by recombining Hydrogen and Oxygen, and so give us something to surf on.
I think a round of applause is in order for the little fellas.

And now we want to design an organism to do the opposite thing.
I am not re-assured that they will not escape, evolve, multiply and ....


What assumption does this model make about technological progress? The reason that the limits to growth crowd has been pilloried is that they ignored technological progress and the market. I believe conventional oil is close to peaking.

But I am not comfortable with the Apocalypse Crowd. They are not rigorous in their analysis.

Any model of energy consumption and production has to include subsitution away from energy. It's that simple. Leave it out and all bullets will be flying in your direction.

... and any model of substitution away from "energy" (I guess you mean fossil fuels) has to be realistic about the amount of time required.

Even with new fuels that were vastly superior in every way to the old, as when we transitioned from wood to coal, and then (for transport) from coal to oil, several decades passed between introduction of engines using the new fuel and their taking a significant fraction of the market.

Shorter version: don't hold your breath.

And on the topic of rigour: don't complain. Download Vensim Personal Learning Edition, which comes with a copy of the "World3" model used in Limits to Growth, and is free.

Examine the model. Read the equations and research the assumptions built into them. Change the parameters to what you think are more likely values -- but be prepared to give strong evidence as to why they are more likely; Meadows et al. didn't just make up the values they used, you know.

My own opinion, from doing some of this, is that Meadows et al. were a bit too pessimistic about resources, especially agricultural resources, and technology. But they were far too optimistic about earth systems, politics and society. The models have no allowance for natural disasters or epidemics; or for wars, self-destructive economic policies, xenophobia, short-sighted selfishness, poor decision-making, or just plain inability to change quickly enough.

Vensim Personal Learning Edition, which comes with a copy of the "World3" model used in Limits to Growth, and is free.

I paid for mine.

The curves that look the prettiest to me are the Business as Usual scenario.

With double the resources the pollution curve goes asymptotic,the population keeps growing for another decade and crashes precipitously.
BAU please.

Perhaps all the vices you quote are just what the Doctor ordered.

Any model of energy consumption and production has to include substitution away from energy

The statement is self-contradictory; as far as energy, you may have a range of choices, such as solar, fossil fuels, etc, but to substitute away from energy your only option is to not use energy - to do nothing. That is more or less a requirement in a condition of declining energy supply, and is part of what the discussion is about - or I don't know what you're trying to say at all.

They are not rigorous in their analysis.
... It's that simple.


You win.

Peak Oil and its discontents are all a fantasy because "They" are not 101% rigorous.

Keep repeating the following soothing mantras to yourself:

1) Free market economics will save us/me
2) Technology will save us/me
3) Them who are in control know what they are doing and who is little 'ole me/us to dare and have a critical thought in my head and to question the authorities?
4) If I/we wish hard enough and pray devoutly enough, all these trivial problems will go away, or at least, I/we will "muddle" our/my way through them with the aid of unspecified "substitutes".

Technology is a subset of resource usage. Xboxes, laptops, and modems use a lot of plastic, derived from petroleum. Technological progress would be a subset of technology, plus additional resource usage, devoted toward improving technology. The Xboxes, laptops, and modems used in testing and in labs, and the users' time in providing accurate feedback, to improve the functionality in the next generation.

Technology doesn't improve itself, and "progress" doesn't happen out of nothing.

My University lecturer showed me a grainy video of the original presentation by this academic Donald Meadows way back when.
I had never heard of him before but I understood his message.
I did not sleep for a week.
Eventually the panic subsided but the message had sunk down deep.
I woke up one Sunday morning and there it was again on the radio.
And now it is coming in thick and fast.
I can describe my life since then as a an attempt to find some advantage that I can give to my Grandsons.

You will know when you understand the message.

It is when your Limbic is in agreement with your Cortex and you are functioning as a fully integrated organism.

For your amusement and gratification I offer you this transcript on Occam's Razor about the peak we had in 2008.

I found the LTG book in my high school library. Very impressive. But I'd learned about nuclear war by kindergarten, so it didn't add that much to my anxiety.

The merits of nuclear war are

It is cheaper than conventional war,
It doesn't involve so much humiliating grime, muck, poverty and loss of joy de vie.
It reduces per capita carbon output to a short sharp spike.
It's quicker.
It gets everyone's attention.

But most of all it scares everyone witless, even the mongrels in power. They get to wear it too if they push the Big Red Button.

I hear that Nixon wanted Kissinger to consider Nuking north Vietnam.
"Damn it Henry. I want you to think big."
But his courage failed him.

Whenever I hear someone pleading with us to get rid of nukes, I translate that as
"If only we never had Nukes, then we could have a Glorious War with Valour and Romance. And then we can sort out who the Real Men are."

The lizard within is a powerful beast.

I hear you. Perhaps without nukes we would have fought a terrible conventional war with Stalin. Even so, I'd feel safer with no nukes, and did a lot of organizing and got arrested helping to shut down Rocky Flats. What if Nixon had pushed the button?

when your Limbic is in agreement with your Cortex

I find it interesting that there are more and more people on TOD who grok the connection between the triunal model of the human brain (Lizard, Limbic and Neo) and Peak Oil.

When I first joined TOD a couple of years ago, it was mostly geophysicists insisting that Hubbert's curve is a purely geophysical phenomenon and all we need to do is "rationally" inform the others about the inevitably of Hubbert's curve.

No doubt, the Limits To Growth (LTG) crowd felt the same way. All they need do is to show the public the various models and the public would then "get it" and respond rationally to the LTG report.

Funny how the observed results don't match the 'standard model' of human rationality.

The triune model of the brain is outdated (e.g. although there may remain some use to describing behavior in three (or more) layers.

triune model of the brain is outdated

Yes, of course that is a plain and obvious truth to those of us who have even an amateur's comprehension of modern neuroscience.

However, they don't teach "brain 101" to engineering and physics majors.

Simple arithmetic will tell the "right" brained amongst us that if there are two distinct hemispheres in the brain and each has at least three different "layers" (Neo-Cortical, Limbic and Lizard) then that gives each of us at least six (6) distinct areas of cognition.

The "you" who thought you were a "one" (a monotheistic view of cognition) is actually a six (6) if not many more.

Worse yet, the "you" who *thinks* he/she is in charge is heavily deluded in that department.

No wonder everybody "else" seems to be crazy.

Well, no. The various brain structures are much more complex and connected than that, and don't directly correspond to functional distinctions in behavior or cognition.

Are you trying to say that ontogeny does not at all recapitulate phylogeny?

p.s. see also this more recent link

The triune model of the brain is outdated

Yes...for the most part in the same league as the "left brain/right brain" explanation of types of thought: they are both ways of thinking about how we think, useful narrative structures to categorize processes, but they shouldn't be mistaken for physical reality.

in the same league as the [bogus] "left brain/right brain" explanation of types of thought

I fully agree.

It is absolutely amazing (or maybe not?) that most of us take
high school biology classes where we learn in detail the 4 ventricles of the human heart and how they operate to keep us alive.

We even learn in elementary grades that the "brain" has two hemispheres and these communicate with one another via the corpus collosum (sp?).

But after that, it all becomes pure jabberwhocky.

Because to say otherwise would go against Church teachings that the brain (and God) are a "one".

Long time reader, first time poster. Thank you for the good-natured erudition of this site; not that all posters are good-natured, but the site as a whole comes across without the shrillness of less assured forums.

I want to suggest something that I think The Oil Drum in general has gotten wrong in its attempt to create a physical-economial synthesis. I agree that any progress towards the creation of such a synthesis, whether by rigorous modeling, intuition, anecdote, change of perspective, etc... is much needed. Hopefully in this spirit, the below is a stylized version of what I think the underlying philosophic tension is between the two approaches.

I call this the dialectic of price.

One camp of people believe it is never possible to run out of something that is correctly priced. This theory of price rationalization is the intellectual foundation of such disparate beliefs as: we have geopolitical peak oil if we have it at all vs. the key to solving peak oil is having very high oil prices. Many people trained in the economic tradition, using that word very broadly, don't realize that this is the premise, the pre-thought foundation, of their deductive processes regardless of what conclusions, often very disparate as noted above, they come to on a given issue.

Another camp of people believe that you're guaranteed to run into problems if you apportion certain key things based on their market price. You could call this notion the theory of the revenge of physical systems. Again, very disparate beliefs rely on this foundation. From the notion that we'll use more of cheaply priced resources than we have any moral right to vs. the often opposite idea that we'll use more of cheaply priced resources than we rationally ought to given their knowable future scarcity.

The economic camp sees price as the great epistemological tool. If you have a problem you cant solve, its because it hasn't been correctly priced. End OPEC or the ban on offshore drilling and you'll have cheap oil, or if you don't get cheap oil you'll find an alternative. Put a price on carbon and you'll have greater societal utility. If people don't want a price on carbon its because they don't truly value climatic stability. If climatic stability is a concept that has any usefulness then it will be necessary to show that people are willing to pay for it. If they're not, then its not a useful concept.

A useful way to categorize this series of ideas is as follows: In a world where everything is functionally constrained by price, nothing is fundamentally constrained by anything else.

The physical camp sees price as a flawed epistemological tool. The flaws are too numerous to list given different critiques, but there seem to be two main avenues. The first is that price as a man made construct deliberately destroys the things that don't have obvious and immediate value to man, whether these be eco-systems, species, the climate, and ultimately the planet. The second is that the epistemological theory of price errantly presupposes that a solution in the future exists to every problem correctly priced in the present. There is a subtle but profound difference in how these two critiques think of technology. The first thinks that man will use every technology available to destroy non-human systems until eventually...the second thinks that man will incorrectly assume that there is a technological solution to all problems until this supposition is proven false and we confront a problem we cant solve, even if the problem is correctly priced.

A useful way to categorize this series of ideas is as follows: In a world where our desire to do what we want is not functionally constrained by price, there are important ways in which our ability is fundamentally constrained by things other than price.

Now this post is already too Im going to stop and outline what I intend to do next.

First I intend to summarize what I view as Gail's (and TOD"s) view of a physical critique to the epistemological theory of price. Namely, that at certain critical junctures high prices will reveal underlying physical realities that cannot be solved by those corresponding high prices. At these junctions the aggregate economic system will contract until enough economic activity is destroyed to regain equilibrium with the physical system constraints.

Next I intend to offer a measured critique of this synthesis. The general approach will be to argue that the constraint is not the physical system limitations, but rather the fact that we lack a way of coordinating economic activity, and specifically the intermediation of savings and investment, at these junctures. Its not that our capital stock in the present doesn't produce enough surplus to allow for current and future prosperity, but rather that we have no new conventions to utilize resources in the present based on what we think they'll be worth in the future. In this narrative, peak oil is a challenge to the underlying meta-narrative, the future will look like the present Keynesian certainty convention, that has allowed for much risk taking and investment ultimately (but not obviously) based on cheap fossil fuels.

Obviously this whole post is more than a little presumptuous and I am uncertain whether the above ideas are even interesting to other TOD readers, or whether they just represent my own grappling with the issues I see and read here every day. If there is interest I will continue with the approach I outlined above. If not, Ill write it for my own private benefit and say thanks to all at TOD for the stimulation.


Welcome to TOD! And your ideas are welcome too, at least to me.

Where the price system most notably fails is in regard to externalities. In particular, the Tragedy of the Commons, as described by Garrett Hardin explains why problems such as overpopulation in general and excessive fertility rates in particular cannot be solved by a price system.

As Hardin put it, the unique solution to the Tragedy of the Commons is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon. We do not like coercion by government, but we need it to deal with externalities--actions that have no price attached to them.

but rather the fact that we lack a way of coordinating economic activity, and specifically the intermediation of savings and investment, at these junctures. Its not that our capital stock in the present doesn't produce enough surplus to allow for current and future prosperity, but rather that we have no new conventions to utilize resources in the present based on what we think they'll be worth in the future.


for a simple man like me your basically saying the problem is political.

For me it boils down to a simple outlook.. If the atlas shrugged mob have it all wrong the "apocalypse now unless we do something" crowd need to stop dicking around and seize power(influence on a significant scale). If the political sell is hard it will/must end up with a command economy and rationing.if the political and economic self moderation of the citizenry is a non stater?

I don't see any other answer or outcome

Like Don, I'd be interested too see this, although I'm not quite sure what we'd be getting - an economics piece, or a piece about discourse and power structures.

If the former, it seems to me that the proposed critique begs the question, in that it assumes that there exists some new investment that is worthwhile. I recall that, back in the 80s when I used to browse in a university library, I read some articles by Finnish environmental economists that suggested that with "appropriate" system boundaries, all new investment (at that time) was net negative: the present value of using resources now was less than the present value of leaving them for later use, and this had been the case for a while.

You will also need to directly address the thesis of physical system constraints if you wish to show that it is not the main problem. It seems to me that there is an assumption of substitution built into the proposed critique -- if we invest in other things, the physical constraint is avoided. Not so, say the "finite planet" people.

If you wish to talk about discourses such as the right to freedom of movement, private property rights, and individual reward for individual effort, and how these "myths" have changed from being helpful to being harmful... well, I'd like to see that, too, but I'm not sure how many others here are ready for it.

Two camps:
1) Price controls camp
2) Physics controls camp

Tyler, you seem to have divided the world into two kinds of people.

Personally, I believe there are 10 kinds of people.

Those who count in binary and those who don't. But all kidding aside, there is also ...

The Neuro-science camp which believes that:

1) The human brain can easily delude itself into believing that "price" is real and that Mother Nature listens to that noise,

2) The human brain can easily delude itself into believing it fully understands "physics" and that Mother Nature listens to man-made theories,

3) The human brain can easily delude itself into believing it is rational (I think rationally and therefore I am (rational) --except that I have this strange urge to be fruitful and multiply although I don't know why)

The price camp and the physics camp are merely subsets of the neurologically afflicted camp.

Real Capital, must come from energy, as long as the sun still shines, there will be capital available. But with peak oil, and peak coal, the amount will be a lot less,new capital all the time is needed to maintain the population, hence Peak Energy, means the end of population growth, initially, then the population will begin to decline until it matches the Solar energy available. With all of the horrors that will mean.

Old Ari.

It may very well be that much of what we are seeing now is a symptom of peak capital approaching: airports, roads, bridges, dikes, dams, and about everything that goes under the name of "infrastructure" are decaying everywhere in the world.

The complexity was achieved via cheap energy, so it seems logical that reductions in complexity occur during a net energy decline. Call it peak capitol or just call it a sympton of post peak oil.

Peak Cap?

No, not by a long shot.

The gov will borrow from wall street. They just create fiat money and give it to them at 0%. Then wall street buys some bonds with the 0% loan and pockets 3% profit. The taxpayers will be stuck with paying it off.

In this day and age they don't even need ink and paper to create money. Trillions are created just by the work of a few electrons magnetizing a silicone chip. The only way the gov 'cannot create' is with fossil fuels.

Monetary supply is not the same as capital. For example, you can print a lot of money and not have inflation if capital grows. The terms are often used as synonyms but that's not technically accurate.

Financial capital refers to money, stocks, bonds, etc. Physical capital refers to buildings, machinery, tools, business computers and their software, trucks, trains, railroad tracks, roads and bridges. It is unfortunate that "capital" refers to two very different kinds of things. In my own writing I always specify financial capital or physical capital to avoid confusion.

Ultimately, physical capital is what matters for limits to growth. Financial capital is just a way to measure things, and not a very good way as the down-valuing of home mortgages in the U.S. shows. Note that a great deal of financial capital was destroyed without anything happening to physical capital by the decline in home prices.

I tend to think of capital as tied to the concepts of rates..

"its the power output stupid" ;-)

for financial capital a increase in dollar amounts/day is just inflation if not matched by an equivalence in new things and services/day

peak capital is peak power output potential..

the sheer volume of lower return resources is not matched by its "power potential"

Gails flow diagram is about the rates stuff all goes in and out of the system..and the changes in those rates

Capital is not the limit. What we lack is: 1)time and 2) a plan.

It's lack of a plan that will caollapse the economy. Actually that already happened because we had no plan for dealing with the slowdown in productivity that began 100 years ago.

There is no lack of capital. After all, we built the whole modern world with an infinitessimally small amount of capital compared with today. 200 years ago we still had wooden machinery and almost the entire world was hungry, poorly clothed and housed, and without transportation except for horses and sailing vessels.

We have massive amounts of untilized labor. The average work week is 33 hours in the US. 200 years ago it was 70 hrs/wk, 100 it was 60. So there is no lack of labor to build tomorrow's world. We just don't know what it needs to be.

There is no doubt that resources will be a limit in the next generation or two. That means the end of disposable goods.

I would argue that we had an abundance of capital in the form of free oil for the taking, an oceans full of cod fish, continents to exploit and a huge virgin rubbish tip for our wastes.

The problem is the capital has run out.
and so,
"And here we sits, like a birds in the wilderness."
Annon. Afrikaaner.

With the inevitable degradation of our smart infrastructure, we should use 'the time we have left' to provide some eternally-useful infrastructure before the end of the mineral energy era.

With GPS we could at least upgrade the celestial navigation opportunities by placing in stationary geosynchronous orbit a series of large reflective spheres in constellations at 15 or 30 degree intervals. Each constellation would have a 'target' 'star' surrounded by some lesser 'moons' that identify the constellation by their number.

Then in a lower orbit at 90-degrees to the stationary geosync plane run a series of other stars that cross the geosync constellations at regular times of say one hour, thus providing a simple perpetual solar 'clock' that can be readily ready by anybody who can see the sky. Daytime stellar shots are quite viable provided you know where to look.

The outcome of this will be provision of a very high quality navigation system for thousands of years before the orbits degrade or the 'stars' get pinged.

All this requires a mineral energy powered industrial base to get set up, but it will provide our remaining great great grandchildren with a useful navigation system, or at least some neat legends!

There are lots of other things like that we can do to leave a useful legacy of our otherwise wasteful expenditure of the earth's mineral energy resources. But it needs acceptance of our condition, and a will to act. Keep praying!

Speaking of GPS,

Wikipaedia reports
that we were awash in ions this morning due to 4 coronal mass ejection events.
I wonder what got fried?

I have been reading about the problem of overfishing. It seems to me that economists, business and governments are for the most part cornucopians. Their motto is "More. More of everything. Just keep growing, year after year, things will always, somehow, work out." 30-40 years ago this motto was applied to the world's fisheries. Professional fishermen for the most part happily went along with this. But things didn't quite work out as expected, and a lot of people still can't quite believe it.

When posting something like this, you should include a hyperlink to a basics explanation on fish stock collapse .

Otherwise a newbie who spots your post for a first time will have no idea what wild blue ocean you come leaping out of to get to the here and now.

That said, I agree with you that the Invisible Hand on the reel seems to have disconnected itself from the Invisible Rational Brain when carrying out the manifest destiny of economists, businessmen and free-trade governments as it concerns free ranging fish.

LTG= hogwash. A reallocation of resources is all that is necessary. Fewer lawyers and Wall Street wizards, more oilsands workers, potash miners, more intensive farming, better use of fresh water resources etc. As I sit at my computer I can see the South Saskatchewan River send billions of gallons of fresh water on its way to Hudson Bay unused by mankind. We have huge untapped resources in this province due to lack of manpower, nothing else. Some things may become more scarce than others but mankind can easily adapt. A copper orebody grading 0.3% would have been left in the ground 20 years ago but is now viable. And there is three times more copper mined these days than when the boys in Rome fretted over running out. So it is just the relative cost of outputs that change over time, not the total disappearance of one resource or another. Lots of earths crust untapped out there. If I can't get from A to B with petrol some day, I can sure do it with electricity.