Drumbeat: October 17, 2011

Our Incredibly Dull Energy Future: Even if we make big strides toward clean energy, the future won’t look very different from today

The future of energy is going to be awesome. Everyone will drive an electric car, powered by the sun. We’ll completely eliminate our need to burn coal or natural gas, and nuclear power will be thing of the past.

No, wait. The future of energy is going to be terrible. Peak oil will catch us off guard. Combating climate change will mean abandoning modern conveniences. Within a generation, we’ll all be living like it’s 1899.

These two predictions couldn’t be more different, but they do have one thing in common: They both make the future of energy sound awfully exciting. Whether you’re pessimistic or optimistic, you get the feeling that everything is going to change, and fast.

But what if it doesn’t?

Alms for the Rich

How policies meant to promote alternative energies are actually hurting the middle class.

From Dung Power to Solar Power

How billions without electrical access will benefit from clean energy.

Herman Daly: Limits to Growth – Forty more years?

Forty years ago when I read The Limits to Growth I already believed that growth in total resource use (population times per capita resource use) would stop within the next forty years. The modeling analysis of the Meadows’ team was a strong confirmation of that common-sense belief based on first principles going back at least to Malthus and earlier classical economists.

Well it is now forty years later and economic growth is still the number one policy goal of practically all nations — that is undeniable. Growth economists say that the “neo-Malthusians” were simply wrong, and that we will keep on growing. But I think economic growth has already ended in the sense that the growth that continues is now uneconomic — it costs more than it is worth at the margin and makes us poorer rather than richer. We still call it economic growth, or simply “growth” in the confused belief that growth must always be economic. I contend that we, especially in rich countries, have reached the economic limit to growth but we don’t know it, and desperately hide the fact by faulty national accounting, because growth is our idol and to stop worshiping it is anathema.

Richard Heinberg: End-of-growth uprising goes global

As long as economies grew, inequality was tolerable. And if the rabble demanded perks, governments could simply borrow money to fund social programs. Corruption could fester unnoticed. But now the economic tide is no longer lifting all boats. Bursting financial bubbles have led economies to contract. That has in turn led to falling tax revenues, which have made existing government debts in several key countries unrepayable. Therefore government bonds held by banks as assets suddenly have little value. Which causes the economy to teeter further. The system is broken.

Review of Lieutenant Colonel Fleming’s U.S. Army War College thesis on Peak Oil

The chief contribution of this thesis is its statistical analysis of oil production variance and oil price variance (with a particular focus on the five years between March 2005 and February 2010):

“Oil production variance and oil price variance have never been so far apart…. [There is] an inelasticity at least ten times greater than at any time during the previous 30 years, and 100 times greater than during the previous decade. One might conclude that what we have considered ‘normal’ oil production and oil price cycles have ceased to exist” (p. 15-16).

Russia May See Fuel Shortages as Export Tax Falls, Analysts Say

(Bloomberg) -- Russia may encounter short-term shortages of oil products such as gasoline and winter diesel as demand grows, refineries conduct seasonal maintenance and export duties fall, encouraging shipments abroad, analysts said.

Pemex Reopens Dos Bocas Oil Export Port on Better Weather

Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil company, reopened a second crude-export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico after weather conditions improved.

The terminal at the port of Dos Bocas reopened, Mexico’s Merchant Marine said in a weather bulletin on its website today. Mexico closed the oil ports of Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas Oct. 15. Cayo Arcas reopened earlier today, while Coatzacoalcos remained open.

What Is The Future Of Natural Gas Use In The U.S.?

The Kinder Morgan deal will likely make the company the largest natural gas pipeline operator in North America. This comes at a time when more people in the U.S. are becoming reliant on the fuel. For more, Robert Siegel speaks with Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Associates and author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.

Ex-Royal Marines Fighting Somali Pirates as World Shipping Lanes Attacked

About 1,000 former Royal Marines will be deployed by a British company next year to protect oil tankers and other vessels transiting the world’s most dangerous shipping lanes off East Africa.

Saudi: Arabia: When surging oil demand meets limited supply

As the population of Saudi Arabia (and other oil exporting countries) grows, the incremental supply of oil for export at any given price will be diminished. And that means higher prices for everyone. Where is the pain threshold? When does demand destruction kick in? In April and May, I predicted oil prices had peaked, suggesting further that demand destruction had already kicked in, meaning the rise in oil prices is one big reason the economy has rolled over. Indeed, prices have peaked but they are still more than double the prices at their nadir in 2009.

We need all the oil we can get

Why is oil — and in turn, gasoline – so expensive these days, versus a couple decades ago? There’s just so much less of the easy stuff to produce at a time when the world’s most populous region, Asia, is starting to consume like the western world did during the Industrial Revolution.

And the average barrel of oil is getting heavier, evidenced by the energy industry’s pursuit of oil in politically unstable or hard operating environments like offshore or in the Arctic.

Load shedding returns to haunt city after short respite

LAHORE: After a short break in the massive load shedding, the city has been made victim to unscheduled load shedding once again.

Welcome to 2012

No one pictured us to be here, quite where we are, just a few short decades back. Our battered globe is worse for wear, and bearing the weight of the largest population demand it’s ever fed, clothed and sheltered. We’ve nearly sucked our way to “peak oil” – some would argue we’ve recently hit it, and it’s time to look for alternative sources of energy to fill the void oil will inevitably leave behind. Subsequently, fossil fuel consumption and emissions are on the radars of every major automotive manufacturer. Engines are shedding cylinders, dawning turbos, and shrinking in displacement while the ‘horsepower war’ of the ’90s has morphed into the ‘efficiency war’ of late. Alternative drive concepts – new and old- are sprouting like dandelions on your neighbor’s lawn. But there are other winds of change that are blowing automotive designs in new directions.

Fukushima reactors may be shut down ahead of schedule

(CNN) -- Engineers may be able to complete the shutdown of damaged reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ahead of schedule, the plant's owner reported Monday.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company's plan for winding down the crisis caused by the historic March 11 earthquake and tsunami had called for completing the shutdown process by January. But in a six-month update to its April "road map," the utility said the reactors could reach their "cold shutdown" points by the end of the year.

Tepco to Ask for $9.1 Billion for Fukushima Payouts, Nikkei Says

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will ask the government for 700 billion yen ($9.1 billion) to help compensate those affected by the Fukushima disaster and avoid insolvency, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

My Critique of "Feeding the World While Protecting the Planet" by Jon Foley's Team - University of Minnesota

If you somehow missed it, Scientific American magazine has a must-read five page article by environmental studies Professor Jon Foley (Univ. of Minnesota) for anyone interested in the subject of global food security, "Can We Feed the World & Sustain the Planet? A five-step global plan could double food production by 2050 while greatly reducing environmental damage." This is an excellent read and plan, and I appreciate all of the five points made.

Kurt Cobb: Can Margaret Atwood's environmental message reach a broad public?

Now, the problem, of course, in that a compelling narrative about our climate, resource and environmental challenges would be hard to make simple. The whole point would be to make it clear that these are complex problems with no easy solutions. And, the whole point would be make it clear that these problems arise from the totality of the way we live, making it difficult to appeal to existing values. And, the whole point would be to startle people into a mode of awareness that goes beyond their current way of seeing.

The End of the Future

When tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains. Consider the most literal instance of non-acceleration: We are no longer moving faster. The centuries-long acceleration of travel speeds — from ever-faster sailing ships in the 16th through 18th centuries, to the advent of ever-faster railroads in the 19th century, and ever-faster cars and airplanes in the 20th century — reversed with the decommissioning of the Concorde in 2003, to say nothing of the nightmarish delays caused by strikingly low-tech post-9/11 airport-security systems. Today’s advocates of space jets, lunar vacations, and the manned exploration of the solar system appear to hail from another planet. A faded 1964 Popular Science cover story — “Who’ll Fly You at 2,000 m.p.h.?” — barely recalls the dreams of a bygone age.

The official explanation for the slowdown in travel centers on the high cost of fuel, which points to the much larger failure in energy innovation. Real oil prices today exceed those of the Carter catastrophe of 1979–80. Nixon’s 1974 call for full energy independence by 1980 has given way to Obama’s 2011 call for one-third oil independence by 2020. Even before Fukushima, the nuclear industry and its 1954 promise of “electrical energy too cheap to meter” had long since been defeated by environmentalism and nuclear-proliferation concerns. One cannot in good conscience encourage an undergraduate in 2011 to study nuclear engineering as a career. “Clean tech” has become a euphemism for “energy too expensive to afford,” and in Silicon Valley it has also become an increasingly toxic term for near-certain ways to lose money. Without dramatic breakthroughs, the alternative to more-expensive oil may turn out to be not cleaner and much-more-expensive wind, algae, or solar, but rather less-expensive and dirtier coal.

A New Long Term Assessment of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for U.S. Oil and Gas Discovery and Production

Oil and gas are the main sources of energy in the United States. Part of their appeal is the high Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) when procuring them. We assessed data from the United States Bureau of the Census of Mineral Industries, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Oil and Gas Journal for the years 1919–2007 and from oil analyst Jean Laherrere to derive EROI for both finding and producing oil and gas. We found two general patterns in the relation of energy gains compared to energy costs: a gradual secular decrease in EROI and an inverse relation to drilling effort. EROI for finding oil and gas decreased exponentially from 1200:1 in 1919 to 5:1 in 2007. The EROI for production of the oil and gas industry was about 20:1 from 1919 to 1972, declined to about 8:1 in 1982 when peak drilling occurred, recovered to about 17:1 from 1986–2002 and declined sharply to about 11:1 in the mid to late 2000s. The slowly declining secular trend has been partly masked by changing effort: the lower the intensity of drilling, the higher the EROI compared to the secular trend. Fuel consumption within the oil and gas industry grew continuously from 1919 through the early 1980s, declined in the mid-1990s, and has increased recently, not surprisingly linked to the increased cost of finding and extracting oil.

Oil Slips From Highest in a Month in New York as Germany Damps Rescue Hope

Oil slipped from its highest in a month in New York as Germany criticized as unrealistic hopes for a swift resolution to Europe’s debt crisis.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures were little changed after climbing above $88 a barrel as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a briefing in Berlin today, dismissed expectations that rescue plans to be announced at an Oct. 23 summit will speedily address Europe’s problems as “dreams.” Crude advanced earlier on forecasts that China may say tomorrow its economy grew more than 9 percent last quarter.

Enoc: selling petrol at a loss cannot continue

Selling petrol at a loss because of the federal cap on prices is unsustainable, and is hampering its ability to open new outlets in Dubai, Emirates National Oil Company said yesterday.

Enoc has struggled to supply fuel to drivers in the Northern Emirates, and says the cap is now threatening its ability to do its job on its own home turf.

The company, which is owned by the Dubai Government, said it was on track to record a Dh2.7 billion loss from selling fuel at artificially low rates."This also has a serious impact on our ability to expand our retail network to meet the growing demand," the company said.

Shale gas helps Halliburton profit beat Street

(Reuters) - Halliburton Co , the world's second-largest oilfield services company, posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Monday as more drillers tapped its expertise in extracting gas from U.S. shale rock.

Demand for shale energy continues to climb across the United States, despite low natural gas prices, among the clamor for energy independence and a push for cheap supply from the chemical and transportation sectors.

Kinder Raises Bet on Natural Gas Demand in $21 Billion El Paso Purchase

Kinder Morgan Inc.’s agreement to buy El Paso Corp. (EP) for $21.1 billion, the energy industry’s biggest transaction in more than a year, would create the largest natural-gas pipeline network in the U.S.

Report: Russo-China Central Asia gas talks collapse

Moscow - Negotiations aimed at sending Russian gas to China through a Central Asian pipeline failed Friday because the two sides could not agree on financial terms, Russia's Interfax news agency reported citing a Chinese official.

But a spokesman for Russian's state-owned natural gas monopoly said negotiations between his company and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) are progressing on other fronts.

China ups pressure over India's Vietnam oil deal

Stepping up pressure on India to scrap oil deals with Vietnam, China has indicated that these agreements in South China Sea could potentially strain bilateral ties.

Liu Weimin, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, Friday reiterated in Beijing that China has 'indisputable sovereignty' over the South China Sea.

Stricken New Zealand ship may break apart or sink

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Salvage crews raced Monday to pump oil from a stricken ship teetering on a reef off the New Zealand coast, while also preparing for the worst: Authorities believe the vessel will break apart or sink soon.

The pipeline of 'poison'

The aftermath of a tar sands oil spill in Michigan has left a community with sickness, anger, and loss of livelihood.

Anadarko to Pay $4B to Settle Spill Claim: BP

BP Plc (BP/), the operator of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that was the source of the worst U.S. oil spill last year, said Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) will pay $4 billion to settle all claims over the disaster.

Anadarko, which had a 25 percent stake in the well, will no longer pursue allegations of gross negligence against BP. The payment will be made in a single cash payment and will be put in the $20 billion trust being used to repay claims and damages. Under the terms of the deal, Anadarko will transfer its stake in the Macondo well back to BP.

Ambani Armed With $12.6B to Buy Energy Assets

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is poised to use its record cash for overseas acquisitions to take advantage of the cheapest valuations of oil and natural gas companies in three years as profit growth slows.

Statoil Buys Brigham Exploration for $4.4 Billion Cash to Gain Oil Shale

Statoil ASA, Norway’s biggest oil and gas producer, agreed to buy Brigham Exploration Co. for about $4.4 billion in cash, adding so-called tight oil fields in North Dakota.

Women march in Yemen's capital

(CNN) -- Thousands of women demonstrated in front of Yemen's foreign ministry in the capital, Sanaa, Monday, demanding U.N. intervention in the ongoing unrest in the Persian Gulf nation, residents and eyewitnesses said.

The protest comes a day after a female protester became the first woman killed in a demonstration against the government, according to opposition activists.

The Electric Leaf’s True Believers Won’t Leave Well Enough Alone

WITHIN weeks of when Nissan first began delivering the Leaf to buyers last December, do-it-yourselfers were looking for ways to make the new electric car — an engineering marvel from one of the world’s leading automakers — even better.

For Alternative Energy, Storage Makes All the Difference

Public discussion often makes it seem as if the only obstacles are efficiency and cost. Photovoltaic solar cells and offshore wind farms can provide power at about $160 a megawatt hour. That’s far costlier than coal-fired plants, which deliver power at about $70 a megawatt hour. That price gap keeps narrowing; it may close completely in a decade or two.

Recent events in Germany, though, highlight a less discussed, but equally crucial, challenge. As Bloomberg News reported recently, German energy prices have begun careening in the strangest ways. Sunny, gusty days generate so much alternative energy that utilities pay industrial customers to take it away. Cloudy, calm weather creates shortages that can send wholesale prices as high as $220 a megawatt hour.

A next-generation biofuel strategy

Biofuels and healthy food supplies need not be mutually exclusive. We think there is a need for a next-generation Canadian biofuels strategy that uses biomass — not food — as the primary feedstock. Wood from forests, straw and stover from agricultural operations, specialty-grown crops like switchgrass or poplar trees (not produced on prime agricultural land), and new opportunities including algae are all options that can allow for the future expansion of biofuels across the country without a negative effect on agriculture.

Senators protective of potato in face of USDA limits

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to limit how many starchy potatoes American schoolchildren eat each week as part of the federal school lunch program, beginning next year.

A bipartisan group of senators from potato states such as Maine, Idaho and Colorado says the USDA proposal is half-baked, and lawmakers will try to block the rule Monday with an amendment to the 2012 agriculture spending bill.

FOOD: Price volatility - causes and consequences

JOHANNESBURG (IRIN) - In the past four years, global prices of staples such as maize and wheat have twice hit record levels, driving hundreds of thousands of the world�s most vulnerable people further towards hunger and poverty.

It is the poorest people in the poorest countries who are most affected by the high price of staple foods.

Recent responses to high prices have increasingly tended to focus on reducing price volatility - sharp fluctuations in food prices.

How Going Green Can Make You Rich

Many would agree that we are entering a world of peak oil and rising energy prices. There are pending fresh water and food shortages and price increases in many parts of the world, coupled with theoretically unsustainable—yet inevitable—increases in population. Other effects of climate change threaten, from warming seas to shortages of arable land and biodiversity loss. Yet the majority of investors do not take such things into consideration.

Increasingly, evidence suggests they should. Companies that actively manage environmental risks—and take advantage of associated opportunities—increasingly seem to outperform those who don’t in the stock market. That could be a very good thing, both for shareholders and the planet.

My CNBC Energy Opportunities Interview (VIDEO)

In the possibility and hope that this video would be watched by more than just people interested in and knowledgeable about energy (and clean energy, in particular), I wanted to focus on a few points that I thought were most important for most people to understand:

Bernard Hickey asks if John Key has a Plan B if peak oil, aging workforces and little technical progress create a growthless global economy. Your view?

It hasn't dawned on John Key, but the idea that growth in the developed world may have stalled for more than a year or two is now dawning on central bankers, economic thinkers and protestors around the world.

The realisation that real and sustainable growth may not have happened in the developed world for the last 20 years is even more unsettling.

Rwanda: Developed Countries Urged to Honour the Kyoto Protocol

In a way of minimizing the effects of global warming in developing countries, developed countries signatory to the Kyoto protocol have been called upon to respect it.

The protocol is an international agreement signed by 37 industrialized countries, including the European Community, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 percent against the 1990 levels in a period of five years, from 2008-2012.

Growth patterns must shift or poor will be worse off - UN

"While global GDP more than doubled between 1981 and 2005, 60 percent of the world's ecosystems have degraded,” he said at the opening session of the meeting, organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“What is clear is that the current patterns of growth will eventually undermine the sources of livelihood and the poor and the vulnerable will be worse off,” he said.

Coming soon: 7 billion reasons to rethink how we use the planet

One day this month, the world's population will reach 7 billion.

It took thousands of years - from prehistory to 1960 - for humankind to reach 3 billion. But then it took only 39 years - to 1999 - to add the next 3 billion. And now it has taken just 12 more years to move from 6 to 7 billion.

Growth has been so rapid that the US Population Reference Bureau estimates that about 5 per cent of all the people who have ever lived are living now.

Tackling an unpopular climate solution

Voluntary curbs on population through improved education could ease poverty and environmental pressures including carbon emissions but is ignored politically as the world passes 7 billion people because of long-standing taboos.

Discussion of fertility rates is unpalatable to religious institutions, for example opposed to contraception, and is often viewed as a private matter by conservative governments.

A link between choice of family size and environmental limits, meanwhile, has lost favour since the 1970s after peak oil and food concerns faded.

But as carbon emissions soar it may be time to review a connection with an increasingly urgent climate problem caused by burning fossil fuels and converting forests for food and energy.

Statoil's acquisition of Brigham Exploration - An excess cash disposal scheme, imo.

This is a repeat cycle, sort of, Mobil's acquisition of Montgomery Ward comes to mind.

Statoil's Acquisition Of Brigham Exploration Shows Enormous Value In Unproven Reserves

Brigham (as of the December 2010 reserve report) has 67 million barrels of proved reserves. A $4.7 billion valuation suggests Statoil is paying $4.7 billion / 67 million = $70 per barrel of proved reserves



"The melting of the Arctic sea ice is progressing much faster and more dramatically than earlier estimated, according to new research by the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI).

This means that the Arctic Sea could be free of ice in the summer in ten years time, rather than the 50 to 100 years estimated earlier.

NPI measurements made by moored sonars show a dramatic reduction in the fraction of ridged sea ice, compared to the 1990s. The vast fields of ridged ice thicker than 5 m, constituting 28 percent of the winter Arctic sea ice cover during the 1990s, is nearly gone."

Along with dramatic reductions in ice cover, we seem to be getting dramatic increases in methane release from the vast continental shelf off of Siberia. The two are likely inter-related: The more ice is lost, the more solar radiations warms the surface waters, but also the bigger the waves are that can mix these down to the seabed, only meters below. On the other hand, methane remains at elevated levels in the Arctic compared to other locations on the globe, and it is a powerful GHG with a short term global warming potential over 100 times that of CO2. So each exacerbates the other.


What all this portends for the now 7 billion naked apes now on the planet (not to mention all the other species) is hard to know exactly, but not a cause for great hopes for a survivable future.

Do you have a link for the methane releases comment?

Edit: Never mind, it showed up in the edit. Thanks.

Here is the original notice that there was a dramatic increase in methane release from the Arctic Ocean, and that a scientific team was being rushed up there 'on short notice' to study what was going on: http://en.rian.ru/science/20110902/166364635.html

There seemed to be an urgency in the migrating geese/storks this year as they flocked in their thousands over our village. I've nothing to back this up, but I strongly suspect their abnormal haste to go South is because they sense what's coming. It seems to me as though a warming Arctic becomes and expanding Arctic, pushing its influence ever Southward. The Arctic maybe warming, but its still far colder than anything we're used to.

I'm expecting a cold winter...

I know we are in a La Nina regime on the west coast....but several weeks ago the first sandhill cranes came over. Last night it was 1 deg (5 km from saltwater at elevation 5M.) Today there will be snow on 'our mountain'....probably 1 month before we usually see it. Migration is very early this year IMO.

Hi Paulo
Which is your Mtn?
Regards Madax

Mt H'kusam

Not that it is my mountain other than we look at it and live right under it.

We feel the same way about "our" Mount Arrowsmith, which also has fresh snow. Never lost all last years.
We live on its shoulder and can only see the view from the bottom of the property.
Regards Madax

Have no opinions regarding the birds. My authority as an ornitologist is very restricted. But the last years we have seen a pattern of warm air blowing in over Arctica, and thispush down cold winds south. We who live outside but close to Arctica experience thse coldwinters, while the polar bears and the seals have issues adapting to the heat. This will just continue as the planet warms up.

This will just continue as the planet warms up

Its hard to say. There are two leading theories about the unusual north-south winter heat transport we had the past couple of winters. One is that a warmer arctitc (and fall open water in the acrtic), lead to the northern branch of the jet stream being weaker, and allowing bigger northsouth kinks than usual. The other still goes to jet stream circulation changes, but attributes the changes in circulation to the exceptionally weak solar activity we had, leading to cooler at high altitudes over the equator, and having a knockon effect of atmospheric circulation at lower levels of the atmosphere. If it is the later cause, the sun is no longer inactive (we have sunspots, flares CMEs etc.), and I would expect it to be different this year. Unfortunately the former cause (if applicable) probably doesn't happen every year, so disentangling which cause is dominate isn't going to be simple.

What we need is a few volcanic eruptions to cool everything off. After this summer's heat and humidity, I'm no longer a "warmista". I like my cool weather (50Fs today/40Fs tomorrow) very much.

The Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutians is happily and quietly burping away.


Here on the central Oregon coast, we've had numerous flocks daily flying NORTH; seldom are any seen flying South.

For what it's worth at this early date, lately there appears to be a blocking pattern in the flows just to the east of southern Greenland, which is similar to what developed the past two winters and was associated with the rather cold weather over Northern Europe. The northeastward air flow over the Atlantic sup-polar gyre is splitting as it hits the blocking flow from the north, with part of that northward flow is branching back to the west over Eastern Canada and Hudson Bay. One research group claimed that this pattern was the result of warming of the Barents Sea, which suppressed the sea-ice cover in the area and warmed the atmosphere above. If this pattern is repeated again this coming winter, one might conclude that we are beginning to experience something really different.

Of course, next week and next month might look entirely different...

E. Swanson

The effects of the loss of the gulf stream. Its loss was accelerated by mixing oil+water with COREXIT.

You can thank BP.

would it really be out of the blue if a black swan of say it being ice free next summer or the summer after that? what do you think the events would be because of that?

What shocked many about the low ice extent this fall was that it occurred in a year that was not particularly conducive to ice loss, as opposed to '07 when unusual wind patterns and other conditions destroyed or 'exported' a lot of ice out of the Arctic.

So a return of '07 conditions could indeed bring about a dramatic reduction in ice cover. Whether this would reach total melt is hard to say, and somewhat besides the point, imho.

In any case, more and more groups are predicting ice free or near ice free conditions up there within the next ten years or so. The effects this will have on Northern Hemisphere climate are largely unknown, as far as I can tell, though they will probably include more precipitation, mostly in snow, over much of the northern half of North America and Eurasia.

The most recent "explanation" for the fact the meltdown is exceeding the model predictions seems pretty credible. The thinner the ice gets, the easier it deforms, which implies that the ice velocity out the Fram strait should get faster as the ice gets thinner. So it is a nonlinear effect.

Not so sure about the precip thing. Fall precip around the arctic ocean, very likely. But the seasonal ice forms pretty quickly once the sun vanishes, so that source shuts down pretty quickly. But changes in circulation (like we say the past two winters), might become commonplace.

"So it is a nonlinear effect."

Well put. I think a lot of nonlinear feedback systems are not well represented in the models, so we will likely have quite a few more 'surprises' going forward. IIRC, black carbon (basically soot) has played some role there, too--as the old ice melted, the concentration of black stuff on the surface increased which increased the warming which increased the concentration of soot further...till all the ice was gone and the soot sank in the ocean. That's one reason why I think simple curve fitting might not be a good predictor of future melt rate. Most of that black carbon is gone and so the new ice that is forming may last longer than expected. Not really, really long, but we may not get total melt in the next few years as curve fitting would predict.

On snow fall increase around the Arctic, that was from the following study:
The Seasonal Atmospheric Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss In the Late 21st Century
Clara Deser 1 Robert Tomas 1 Michael Alexander 2 David Lawrence 1
1 National Center for Atmospheric Research 2 NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
Submitted to the Journal of Climate January 23, 2009 Revised July 7, 2009

This may also be of interest:

Role of Arctic sea ice in global atmospheric circulation: A review
Dagmar Budikova ⁎ Department of Geography-Geology, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, 61790-4400, USA

Received 7 November 2008 Accepted 2 April 2009 Available online 8 April 2009

black carbon (basically soot) has played some role there, too--as the old ice melted, the concentration of black stuff on the surface increased which increased the warming which increased the concentration of soot further...till all the ice was gone and the soot sank in the ocean. That's one reason why I think simple curve fitting might not be a good predictor of future melt rate.

I'd tried to make that point a few times over at realclimate, mostly regarding landice, but couldn't get any takers.

Yeah, that's the frustrating thing with that site--they spend endless posts countering stupid denialist bs and other irrelevant minutiae but won't bite on questions about the basic mechanisms of how this is going down (and all the rest of us with it).

On that 2nd link you have dohboi, I noticed this gem:

As an example, on January 6, 2011, temperature in Coral Harbour, located at the northwest corner of Hudson Bay in the province of Nunavut, Canada, was 30°C (54°F) above average.

In conclusion, temperature anomalies in the Arctic can exceed 10°C and it is hard to explain such large temperature anomalies without including methane as a cause.

54F above average?! That's a huge anomoly! However, more needs to be done in the area of Arctic methane release research. They need to find out if those releases are increasing yoy? and if so, how do those increases graph? Is it an exponential increase yoy or a minor linear blip that could go on for many decades without impacting the climate?

In any case, it does appear new research will help answer many questions.

You are quite right, both that 54F is a humdinger of an anomaly (can anyone imagine an anomaly that high for a summer high temperature?) and that more info on Arctic methane release is a high priority.

It does seem that this year's does represent a considerable increase over last years, and preliminary report are that this may have more to do with (unusual?) seismic activity in the area, so is perhaps not directly attributable to a runaway scenario (although, if large enough, it may trigger one, I would think).

I think a large temperature anomaly is more likely in a place where the average temperature is quite low. We are over two months away from winter solstice and the normal daytime high in Coral Harbour is already down to -5C. I don't have data on average temperature for January, but it could easily be in the -25C to -30C range. The temperature would only have to get slightly above freezing to create a 30 degree C (54 degree F) anomaly in January.

"I think a large temperature anomaly is more likely in a place where the average temperature is quite low."

Good point, but may I just point out that it is specifically winter and night time temperatures that are increasing the fastest because the forcing is global warming which holds more energy in the system even when the sun is not shining or is shining much less.

If these temperature anomalies were being driven primarily by increased insolation (which, of course, there is no evidence of in the last thirty years), we would expect the greatest temperature rises to be during the day and during the summer in places that get the most sun light.

Yes, the Artic does appear to be affected much more dramatically by global warming than most other places. That is not something the average person is aware of. If we get an unusual spell of hot, cold, wet, dry, whatever weather in Southern Canada where most Canadians live you can be sure that the media will prominently feature that story. Warmer temperatures in the Arctic which are much more dramatic than anything we've seen down south do not generate anywhere near as much coverage.

Seasonal variation goes way up at higher lattitudes. By that I don't just mean the winter to summer diffs, but the year to year variation in say January temps can be quite large. When there is much colder air available not too far away, and warm air available not so far away in another direction, it makes a huge difference which way the wind is blowing. Further south, the difference in temp between say Miami and the equator isn't very large, but the temp contrast between say Miami and a point twice as far from the equator is quite large. So anyplace with large wintertime temperature gradients near by will have quite variable weather.

A few years ago, mid winter in Deline I noticed it was well above freezing in the circuit ~1000 ft above ground about 10C, while on the ground about -30C. I don't know how common that sort of thing is; the locals said it was abnormal but it is impressive when you experience it.

I've also seen Yellowknife's temperature increase from -30 to -10 overnight (not a chinook area); so generally I would say 30 degree temperature anomalies are not particularly surprising. Of course this is 'recent' - in the past 5 years, and some of this information was not easily available before 1903!

That National Review article is full of the anti-science thinking so prevalent at NR and among so called conservatives in the US. Perhaps the article's anti-establishment forays appeal to some here, but anyone with Thiel's hard core "libertarian" background, e.g., his endorsement of Ron Paul, is unlikely to be really insightful into the real nature of the universe. This can be seen also in his emphasis on some looney ideas, like the communities at sea.

Like so many people who have been in the right place at the right time (in Thiel's case at the start of the WWW boom), he confuses serendipity with a sound analysis of events and things. Thiel is unlikely to really accept the physical reality of the planet and the organisms that live on it.

But he did come up with "as our leaders desperately cast about for macroeconomic solutions to problems that have not been primarily about economics for a long time. " But he doesn't seem to understand that, like energy, money can have both potential and kinetic states. Thus he missed what Keynes was talking about. But maybe you have to to write for NR.

As you note, the article, The End of the Future , is loaded with right wing nut lunacy. For example, there's this gem:

The state of true science is the key to knowing whether something is truly rotten in the United States. But any such assessment encounters an immediate and almost insuperable challenge. Who can speak about the true health of the ever-expanding universe of human knowledge, given how complex, esoteric, and specialized the many scientific and technological fields have become? When any given field takes half a lifetime of study to master, who can compare and contrast and properly weight the rate of progress in nanotechnology and cryptography and superstring theory and 610 other disciplines? Indeed, how do we even know whether the so-called scientists are not just lawmakers and politicians in disguise, as some conservatives suspect in fields as disparate as climate change, evolutionary biology, and embryonic-stem-cell research, and as I have come to suspect in almost all fields?

The author's swipe at President Carter, blaming him for the Iranian crisis of 1979, fails to acknowledge the fact that the Iranians were angry at the US for the coup in 1953 which our Republican president instituted against their duly elected government in order to put the Shah in power. The National Review was started by William Buckley in 1955 and has long been one of the main pervayors of neocon philosophy and propaganda.

The author's viewpoint clearly misses the fact that our great technological advances of the pose WW II period were the result of both the cheap energy we had available and the fact that the US was the top dog on the world scene. He states:

Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost.

As one of those who might be called a hippy, who has also worked on several political campaigns as an environmentalist, I don't think we "took over" the US. In fact, I've seen numerous instances where the environmentalist have lost to the financial interests, especially under Republican administrations. The author laments "the unresolved energy challenges of the 1970s", while missing the fact that Ronnie RayGun killed the solar industry in the mid 1980s by allowing the tax credits for solar installations to expire and by cutting deeply into the money for R&D into renewable energy systems. Thiel's right wing philosophical viewpoint is so different from that which I saw while I lived in California, I wonder how he arrived there. Sad to say, since I could find no work in the California computer industry in the 1970s and haven't been back since 1980, thus I can't compare my experience with his...

E. Swanson

What will be the true state of science when the scientists are having a hard time getting enough gruel (to tie it in to the thread below)? A society without fossil fuels cannot support very many people who are not directly involved with the production of food and essentials - scientist, doctors, engineers, soldiers, bankers, whatever. We won't go directly to zero FF, but what science will be funded? That's not to hard to figure out in general - whatever perpetuates the hold on power of the existing system, for as long as that can hold on. Whatever your IQ and your education, you still need your gruel.


Organic yields match conventional yields.
Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.


A study performed by researcher Victoria Innes-Brown, after mounting concerns with how much diet coke her family members seemed to consume daily, showed that of 48 rats experimented on up to 67 percent of all females developed tumors roughly the size of golf balls or larger. The male population didn’t do too well either: 21 percent of the males developed similar cancerous growths.

There are known known and unknown unknowns WRT Aspartame. And then there is the stuff that is known by the makers that you are not being told.

I have no doubt that Organic farming has all the benefits you cite, however it also requires more labor. Which means more people concerned with string beans and less about superstring theory, or spending their days typing text strings on keyboards.

I also note the oft-repeated Dolchstoss theory of nuclear power: that the reason it never became "too cheap to meter" was those pesky environmentalists (not, of course, the enormous overhead of constructing, maintaining, and cleaning up after such an astonishingly toxic technology).

This article falls generally in the rich human genre of "we're in a pickle, so let's find someone to blame, and it won't be my team."

It's all the hippies' fault, of course. If it weren't for those durned hippies, we'd all be riding in affordable nuke-powered air cars and otherwise living the Jetsons lifestyle :-) physics be damned!

Blaming and fingerpointing are habitual -- dare we say "natural" so it's only to be expected. But I wish someone on the right side of the spectrum -- those people who are all about responsibility and "values" and rugged individualism and so on -- would say to the public, "Look, you have to grow up. There ain't no free lunch. There ain't no Santa Claus. There are physical limits. When we exceed them we are borrowing trouble with high interest. Balance your energy budget." Where's the tough love eh? Instead it's a lot of whining about how we *coulda* had the pony and the super ultra Lego set and the toy sports car and the trip to Disney world, if only those *other* kids hadn't spoiled it for us.

Sigh. Reality bites, I guess. "Go go go said the bird: humankind / cannot bear very much reality." But today's bird is saying "drill baby drill," which comes down to about the same thing...

The interesting thing to me about the National Review article is that it was in National Review. This is the first article I can recall from a clearly conservative publication that actually discusses the end of "progress" as we have known it defined. That's quite a leap, and I'll be interested in the reaction from NR readers. William Buckley himself would have enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how modern day conservatives will react.

Nonetheless, hearing a voice on the right touching on so many of the same themes is encouraging. Not all the dots are connected, but the sooner we find a common vision of what we face, the more likely is the chance for all of us adapting at a community level.


I agree. It is a thoughtful article. As the founding CEO of PayPal, Peter Thiel has certainly made an important contribution to our society, and he deserves better than knee-jerk responses here.


I'm sorry, but I cannot regard PayPal as "an important contribution to our society". A way to let people make on-line purchases with credit just doesn't meet that criteria in my view.

The guy made a bundle on an Internet payment scheme - good for him. That doesn't entitle him to expert status on the things he's spewing in this essay.

Yeah, we would have had boundless progress and prosperity if it wasn't for those damned hippies. Oh yes, Science and Technology is all there is to a culture.

The responses to his techno-cornucopian drivel are not "knee-jerk" as you wishfully say - they are well-deserved.

That sounds more like evidence for the prosecution. Paypal is not a good company when you want to substantiate good, ethical contribution to society.

I happen to know Peter. He actually did not make very much from the PayPal gig (all is relative, I get that). He is really good at finding good tech companies that need venture capital (and giving it to them) to grow their business. Also, if you follow his hedge fund you'll see that his has put his money where is mouth is in terms of peak oil and economic contraction.
He's ranked high on the list of most influencual gay people and is very down to earth.
And what if you use paypal to buy a solar panel on ebay?



tobaccy - You might be surprised by how many conservatives don't have a problem buying into PO or AGW. Granted, being a petroleum geologist for over 36 years, makes PO an easy sell to me: I discussed it with my mentor in detail when I started in 1975. Likewise studying massive climate changes in geologic history made current claims appear to be very minor glitches.

Maybe conservatives with similar feelings just don't attract the MSM coverage. After all, they sell hype/controversy and not consensus and rationality. OTOH do I expect anything substantial to be done in regards to either problem? Absolutely not. One advantage of being conservative is I don't have to pretend human nature is any different than what it is. I don't need to warm myself in that nice sugar coated blanket of "We are the World". LOL. We will burn more coal because it will be the cheapest source of abundant energy. We'll accept AGW because doing otherwise will prevent efforts to alter BAU. I don't have to believe in the ultimate good nature of my fellow man like my liberal cousins must.

Maybe you caught the story of a lady who said she would support Good Hair Perry because "he was against global warming". Some f0olks here laughed because they didn't know how to interpret her words. I think I do because I'm surrounded by these folks every day. Often such statements have nothing to do with the validity of the data supporting AGW. A person may accept all the data and still be "against global warming". IMHO what the lady was saying she would support anyone that didn't use AGW as a reason to change BAU. I know libs and cons who will pay lip service to the cause but no way will they abandon their bit of BAU.

PO and AGW are just two of the trip wires waiting down the path for us. And IMHO we'll stay on the trail regardless of how much evidence supports their existence. Both sides continue to talk past each other and will continue to do so IMHO because neither will accept the situation for what it is. The right needs to figure out how to minimize the effects of PO/AGW in an efforts to minimize damage to BAU and the left needs to accept they aren't going to win the war but, if approached properly, might win a few battles along the way. At the money many on the left seem to be satisfied they can beat the cr*p intellectually out of the deniers on the right. It's a very false sense of victory IMHO.

Hey Balboa!

I suspect that both sides are right in most of what they want but they tend to poison each others chalices rather than work together. They are so used to trying to poison what they each want from each other that they cannot work together any more. I'm pretty sure if they sat down in a room and asked each other what they both agreed on we'd get some pretty damn good solutions and simple ones at that. Does my opinion make me what you'd call a progressive or something? Ha!

If the right and the left worked together on many things they could probably get themselves the holy trinity of a smaller government, lower deficit and better conditions for the working classes. It is a possibility but it's a best case scenario type deal. You'd have to essentially beat both sides bloody and then make them say 'Uncle' before they crawled to the negotiating table on that one.

I suspect it wouldn't happen, because the politicos (as opposed to the people they represent) thrive on partisanship. They are not interested in getting the best deal for their constituents, but rather they will create whatever atmospherics appears to help their careers.

I don't really believe that personally. I think politicians have been become trapped by the meme that they themselves can effect great change upon the system and thus compromise is unthinkable. Every politician thus thinks of themselves as 'great leaders' and they cannot consider a world of compromise and consideration which awaits them in politics.

But, politics, as opposed to say governing is viewd as a zero sum game. The other sides loss is my game. Pissing off the people on the other side is a good. So give and take doesn't operate, because good means giving up ground for your side. As I said for the people compromises might be a good thing, but not for the political warrior class (which includes many pundits and fellow travelers).

I have to respectfully disagree. This idea that there are two sides pulling against the center is just wrong. This may have been true at one time. Ages ago there was a left and right, main street and labor. They had different interests and compromise was possible. Now the left and right are fundamentally different. The left is reality based and the right is ideology based. You can argue with someone based in reality. You say that lower taxes will help the economy? Fine. Show us some evidence to back that up and we are interested. However, on the right there is no possible evidence that would get them to ever raise taxes. (Just using taxes as one example.)

There probably is a group of moderate Republicans with whom the left could negotiate and compromise. However, they have been excluded from the current Republican party. I'm not trying to make the left out as saints. It is that the right has changed and become this ideologically rigid group that you cannot negotiate with.

Both sides have their ideological underpinnings, and both have subsets of people in them with distinct Cultures that drive their views as well.

The claim of any side being 'reality based' is not really an objective position. On all sides, people try to do things they think are 'learning and self-correcting' in varying degrees, of course, but they also hang onto 'principles and core beliefs' (Ideologies), many of which are likely to become a rigid framework, if one is to build anything else upon them.

I do agree that this anti-science wave at the very head of the American Conservative Mvmt is really upsetting.. but I think it's also undermining itself.. hopefully faster than it's undermining the rest of us.

Now the left and right are fundamentally different.

Not true.

They are flip sides of a same delusional coin.

Folk on the right believe they are self-made persons who never suckled on their mother's teat and never drank from the government's one either. Folk on the left believe that the public source is an infinite one.

Both are gleefully racing their SUVs up that finite road to the bridge that goes nowhere.

In other words, pretty much everyone in the US is delusional about something. That much is clear.

I would just point out the applying the term 'left' to any major component of the American political scene is a bit delusional itself. There is no 'Labor Party' in the US, much less any effective Green, Socialist, Communist...Parties. Any of those might have a chance of representing something that could be honestly described as "left." (We have yet to see if the OWS movement will evolve into something resembling an effective new real left politics in America.)

Instead we have two parties beholden to big business interests. The only difference I see is that one still thinks she is a consenting spouse that can choose to occasionally differ from The Man, while the other is a totally willing and eager whore for whatever Big Corporate's fancies dictate.

applying the term 'left' to any major component of the American political scene is a bit delusional itself

Good point.

All of MSM (main stream media) American politics has been moved to the far right
and the only question remaining is whether one is even more to the right of that "re-framed" new "center"
or if one is "occupying" a slot slightly to the left of that moved game marker.

If one may analogize to American football, the chains have been moved to the right side of the field (see image here), it's 4th down and 20 yards to the goal line, namely, to a Koch brothers' utopian vision of an extreme right wing America.

("Get your dirty Government hands off my Medicare". /sarcasm)

p.s.: a better football image here (the red states team is about to score)

As an example, I was pretty much a center of the road character -probably even a bit right of center. Now, I don't think I've changed, but now I feel like hard left.

You're in good company. Dwight Eisenhower would be considered hard left today.

And Nixon.

And Ronald (the Ray Gun) Reagan

That's an interesting list.

So Eisenhower, the Republican, set in motion the largest government funded public works program in the history of the planet - the Interstate hwy system - which created enormous wealth over the next few decades, and is (as far as I can tell) well regarded for doing so.

Nixon, the Republican , set up the EPA,. and instituted things like the Clean Waters Act, to rein in rampant industrial pollution. He also ended the Vietnam war, and got ALL the US troops out (Only place I think the US has actually left) and also removed the draft. And he opened trade relations with China, and did the SALT treaty with the Soviets

Reagan, the Republican, did more gov spending/borrowing as he saw fit, with his famous "deficits don;t matter" statement, fostering tremendous economic growth. He earned the respect of much of the world with his "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech.

Yet the current Republicans are against any gov infrastructure projects, are against the EPA and the like, they seem to want to start wars, not end them, they don;t want good relations with China, they don;t want deficits, and they aren;t doing anything to earn respect in the rest of the world.

I wonder what Eisenhower/Nixon/Reagan would have to say about the current Republican crop - none of them seem like inspiring presidential material.

neuter - "The left is reality based and the right is ideology based. You can argue with someone based in reality. You say that lower taxes will help the economy?" Hmmm... a rather ideological position, don't you think? LOL.

The right is unwilling to give up individual freedom to gain individual freedom and the left is unwilling to step aside from their ideology. Effectively you get a dirty compromise which helps noone. They both want the same things essentially but they aren't willing to give anything in return. You could best describe American politics in general as one big market failure.

If they could both somehow agree to limit money in politics, reduce the hours of the working week and regulate the sheer quantity of advertising the left wouldn't feel compelled to try to spend money to pick up after the mess and the right wouldn't have to complain about spending money to do it. It is possible to have lower taxes, smaller government, more freedom and a more egalitarian society at the same time. It is possible to make compromises which make everyone happier but those compromises are never even put on the table!

S - Fully agree with you. And I'll add my cynical take that both political parties have learned how to fully take advantage of all steadfast ideologies. A conservative and liberal will disagree on many issues but that doesn't mean a positive compromise can't be reached. Heck, I'd give up the death penalty for a limit on capital gains tax increases. And being in Texas you know what a big sacrifice that would be for me. LOL.

But IMHO TPTB do all they can to inflame the rhetoric between the two sides. As long as the people are fighting each other they won't focus on the politicians themselves.

Rockman: We're in segment 202, lateral grid nine, site 15H32; give or take a few yards. Captain America here blew the landing by 26 miles!
Col. Sharp: How the hell do you know that?
Rockman: Because I'm a genius.
Watts: The gauges will not read. They're all peaked like we're plugged into some magnetic field.
Rockman: [sarcastically] Who on this spaceship wants to know why?
Gruber: By all means.
Rockman: The reason we were shooting for grid eight was because thermographics indicated that grid nine was compressed iron ferrite...which means you've landed us on a goddamn iron plate!

When it comes down to it, politics don't matter if you've got the skills to drill on an asteroid. LOL. I like that movie even though it's terrible. Any fans of Armageddon in the oil industry?

S - You can imagine how so many tech movies disappoint folks who make a living with that tech. Take the early scene where Bruce's offshore well comes in while their drilling. Blowing oil through the derrick. They're jumping around laughing and high-fiving each other. Exactly what happened at the Macondo well. Except no laughing and cheering. Just 11 hands burning to death and a world class environmental nightmare spewing into the GOM. All the safety training and equipment is designed to prevent exactly what's being depicted as a joyous event. The truly exciting good moments have come when I'm in a logging unit at 2 AM and see a nice big oil sand on the monitor and nothing...absolutely nothing...is happening on the rig floor. Just the hum of the generators. That's as exciting as I ever want it to get.

Did you catch my tale about once thinking I was dying (as I lay on the ground gasping for breath) from poison gas on a well in AL? Had a hard fall right after the H2S alarm sounded. It was a false alarm but the other geologist laughed so hard he almost puked. Now that was exciting. And funny...many years later. If you ever catch John Wayne in "Hell Fighters" you'll see an accurate depiction of H2S death. Well, as accurate as Hollywood ever could be. LOL


I only remember one thing about H2S. "You're only in danger if it doesn't smell like rotten eggs". That is what my chemistry teacher said in high school. Is high level exposure anything like Total Recall where they lie on the ground coughing and convulsing and clutching at their eyes when they were exposed to the Martian atmosphere?

I had an interesting conversation few days back, I swear the world just wants me to punch it in the face!

Him: Yeah I really think they should stop all that deep sea drilling because it's dangerous and the oil at the beach at the Mount is terrible.
Me: Yeah that'd be a good idea, so what are you doing to reduce the need for deep sea drilling?
Him: Huh?
Me: So what are you doing to, you know, reduce your oil consumption?
Him: Why?
Me: ...
Me: Because...
Me: Never mind.
Him: Well they should just stop drilling in dangerous places, it's pretty obvious they should just keep drilling on land.
Me: (No response)

I usually try for the Columbo tone when I'm trying to get peak oil points out there..

Skushe me for askin'.. but there's one more thing I still don' understand.. it don't add up (perplexed frown..)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZiv8vkxMac (don't quit early.. he keeps coming back!)

S - Actually it is just like that...no O2. H2S isn't poisonous per se. H2S is much more readily absorbed in your blood. Once you absorb so much H2S you can't absorb O2. Essentially you suffocate.

Still one of my funniest oil patch stories. And there was a reason I predisposed to expect the worse. When I got to the rig the company man pointed out two boxes with windsocks on opposite sides of the drill site. He said even though they had emergency O2 bottles that I shouldn't strap one on and try to come back and help anyone: the bottles were probably nearly empty. Why? The hands would come back to the rig hungover and suck all the air out to feel better. My question to him: why haven't you refilled them? Answer: because they would just use them up again. Thus what I refer to as the "bad ole days" when few gave a cr*p about safety

I suspect that both sides are right in most of what they want but they tend to poison each others chalices rather than work together.

In a "winner takes all" system, its easier to win if the other is poisoned.


With respect, because I've been reading the oil drum for long enough to appreciate your expertise and experience, and that extends to your insight into political realities as well, because they reflect realist, pragmatist reflection which is refreshing, as it presents the possibility to rise above affiliation and tradition.

So I can appreciate your angle on the conservative lady 'against global warming', and agree that while it does induce a chuckle, there's some real cultural structure there with respect to politics that shouldn't be laughed at.

On the the other hand, there's this here: "I don't have to believe in the ultimate good nature of my fellow man like my liberal cousins must" from your personal pro-conservative rationale is a bit from the same token: It's a common conservative misconception, or even intentional caricature of a progressive/liberal position, with full associated offensively belligerent laugh-track accompaniment.

The idea is that human nature is malleable, and that it requires an investment in your fellow man to see a return of goodness is, I think, the one that thinkin' liberals might agree with. Whereas the conservative ideology (or at least its practical application at this point in history) would seems to be to burn the planet out of pure spite at the suggestion that the all-righteous individual might learn to share, help, or otherwise compromise or negotiate with the fellow man.

I also appreciate your model here that, correct me if I'm wrong, expresses BAU as the compromise between pro and con views regarding how much to disrupt BAU for the betterment of all, or some, with some calculations applied to account for reality (and it's those calculations that keeps us coming here, heh). Assuming that's roughly what you've said here, I think there is a major issue with the conservative role in this game - and I mean the mainstream, voting one - is that it is no longer willing to compromise, neither with the Left, nor with reality itself.

And this relegates pragmatic 'conservatives' like you mute in the public discourse. And I've met many conservatives like you, who stick to their affiliation, but when you get down to brass they agree with me on every issue, (except maybe they want a slightly lower property gains rate). Yet they'll always look to vote for the conservative, even if in-name-only. I understand protecting BAU out of concern for the status quo of one's person, but there's also sticking to your stripes even when they're crooking towards fascism.

Conservatives ought to want to conserve things. I'm a conservative by that definition, even if my views are perfectly compatible with the most progressive voices on DailyKos. I don't think that liberals are winning hollow intellectual battles while losing the war - some maybe, but the right has no shortage of blathering clowns either.

The point is, from where I stand the ground has shifted, and it's teh modern conservative BAU world that is defending a diminishing turf against the impending pressure of reality. The progressive left is occupying all terra nova. It's a long battle and obviously it will be fought on the terrain of the lovely hubbert curves strewn around this site, but BAU isn't going to win. At least that's the message that I read on TOD every time I come around.

Also thanks for all the awesome posts and information - I come here to read your comments.


Both are failed ideologies and both have been hijacked by global finance. Time to stick them in the dustbin of history. We no longer need vulnerable hierarchical government systems that are easy to hijack or "leaders of men" that are susceptible to corruption, they're redundant and expensive to maintain in hard times.

Time for something new, the existing system is undesirable and unreformable. We now have the technology to allow real democracy without the intermediaries in the form of political parties and corrupt politicians. Lets just cut out the middle men and flatten the hierarchy.

California did that (partially), with the proposition system. It has been proven even more vulnerable to corruption/money than the representative system. The side (for any given proposition) with the most money behind it, bombards the public with propaganda (often blantant lies and one eith truths), and prevails, because the other sides message is shouted down. And soundbite level reasoning doesn't help either. There is no substitute for good-faith hardcore studying of the issues by those that make the decisions in the public interest. Now, that doesn't happen much anymore either, chasing political funding, and revving up the base have become too important to have much time (and political capital) for reasoned analysis and doing the right thing.

agreed, teh tech is our best chance :)

Conservatives ought to want to conserve things.

They do. They want to conserve the game (BAU) in which they feel they are "winning".

and thereby flush the whole thing down the drain with their good intentions? but that's exactly like liberalism! ah we're scroowed

"There go [my] people. [Excuse me,] I must follow them, for I am their leader."

The basic game of all politicians, whether on the right or left, is to pretend to lead by watching which way their flock heads and then running to the front and proclaiming themselves responsible for the new direction.

The real leader has no need to lead - he is content to point the way.
- Henry Miller

More leadership quotes here

ah yes, very relevant thanks. I like this one too:

the real leader is the one who,
having led the people,
hears them say,
i did this myself.

easier said than done eh

Hi tehChromic,

This (as you probably know, but in case others don't) is from the philosopher Lao Tzu.

Very wonderful book - highly recommend it. My favorite translation is by Witter Bynner. A great deal.

He leads by following.. the sea is the king of a thousand streams because he lays below them, does not compete, and so, does not meet competition.


My grandmother, who was a house wife who never earned a buck in her life, spent her life as an engaged citicen. City hall politician, the Red Cross, sunday school teacher, the Home Defence, stuff related to imigrants and disbeled people, and 23 grand children. Basicly anything that came up, she got involved and took a lead and did stuff. I don't know if the woman had a selfish thought in her life.

Her example became my rolemodel for ledership. Can sumit up in three points; First in place, last out, least sleep. That is true leadership for me.

Chrome - Howdy from Texas! "And this relegates pragmatic 'conservatives' like you mute in the public discourse. And I've met many conservatives like you, who stick to their affiliation..." The Rockman mute???? You must mean some other Rockman who doesn't enjoy the sound of his own voice or the sight of his typed words of wisdom. LOL. And sticking to "affiliations"? Rockman switches party registration depending if he's residing in Texas or La. Has to do with the primary elections.

"when you get down to brass they agree with me on every issue". I suspect you're correct. BTW I have a bad habit of thinking folks recognize my sarcastic comments for what they are. Keep that in mind when reading my witty comments. For instance I do see a benefit in tossing out such "token" comments.

heh, gotcha, howdy back from sunny CA. keep up the good work.

Speaking as a flaming enviro radical (which is to say "a conservative" if that word was used in a way that made sense) I greatly enjoy the Rockman's perspective & ethics.

Thanks for the ongoing reality check on this board, Rockman.

Hi Rock,

re: "I don't have to believe in the ultimate good nature of my fellow man like my liberal cousins must."

So now I'm your liberal cousin, am I? :)

This gave me pause for thought...what do I "believe"?

Perhaps something along these lines: The "ultimate good nature" is what you get when humans are nurtured (loved, protected, educated) from day 1.

Otherwise, it takes a lot of work to overcome one's conditioning.

(That, and a lot of luck in the form of running into people who already have "ultimate good nature" (UGN) - of which there are a surprising number, come to think of it.)

Or, no work - if you're the philosopher J. Krishnamurti. Or, meditation. Or...maybe 1,000 hours on TOD will do it? :) (Now, that would be nice!)

re: "...but no way will they abandon their bit of BAU."

Can I keep my bicycle? :)

EDIT: to add reference for mediation. Apparently increases empathy, too. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-b...

Once again I find myself pondering the topic of food. Can't imagine why. I found myself thinking about "gruel" - that infamous Victorian staple of the poor house.

I found this in my random googling of the topic :-

"Gruel was the staple food of the ancient Greeks, for whom roasted meats were the extraordinary feast that followed sacrifice, even among heroes, and "in practice bread was a luxury eaten only in towns". Roman plebeians "ate the staple gruel of classical times, supplemented by oil, the humbler vegetables and salt fish",[3] for gruel could be prepared without access to the communal ovens that baked bread. In the Middle Ages the peasant could avoid the tithe exacted, usually in kind, for grain ground by the miller of the landowner's mill by roasting the grains to make them digestible, and grinding small portions in a mortar at home and, in lieu of cooking the resulting paste on the hearthstone, simmering it in a cauldron with water, or, luxuriously, with milk.

In the Western Hemisphere, maize gruels were once one of the main food sources for many Mesoamerican peoples, such as the Maya and Aztecs. Atole was a preparation of ground maize that was often flavored with chili and salt. It could be consumed or drunk as an important calorie source and as a thirst quencher.

Because of the stigma attached to the gruel, rice gruels (eaten throughout Asia) are normally referred to as congee."

Source, of course, the Wikipedia.


Followed by this :-

"Gruel - a thin porridge made by boiling groats (the crushed grain of various cereals) in water or milk - was commonly eaten in the Middle Ages."


Edit : we are all so unimaginably "wealthy" thanks to fossil fuel, it's hard to grasp. Plenty of room to the downside.

Sounds like something one could easily cook in a solar oven.

I have a solar cooker- I think I'm going to experiment with it and see what can be done. It's pretty good for things which need a long, slow cooking time.
Edit : dried fruit would be a good addition. Topped with honey, of course !

Grits and oatmeal do well in a solar oven, and they're not just for breakfast anymore, at least for some :-/

I often do a "pot for the week" consisting of a mix of dried legumes - beans, split peas, lentils - and grain - usually barley - and handy vegetables such as carrots & onions. Easy to heat up, inexpensive and filling. Supplement with whatever is at hand.

Of course one is dependent on refrigeration for it to work, in warm weather, anyway.

I could live on that without boredom - must be my Lithuanian peasant ancestry ;) Add in cabbage and potatoes for variety and a good dark rye bread...

I can't remember where I saw it, but someone else here may know where it can be found.

There is good research indicating that using a lot of onions,hot peppers,garlic, and other powerful or hot tasting spices has a very noticeable and useful effect of making cooked foods keep longer, safely, without refrigeration.

Apparently this effect is still noticeable even after 48 hours in hot climates.

I have been working on a homebuilt insulated wood burning stove;only the cooktop will be exposed to the air to convect large amounts of heat away.
Preliminary seat of thepants results indicate that the savings of firewood will be substantial.

If it is to be used indoors, the insulation will be removed in cold weather so as to use it for both heat and cooking.

This stove is built entirely out of scrap metal purchased at a local scrap yard;but I have put a good bit of skilled labor into it.

Back in the good old days only ten years ago, scrap metal was free for the hauling in many places. :-(

Compared to ten years ago, China now buys several billion dollars more worth of scrap metal from the US each year.

I can't remember where I saw it, but someone else here may know where it can be found.

You may have seen it here on TOD posted by me.


Top 30 Spices with Antimicrobial Properties

(Listed from greatest to least inhibition of food-spoilage bacteria)

Source: "Antimicrobial Functions of Spices: Why Some Like It Hot," Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman, "The Quarterly Review of Biology", Vol. 73, N
1. Garlic 2. Onion 3. Allspice 4. Oregano 5. Thyme 6. Cinnamon 7. Tarragon 8. Cumin 9. Cloves 10. Lemon grass 11. Bay leaf 12. Capsicums 13. Rosemary 14. Marjoram 15. Mustard 16. Caraway 17. Mint 18. Sage 19. Fennel 20. Coriander 21. Dill 22. Nutmeg 23. Basil 24. Parsley 25. Cardamom 26. Pepper (white/black) 27. Ginger 28. Anise seed 29. Celery seed 30. Lemon/lime

Porridge would, traditionally, be left near the hearth overnight to cook very long and slow, ready for an early start. I imagine it would do well in a solar cooker but limit the temperature to just below boiling. I'll add that to my list of things to try when I make my new Cookit after the rains end (any time now). Sushi rice also seems like a good idea., I already do other rices and frijoles.


EDIT PS I'll have to try your legumes too :)

Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold;
Peas Porridge in the Pot, Nine Days Old (Also Peas Pudding)


Green Pea Pottage (serves 6)

5 cups water
1 1/2 lbs garden peas
12 ozs onion, peeled & chopped
1 1/2 tbsps oil
1/4 tsp dried pulverised saffron (optional)
1 - 1 1/2 tsps soft light brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt or to taste

"Perrey of pesoun. Take pesoun and seeth hem fast and couere hem, til thei berst; thenne take hem vp and cole hem thurgh a cloth. Take oynouns and mynce hem, and seeth hem in the same sewe, and oile therwith; cast therto sugur, salt, and safroun, and seeth hem wel therafter, and serue hem forth."

Courtesy of "The Medieval Cookbook" p. 87, by Maggie Black.

Edit : see also http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch52.html on the history of the pea.

(slow work day)

Noted, I am going to try that, probably be a couple of weeks though. If I make the Cookit now the humidity will warp it into a ball. Muchos thanks.


FYI, I am starting to build that Solar Oven I mentioned to you before. Every time my wife makes a pie, I sneak the Aluminum PieCrust Pan out of the recycling, and now I have a small mountain of them, which will become my reflector dish (many Hexagonal pieces.. attached to a greater, collapsible Frame.. somehow) .. The Cookbox will be possibly a discarded Convection Oven or such, so I don't have to build that from scratch..

If I can get the testing done in time, I'll be making Swedish Christmas bread with my daughter's class using it this December. (This project has to timeshare with MANY others on my Pie Plate, of course..)


I have a large box I kept from the new fridge, That will make me a few nice Cookits. Some mylar wrapping paper, pretty side in, for the reflector. If you extend each petal of the Cookit in a square then link the tops you get a nice boost too. I use a small tube of chicken wire in a turkey size oven bag, I found I could melt ordinary bags, with a clothes peg (yeh, my washing dries on a line!) to close the top. The pot is a black sprayed aluminium one, with a tight lid, that sits on a metal pot stand in the middle. Heats stuff up to a boil and slow cooks nicely. Only trouble is that, if the air is damp, the cardboard soaks up moisture on one side only and warps. The design is simple and effective, just turn to follow the sun, a couple of bricks help against the wind. I can't wait to get it going again as it is so easy just to leave stuff for a few hours then it is done.

I can't really set up a good proper reflector here but it will be planned into my future plans. That will be aimed at all the year round and capable of bread. I have to allow for the sun going overhead from south to north too which does complicate things a bit more. I am considering a portable one with mirror mirrors but I need to get on with solar hot water first. Just been trying to get pipe but everywhere seems to be out of stock and not knowing when they will have any in:)



A bit more complex than your proposed solar oven, is the Sheffler Reflector, which has the outstanding feature of focusing the sunlight on the same, fixed point, all day long. If you are going to build something that you are going to use every day, for years, I think the extra complexity of the reflector, in return for the greatly increased utility of the solar oven, might be well worth it.

Also, at the other end of the complexity scale, I have seen a clever solar cooker made with reflective bubble wrap - saw it boiling a kettle at an expo in Calgary a few years ago.

This person did it southern Mexico and got 350F out of the pictured setup!

What really intrigues me about the solar funnel is that at night it can serve as an "anti-solar" refrigerator - radiating heat away from the centre object to the night sky - it can even make ice!
Description here;

If you are going to do Scheffler device, can I suggest replacing the cooking pot with a solar panel (and some good heat extraction) whilst you aren't cooking.

Keep the thing from melting and power is proportional to intensity.

Hey gary..

Similarly, my thought has been to have a water-pot or coil that can sit in the oven and perhaps cross-feed into a storage tank, for those times when noone is cooking. Thermosiphon or actively pumped


I love the Sheffler designs, but I'm making my dish components a little more Cartesian, a little less Trigonometric.

Either way the supports and mechanics will still leave me with a dish that has Azimuth and Elevation axes, and can be connected to a clockwork to help keep up with the aiming chores.. the aiming mechanism might be a gravity fed/ ratcheted pendulum, or it might be a motor triggered by a sensor on a cheap clockwork. There are simple tracker circuits all over the web as well, chasing the sun with CdS and LED sensors..

I have a stack of corner-dinged Cheapo Full-length mirrors (about 10"x 42") that are regularly left streetside around here after one chip appears, and they will be for one kind of contributing collector, each mirror set into a simple wood frame that will provide the slight adjustable bend needed to achieve a focus at about 10 feet, and then several of these light, rectangle boxes will be hinged together to carry safely and fold quickly out into a ~4x6' panel, and set up onto a braced tripod.

As I haven't found a sacrificial countertop oven for the system yet, I will likely make the first cook-box out of some steel Computer-case Shells that I have underfoot in the shop, plus the tempered glass from an old fridge shelf as the input window to keep the back wall from re-radiating too much of its heat. The side-top-bottom walls will all have 4" of insulation on them, plus one more shield layer against the steel to keep the foam from getting too hot and offgassing near the food.

We'll see. I'll share some news and pix, no doubt, once it's together.. as my wife says, 'it's all just a vehicle for butter, ultimately'.

It is something along the line of the Scheffler that I want to do although it will probably end up as a squarish section of the parabola. I haven't found much design info for the Scheffler though. As I am inside the tropics I have to allow for the sun to go over the reflector. At the moment I need something that I can break down and/or move.

I tried the car shade type but did not have much success at all, YMMV. I'll take a look at the funnel, there should be plenty of cardboard for me to play with. I'd use a wire pot stand, the ones made of galvanised wire with concentric rings of wire and 3 feet, rather than a wooden block - they work well.

I like some of the ideas for water heating. One idea I have been thinking of is to run the hot riser from a solar water heater in a reflective trench optimised for early morning and late afternoon concentration. The morning starting circulation earlier and the afternoon giving a temperature boost. Using a length of 3/4 tube I could solder a length of sheetrock mounting channel, the stuff that looks like a W with the middle point flattened, top and bottom to trap more light/heat. Still, the big issue, at the moment, is trying to track down 2 rolls of pipe for the main panel :(


EDIT: Oh, the Cookit was by far the best I have tried so far. If people want to play with solar cooking I'd recommend it as a starting point but follow my bag hint above..

FYI, I am starting to build that Solar Oven I mentioned to you before. Every time my wife makes a pie, I sneak the Aluminum PieCrust Pan out of the recycling, and now I have a small mountain of them, which will become my reflector dish (many Hexagonal pieces.. attached to a greater, collapsible Frame.. somehow) .. The Cookbox will be possibly a discarded Convection Oven or such, so I don't have to build that from scratch..

If I can get the testing done in time, I'll be making Swedish Christmas bread with my daughter's class using it this December. (This project has to timeshare with MANY others on my Pie Plate, of course..)



I've used gruel a lot over the last 2 years when I refer to the bills Obama proposes, compared to the bowl of extra-hot chili with onions the economy needed. Bland, generic, pretty ineffective, appealing to nobody.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that they didn't eat gruel in Hawaii, so I've started to use "poi" instead.

For anyone interested in experimenting with simple food, one of the best cookbooks I ever found was "The People's Cookbook" by Huguette Couffignal (St. Martin's Press : 1970) ISBN: 0330259652. Translated by James Kardon.

Still available from used bookstores. Everything from Andalusian egg soup to Tibetan tsampa.

Edit : I notice there is also a 1977 edition, ISBN: 0312600070

The End of the Future:

The one essential element missing in his discussion of science and technology is philosophy. For example, we could as a society to decide that things are pretty good the way they are so let's forget all this stuff and aim for Ecotopia.

As an old guy, things weren't bad when there was no TV much less cell phones and jet planes. I mean, really, life was pretty good and people spent actual time with friends and family, not Tweeting.

I would argue that we need to step aside from "stuff" and spend some time asking ourselves what do we actually need for a satisfying, full life.


I'll second that. Intelligence without wisdom is providing to be something of a disaster.

But of course, that would be terrible for the economy. Hence our fearless leaders telling us it's our patriotic duty to go shopping.

Indeed they do. The primary role of "The People" is now to consume, not to produce. Production will be taken care of by big business with small or offshore workforces.

What a change from the WW2 era where people were asked to produce stuff for their country, and now they are asked to consume stuff for their country. Producing stuff made the country strong enough to win the largest global conflict in history - what has the push to consume stuff over the last 40yrs done for the overall strength of the US?

What? You mean there's a flaw in this cunning plan to consume our way to wealth and riches without producing anything? Drats! Nobody could have foreseen that, nobody.

Never fear! The G20 are going to save the World by the weekend with another cunning plan. In fact it is so cunning that nobody is allowed to know what it is, even the G20 don't know what it is. I can't wait till the weekend the anticipation is off the scale...

Todd.. I went down and joined the
Occupy Ukiah march yesterday. Maybe 250-400 people. Think I'll post something on their website relating this all back to PO. Sending you an e-mail for your ideas. I'm trying to keep it somewhat short.


Is there actually anything to "occupy" in in Ukiah? It seemed like a pretty nice town to me, and that most people there are pretty switched on already - that would explain the good turnout, but is there anything there to protest against?

We could do much worse than having more towns like Ukiah.

"Is there actually anything to "occupy" in in Ukiah?"
Lots of 99%ers. Big union presence yesterday.

B of A, Wells Fargo, Chase? DEA? I really doubt there will be an occupation. I suspect there might be some action in Santa Rosa. Some from here went down to occupy SF. I don't think I want to go that far, but it will be a shame if I die with only one arrest to my credit. Better me than some kid whose chances for a non- existent job disappear because of a record.

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
[Prolonged applause.]

"Now, no more talking. We're going to march in singing "We Shall Overcome." Slowly; there are a lot of us. Up here to the left -- I didn't mean the pun."

Mario Savio 12/3/64

"Occupy Santa Rosa" happened this past Saturday. I was there.

You and 2500 others. I've never seen anything take off like this before.

Occupy the Tundra

Thanks Mike - I'll check my email after I get tired of limbing and bucking firewood. Incidentally, My proposal for The Center for Self-Reliance and Resiliency will be on the Grange agenda next month.


As an old guy, things weren't bad when there was no TV much less cell phones and jet planes. I mean, really, life was pretty good and people spent actual time with friends and family, not Tweeting.

I agree one billion percent. Why does society never consider for one moment when new tech is presented to the marketplace whether or not its in their best interest? Now people are immersed in tech toys instead of interacting and learning from books.

A perfect example in my view of the direction tech is going, are the special effects now being used on TV as of this year. Watch CNBC or CNN and there are all these special effects that flash across the screen - what the heck does that accomplish?! It means nothing, that is unless they have subliminals infused into them, but then its treating people like rats in a maze. I'm convinced they have incorporated them to renew people's attention. The viewer is getting dummied down then suddenly swish-zing and the screen has been washed-renewed with something that flashed by faster than the conscious brain can catch up to, and the person with little or no ability to pay attention has had their attention renewed. If it wasn't so sad, it would be pathetic from the standpoint of what it says about people's brains at this stage of technological development.

As a consequence of these subliminal or whatever the heck they are special effects on TV, I have stopped watching, cancelled our cable subscription and will no longer submit to that kind of idiotic manipulation.

"Now people are immersed in tech toys instead of interacting and learning from books."

Said the guy in the P.O. geek forum which, when read later by someone thousands of miles away, contributed a sense of common cause.

j/k tho because i like your post, just thought it was ironic

You mean we are not 'interacting'? ;) OTOH I have been trying to get a dead wood copy of one of my local regulations without luck. I have it on PDF but it is nowhere near as handy as the printed version. Might have to find someone going to Guadalajara to look for me.


Watch CNBC or CNN and there are all these special effects that flash across the screen - what the heck does that accomplish?

In my opinion: For the same reason people play fetch with Dogs or dangle string with Cats: It gets their attention to watch the infotainment, and the commercials.

Excellent comment. I would argue the End of the Future began when people in general stopped thinking about it for themselves when such thought was replaced by mass media--first radio programming then TV, and previously by printed material read by those lacking critical thinking skills.

"I would argue that we need to step aside from "stuff" and spend some time asking ourselves what do we actually need for a satisfying, full life."

A question the Tubes famously asked with their 1975 song "What Do You Want From Life?" Lyrics for those who've forgotten at the following link, http://www.thetubes.com/lyrics/life.htm

I disagree wholehearted. The people you're talking about never stopped thinking for themselves because they never started! The proportion of people willing to gobble the propaganda of the time hook line and sinker hasn't changed. The only difference TV makes is that the people who don't think for themselves have never been so better entertained.

The 1% reads Theoildrum and other similar sites on the internet.

The 98% + 1% reads Facebook.

I don't think the ratios are entirely accurate but the general idea is.

The majority of people want to hear about the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, drink until they are stupid and generally not think for themselves. They'll happily listen to you about falling net exports of oil and go out the next week and buy the truck they've always wanted on finance. Two years down the road they'll complain how gas prices are obscene and they can barely make payments so they sell their truck and buy something smaller but are left with even higher payments than before because they were upside down on the truck loan. Finally they'll complain about how Obama is a total screw up because they are barely making ends meet. Then they'll go out and join the 99% because they've been wronged by the powers that be.

Good comment Todd.

Something I wrote in another forum.

It all comes down to "security in old age" aka fear of death. Wether you are an english baron or an aboriginal hut dweller.

The common denominator? MONEY.

The baron (english or otherwise) simply leverages his capital, puts it to work exploiting evermore from labor and natural resources.

The Aboriginal (or "poor" people everywhere) do not have that option so they "exploit labor" by creating their own work force. Making babies.

This simplistic understanding goes a long way in explaining the concentration of wealth and answering the question "when is enough enough?".

It is never enough.

Money has a way of disappearing, diluting, being taken away, harder to get, becoming worthless, etc. Even the most wealthy understand this and have this simple fact hanging over them. They simply desire security in old age for themselves and their family just like everyone. At least that is how it starts. I feel certain that other more base motivations kick in too but this is ALWAYS present underneath.

Is one better than the other? An argument that the barons method is inhumane as many must suffer in order for him to prosper. On the other hand the Aboriginal method leads to over population and collapse.

This is all very well understood so it should be a simple matter to solve the conundrum by structuring ourselves accordingly to eliminate the fear of security in old age. Very doable.

Most if not all here will say that it is imposable… it simply isn't in our nature… we are just rapacious animals…we can not over come our basic biological instincts…whatever. Total BS! A lazy argument that allows us to not have to do the work.

Some will say show me where anything like this has ever occurred in history. More BS! Just because it has not happened before it can never happen? BS.

Well I guess we are at Peak Evolution. Thats it humanity has stopped evolving.

It all comes down to "security in old age" ...

eeyore, one of the reasons why I think this OWS hype may turn quickly to fizzle. Despite the fact that the American people have been shafted by the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars by the rapacious dodgy schemes of bankers and Wall Street players, a theft that incidentally has been compensated by the largest welfare transfer of public funds in human history (and this not to the poor but to the obscenely rich), the bulk of the U.S. (and Western European) populations are baby boomers.

Revolution (and perhaps even evolution) requires youth. First strike.

Revolution also requires testosterone. The left (which seems to be providing the philosophical capital for the OWS) has spent an entire generation emasculating male prowess and putting unruly male aggression on Ritalin. Metamales are seen to be diseased. Its all about ubersexuals and metrosexuals - and whatever other warped masculinity may come out of the psychobabble proffered by media gurus and pop-cultured shrinks. Middle class white boys don't have fire in their bellies. They're too busy acting out their aggression playing tough guys in the safe private world of video games of extreme graphic intensity. Second strike.

Which means they may have to rely on the Hispanic and Afro-American underbelly to get this thing started - being that white boys are all sensitive and anger managed to the point of pacified uselessness. However, something tells me that these streetwise hooligans won't be channeled into targeting just the top of the heap. Third strike.

My apologies for a rant that trespasses on almost every politically correct rule, but I'm feeling particularly doomerish today about how the OWS is all going to turn out :-(

Eeyore: Does any species stops evolving until it stops reproducing? Evolving in which direction might be the issue to discuss. I suspect that your analysis hits the mark, no-one like the idea of getting old alone and insecure, and people do detrimental things when operating out of fear.

Zadock re comments regarding testosterone: I recommend The Women Incendiaries by Edith Thomas. Another book (similar topic, more recent history) that might be good is Let Me Speak! by Domitila Barrios de Chungara I haven't read it yet but read a good review.

Oh and by the way- in my way of thinking any movement that includes multiple segments of society has a better chance - so yay for the participation of underbellies.

Falls to the ground writhing in response to the comment about not having the fire, while crying out: Shame! Shame! Shame!

Someone needs to kick those boys in the nads and liberate them from the passive-aggressive chains of Non-violent Communication.

"Its all about ubersexuals and metrosexuals - and whatever other warped masculinity may come out of the psychobabble proffered by media gurus and pop-cultured shrinks. Middle class white boys don't have fire in their bellies. They're too busy acting out their aggression playing tough guys in the safe private world of video games of extreme graphic intensity."

Hmm, I wouldn't count out the urban youth who are good at technology, culture, and thinking and don't play football. What do you think video games are except for war games. Your average urban metrosexual button masher has been through literally millions of war game simulation trials. So maybe he/she's only good at punching buttons, but maybe he/she's also good at hacking, and has got the breadth of anarchists literature in a one hour bt download. Are you aware of the connection between Anonymous and the Occupy movement, for example?

So maybe he/she's only good at punching buttons, but maybe he/she's also good at hacking...

Perhaps there is hope that all that pent-up frustration will have an eventual outlet. Although as one who has been actively involved with sports teams over the years, my bias would say a football player has the benefit of learning about cooperation and discipline. I'd rather him in my corner any day in place of a self-directed and isolated dilettante armed with the internet. A jock may be motivated and directed to do the right thing; a nerd is an unknown quantity.

and has got the breadth of anarchists literature in a one hour bt download.

This part has me worried. Anarchists will seek nihilistic deconstruction over any constructive or cooperative aim. In some ways, I'd be happier if they were Marxists. Marxists, at least at some level, believe in the common weal. These idiots will destroy for the sake of destruction without any purpose in mind other than licentious freedom.

Video games desensitize them to any concern apart from immediate gratification. Doesn't bring comfort to think that we may not be safe even if their foggy heads are buried in a screen. Forget the lofty niceties of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - this would be narcissistic lawlessness at full throttle. Hardly bodes well for anybody - including them.

Pardon my Canadian sensibilities - they recoil at such libertarian claptrap. I'd rather people yell for "peace, order and good government." IMHO, much of the financial mess is the result of the authorities failing to apply the rule of law. More rebellion and lawlessness is not a solution. It will only exasperate the downward spiral and compound the injustice.

My gloom lies in thinking that OWS has potential, but that the potential will work against it. I don't think it will even amount to a flash in a pan, but if it does, it is wise to remember revolutions tend to eat their own children.

"revolutions tend to eat their own children"

some do some don't, but the sentiment is maybe more Canadian than American? :)

"some do some don't, but the sentiment is maybe more Canadian than American?"

Good point.

Loyalists and Patriots didn't quite see things the same way :-)

Anarchists will seek nihilistic deconstruction over any constructive or cooperative aim. In some ways, I'd be happier if they were Marxists. Marxists, at least at some level, believe in the common weal. These idiots will destroy for the sake of destruction without any purpose in mind other than licentious freedom.

Um, for the record, it might be helpful to take a step back and look at what the word 'anarchy' actually means...

Anarchy (from Greek: ἀναρχίᾱ anarchíā), has been variously defined by sources. Most often, the term "anarchy" describes the simple absence of publicly recognized government or enforced political authority.[1][2] When used in this sense, anarchy may[3] or may not[4] imply political disorder or lawlessness within a society.
Source Wikipedia

When distilled to its essence anarchy is simply the antithesis of authoritarian top down control, personally I'd like to to see its more benign aspects flourish. It in no way automatically implies lawlessness and disorder but it does require that members of society take full responsibility for their own actions! Of course that would require that people grow up and stop acting like spoiled brats. Real adults shouldn't need Big Daddy looking over them!

That makes me think of The Cathedral and the Bazaar.


Every authority always characterizes any serious challenge to its authority as 'anarchy.'

American politics, left and right, has always been characterized by a strong suspicion of entrenched, centralized power. The right seems to be most suspicious of government power, especially when it is proposing taxes or trying to set up support systems that might help the poor or people of shades other than white. The left (what little there is of it) is more suspicious of government when it is involved in killing people in wars or through capital punishment, and they also recognize that there are non-governmental concentrations of power--corporate power.

Obviously this is all a great oversimplifications and one could find exceptions on both sides. But what I would like to see is this skepticism of entrenched power be the basis of a left-right coalition of those not getting advantage from the current system--the 99% if you will. Here's hoping that OWS turns into some such movement.

Here's hoping that OWS turns into some such movement.

I sincerely share that hope!

my bias would say a football player has the benefit of learning about cooperation and discipline.

Many of the video games do the same.

The Leroy Jenkins video from the World of Warcraft show what happens when one team member isn't doing both.

Now if you wanting to harp on the physical fitness - you'd have more buyers.

Pardon my Canadian sensibilities - they recoil at such libertarian claptrap. I'd rather people yell for "peace, order and good government." IMHO, much of the financial mess is the result of the authorities failing to apply the rule of law.

And what happens when you insist on the Rule of Law in the US of A?

How about if you try to do your job and not bend to the politics of lining someone elses pocket?
Lets ask Bunny Greenhouse, Sibel Edmond, or Susan Lindauer

What would happen to *YOU* if you stand up to 'authority figures' when they act unjust?

Yesterday, Anonymous uploaded the video Bank Transfer Day, November 5th (VIDEO).

1. Open an account with a credit union.
2. Transfer your funds to the new account on or before 11/05
3. Follow your bank's procedures to close your account
To find a credit union near you. click here!

This tactic began with a Facebook post that now has had its Like button clicked by almost 14,000 people. I guess we'll find out Nov 5th if OWS is capable of causing a run on the TBTF banks.

Brit, I really like this idea. It would be very pleasant to see a rise in credit union membership.

Could anyone explain in simple terms what a Credit Union is? Not Being an American its a term I am not familiar with. Have larger no. of Credit Unions gone too the wall than Banks during the last few years than Banks?

yorkie - here you go: A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.


The basic difference is that CU's are much more conservative than banks and are motivated more to serve the members than make a profit. I gave up banks years ago. I belong to a CU that was started for ExxonMobil employees in my little refinery town. They pay better interest on my checking account (which is free) than I could get in a short term money market CD.

Credit Unions work best if you belong to some recognizable low risk group. Employees of some large corp, of residents of an affluent county. I wish a CU with those characteristic available where I live now.
But, you are right, they are supposed to be member owned, interested in providing basic banking services, not gambling with other peoples money.

The article Credit Union Vs. Bank: Which is Best for You? gives a fairly good comparison.

Credit unions are not-for-profit banks owned by members of bank. The credit union is normally local although I have seen credit unions operate throughout a state. I don't know if any span multiple states. I have accounts with both a credit union and TBTF bank. My last car loan was with the credit union and the interest rate was about 4%. My credit union lacks many specialized services that I highly value so it would be a problem for me to switch entirely to credit union. For my car loan, I wanted to setup a direct transfer where they would just go get the money when bill was due. That wasn't available. I also use automatic bill payment a lot and I don't think that service is available.

brit - That's too bad. My CU actually requires autobill pay to get the interest on my checking account. This is the only CU I've belonged to so I'm not sure which of ours is more typical. My CU provideds everything a bank does and a few more things. Even the physical layout is a nice change: like the banks of 30 years ago.

I was with a nice CU years ago but it was bought by a conventional bank. It's been a few years since I checked out the services available at my CU. I'll need to go do that and see what they have available now. I also need to be careful because my employer and my bank are the same. I know of people who bank elsewhere who have been laid off for no apparent reason and decision was made with no input from immediate management. Not saying it matters as it would be difficult to know for sure.

I have no choice regarding investments and there are very draconian rules I must abide to. Even though I'm not directly involved with investments, the company reasoning is I could be sitting next to someone who is.

Thanks very much you two got it.

Same here. You can set up automatic withdrawals to cover payments for anything finance by the credit union and auto bill pay for all bills that have standard monthly payments. They have electronic bill pay for bills where the amounts vary from month to month. Automatic overdraft protection on checking is available with various options for where the overdraft gets applied. The have numerous ATMs in this area and certain other areas. If not, we can use ATMs at any 7/11 with no fee and get reimbursed up to 4 times a month for usage fees from using other ATMs.

They don't have safe deposit boxes, they have moderately low limits for jumbo mortgages, they don't offer certain of the more exotic mortgages and they are a bit restrictive on certain kinds and amounts of business loans. Even so, we have never felt the need to go back to a regular bank.

This is interesting. I found the website own your money where one can search for CU's by zip code. I'll need to go do some research to find a CU with services I'm looking for.

Free safe deposit box is one of my fringe-benefits. I'll keep that.

A credit union (on a federal level?) has to serve a group. Like teachers. Or workers at company X. One CU I know of started as a bank for teachers and now "only" serves people who have been in school in the local area.

Credit unions can span multiple states. Navy Federal Credit Union, currently headquartered in the Washington DC area, has offices on or near every major and most minor US Navy bases in the US and quite a few of those overseas. Membership is now also available to members of all the various US armed forces and their families (including grown children) and they are adding locations at or near non-Navy bases. They claim to be the largest credit union in the world.

My mortgage is with NFCU. Better rate than available elsewhere at the time and unlike many banks, they hold the mortgage themselves. Same for car loans, equity loans, student loans, etc. Most credit unions do the same, at least all the ones I've belonged to over the years. And, my experience has been that all of them were very responsive to their members.

I was discussing this idea recently with a friend. We concluded that the "bank problem" has little to do with the bankin industry that most of us interact with. The problem is the investment banking industry. Even when they are the same company that we do our banking with that is total chicken feed compared to the investment part of the bank.

I put it in the same catagory as the "don't buy gas from Exxon" meme. Re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I could be wrong but there may be more interaction than you've thought about that is not directly related to investments. Mortgages, car loans, credit cards, short term loans, student loans are all part of the depository side of the bank. Some of these products are indirectly tied to investments if they are bundled together as securities.

The loss of deposits can be very harmful because they are used as collateral for much larger amounts of debt. I'm not sure what the exact figure is, but I've heard for every $1 of collateral, there is $9 of debt.

The credit unions could get quite a bit of business if they agreed to transfer debt from TBTF accounts to their accounts. However, this is sometimes difficult to do in practice, especially for mortgages or government-backed loans.

I'm not sure what the exact figure is, but I've heard for every $1 of collateral, there is $9 of debt.

Few know the exact ratio - the 1-9 you cite is what used to be in textbooks as an example.


Banks have always been required to keep a small fraction of the money deposited with them for a reserve, but were allowed to loan out the rest. But now it turns out that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to completely eliminate minimum reserve requirements, which he says "impose costs and distortions on the banking system". At least that is what a footnote to his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services on February 10th says. So is Bernanke actually proposing that banks should be allowed to have no reserves at all?

(Oh, and to the upthread "Grrr, technology is evil" haters - If it was not for the network and search engines *I*'d not be able to bring you cited data in this drumbeat - thus not making it my informed opinion for you to take/leave but becomes scientific facts or actual statements made.)

All of that has to do with the required capital ratio. For every dollar of loans outstanding the bank must have 1/X dollars of real hard assets. Obviously small values of X provide more safety and stability. Large values allow the bank to agressively pursue (potentially) profitable business. So bankers want to get the regulators to allow very high capital ratio's. The public should want to enforce low capital ratios, since they reduces the danget of financial crisis. But, the issue is pretty arcane, so it is off the publics radar screen, and the banks lobbyists largely call the shots.

Picture of the Day: Occupy the Dollar Bill

The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to get creative. A new website called Occupy George (as in Washington) is encouraging sympathizers to stamp dollar bills with red-inked infographics about wealth disparity.

The site provides .Share of income_PRINT OUT.pdf for download, with instructions for printing them directly onto bills.

Thanks for post. Amazing idea. The Tech teams at OWS/OE can provide printing service at protests.

This got me thinking of other memes that we could be passing along with our currency.

or maybe Rush '666' Limbaugh

Imagine if an idea like 'Peak Oil' could travel like this Where's George Tracking Report

C'mon artists, I wanna see the Melt, Baby, Melt jpeg.

How important is this wealth disparity? What is says is that a lot of people are young or have borrowed money to buy a house, and that some people own and manage big businesses. How would things be better if we "fixed" this?

The income disparity is much smaller, and the consumption disparity is smaller still. And it's really the consumption disparity that matters - everything else the capitalists hold is simply working capital.

How important is this wealth disparity?

Go research the Gini coefficient and get back to us with what your research has indicated.

The question was rhetorical.

Its so hard to tell with you. Given the way you've flogged how safe Nuclear Power is in the face of the failures I can't tell when you are missing the obvious, acting as a foil, or something else.

I hope that others who didn't know anything about the Gini coefficient will take the time to learn about it.

No, it wasn't hard to tell. The problem isn't me, it's you.

Nice attempt at an insult there.

Hoarded capital IS working capital.

This is true, but the capital may not be put to work in the same place from which it was hoarded. There are many US companies/people with lots of capital/cash right now, but they are not investing it in the US. They are either sitting on it, or investing it in overseas projects.

So for the (former) employees of the factory in small town USA, that has been closed because the company sees better investments overseas, that capital may as well be working on Mars.

Companies are making returns on capital, but they are not employing people in the process - that is the real problem.

Since the US has a huge trade deficit, there are huge capital inflows into the US. Another name for "trade deficit" is "current account surplus". Foreigners have invested some $8 trillion in the US since 1980.

If you want to get rid of unemployment, just take away the obstacles. Minimum wages, regulations and so on.

Sweden has lowest gini coefficient of 23.0
Canada is 35th with gini coefficient of 32.1
US is 93rd with gini coefficient of 45.0
South Africa has highest gini coefficient of 65.0

The link Wealth, Income, and Power contains many, many statistics regarding income disparity.

Of note, the top 400 income tripled during Clinton admin and doubled during first 7 years of Bush admin.

The reason it matters is because those are the ones who control the levers of power and the trend regarding concentration of wealth, IMHO, is going in the wrong direction.

I feel called to speak out because my beach lot has gone down so much in value it gives me less collateral to use for a mortgage to build a house on the lot. Prices for building a custom house haven't gone down. My purchase was for the long term so I'm not terribly upset, just a little.

Ok, so what would be the right level of income disparity and why?

Someone posted a link awhile back about it. I can't remember if it supported a particular Gini coefficient or not, but the study found that there should be enough disparity to encourage innovation, but not so much there was civil unrest and a situation where those on the bottom had no way up.

That probably allows a pretty wide gini range. To me, btw, innovation is just part of it. We need wage disparity for education to pay off and to make (some) people put some effort into anything at all. Also, I think it is benificial to have private competing owners of companies, since they are run more efficiently that way and we all need them to be efficient. Nowadays, lots of companies need to be large to achieve economies of scale.

This taken together means we'll have some very rich people around. To the extent they are competent industrialists who largely plays by the rules, that's good. To the extent they hijack government (like Berlusconi in Italy) it's a problem. However, as a Swede looking at the US from the outside, I feel many Americans believes its government is more hijacked than it is. Sure, I have lots of suggestions on how you could improve, and I suspect you would have lots of suggestions for Sweden if you looked into how we do stuff. It's simply the case that nothing is perfect and nothing is pure, and fortunately, it need not be. But we do need some mix of capitalism and democracy.

Top 400 are worth $1.27 trillion (google search popped that up)... Divide that out among us and that is what, less then $5K each.

Lets liquidate that disparity.

Don't take me the wrong way. I do appreciate your comments as they spur enlightening discussion.

The right level of income disparity is a distraction and we should be concerned with the direction of income disparity and the causes of this direction. We need to focus on one demand on the core of the problem. This is it... Take the money out of politics.

The MSNBC video Dylan Ratigan Rant expresses this demand quite well.

One may ask how do we do this. The Supreme Court is the law of the land and has spoken on this issue. Neither the President or Congress can override the Supreme Court. This must be done with a constitutional amendment.


WE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in order to form a more perfect Union, by, for and of the PEOPLE, shall elect and convene a NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY beginning on July 4, 2012 in the City Of Philadelphia.

New comprehensive regulations to give the Environmental Protection Agency expanded powers to shut down corporations, businesses or any entities that intentionally or recklessly damage the environment and/or criminally prosecute individuals who intentionally damage the environment. We also demand the immediate adoption of the most recent international protocols, including the "Washington Declaration" to cap carbon emissions and implement new and existing programs to transition away from fossil fuels to reusable or carbon neutral sources of power.

EDIT: Added declaration

Revolution (and perhaps even evolution) requires youth. First strike.

Strike? How do you figure? By all reports, 20- and 30-somethings comprise the bulk of OWS (and by my own eyes, this is definitely also the case at Occupy Seattle).

You'll need a lot more than the 20 - 30 somethings to get this rolling and have an impact. Outnumbered and outmaneuvered. The baby boomers, who form the bulk, are more interested in security than protests these days.

Eh? You said revolution required youth, so I pointed out that's who is there. Now you say it's the oldsters who are required?

Indeed, most boomers are too "fat and happy" to get directly involved. They won't be massing in the streets anytime soon--those are the people with nothing left to lose--but they appear to be tacit supporters anyway. Considering historical revolutions, that may be all that is required of them.

You're far more optimistic than me, my friend. Are the oldsters required - no, but they'll make the difference whether this is a revolution or a mere blip on the social scene.

Boomers aren't fat and happy. Most of them turned out indebted and miserable. Therein lies the rub. The generation that had it all are too self-obsessed to care much. The ones who happened to make it rich, they'll be automatically opposed. The others who are poorer, well, they'll cut the losses once there is any hint that self-preservation is compromised.

What I am suggesting is that OWS is but a fart in the wind. That's how it looks from here.

Certainly the OWS demonstration I went to last Saturday had a majority of age 40+ attendees.

That could be, but I wouldn't blame it on the boomers or anyone else. There were widespread protests that in the end amounted to nothing during the Great Depression, too. Can't blame the boomers for that.

Leanan, you're right. It's not fair to blame the boomers or anybody else. [I must be a little less cynical and cranky today.]

One of the ironies of history, or perhaps not so, is that hard economic times tend to foster conservative not radical reactions. This time will be different than the Great Depression - history doesn't repeat though it does rhyme - but I suspect not in regard to people's sense of insecurity. Despite the good intentions and radical rhetoric, I would be very much surprised if OWS turns out to be anything more than a tempest in a teapot - "a fart in the wind" to use the cruder metaphor. Revolutions usually begin with rising expectations not falling. Unfortunately for the cause, people's expectations are falling these days.

But in other places, they're saying it is the boomers who are protesting. Judging from the photos, there are a lot of 50- and 60-somethings, as well as 20-somethings.

Eeyores, a few quibbles. First "Aboriginal" is not a synonym for poor. The two words are not even related in meaning though many aboriginals are poor I am sure some of them are very well off.

On the other hand the Aboriginal method leads to over population and collapse.

I have no idea what you mean by "the Aboriginal method". I am not sure just how overpopulated most aboriginal communities are, or even if they are overpopulated. I have heard, and read many accounts, that most aboriginals control their population very well though I have no verification of that. I think it is likely that their population is no better or worse off than the rest of the world.

This is all very well understood so it should be a simple matter to solve the conundrum by structuring ourselves accordingly to eliminate the fear of security in old age. Very doable.

Structuring ourselves? Very doable? Just how does one go about structuring their self to eliminate the fear of security in old age? By getting rich? Doable for a very few but not for everyone. Only a very few manage to provide security for themselves in their old age. And if it were not for government assistance most of us could not do it at all.

Well I guess we are at Peak Evolution. Thats it humanity has stopped evolving.

Well at least you got that one right. Many people would argue that point but they would do so because they do not understand what drives evolution. Evolution speeds up in times of great stress when only a few survive to reproduce. That is when only the fittest survive. But when almost everyone survives then evolution loses its grip. When no adaptation has any advantage then nothing happens except perhaps a slow regression. When those with bad eyesight, or weak, or slow of wit, or whatever, survive just as often as those who excel in these traits, a slow regression is inevitable.

That however may only be temporary. After the collapse and when the population is perhaps one tenth of what it is today, and only a few survive to old age, then traits that give one a survival or reproductive advantage will again drive evolutionary change. I shudder to think of what those traits may be however.

Ron P.

hey Ron and Eeysore

Eeysore was referring to his statement that aboriginals make babies to ensure that they have the resources to age comfortably when he said "the aboriginal method". Not sure of his sources, but it seems like a reasonable conjecture, as surely this is true of many cultures.

Eeysore, I'm sure you're missing a cultural formation in your comparison between the baron and the aboriginal, which we may as well call the "sustainable".

To quote the native american:

"When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine Man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex. Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."

Ooh Ron P.

I guess i gotta wonder about this tho:

Well at least you got that one right. Many people would argue that point but they would do so because they do not understand what drives evolution. Evolution speeds up in times of great stress when only a few survive to reproduce. That is when only the fittest survive. But when almost everyone survives then evolution loses its grip

I agree with you that "Evolution speeds up in times of great stress", however, the second part: "when only a few survive to reproduce" is only half the story. Evolution also 'speeds up' in times of great plenty when the genetic code becomes diverse and full of variation, leading to more potentially selective traits when times go lean again. We're in that now.

We are right in the upcurve of a massive evolutionary event. Even if our collapse is quite sudden, there will certainly be selectors that determine survivors. Even more likely I think is that a more gradual collapse takes place, in which all the reserve of genetic variation and dispersion become salient against natural pressures. Even more likely, in my opinion, will be a gradual collapse followed by extinction, in which case we are only at the upcurve of a potentially massive evolutionary event.

The reason I think this is because I think the prowess of our technology is quickly outstripping our ability to control its effect, and our user of technology will increase proportionally to our need to keep the planet stable for life, ie maintaining and replacing biotic systems that we have disrupted, etc, all while feeding and occupying ourselves. Our evolution is just beginning.

Evolution also 'speeds up' in times of great plenty when the genetic code becomes diverse and full of variation, leading to more potentially selective traits when times go lean again.

Ooh tehChromic, that makes no sense whatsoever. When nothing is changing then evolution is definitely not speeding up. I clearly explained why, in times of plenty, when most everyone survives regardless of fitness, then there is clearly regression.

If the population collapses down to one tenth its current numbers, then suggesting that the gene pool will be more diverse because of our past numbers doesn't make sense. Sure there would be great variation but not not necessarily any great variation of traits making us more fit for survival. No new survivable trait would have been selected for during times when almost everyone survived.

We are now regressing, though quite slowly, because even those with regressive traits now survive. There is always a regression toward the mean unless regressive traits are selected out by natural selection. That is a simple biological fact that no true evolutionist would deny. Therefore what is happening right now is definitely not speeding evolution up but is in fact slowing it down, pushing it backwards.

And no, I do not believe we will go extinct, not in the next few hundred thousand years anyway. We occupy every niche on earth from the steamy tropical rain forest, to the barren deserts or grassy savannas, to the high mountains and to the arctic tundra. No matter what happens... there will be survivors.

Ron P.

The way I see evolution, it works better right after a massive extinction event. More empty niches to fill. When there are lots of bio diversity, evolution have fewer new roads to explore, and less evolving happen.

That is just one of my own theories, but one that seems obvious the more i think about it.

There's no such thing as "evolution working better". That makes evolution sound like a thing with a will trying to achieve a purpose. It isn't.

I don't think that's his point. It sounds a lot to me like 'Delta T', where with heat transfer situations, you'll get a higher transfer efficiency when the two media are at more distant temperatures.

This is commonly described as the Heat 'wanting' to move into a cold place, but of course it is simply the ability of a higher energy level in a substance having a more pronounced transfer into a substance at a much lower level.

If the two are comparable situations, and Jedi described it persuasively I thought, then how would it not work that way?

There's no such thing as "evolution working better". That makes evolution sound like a thing with a will trying to achieve a purpose. It isn't.

I'm no scientist. Nor am I a native english speaker. I learnt one, two and three at the age of 10, in school, by a teacher. I just take words that I know, and use them to the best of my ability. I apologize for not beeing able to express myself better.

How many languages that are not native to you can you manage to write scientifically correctly in?

Ron P.
With respect, you don't have it right. Declaring a 'mean' for traits isn't accurate. Variation in the genetic code doesn't know anything about a mean, it's just a collection of changes and variations in the code that express traits, that may or may not be selected for. Increasing population increases the quantity and diversity of traits, which in turn increases the likelihood of new, advantageous traits that can be selected. That's just statistics. In order for traits to be selected, they have to exists. Having more of them means a better chance of a few of them being advantageous. When your natural selection comes in, then these will have a better chance. But the whole process is evolution.

Evolution is not just the instant when something changes. For humans, the pressure of natural selection has been eased off by our own success but the process of change continues. Babies are born, new traits are expressed, and some of these are selected for even in times of plenty due to sexual/cultural norms and pressures, or genocide, disease, and etc. Genetic predisposition for obesity for example, is selected against in times of plenty, although it's an advantage in lean times. Even as a whole, our inability to control our population growth, or to perceive threats to our existence is part of the process of evolution.

There's no such thing as "regression" except in the context of selection and survival. So for example, autism is a liability in cave times, but perhaps in the future we will have invented a cure for autism, only to discover that cured autistic men are adept at making love to women, and autistic women are incredibly good at having babies. Suddenly a genetic flaw is an advantage and there are autistic people everywhere. It makes no difference that these autistic people can't survive without human technology. All that matters is their environment was favorable enough for them to reproduce a lot. Natural selection can easily be aided and enhanced by human intervention - after all, we're natural too.

When you say "nothing is changing" you're certainly wrong. Every baby is a completely new variation, with all kinds of changes to the genetic code expressed for the first time. If a baby's birth isn't evolution, then neither is it evolution when he dies of some genetic disease - these are both small parts of the big picture of how species change.


There's no such thing as "regression" except in the context of selection and survival.

Regression always happens when there are no selective pressures for survival or reproduction.

Bye now.

Ron P.

To say there is a "regression" is to imply that evolution is teleological, that is, to imply it has a goal and that advancement toward that goal has reversed. What you are calling a regression is just an expansion of what traits qualify as "fit" within one context as compared to another context. The context of industrial civilization allows many genetic variations to exist and propagate that would be culled in a non-industrial, more "sustainable" (longer-lasting) socio-ecological context.

It's not a "regression," though, when many traits survive that would be selected against in another situation. There's just a series of changes that each allows various traits to exist and propagate, with no direction or guiding consciousness (though there can be temporary trends - changes in a certain direction - but without any purpose behind it).

Agreed. There's no such thing as "regression" in an evolutionary sense. That suggests that evolution has a goal it's working toward. Which of course is not the case.

Oh my goodness Leanan and Silenus, you guys simply do not understand. Evolution does not have a goal but every animal, not as a species but as an animal, does have a goal and that goal is to pass more of its genes into future generations. To do that the animal must do two things, it must survive to reproduction age and it must reproduce.

Let me give you, again, the example of the hawk. All hawks and eagles have telescopic vision. This enables them to see tiny creatures scurrying around on the ground. Now suppose two mating hawks were captured and kept in captivity. And their offspring were also kept in captivity for many generations, say thirty or forty. Some of those hawks would have poor eyesight. But since they are fed mice or raw meat in their aviary every day then bad eyesight is no handicap. Since in the wild, no hawk with poor eyesight would survive to reproductive age, there will be a regression toward poor eyesight among the hawk population.

My god guys, this explanation is all over the web. Just Google "regression in evolution". Without the quotation marks of course. You will get many hits explaining how it works if my explanation is not clear enough for you. Some examples:

Evolution of Eye Regression in the Cavefish

Symbolic regression - an overview

Neural evolution in the bat-free habitat of Tahiti: partial regression in an anti-predator auditory system

In humans eyesight is in general regression because good eyesight no longer has any survival or reproductive advantages. It makes me sad to say this but human IQ is also in general regression. This regression is exacerbated by the fact that the best and the brightest seem to be having the fewest children.

Many, but not all, books on evolution discuss the regression of survivable traits when the fall out of general use, like the eyes and skin pigment of cave animals. But I have yet to find one that touches on the general regression of human intelligence.

So Leanan, you stand corrected. There is such a thing as regression of survivable traits in evolution. And every biologists worth his salt would agree with me.

Ron P.

I disagree. "Regression" of specific traits is possible, but you can't call them "survivable" traits without knowing what environment they going to be in.

In the case of cave fish, having no eyes helps survival, because growing and maintaining eyes is metabolically expensive. Why waste the resources, if there's no light to see by?

In any case, human evolution is speeding up, not stopping.

I disagree. "Regression" of specific traits is possible, but you can't call them "survivable" traits without knowing what environment they going to be in.

Yes I can call them "survivable" traits because they would not have evolved if they were not survivable traits. Eyes enhanced survivability. When they disappear that is regression, or at least that's what just about every biologist who ever wrote a word on the subject calls it. And there are too many of them to even count.

Yes, you are correct about the cave fish but that simply misses the point. The point is that when a survivable adaptation is no longer used, it regresses, sometimes into non existence. Would you agree that human eyesight is regressing? Would you agree that human intelligence is in general regression? If you disagree then it would behoove you to explain exactly why you disagree.

The National Geo article is very good but it stresses changes like skin and eye pigment and lactose intolerance, changes that happened when the world population was a tiny fraction of what it is today.

Many of the evolving genes appear related to changes in diet that accompanied the widespread adoption of agriculture, Harpending noted.
For example, Europeans can easily digest cereal grains, but Kalahari Bushmen (or San) in Africa, Australian Aborigines, and Native Americans often become diabetic when eating a high-carbohydrate diet.

Of course! That happened when humans discovered they could plant and grow food. This is something that happened over the last several thousand years. This is not a recent adaptation. Also, when Aborigines or Native Americans become diabetic, they are still kept alive and they still reproduce. There is no higher survivable rate of those who do not become diabetic, therefore that survivable trait is not selected for. If all those who become diabetic were simply allowed to die then after a few dozen generations the disease would disappear... almost.

I say almost because there are always throwbacks. That would take far too long to explain however so I will just say that a genetic trait, long suppressed, occasionally reappears. An example would be a hornless cow in a herd of horned animals. And unless that animal is artificially selected by the breeder, (as it was), it will quickly disappear.

According to Charles Darwin's famous theory, evolution happens faster in big populations.

That is just flat out wrong. I have read Both Darwin's books and he never said any such thing. Darwin clearly explains how a "variation" appears in a single animal that enhances survival or reproduction. And that variation, because it is selected for by natural selection, spreads throughout the population. Every animal that has that adaptation must be a descendant of that single animal.

Any Darwinian adaptation must start with a single animal. However there is genetic drift, a much slower process that does happen to populations. But... Genetic drift affects smaller populations more than it affects larger populations. (From Wiki Introduction to evolution.)

Ron P.

I'm sorry Ron, but you seem to be confusing different processes and dynamics, and using pretty idiosyncratic language as well.

In any case, as long as eyes enhance survivability, fine. When they become irrelevant, fine. To talk about "regression" has connotations of good-bad. To talk about "regression" in IQ in the context of evolution is to no purpose without defining how you measure IQ, and it's relevance to evolutionary "success".

It is more useful and accurate to say that eyesight has become reduced, or even disappeared, in populations where eyesight does not matter. Not that it has "regressed", which indicates the opposite of "progressed". The terms are semantically loaded.

As far as adapations... most "traits" are the result of constellations of genes, and each gene that makes up that constellation is sorted independently at meiosis (the creation of egg and sperm) and reassembled at fertilization. The permutations of gene combinations in a healthy diverse population are enormous, and adaptive phenotypes come in different genotypes. Seldom, especially in more complex organisms, is it a matter of an individual with some fortuitous mutation (though sometimes it is).

Similarly, we can say that IQ as we measure it seems to be decreasing lately. ("As we measure it" might be something to think about.) In any case, as you yourself have pointed out, lesser-IQ people seem to be outbreeding higher-IQ people. Is that evolution? Is that culture? Is it a reason to call for a eugenics program? So much going on with this particular "trait"...

Sgage, it is impossible to discuss this subject without drifting into political incorrectness. I will only say that there is such a thing as intelligent quotient though it is not politically correct to make such a claim. Let's put it into down to earth simple language. Some people are just smarter than others. I understand you may think different and I will not argue that point on this list.

But to put it in evolutionary terms, intelligence evolved. And it did not evolve in one giant leap, from dumb ape to smart human, it evolved in gradual steps. And if that happened then there was a time when humans were just not as smart as they are today. And today, just as some people are stronger, or taller or have better hearing or better eyesight than others, some people are just smarter than others.

Is it a reason to call for a eugenics program?

That statement was unnecessary and out of order. When a person cannot discuss the intelligence without someone bringing up eugenics then there is something wrong. Natural selection has not a damn thing to do with eugenics and I resent you bringing the subject up. When I try to tiptoe around a politically incorrect point, but a very valid point, you throw gasoline on the politically incorrect fire with a statement like that.

To your question of "is that culture" or, the question is implied, "is it natural selection"? I will quote Garrett Hardin:

And remember the competitive exclusion principle: If fertility varies in a population that is offered options in fertility, then as the generations succeed one another, the pronatalist elements in the population will, in time, displace the ones who conscientiously limit their fertility.
-Garrett Hardin: The Ostrich Factor page 105

I would not necessarily call it "Natural Selection" but it definitely is selection of some sort. You call it what you will.

Ron P.


What is "smart"? What does IQ measure? Who gets to measure it? Is there more than one kind of intelligence? Does the environment have something to do with what might be considered "smart"?

"That statement was unnecessary and out of order. When a person cannot discuss the intelligence without someone bringing up eugenics then there is something wrong. Natural selection has not a damn thing to do with eugenics and I resent you bringing the subject up. When I try to tiptoe around a politically incorrect point, but a very valid point, you throw gasoline on the politically incorrect fire with a statement like that."

With all due respect, that statement was necessary and totally in order. Because treating "IQ", as measured by some in-group, as a heritable characteristic (as you clearly did) leads directly to that question.

I don't care if you resent it. You brought it up, and you can't weasel out of it, tiptoe as you might. I wasn't throwing gasoline - I was pointing out the delicacy of the issue.

Ron, your language is so imprecise and variable and idiosyncratic, and your understanding of the issue conflates and confuses so many levels, that I think it's time to agree to disagree.

No I did not bring the subject of eugenics up, you did and you cannot possibly deny it. And discussing the natural selection of intelligence and how it evolved can very easily be discussed without bringing up any "government program" of any kind. Natural selection, as I stated does not have a damn thing to do with eugenics or any other kind of program that might be implemented by any government.

I was, and am still, arguing that intelligence evolved. And when that Darwinian Adaptation ceases to be a factor in survival there will be a regression toward the mean. That is just common sense.

One would only bring up "programs" in any discussion of evolution if one is obviously wrong and wishes to end the discussion by bringing up something so politically incorrect as eugenics.

So be it. But it is obvious to anyone who knows anything about evolution that every animal has one or more major survival adaptations. To some it is the wing. To the Cheetah it is speed, claws and teeth. To humans it is intelligence. Intelligence is our one trait that allows us to compete with all other animals for territory and resources. It is the one trait that keeps us from being eaten by predatory animals. And as surely as the wing evolved, intelligence also evolved. And it did not suddenly jump into existence, it evolved slowly over millions of years, almost always from the less intelligent to the more intelligent.

That is the argument and to deny that argument by bringing up some politically incorrect subject such as eugenics is only a rhetorical trick in order to avoid facing the question directly.

And yes, if you do not believe that intelligence evolved, step by step, from the less intelligent to the more intelligent then it is definitely time to agree to disagree.

However in your defense, I know a lot of other people that agree with you. They believe intelligence did not evolve step by step. They believe it was created very suddenly in 4004 BC. ;-) (The smiley face means that was a joke.)

Ron P.

"No I did not bring the subject of eugenics up, you did and you cannot possibly deny it."

No, I don't deny it, I didn't deny it, and why would I? But you brought up IQ as a heritable characteristic, and that implies the issue. I sure as hell wasn't advocating it, or accusing you of doing so.

Where did I say that intelligence did not evolve? I was questioning definitions of intelligence, and whether or not intelligence was a simple scalar, for all time and for all environments. That's all.

And now I'm going to get a little personal, and if it gets me thrown off of TOD, I don't care - it needs to be said.

You are the one full of rhetorical tricks, Ron, and your overbearing, passive-agressive style of argument is getting old. You twist, you turn, you change the subject, you make idiotic ultimatums, you bluster, you oversimplify, etc. You always have on this forum. And after pursuing a vigorous and sometimes belittling style of argument, you are so thin-skinned and quick to take offense. Normally I just roll my eyes. The minute I clicked "save" on my original reply to you, I knew I'd regret it, and I do.

The fact remains that you have a very garbled and oversimplified view of evolutionary theory, something that I have spent most of my adult life studying, working in, teaching. But that won't stop you from posting your absolutist statements.


If you have noticed I have been posting a lot less on TOD the last few months. Sometimes I go for days without posting at all. But when a subject comes up that interest me, like peak oil, or evolution, I do post. If you do not like me trying to show that evolution is so beautifully simple, then so be it. But evolution is simple. Neo-Darwinism is not simple but Darwinism is simple. Neo-Darwinism explains on the molecular level what Darwinism explains on the species level. But if one can understand how dog breeding works then one can understand how evolution works. It is just that simple.

I have read perhaps a hundred books on evolution. Not one of them did I disagree with except a few passages by Stephen Jay Gould. I am comforted by the fact that almost every other biologists disagreed with him on these few passages also, especially Richard Dawkins. (All the passages in question concerned the heritability of intelligence and other mental characteristics. Gould belied we were all born a blank slate and all with equal abilities.)

So no, my view of evolution is very, very mainstream. I never resort to rhetorical tricks, that usually involves giving complicated answers to simple questions. (I follow Thoreau and "Simplify, Simplify). I do not think rhetorical tricks can ever be simple.

Or sometimes rhetorical tricks involves introducing a completely different subject into the mix and pretending it has something to do with the subject being discussed. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies, refers to this as "The Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis".

My original point was this: Intelligence no longer gives one a survival advantage. And as Garrett Hardin putit: If fertility varies in a population that is offered options in fertility, then as the generations succeed one another, the pronatalist elements in the population will, in time, displace the ones who conscientiously limit their fertility. And my point was also that this is exactly what is happening. That is a cold hard and very simple fact. I do try to keep it simple you know.

That fact is so simple anyone can understand it. But unfortunately most shut their eyes and close their ears because it says something they do not wish to here. They must deny, deny, deny.

That was and still is my point on the regression of a Darwinian Adaptation.

Good-bye and may your favorite god or saint bless you. ;-)

Ron P.

"I never resort to rhetorical tricks,"

Who are you trying to kid, yourself? Because you won't fool anyone here.

"If you do not like me trying to show that evolution is so beautifully simple, then so be it."

There you go again, Mr. No Rhetorical Tricks, setting up a nice strawman to knock down (one of your favorite rhetorical tricks, I've noticed). What I don't like is over-simplifying rather complex issues and dynamics.

Evolution is surely beautiful, but not nearly as simple as you seem to think, for all the books you say you have read.

BTW, Thoreau is one of my favorites.

Yes as I stated, Darwinian evolution is so, so simple. It is only when you get into Neo-Darwinism (the genome) that things get complicated.

Try this book: The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin

It describes evolution in such simple terms that even a child can understand it. There is nothing even remotely complicated in Darwin's explanation. But even when you get into the genomic explanations, best explained by Matt Ridley, it is not really all that complicated. He, Ridley, takes what seems to be a very complicated subject and explains it in such simple terms that any man or woman with average intelligence can understand it.

Ron P.

Look Ron,

"Try this book: The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin"

Hello Mr. No Rhetorical Tricks, I've tried to explain. I have spent decades working with population genetics, teaching evolution at the college level, etc. You can probably imagine that I've read Origin several times over the last 30+ years. Ron, Neo-Darwinism IS Evolutionary Theory.

The concept of Natural Selection is indeed quite simple, and that was Darwin's genius. He knew nothing about genes, or genetics, or gene frequencies in populations, or a lot of things. He had no clue as to how inheritance worked. The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis, following up on the discovery of genes and DNA, revealed a whole new layer of dynamics. And since then, it's gotten more and more detailed and subtle. Whatever it is, it's NOT simple, and it's not always obvious, and Darwin is not all you need to know about evolution.

I will repeat - What happens in the real world of evolution is not simple and obvious. If you think it is, then I'm here to tell you that you have a deficient understanding of the real world of evolution, no matter how many Ridley books you've read.

Well i don't see why a perfectly good discussion of evolution has to devolve. I've really enjoyed talking about this and hope you do post more on TOD.

I agree with your original point that "Intelligence no longer gives one a survival advantage" to a degree. Without selective pressure it does seem that evolution has come to a stand still. To point out the technical reasons that evolution is actually in hyper-drive mode is really not much of a comfort when the world is stuffed with people who couldn't survive without a McDonalds on every corner. It's pretty laughable really.

Anyway I think it's totally a valid point to express because it raises a complicated discussion, and if it is rigorous and full of energy, all the better.

The point is that when a survivable adaptation is no longer used, it regresses, sometimes into non existence.

Depends, in the case of the blind cave fish mentioned there is negative selection pressure. Things like goose bumps or a plantaris muscle that have negligible maintenance costs can stick around for a long time after they are no longer useful, and can sometimes get co-opted for something else.

I read somewhere years ago that the human sense of smell have a "smell library" where 70% of all smells are disabled due to mutations. We don't need smell that bad for survivial, so no pressure to maintain it. Don't know if there is any truth to this.

Yes I can call them "survivable" traits because they would not have evolved if they were not survivable traits.

By that standard, whatever is, is good. But...if the situation is different, what was once good might not be any more.

Would you agree that human eyesight is regressing? Would you agree that human intelligence is in general regression?

No, and no.

If you disagree then it would behoove you to explain exactly why you disagree.

There's no evidence for it. At least, none that I consider compelling.

But... Genetic drift affects smaller populations more than it affects larger populations.

OTOH...from the NatGeo article:

According to Charles Darwin's famous theory, evolution happens faster in big populations.

By that measure, we must be evolving faster than ever.

Even so, I think evolution is way too slow for the events of the past hundred years, or even few hundred years, to make much difference.

Moreover, most of the world doesn't have access to things like vaccines and heart valve surgery. They are still "enjoying" the benefits of natural selection in the form of death by starvation, poor sanitation, infection, disease, etc.

There's no evidence for it [... that human intelligence (IQ) is in general regression]

It's hard to tell what exactly is going on because (IMHO) rational thinking is always in competition with mob think.

In terms of evolution, we are most profoundly bred to operate in a herd, or more correctly, a family-oriented tribe.

So when it comes to a contest between mob-think (what those around you want or believe) versus what rational thought should tell you is going on (i.e. Peak Oil, Climate Change, Financial Collapse), it is mob-think that usually wins out.

Even if you individually do not agree with what they decide, the mob will dictate outcome.
Therefore mob mentality trumps over individual IQ and we don't get to see the latter operating in the field in isolation.

There's no evidence for it [... that human intelligence (IQ) is in general regression]

I can't disagree with that (no evidence). However the differential breeding of recent times does support rather ominous conclusions. IMO, I think improving externalities (nutrition, teaching methods, mental health knowledge) is more than masking the probable genetic regression.

It could be the other way.

Maybe toxins in our "high tech" environment (mercury, lead, bisPhen, ...) are causing decrease in phenotype IQ even if there is no regression in genotype IQ?

This is just a local anecdotal observation, but it appears there is an increase in autistic and psychotic behavior among teens these days as compared to teens of just a few years ago. Anyone else seeing that? (It could also be due to video games. Who knows?)

I don't think there's any more differential breeding now than in the past.

You make some good points, Ron, but I think you're missing the forest for the trees, or perhaps confusing logical types (a hawk is not "hawks").

There isn't progress or regress, there's adaptedness to the present environment. Environments change. And genetic traits often come associated with others. It's just not as simple as pop-evolutionary notions make it out to be.

In any case, in most healthy populations, a large genetic diversity is maintained so that when the environment changes, some fraction of the population will be able to survive/reproduce/etc.

Evolution has not stopped for humans, it's just that the environment that does the natural selection has largely shifted from avoiding saber-toothed tigers to survival in a complex social matrix. We have relatively little idea how our brain chemistry/"wiring" have been changing over time. And there's always so much confusion about genetics vs. environment. Of course, for most complex traits there are genotype x environment interactions to further muddy the water.

Take IQ. What is it? Is more better? We measure IQ as a kind of index as to how well an individual is adapted to the modern intellectual/social landscape. When that changes, then what? Maybe better to have a strong back or be a faster runner (things possibly, to some degree, negatively correlated with IQ - though that's likely cultural).

IQ is actually a bad example for another reason that you pointed out yourself - it isn't correlated (or is negatively correlated) with reproductive success, which is what evolution is selecting for. You have veered away from thinking evolutionarily to making value judgements. Same thing with the word "regression".

If a population of hawks in captivity somehow undergoes a reduction in eyesight, that proves nothing. They are happily adapted to this new environment of being given food. Perhaps they are developing other traits. Perhaps some behaviors that were non-adaptive in the wild are now useful. But the word "regression" is not particularly apt, as any biologist worth his salt would agree.

If a trait evolves so that it is less "survivable" in the relevant environment, it doesn't "regress", it goes away.

This is degenerating into a fight over the meaning of the word regression. To some regression implies goal oriented, which is not how nature works, it doesn't strive, it just does. But to others regression has more to do with algorithmic search processes, and goals are known to be arbitrary (and changeable).

So does that mean the argument is evolving or regressing?

It is devolving ;-)

Whatever the case, I think one of the original points by tehChromic was that removing selection pressure on a population increases the population's diversity, which may provide more opportunities for the population's survival under some future but unknown (and different) selective pressures.

Yes it is about the meaning of of words and goals. And evolution, or rather every plant or animal does have a goal and that goal is to survive and reproduce. This results in evolution being a non-zero sum process. This is what Robert Wright maintained as opposed to Stephen Jay Gold's insistence that evolution is a random walk.

I would suggest that everyone, instead of just reading one side of any story, read both sides of that story and then use you reason to decide which one makes the best argument. If you only read one book or one article on the net, and use that to form your opinion, you probably have a 50% chance of being right. Flipping a coin would yield the same rate of success.

The underlying reason that non-zero-sum games wind up being played well is the same in biological evolution as in cultural evolution. Whether you are a bunch of genes or a bunch of memes, if you're all in the same boat you'll tend to perish unless you are conducive to productive coordination.... Genetic evolution thus tends to create smoothly integrated organisms, and cultural evolution tends to create smoothly integrated groups of organisms.
- Robert Wright: Non-Zero

Ron P.

jeeziz, didn't mean to spark a war zone here, but what a good debate. We're already onto eugenics! Let me weigh in, I only support it at the personal level ;)

Ron, I appreciate what you are saying, but I may have mistook your original statement about regression because the context wasn't well defined. Let me say, regression of a gene or trait is absolutely a part of evolution. The confusion comes up when this fact is expressed in terms of a mean, or progression, or standard of evolutionary change.

For example, there are two ways to look at height. A branch of the human tree can adapt for tallness, like the Masai, or shortness, like the Pygmy. If you set tallness as the standard of evolutionary progress, you can say the Masai have progressed, while the Pygmy have regressed. But certainly you don't agree that the Pygmy are less evolved than the Masai because they're shorter, right?

However, you can say of the Pygmy that their genes that express height have regressed, and you can say that the genes that express shortness in the Masai have regressed. Fair?

In the case of your cave fish it gets complicated again because it appears that the cave fish has lost a trait that most fish depend on for survival - and the cave fish is a small minority in the world of fishes. But the important point is that the fish isn't regressing away from an evolved state of fishiness, but rather is evolving to lose traits like vision that drain energy uselessly (vision is very energy intensive) from the cave fish. For the fish in the cave, the regression of the visual traits is a selective advantage, and there is no way that the overall evolution of the fish can be said to be regressing. It is progressing into a state that is more efficient within its environment.

So I think it's fair to say that you are right about regression, but if you read over your original statements with respect to regression, you seem to be - and I don't know if you meant to or what but.. - saying that without selective pressure, organisms will regress from an evolved state, to a less evolved state. People in this thread were pointing out that this poorly expresses a model of the process of evolution.

The original fish that fell into a cave didn't start losing its vision. It's children didn't either. Perhaps it thrived in the cave, with plenty to eat, and no pressure from competitors. But one or two of its descendants expressed traits for weaker eyes, and the additional energy they saved by having weaker eyes meant they were more likely to produce offspring. Over the millions of years traits for stronger eyes regressed and were eliminated. But the fish didn't regress as a result of being in a cave without predatory pressure - it thrived and began to evolve immediately by expressing more traits.

Likewise humans are not regressing now without selective pressure. They are diversifying and expressing many different and new traits that might otherwise not emerge in a more competitive world. When the chips fall, and things get tough again, some of these new traits might be advantageous.

The last thing to say about the idea of how changes in the gene pool get introduced without selection has to do with sex. It is either through mutation, or sexual reproduction, or really some combination of both, that genetic variation emerges. Of these two, sexual reproduction is vastly more likely to produce new genetic traits than mutation. Because humans reproduce sexually, they express new, potentially advantageous traits with every baby. It's necessary to point this out because I've noticed that the point is kind of neglected in all this talk of regression. A baby is always a new model, and whatever traits get expressed or regressed in it determine to some degree its success or failure.

Chromic, thanks for the post. I think we can finally agree. I guess we just misunderstood each other.

And I would especially like to thank you for your post on intelligence above. I did not reply to it but am replying here. Some things are just so obvious but PC is powerful in its ability to blind people to the obvious.

On another subject, The JODI August numbers are out today and the EIA July numbers are out also. I will be busy the rest of the day and most of the night massaging the numbers on my spreadsheets.

Ron P.

by all means, plug away. It's been enjoyable. cheers!

It makes me sad to say this but human IQ is also in general regression.



equals, duh, 3?

Back in the 1970's a friend of mine made this observation:

Troutman's Observation: The amount of intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is increasing.

Many, but not all, books on evolution discuss the regression of survivable traits when the fall out of general use, like the eyes and skin pigment of cave animals. But I have yet to find one that touches on the general regression of human intelligence.

There is a movie whos name eludes my google magic. A guy is sent to the future, and there everyone is stupid. So he, being just an average guy, is now the smartest in the world, and gets elected president.

Anyone know the title?

But I have yet to find one that touches on the general regression of human intelligence.

Not entirely surprising given the huge taboo there seems to be around human intelligence, especially when you start to address heritability. I read a few books two years ago and was rather disgusted to find the field about as rotten as politics. Lots of people clearly blinded by how they wish the world to be and refuse to see it how it is.

Anyway, have you tried anything by Richard Lynn? I haven't yet but as I recall, he's one of very few authors who appears to address the issue without any regards for political correctness. Not exactly cheap though and nearly impossible to find in a public library around here.

I don't know if a "goal" is the right word for it, but evolution is motivated by thermodynamic law.


If you wanted to frame it as a goal, you might say evolution's goal is to maximize entropy production- same as the motivating factor for any living thing, or any self-organizing system.


It certainly is not happenstance or coincidence. Neither is it a be-all end unto itself.

Ron, the way I read Chromic, was that the easy stable time allowed mutations to accumulate, and maybe some of these will be selected for during the crunch times. I'm not sure if it works out that way, but high selectivity is only going to produce rapid progresschange only whilst it has fresh genetic material to select for/against. Then it will have to wait for the slow process of mutation/drift to create new selction opportunities. Now, I would argue the fat times, only contribute a little, but the drift/mutations rate could end up being rate limiter in the long haul.

Yea that's what I meant, and that's exactly how it works, in some organisms anyway. Blue green algae for example reproduces by copying itself exactly (asexually) It evolves through the slow process of migration/drift - of course blue green algae has evolved almost not at all in the last few hundred million years.

Sexual reproduction tho allows for rapid trait prototyping. Given an average lifespan, it's about the same to measure the diversity of the gene pool in terms of many generations or many lives - in other words the genetic variation of 5 people over 5 generations years is about the same as 5 people living simultaneously, in terms of statistical accumulation of genetic diversity.

Course you also have to account for geographical distribution of genes in any realistic model, so it's just an exercise. However, we live in unrealistic times. Our modern age has allowed for unprecedented genetic migration and mixing, genetic diversity and frequency of new traits is definitely higher now than probably any time in human history.

We're living in a test tube, so hopefully a few of us have developed the traits to survive when the Big Scientist dumps us down the drain :)

Enemy, I fully understand that but my point is that Chromic is simply wrong. The gene pool is not something that you add to willy-nilly. Genes are not something natural selection creates, genes are something natural selection changes. Where he is dead wrong is he believes, and apparently you do also, that survivable traits accumulate over time even when they are not selected for by natural selection. This is simply dead wrong. If there is a genetic change that would enhance survivability or reproduction happens but is not selected for, then it is not selected. It is as simple as that. It will just fade away after a few generations.

There is no such thing as the general accumulation of survivable genetic traits unless they are selected for when they appear. It would be just as likely that there would be an accumulation of traits that would be detrimental in times of stress. But that does not happen either. End of story.

Enemy, if you are really interested in how this works I would suggest books by Matt Ridley. No one can explain how evolution works better than Matt Ridley, I have read almost all his books on evolution. Ridley is a great evolutionist but a terrible economist. How can a man be so right on one subject and so wrong on another?

Ron P.

- Natural selection does NOT change genes. It changes gene frequencies within a population.

- You said "(concerning the notion that survivable traits accumulate over time even when they are not selected for by natural selection)... This is simply dead wrong." No, a healthy population maintains enormous genetic variability, such that when the environment changes (and it will) there will be some degree of adaptive response to the new regime. In any case, the phrase "survivable traits" is not really the operational mode. Think "gene frequencies within a population available for possible future recombination and adaptability".

Remember Natural Selection does NOT change genes. It can only work with what is already there. Natural Selection doesn't operate on genes - it operates on phenotypes, which adds a whole new layer of logical typing. There is also contingency to think of...

Having worked as a population geneticist (mostly working with trees) for several years, I think I have a pretty fair grasp of the topic. It is amazingly complicated, and this is not the place for a full discourse on the subject.

Yes of course natural selection does not change genes, genes simply mutate. If I said that natural selection changes genes then I simply misspoke. I obviously meant natural selection selects, or deselects as the case may be, genes that have mutated to the point that they affect survival or reproduction.

Of course there is great variability in the genome of any species. But that was not the point of contention. The position was that in times of plenty genes with survivable traits increase even though they are never selected for. That is simply impossible. If that were the case then genes with detrimental would also increase, even though they were not deselected out. It would simply be a wash. Any increase in gene variability, without any selective pressures must work both ways.

Ron P.

There can be an accumulation of mutated genes which in the current environment don't affect survivability, but which may be important when the environment changes. Most of these will be deleterious and rapidly selected away once selection pressure is resumed. But, a period of no selectivity (formally impossible, since some changes are fatal, maybe not even allowing a fetus to form etc.), allows nonfatl mutations to increase in frequency.
In general gene frequency is not just random combination plus selectivity, there is also a term related to inaccurate reproduction of genes (say an A becomes a G or whatever).

Economics versus rational safety concerns, which wins out?

"We all had a bad feeling about this place, in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat," driver Oriol Servia said. "We knew it could happen ...

Re: The End of the Future

Using maximum transportation speed and/or distance as a measure of this phenomenon always perplexes me.

Because progress in the past proceeded linearly, there's an assumption that future progress can also be linear, which is wrong: there are large discontinuities. Supersonic travel presents a lot of problems in addition to the simple increase in speed: sonic booms, need to fly much higher, constraints on the shape of the plane which reduce payload, etc. Space travel faces the so-far unsolved problem of getting humans and their life-support systems to low-earth orbit cheaply. And so long as we are limited to throwing reaction mass out the back of the vehicle, all designs are a balancing act involving the assorted masses, and LEO will remain expensive.

There's also the problem that until the distances get quite long, shortening the actual time in the air has diminishing returns. Flying time from Denver to Portland is about two hours. But when I go to visit my friend there, travel time from my house to the airport, and from the airport to his house, plus all of the other little time-consuming activities that accumulate, take more time than the flight. Even if you were to make the "flight" instantaneous, the trip still takes at least a few hours.

There's also the problem that until the distances get quite long, shortening the actual time in the air has diminishing returns

As the cost of aviation fuel rises, airlines will cull their least profitable routes. In most cases the flights of 500 miles or less will go first. Larger and fewer planes traveling long distances will be the new normal. Thus, international flights will survive long after mid-size market lose most or even all of their commercial flights. NYC-LA will thrive, but St.Louis-Memphis will not.

At what point do we reestablish a true national rail network to address those trips? Not every will drive several hundred miles, and intercity bus service will face the same costs as vehicular travel. Of course, Amtrak doesn't have an adequate capital budget for its existing needs, and no factory on this continent is in a position to start churning out hundreds of rail coaches every year.

From a historical viewpoint, we are nowhere near matching the rail speeds of the 1930s except in the Northeast Corridor.

The profitablility of most airline routes is inversely proportional to their distance, but this does not mean we will lose as many short flights as you might think.
Without an intercity passenger train system, the only alternative is tio drive, and many people are unwilling to drive 200 miles to catch a flight.

Instead, what we are seeing with short flights are fewer of them - to get higher capacity factors, and an increasing use of the turboprop planes. They are acrtually faster on flights of less than 100 miles, about the same for 100-200 miles and only a ten min ute penalty for 400 miles. All this while the planes costs less to buy and maintain and uses 2/3 the fuel.

Yes, they are a not as quite and smooth as a jet - but how much of a premium are you prepared to pay for that?

Given that the turbo props can use the infrastructure that is already there, and don;t need any government intervention, and a decent inter city passenger rail network will need a lot of new infrastructure, and government involvement, I expect these planes to get more numerous, while people and politicians continue to argue over passenger rail.

I think the rail system is the better way to go, but getting enough agreement to make it happen is proving quite a challenge.

Believe it or not, most (not all) of the progress has been in making transport more energy efficient. I say "most" because if you look at the transport of freight - meaning business related - it has gotten much more energy efficient, though not much faster, in the last 50 yrs.
When it comes to people transport, which is often "personal" not business, things have gotten a little faster - our cars - and about the same energetic efficiency. This diagram, based on the pioneering work in transport efficiency by Gabrielli and Von Karman, sums it up:

The dotted lines represent todays vehicles, and the solid lines are those of the '50s.

To go faster, you move to the right, and to use less energy per unit mass, per unit distance, you go lower. It is immediately apparent that freight transport has evolved to minimise the energy per unit mass, while people transport has prioritised speed. However, as noted the costs of supersonic travel have rendered it uneconomic, and it is likely to remain so.

One interesting counterpoint is air travel. Jet planes have been relatively energy inefficient, until the 747 and the Airbus A380. It has taken five decades to get the fuel per passenger mile back down to what the prop driven (piston engined!) Lockheed Constellation achieved in the 50's;


So in this case, we have 50 yrs of development to get a speed increase of 50%, for the same energy use, and at enormous cost and complexity of the aircraft.

Of course, a good train is far more efficient still, but that's another story...

Using maximum transportation speed and/or distance as a measure of this phenomenon always perplexes me.

Same here.
However, I think it carries a lot of emotional force. The fact that human travel speed is decreasing resonates more with people than any mention of Peak Oil. I've found that approaching ressources limits by this angle is a good eye opener.

Kunstler on Obama and the banks today. I couldn't agree more.

President Obama could have changed the outcome if he had actually believed in change. He could have told his attorney general to enforce the securities law. He could have replaced the zombies at the SEC and told the new ones to apply all existing regulations. Before last year's election, he could have used his legislative majorities to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and reinstate the Glass-Steagall act. He could have initiated the process of deconstructing the giant banks back into their separate functions - so that banking once again worked as a utility rather than a launching pad for colossal frauds and swindles. Not only did he fail to do any of these things, he didn't even talk about it, or try.


Before last year's election, he could have used his legislative majorities to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and reinstate the Glass-Steagall act.

I would argue that it is very unlikely that he could have done that. He would have needed 60 votes in the Senate to end debate, which required every member of the Democratic Caucus. I doubt that either Lieberman from Connecticut or Nelson from Nebraska would have supported it. It took considerable arm-twisting to get Nelson on board for Dodd-Frank; I don't think anyone could have twisted hard enough to get him to vote for reinstating the Glass-Steagall restrictions (which would require dismembering the big banks).

" Not only did he fail to do any of these things, he didn't even talk about it, or try."

He did not even try. "HOPE, CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN..." and then he appoints Geithner to treasury...

Obama = Bush = Clinton

The top three cards for the "Deck of American Terrorists."

I know some very smart people who really believed that Obama was about change. The appointment of Geithner was the first tell.

Clue #1. After winning the primary, Obama went back on the promise of campaign finance reform.

Just posted on HuffPo :-

"World Population: Challenges Loom As Global Populace Reaches 7 Billion"


"She's a 40-year-old mother of eight, with a ninth child due soon. The family homestead in a Burundi village is too small to provide enough food, and three of the children have quit school for lack of money to pay required fees.

"I regret to have made all those children," says Godelive Ndageramiwe. "If I were to start over, I would only make two or three."

At Ahmed Kasadha's prosperous farm in eastern Uganda, it's a different story.

"My father had 25 children – I have only 14 so far, and expect to produce more in the future," says Kasadha, who has two wives. He considers a large family a sign of success and a guarantee of support in his old age."

Evolution in action.

Really? Evolution- Biology . change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.

Exactly what's changing here?

Ron P.

the gene pool ron - nature must have something to select from eh? :)

Random changes in the gene pool mean absolutely nothing unless it is acted upon by some selective pressure. Nature is not selecting for anything now. Even those born with defective heart valves and other such defects are being kept alive with surgery soon after birth.

Fish trapped in dark caves lose even their eyes after a few hundred generations. They would not survive two days outside the cave where sighted fish could find them and eat them. But during those hundreds of years in the cave, their gene pool would be quite diverse, that's for sure. And it would not do them one damn bit of good because none of those new genes would help them in an environment they had never existed in before.

Ron P.

No hard feelings, I'm enjoying the debate, but I believe you are wrong in saying that random changes in the gene pool mean absolutely nothing unless they are acted upon by selective pressure.

To discount random changes in the gene pool is to discount your own definition of evolution, which includes the "changes in the gene pool" as part of its text.

A correct statement is: Changes in the gene pool are selected for by environmental factors, which is the primary action of evolution.

It isn't the only action of evolution. Random strikes of lighting change the gene pool as well, and therefore contribute to the genetic trajectory of a species.

To use your example, a baby being kept alive by surgery is indeed contributing to the gene pool provided he/she grows up to reproduce. Sure, the organism was selected by a natural process called surgery that we've come to think of as "artificial", but we could just as easily think of medicine as a genetic expression of social compassion, which certainly has selective advantages in the animal kingdom.

As for your cave fish example, I like it, but I've got to point out that, were a sighted fish to fall into a dark cave, it would easily be snapped up by it's blind relative. The point is, there's no abstract standard here by which some traits are better than others except in the context of environment. Therefore women choosing less masculine and aggressive man (see the metrosexual thread earlier), is actually evolution, it isn't "regression". It's the changing of the gene pool by the selection of desirable traits in the context of the environment. It makes no difference if these girlie men survive "the collapse", point is, they're evolving now.

Random changes in the gene pool mean absolutely nothing unless it is acted upon by some selective pressure.

I think not. Take your gene for bad heart valve. In normal (not fat and easy) times it would be selected against. Say we have another rare gene, that also would be selected against -say an autism gene. During normal times these will be exceedingly rare. But at the culmination of the fat period, they are both present in record numbers, because they accumulate by drift. Mutations happen, and are not selected away. Now you slam on the selective pressure, and if say the combination of both genes gives great survival value, that combo just might be prevalent enough to make up for the negative selection effect (having just one of these "bad" genes is fatal, but having both is great). So you can have nonlinear effects, the survival value of one gene may be affected by the prevalence of other genes. And only some unusual condition which allows both to accumulate beyond some threshold level will allow the combo to be selected for.

"Nature is not selecting for anything now. "

Our industrial ecosystem is very much molding our industrial gene pool - just like that blind fish you mentioned and his cave (and with the same result, should the "cave" collapse").

The industrial ecosystem got rid of worms, and but we got Crohn's disease. The hunter-gatherers, etc chew leaves, we industrials pop Zanax and Prozac, - and heart pills, and cholesterol pills and "make-my-weiner-hard" pills and... with chlorinated water.

Compare the toxins you are exposed too with those non-industrial people are exposed too - what kinds of mutations is each environment creating?

What genes are "hibernating" in industrial Homo that might be turned back on in his progeny - who finds itself in a very different environment? From Homo sapiens-obesityobnoxioustoxin to what next ...?

Some of your examples make a good point though: Industrial homo = "bubble boy."

Not to mention things like heart valve surgery are not available to most of the world's population.

Yes. The "control group." Industrial peoples are the experimental group.

The past few hundred years are like a very sloppy lab experiment conducted by intoxicated 2 year-olds ...
hopefully the controls survive his grand experiment.

Industrial Homo saps are the James Dean of species - too fast too live, too young to die.

Nature is not selecting for anything now.

Radiation from failed nuke plants, man made chemicals which act like hormones in the water/food, an increase in sugar/carbs in the diet, and even the increase in EMF around us.

Care to claim the above are not selection criteria?

Strange mix. Chemicals and especially diet matters a lot. Man-made radiation/EMF does not present significant evolutionary pressure.

Man-made radiation/EMF does not present significant evolutionary pressure.

Says you. Do you have actual proof of the extensive studies done over generations to show this?

Other than the one that is running right now and not being documented all that well.

There's a lot on EMF, of course - I'm sure you can google it yourself to be reassured. (But you need to be able to find the mainstream science here, else you get lost, just as you would in matters of "Intelligent Design", AGW, vaccines-vs-autism and so on.)

Man-made radiation simply doesn't work in significant amounts on significant parts of the human population. A few hundred thousand in ex-Soviet and in Japan and other minor accident sites are too few, and it will affect them during few generations.

I feel compelled -- TIA -- to point out that selecting third-world families for morality tales about overpopulation is not entirely honest. Yes, there are large families in the Third World for many reasons (some of which can and should be addressed by policy).

But have y'all ever heard of the Quiverfull Movement in North America? This is a rightwing Christian whitefolks' organisation devoted to promoting large families (and other things that go with 'em like wifely submission to husbandly authority). Might be worth taking a few minutes to read this Interview with an "escapee" from the Quiverfull Movement.

My point? Summarised here:

Americans tell me that it is not their fault the world is overpopulated. The fault lies in Asia and Africa where people have large families. Yet each American consumes 11 times the resources of someone living in Asia or Africa. Americans import these resources from all over the planet. Every American kid counts as 11 kids in terms of burden on the planetary ecosystem.

So... one respectable Anglo family in the US Heartland with 8 kids -- even granting that the QF folks have some simple-living leanings which might reduce their multiplier factor to, oh let's say 6 for grins... is the consumption equivalent of a 3W family with 48 kids. Put those same 8 kids in the burbs, in a "standard" middle class N Am lifestyle, and the 3W family would have to have 80 or more kids to match the resource footprint.

So yes, I passionately agree that women need to be liberated from broodmare status worldwide, that population growth has to be checked, etc. But I do feel uneasy when (usually white and fairly well-off) folks in the industrial cores point with alarm at "those people" (brown, poor and distant) "having too many kids". Every child added to the affluent 1W population has a far greater impact on energy and resources -- and the imperial demands of the 1W cores directly impoverish the periphery, contributing to the insecurity there which is one motive for large family sizes etc.

I have to believe that a big driver for a quiverfull of white kids is racism. Or, in other words, Mutual Assured Reproduction.

And let's not assume that all kids raised by rightwing Christians will grow up to be rightwing Christians. Ideology is not genetic.

True ideology is not genetic but it is cultural. The culture of the parents is, perhaps 99 percent of the time, adopted by the child. It all depends on the strength of the indoctrination applied.

My parents were left wing Christians and I am a left wing atheist. I adopted my dad's politics but not his religion. But then I was not strongly indoctrinated. We prayed over meals only when company was present. ;-)

Ron P.

Well, culture is a broad area. I think there may be a bit higher of a rebellion level in the cases of severe and extreme ideologies than 1%, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.

Well I think you are correct in as far as the West is concerned. But the East is an entirely different story. Because as I said, it all depends on the strength of the indoctrination.

I lived for five years in Saudi Arabia and know just a little bit about their culture. They pray five times a day and fast all day during Ramadan. Boys are all that matter there, girls don't count. In their schools, about half a day is devoted to religious training. Every boy has memorized the Koran, (about the size of the New Testament), by the time he is 12. Not one child in a thousand, brought up as a Muslim, ever converts to anything else, either atheist, Christian or whatever.

But in the West no one is that strongly indoctrinated. Perhaps five, or even ten out of one hundred change their religion. I am obviously just guessing, it could be higher. And if you are hardly indoctrinated at all then perhaps 25 to 50 percent become atheist. But that is not the case for the strongly indoctrinated.

It is a terrible charge to humankind but the fact is that people can be molded adopt almost any ideology if only the indoctrination is begun early enough and is given strongly enough. You surely have heard the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man". That is true, so horribly, horribly true. I don't mean that just because it applies to Catholicism but it is horrible because it applies of any religion or ideology. You can mold a child to believe, preach and march to any man's twisted ideology if you apply strong enough indoctrination and begin it at a very early age.

Ron P.

Good point about KSA, but I wonder if that country might be a bit of an outlier.

As for the Jesuit "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man," I thought the last word was "catamite" instead of "man."

But in the West no one is that strongly indoctrinated. Perhaps five, or even ten out of one hundred change their religion.

My parents were fairly strong Catholics and all of us (six kids) were indoctrinated into this religion. All six of us are now atheists. All of us switched sometime during our twenties, and as I can attest, switching isn't an easy thing to do emotionally.

I think there may be a bit higher of a rebellion level in the cases of severe and extreme ideologies than 1%

Its only an opinion, but I suspect its probably closer to 50%. But if they are having ten kids, that still means rapid growth.
Plus the rebellion is usually incomplete. They still have all those memes running around their subconscious. Then twenty years later they meet some sort of religious guy, pushing something not unlike their own barely remembered memes, they say "I always knew it was like that", and sign up on the spot.

Ideology is not genetic.

On the contrary, twin research has shown that it is, to some degree. And one reason Americans have quite high religiosity may be that religious people were overrepresented in emigrating to America, which made America more religious and Europe less at the same time.

And one reason Americans have quite high religiosity may be that religious people were overrepresented in emigrating to America, which made America more religious and Europe less at the same time.

Damn, I never thought of it like that. But it makes perfect sense. From your link:

The 'salience', or importance of religion in your life is about one-quarter defined by genetics, as is your spirituality. The most important factor here, however, is the external environment. You get similar results for religious attendance.

Bottom line is that everything plays a part, genes and environment. But the most important factor is external environment, (indoctrination). And because of genes some are far more easily indoctrinated than others.

It is all a sad commentary on the human condition.

Ron P.

In physics we have such animals as phase change. Given a population with large numbers of individuals, a minor change in the propensity the break a certain way can (at least in pinciple) have an overwhelming effect on the outcome. But, cultural things, like religion take a long time to revert, since the chidren grow up hearing all the stories/explanations, they become a major part of their worldview. Its sort of like the cultural equivalent of epigenetics (where biases in gene expression that arose from the parent environment, rather than their genes, is seen to be inheritable. Epigenetic changes probably revert to the mean within a few generations, whilst true genetic differences persist much longer.

I'd say it is not a particular ideology that is inherited, but rather a propensity towards certain types of thought. especially the left/right thing seems to have a strong component of that. IIRC conservatives tend to be those who have astrong sense of ickiness about unsavory human behavior. Those who are more tolerant are more likely to move left rather than right. But, I doubt these are overriding trends, I'm sure many counterexamples exist.

I would agree with that. I think "religiosity" is inherited, though how it's expressed may be different.

There was a study awhile back that interviewed hundreds of people who had family members with schizophrenia. The researchers started noticing that many of them were a little odd. Nothing that made them nonfunctional. Nothing that you would even notice unless you were interviewing people like them day after day. They just had a tendency to believe that was stronger than most. How it was expressed was different.

Among the religious, it might be expressed as a belief that angels, Jesus, etc. interacted with them personally, maybe even appeared to them physically. The not-so-religious might instead believe in UFOs, and even that they had been abducted. Or they might be the kind of Star Trek fan that learns Klingon and goes to conventions.

I'm not saying that's all there is to religion. It's just one element...one that demonstrates how both heredity and environment have an influence.

This may be true, in a sense, but in another sense, I feel not.

I read an interview today with a famous Swedish writer and journalist (Jan Guillou). He's leftist and rich, and he is living in a "posh" part of Stockholm, and almost all neighbors vote on the big rightist conservative/libertarian party.

Now, this guy feels good about living there since nobody argues politics with him or bothers him in neighbor parties and in everyday encounters. These conservatives are just to tolerant and polite to pick on him. However, when he's in the south parts of Stockholm, where more leftist culture types live, he's often bothered by people who doesn't think he's the right kind of socialist or not the right kind of feminist, or he's disliked because he's known to like hunting. (Something that OTOH would go very well with leftists in the cold, rural northern part of Sweden.)

His take on this match mine quite well. Swedish socialists like to polarize and take moral positions, more or less demonizing opponents, while rightists generally like to discuss how things would work the best and often feel leftist opponents have good intentions but the wrong approach for reaching their goals. The US reality may be quite different, since its conservatism is more religious in nature.

I feel compelled -- TIA -- to point out that selecting third-world families for morality tales about overpopulation is not entirely honest.

RootlessAgrarian, pointing to any nation or any cult or any group of people and blaming the overpopulation problem on them, or even over consumption on them is honest, but an honest mistake. After all one does not have to be dishonest in order to be simply wrong.

When we point to any particular human behavior concerning overpopulation or even over consumption with disgust or dismay it simply a measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.

Ron P.

agreed, but you can be sure that someone somewhere is thinking about it, as machiavellian as you please, so why not you n me? In a perfect world it isn't us vs them, but in reality, when resources crunch, any otherness at all selects you for exclusion=death.

So it's honest to wonder what happens in a world where the poor, greedy, or malevolently misguided have more children than everyone else. It's honest to sit in the first world and wonder what will happen when the 3rd world comes crashing through the wall in desperation, and it's honest to wonder what will happen within the gates when the religious fundamentalists with their herds children finally wrestle control of gov't into the hands of their self-righteous leaders, prophets, and visionaries.

It's all fair game is all I'm sayin' so talk it up :)

re: wresting control of govt into Dominionist hands

tehChromic sounds a mite paranoid here, but I have to admit that one of the overtly declared aims of the Quiverfull Movement in having as many kids as possible, is to fill the ranks of a "Christian Army" to attempt just such a takeover bid. probably a futile fantasy, but you never know -- revolutions and crusades have spread virally in the past and could again. I'd like to be far from the epicentre if this one does.

and I agree with earlier poster that a big honkin' (or do I mean honky) subtext of this and similar movements is the scared-s**tless racism of much of Heartland America. OMG those brownfellas are outbreeding us! [panic!]

so the QF movement handily addresses the "problem" of uppity women, immigration/multiculturalism, and secular government in one grand fantasy of turning the clock back to some imagined Good Ol' Days. such movements are not limited to any one country or cult of course. the holy scriptures may vary, also the names and head count of gods invoked, but the bottom line seems reliably to be the re-enslavement of women plus "purification" of society to eliminate all unfamiliar or disquieting or "furrin" elements. whatever we want to call this strain in mass culture -- revanchism, fundamentalism, patriarchy, xenophobia -- it's the frightened opposition to cosmopolitanism, worldliness, tolerance, ambiguity, complexity, egalitarianism, etc. and truth be told, it scares the bejeezus outta me. people heading down this path can get so overexcited they end up burning other people alive over fairly fine points of doctrine.

one of my great fears about the post-Peak world is the broad appeal of this kind of rigid simplification in times of stress and doubt. the same psych/soc factors that swept the brownshirts to power in the 30's (in a time of economic collapse, unemployment, national humiliation, personal insecurity) could carry a "kooky" subgroup like the QF faction into unpleasant, though almost certainly short-lived ascendancy...

hey yea you know you gotta call it like you see it. Nationalism thrives in hard times. There's a hope that the Internet, with it's instant communications and egalitarian distribution can mitigate disaster by allowing the best, clearest thinking to be heard, for the dangers to be identified and appropriately condemned, and for the pragmatic elements in society to organize appropriately.

One of the strengths of institutional Christianity is its ability to produce a surplus of gullible youth to provide fodder for endless war of expansion. The same principle made the crusades possible is hard at work in the modern USA.

I don't think that's accurate. It could be argued that at times, the Church was actually trying to limit population. They've always been against artificial birth control, but realistically, there was no reliable birth control until relatively recently. The prohibition of sex outside of marriage, the encourage of celibacy (by encouraging people to become priests and nuns), and the Dickensian orphanages that were basically church-sanctioned child-killing organizations (more than 90% of orphans did not survive to age 16) would all serve to limit population.

People tend to draw a straight line from the current state of affairs to Victorian times back to Biblical times, but that's not how it was. The "thou shalt nots" may have been the same, but which ones were emphasized were not. For example, there are accounts from the 15th-17th centuries that suggest bishops molesting altar boys, while not considered a good thing, was not a big deal and not as bad as fornication - because the latter carried the risk of fathering bastards, while the former did not. Just the opposite of how we see things now.

sorry, but I have to disagree on a few things:
The action of the Church i.r. of birth control was never to limit population. The prohibition of sex outside of marriage was to keep the families intact - strong family bonds make a better and stable foundation of a society. The celibacy of priests was solely enforced to keep the cost for having a big ruling higher class (as opposed to the ordinary folks) down. Less mouth to feed --> higher profits.
Molesting altar boys has more to do with morality (or immorality - the desires of the flesh) than an act to limit population. The stories of children fathered by priests out of wedlock are well known - although not talked about in the open very often.


Actually the best explanation of no sex out of marriage was that it forced kids to get married, young. No marriage = no sex and marriage is an enforced religious institution. Effectively not christian = no marriage = no sex in a Christian country. Most people when faced with that kind of institution at least gave lip service to Christianity and married young. The real reason why the church doesn't like sex outside of marriage is because it erodes their power base.

I think the "no sex outside of marriage" dictum also tended to minimized the transmission of STDs. Before the germ theory of disease was accepted and treatments for STDs developed, there was always a chance of contracting a STD during a chance encounter out of wedlock. Once infected, there were no effective cures, thus the result was a lifetime of "punishment" for "sin"...

E. Swanson

Actually the best explanation of no sex out of marriage was that it forced kids to get married, young.

Um, no. The rule was "no sex before marriage. No marriage before the bride and groom were ready to start a house, as judged by the community at large."

In prosperous times, people could get the money together and marry in their early 20s, and that would result in large families. In lean times, a man and woman might be in their 30s before they got their ducks lined up in a row. Result: few kids, maybe none.

It was a cruel system that left many people with unrequited yearnings, but nowhere near the cruelty other commenters are ascribing to it.

Umberto, I understand your assessment, and much of it I agree, population limitation was probably never a conscious choice of religious figures. However, I think Leanan's basic premise remains sound - sexual morality has indeed changed over time and the same concerns of yesterday are not the same as today. Moreover, church policies and practices did help to limit population regardless of intent.

Molesting altar boys may have more to do with immorality, yes, but even that immorality carried much less weight in bygone times. Homosexuality, in general, was not considered the grave sin in ages past as it did in more modern times and evangelical circles. History tends to back this observation to some degree. Pregnancy had the potential for dire consequence - particularly in the era before birth control and limited community resources - while homosexuality was seen as a naughty but relatively harmless perversion.

How do we know this? Take 16th century England. To live in 16th c. England was to live among tremendous religious upheaval. At one point, if you were caught reading an English bible you could be burnt at the stake. A short while later, if you believed in the "real presence of Christ" in the Communion service, you could meet a similar dire fate. What you believed was considered very important. However, when researchers combed the ecclesiastical court files of the era, while heresy was a chief concern, sodomy was rarely tried. I remember reading that in the city of London, there was only two cases of the offense throughout these trying times (and heaven knows what circumstances brought those to trials, and who ticked off what powerful neighbour to have it brought forward). The point is, that at a time when religious belief was taken very literally, homosexuality was rarely put on the public docket.

To counter the somewhat dubious claim that maybe homosexuality was less prevalent in those days, the example of King James I (the one for whom the authorized bible is named) may be telling. Although married with several children (succession was crucial), he was very fond of the men of his court. Many were scandalized by the favoritism shown to court notables, particularly good looking ones like George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. When the King was admonished at one point for the way he slavishly kissed the young duke on the mouth, James replied, "Christ had his John" (the beloved disciple) "and I have my George." Guess it all boils down to how you read the good book.


I don't think Leanan's basic premise was about changed morality but more that the Church was actively promoting population control - that's at least how I understood her point.

In ancient Rome, temple prostitutes - female and male (some very young) - were common. Some books claim, that one of the reasons why Rome imploded was, that the Senator's were more concerned about the young male prostitutes than their duty's.

And the higher up ranks in the hierarchy of the Church were more or less immune from persecution, they had no need/desire to live by the standards the Holy Book demands. The phrase: "Preaching water but drinking wine" is certainly a result of that behavior.

I would also rephrase "..it all boils down to how you read the good book" to: "It all boils down if you read the Holy Book at all"


I wouldn't say that they were promoting population control for the sake of population control...but supporting all those poor people was a problem. There are accounts of unwed pregnant women (or even widows) being chased across the parish border so the baby would be born in the neighboring parish (and therefore their responsibility to feed).

And whether it was their intention or not, the rules the church chose to emphasize had the effect of limiting population. Not just anyone could be married. You had to be able to support a wife and family. For many, that meant they would never marry.

I would also rephrase "..it all boils down to how you read the good book" to: "It all boils down if you read the Holy Book at all"

Sorry to nitpick, but since James I was the one who spearheaded the committee that wrote the "King James Bible" (published 400 years ago this month to be exact), he probably did read it - and read it in edited manuscript form as well. Despite his crudeness, he was a faithful churchman.

As far as bishops go, well, there certainly were a few shady characters in the bunch. Mind you, the same would hold true for every other profession.

One account that demonstrates how the viewpoint has changed even though the religion is the same...two sailors were whipped when they were discovered having sex on the deck of their ship. The problem? Not having sex in public. That was pretty common. Not having male/male sex. On a ship full of men often at sea for months, that was common, too. No, the problem was one man was Christian and the other was Hindu. It was having sex with a heathen that was the outrage.

I learn so many practical guideposts for my future public behavior from this blog.

Guess it all boils down to how you read the good Book.

Yes I think you are right there. Gives a whole new meaning the Biblical expression to turn the other cheek.

Generally, the old fashioned style churches with profession commitees of theologians guiding things were pretty stable. They had a reverence for the scriptures, and the learned professional scholars who interpreted them were given great respect. What has changed is that -especially in the US, is that we have a sort of retail religion. Entrepreneurial "preachers" form megachurches and actively compete for followers and donations. Getting the doctrine correct is no longer a priority. Giving them whatever will bring in new members prevails. So Jesus's admonitions to give away ones wealth is replaced by prosperity gospel (god wants you to be rich). And the need to live well is replaced by "all you need to do is invoke his name...". I think there is great danger with the current system, by which religion evolves via a capitalistic marketplace, rather than being guided by a cadre of learned theologians. The rate of drift from the teachings/doctrines of the past is astonding.

e of s

I suspect that the same mechanism is at work re. PO, AGW, (and other similar phenomena) and "the rate of drift from the teachings/doctrines of the past". Wasn't it Nate who brought the term "Cognitive Dissonance" up in earlier discussions?

Who wants to hear that we have to cut back on our excessive live stile, use less energy etc? Same with religion. Who wants to hear that our greed etc is hurting our neighbor/fellow human? A gospel of get going, rape the environment, amass as much money/toys as you can get, is much more catering to the already established live of most people. Preachers just picked it up and cashed in on it.

This is why Yergin and others like him are getting more attention then the members of TOD. The message from Yergin is way more palatable then the one from the PO crowd.

Unless people change there is not much hope.



yea, good comment. i think there's another side to the whole religious aspect tho that doesn't get much coverage, and that's the connection people have to their conscience, and 'spirituality', and sense of self and nature. It seems like there's a fine line between institutional religious teaching, and all the status-quo bs that is broadcast by modern retail religion which is just another mouthpiece of the corporate state, and the actual religious impulse in people, and these agree on the surface until something snaps and suddenly they don't.

well i agree with all of you in part, but I don't think anyone's getting to the heart of the matter.

I suppose you can look at it two ways. First, in keeping with the official position of the church, the prohibitive morality of Christian institutions are set in place for the good and benefit of the self, the family, and society at large - that was, is, and will always be the position of institutions of moral enforcement. That's your population control, family units, adherence to Christianity, STD prevention, etc.

But in my view it's a bit naive to echo the official line of the institution itself, especially given the violent history of European civ during the Christian age. Did Christian Europe succeed more than the non-Christian cultures previous to it, in stemming unwanted population growth or maintaining marital fidelity or in keeping family units intact? Evidence suggests not. There's a bigger story here.

So there's a second way to look at it, and it's a harder, more analytic approach to take, but explains rigid religious morality in terms of class and status, and in terms of the needs of a highly stratified, expansionist empire.

By prohibiting unofficially sanctioned sexuality, and creating all kinds of institutional structures to control sexual relationships, you don't actually stop people from having sex or making babies, but you do create a huge population of unsanctioned, unofficial, and unwanted people. These individuals are invalidated by the act that brought them into existence. They are 'extra'.

If you happen to be an empire that depends on hordes of disenfranchised youth to carry out your foreign conquests. So rigid moral structures are useful in producing individuals who can have no property or inheritance, and therefore have no real prospects within their own society for sanctioned sexual intercourse. Therefore they a little pent up. In place of a satisfying sex life they are provided with a religious fervor that naturally becomes deeply tied into the origin of their existence as well as their own unsatisfied desires. This exactly mechanism is no doubt the same that creates an Islamic terrorist as well, but ironically it is an old technique of Christianity.

So Christian morality is a mechanism of state with a duel purpose: protecting the upper class by creating a buffer of sanctioned, morally acceptable people, and by producing a population of people for whom society had no place or desire to support - the disgruntled, hungry fodder for foreign conquest.

Naturally this is a very messy way to run society, but if you study European history, you find that messy is too kind a word to describe it.

Anyway I'm not trying to illuminate a previously unknown conspiracy or anything - these things are written down in the good thinking man's books of the past century. And I'm not maligning all of Christianity, or suggesting that religions or individuals aren't more complex than their institutions.

By prohibiting unofficially sanctioned sexuality, and creating all kinds of institutional structures to control sexual relationships, you don't actually stop people from having sex or making babies, but you do create a huge population of unsanctioned, unofficial, and unwanted people. These individuals are invalidated by the act that brought them into existence. They are 'extra'.

I'm not sure that's accurate. There were plenty of "extra," unwanted people that were sanctioned and official.

I read an analysis of the economics of London in the 17th century or thereabouts, and it found that most households simply could not support more than three people. Even middle class households struggled with it. So what to do if you had more than one child? If the family could afford it, they might apprentice the oldest child, if it was a boy, to learn a trade. Otherwise, the oldest might simply be turned out into the streets. Boys as young as 3 were booted out of the house. (Hence the bands of boys living in the streets, as in Oliver Twist.) Girls might be given to wealthy families to work as servant girls, or to brothels.

Or the family might chose instead to get rid of the new baby. Workhouses/orphanages, baby farming, "rolling over," etc. There are accounts of gutters and garbage dumps being full of baby corpses, and people just pretending not to see them.

Likewise the scene from Christmas Carol:

`I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas, and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned - they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.'

'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'

'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'

The prohibition of sex outside of marriage, the encourage of celibacy (by encouraging people to become priests and nuns),...

This is so true, especially in Ireland where the best and the brightest are encouraged to become priest and nuns. I have read reports where this is killing Ireland. But we live in an imperfect world and that is just the way it is.

the Dickensian orphanages that were basically church-sanctioned child-killing organizations (more than 90% of orphans did not survive to age 16) would all serve to limit population.

I had no idea the death rate was that high but I don't doubt it for one minute. And as for your take on 15th-17th century Catholic morality concerning child molestation, it makes perfect sense. I once read a great book called The Vicars of Christ that told a similar story. It was a real page turner. I laughed my butt off when reading parts of it but other parts just made me cry.

A lot of people would be truly shocked if they knew what history was really like.

Ron P.

A lot of people would be truly shocked if they knew what history was really like.

A chief reason why I'm so fascinated by it.

Most of the story of history will never appear on television or the big screen b/c it would be classified offensive beyond the current rating system. The entertainment industry tends to present life in general as a two-dimensional caricature. Which is strange, b/c it is the ultimate failure of imagination when one has no idea what to do with people in the raw. A shame in a way b/c it tends to coddle and promote an infantile response to the hard edges upon which our world really works and the way human beings really behave.

In Soviet Russia they had orphanaries in the early years with survivial rates of 0%. Did a lot to keep down population rates.

I believe the reason "we" tend to think about3:rdworldpeoplewhen we talk about over popultion is that we never see bunches of dead starved corpses of white people in their armani suits and rolex watches. It is the 3W people who starve,so they must be the problem, right?

I agree totaly to that it is we, not they (as in brown poor people in a remote country) that need to cut,both population and consumption.

If you look at the numbers game. It is the lessor developed places that almost always have the high population growth rates. Thats even been explained by the demographic transition, "give them better income/prospects, and they won't feel they need a dozen or more children to have help in their old age....
So is society X is at population breakeven, but eacj member of X consumes 10units per capita, and society Y has the same population, but doubles its numbers, whilst its resource intensity is only 1. it is easy to dismiss Y as the source of future trouble, but in four generations there will be 16Y and only 1 X, so Y will now dominate the resource use. Longterm growth rate trumps current numbers.

No matter where one resides, with the increased difficulty in producing and distributing food, nations are going to need to go back to feeding themselves.

Right now, the global economy has Kenya, as one example, growing long-stemmed roses for the global market. Countries like China and Saudi Arabia have been purchasing large tracts of land in Africa for use in growing their own food.

If people in Africa are having trouble growing enough to feed themselves now, how much worse is it going to get, as droughts become more severe, and prices continue to escalate ?

I agree that saying the problem of world overpopulation belongs to the third world is inaccurate, at best, since the first world uses the bulk of the resources. However, I also think that, if all lines of global distribution were terminated tomorrow, the US would be able to produce enough food that we would not starve.

Whether we could adequately distribute it across the country, though, is debatable, since monoculture agriculture has different agricultural products growing in vastly different regions of the country.

Right now, though, much of our grain surplus feeds foreign markets. It's a very bad situation for countries who used to be food-self-sufficient, and now are not. The US has a bad problem with vegetable production since much of that is imported from Mexico. California, as the main produce growing region, is going to have more and more problems with lack of water.

Europe might have a tough time too, trying to overcome distances between produce and plate.

I realise the article linked to above does not address the situation from a truly global perspective, but it was on the front page (at least, for a short while).

Many would agree that we are entering a world of peak oil and rising energy prices. There are pending fresh water and food shortages...

I would just like to decouple two things here: fossil fuel and the availability of food. If we define food as only that which is processed, packaged and delivered by the giant industrial ag combines, produced at a cost of 10 cal of fossil energy per 1 cal of nutritional value, etc -- then yes, this food system is doomed. But it was doomed anyway; it's an extractive industry, not a true agriculture. It requires stripmining of minerals and fossil fuels for chemical and mechanical inputs, stripmining of water sources, stripmining of soil, liquidation of soil biota, "economies of scale" that not only trap farmers into overcapitalisation and debt peonage, but keep livestock and crops in unnatural conditions guaranteed to promote fragility and disease. Even if we had infinite fossil fuel available, industrial ag is collapsing from its own internal contradictions and "externalised" costs.

Bottom line "Numerous independent studies show that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future. In fact, agroecological farming methods, including organic farming, could double global food production in just 10 years, according to one UN report."

Apologies for length of quote, but it is full of nice chewy numbers.

Organic farming outperforms agrochemical methods

The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.

There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals [which we're going to run out of energy to manufacture -- RA] because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.

In fact, studies like the Rodale trials (www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years) show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought.

These drought yields are remarkable when compared to genetically modified (GM) "drought tolerant" varieties, which showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.

More important than yield, from the farmer's perspective, is income, and here organic is clearly superior. The 30-year comparison showed organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/ year versus just $190/acre/year for the conventional systems. The much higher income reflects the premium organic farmers receive and consumers pay for.


. Organic systems used 45 per cent less energy than conventional.

. Production efficiency was 28 per cent higher in the organic systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage.

. Soil health in the organic systems has increased over time while the conventional systems remain essentially unchanged. One measure of soil health is the amount of carbon contained in the soil. Carbon performs many crucial functions: acting as a reservoir of plant nutrients, binding soil particles together, maintaining soil temperature, providing a food source for microbes, binding heavy metals and pesticides, and influencing water holding capacity and aeration. The trials compared different types of organic and conventional systems; carbon increase was highest in the organic manure system, followed by the organic legume system. The conventional system has shown a loss in carbon in recent years.

. Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off. Water volumes percolating through the soil were 15-20 per cent higher in the organic systems. Rather than running off the surface and taking soil with it, rainwater recharged groundwater reserves in the organic systems, with minimal erosion.

Organic farming also helps sustain rural communities by creating more jobs; a UN study shows organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic. More of the money in organic farming goes to paying local people, rather than to farm inputs.

"Organic" farming [1], in other words, uses less water, captures more carbon, builds rather than reducing topsoil, requires less fossil fuel, creates more jobs, and is almost 30 percent more efficient in real energy terms.

I am not so impressed by the dollars/acre argument, since this reflects the bizarre present social convention that organic food is a "luxury market" commanding premium prices (you have to pay ransom if you prefer your food without toxic residues). What I am impressed by is the efficiency of water and energy usage, and improved resilience against unpredictable weather.

In a word, industrial ag leaks: it leaks carbon, excess synthetic fertiliser runoff that destroys river and ocean food systems, wasted water, energy -- it's like a big leaky pipeline dribbling toxicity and lost energy all the way from field to table. A decline in fossil fuel availability spells the end of this insanely wasteful way of producing food, but it doesn't spell the end of our ability to produce food. We can do *better*. The hard part will be moving the entrenched robber barons of the industrial/chemical ag mafia out of the way, since they will fight to the death (like all entrenched elites in history) to preserve their rentier privileges and huge profit margins (and their near-absolute control of national and international food supplies).

Note [1]: I am not fond of the name "organic" which exposes the user to much mockery from, say, organic chemists :-) I prefer the less ambiguous "biotic" (in French, organic yogurt is labelled Biotique), which indicates accurately that the methods and principles used are biologically, rather than industrially/mechanically based. The farm and its flora and fauna are regarded as organisms rather than machines, and systems thinking rather than point-intervention (mechanical repair) thinking is central to stewardship and management. However, for the moment we are stuck with "organic" in common parlance, and my semantic nitpicking is unlikely to change that.

[1 edit for clarity]

"Organic" farming [1], in other words, uses less water, captures more carbon, builds rather than reducing topsoil, requires less fossil fuel, creates more jobs, and is almost 30 percent more efficient in real energy terms.

Then why is organic produce always so much more expensive? We have a lot of local organic farms around these parts.

Labour. And it lacks efficiencies of scale.

But as I said earlier, the putative "Efficiencies of Scale" of industrial ag are entirely dependent on cheap fossil fuel. They are efficient only in maximising output per acre per human-year of pure monocrop raw feedstock (some of it not even edible) for industrial food processing. These "efficiencies" result in *less* food grown per acre and *more* resources used per acre than any other farming method. They are grossly inefficient in energy terms (as I said, about 1/10 EROEI). The dysfunctions of scale in industrial ag are catching up with it (cf note below on the inevitable failure -- with large collateral damage -- of fish CAFOs).

The only thing that makes industrial farming look "efficient" is cheap, cheap oil. In energy terms, grotesque inefficiences at every stage of the game.

I'm not disagreeing. But at the moment it makes for really cheap food.

Now you can determine the solar efficiency of your roof

The new tool is based on computer-based geographical information systems (GIS) that collect, store, analyse and present geographical data. This means that the tool describes real roofs in the correct surroundings. The sun in the model illuminates the three-dimensional built environment and simulates how surrounding buildings, terrain and vegetation throw shadows.

The shadow effect can be calculated for each month or for a complete year, and this means that certain parts of a roof may turn out to be unsuitable for collecting solar energy, even though the roof has both optimal direction and gradient. In this way, it is possible to calculate the total solar radiation on each part of a roof structure within a given area, calculated as kilowatt hours per square metre


Well, I hope they don't take the attitude of many simulators I have tried on-line where in 'North America' Mexico does not exist.


Climate Change 'Grave Threat' to Security and Health

Climate change poses "an immediate, growing and grave threat" to health and security around the world, according to an expert conference in London.

Officers in the UK military warned that the price of goods such as fuel is likely to rise as conflict provoked by climate change increases.

... UK military experts pointed out that much of the world's trade moves through such regions [tropics], with North America, Western Europe and China among the societies heavily dependent on oil and other imports.

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, climate and energy security envoy for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), said that conflict in such areas could make it more difficult and expensive to obtain goods on which countries such as Britain rely.

"If there are risks to the trade routes and other areas, then it's food, it's energy," he told BBC News. (Video)

... The International Institute for Strategic Studies, for example, recently warned that climate change "will increase the risks of resource shortages, mass migration and civil conflict", while the MoD's view is that it will shift "the tipping point at which conflict occurs".

... "From the year 2000 onwards, we have been seeing commodity prices climb, and this is not likely to stop," he said.

"It is primarily driven by resource scarcity, and the trends suggest that depletion of these natural resources is unlikely to be reversed in the near future without drastic interventions."

"The price of energy will go up - for us, it's [the price of] petrol at the pumps - and goods made in southeast Asia, a lot of which we import."

Sounds like Gwynn Dyer was spot on in 'Climate Wars' (Video/Presentation)

related http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d1819.full

Central America floods and landslides 'leave 80 dead'

The number of people killed by a week of torrential rains, triggering floods and landslides across Central America, has reached at least 80, officials say. El Salvador is the worst-affected, with 32 people killed, mostly buried in their houses by mudslides

Rain generated by a tropical depression continues to fall across the region. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops.

The United Nations has classified Central America as one of the parts of the world most affected by climate change.

So which member of the G20 is the most likely first victim to going belly up?


South Africa?

I don't think we can try to invalidate that oil production will continue indefinitely whilst at the same time assuming that economic growth can continue indefinitely for these nations. We have a lot of mounting problems in the future:


Food price indexes are obscene, think of the poor in many of these countries, especially food importing countries.

So point your finger and tell me either with your gut or with data which of these vaunted g20 members is going to go belly up first in your humble opinion? My horse is India. My dark horse is South Africa! (no pun intended).

"So point your finger and tell me either with your gut"

In spite of having something of a beer belly, I am not particularly skilled at either pointing my finger with my gut nor at speaking with it (in spite of an occasional rumble).

But I would agree with you about India. I don't see how either it or Indonesia are coping even now with population and resource problems, and those just seem to be getting worse exponentially for both every day. The others, as I understand, still have a lot of resources they could exploit, but of course that is no guarantee that they won't blow up at any moment.

Do white LEDs disrupt our biological clocks?

In the most common design, white LEDs create a mixture of blue and yellow light that the eye sees as white. Other light bulb varieties, including incandescents and compact fluorescents, tend to produce much less blue.

The recently discovered type of cell, called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, are much smaller in number than other light-sensitive cells [rods & cones] -- approximately only one of them for every million cones. But they contain a key light-sensitive protein called melanopsin. When light strikes melanopsin, it can trigger the ganglion cells to send signals to the superchiasmatic nucleus, a small brain region that regulates the body's circadian rhythms.

As it turns out, melanopsin proteins are most sensitive to light in the wavelength range between 440 and 460 nanometers -- in between indigo and blue. Many white LED designs create blue light centered at around 450 nm.

Avoiding artificial light after sundown is pretty much the only thing that alleviates my otherwise untreatable sleep problem.

All I can say is that the little battery powered LED motion activated night-light that I installed in the bathroom is so much better on my eyes for the nightly 5am pee run than the standard overhead light that seems to issue about 3 billion lumens around 5am.

SPaske, LMAO! Thank you :)

This has the potential to wipe out a substantial portion of PNW salmon fisheries.

Lethal Atlantic Virus found in Pacific Salmon

The highly contagious marine influenza virus, Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) has for the first time been officially reported after being found in the Pacific on B.C.’s central coast.

Now it threatens both wild salmon and herring, say biologist Alexandra Morton and Simon Fraser University professor Rick Routledge, whose laboratory led to the discovery of ISA in B.C. salmon smolts.

Morton says ISA was first found in Norway in 1984. “Since then, there have been lethal outbreaks in every important salmon-farming region around the globe, with the exception – or so we thought – of B.C. Now we know for sure that it has hit B.C.

Morton adds: The New York Times reported from Chile that the Chilean aquaculture industry suffered more than $2 billion in losses, saw its production of Atlantic salmon fall by half, and jobs were lost.”

Dr. Fred Kibenge, University of Prince Edward Island Presentation on ISA http://www.oie.int/eng/A_aquatic/Docs/Presentations/1.11Kibenge.ppt

Reporting from coastal BC... yes, the near-shore fish "farms" are as much of a disaster here as they have been everywhere they've been tried. Chile was/is a disaster. Actually Norway is an ongoing disaster, so I guess they thought it would be fun to try it somewhere else :-) in Chile they imported BC (Northwest Pac) salmon; in BC they imported Atlantic salmon. Go figure.

And now you've got me started...

Let's be quite clear on what these operations are. They are more feedlots (CAFO) than farms. The imported Atlantic salmon are kept in pens, at extremely high density, and fed a meal made of ocean caught fish (among other things) for maximal growth rate. It can take as much as 6 kg of wild-caught fish to fatten up 1 kg of farmed salmon.

Salmon are carnivores, and three to five kilos of fish protein are required to produce every kilo of farmed salmon that goes to market. In Canada it is illegal to produce fish meal from fish suitable for human consumption except with approval of the Minister of Fisheries. So Canadian salmon farmers turn to developing countries, particularly in South America, to obtain their fish meal supply. This fish protein, however, does not come from scraps or fish that cannot be consumed. Huge quantities of fish highly suitable for human consumption - like anchovies, sardines and mackerel - are turned into fish meal for salmon aquaculture. So rather than boosting the world fish supply, salmon aquaculture actually represents a net protein loss. Developing countries with many under-fed citizens lose undervalued sources of protein in order to supply a luxury item for richer countries.

(Suzuki Foundation (pdf))

Controversy has raged in BC over the near-shore open-pen fish farms for over 2 decades now. Wild salmon are the backbone of the local fishing industry (and of the entire maritime ecosystem), a keystone species. The introduction of Atlantic salmon is a concern in its own right; no one is certain of the effects of escaped Atlantics on the native population. But even more urgent, and hotly debated, is public and scientific concern over the inherently insanitary CAFO conditions. As with CAFO anywhere, "efficiency" dictates that living organisms are packed as tightly as possible into a confined space. When this is done to human beings we call it a "concentration camp" or "slum" or "Hogarthian prison" and understand immediately that such arrangements are highly pathogenic. When we do it to other living organisms we pretend that they are machines, and can be forced to thrive under unhealthy conditions if we just apply enough chemicals. The open mesh pens freely leak bacteria, viruses, parasites, and the biocides and antibiotics used to "control" them into coastal waters.

I don't think this can be overemphasised: it is axiomatic that high concentration of living critters under stress in confined conditions leads to disease. One of the principal complaints is that infestations of sea lice (much like head and body lice in overcrowded prisons and slums) are washed out from the open-mesh cages and into tidal waters, infecting juvenile wild salmon which are usually not exposed to these parasites until later in their life cycle. Undersized and over-parasitised, many of the juvenile fish weaken and die before setting off on their long lifecycle/migration.

The response of national and provincial government has been typical of bought-off administrations worldwide: deny, delay, call for another study, vilify/ridicule critics, then defensively claim that the salmon farming operations "create jobs" and are necessary for provincial prosperity. In fact, salmon farms require few employees (one reason why they are so durned profitable) and threaten the prosperity of every population dependent on the wild salmon -- fishermen, indigenous bands, and of course bear, orca, eagles, sea lions, etc. [I've been told by those who have followed the conflict for a while that salmon farming was for a while placed under oversight of the Department of Ag (because the word "farming" was involved, I guess); this meant that DFO (fisheries) whose legally binding mandate is to protect and conserve our coastal fisheries, was not allowed to regulate the industry. Eventually public pressure resulted in the CAFOs being placed under DFO supervision, and that meant that the threat to wild salmon became the problem of "the right people".]

DFO, however, is not incorruptible. Inquiries are still proceeding regarding alleged DFO foot-dragging, data fudging, silencing of critics and whistleblowers, cosy connections to the farmed salmon industry, etc.

The appearance of ISA in BC is just one more brick in the wall that in a sane world would surround the prison cells of the corporate criminals who dreamed up this scheme in the first place. They will all, certainly, walk free and end their lives in comfortable affluence -- I don't see any lamp posts in their future. Too bad. But I would settle for the eradication of, and a permanent ban on, fish CAFO in near-shore waters. If we must farm fish, there are less destructive ways to do it (more amenable species, in land-based tank farms).

Meanwhile, BC's wild salmon population remains at risk. As more than one cynic has pointed out, the fish "farmers" wouldn't mind at all if wild salmon became extinct. No more competition. Just in case sea lice and viruses won't do the trick, they're already talking about GMO salmon engineered to grow twice as fast as any normal fish. All bets are off regarding the effect on native salmon populations of the inevitable escapes. But the history of Lake Victoria in Tanzania might be instructive on this point. [Any reader who is still with me at this point may have the stomach and the interest to watch the documentary Darwin's Nightmare.]

I have anchored in the Broughton Archipelago near a mid-size "fish farm" and seen the effluent stream out of it on the turning of the tide. The water passing under my keel changed colour from the exquisite glass-green typical of our area, to a kind of baby-**** yellowish ochre, opaque and (to say the least) disturbing. I've also witnessed the reduced biodiversity and biomass of areas adjacent to the CAFO (clearly apparent from kayak). And I've found at least one biocide footbath (neatly labelled with the compound name and MSDS number) washed up on the shore. I've seen the workers (all 2 or 3 of them) arriving and leaving in their crew boats, donning and doffing their hazmat suits, spraying off their gear. [A further annoyance: where the farms go out of business, they leave their wreckage behind and this also I've seen: cables that foul the bottom so no one can anchor there again, listing and sagging circular pens, floats shedding styro pellets into the water as they crumble. There is apparently no requirement for these litterbugs to clean up the mess they left in public waters. There are hundreds of bays and coves no longer accessible to any vessel for refuge or pleasure because of live or derelict fish farms.]

All this is driven by the "need" of supermarket chains to provide "fresh" salmon year round, regardless of the actual fishing season. Who cares if it is nutritionally inferior, artificially dyed red (farmed salmon flesh is often a sickly gray, for reasons which a biologist would understand better than I), and produced by stripmining the southern oceans for F&FO?

OK, enough rant. It's a local issue. It touches directly on people and ecosystems very dear to my heart. So I am wittering on about it at excessive length. But it does illustrate vividly (as if we needed another illustration) the stupidity, futility and tragedy of treating living creatures as if they were machine parts.

I am living in these parts of the world as well - and I agree a hundred percent with you!

We are living in a sad world


Push-back in Scotland ...

Coastal farm ban urged to protect wild fish stocks

Fish farming could be banned in some coastal areas in a bid to protect wild fish stocks, BBC Scotland has learned. Anglers and landowners have claimed that parasites from farms are at least partly to blame for declines in wild salmon and sea trout.

The BBC Scotland Investigates: Scotland's Fishy Secrets programme also examined whether lice have become resistant to the range of chemicals being used to treat them and revealed evidence that the industry may be hiding the scale of problems it has encountered in treating the parasites.

[From FOI request] ... In those documents a government official writes: "The view from the [fish farming] industry was that there is a clear evidence of lack of efficacy and that some fish farms have even been closed as a result of sea lice infestation. However, fish farms are reluctant to report these officially."

Unfortunately, in the near-term, this just moves aquaculture to places like China or SE Asia. Out of sight - out of mind.

One is not going to be raising Atlantic Salmon in SE Asia or China.

But we can agree that aquaculture occurs in places like China or SE Asia

We can agree, and lots of it.

Google will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the destruction of coastal mangrove forests for industrial shrimp "farming" (more CAFO) in Pacific Asia. Also about the increased vulnerability to storm surges of coastlines denuded of mangrove forests. As ye sow...

From the Way-Back Machine ...

Oct. 17, 1973: Angry Arabs Turn Off Oil Spigot

Not a good way to get the Hispanic vote...

Bachmann Becomes First Presidential Candidate to Sign Pledge to Complete U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

Attempting to win over voters after polls show her support waning, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has signed a pledge stating she vows to finish the border fence at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“That will be job number one,” Bachmann said of finishing the fence. “And it will be every mile, it will be every yard, it will be every foot, it will be every inch of that border, because that portion you fail to secure is the highway into the United States.”

Bachmann went on to claim that undocumented immigrants were more likely to be high school drop-outs, adding that households led by those without high school diplomas are likely on welfare and drain U.S. tax payers.

Maybe Bachmann will be the gift that keeps on giving.. I think Cain's Border flub today (abetted with Bachmann's backing) is going to sideline him before long. Either that, or his new tax plans..

There'll be another nightmare in the wings before long.. but they're not lasting too good. It seems Christie might be hanging back just to see how many others self-immolate before springtime.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Similar to SimCity’s Virtual Tax Plan

Whether it came from a pizza box or an unnamed Wells Fargo banker, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan is now being compared to another unlikely source: the SimCity video game.

Long before the GOP presidential candidate’s plan began dominating the political discourse, a shockingly similar 9-9-9 plan was ruling the virtual world of SimCity. In the video game, residents of SimCity 4 pay default taxes that include a 9 percent commercial tax, a 9 percent industrial tax and a 9 percent residential tax, Huffington Post Politics pointed out

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Similar to SimCity’s Virtual Tax Plan

Remember the hilarious movie 'Startroopers', in which people join the military to earn their citizenship? Well, it didn't seem like much later the GOP came up with the idea of illegal aliens joining the armed forces to earn their citizenship.

Is that Heinlein's "Starship Troopers"?

Newsreel announcer: Join the Mobile Infantry and save the Galaxy. Service guarantees citizenship. Would you like to know more?

/ Share this quote / Obey your Thirst

Heinlein was a serious Libertarian.. had some very appealing ideas, and sometimes very good ones, too. The movie painted this position as ironic and Orwellian, but I don't know that Heinlein was kidding.

un poquito mas..

Johnny Rico: Someone asked me once if I knew the difference between a civilian and a citizen. I know now. A citizen has the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility. Dizzy was my friend. She was a soldier. But most important, she was a citizen of the Federation.

Yes, it was Starship Troopers. In the book, it wasn't "citizenship" but full citizenship - the right to vote and hold office - that you gained with military service. I think Heinlein truly believed that people who didn't serve in the military shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I'd definitely say that people who aren't willing to serve their country in *some* capacity have demonstrated less of an interest in how the country is run.

Certainly the very concept of service to country as a noble thing has been devalued the past few decades.

I'd say that devaluation has been hastened by the way the governments send those who serve on pointless missions.

The Canadian contribution to Afghanistan has resulted in 156 of those who served paying the ultimate price (US number is about 1700) and 97 of those 156 were by roadside bombs.

All this, for nine years now, and what, really, has been achieved?

I think many people, myself included, are happy to "serve their country", but are not so happy to serve the whims and egos of the politicians who rule our countries.

And in my case, I see many of our military lads, being used to do active harm in foreign lands. So they become accomplices to crime, rather than servants of the people. If you think your country is abusing military power, you won't want to serve it.

"So they become accomplices to crime, rather than servants of the people."

Did you ever stand up, raise your right hand and swear an oath ('testify': grab your balls)? Just askin'. Have you been there, done that?

It's a very old story...

I'll bite..

I think that concept of Selfless National Service has developed in a pretty clear correlation between the public's perception of the kind of 'Just Wars' that the US Gov't has engaged in (not), and the degree to which the US Govt and the Military Industrial Complex has been willing to serve themselves instead of a more meaningful goal of real National Interest, while they serve up our soldiers and their civilians like a plateful of throwaway Burgers..

Cheap Energy, of course, has not created generosity, but jealousy.. it has not improved our Personal Industry, but given us Handy Appliances like the Motorized Treadmill with which to make our exercises more palatable, (Jane, get me off this crazy thing!!), and it has not empowered us to 'Enforce Peace', but instead incentivized more and more senseless wars, playing off our Jealousy and Laziness.

Is it any wonder we are skeptical of these regular appeals to our Patriotic Duty? But as you suggested, there are certainly other ways to serve one's people and the land where we live, and I hope we can have a generous, creative and self-empowered attitude as we come up with the forms this service should take.

In the US 1% of the population owns 40% of the Nation’s Wealth. The 19% group that follows the top 1% possesses 53% of the Nation’s Wealth and the bottom 80% only possesses 7% of the Nation’s Wealth.

Beats me why "Patriotic Duty" doesn't evoke howls of cynical laughter whenever its mentioned. Especially in the absence of any real national threat. I think you're spot on Jokuhl, rather than serve some empty symbol which is designed to only benefit the top 20% (and shrinking), better to redefine "Service" or "Duty" as something that benefits one's own community instead. In times of real threat such service can be expanded as appropriate, but not be automatic and certainly not on the whim of a self-serving minority to defend or increase their personal wealth.

Agreed, serving the local community is a valuable and honorable endeavour. volunteer fire brigades being an obvious example, but (unionised) professional firemen want them all replaced.

Once upon a time, municipal employees were regarded as "serving" their community, but nowadays, with the municipal employees often being the highest paid, best benefitted people in rural communities ((including mine) it is more a case of the people are serving them.

The territorial mindset of some municipalities/employees had led to a decrease in voluntary service. In my town, people wanted to organise a volunteer workgroup to go and remove invasive weeds from the roadsides. The muni would not allow this as that was on muni land is a job for the roads and parks dept. Only problem being, they did not have the staff/funding to do any roadside weed removal (even the cheapest muni employee + vehicle) ends up costing $40/hr. The dept regarded this concept as a threat to their jobs, even though they weren't doing this job!

So those who are employed to serve the community put self first, and those who aren;t, put community first!

People who want to give volunteer service quickly get disillusioned from games like that, and then when the gov needs the service, people are unwilling to do so.

Paul, yes we have a problem of hierarchical capture by self-serving interests. I believe the same problem exists everywhere as our traditional hierarchical governmental structures are used as a method to concentrate wealth to those that have captured the system. This has rendered traditional institutions toxic to the health and well-being of the citizens that once depended upon them.

Corrupted, unreformable and beyond redemption, people need to circumvent these compromised structures that simply represent a financial conduit sucking wealth out of communities. People need to create new civil structures that do what they're supposed to and build them outside of any current systems. They obviously need to be non-hierarchical to block contagion from the viral corruption of the existing systems. As John Robb says, we need a new "Reformation".

In your example above the volunteer workgroup should have just got on with the job and used guerilla gardening tactics to disenfranchise the Muni. Make the Muni look stupid as they try to use the law to stop unauthorised weed pulling and free community services, begin the process of de-legitimisation. Something that will make increasing sense as we slip into a deep financial depression and accelerating energy depletion making the cost of maintaining complex hierarchies unsustainable.

Agreed, the government structures have become way removed from what they were meant to be. I think the more local the government, the "less bad"it is, but it is still not right. In mu muni there are the usual shenanigans with property developers, where they get all sorts of special favours and subsidies because it will "create jobs". The latest is to waive there development charges, to encourage them to build more real estate - in an oversaturated market. This just means that everyone who is already on the water and sewer system will now pay for the expansions that the developers need! it is a transfer of wealth from everyone to a few, and it is happening in many subtle ways, but if it "creates jobs" now matter how few or temporary, then it seems to be justified.

I didn;t hear about the roadside weeding thing until well after the fact, and that would have been my response too, to just get on and do it anyway. And there are many other things along those lines that could be de-municipalised. I also heard about them employing a summer student to paint fire hydrants. To follow the union rules, the guy had to have a (muni) vehicle, which meant he had to be put through a defensive driver training course, and then he was paid $25/hr, but with al the other stuff the actual cost is more than $40/hr. The volunteer firefighters would have been happy to do it for free, if the muni supplied the paint, but that would have caused a union demarcation dispute, as they are taking away union work etc... The firemen also would have walked from hydrant to hydrant, as they are not really that far apart.

The cost of providing muni services has become so expensive that they are cutting back on things people actually use (like the library) so they can still pay the person to turn up in a huge pickup, towing a ride on mower on a trailer to mow the grass on the median strip - something that would be ideal for a student and a push mower!

And the muni has a "sustainability" officer, and a "communications" person, to tell us all how to live green , and make us feel good about the token things the muni is doing. IUt is costing $80k/yr for each of these people, but they have had to cut back muni bus service to some areas as there is "no money" for the (unionised) driver and bus that costs $500/day(!) to operate.
It is time for these houses of crds to crash.

On a related note, check out this 15 minute TED talk by the guy from Strong Towns. I really like his take on how munis used to do things that actually created value, and now they do things that destroy it. The more complex, the more rules, consultants etc, the less actually gets donw. His old photo compared to the modern version of the same is quite stunning;


Thanks for the link Paul, I found the talk very interesting.

sorry, i am not going to risk my life for someone who sits on their ass, never made even a sandwich for themselves and yet earns more in a hour then i will in a lifetime.

Why don't one of the R candidates come up with land mines along the fence line?

"I'll set millions of land mines and have land mine cams, then edit the blasts in slow motion, clip them together and put them on Fox News to disuade people from attempting to become illegal aliens! Just kidding, ha!"

Just run up a line of web cams and let all those upset Tea Partiers keep an eye on it.


Abandoned oil tankers erode Nigerian coast:

But with many of the wrecks having been bought cheap and barely seaworthy to work in Nigeria's oil industry, when trouble strikes they are often abandoned to the elements.


Does anybody know when we started calling America a democracy rather than a republic? and why?

Why - Cuz of stupidity. When - just after TV arrived.

You can find the discussion of democracy or republic coming in to play several times throughout history. Funny thing, if you have auto suggest turned on in Google and type "is the us " it will auto complete "is the us a democracy or a republic."

I know what we are in the U.S., but I prefer democracy. Now. :-)

Just finished watching "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash" documentary (circa 2006) via Netflix streaming. Educational and informative. Liked it.


I am back and I have a new job. Oil spill cleanup technician. I know, hard to believe, but true. We collected a ton of tarballs today in just Baldwin County, Alabama. I use a dipnet. That's right, I hunt for oil with a net for a living. Make no mistake, there is a two inch layer of asphalt like tar balls along the whole coastal area. I can even still 'smell' some. That leads me to believe that some PAH's and VOC's are still there. What many speculate is true, I have seen it.
I never thought would get hired. No one there has a clue about TFHG or what I made this company do and change. If they did, they never would have hired me, I assure you. I honestly think the company I work for now is a 'good' guy in so far as that industry allows for. We have 1 biologist and 1 safety officer for each crew. You are fired on the spot for an environmental violation. These folks are serious about following the rules, Many of the rules are silly, but many are vital. All in all, I am impressed with the effort.

We were just arguing about the EROEI of Hunter Gatherers, too.

Maybe you can help us solve the riddle! Congrats on having work, TinFoil.

That's right, I hunt for oil with a net for a living.

LOL! I'm sure ROCKMAN et al are eating their hearts out!

I'm curious what happens to the collected tar. Is it sent to a hazmat landfill or to a refiner?

Sent to a hazmat landfill for recycling. They make roads with most of the oily sand. So far, 1 mile has been paved. That is mostly due to The Oil Drum and my activites. I have come full circle. Now, I want to go to Fukushima. I am HAZWOPER certified now, but I understand the NRC certifications are a new ballgame. Would TEPCO even honor NRC certification? Does anyone know how I can get started for Japan? Don't say buy a plane ticket either, LOL.

TFHG - Congrats!. Maybe you can pick up some pocket money selling wipes to the tourists with dirty feet. Same deal with all my vendors: cause pollution and you're off the job immediately. Partly because it's the right thing and partly for the liability.

Thanks Rock. Saturday was our annual Shrimp Festival and it was packed. We also had BP protestors. Driving SUV's and wearing synthetics. I cycled to work and picked up tarballs all day. If those protestors only knew a little more. They would try to join me, not try to break local BP station owners or ruin a profitable event. We set records.

Protestors rally against BP at National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- About 200 feet from the where National Shrimp Festival visitors ate seafood today, about two dozen people stood on the sand with signs warning that the source of much of that food was still polluted after the 2010 oil spill.

The Alabama Oil Spill Aftermath Coalition held a rally near the site of the 40th annual National Shrimp Festival. Under a compromise with the city, the demonstration was held on the beach near the festival site.

Kim McCuiston of Foley, one of the organizers of the event, said the rally was an attempt to tell people that not enough had been done to clean the Gulf since the spill, and that the waters and seafood were still contaminated.
Read the local story

We also had BP protestors. Driving SUV's and wearing synthetics.


Keep up the good work.


Congrats on a payck and doing an honorable public service.

CNBC: US to Crack Down on Commodity Traders; Will It Stick?

In a measure decried by Wall Street and trading companies as a misguided political attempt to cap soaring oil and grain prices, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is set to vote in favor of "position limits" that will cap the number of futures, swaps and options contracts any trader can hold.

Does this have legs? Or is this just a political stunt?

The quote below is from a Fed report I linked to a couple of days ago. Speculation is a physical act and not done in the futures markets. There is no evidence currently of speculation so this is a political stunt.

A speculator wanting to drive up the current price of oil would have to buy in the spot market. Since the price is determined in a cash marketplace where transactions are settled with physical oil changing hands, speculative buyers would have to store their purchases, and inventories would rise. Instead, during the oil price run-up in 2007 and 2008, inventories in the U.S. were being depleted.

Jon Stewart should invite Danny Yergin on his show to promote his pulp fiction - and then introduce Danny to Lieutenant Colonel Fleming ( U.S. Army War College thesis on Peak Oil).

Finally, LTC Fleming notes the gravity of what lies ahead and the need for realistic planning: “It is important to make the distinction between a temporary oil supply disruption and oil’s terminal production decline. Managing the risk of one is much different than managing the risk of the other” (p. 12).

Maybe send the video to Maggie Koerth-Baker @ SLATE who spent "two years" working on her book. Let her re-think her "Incredibly Dull Energy Future" thesis.


once again, the ghost of Samsam Bakhtiari ...

The LTC says:

One might conclude that what we have considered ‘normal’ oil production and oil price cycles have ceased to exist” (p. 15-16).

Bakhtiari said:

"The problem is that we now are in 'Post-Peak' mode, and that none of [the] above applies anymore."


Hi, Aard,
Thanks for the Bakhtiari post, which I don't recall having seen before.

I'm glad that you appreciate the efforts of LTC Fleming.
FWIW, this was just added to the Comments at Energy Bulletin:
"Military analysts are certainly aware of how central energy security is to food security and to national security, and their studies reflect a practical, realistic, long-term view. The result is that collectively, these studies from the military/security research community are quite unanimous: I have yet to find one which dismisses PO as unfounded nonsense, premature alarmism, etc (if anyone is aware of one, please post it).
That unanimity is helpful when we try to convince other sectors of society (elected officials, senior bureaucrats, urban planners, media, etc) that PO is a pervasive, unprecedented problem which can no longer be ignored."

One sector which should have been added to the list is emergency planners, who still seem quite unaware of the PO debate. DHS and Public Safety Canada have prioritized energy infrastructure but the focus is on protecting hard assets like pipelines & refineries. But there is no apparent concern over what's in those pipes, the oil itself and its long-term supply.
This is puzzling, especially given the close connections between DHS/PSC and the military (ie. when military analysts are so unanimous on PO, why are emergency planners so unconcerned?).

Return of the 'Black Rollers' ...

Dust cloud 8,000 feet high rolls through Texas South Plains (VIDEO)

North winds gusting as high as 74 mph had begun forming the dust cloud about 100 miles north of Lubbock around 4:30 p.m., he said.

"It went from light to dark, just like that," said Lubbock convenience store clerk Alma Williams. "I've never seen anything like it. It really scared me."

No injuries were reported from the dust cloud reminiscent of those shown in Dust Bowl photos from the late 1930s. The dust cloud was yet another byproduct of the persistent drought in West Texas, Ziebell said

Reminds me of the 'Dust Bowl' description by Studs Turkel

U.S. Army Power & Energy Presentation Oct. 11, 2011

(from slide 43)
Hawaii’s Energy from Oil 90%
Hawaii Imports 51 Million Barrels of Oil Annually $7B
Hawaii’s Supply of Oil (at any given time) 14-21 Days

related Army Environmental Policy Institute

Most of that's Oahu. It's one reason I have an offgrid PV system despite being on the grid.

Offshore wind turbine test center planned for Eastern Shore

A new international partnership of energy companies announced plans Wednesday to build a facility in Northampton County, Va., where offshore wind turbines can be tested on solid ground.

The site will consist of up to 10 "test pads" on which private developers can build power-generating wind turbines that stretch as high as 750 feet. Before being installed offshore, wind turbines must gain certification from independent regulators, who determine whether the units meet standards on design, power performance, noise emissions and structural integrity.

UPDATE 2-Statoil to unveil size of giant oil find soon

... Aldous Major South, which could already be the biggest oil find made so far this year, may hold 1.2 billion to 2.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe).

At 2.6 billion barrels, it would be the third-largest made on the Norwegian shelf, surpassed only by the Statfjord and Ekofisk fields which kicked off Norway's oil era in the 1970s, each field with more than 3 billion barrels

From WSJ MENA Unrest May Lead To Oil Underinvestment, Higher Prices-IEA

... "In some countries, because of the unrest, projects aren't going forward as much as we'd like to see," Fatih Birol said on the sidelines of the IEA's Ministerial Meeting here. "Some countries aren't able to put money for projects on the table because they have other pressing issues...to meet the demands of their population."

This is a big problem because "the MENA region is crucial to meet demand growth and to meet the decline in existing production," he said. Around 90% of the growth in world oil supply in the next 10 years will need to come from that region, he said.

"If they don't find that money the production will not grow as much as it needs to grow," he said. "As a result of that, one can see much higher prices than we have today."

The world needs to invest $38 trillion in energy infrastructure over the next 25 years, Birol said, around half of which will be in oil and gas.

Even irrigation isn't working:

US: Drought hurts Texas peanuts

This year’s extreme drought is taking a toll on West Texas peanut farmers. Calvin Trostle is with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension in Lubbock, where most Texas peanuts are grown. This year, he’s seeing something he never has before. “This is a shock to us, to think that we could have an irrigated crop in the Texas High Plains fail, but we’ve had some acres of peanuts out here that eventually, as we got further into the season, we saw we simply did not have enough water,” said Trostle. Even with extra irrigation, peanut farmers were short 10 to 12 inches of water this year, and the crops are suffering. Plants that appeared healthy at first are turning out to have no peanuts under them. Jimbo Grissom grows peanuts south of Lubbock. His farm went 440 days without rain, and that’s cost a lot.


And here's the result:

Get your peanut butter -- before prices soar

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Brace yourselves, peanut butter lovers -- prices are set to spike following one of the worst peanut harvest seasons growers have seen in years.

Prices for a ton of runner peanuts, commonly used to make peanut butter, hit nearly $1,200 this week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's up from just $450 per ton a year ago

Looks like an important sandwich food will be spread thin.

Reminds me of the line from the movie 'Five Easy Pieces'.

[Bobby wants plain toast, which isn't on the menu]
Bobby: I'd like a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.

eMobility Together: Vehicles, Data and Infrastructure

Not buying cars but sharing them -- car-sharing is practiced in many major cities. And in the electromobile future, city dwellers will use lots of vehicles and infrastructure together -- that is the idea of Fraunhofer researchers. In the project "eMobility Together: Vehicles, Data and Infrastructure" or "GeMo" for short, researchers are working to make this vision a reality.

Lower emissions, less noise, more quality of life – all good reasons to turn to electricity where mobility is concerned. If the EU has its way, we will all be driving only electric cars in the major cities of Europe by the year 2050. A beautiful goal, but experts are going even further than that: citizens can forego a car of their own and share electric vehicles.

related http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/research-topics/energy/electromobility/elekt...

From the 'Un-intended Consequences' files ...

Soybean crops threatened by South's new 'kudzu bug'

First, the South was plagued by kudzu, the all-smothering, fast-spreading vine from Japan.

Now the region must contend with the spread of the so-called "kudzu bug," another Asian import that not only eats troublesome, hard-to-eradicate kudzu (good), but also has a taste for America's lucrative soybean crop (bad).

For soybean farmers, it can mean crop losses of more than 20%.

The robust, pea-sized creature, a member of the stink bug family, could spread "anywhere in the United States that we grow soybeans," Tracie Jenkins, a University of Georgia plant geneticist, told AP.

That should be alarming to a domestic agricultural industry that has seen the value of its soybean production jump from $10.8 billion in 1984 to $31.7 billion in 2009, according to the American Soybean Assn.

and http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/10/soybean-eating-bug.html

I'm working on another axiom for my personal collection, and it would go something like this:

90 percent of all consequences are unintended.

My favourite quote is "prepare for unintended consequences"

Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact of Ecological Limits

... Demographers seem comfortable projecting that life expectancy will keep rising while birth rates drift steadily downward, until human numbers hold steady with 3 billion more people than are alive today.

What’s odd about this demographic forecast is how little it seems to square with environmental ones. There’s little scientific dispute that the world is heading toward a warmer and harsher climate, less dependable water and energy supplies, less intact ecosystems with fewer species, more acidic oceans, and less naturally productive soils. Are we so smart and inventive that not one of these trends will have any impact on the number of human beings the planet sustains?

... The well-known investor caveat that past performance is no guarantee of future results goes unstated in the conventional demographic forecast.

Your link didn't work for me. Here's another link:


It seems to me that there was already a discussion of this here, but perhaps it was on another blog.

Thanks d - must have missed it

I so look forward to our new robot overlords. Not so much from DARPA here on TOD but the BPs and TEPCOs of the world letting us all know how save and good stewards they are.

In the first 18-month phase of the program, the Pentagon wants researchers to study how stories infiltrate social networks and alter our brain circuits. One of the stipulated research goals: to “explore the function narratives serve in the process of political radicalization and how they can influence a person or group’s choice of means (such as indiscriminant violence) to achieve political ends.”

Remember folks - the Military used the lessons in the book Propaganda in WWII and that book got a new jacket cover - Public Relations - after WWII as the word Propaganda had acquired a certain 'taint' to it.

"Resistance is Futile" - Locutus of Borg

Warming Revives Dream of Sea Route in Russian Arctic

One thing Captain Bozanov did not encounter while towing an industrial barge 2,300 miles across the Arctic Ocean was solid ice blocking his path anywhere along the route. Ten years ago, he said, an ice-free passage, even at the peak of summer, was exceptionally rare.

This summer, one of the warmest on record in the Arctic, a tanker set a speed record by crossing the Arctic Ocean in six and a half days, carrying a cargo of natural gas condensate. The previous record was eight days.

Some of the ships traversing these waters reported seeing "seas bubbling as if they were boiling" presumably with methane.

Something strange
Posted on September 14, 2011 by rusfedmin

"Commercial shipping through the Northeast Passage over the last couple weeks has reported the seas bubbling as if they were boiling. Their observations have been reported to the science ministry who have sent scientists to investigate."

Link: http://arctictransport.wordpress.com/

UPDATE 3-US Senate approves pipeline safety bill

WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a pipeline safety bill on Monday that would require strength-testing of old pipes and hike fines for safety violations after a series of accidents and explosions.

The United States has about 2.3 million miles of pipelines that move oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids.

The bill requires automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions, requires faster notification to the government of accidents and leaks, and boosts funding to add more pipeline inspectors.

North Dakota refinery: Gas was blended improperly

Devils Lake, ND — BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Owners of North Dakota's only oil refinery said Friday that gasoline was blended improperly at the facility, prompting complaints from drivers. ...Magellan continued to replace gasoline Friday in several Minnesota communities because the fuel was blended with too much ethanol at its Mankato terminal, he said.

Hope that 85% gasahol didn't mess up their motors too much.

Any chance it wasn't an accident and they were just trying to get rid of excess ethanol without anyone noticing? I've thought they might do that at some point.

API reports another drop in supplies:

Crude Oil down 3.1 million barrels (last week down 3.8)
Gasoline down 1.6 million barrels (last week down 1.2)
Distillates down 2.2 million barrels (last week down 3.1)

These drops are starting to add up.

The Great Eastern Oil Grab

Another week, another decline in US oil inventories, according to the API:
API posts declines in crude-oil, gasoline supplies

What is happening now is clear: China and other Eastern nations are grabbing a larger and larger share of net world exports (as was explained last week), resulting in US oil inventories falling week after week – now even counter-seasonally:
Why US Oil Inventories Will Keep Falling

In general domestic demand for oil products, like gasoline, has been slowly declining, although rising slightly last week:
U.S. Gasoline Use Rises 2.2% From Previous Week, MasterCard Says

So the most of the blame for falling supplies lies elsewhere: that is falling oil imports and rising oil product exports.

As Libya resumes its oil exports, estimated to reach about 250,000 bpd at the end of this month, China has stepped in and bought all – yes all – of its exports the last few weeks. This is in addition to grabbing with other eastern countries a large share of all oil exports out of the Mideast (by Mideast I mean the Persian Gulf and Red Sea areas) - leaving the West with only about 15% of ME exports in recent weeks:

10/17/11 Reuters News 16:27:49
China snaps up fresh Libya crude cargoes - trade
LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - China's Unipec, the oil trading arm of Asia's largest refiner Sinopec Group, has bought two cargoes of Libyan crude oil for late October loading, with exports beginning to pick up after months of war, trade sources said on Monday.

The purchase showed the three most recent Libyan cargo sales have been sold to China, the world's second largest energy consumer.

Libyan oil map: http://r.reuters.com/jem28r

See also an article from David Cohen, dated July 20, 2010:
China's Oil Grab


A number of things are falling into place that can only lead to an oil price spike in the near future. In no particular order:

Inventories in the USA continue to fall
Cushing is down 25% since April 2011
Production in the USA is increasing slightly
Oil service companies seem very busy so perhaps production is at full throttle
OECD inventories are down significantly
Mexico is producing flat out
Libya will bring some supply back online but mostly to China's benefit

I can go on and on. My point is that unlike previous cycles the drawdowns in inventory will be very difficult to replace. Certainly we can slow the draws with price increases and limited additional production. But the draws have become truly dramatic. I just don't see us having multiple periods of weekly across the board gains in supply. The math seems pretty straight forward.

Why is the MSM not reporting this? Peak oil, who knows, but the weekly numbers are painting a very real picture and no one really seems to be in a position to pump a few million extra barrels a day. Does anyone see Cushing hitting 40 million barrels of inventory anytime soon?

If Cushing inventories are down, shouldn't WTI price be up, closer to world prices?

Or am I missing something?

Or am I missing something?

s hasn't htf yet.

7 Billion People Equals (At Least) One Major Problem: Jeffrey Sachs

"The rising price of commodities around the globe isn't simply about supply and demand caused by a growing population, it's also the result of rising income per person. With a growing global middle class, there's a larger population able to buy meat, heat their homes and drive cars."

Needs to be discussed by major media


This doesn't bode well for our future choices

The Political Effects Of Existential Fear

Why did the approval ratings of President George W. Bush— who was perceived as indecisive before September 11, 2001—soar over 90 percent after the terrorist attacks? Because Americans were acutely aware of their own deaths. That is one lesson from the psychological literature on “mortality salience” reviewed in a new article called “The Politics of Mortal Terror.”

The fear people felt after 9/11 was real, but it also made them ripe for psychological manipulation, experts say. “We all know that fear tactics have been used by politicians for years to sway votes,” says Cohen. Now psychological research offers insight into the chillingly named “terror management.”

The authors cite studies showing that awareness of mortality tends to make people feel more positive toward heroic, charismatic figures and more punitive toward wrongdoers. In one study, Cohen and her colleagues asked participants to think of death and then gave them statements from three fictional political figures. One was charismatic: he appealed to the specialness of the person and the group to which she belonged. One was a technocrat, offering practical solutions to problems. The third stressed the value of participation in democracy. After thinking about death, support for the charismatic leader shot up eightfold.

The Political Effects Of Existential Fear

It's a lizard brain response.

The Open Source Ecology website is a network of farmers, engineers and others who are publishing designs/instructions for open source machines intended to build a village.

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Found this on Arstechnica

Springy yoyos turn buildings into sources of energy

An original idea.
However I get the feeling that the various attempts to find alternative or green energy sources have become somewhat desperate.

However I get the feeling that the various attempts to find alternative or green energy sources have become somewhat desperate.

I think its more the greenwashing. There are a lot of wacky ways to harvest tiny amounts of energy that will never have EROEI greater than one. Such as harvesting energy from people walking on mats -or revolving doors, or vibrations in structures. Many of these are developed for legitimate reasons, like power low power sensors that are read by Wi-Fi. For such things, you don't want to make yearly battery changes, so if you can manage enough energy to keep them running, you are way ahead. Then someone, turns then into some stupid greenwashing stunt!

turns then into some stupid greenwashing stunt

Good point.

I simply get befuddled when I see trained engineers buying into the idea of placing piezoelectric mats on a roadway to "harvest" free energy from passing by cars.

What ever happened to their education in basic thermodynamics, you know, energy cannot be created? Don't they understand that they are robbing the automobiles of energy and using a very inefficient method for generating electricity?

(To be fair, if the mats are placed on a downhill portion of a roadway where cars and trucks need to slow down anyway, then the method might make sense)


The end of the oil age could be upon us sooner than you think.

Yes, there has been a number of posts on this subject on the oil drum.

How can such a short article use the word "if" five times? :)

How long until Peak Nickel? :-)

Win32.Duqu malware identified by Symantec. The malware's intent is to find design documents in industrial control facilities and copy to host server. And after 36 days, malware removes itself.
New Duqu malware shares Stuxnet code similarities