Jay Hanson and Dieoff.org

There are many layers of the Peak Oil onion. One man who has peeled away most of them, largely out of the public eye, is Jay Hanson. Jay is the quintessential Peak Oil autodidact. After a successful career in software design, his ongoing quest for knowledge about energy, evolution and the environment culminated in a massive internet reference hub for these topics called DIEOFF.ORG. In 1997 he predicted we would invade and occupy Iraq for their oil. (link). Jay has been intensely studying and researching topics central to energy and evolution nearly full time for 15 years, (4 of which spent solo on a yacht in the Pacific). I know many of the readers of theoildrum got their first exposure to the concept of Peak Oil through Jays writings and research and were active readers of his dieoff listserv( GreyZone, Darwinian, Angry Chimp and Totoneila, to name a few).

As such, I feel privileged that Jay will be visiting Robert Rapier, myself and some friends in August to discuss his latest ideas, research and predictions regarding society in the face of peak oil. He is particularly interested in working out a 'logic' framework on the human behavioral aspects of everyday life, and believes we can parse much of our behaviour into a simple set of 'if-then' analog algorithms, evolutionarily designed, context dependent.

The geology and alternative energy situations will play themselves out naturally in the coming years but insights into our evolutionarily constructed behavioral switches are rarely talked about in decision-making circles. In my opinion (and Jay's), progress in this area thus offers the greatest leverage in understanding and promoting successful approaches to Peak Oil adaptation and mitigation. (Jay would also say that its just fun to learn and debate because of the dopamine.)

Human behavior is a product of our genes and our environment (culture). Jay has often pointed out that culture is only relevant so long as it has the ability to punish. Many of the dieoff.org viewpoints are difficult to envision let alone accept (like a 50%+ human dieoff in the coming decades). Yet Jay Hanson has connected many dots with research and insight difficult to refute. Below is Jay's farewell summary to his dieoff listserv from 2003. It offers a unique perspective on societies possible reactions to a decline in energy availability. (If there is interest, and we haven't started WWIII, I'll follow this post one month hence with a synopsis of our mini retreat on human evolutionary constructs.)

Jay Hanson 01/12/03

I am turning the dieoff website over to the moderator of the "energyresources" mailing list -- a fellow named Tom Robertson t1r@bellatlantic.net. If you are so inclined, Tom could make use of any support you could give him to keep the dieoff web site going.

I would like to bid you all farewell and present a brief synopsis of my work over the last ten years or so. Like everything else, it's all very simple when you really understand it. Unfortunately, I doubt that more than a few hundred people worldwide (perhaps far less) would be able to really understand the issues I raise in this paper. Probably no more than one or two who actually receive this mailing will really understand it -- for reasons I will attempt to explain...

I developed an interest in "sustainability" about fifteen years ago when it became clear to me that our present economic system was totally unsustainable and self-destructive. It seemed little more than a well-organized method for converting natural resources into garbage. I studied modern economic theory on the assumption that our political leaders would work to change the flaws once I was able to point them out.

I became aware that something was fundamentally wrong in our political system when I ran for public office. The more I studied politics, the more bizarre it looked. I finally realized it wasn't anything like the "democracy" it claimed to be. It turns out that America is actually a stealth plutocracy http://www.dieoff.org/page168.htm !

Working full-time for more than a decade, I studied it all: the history of our so-called "democracy", the fundamentals and history of modern economics, sociology, cybernetics, system theory, biology, ecology, microbiology, evolution theory, physics, and so on.

After several years of research, I concluded that little -- if any -- of the so-called "social sciences" (including economics) taught in our universities had anything relevant to say about the real world. Instead of discovering facts and principles, most social science is little more than a program designed to "rationalize" (invent socially-acceptable excuses for) the current plutocracy. Moreover, I was astonished to find that the global economy is based upon Catholic religious dogma that I was able to trace back to St. Thomas http://www.dieoff.com/page243.htm ! Eventually I discarded social science altogether because it had absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about sustainability.

By placing the results of my research in order of importance for sustainability, I can simplify over ten years' work down to two sets of physical "laws". These laws place harsh limits on what is possible for us: #1 ENERGY LAWS, and #2 BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION LAWS. For purposes of sustainability, nothing else matters.

Once I was able to understand Odum's "eMergy" metric (actually very simple, but difficult for old minds), I realized there are only three relevant principles concerning energy: the First Law of thermodynamics (no creation), the Second Law (always a loss), and the "Net eMergy" principle ("net energy" converted for "quality") http://www.dieoff.org/synopsis.htm .

Once one understands the three simple principles outlined in the paragraph above, then one understands that the only way our society could actually be "sustainable" would be to continuously reduce our aggregate energy footprint -- less consumption AND less people -- until the global population level is back to a couple-a-hundred-million people swinging through the trees. This is also Georgescu-Roegen's conclusion http://www.dieoff.org/page148.htm . That's the easy part...

With great reluctance (because it has worked so well for me), I was forced to conclude that our present system of capitalism is incompatible with energy laws and can never be sustainable. My only hope was that some new form of sustainable society might be possible. So I began studying human nature, intending to discover what kinds of sustainable societies might work...

Human nature is much more difficult to understand than energy laws for two main reasons: it's not taught, and we are genetically biased against self-knowledge. In other words, teaching human nature to someone is something like teaching a dog not to bark http://www.dieoff.com/page193.htm .

I will reduce several years' research on human nature down to the essentials: A COMPUTER ANALOG, and A SOCIAL PRINCIPLE. For purposes of sustainability, everything else about human nature can be ignored -- it simply doesn't matter.

Computer software cannot function before it is enabled by the hardware. In other words, functioning hardware MUST precede functioning software.

Human thought is analogous to computer software. Any particular thought (software) cannot precede the neurons, dendrites, neurotransmitters, etc (hardware) that make that specific thought possible. Like all computers, human hardware is the physical prerequisite to human software -- but that's where the similarity with everyday computers ends.

Human brains are much different than the stored-program, digital, binary, single processor PCs we use every day. Instead, human brains are wired (not stored-program), analog (not digital, not binary), multiprocessor (not single processor) "state machines" (program logic may permanently modify itself depending upon the data). A human cannot have a specific thought unless it has been enabled by earlier brain "wiring" (e.g., pre-programmed, formal education, reflection, critical thinking). Moreover, older brains are much harder to "wire" than younger brains.

Brains are mostly hardwired by age 25. By middle age, people may need two or three years of hard work to understand something completely new (grow the brain hardware required to think the thought).

The human brain comes from the factory with a set of empirically designed pre-programs that have historically (over a billion years) tended to maximize "inclusive fitness". One of these pre-programs was specifically designed to inhibit self-knowledge with respect to social issues. By remaining unaware of our true motives, we are much more effective at deceiving others. We evolved this way because the more convincing liar has the advantage in sexual competition (e.g., Bill Clinton).

In short, people cannot think a thought unless the brain has been previously "wired" to think it. This is why civilization after civilization runs out of energy and collapses http://dieoff.com/page134.htm . This is also why we are presently running out of energy and hell-bent for collapse.

Contrary to the received wisdom, people do not think and then act. They act and then rationalize. New data from the environment is routinely plugged into existing mental hardware (like entering a number into a spreadsheet), which is then followed by an appropriate thought. Since people have no wiring for "peak in oil and gas production", news of the present energy crisis cannot generate the appropriate thought. Only prolonged reflection can grow the required mental hardware to place this critical piece of news in perspective. Unfortunately, only a few people can invest the thousands-and-thousands of hours necessary to see both the energy and evolutionary aspects of the human condition clearly.

Individuals come from the factory pre-programmed to seek inclusive fitness in ways that have actually worked in the past. In modern society, economic growth serves as a proxy for increasing fitness. This is why we "feel good" when we make money, buy a new SUV, and so on. Unfortunately, when our pre-program determines that inclusive fitness is best served by violating social norms, we will violate those norms and seek a fitness advantage. This explains the higher crime rates in our lower income populations and why nations go to war.

Societies can remain reasonably stable as long as their economies continue to grow -- continue to serve inclusive fitness for the majority. But when economic growth becomes physically impossible -- as it must -- societies will disintegrate into anarchy and war, as individuals and groups seek advantage.

Once one understands the three simple energy principles outlined in this paper, then one understands that the only way our society could be actually be "sustainable", would be to continuously reduce our aggregate energy footprint. Put differently, energy laws will force us to continuously reduce our aggregate footprint whether we choose to or not.

Once one understands human nature as outlined in this paper, then one also understands that continued social stability requires us to continuously INCREASE energy use, which we now know is impossible! It should not come as a surprise that we have been pre-programmed to overshoot and crash just like other animals http://www.dieoff.org/page80.htm .

There are absolutely no humane solutions available to the ruling elite because it is impossible to solve the problem of human corruption (i.e., the genetic pre-program to violate norms and seek advantage). Unfortunately, the best the poor can hope for is a painless death.

Since human nature is so terribly difficult to understand (I needed about five years), I am willing to participate in a moderated discussion group to explain the contents of this paper -- providing enough people are interested -- and someone volunteers to do the moderating. There will be no "political" discussions on the list. Go somewhere else if you want to talk politics.

It will be a few weeks before I can get the list started. Send a note to me at j@qmail.com if you are interested. Be sure the word "farewell" is in the title of your email so I won't delete it as spam. (I use a "white list" spam filter.)

Farewell and good luck,

I dont profess to agree with all of Jay’s ideas, but everytime I’ve thought I logically or verbally cornered him in the past, he replied with "Nate, you still haven't read enough biology, not by a longshot". After starting here, I've recently buttressed my biology background with the following titles: The Tangled Wing, by Melvin Konner, The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright, Biological Anthropology- The Natural History of Humankind, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins, The Red Queen by Matt Ridley, The Spirit in the Gene - Humanities Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature - by Reg Morrison, and Evolution, by Colin Patterson.

Biology and behaviour are underrepresented in discussions of resource depletion.

December 2003: I first run across dieoff.com. It's like meeting an old friend.

I realize I learned it all, in dribs and drabs, back in my college years, and in my own readings of evolution subsequently.

One of his footnotes names a professor I had, Craig Hatfield, of U of Toledo geology dept. This man, I know, is not a kook. He's been warning of oil shortages since the early 80s.

And so I'm hooked.


I have a relevant article half-written. But I'm waiting on permission to add a picture. It's a picture of a cat drinking a beer while lounging on a couch. Literally has it's paws around the beer and looks like it's been drinking it. Caption I added is "the problem with seeking the truth is sometimes you find it."

The die-off scenario is the real elephant in the room when it comes to discussions about energy depletion. I, too, have found Jay Hanson's logic difficult to put aside. The fact is, when one computes, on a Btu basis, the quantity of alternative energy required to replace post-peak oil depletion, Jay's conclusion is validated: "No combination of renewable energy systems have the potential to generate more than a fraction of the power now being generated by fossil fuels." Result: Die-off.
OK, but who says we need all the energy we're using?  We're all living in a cheap energy era.  The next era looks like a more expensive energy era.  Since most of the world lives on a fraction of the energy of the rich, it seems as though it's possible to live with less.

IMHO, the question is can we adjust to the rate of decline?  I suspect the rich world generally will by moving toward more expensive energy, less energy-intensive transportation, less wasteful housing, and less disposable manufactured goods (both less overall and higher quality).  That means living more like people in the earlier 20th century, but with much higher technology.  

I suspect there will be die-offs (they happen all the time now anyway), but they will largely be in the less developed world and will be attributed to the usual suspects of disease and famine rather than overpopulation, resource depletion, and climate change which will be driving things.

Hi kjmclark

Your missing the point here.  Human society is unable, due to psychological hard wiring, to go from a state of high energy use to a lower one without some serious strife and struggle that is typically expressed violently.

A few individuals who are particularly aware of their own mind may be able to, but the masses can not.  Look around, how many people profess to take global warming seriously, perhaps recycle, use low energy light bulbs etc.  And then take one flight and blow all that was saved and more.

The problem is that the human animal uses possessions and social standing as gauges for how successful we are.  We are hard wired to want more and ultimately this translates into energy use.

If we could find a mechanism for translating 'more sustainable' into 'higher social standing' then we would have a winner.  But I cannot see a way to do it.

I am not completely with Jay Hanson though.  I think it is possible and in the end inevitable that humans will eventually evolve an intelligent way into sustainable consciousness.  But it will take a long time... hundreds... thousands, maybe even millions of years.  It is either that or die out only for another animal to replace us and make it.

The only short cut would be genetically engineering ourselves to be wired differently.  But that opens a whole other can of worms.  How can a bunch of monkeys who don't have the moral abilities necessary to program themselves to have them... the process would just be corrupted by our current mindset resulting in even greater violence.  Beside the science is not even close to doing that, and we are out of time.

I have a hard time imagining the local population rioting over unaffordable flight tickets or a doubling of the gasolene price as long as the factors giving the high price are external to the local politicians and other sectors work ok. Nobody in Sweden imagines that our government control the world market, perhaps the US population do.

This makes it important to keep electricity production up and price down to keep non oil sectors healthy and people warm and comfortable and to have towns functioning on bicycling and collective transportation and those systems are fairly ok.

The biggest external psycological help with this would probably be if some rich country region crashed and media were full of reports on how awfull it is in the car-only parts of the world who have lacked planning and now cant afford new infrastructure. Be patriotic and accept the lower pension etc, in a few years the new trolley and rail lines will open and plug-in hybrids are slowly getting cheaper, it will be better in 5 years. And if you can afford it, buy a share in the new nuclear powerplants and be guaranteed a maximum price for you kWh!

I think it is time to dust of the old nation state and try to keep the competition on the constructive side, who is better at creating new resources and make savings? Those who are best at it should both compete and trade and thus also get resources to help or keep the riff-raff at bay depending on how desperate people are and how cynical people outside this club are. If war starts resources will contract fast and they will be burned in non constructive competition.

I'm on vacation and only skimming things before the clouds clear up (Seaside, OR).  It stikes me that these inclusive fitness -> dieoff arguments pull some proper biology (recent sociobiology) but they seem to me to be selecting the slice that is usefull to the worldview.

I guess the question for those up on both dieoff and modern neurobiology is: how can you be sure this is not confirmation bias?

FWIW, it seems a warning sign when someone shares not just a concern, but a flat certainty of where the fixed and flexible portions of human behavior will take us:

Your missing the point here.  Human society is unable, due to psychological hard wiring, to go from a state of high energy use to a lower one without some serious strife and struggle that is typically expressed violently.


Good point,

My off the cuff blog remark is coming short of a truly balanced response.  
I used to be a big poster on forums but hold back these days because I find that to write a really good post that really reflects my views I have to spend several days contemplating and researching, making sure I am covering all the angles.  I don't have a chance of keeping up with oil drum posts, each time I check there are another 300 comments and posts become stale very quick.

And I agree, it is very hard to extrapolate the future from what is still a young science and yes humans are adaptable.

however, the point I am trying to make still remains...

As was said by Kevembuangga lower down.
the kind of problems we are facing now is dealing with SECOND ORDER regulations, i.e. regulating the dynamics of the system, not just the immediate outcomes.
We simply do not have the wetware that we need to face this situation, past evolutionary response has been to `move to the next island' or `kill off the neighbours.'  This means that we have to consciously overrule our instincts. It can be done but it is hard, and many will not even want to try, believing their instinctual response to be the correct one.

Women tend to mate and marry UP the resource ladder, correct? Not saying that happens all the time, but most. I could provide links if you really inssist but I think this is somewhat common knowledge.

This is why men compete to move up the resource ladder. Naturally we each want the best mates: the best looking, most intelligent, etc.

Now when will we powerdown? When women start mating and marrying DOWN the resource ladder.

Question #1: when was the last time you heard a woman say, "I'm looking for a good man, one who is smart, funny, gets along well with others and who makes less money than me."

Question #2: this one is for the married guys and gals: how would the woman in the relationship react if the man came home and said, "honey, I've been reading about this Peak Oil thing and I think we need to reduce both our own consumption and our own economic activity so as to reduce the strain on the planet. So I'm taking a 75% pay cut."?

Alpha Leader,
I am married.
I followed your leadership suggestion in Question #2.
Results not pretty.

Let's say Lorena Bobbitt is starting to look like a kindly gentle lady to me right now.

I am starting to have doubts in your leadership abilities.

(P.S. Just kidding. I'm stupid, but not that stupid to try Question number 2. The results would be total Bobbitthood. I would not be able to join you and Sailorman in those exhibition games anymore. As you know, certain things are non-negotiable.)


lmfao! I'm writing an article on money and happiness and am so including your post!

Question #2: this one is for the married guys and gals: how would the woman in the relationship react if the man came home and said, "honey, I've been reading about this Peak Oil thing and I think we need to reduce both our own consumption and our own economic activity so as to reduce the strain on the planet. So I'm taking a 75% pay cut."
Thrilled that I was not killing myself for things we don't need.  Just wish I had the guts to do it.
I see this as slices again.  Men and women both make gambits to enhance their position in life.  We can say "position" in a general sense to capture more of the truth in this.  Position may be as short term as a dray place to sleep [saw Fort Clatsop yesterday], as moderate term as a good line on a food source [elk through the winter], or as long term as social capital within the group [social position on return to the East].

Why do you always abbreviate that sociobiology to one specific kind of "position" and write "up the resource ladder?"

To be honest, that seems to missing the forest for the tree.

Question #2: this one is for the married guys and gals: how would the woman in the relationship react if the man came home and said, "honey, I've been reading about this Peak Oil thing and I think we need to reduce both our own consumption and our own economic activity so as to reduce the strain on the planet. So I'm taking a 75% pay cut."?

the status of women post peak is not pretty.  the reason islam evolved to have their women in veil is I think, scarcity.  covering them up means less competition for the males to expense a lot of energy consumption to win the best looking female.

women in the western world will be married off.  they will no longer have much freedom.  just the other day, the news said teenage girls opt for marriage more.  have more children but they're in wedlock.  

women can't handle the business world anymore, it seems.  a lot of men will go the same way with regard to the business world.

all this is scary to the beta males/the intellectual ones.  they feel this will happen to them.  they'll be marginalized.  the alpha males with the bigger muscles will win.  all this is the status quo around the world today.

Let me guess, you're also unable to imagine the U.S. going to war for oil?
No but I do not agree that it is a good idea.
I'm not convinced by the arguments around human nature making it socially impossible to power down gracefully.

Studies of human happiness have famously shown that once basic needs are met, material wealth doesn't make any real difference to happiness. What does make a difference to happiness is relative status. If you're doing better than the other guy, you feel good. You'll get the girls.

I used to think that this was a terrible thing, because we can never make everyone happy - someone will always be at the bottom of the heap, someone always comes last even in the olympics. Now I see the glass half full - when we power down in may not actually make much difference to human happiness, ie social stability as long as we make sure that the basic needs are met. We can consume a hell of a lot less resources than we (in the developed world) do now and still meet those basic needs.

I think we have a chance if the decline is in fact Stuart's "slow squeeze" and the realisation and transition is slow enough not to induce a panic.

Take a 75% paycut. Then see how popular you are. Then come back and tell us you still think voluntary power down is possible or realistic.
Matt, I voluntarily took an 85% paycut. After 8 years in California with a V8 Mustang, horse and heated swimming pool, I'm now back in the UK. I now have no car, no horse and swim in the ocean (or sea as it called here :) Living very nicely on $15k and, at the risk of sounding like Sailorman, no problems in finding good looking intelligent women. I piss on your theories :)

Very good for you.

I suspect that if 100 guys did as you have done, 90% plus would not have such great results.

What you've done is not unlike a bigger/more thorough version of me going without a car here in the car-obsessed U.S. 9 out of 10 guys who might attempt to do what I would do would see a decrease in their status/popularity.

Luckily I am quite charming and handsome so I'm able to get away with it. Proof you ask? Here you go:


My guess is your similary gifted. But let's be honest withourselves: most guys aren't as blessed as you and I, wouldn't you agree?

Matt - I took a 100% pay cut, but primarily because I envision a time that energy and ecology (which is what Im studying) will be more important than money. But remember its the FEELINGS we get that motivate our actions, not necessarily the actions themselves.

In any case, I do not piss on your theories.

But you already have a lot of money saved and invested, correct? So you have lots of "status" saved up. Most people do no.
The sad thing is, I won't feel too bad about it as long as everyone else is also taking a 75% pay cut. If everyone else is taking an 80% pay cut, I'll feel I'm doing well.

It's all relative.

Netherlands has something like top tax bracket of 80%. Yet people still work and they have one of the highest subjective well beings on the planet, (unless the pumps run out of energy and the country sits under 3 feet of water)

People wont voluntarily reduce their income if everyone else is still making full cash - someone needs to tell them to do it.  Alternatively, the real forward thinkers will realize the  buddhist economic angle that they can never win the relative fitness game and reduce desires to simple pleasures using HROEI - Happiness returned on Energy Invested)

TLS, 2 questions:

  1. who is going to do it first? (You? Me? Not likely)  

  2. "somebody to tell them to do it" = dictator. And as Jay pointed out, people are wired to cheat. So they will find a way around it.
Jared Diamond tells us it worked in Tokogowa Japan

Americans have much different cultural (and possibly genetic - DRD4 dopamine gene) structure than Japanese. Not saying its likely, just saying thats probably what it'll take.

And yes, if I could surround myself with social capital (including one (1) wife), in a setting rich in natural capital, I would attempt to pursue the personal powerdown. I am learning what that takes now though, and its not easy either

It's very well possible that Americans have different genetic characteristics. The nation consists mostly of immigrants, or their (grand)children, so one would expect them more to go away when they don't like something, instead of compromising and stay where they are. This seems to be confirmed by the very high percentage of Americans that move somewhere else each year. It would make it more understandable why "Don't like it, leave" is a slogan that seems to be rather popular. A quote from a song text:
"I do believe
If you don't like things you leave
for some place that's better than before"
For the record: if you're income is more then €52.228 ($67k), you'll pay 52% tax - which is the heighest tariff.

Still a lot though...

Take a 75% paycut. Then see how popular you are.

This is supposed to be a meaningful question?  How?

Do you have pages of math to show us that power-down over the coming decades is equivalent to a 75% pay cut in today's dollars (uniformly on all types of purchasing power), or are you pulling scary numbers out of your butt?

The studies on energy/money and happiness get one thing right but miss a HUGE point:

  1. Happiness is NOT correlated with the absolute amount of money one has. So a person making $100,000 is not any happier than one making $20,000.

  2. What they miss and this is HUGE: happiness is correlated with an increase or decrease in money. If you don't believe me, then wire me half the money in your bank account. I'm pretty sure you'll be less happy and I'll be more happy. (At least for a short period.)
Human society is unable, due to psychological hard wiring, to go from a state of high energy use to a lower one without some serious strife and struggle that is typically expressed violently.


I think it is possible and in the end inevitable that humans will eventually evolve an intelligent way into sustainable consciousness.

I think there's somewhere in the middle that's probably right. I haven't missed the point. I would rephrase your point as "It will be extremely difficult, if possible at all, for people in the rich world to adjust to lower amounts of energy without great violence. It goes against millions of years of genetic selection and thousands of years of recent experience." I certainly agree with that.

I don't agree with the original statement from maximumheaviosity, quoting and paraphrasing Hanson:

Jay's conclusion is validated: "No combination of renewable energy systems have the potential to generate more than a fraction of the power now being generated by fossil fuels." Result: Die-off.

The proposition is that no combination of renewable energy systems have the potential to replace current fossil fuel energy. The unstated assumption is that we need enough energy to replace all current fossil fuel energy. I don't agree with that assumption. I don't disagree that there will be a population reduction, I do agree that there will be increasing violence, and I do expect some amount of premature human deaths in the process (witness Iraq and Lebanon now), but IMHO we can make due with much less energy, so that the adjustment doesn't have to be through massive violence.

I agree with what you say about not needing the amount of energy that we are using.
Personally I live on about a tenth most peoples footprint in the UK.  Largely because I work from home, wear jumpers(sweaters) when cold, don't have a car, buy everything locally and don't fly.

However I am unsure that people will respond in the way you think for two reasons.
Firstly because the majority of people are not rational, especially when having their favourite toys removed from them.
But the more important challenge will be how it affects the economy. The current economic system has to continue growing in order to be work (due to the way it is shored up on loaned out savings that have to make an interest.)  What would happen if our economic system collapsed?

I'm not really quite the doomer I am probably seeming to be.  I actually think it will be a long slow collapse. Lasting several generations.

I came across Jay Hanson's infamous dieoff site back in the 1990s. That was what got me started on the oil peak topic. It was some fascinating stuff back then. I found it when gas was about a buck a gallon. Now it's on a final approach to the airport of Buck A Litre.

Now, people without realising about PO, they are thinking about gas use to where I mention moving to save a fifth of gas they say the move it worth it just to save the fifth each way!  Saving a fifth each way is not the only motive to move however, but it sure helps. Once I move, a commuting mission will use "only" 2 fifth of gas each way. It won't be too long until gas costs a buck a fifth, thanks to the oil peak.

What, one the horizon, is going to stop what may already be peak grain, which, of course is not only tied to oil, but to global warming, soil depletion, drowth, salinization, and back to energy again if we keep expanding ethanol production.  As we approach zero grain stocks, the price of grain will accelerate, perhaps as much as six fold.  Post peak oil or not, the dieoff may have already begun and will just accelerate as this grain situation gets worse.

Right now, it might be prudent to invest in a little beer.

People are always thinking about the problem from only one or two angles. Even if we have less grain produced it doesn't mean we will start to die. What about GM technology to improve yield. What about aquaculture. I am sure we can change our eating habits - less meat maybe so that we have more land for crops. We can eat less and be fitter.

The dieoff hasn't begun and probably will never happen. Perhaps population will decrease but not via some mass death within the next 10-20 years.

Tell that to the majority of Americans who are obese.  They could use a diet.  Peak grain is really a pretty minor problem compared to peak oil, granted there is some interplay between them.  
The energy part of his analysis has merit, but the human behavior part looks like pure garbage to me.  He makes it out like humans are hardwired and static and can only change with great difficulty.  This is absolute bullshit.  Humans are extremely adaptable and able to adjust and come up with innovative ways to overcome difficult situations.  If we were truly as described above, we'd have died out hundreds of thousands of years ago.  

Just as an example, I recently watched a program about a prison in California where gang members are sent.  The gang leaders are segregated from the rest of the population, but they still manage to give orders to their gang members by writing letters in code and then relaying them down from cell to cell using string from their clothing (a practice called "fishing").  These guys make weapons out of all kinds of weird things, including melting down a plastic bag to make a shiv.  

I was utterly amazed by just how resourceful and innovative these guys were.  I can't imagine that the average population of the prison has better than average intelligence, yet they manage to come up with very complex codes, unique and highly complex social structures/hierarchies, and of course weapons made out of all kinds of weird objects.  

So, saying we can't adapt to peak oil and less energy?  I say such thoughts are utter crap.  We "adapted" to using oil and coal in the first place.  If we were so stupid we wouldn't have figured out how to build steam engines in the first place.  We built a society based on petroleum, and we can build another one based on alternative energy.  Will it be the exact same in every way?  Obviously not.  Things will be different, maybe dramatically so, but it won't be the end of the world as we know it either.  

Once again I have to take issue with this idea that people's brains are wired and cannot adapt.  There's a difference between it being harder for someone to pick up a skill, like say learning a language, and adapting to new circumstances.  People don't need to learn any major new skills to adjust to a peak oil world, they just need to change their behaviors a little bit.  The suggestion here is to the effect that older people are too set in their ways to learn to ride the trolley, rather than drive everywhere.  

You can't simplify human thinking down to a computer program of if-then statements.  Once again, if our thinking were really that rigid, we'd never have managed to populate the whole world as we have.  Who knows maybe something like this is why the Neandertals died out, because their thinking was more rigid?  Who knows.  In any case, humans are nothing if not adaptable.  It is our biggest strength by far.  We may lack foresight and long term planning, but when the shit hits the fan we usually find some way to overcome.  

In the end, I think what the whole "collapse" argument comes down to is extreme pessimism regarding human nature, looking only at our weaknesses and disregarding all of our strengths, combined with a lack of imagination of how we could do things differently.  People are not just going to sit there pumping gas until there is nothing left and then abruptly revert back to caveman ways while our former cities crumble around us.  I don't claim that post-peak is going to be easy sailing or that we won't have problems, even quite severe ones, but at the point where we can't ignore the problems anymore, then we'll start to adapt to them.  Yes, it's pretty dumb, but it's how we seem to operate.  

That's why the fact people are driving around obliviously through LA is irrelevant in my opinion.  Yes, they are not aware of the coming problems, maybe they're growing some more awareness as gas approaches $3.50, but they're still in denial.  At some point that will end and things will change (already it is changing with SUVs going out of style).  It just takes a lot to overcome the initial inertia.  

How is the prison behavior "nailhead"?

There is no newness... there is adaptation to do the same-old-thing. Isn't this prison cleverness similar to meeting our energy constraints with hybrid cars and ethanol?

I have heard arguements to counter ingenuity. Kunstler I believe talks about that. We're so hopeful and optimistic and our decisions don't seem to have any consequences that threaten us. But all of that ingenuity and optimistism is oil-soaked. I would attribute most great feats done more to the oil than the inventors, engineers, etc. All the alternative fuels have been discredited. It does remind me of the electric car though that could have been an alternative which was killed though. It's too late for that. The peak is already here. Cavemen? That depends on how productive our soil is without petrochemical fertilizer. I've read "The Oil We Eat" and such things but I haven't really been shown how much less the soil would produce without oil. There definitely could be an initial shock depending how much the grain reserves are now, I heard 3 months, and the time of year of the collapse. It would become imperative for a lot of the population to go back to assisting in farming. From 1% farmers to 300 million farmworkers? How may that happen, and what are the conflicts involved in that? I can only imagine.
It depends how abrupt the transition is.  If the peak is really a cliff then we might have some bad scenarios develop.  We might need more people to farm, or maybe not?  There are a lot of ways things can play out.  Only in the worst case scenarios do we end up with a catastrophic collapse.  Maybe I am just in denial, but I don't see the benefit of planning for the worst case scenario.  The worst case scenario being so bad (essentially anarchy) that no amount of planning will really help anyway.  Although maybe I will go buy a gun and a lot of bullets, and learn to use them. ;)

At this point we still haven't peaked for sure.  We might still keep increasing a bit more.  And maybe the post peak decline will be gradual enough for us to make changes.  Maybe it won't be and we'll have severe societal collapse and then something new will rise from the ashes.  I'll hope for the former only because there is no guarantee that you or I, will be amongst those rising from the ashes, or rather will just be the ashes.  

The question is, transition to what? The consensus estimate for climate disruption due to global warming lies outside the range of the recent 10000-year period of stable climate which made agriculture, and civilization, possible.

Therefore, a few decades from now, agriculture will no longer be a viable proposition in most parts of the world, and remaining humans will revert to nomadic hunter-gatherers.

So, what would be a non-abrupt transition from a settled blogger to a nomadic hunter-gatherer. Can you please outline the steps?

Not only that but it must be a non-abrupt transition to allow for 6.5 BILLION hunter gatherers. This is what most people refuse to recognize. Hell, take away the green revolution and you can't support 6.5 billion people with agriculture either. The world was facing a massive starvation crisis in the 1920s/1930s that was only alleviated by the green revolution. And the green revolution, at every single turn, is fossil fuel generated.
I'm reminded of Frank Herbert's "The White Plague."

Human ingenuity can indeed be an amazing thing. The human ability to find new ways to destroy life ever-more-effectively is part of  having that ingenuity. We've entered an era where a small group of people, even perhaps one, could develop a means to cause a mass die-off.

I think it was H. G. Wells who recognized that humanity is in a race... A race between knowledge that provides many positive benefits, and the ability for self-destruction that's also inherent in having such knowledge. Which side of the coin will win is anyone's guess at this moment.

Of course people will adapt. But there are fundamental limitations on where humanity can go. Real physical limits.

For example, even if humanity had nearly limitless cheap Solar energy (by harnessing a significant percentage of solar output, say), with all the food and water people could ever need, and a means to colonize distant planets, exponential population growth could not be sustained. Humanity would run out of room. This is because of the light-speed limit. We'd run out of space in which to live. We could only expand the region of our occupation at a cubic rate. An exponential expansion rate (population growth) will overtake a cubic one.


Yes, I agree with you we have a great deal of potential, both for good and bad, and they are in constant competition.  I also accept there are real limitations which we might run up against.  Eventually an exponential increase in population cannot continue beyond the point where there are enough resources to support it.  Peak oil could potentially reduce the amount of resources available to support the population too.  

But with enough time and effort we could create more power using alternative means than we currently use.  The effort in  switching over would be large and would in itself consume a lot of resources, but the absolute limit of energy available to us is not one we are anywhere near bumping into right now.

I do think that capitalistic economics has in some strange way captured the expense of over population in that nearly all developed countries are showing signs of declining populations.  Overall I am not a huge fan of capitalism as I feel it has many flaws (which require augmentation by other means), but in some ways it seems pretty impressive how fluid and adaptible the system really is.  

But with enough time and effort we could create more power using alternative means than we currently use.  The effort in  switching over would be large and would in itself consume a lot of resources, but the absolute limit of energy available to us is not one [where] we are anywhere near bumping into right now.

Fair enough.
I'm giving you 24 hours.
That's "enough time" (works in TV land).
Use your best "effort".
I know you won't disappoint us.

You is "we".
So come back tomorrow with one of those miracle alternatives that "We" always come up with to save the day and you will have moved us safely away from the edge of the ledge. "Us" are counting on you.

Nothing personal mind you. I suspect you belong to the "Technology will save us" camp. (BTW, I'm still a card carrying member --don't tell anybody.) It's just that this angle has been explored here at TOD so many times. And we keep doing it over and over: ethanol, clean coal, nuclear, fusion, you name it, we're looking at it. We keep hoping there is something we missed. Something that will make "the problem" go away.

He makes it out like humans are hardwired and static and can only change with great difficulty. This is absolute bullshit. Humans are extremely adaptable and able to adjust and come up with innovative ways to overcome difficult situations. If we were truly as described above, we'd have died out hundreds of thousands of years ago.

THIS argument is "absolute bullshit"!

Of course "Humans are extremely adaptable" and have not "died out hundreds of thousands of years ago".
But THIS is the problem, humans are extremely adaptable to the range of difficult situations they HAVE MET for "hundreds of thousands of years".
This is not the kind of problems we are facing now.
The kind of problems we are facing now is dealing with SECOND ORDER regulations, i.e. regulating the dynamics of the system, not just the immediate outcomes.
This is the difference between regulating the FLOW out of a faucet and regulating the PRESSURE from inside the pipe.
It is easy to approximately regulate the flow by choosing a faucet setting, it needs much much more "intelligence" to regulate the pressure inside the pipe when confronted with random variations of the source flow.
It takes monitoring the inputs, modelling the pipe/faucet responses and acting on the faucet setting.
This is an entirely different mechanism which has to BUILT and OPERATED.
In the context of societies this means a collective buildup, this is what sociopolitical structures are supposed to be about, unfortunately they have been tailored for resolution of problems of "hundreds of thousands of years ago".
Very little chance that we can upgrade those sociopolitical structures in the shrinking time left til disaster strikes.

Just think about "what" nearly 99% of the posts on TOD are about.
Solving the problem du jour, which energy supply will we have tomorrow?
Of course, we have to care about this pressing need, but not planning for the more general problem of GROWTH guarantees that we will just crank up to an even nastier state of affairs.

This is well explained by Tainter and Diamond, go back there, read and THINK!

"Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do."

"Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do."

"Scientific societies are as yet in their infancy. . . . It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fitche laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished."

"Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible."

"Gradually, by selective breeding, the congenital differences between rulers and ruled will increase until they become almost different species. A revolt of the plebs would become as unthinkable as an organized insurrection of sheep against the practice of eating mutton."
~Bertrand Russell, "The Impact of Science on Society", 1953, pg 49-50

"In like manner, the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities, probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play.... All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called 'co-operative,' i.e., to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them."

"Except for the one matter of loyalty to the World State and to their own order, members of the governing class will be encouraged to be adventurous and full of initiative...."

"On those rare occasions, when a boy or girl who has passed the age at which it is usual to determine social status shows such marked ability as to seem the intellectual equal of the rulers, a difficult situation will arise, requiring serious consideration. If the youth is content to abandon his previous associates and to throw in his lot whole-heartedly with the rulers, he may, after suitable tests, be promoted, but if he shows any regrettable solidarity with his previous associates, the rulers will reluctantly conclude that there is nothing to be done with him except to send him to the lethal chamber before his ill-disciplined intelligence has had time to spread revolt. This will be a painful duty to the rulers, but I think they will not shrink from performing it."
~Bertrand Russell, "The Scientific Outlook", 1931

~Bertrand Russell, "The Impact of Science on Society", 1953,
~Bertrand Russell, "The Scientific Outlook", 1931

I did not read those.
Were these quotes predictions or prescriptions ?
Orwell' 1984 and Huxley' Brave New World are full of "horrendous suggestions".
In any case that does not detract from the relevance of my quoting of BR.
I was not suggesting that people be made to comply by any kind of authority, just that they THINK by themselves.
Raising the question of whether they will do it or not.
I suspect most will not even if they have the capacities, intelligence and information.
Please feel free to comment on the CONTENT of my post instead of using innuendo against BR (and me too may be?).

The kind of problems we are facing now is dealing with SECOND ORDER regulations, i.e. regulating the dynamics of the system, not just the immediate outcomes.
Succinctly said.
I agree, this is the reason we are not equipped to face this.
Even though I have read much of Jay's material and occasionally participated in dieoff.com I find this thought incongruent to personal experience:
The kind of problems we are facing now is dealing with SECOND ORDER regulations, i.e. regulating the dynamics of the system, not just the immediate outcomes.
I'm not sure he or anyone else put it that way. Engineers deal with this type of planning. So we humans can think about and address some of these second order functions. Perhaps the sentiment is that we can't keep ALL second order functions in mind. What we are really saying, and I believe Jay may have addressed this, is that we can't hold in mind all the consequences of all the things we do. But if we could keep a small percentage of the consequences in mind we might do better. And that's exactly where I think we are. I can balance a check book, earn degrees, and exercise to increase my inclusive fitness but I can't envision all the difficulties the changes those things might bring into my life. But personally I think I can deal with some second order functions.
A few misunderstandings, my wording is likely at fault.

- What I mean by SECOND ORDER regulations is not various parasitic side effects which would have to be compensated but regulating the derivative of the processes.
Like regulating acceleration versus regulating speed, for the case of providing with human social needs we need not only provide results, food, energy, etc... but prevent the GROWTH of ressources consumption. In an "open world" (seemingly) this has never been done nor even contemplated.

- I never said that this is what Jay Hanson suggested, this is rather a possible answer to the problems of collapse as depicted by Tainter and Diamond.

The phenomena that produce exponential growth are not subject to outright regulation, second-order or otherwise. They are in the realm of culture, not science or engineering. Science makes random progress with a breakthrough now and then; engineering produces steady progress in a fixed direction, with a dead end now and then. But scientists and engineers, just like everyone else, are seduced by powerful images which provide the rationale for infinite scaling up, sustaining exponential growth. There is the image of buying a thing at a shop: the exchange of an abstract token of value for a specific item of choice, no strings attached. There is the image of driving a car: willing an inanimate object to move in a direction you want, ignoring everything and everyone along the way. Finally, there is the image of flushing a toilet: out of sight, out of mind. Now, engineers, your task is to replace these images with something equally seductive that does not cause exponential growth. And quickly!
A few misunderstandings, my wording is likely at fault.

- What I mean by SECOND ORDER regulations is not various parasitic side effects which would have to be compensated but regulating the derivative of the processes.
Like regulating acceleration versus regulating speed, for the case of providing with human social needs we need not only provide results, food, energy, etc... but prevent the GROWTH of ressources consumption. In an "open world" (seemingly) this has never been done nor even contemplated.

- I never said that this is what Jay Hanson suggested, this is rather a possible answer to the problems of collapse as depicted by Tainter and Diamond.

You know, it might matter which order you learn these things in.  I started reading about neurobiology (in the general-scientific press) maybe 20 years ago.  I had maybe half a dozen books on the general topic under my belt before I read about "peak oil."

Coming at it from that perspective, it made me think that peak oil (and our lazy resposne to it) is just like all the big scary things we've faced before.  I really saw nothing in peak oil to make it the "special" problem that would sneak under our evolutionary preparation and get us.  So no, I don't agree with:

Of course "Humans are extremely adaptable" and have not "died out hundreds of thousands of years ago".
But THIS is the problem, humans are extremely adaptable to the range of difficult situations they HAVE MET for "hundreds of thousands of years".
This is not the kind of problems we are facing now.

I think a steep depletion curve will be a challenge, no doubt.

But I think that anyone who knows the outcome has gone religious on this one.

He makes it out like humans are hardwired and static and can only change with great difficulty.  This is absolute bullshit.  Humans are extremely adaptable and able to adjust and come up with innovative ways to overcome difficult situations.  If we were truly as described above, we'd have died out ... years ago.

If you cracked open a skull, you'd find that yes, there is a basic hardwiring scheme.
Perhaps it is that you are young and your brain is agile. Take it from someone on the geezer side, this agility is quickly lost somewhere between age 30 and age 60.

Take a look at most of your politicians. How old are they? How mentally agile are they? (Hint: GWB just turned 60 the other week.) Who decides the course of the world, you or them? How quick were you to put this 2+2 together? Still think "we" are all that quick witted?

Now as to dying out years ago, many human civilizations did exactly that. Read Jared Dimaond's Collapse. You just happen to belong to one of the lucky offshoots --the ones that found easy oil and decided they are so clever for having done so.

If you had instead belonged to one of those already-extinct civilizations, we wouldn't be hearing from you, would we?

Hi Nagorak

You are correct; we are the most adaptable animals to have evolved.  We have evolved a brain large enough to take some of the hard work that evolution does out of the equation by thinking for ourselves.

But, and it is a big but.  We still have a long way to go before we have really taken evolution into our own hands and there are many ways in which we are blinkered by our hard wiring.  Combine that with the method in which we learn new ways of doing things... The hard way.  We very rarely change our ways and develop a new understanding of how the world works and how to behave in it until the old way collapses in a spectacular, usually painful fashion. (Don't have time just now to quote sources, but this is all from psychological research)

Even our basic ability to `think' actually has some major flaws.  It is important to remember that our ability to think about and model the world is essentially based on various simplifications that our brain makes in order to comprehend it.  All our understanding of the word is essentially based on the ability of our brain to model and interpret it.  Our interpretation will always be restricted by our brains structure.  For example, the current vogue to interpret the world rationally is not necessarily the most accurate way to view the world and can be argued to be fundamentally flawed as its foundations lie on a dualistic split to define something against something else. (The infinite is defined against the finite, up against down. Me against other.) This is essentially an illusion, none of these things really exist, they are abstractions.  

Anyhow I have probably lost 99.8% percent of the population now (to be precise). Well, I would have if I was any good at explaining it, so I have probably lost all of you.  At least half of us are capable of thinking rationally, it's a big step up from the previous fashion of thinking conventionally (follow the leader) which 40% of the Western worlds population is still primarily stuck in.

Mind all you like, or never mind at all. What is, is.

This is essentially an illusion, none of these things really exist, they are abstractions.

Exactly, but this is flying in the face of all the "realists" who confuse their own visions with reality where these are only more or less accurate maps and models which may or may not be appropriate for some purposes.
Interesting that you come up with such remark, what is your "background"?

Anyhow I have probably lost 99.8% percent of the population now (to be precise).

This common shortcoming is the very root of all the "problems", how can you sell any solution to people who CANNOT understand the problem, much less the solution.
They have to trust you to care for their own interest, cannot really be done, and it is so easy and tempting to tamper with this trust if you ever get it, the root of all "political evil".

Hi Kevembuangga

Background is very varied.. Arts/Complimentary health/Computers.  Currently earn my crust as a web developer.  Clients include UKs largest `green' mail order company and UKs largest community owned wind farm (actually a network of many wind farms and constantly setting up more.)
No official qualifications in psychology. Have been considering doing a second degree, but feel I have done all the reading in that area I desire to for now so am not feeling very motivated. (Covered Freudian, Jungian, Integral & Transpersonal, Rogerian (trained in counselling skills), evolutionary/socio-biology, spiral dynamics, Piaget, Gardner etc.)  My strongest leanings these days are towards Evolutionary Psychology (and Human Behavioural Ecology) but still have respect for others, particularly (post) Piaget ideas and Spiral Dynamics.

The non dual stuff comes from Zen and other similar. (Zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance is an excellent introduction to these ideas).  I've also read up a great deal on many mystical and meditation traditions and practised various forms.  Currently being as much as practicing.

Unlike Dawkins (Dawkins argues against religion) I believe that utilising certain aspects of our wetware that make no immediate rational sense (such as mystical and religious experiences) can be very enjoyable and also have deep meaning even if it is subverted from its original intention,  so whilst in rational language I am essentially atheist (I'd say non-dualist, but that would be a contradiction in terms.) in outlook. I still attend and thoroughly enjoy Buddhist, Quaker and Universal Worship Services.

how can you sell any solution to people who CANNOT understand the problem, much less the solution. etc
Yes, that is the crutch of the problem.
Essentially we have not evolved enough yet to be able to take conscious control of the situation.  Any attempts we make will be sheep in wolves clothing.
It is an ironic position to be in.

I have no idea how bad it will get. Or how long it will take.  But the one thing I am certain of is that no serious change will happen until things get bad.  It is at this time that I always remember my favourite quote.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. -- Max Ehrmann

Blessings, peace be with all.

The gang leaders are segregated from the rest of the population, but they still manage to give orders to their gang members by writing letters in code and then relaying them down from cell to cell using string from their clothing (a practice called "fishing").  These guys make weapons out of all kinds of weird things, including melting down a plastic bag to make a shiv.

THIS is your example of human ingenuity!? ha ha!

GANGSTERS IN PRISON??? hahahahahahahahhahahahahhaha!!!

Yes, all that ingenuity and they're still rotting in jail - the analogy may be uncomfortably exact.
Humans do not like change. They resist it intensely (even violently), in fact, physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. Pick up a textbook on psychology, sociology, or even "change in the workplace", and you'll find confirmation.

Allow me to quote from one (How to Manage Change Effectively, by Donald Kirkpatrick, 1985):
"It is a basic tenet of human behaviour that any belief or value that has been previously successful in meeting needs will resist change. This applies even if there are better more successful alternatives to meet those needs."

Just one small comment, which kind of can go to all of this thread: Why are you speaking of humans as "they"? What are you, then?

There are huge problems in trying to objectively judge the motivations of humans in general, and trying to predict the future, esp. future human behaviour. And to relate it to the original article:

"He particularly interested in working out a 'logic' framework on the human behavioral aspects of everyday life, and believes we can parse much of our behaviour into a simple set of 'if-then' analog algorithms, evolutionarily designed, context dependent."

Dieoff guy is a classical megalomaniac in my opinion, as are many of the commentators on this board. Just listen to statements like these: "I studied modern economic theory on the assumption that our political leaders would work to change the flaws once I was able to point them out. I became aware that something was fundamentally wrong in our political system when I ran for public office." Notice: he had the flaws worked out before he took the education. Afterwards, he's suprised that people won't listen to him or vote for him! Yet we are supposed to believe this is a man with profound insights about society and human nature?

Misunderstood genius syndrome all over...

"No scientific predictor - whether a human scientist or a calculating machine - can possibly predict, by scientific methods, its own future results" -- Karl Popper.

Popper's "The poverty of historicism" and "The Open Society and its enemies" should be mandatory readings to all would-be prophets.

true points, with the exception of I posted his message, he did not. I dont think he cares one whit what others think of him, where megalomaniacs want approval etc. I sent him the link to this story and he didnt even read it - just complained that some people had emailed him wanting to get on his list.

Again, irrespective of what you think of Jay Hanson and his views, the problems facing the planet will be solved (or not) not by technology but by addressing the way we see ourselves on the planet, and using all the bells and whistles in the human brain (including the cultural triggers) to get down to consuming and living at levels the world can sustain. Period.
The timing, based on how fast our stocks deplete and how quickly we harness our flows, is an open question.

That's one misconception I've been trying to address for a while.  Yes, alternative fuels (biofuels) cannot replace the raw energy we get from petroleum.  The lackluster productivity of higher plants sees to that.  No, this does not mean that we can't get more useful energy out of alternative sources than we currently squeeze out of fossil fuels.  This is mostly because our current systems are so inefficient.  For instance, bio-charcoal (biomass to charcoal:  50% efficiency) used in direct-carbon fuel cells (80% efficiency) could replace US consumption of motor fuel a couple of times over.  This is because the typical light vehicle is only about 15% efficient; multiply the efficiency by 5, and you can quite literally get more out of less.

Humanity currently uses about 400 quads (quadrillion BTU) of energy per year.  The calculated power available from wind alone, world-wide, is about 72 terawatts or about 2180 quads per year (of pure electricity, no conversion losses).  Solar energy has no limits until several times that, and once you get yourself off Earth you've potentially got the entire output of a star to work with.

The die-off scenario assumes that we cannot bring ourselves to do what we know how to do, and cannot forego current consumption in order to invest.  I don't see that.

Well, in fairness to the die-off scenario, I think part of the scenario is that petroleum based energy will run short too quickly for us to develop the replacement infrastructure necessary to support our energy use.  Personally, I think there is something to this as I do anticipate we will experience problems, but I don't think the transition will be so utterly abrupt that we can't at least partially replace the lost energy from petroleum, while simultaneously cutting back on unneeded/inefficient uses of energy.  

I also think that if it got to the point where it was an absolute emergency, the government would step in and mandate that all our resources go into developing the new energy resources.  A "war on energy" as it were.  

the government would step in and mandate that all our resources go into developing the new energy resources.
This is one of the things I'm afraid of.  Given the propensity of governments world-wide to allocate money to efforts which benefit the well-connected instead of yielding the best payoff, I have no confidence that such panic moves would do anything except excite a huge backlash and/or collapse the economy.

The only fix I can see is to tax the bad stuff but not the renewable stuff and let people sort out what works; people will invest money in things which aren't taxed (look at tax shelters).  We have to do this soon, or we won't have the margins to make it move fast enough.

Given the propensity of governments world-wide to allocate money to efforts which benefit the well-connected instead of yielding the best payoff

Versus :

The only fix I can see is to tax the bad stuff but not the renewable stuff

WHO is issuing taxes?
A Poet indeed...
A government which taxes fossil fuels and carbon emissions and otherwise lets the system work isn't deciding the winners.
A government which taxes fossil fuels and carbon emissions...

But WHY would a government do that if "the propensity of governments world-wide [is] to allocate money to efforts which benefit the well-connected"?

And you wonder why a carbon tax is such a difficult thing to get through?  There's your answer.

Popular support can sometimes override the influence of special interests.  This requires an unusual focus of public attention on the issue.  We may be getting to that point; another hurricane season like last one might be sufficient all by itself.

Decidedly a poet!

What do you think "popular support" will ask for after "another hurricane season like last one"?
A LOWERING of taxes!
Because they are stupid.
And this has always been, this is why dictatorship works so fine a large minority of the populace is just too happy to contribute to the demise of the whole, and their own.

"Well, in fairness to the die-off scenario, I think part of the scenario is that petroleum based energy will run short too quickly for us to develop the replacement infrastructure necessary to support our energy use."

Discussions went beyond that to include "even if we get past the immediate fossil fuel energy problems we still have a good chance of killing ourselves off with climate change, resource degredation of water, soil, and air along with the wars that will accompany those issues. Coal won't last long either."

To me the issue was 9 to 10 billion people drawing down all planetary resources, not just fossil fuel depleation.

The die-off scenario assumes that we cannot bring ourselves to do what we know how to do

Sorry EP,
That bit of "sound" logic from the circular saw made my noodle spin one revolution too many.

We know how to do it (i.e., "how to bring ourselves to do it") which is why we cannot bring ourselves to do it because we know how to do it?

Can you bring that around one more time without letting it chase its own tail?

Engineer Humor: circular logic (get it? ha ha)
(Right click & view image for a close up of the logic circuits)

You read the "because" into that; I didn't put it there.

Detroit knew how to make very high MPG cars in the 1970's.  Detroit could not have built them if the knowledge was lacking, but the failure to build them given the knowledge was due more to a lack of incentive.  The US had the knowledge to develop better nuclear power plants years ago, but again the incentive was lacking (a great many people willed them not to be built - which some of them now regret).

The natives of Easter Island stripped it of trees because they probably didn't know any better.  We have options they did not; we know better, but the knowledge does nothing without the will to use it.

I interpret "knowing how to do it" as including knowing how to socially re-organize ourselves so we do do it.

Otherwise we are all-knowing emperors with no clothes on.

Make it so Scotty.

Humanity currently uses about 400 quads (quadrillion BTU) of energy per year.  The calculated power available from wind alone, world-wide, is about 72 terawatts or about 2180 quads per year (of pure electricity, no conversion losses).  Solar energy has no limits until several times that, and once you get yourself off Earth you've potentially got the entire output of a star to work with.

Not to mention the inefficiency of the way we use the current 400 quads.

I've always found Jay interesting to read, but he's just plain wrong in his conclusions. Some people will prosper post peak and some won't - evolution in action. But we won't all die off unless someone is nutty enough to start hurling nuclear weapons around...

The original post probably should have mentioned Jay's last post at The Dieoff Q&A rather than his farewell to dieoff.org, just as a warning to those who take dieoff too seriously:


Subject: the_dieoff_QA Reconsidered
> These lists have become toxic to me. I can't sleep. I feel
> ill. I am trying to break the addiction of these lists and
> move on to some other form of entertainment. If no one wants
> it, I will delete it so I can't go back.

[Of course, we may try to adapt to peak oil by burning every last bit of coal and tar sands and shale and methane hydrates that we can find instead of harnessing all that renewable energy - in which case global warming may induce a repeat of the permian extinction]


Prove Jay's theories wrong Big Guy. Really, I am personally calling you out to prove him wrong. =) I want you to:

A. State your income (a proxy for the economic activity you are engaged in. (economic activity = energy consumption)

B. Voluntarily take a 75% paycut

C. Report back after 2 months or so to this forum and others.

Regarding Jay's last message, here are some relevant quotes for you:

"the truth will set you free but it will make you sick"

"the problem with knowing the truth is sometimes you find it." (me)

"he who brings great knowledge also brings great sorrow" (somewhere in the Bible)

"Belief in No-Ledge is the only Knowledge we accept."

--Head Lemming (shortly after making his faith-filled pilgrimmage to river in Egypt)

Prove Jay's theories wrong Big Guy. Really, I am personally calling you out to prove him wrong. =) I want you to:

A. State your income (a proxy for the economic activity you are engaged in. (economic activity = energy consumption)

B. Voluntarily take a 75% paycut

C. Report back after 2 months or so to this forum and others.

Huh? Why would such a course on Big Gav's part be either necessary or sufficient to disprove Jay's theories?

It is transparently obvious that none of us who see what is coming have the power to save the world by our own personal efforts at conservation, though many or most of us make some effort in that direction because it doesn't feel right not to.

The moral imperative, if there is one, is to try to wake up enough people to actually make a difference. (And there are a number of possible kinds of "difference" that it could make, depending on how it all plays out.)

If people  who are aware and concerned aren't willing to voluntarily powerdown I don't see how we can expect others to do likewise?

Gav says Jay is wrong. It seems Gav thinks people will be willing to powerdown. I say "prove it with your own action." Not asking you to get 100 people to do it. Just asking you to "be the change you wish to see" and in doing so prove Jay Hanson wrong.

Again, one person powering down is a meaningless gesture. You yourself clearly understand this since you are fond of citing Jeavon's Paradox.

The hope for powerdown (and I thoroughly agree that it is a very slim hope) comes from the possibility that enough people will "get it" that voters (perhaps especially women) will, in effect, say to politicians: "your policies are guaranteeing misery for my children and they must be changed".

Also, Gav didn't really spell out in what way he found Jay's theories flawed. It seems a bit straw-man-ish to ascribe to him a belief that "people will be willing to powerdown".

I infered it from his other writings, but you are correct. It is a bit strawmanish, albeit not intentional.
My writings have changed in tone over the years (well, I think they have) - I don't even think powerdown is necessary now (although there are quite a few positives to the idea regardless).

For a while I tried to assemble evidence that would prove the dieoff (or at least collapse) theory.

After some time, I decided I couldn't do it without ignoring inconvenient facts (at least not on the basis of peak oil alone) - and, like you, I've studied a fairly wide range of related subjects in depth (I've also worked in the oil and power generation industries).

In fact, if I just looked at the science of harnessing our available energy sources, I ended up concluding we could probably grow our energy consumption over time until we reached a plateau defined by the amount of energy we could sustainably harness - mostly from the sun and the wind - whether or not we choose to do so is the question.

Arguing Jay's case based on psychology or genetics is the only way to go, because you can't do it on energy alone (although I'll hasten to add that I'm not trying to cast doubt on peak oil theory, just that people tend to discount a lot of viable alternatives, for one reason or another - and, of course, this means that economies can no longer be based so heavily on oil and gas as energy sources).

Rather than saying "oil production will decline and there will be dieoff", I would say "oil production will decline, and things will change"...

Interesting comment, and nice website.  I'd like to respond to your more optimistic "forecast".  First of all, you are Australian, so that may explain some differences in expected outcome.  In America, whenever someone predicts a more optimistic view, I have to wonder if they "get" the economics of our country, as well as the state of our government.  If the scientists and engineers and accountants could take over and do what would be logical to solve this countries problems including PO I'd have a much more optimistic view myself.  Daily headlines in my local news are a reminder of what is to come, considering as of yet, we haven't had gas shortages or significant price increases.
If the scientists and engineers and accountants could take over and do what would be logical

(Where in America do you live ... and does that moniker mean you are Superman's father?)

There you go again, believing that some "specialized" sub-population of ours has a monopoly on truth, justice, and the American Dream-weaving way.

Scientists and engineers and accountants are humans.
Humans are irrational.
Therefore it is highly unlikely that "they" will do what is "logical" regardless of their titles.

You're exactly right! Non-humans (space aliens or perhaps kitty-cats) should run this country!
If cats ran things, we would definitely already be in an extremely hedonistic powerdown scenario.  Most likely sleeping or lounging about 3/4th of the day, with short spurts of intense activity, lying in the warm sun, and generally being non-productive.
Didn't one of the Simpson episodes suggest that Democrats and Republicans are aliens, both from the same planet? It doesn't matter which way you vote, "they" (we) win.

Go ahead and laugh, but once this planet is un-terra formed to be more hospitable to our CO2 breathing species, we will take over. Nee-haha. Nee-haha.

It's not a war on "terror" you idiots.
It's a war on Terra.

Yes, and they'd immediately split the humans into two parties--those that loved them and those that hated them. There would definitely be blood in the streets. Imagine what the Lincoln bedroom and the oval office would look like!
Interesting comment, and nice website.  I'd like to respond to your more optimistic "forecast".  First of all, you are Australian, so that may explain some differences in expected outcome.  In America, whenever someone predicts a more optimistic view, I have to wonder if they "get" the economics of our country, as well as the state of our government.


I guess I should point out that no one who knows me well would call me an optimist. I'll also note that Australians are somewhere between British (often overly pessimistic) and Americans (often overly optimistic) in their outlook.

I am a realist though, and I try to base my pronouncements based on the facts (as far as I can discern them) rather than just feelings or ingrained beliefs.

I'm not sure why my statements are taken as "optimism" though - I'm not saying that economic turbulence or resource wars etc aren't possible, not that are leaders are competant  - just that civilisation won't collapse (due to peak oil) and cause the death of most of humanity.

Its not that an extreme position to be arguing...

"not that are leaders"

Sorry for the absence of spelling checking - make that "nor that our leaders"...

Yes, it is important to know that changes in the whole of society are made, or certainly expected to be made, by politicians. We claim to be living in democracies, so we get to influence them as well! How?
  • voting: a minor, formal way, its effectiveness depending on the available options, legislation etc.
  • become one yourself, in an existing or new party: time-consuming, unpredictable results
  • lead by example: powerdown yourself, to show it's possible
  • lobby: works better if you're rich
  • spread the word: choose you channel wisely, otherwise it will be drowned out in the MSM
Prove Jay's theories wrong Big Guy. Really, I am personally calling you out to prove him wrong. =) I want you to:

A. State your income (a proxy for the economic activity you are engaged in. (economic activity = energy consumption)

B. Voluntarily take a 75% paycut

C. Report back after 2 months or so to this forum and others.

Well - I could write a long post on this (and I in fact I will when I get back to posting in a few weeks time - look out for a long winded essay I'll call "Our Energy Future") so I'll refrain from trying to disprove the dieoff theory in this response.

But the short version is to simply repeat E-P's point - there is enough renewable energy available to meet far more than our current energy needs even if you only consider solar and wind.

There are also a number of other energy sources of various levels of desirability (biofuels, tar sands, NGL, coal to liquids, nuclear etc) that could meet our current energy consumption for a period of time.

And, of course, there are huge efficiency gains that can be made in all areas of energy consumption.

I believe that some people (and countries) will adapt to oil depletion well, and some won't - but I think peak oil initiated dieoff is just a myth - an interesting one, but no more true than myths about the end of the world in 2012 or whatever.

On a personal note I'd point out my energy consumption has dropped dramatically over the past 3 years or so - I used to fly somewhere every fortnight - now I fly maybe twice a year. I used to have a long commute - now I walk to work and rarely drive long distances at all. I'm putting solar panels on my house this summer.

Think of reducing oil consumption (out of necessity) as largely a reconfiguration exercise - of your own lifestyle in particular and of the economy in general.

And I don't believe anyone's income needs to drop as a result.

[I might add I don't have any problem with peak oil fear campaigns as a way of getting people to wake up - be it LATOC or, at its most extreme, dieoff - but I don't think doomerism is all that helpful once people are aware of the problem]

so bascially you joined the "technology will save us camp"?
so bascially you joined the "technology will save us camp"?

I think I'll paraphrase one of the Marx brothers and say that I wouldn't want to be a member of any camp that would have me :-)

Do I think technology will save us ? Well - while I tend to despise knee-jerk libertarian or conservative responses to peak opil that basically say "have faith, the market will provide" or somesuch mystical nonsense, I think that the key questions to consider are:

  1. How much energy do we need to run the world in a way that can provide a decent standard of living for 6 billion people (increasing up to a peak of around 9 billion) - which needs to be done without destroying the environment

  2. Is there enough energy available to us that can be harvested to provide this,


3. Can we make enough efficiency gains to use the available energy

If you look at all the alternatives, the answer seems to be yes to all 3 of these.

Maybe we can debate this when I get around to writing my post - I'm never particularly fixed in my views and will consider counter-arguments to any and all points...

If you look at all the alternatives, the answer seems to be yes to all 3 of these.

If Peak Energy were the only problem AND expected to be smooth enough then may be, just may be.
But Peak Energy is not the only problem, hence guaranteed collapse.
The only interesting question is: What can possibly be scavenged?

I suggest this as a possible approach to the investigation of this kind of questions and assessment of the responses:

What normative duties do we owe to future generations? [PDF]

Ruminations of a lawyer!

If Peak Energy were the only problem AND expected to be smooth enough then may be, just may be.
But Peak Energy is not the only problem, hence guaranteed collapse.

Well - you're right that peak energy combined with all the other limits to growth makes the problem a lot more interesting, and collapse is a possibility.

I wouldn't agree its guaranteed though - but I'm glad to see that the idea that energy isn't the only problem is being acknowledged - I see the difficulty to dealing with peak oil as being one which doesn't involve exacerbating other problems - hence my bearish attitude towards shale, ctl, tar sands, some biofuels, nuclear etc

(and I in fact I will when I get back to posting in a few weeks time)

Yeah damn it. When will you? What is this hibernation business? Yours is one of the best sites on covering global concerns. Keep up the great work. :-)

Hibernating means taking a break from scanning all the news and posting every day.

Initially this was so I could get a few other jobs done, but I promptly managed to put my neck out by spending too much time working so now its more because I need to spend less time in front of the computer...

I don't think doomerism is all that helpful once people are aware of the problem

Good point.
We have two choices:

  • Curl up and die.
  • Do something about it.
Good point.
But we have three choices:

    * Curl up and die.
    * Do something about it.
    * Do something about it, then curl up and die.

But then... curling up and dying qualifies as doing something about it... so...

We have one choice:

    * Curl up and die.

Also, we can drink some champagne "On the Beach" in Australia, have some car races & then end it with a crash & burn :-)
my theory is that most peak oilers are into peak oil either to make money, make friends, gain political/social power or promote a pre-existing ideology/beleif system. (this applies to me too.)  This is just an observation of human nature not an "accusation" of bad behavior or ill-intent.

The problem with Jay's theories, well not really a "problem" but more of why they aren't accepted readily by the typical peak oiler is this: once you understand the genetic aspect of the "thermodynamic-genetic collission" it becomes next to impossible to sell/promote sustainability or a powerdown type ideology, which is the political baggage many peak oilers bring with them to this issue.

It's also hard to make yourself more popular (politics) if you say "well the choice is between everybody being broke and everybody being extinct but since we're wired not to voluntarily go broke we're goiong extinct. Have a nice day!"

Sometimes people will say to me "Matt you know doom-and-gloom sells books don't you?" I say well yes it does but it sells much better if at the end you  either have a solutioin or promise/suggest the reader's tribe will somehow ascend to some  higher level of status be it the Christian's "millenium of peace", the enviromentalist's "great turning", etc.

If you don't have that at the end of your doom and gloom schpiel, you're a lot less popular and make a lot less money and a lot less friends/fans/readers then you would if you could believe in something akin to "the great turning."

So it's a bit of a weird paradox: people can't come to see that Jay's model of social fitness is highly accurate without impairing their own level of social fitness. Thus people have a strong incentive not to understand the most important aspect of the problem.

my theory is that most peak oilers are into peak oil either to make money, make friends, gain political/social power or promote a pre-existing ideology/beleif system.

Mine's the latter, plus, even more base, to say: 'told you so.'

With all due respect:


Both you and Jay exhibit the limitations of the autodidact. There are lots of things (such as history, archeology, the history of scientific methods, and a few dozen other topics from art through zoology) where you have shown that you are not particularly familiar with the literature.

Your line of reasoning, though plausible, is excessively narrow and dogmatic.

I make no claims to knowledge of the future. IMO, it is frivolous to do so.

Of course, Jay may be correct.

But the "moderate" optimists (e.g. Lou Grinzo) have an equal chance of being correct.

As stated before, I live as if each extreme has a fifty-fifty chance of coming to pass; that way I should be ready for anything in between.

And why have you found a mate yet, if your theory is so fine? Where are your first four children? Time is a wastin'.

Best wishes,


Regarding a mate and 4 children: see my post below. That's also kind of a personal attack. If you want to engage it that then so be it: a man as "successfull" with the ladies and in life as you claim to be would not feel the need or have the desire to come on an internet forum and repeatedly announce his success to the world.

I don't claim to "know the future." But humans are wired to maximize their social fitness. In an environment of declining resource availablity the outcome is going to be perpetual conflict, at least on a macro or intertribal level.

Sorry Matt, I forgot the smiley face;-)

(Oh boy, and talk about somebody who cannot take a joke . . . .)

The problem with your logic, Matt, is that you are surpressing heaps of relevant evidence. When you look at that evidence (and again I'll cite Lou Grinzo), you will not come to your deterministic conclusions.

Also, you claim to have some understanding of evolutionary biology:

  1. How many classes in college biology did you have?
  2. How many classes in human genetics did you have?

Just to be fair, I had six biology classes in college and one in general genetics plus one in human genetics.

I am puzzled as to what your claim to knowledge is based on.

And please, learn to take a joke.

Lots of laymen's reading: books and article. No formal education in these matters. But I did spend 3 years in law school which is as close an approximation of life out in the wild as you will find within the confines of civilization.

I get the sense you're engaging in a pit of a dick size contest. First it was "you've got no wife and 4 kids" and now it's "you haven't taken 6 classes in such and such."

If my conclusions are inaccurate, why is the world lurching towards increasing inter-tribal conflict in resource rich parts of the world  just as those resources are going into decline? And doing so at an ever accelerating pace?

You might point to a counter example here and there but the reality is that for every $1 being spent on potentially peaecfull or sustainable ways of dealing with this there are $1,000,0000 being spent on the old fashioned way: going to war to take stuff from the other tribe.

With all due respect and no attack intended or implied on your integrity or good will:

What you learned in law school is how to make the weaker argument appear the stronger. That is the main thing taught in law school, ever since law-school teachers were called sophists by Socrates c. 399 B.C.E.

When it comes to biology, I pay attention to biologists.

If I need a lawyer, I go to one of the two honest and competent ones;-) I happen to know and do business with in the state of Minnesota.

It is beyond my understanding as to how three years in law school supposedly gives you the skills to assess the claims of e.g. Robin Wright (one of my favorites, BTW) or Richard Dawkins (not one of my favorites).

Note that assessing credentials is not ad hominem fallacy where credentials are relevant.

Don, you need to learn to spot a joke. Law school analogized to life in the wild? I thought the joke would have been obvious.

Demanding credentials in an internet debate where one person is anonymous = dick size contest of the worst kind.

And the "lawyers are trained to make the weaker argument look stronger" is translated into realspeak "your dick (curriculim vitae) is not as thick as mine."

If you truly felt you had the more persuasive argument on this particular matter you wouldn't be demanding I whip it out.

I'm really sorry to see you demand that I whip my dick out. I hate to embarrass others with their relative inadequacy;-)

But there is a much more important point.

Stuart does not claim universal knowledge. Khebab does not. Even Leanan does not. I don't.

Please excuse me for asking, but is it not correct that credentials (schooling plus experience) is relevant?

So Jay Hanson has single-handed a sailboat for four years. Good. That gives him boat-handling credentials. But as an engineer, where does he get his "seer" credentials from???????

Credentials are not always relevant. What were Einstein's credentials? Edison's? Tesla's? Sometimes when dealing with new fields, there are no credentials to be had. I had a friend 30+ years ago who wanted to study genetics but there were literally no programs in genetics at the undergrad level at that time. So instead he studied biochemistry for his B.S. and his Ph.D. It was "close enough" as he put it, and it let him get his foot in the door.

So while you may (emphasis on may) have a valid point about credentials here, you might also be wrong. This might be one of those cases where credentials are less important than you think.

Just something to consider, Don.

Einstein presented the testable hypothesis that gravity could bend the path of light. Its confirmation in 1919 is what made Einstein a man to be listened to. Edison built machines as proof of his ideas. Tesla had some sucesses early in his life but eventually failed in confirming many of his later ideas.
Has Jay Hanson or any of his devotees presented a testable hypothesis or built a machine that makes him someone worth listening to. If he is basing his predictions on data gathered from other authors then his logic is the equivalent of the logic of theologians, not that of scientists. I predicted that we would eventually invade Iraq in 1991 because Daddy Bush didn't finish the job he started. Does that prediction make me a prophet? Absolutely not.
Dear Matt:

Some people are mercenaries. Perhaps you are one (it seems to be common among lawyers). If so, thats your business -- it doesnt concern me.

However, your constant commentary that ALL posters are motivated by money or some other form of greed or desire gets really tiresome.

How about moving on to another topic?


I suggest you lobby our TOD overlords for an "ignore" button. If and when such a button is implemented you can plug my name into it.

For the record: t's not "greed", it's social fitness. You clearly don't understand the point or you would not have used the word greed. For some it is friends, some money, some social power, recognition, etc. As I usually state, these things are not inherently good or bad in and of themselves. That judgement depends on your tribal norms, the particular situation, etc.

Given the topic at hand here: Jay Hanson's writings, much of which focus on human behavior and motivation, my commentary regarding people's motivation's is quite relevant. You don't see me over on the Cantarell thread yelling, "Dave the only reason you think Cantarell is peaked is cause you're trying to do X" now do you?

Matt- I don't disagree about your listing of motives, but it's not complete. There is an additional set of less-mercenary motives among many or most of the posters here, including intellectual curiosity, need for cognition, and altruism. Multiple motives probably do operate simultaneously.

Throughout human history, we have seen a lot of bad behaviour, but there are always a few who act selflessly, and put the welfare of others first. I trust, when the going gets difficult, that we will see some similar nobility again. The best in the human spirit often becomes apparent under the worst circumstances.

AGain, you're misunderstanding: social fitness is not necessarily "mercenary."

Let's say I link on LATOC to an article on TOD. Why am I doing that? Deep down, it advances my own fitness: having a more complete daily update tends to attract more readers to my site thus resulting in me accumulating more more social fitness.

Is that "greedy" or "mercneray"? I supposse in some twisted way you could characterize it as such. I'm not doing it for purely altruistic reasons though.

Peak Oil is loaded with psychological implications. I don't think you  can begin to address those unless you understand motives, including your own. As an example:

"Do you really want to promote sustainability, peak oil awareness, or do you want to promote your own social fitness?"

Somebody who thinks they really do want to promote sustainability will ultimately end up depressed and/or broke since they will be aiming for something that is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

Attempting to raise PO awareness while not impossible is generally met with failure or (at best) minor success. The person ends up depressed and can't quite figure out why. . .  Well part of the reason is they really understand what they were trying to do by promoting PO awareness.

If said person understands their true motives (advancing social fitness) they may encounter success and perhaps as a side effect depending on what avenue(s) they choose to pursue this fitness actually succeed in promoting a less consumptive lifestyle.

You have a model that works for you, and that's fine. I don't disagree, as far as it goes. I just happen to believe that people, and the world, are more complicated (and less bleak) than that. Watch Akira Kurosawa's classic movie Rashomon, where the same event is retold in vastly different ways by different people. Truth is slippery.

Lots of people undertake tasks that they know can only be partially achieved. They take joy in their accomplishments, even though they are unable to wholly change the world. It doesn't have to end in depression and bankruptcy.

I promise you, altruism does exist. Things are not either-or, nor exclusively black or white. Sure, the world has experienced awful things. And they make the moments of beauty and grace all the more precious by their contrast.

Lots of life is about the journey, not arriving at a fixed destination. Asking "Are we there yet?" is the wrong question. As Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, "There is no there there." Enjoy the ride, even if you have to do something that doesn't improve your social fitness.

I agree, altruism does exist! Where have I stated otherwise? But the altruism is still geared towards advancing one's own interests or the interests of one's tribe, and in most cases (all?) it's ultimate aim is to increase the amount of life support resources (energy) available to one and/or one's tribe.
This has echoes of the whole "free will" debate - in that yes when you boil things down far enough we're just automatons, and (more echoes) when you boil bodies down far enough we're maybe $20 worth of atomic elements, but you miss a lot of interesting and relevant info if you choose(!) to only look at it at that level.

Related, Google  "Lanier's Second Law"  (edge.org world question center 2004) -
"You have to draw a Circle of Empathy around yourself and others in order to be moral. If you include too much in the circle, you become incompetent, while if you include too little you become cruel. This is the "Normal form" of the eternal liberal/conservative dichotomy."

It's true that we don't always realize what our motives are.
It's also true that sometimes we _don't_ behave so as to maximize our inclusive fitness.  (these instances could be viewed as pathologies from an evolutionary standpoint, if you'd like)

Nicely put, and glad that something compelled(!) you to respond.

Inclusive fitness makes me uncomfortable because it explains altruism as a means towards the end of maximising offspring. Then the whole concept breaks down: altruism becomes "altruism," just another self-serving way of getting what I want. It reduces the idea to a bad pick-up line in a singles bar. I can't help it(!), but I think we're better than that.

So if instances of altruism or kindness are pathological, or even subconscious, bring 'em on. And let's hope that those pathological organisms have hordes of children, and that they teach them well, and that people give them lots of food and land because they are nice. And maybe, through genes and culture, good becomes more prevalent.

Could you cite some examples? My guess is most of them will be ones in which an individual or group of individuals hurt their own inclusive fitness but to the (perceived) benefit of their tribe or klan.
Different people draw the 'tribe' boundary at different radii.
For some it includes only self, for others self plus relatives, for others religion, for others country, for others world.

And at different stages of life we may draw the boundary differently, also it might change depending on our level of perceived 'safety'. (We reach out to the people of New Orleans but if there were a thousand simultaneous Katrinas we likely wouldn't.)

When it extends to cute kids from other countries, or pets, or pandas, it isn't doing much for one's inclusive fitness, in any significant sense of the term.

When it extends to cute kids from other countries, or pets, or pandas, it isn't doing much for one's inclusive fitness, in any significant sense of the term.

Of course, instincts are mechanisms they are not teleological, have no "intelligence", so they work whenever the stimulus is close enough to the "right" goal.
Neither these failures nor the individual variability (different radii) disprove the fact that these behaviors have been selected for their incidence on inclusive fitness :


You could look at altruism as being a "natural" strategy (in the Richard Dawkins "selfish gene" sense) that survives because it is a successful strategy. Left-handedness is theorized to be the same kind of strategy perhaps.

Of course as the conditions that prefer the continuation of a strategy change then the strategy can become either more or less "preferred". The individual doesn't necessarily need to understand why "they are the way they are"; perhaps they don't "want" to be altruistic, they just *are*.

I've since come to the conclusion that Don Sailorman is little more than an bitter, insecure, dirty old man and a failure in life, hence his predilection for hanging out here on TOD, trolling, and generally making inane swaggering comments that fail to impress.

Oh, and Matt's member is bigger than yours.

Once upon a time I had a big male dog, and my housemate's girlfriend had a little male dog.  The little dog was a free spirit, and one day when I and big dog were out, little dog exercised this freedom upon housemate's stereo speaker.  
When we returned, normally law-abiding big dog found the provocation too much to bear, and let fly.

am getting the strangest feeling of deja vu...

Though its possible you meant Robin Wright, I think you meant Robert Wright.

All Ive read is The Moral Animal which I thought was quite good.

You are correct. I meant "Robert Wright."

I make mistakes every day. Everybody makes mistakes.

The question is:

Do we promptly acknowledge and correct these mistakes and learn from them.

I learn by making mistakes (e.g., to type slower;-)

I thought you really meant "Robin Wright" (Penn) the actor (fm) in Forrest Gump and others.:)
Now that you mention it, I most certainly did mean BOTH Wrights. However, the Robin Wright was a Freudian slip, though an elegant one;-)
I had six biology classes in college and one in general genetics plus one in human genetics.

When was that ?

It wont matter to Don, he's a professor and all.  I'll leave it at that. :)
(Oh boy, and talk about somebody who cannot take a joke . . . .)

When Rush Limbaugh is called out over statemts he's made such is his defense when he's shown to be wrong.

Is that your final answer?

But the "moderate" optimists (e.g. Lou Grinzo) have an equal chance of being correct.

Sailorman, with all due respect:


I don't really know what you mean by "moderate optimists" but I assume you mean "no real problems", a rough road perhaps but in the end we will work things out.

If you look at a graph of human population growth, say on a 20,000-year scale, for the firs 99 percent of it looks like a horizontal line. Only if you look extremely close can you see a slight rise over the thousands of years. Then about 200 years ago it starts to rise sharply. And the last 100 years, of 0.5% of the graph, the line looks vertical, like it is going straight up. Only if you look extremely close can you detect a slight tilt to the right in the line.

Now if I were moderately optimistic, I would say this trend can continue. Perhaps a little rough going, but no real problems that we cannot work out in the long run. Sure water tables are dropping, the planet is getting warmer, the land is either blowing or washing away as deserts get larger, thousands of species are going extinct every year, grain supplies are dropping, and a host of other problems are starting to take their toll on the mass of human flesh.

And if all these things are not enough, we at the cusp of peak oil. And as energy starts to dwindle the food supply will surely do likewise. And as people start to starve, they start to get angry. They will blame the government, or the governments of other nations. They will blame their neighbors, they will blame the capitalists, they will blame "the powers that be", they will blame everyone and everything except the real culprit.

The real culprit is the evolutionary success of one primate, one animal that has so successful in multiplying its numbers that it has dramatically overshot its niche.

But if we are only moderately optimistic...well hell, our way of life may last another thousand years. Well, perhaps not but at least there is an equal chance that we will come out of this crisis with only a few bumps and knocks.

Yeah Right!

- The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialization, "Western civilization" or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of  the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious  primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human  advance has coincided with ecological devastation.
 - John Gray, "Straw Dogs"

Yeah, I miss Jay. He just loved this type of debate, and so do I.

Ron Patterson the Darwinian

I believe that we have an example, here, of age related comments and thinking, as explained in Jay's theory about the statistics of changing one's mind when one is older.  I always notice this on these TOD posts.  The older posters, in general, tend to be more optimistic, and less willing to accept a bleaker future.  I can see a couple of reasons for this, outside of Jay's biological theory.  1-It may not directly affect them, in their lifetime, 2-previous doomsday scenarios in their lifetimes haven't come true, thus they've been conditioned not to accept them, 3-age related wisdom which they've accumulated has led to more optimism, because being a pessimist gets one nowhere (though realism is good).

Most famous black man during the 1960s: Martin Luther King known for the saying "I have a dream"

Most famous musician during the 1960s: John Lennon or the Beetles  know for singing about peace, love, justice, etc.

Most famous black man AND most famous musician in 2006: rapper Fifty Cent known for the saying, "get rich or die trying."

Point is this:

During times where energy availabilty is increasing (1950s and 1960s) idealists and optimists are breeded.  The idealism or optimism gets programmed in by age 25 and, more or less, stays the same throughout life.

During times where energy availability is plateauing, more realists get breeded. Per-capita energy availability peaked in the mid 1970s in the world although the US has continued to climb but only because we have the most guns. As Fifty Cent might say, "get oil or die trying."

I think the older "optimists" are that way, often, because of the environment in which their neural connnections were formed, not because of a realistic look at verfiable reality.

but truth is subjective you say? Of course. There are only degrees of accuracy. To me, however, the perhaps most accurate model of what is "verifiable" is looking at how the money flows.

How much money being spent on endeavors the general TOD readership would characterize as optimistic? This includes renewable energy, organic farms, bicycles, mass transit, etc.

How much money being spent on pessimistc endeavors? This includes war, dirty energy, ICEs, etc.

If you follow the money, it's clear us pessimsts have the more accurate model of reality. That's where the money is going $1,000,000 to $1. But the older optimists can't truly understand the long term implciations because their neural connections were formed in the social-economic soup of the 1950s and 1960s, a time in which there always seemed to be a solution to whatever our societal problems were. ("if we can put a man on the moon . . ." thinking)

As far as being a pessimist getting you nowhere: where is Microhydro?

My question for Microhydro is, "How has your pessimism about the state of the global financial markets benefitted you?

If I remember correctly, MH has made more money in 2 years since becoming aware of these matters than in previous 20 years.

During a time of abundance, the optimist will kick the pessimists ass any day of the week.

But during a time of scarcity or decreasing abundance, the pessimist has the advantage. Think of two caveman during a famine. The optimist runs around burning up energy because he is optimistic he will find food. The pessimist gets depressed and goes and lays down.

Who lives longer? Who wins? In this case it's the pessimist because he is not burning up energy chasing what does not exist. He might live long enough by conserving his energy that maybe a mastadon will wonder into the campsite or there will be some rainfall or something.

Now if there was lots of food out there then the optimist would get it and get more females while the pessimist sits alone in his cave. But in a famine the pessimist has a chance of living longer and then dining on the optimists' carcass once he expires.

Have a nice day =)

The sun has finally spun around to the South Pacific, I am awake now.  

Yes, my cautious approach to finances (learned from "Greatest Generation" parents) meant that I missed out on all the great liquidity driven asset bubbles of the Greenspan era.  Being a PO pessimist since reading "Limits to Growth" in 1972 didn't help either.

But now that TSHTF, like a "rough beast, its hour come round at last - Yeats", my time has come.  Even after a down week, my peak oil investments are still up 200% (the initial nest egg - my life savings - has tripled in nominal value).  Short term volatility is very high, but the secular trend completely confirms PO economic theory.

I'll stick with Matt, Microhydro, Dawkins, Heinberg, et al any time! And yes, if allowed to, humans will keep on buying SUVs right up until the end, then go back to the stone age - this is what every freakin' biologist, sociologist, historians, petroleum engineer, etc have been telling us through this whole Peak Oil "movement" if you wil.

That's EXACTLY the point. Humans are not smarter than yeast.

Now if you want to believe that technology will save us, or our wonderful new age liberal ideas will, or your 60+ year old humongous dick will, go right on ahead. But that's not what will happen.

We will either (a) fall off an energy cliff due to effeciencies in the overall system that allow us to guzzle healthily up until the end or (b) gradually do a slow slide downward, because ineffeciencies in the system slow the fall.

In neither case will it be a willing transition, we as a species will be dragged kicking and fighting, by our hair, through it all. We won't buy SUVs when we CAN'T buy SUVs, we won't burn gas when we CAN'T burn gas, we won't have 14 kids when we CAN'T have 14 kids, a point which interestingly we've pretty much passed in the "civilized" world - ppl are still having a lot more kids in the farming/warlord world that we call the 3rd.

Calling someone a failure according to the criteria of the McDrive-In society is  nuts. Calling someone a failure according to the farming-warlord model is nuts too, because a whole lot of ppl are going to die with no regard to their merits, you might as well just take some random drop grub-grubbers and hand them the crown as Kings of the remaining human race. I myself don't have kids either, and deep down, it's because I don't want to subject kids to what I went through, only as far as I can tell worse, since the whole trajectory for everyone but the top 10% or so in the US has been DOWN.

I'd call Matt a success, and I'd call him a success if he were living in a cardboard box but knew how to forage. He's won the crown of success in my book simply because he's done what very very few have, he's set aside career and careerism to follow what's so obviously coming down the pike right at us. I doubt his web page is making money, I doubt he is either, frankly. He's subject to every "hit' in the book including being stuck in Guantanamo for having his page, since as we've been seeing, just about anything can get you put there, including citing publicly published articles.

Everything written and studied by a real scientist concerning Peak OIl points to one thing, that we're in for a very bleak future. No amount of wishing or ad hominem attacks is going to get us out of this. What's especially striking is the Tainteresque decrease in returns for increasing complexity - I'm seeing it myself, where people washing windows are making more than engineers, especially out of work engineers but engineers in general. Where a guy collecting bottles and cans is making more than most of the office workers in the valley. Where I myself am looking at the bright future, and it's the brightest indeed, in tooting my horn (literally!) on the street or sketching portraits in coffee shops on a $5 sketch pad, it will be one or the other, depends on how the horn goes. Everyone is finding this out, Clifford Stoll was ahead of time about a decade on this when we wrote Silicon Snake OIl, all this wonderful tech is just a way to get people working harder and harder for the samep pay. Now you not only have to work to support not only the mass of humans, their animals, and machines, but the damned computers too. The computers were supposed to become smart enough to pull their own weight, but AI has been a real failure. We're not headed for an Asimovian future, we're headed for a Malthusian one.

So let's stop with the pissing contests and discuss Peak Oil and your (and my) crappy future and face it.

but AI has been a real failure

Though I am no singularitarian I expect some wondrous/nasty surprises (depending on your point of view) from AI.
How will this interact with the various decays and collapses is an entirely different question.
I mean this will not bring some "miracle cure" just making things more "interesting".

"May You Live in Interesting Times"

"I doubt his web page is making money, I doubt he is either, frankly"

In the last 12 months I've made an income comparable to what an attorney at a small firm would make. After self-employment taxes, loan repayment, etc, it is reduced by a significant percentage. Overall it hasn't been enough to start my cult but I can't exactly complain either.

You won't see my pleaing poverty or presenting myself as some type of peak oil martyr.

And my solar site has shown great promise given I've only had 2 products for sale, one of which is probably beyond many people's ability to pay (the sun oven is $200 or so).

Overall, I'd have to say my subconscious has served me reasonably well. My career as a prophet of doom may not have been quite as monetarily profitable as a my career as an attorney but I've gained in social capital whatever I may have lost in financial capital. As an example, I just got an email from a female TOD reader inviting me to possibly live in her getting-off-the-grid community as "seed crystal."

You can't beat that.



AlphaMaleProfitFromDoom indeed!
Good luck with that. -- SpongeBob
You ever heard of Ice-nine?
Microhydro -- I'd be very interested to know your financial strategy. Have you written/posted about this elsewhere? Have any links or other sources you'd care to share? Thanks much.
The times in which one is raised make a huge difference. We in the boomer cohort were fed the idea that "Progress is Our Most Important Product," and we all knew it was true. Vietnam put an emotional damper on things for awhile, but then we got back with the program. As the peak transpires, there will be a lot of denial in this group. When your expectations are this high, cutting back will be a real shock.

Cohort is one lens; culture is another. Only after I emigrated from the US did I truly realize how strong and pervasive American culture is. The most energy-intensive culture on earth is (not surprisingly) a key model for the rest of the world. There is approach-avoidance (kind of hate Americans, but love their stuff), but the US seems to be the archetypal model nonetheless.

The world needs a more appropriate model, but that will take decades to establish. Culture changes real slow.

Rick --what country did you emmigrate to?
What part of American culture do you see from differently colored lenses now?
Just curious.

Obviously fish cannot see the ocean they swim in.

Came to New Zealand as a family 11 years ago. The change in perspective is subtle. I grew up knowing that America was the only model for a society, period. Cognitive dissonance hits when you see another model that can work.

The contrast: NZ works on a high-tax, moderate economic growth, high-social service model: free universal hospital care, subsidized universities, camp for all schoolkids, accident insurance for all including tourists, no right to sue for damages, housing available to everyone (though still refused by a few of the mentally ill), government budget perpetually in surplus. You start to think this is normal, and it changes your filtering.

I'd probably agree with most of the posters on TOD about the facts of America. The difference comes in the emotional sphere. The US now looks huge, wealthy, and naive. My eldest son--half his life in each country--describes Americans as "soft" and "whiners." American individualism has helped build some of the best the world can offer, but now seems to have a more apparent darkside: self-centered and self-absorbed, unaware of how others think, dangerously violent, even primitive.

The cultural trick for peak oil is to turn the strengths of American culture--ingenuity, energy, resolve, boundless self-confidence--towards solving [OK, mitigating] the problem. Unfettered individualism, looking out for #1, will lead towards the possible future that Matt Savinar and James Howard Kunstler let us glimpse. And we deserve a better future than that.

And add to that the fact that you NZ'ers hold the world map upside down!
I don't know if I buy that line of argument.  I'm 55, and I had no trouble at all coming to terms with the notion of calamity.  By the same token, I was driving a carful of 19 year olds for a few hours a while ago, and they were all discussing how bad things were likely to get in their lifetimes too.

If anything, I think the young'uns should be more optimistic, what with being imbued with that spirit of youthful invulnerability and all.  We greybeards OTOH are fond of reminiscing how things were so much better in the olden days and how the modern world is going to hell in a handbag.  There's a reason for these stereotypes - sometimes age and experience does teach us that things don't always get better.


I'm 21 and an optimist :)
I was considering over 65-70 "older".  Please don't consider yourself "old" at age 55!
Ron, you waste your energy presenting evidence to Sailorman because his MO is to present none.  
While demanding others present theirs, of course.  And if you do, he dismisses the research as inferior to his own "experience."  
Do you think a pilot's logbook is irrelevant to his or her ability as a pilot?   :-)

BTW, I am very uneasy flying in a plane unless I know the chief pilot has at least 5,000 hours at the yoke.

In general, these young whippersnappers do well to find the feces with a wad of bum fodder . . . even using both hands.

So there!


As a pilot, you would know that it's the low time and high time pilots that are the most dangerous.  The low time pilots because they don't have a lot of experience, and the high time pilots because they get overconfident and bungle something.  Pilots that manage to accumulate 5,000 hours generally fly oceanliners with wings and that shouldn't count as flight experience.  You've used a good example, but I don't think it works in your advantage.

Thank you for your constructive contribution to this debate.
You're welcome.
That is because he Kant deliver.

(Kant.  Get it?)

Don is a windbag about all he's read and claims is authorative.   When it comes to debate, he doesn't post "this link to X work explains why you are batshitinsine", instead he hand waves and hopes no one notices.

Please cite one single specific example of "hand-waving" by me.

I thank you in anticipation of your response to this challenge.

Please cite one single specific example of "hand-waving" by me.

The RR thead where you claimed to 'know' some 'mechanic' who 'knew' that Alchohol had better mileage than gasoline.

Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!  Give the man a prize.

I'll also mention the biofuel thread where he claimed you could grow and harvest switchgrass without ever fertilizing.  His "proof" was two 404 URLs, and a political piece he tried to pass off as "peer reviewed research."

Along with other grasses, switch grass can be repeatedly and indefinitely harvested without the use of fertilizer. This point is now genearlly accepted, and I wonder why you keep beating this dead horse. Of course, if you spread manure around, yields can be increased, as it is for alfalfa, but that does not prove that alfalfa cannot be grown and harvested indefinitely without fertilizer.

In regard to "peer reviewed" literature, the source I cited was based on multiple peer-reviewed studies, which you can easily verify by reading it.

I regret posting links that do not work, and since having done so on that one regrettable occasion, I no longer post links.

Thank you for your phenomenal memory.

Along with other grasses, switch grass can be repeatedly and indefinitely harvested without the use of fertilizer. Again, such a claim is BULLSHIT. If you do not re-apply the left over bits back to the field you will eventually remove the various micro and nano nutritional elements.
Yup.  Honestly, I can't believe anyone would still even try to make such a claim, after the thorough discussions (complete with links to actual peer-reviewed studies) we've had here.  

And I tracked down at least one of the 404 papers he posted.  It did NOT prove what he claimed.  I doubt there is any research that does.  You cannot keep harvesting any crop without putting something back.

Did you check out Switchgrass Sally and her sources? Now there is a woman who has done her homework.

BTW, switchgrass grows and has been harvested for generations WITHOUT FERTILIZER in one of the biggest fields in the county where I live. Such data is not hard to find.

Alas, none are so blind as those who will not listen;-)

BTW, switchgrass grows and has been harvested for generations WITHOUT FERTILIZER in one of the biggest fields in the county where I live. Such data is not hard to find.

And yet you can't be bothered to provide links to this data.   Because I'd LOVE to see a magical place that is able to take material from the soil and not replace it.  

Is this field owned by your automechanic?

Are you familiar with alfalfa?

Do you know how closely switchgrass is related to alfalfa?

Are you familiar with alfalfa?
Do you know how closely switchgrass is related to alfalfa?

Alfalfa has a root system that can go down 20+ feet, that is why it is a good feedstock for animals

But why are  you not providing links to this 'switchgrass field' and instead now trying to change the goalposts to alfalfa?

Why do you keep changing the subject.

Just go to "Switchgrass Sally" if you must have a website. Were I you, I'd go to the library and cultivate the reference librarians; they are some of my favorite people on earth.

They're not even in the same Division, Don. Only thing in common is Kingdom. Nice try at an irrelevant distraction.

Hey, look over there!

Ever heard of a concept called "convergent evolution"?

Ever talked to farmers who grow one or both crops?

I think it is time to have an ignore function :-(
I am really, really against censorship, even self censorship but this would rather be spam filtering.
Removing mindless content free drivel.

I find it works well to ignore the drivel of the hundred most stupid or most crazy posters here on TOD.

Are you on this list?

Look in the mirror.

I worked for the USDA for years, Don, and talked to and even visited with farmers daily.
Try again?
Is this field owned by your automechanic?

The field is owned by possibly the richest and most successful farmer in the three counties near where I live.

He has no reason to lie to me.

I believe that we can learn true and valid information by listening carefully to people who know more than we do, especially from people who have a great deal of experience.

He always grows more than one crop, e.g., corn and alfalfa. He likes switchgrass, but because all his land is prime he can make more money (most years) in other crops; alfalfa (because of its higher protein content) is a more valuable crop at the moment than switchgrass, but even so he has done nothing to eliminate switchgrass or other "weeds."

Just yesterday he was out on the tractor for fourteen hours getting the second cutting of hay, i.e., mostly alfalfa but also some rye grass, some wild oats and a bunch of other stuff too.

He never fertilizes any crop except corn, never irrigates anything.

The corn is in better shape here than I have ever seen for the end of July. The "green corn" full moon will actually bring a good time to harvest some of the bountiful corn crop; we have had 100% ideal growing conditions with just enough rainfall plus hot, very hot sunny days between the thunderstorms.

Sometimes he grows soybeans. In the six generations his family has owned most of the best land around here they have grown practically any crop you can think of, with the possible exception of sugar cane;-)

I live on Frenchman Road. The "Frenchman" in question was his fifth or sixth generation back great great great great great grandfather who came here sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Guys like this know things that most of us do not.

I do know the mechanic. You are welcome to his name, if you are truly interested. BTW, on that thread I cited written sources. Here is another one for people who would like to know how easy it is to actually run your car on ethanol, rather than to posture:

Jim Wortham & Barbara Whitener, FORGET THE GAS PUMPS--MAKE YOUR OWN FUEL, Madison, Indiana: Marathon Book Co., 1979.
ISBN 0-915216-43-4

To the best of my knowledge, the useful information in this book (as is the case with so many others) is not available online.

BTW, the scientific method includes logging observations. Do you have any objections to that method? Log books are the essence of science and a prerequisite for the replications that are at the heart of scientific methods.  

Alchohol had better mileage than gasoline.
Here is another one for people who would like to know how easy it is to actually run your car on ethanol, rather than to posture:

Nice try to re-frame the argument.
But the discussion was Alchohol had better mileage than gasoline. not run your car on ethanol,

Rather than admit you were wrong, you try to move the goalpost.

Please state my exact words that you think are wrong.

It seems to me that we have here a blatant example of the straw man fallacy--where you attack a position I never stated.

It is not clear to me what you think I actually claimed? What PRECISELY is it that you believe that I said.

Please do not quote out of context.

Thank you.

It should be possible to harvest indefinitely the parts the plants make with photosynthesis exclusively, since water and carbon dioxide circulate freely in the atmosphere. So everything derived from thos sugars (and that is most of the plant) could be harvested. But, if any other elements are taken away, they should be returned to the field - either in the form of manure, ash, or whatever. This is very important, and should be a major concern when trading organics: closing the nutrient cycle.
It looks like Don is deliberately obfuscating many issues.
May be he gets paid for that, that's no too kind to you to try to ruin his business :-)

It should be possible to harvest indefinitely the parts the plants make with photosynthesis exclusively, since water and carbon dioxide circulate freely in the atmosphere. Plants need more than CO2 and sunlight. They need sulfur, calicum, boron and a list of elements I just don't want to bother to go look up. If you harvest the plant material and do nothing to return the processed harvest back to the land (fertilize) you are 'strip mining' the soil and will deplete it over time.
Correct, this is the case.

Note that soil is being rebuilt all the time from natural processes including rain and wind. The trick is not to deplete the soil faster than it is being rebuilt, and this is a trick mastered by many many cultures over the past six thousand years--and by the family that owns the biggest farm in my county and that has been using sustainable practices for six generations--and before that for probably sixty generations in France.

It seems to me that we have here a blatant example of the straw man fallacy--where you attack a position I never stated.
You claimed that fuels with higher alcohol contents has better preformance. "The real world performance on E-85 is superior to the performance (both in terms of mileage and power) than the performance on regular 87 octane gasoline." http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/7/14/165254/278#195

It is not clear to me what you think I actually claimed?
Perhaps not understanding is how one gets "God Clearance."

In Minnesota, it has been the experience of every person I know of (O.K., that is only five) who runs a vehicle on E-85 that the performance (in terms of cost per mile and also in terms of things such as improved acceleration and diminished engine wear) that the vehicle performs significantly better on E-85 than on regular 87 octane gasoline.

Now when the Twins win five games in a row, that may be a meaningless coincidence. On the other hand, maybe it is not;-)

The destruction of the natural environment did not start when humans evolved. Humans are an animal that adapted to their environment. They were adapted to the environment. It's when they adapted the environment to give themselves more that it started. And this was led by relatively few people of the human population who coerced the rest.
It has never been my intention to attack anybody's integrity.

So, would you care to explain how you have not failed in your above claim?

attacking premises, faulty logic and questionable conclusions is not an attack on integrity.

Excuse me, but just where are you coming from in this regard?????

attacking premises, faulty logic and questionable conclusions is NOT an attack on integrity.

Yes this is legitimate in a controversy, not friendly but legitimate.
And even a real "attack on integrity" is legitimate.
May be you failed to study Schopenhauer?

(Don, this is not to be meant as personnal attack as we did not engage in a controversy, yet...)
I studied Schopenhaur (sp), detested him, and got the second highest grade in the class out of 212 students. Maybe I'd have been student #1 if I had better concealed my loathing of his disguised self-pity, his zany premises, and his pompous rantings in general.

Now Kant--there was a philosopher.


Bragging about your class stauts a few decades after the fact? Well I can do you one better: I finished in the top half of my law school class.*



*top half of the bottom half, that is

That fact raises my already high opinion of you. People in the top eighth of Boalt Hall's graduating class, for example, have corrupted and polluted their minds beyond repair.

Yours underwent only moderate and nonpermanent damage, as shown by you high quality posts. (Well about ninety percent are high quality, and who am I to cast stones?)

(What was that crashing noise at the nearby greenhouse? :=)

(ii) integrity as maintenance of identity; (iii) integrity as standing for something;
definition of Integrity

You, Don attack the identity of the alpha:
(and you claimed you were above such)
Both you and Jay exhibit the limitations of the autodidact.
autodidact /awtodidakt/ * noun a self-taught person.
Your line of reasoning..is excessively narrow and dogmatic.

Dogmatic: adj 1: characterized by arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles
So you, "Don Sailorman", are somehow claiming that the ideas of thermodynamics as cited at dieoff is unproveable? And why point out the self-taught claim./...do you have some issue wit self-taught claim? If you have an issue with self-taught, please show us copies of *YOUR* formal education. Links to photcopies about your years of education will be useful. Esp. the parts wher you know all abpout the methods of oil extraction, that way "we" all "know" about how you, "Don Sailorman" is a noted authority via your training at the hands of Aristotle

But the "moderate" optimists (e.g. Lou Grinzo) You, "Don Sailorman" keeps "quoting" this lou fellow. Fine. Why don't you provie the actual data that SUPPORTS your postion? Right now you have a bunch of hand waving about how this "Lou" is somehow more powerful than the laws of therodynamics that Jay has cited and the alpha has refernecsed.

If Jay is so wrong, where is YOUR well developed web site refuting what Jay has had to say?

Thank you for your inquiry.

My website is under construction. It will doubtless make me wealthy and famous--after all, isn't that why we do everything according to somebody;-)

To increase social fitness. Money is one way to do that. Giving it away is another.
Please don't blame Lou Grinzo for anything a third party attributes to him. His website: http://www.grinzo.com/energy/  Rick [not an "alias"]
I agree 100% with this, having experienced all the conflict and cognitive dissonance that goes with "getting" the fundamental insolubility that Jay talks about.  As a result of discussing my findings at too much length around home, I'm now under orders from SWMBO to talk about solutions, not problems.  And "But there really ARE NO solutions" doesn't cut it.  So if I want to communicate this looming catastrophe, I have to couch it in terms of "solutions" that I don't really believe will make any damn difference, except to marginally extend the comfort curve for extremely limited groups of people.

Which of course brings up two rather opposing questions.  First, if we truly believe there are no solutions, why are we compelled to spread this gospel and make ourselves look like millenialist Hale-Bopp kooks?  And the second is, what if we're wrong, and some kind of composite "solution" within a suitably circumscribed domain is in fact possible?  We could be wrong, you know.  Not saying we are (and I don't even think we are) but we could be...

I go back and forth on the solutions vs. no real solutions issue too. Most of the time it seems to me like there are no real solutions, but then 75% of the time that I have that thought, I ask myself whether I only believe that because inaction is ever so much easier than activism and proselytizing.

I remember telling a colleague about PO last year. I was then out of touch with him for a year, and saw him again in June. He asked me whether I still believed in peak oil, and I said that I did, but that I didn't go about talking about it so much anymore because I'd come to terms with it. I told him that the difference between me and my friends/colleagues was that when the disaster finally comes, I'll have already come to terms with it whereas other people will really be freaking out about it. There is some comfort in being at peace, so maybe that's the reason to keep proselytizing.


In our culture, and perhaps all human culture,s offering seemingly viable "solutions" to problmesis a great way to increase one's social fitness.

I think you're brain is trying to grapple with how to best raise your social fitness. On the hand there seems to be no **real* solutions. But the brain does not want to accept that because if it did, opportunities for increasing social fitness would be reduced. So in a fit of mental gymnastics, the brains says, "ahhh . . . there MUST be solutions, I am simply not seeing them because I am a lazy ass looking to justify for my own lazy-assness!"

This has the effect of getting the person back to working towards and offering solutions (at least temporarily) which raises the person's social fitness, or at least that is the intention.

I do feel the brain can rewire itself to reconcile day-to-day activities with the knowledge that there are no *real solutions. This is particularly true for brains such as yours (female brains) as women's brain matter is composed disproportionatley of white matter which is responsible for forming and reforming neural connections.

I have considered writing an article on this reconciliation and rewiring process but it is very difficult thing to explain elegantly.

I did not intend to bold any of that. If any of the TOD overlords wish to tap into the TOD matrix and debold feel free to do so.
Unfortunately, Scoop doesn't allow us to fix these kinds of mistakes without first deleting the post. You appear to have been a victim of auto-format. So, we know you didn't mean the bolding.

As for the second part of it, I don't know about that...If it were really about my social fitness, then I already would have gotten off my lazy ass and tried to make a difference (compare, for example, peakguy, who got into it about the same time that I did and now has his own community organization up and running). No, I think I'm just a lazy, selfish ass.


Jay did propose the implementation of a "sloth society" whereby most people would essentially be paid to stay at home and do nothing. This would have the effect of reducing economic output (demand for energy) to the bare minium necessary to produce food, medicine, etc.

So you may think of yourself as a "lazy ass", in truth you may be a model citizen of a sustainable society!

Re: "sloth society"

Where do I sign up?

N.B., this is NOT an original idea.

See H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and most especially Kurt Vonnegut, "Player Piano."

Not to mention Bertrand Russell:


I also enjoyed this meditation on the virtues of sloth a few years ago...


Has anybody talked to Bill Gates about this yet? I'm sure a composite soma+contraceptive pill could be worked out.
It has been perfected. It is known as "TV" or "television."

There are definitely solutions. But defining 'solutions' presupposes that we know, on a deeper level, what the meaning of life is. Is it the most humans? the most happy humans? the most happy sentient creatures? the present value of the most happy sentient creatures of all futures generations weighted by their sentience?

Peak Oil, overshoot, climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, hunger, etc are all symptoms of a full planet. Solutions for the few may be different than for the many. I have no doubt that community (based on strong reciprocity) will be key to future human life on the planet. Successful areas will have communities surrounded by communities surrounded by more communitities. The ones at the center will be much more insulated from chaos. This will be a cultural phenomenon that will not spread everywhere - to understand the mechanisms of how it could spread is one of my core interests - there is a large intersection with that path and Jays ideas.

I firmly believe in evolved behavioral constructs, but I also am inclined to believe in multi-level selection - where between-group selection pressure is as large as within-group selection. In any case, even if the dieoff crowd is right and the human population is cut in half, that implies that the other half will still need a road map towards sustainability. The more we understand of our behaviour, the more we a) can steer society towards less painful crash and b) improve the lives of future generations of those who survive and (more subtlely) c) live a life worth living by the feelings we get from our efforts(keep slugging both for ourselves and for a better world)

Don't we have models that say we can get through this?
Cuba after the Soviets stopped the oil

Sweeden and Switzerland during WWII

The US in the early 30's during the great depression.

speculation on human nature vs. models of collaspe? Is history a social science?

In those earlier crises, people probably pulled together to rebuild their civilization. In this crisis, we will breath a sigh of relief and quickly recognize how much better we are without electricity, cars, and phones.
Swedens success in keeping its population supplied partly depended on experiencing the same problems during WW1 where we had some food riots. Our country were not as isolated then but the organization were not as good.

A PO related curiosity is that one of the problems during WW1 where the lack of US lamp oil wich gave a major boost to general electrification to replace oil lamps with light bulbs.
Significant technological and industrial development happend between WW1 and WW2. The WW2 equivalent to the WW1 electrification were a massive electrification of railways, some of that investment is still in use since it is durabe stuff. Most of it will soon be gone, in large part due to high speed trains needing higher line tension and so on. They also used less efficient corossion protection back then.

During WW2 we had extreme weather, some very cold winters and some very dry summers. An odd solution to this where to use certain kinds of paper pulp as emergency food for cows.

Trade were continued in a more cynical way then during WW1
and that lead to much of the emergency civil defence stockpiles being larger at the end of WW2 then at the beginning. Wich is good since you dont know when its going to get worse, store the excess while you can.

We have not had any "rehersal" for PO although much of the investments done during earlier short lived oil crisises have been maintained and much of the then started practices have continued to be followed.

I guess there is a reasonable chance that PO will give cyclical depressions, we have to instuitutionalise the learning in each cycle to be better prepaired for the next one.

What is going on right now are broad but not mobilization level investments in railways, almost everything new is electrified. Continued investments in the large district heating and district cooling systems, most often combined with electricity production. The trend for nuclear downsizing is changing to building athough so far only with upratings. All levels of the grid infrastructure seem to have have investments above the replacement rate with a focus on making it storm resistant. E85 is established and biogas is being estblished country wide.Private investments seem to be booming ethanol and biodiesel production capacity beyond the local farming output. Wood pellet production is booming and heating oil use is quicly going extinct as has been a trend since the 70:s oil crisis. The car fleet is mostly large, old and inefficient but all local car manufacturers are working on hybrids and "green cars" are popular. There is a general drive for efficiency in heating and cooling and so on in buildings and business but lots is left to do.

All in all its fairly ok for not having experienced a small peak within a generation. The details I would like to add are more urban rail and planning and taking a chance with a mass installation of electricity outlets for plug in hybrids and EV:s. If all public parking intended for one hour and up had such it might make the Swedish market into a good test market for such wehicels. And we have a grid that could handle it both at peoples homes and at public parking places although there would be need for transformer upratings since a success with a full carpark is several kA at 400V.

The following years will be quite intresting. I wonder if I could establish myself in the wood pellet making business?

I go back and forth on the solutions vs. no real solutions issue too.

There are 'solutions' - but many people won't like them.  

The energy consuming life is simpler.

I remember telling a colleague about PO last year

One can not 'unhear'.  

maybe that's the reason to keep proselytizing.

If no one knows of a bit of data, no one can form their own opinion.   To talk about the data with others MIGHT start them thinking and acting in a more positive way

"There are 'solutions' - but many people won't like them."

Yup.  There are many solutions, but people sure aren't going to be happy when they are forced to switch to them.  How does that Monbiot quote go?  "Fighting like cats in a sack?"  

There are solutions, but they are small scale, personal, family and community oriented.

My wife and I are working on creating a relatively sustainable lifestyle (energy self sufficient house, permaculture garden, greehouse with solar powered bathtub, etc.) on the edge of a small town, where we have a lot of friends and relatives. THere is very little interest in peak oil issues right now, but I expect a sea change at some point, with a massive rush to "get sustainable."

Therefore, we figure that we'll figure out as many solutions as possible (how to productively garden, for instance), and when the neighborhood suddenly wants to garden, we can give advice and crank out vegetable plant starts in the greenhouse. A packet of seeds can start dozens of plants, and usually you end up with too many.

We figure we'll ask people to "pay it forward" and thereby help jumpstart the transition.

I don't believe there will be any progress towards effecting a transition until the evidence for a "conventional wisdom" deadend is unavoidable.

Twenty five years ago, when I got out of the military, I went through a desert survival course through Brigham Young U. (I was one of the few "gentiles.") They taught and firmly believed in "survival as a community." Survival as an atomized individual has little meaning.

Any progress towards sustainability after the crash will be local and community, and the Mormons will be way ahead of 98% of the gentiles. You can convert when the going gets tough, or you can do what they do and start your own "transition system."

And as for Jay Hanson, I first read his stuff in the late 90s, and it was well put together; but it was just an erudite compilation of what many of us have thought since the "back to the land" movement of the 70s.

To summarize, it's conceivable that there could be a 90% dieoff over the next century, with most of it coming through military action (history is one social science which is VERY relevant. Try reading about the late middle ages!) But the other 10% still equals 650,000,000 people. The people who will survive are those who work together as a community and find sustainable solutions; who are lucky (location, soil fertility, being in the right spot after possible climate change, etc.), and either collectively protect themselves or become "new peasants" under the new miitarists (they need to eat too...)

Well, so much for jaw jacking. Time to finish my greenhouse and put up the new shade structure!  


Ok, there are a few of us who plan on surviving by being ready.  Fine.  But, unlike other forums, TOD is gentiel (sp) and doesn't get into discussing whacking people who want to take what you have...and that's what it will eventually come down to. I'm one of the old farts here and may not see this but I am not discounting this possibility.

This entire thread is full of mental masturbation from people who aren't doing it and, probably, never will.  Here are the two potential futures; Jay's and muddling through with some kind of status quo.  There is no middle ground.  Yet, there seems to be this impetus to believe that life can go on as it is if we only...

I've posted this link before but I'll do it one more time:


Six hundred pages of what might happen after an EMP.  This probably has more applicability then most of the stuff here.


There are no solutions, only strategies.
There are probably no solutions. Except that there are solutions to oil shortages which lead to other problems such as global warming which leads us back to no solutions.  As of right now, I don't see that there are any solutions but I continue to torture others with little factoids like we have now reached peak grain, which means that the impacts of global warming are, in part, here now.  I even mentioned that beer prices will probably go up. Now that should get their attention!

Maybe I'm hoping that someone else will say, "yes, but" and show me a solution.

I am convinced the planet as I know and love it is doomed but I haven't completely given up.  Although, all the shit hitting the fan the last few weeks, especially regarding global warming and grain shortages is hard to take.

On the other hand, if the chickens are coming home to roost right now rather than next decade, maybe we need that. A short term catostrophe and series of catostrophes of some sort may be just what we need to wake people up.  Or will they just demand that government fix it.  Fix the food prices. Fix the gas prices. But don't make me take any responsibility.

Sadly, these catastrophes may signal that we are already beyond the point of no return.  

Need to go out and plant some more seeds, I guess.

It is looking more and more like it's already too late. If that's the case what's the point of disturbing anyone. Let em party till they drop.
From: the Independent  http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article1191932.ece

Amazon rainforest 'could become a desert'
And that could speed up global warming with 'incalculable consequences', says alarming new research
By Geoffrey Lean in Manaus and Fred Pearce
Published: 23 July 2006
The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.

The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States. Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record of 36.3C on Tuesday. And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox " pope" Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a " tipping point" that would lead to its total destruction.

The research ­ carried out by the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole centre in Santarem on the Amazon river ­ has taken even the scientists conducting it by surprise. When Dr Dan Nepstead started the experiment in 2002 ­ by covering a chunk of rainforest the size of a football pitch with plastic panels to see how it would cope without rain ­ he surrounded it with sophisticated sensors, expecting to record only minor changes.

The trees managed the first year of drought without difficulty. In the second year, they sunk their roots deeper to find moisture, but survived. But in year three, they started dying. Beginning with the tallest the trees started to come crashing down, exposing the forest floor to the drying sun.

By the end of the year the trees had released more than two-thirds of the carbon dioxide they have stored during their lives, helping to act as a break on global warming. Instead they began accelerating the climate change.

As we report today on pages 28 and 29, the Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.

Dr Nepstead expects "mega-fires" rapidly to sweep across the drying jungle. With the trees gone, the soil will bake in the sun and the rainforest could become desert.

Dr Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that "the lock has broken" on the Amazon ecosystem. She adds: the Amazon is "headed in a terrible direction".

Fred Pearce is the author of 'The Last Generation' (Eden Project Books), published earlier this year

I guess it's too late for this obvious wake up call. "Uninhabitable" as in find another planet. I believe George Bush's solution a few years ago was turn on the air conditioning. I kid you not.  Maybe we can turn up the air conditioning on the Amazon, formerly known as rain forest.

This is a planetary emergency, is it not?  The war of the worlds begins now and there is no one at the helm to fight the battle.  

This story depressed me all day yesterday.  I haven't bothered to tell people about it and want to look into it more.  Hasn't been covered in any local press yet.

I am someone who collects information, much of it not good.  When it depresses me I have the choice of sharing it with others or keeping it to myself.

If I share it with others they may get motivated to change, or get depressed and do nothing as they've given up.  If I share it with others I get a greater sense of belonging and understanding rather than facing this alone.

Lately I have been keeping a lot to myself.  While certain activist types seem to be motivated by threats, others seem turned off.  Without offering solutions, even if they hold out the slimmest of chances, I don't think people will be motivated to do anything accept curl up within themselves.  

The Great Turning may be impossible, true, but at least it could lead to some productive behaviors.  And if that is so, and if it offers even the slimmest hope, then I am all for it.

Afterall, the world is complex. We can't actually know the future. We can just do the best with what we've got right now.  


I'm reluctant to say this but I find myself growing quite frustrated with people who preach a "Great Turning." To be perfectly frank, I feel as though they are bullshiting me and I'm a bit tired of being bullshited. (Note this is not directed at you.)

What evidence is there of a Great Turning? You know the facts surrounding the multiple disasters (energy, climate, financial, etc.) and none of them are improving. No, just the opposite they are rapidly deteorating. And anybody who pays ANY attention to the news can read all they want about this.

Perhaps not coincidentally, people who say there is going to be a Great Turning are always and I mean ALWAYS well off white people living in nice homes here in the states or the UK. So they are largely insulated from these disasters, at least for the time being, observing only from television, books, and perhaps the occassional short trip at best. So when I hear somebody say or read somebody write about a "Great Turning" I am  reminded me of a quote from a very relevenat Guardian article, "Look on the Dark Side"

Just replace the word "God" with the word "GAIA" or "Mother Earth Goddess" or "Great Universe" or "Benevolent Intelligence" or whatever the speaker's/writer's quasi-diety seems to be

"The rich man in his palace can reconcile himself to the plight of the poor man at his gate by reminding himself that this is part of God's bright and beautiful plan; those who suffer poverty and oppression in this life will be recompensed in the hereafter. When thousands die in an earthquake, we can tell ourselves that God knew what he was doing."

"With unseemly haste, people rush to put an optimistic gloss on a disaster or to suggest a patently unworkable solution."


Whoever thought of the "yes, this life sucks, but in the next one, if you just keep working humbly - ho boy, just you wait!" scam..... now there was a genius.
Damn, now you tell me.
I thought you had to show "good works" on this side ... and also large pyramids or schemes of that sort.
This is worrisome. What I haven't noticed is any mention of what the [completed] destruction of the rainforest would do to global oxygen levels.

I have not yet read the original study. However, the scientific cynic in me says "This is absolute proof we shouldn't cover rainforest in plastic panels." I assume the plastic is impermeable, otherwise the water would get in. I think there may be a validity question here: is this method really like a 2 year drought? They may have smothered the forest, not just dried it out.

I posted a very little on Jay's last listserve. I can't point to the post, yet I think when solutions were requested Jay said something to the effect of make as much money as you can while it is still possible.
make as much money as you can while it is still possible.

my short term plan.

Same here.  Even if it does involve investing in oil sands companies.  God I hate doing that, but it was Suncor or Halliburton, and even I'm not enough of a whore to invest in the Big H.
Im starting to see the real argument of deflation and that is a far better outcome than the inflation we're being stretched with.  On an international scale, deflation is the choice of two evils, so I'm kinda wondering how the FED will respond.
I still think Stagflation -the worst of both worlds.Though I've a 50/50 chance, I say Fed tightens rates. The y always overshoot. They must convince the gullible they are "serious" about inflation. Sure you can tighten rates and still flood the universe with dollars, but that isn't what they say on TV.
Western Oil Sands (TSX:WTO), Canadian Oil Sands Trust (TSX:COS.UN) PowerShares Water Resource ETF (PHO),  Atlas Pipeline Partners LP (APL), General Maritime Corp. (GMR)

Water Outperforms Oil, Luring Pickens, GE's Immelt, Guy Hands

I've been into and out of WTO.  I'm nervous about them right now.  Right now I like Cameco, Nexen, Sunco and Encana.  They're all TSX stocks - I won't invest south of the border these days.  I think soon I may start looking at water and wind.
When I first read that 3 years ago, I thought to myself, "Well this guy just hasn't thought this through enough."

Now, I completely agree. My plan:

Make money
Make friends
Get your fat ass into shape

I think community is important but money is not acknowledged within some peak oil circles as important as it is.

Average home price for various peak oil havens:

Willits: $360,000
Sebastopol: $750,000
Ashland: $400,000

I could go on but you get the point.

Why is Ashland so cheap? At that price I'd be tempted to get a place just to be sure of good accommodations during the Shakespeare Festival each summer.

Is it really that low in Californicated Ashland?

I'll bet the houses are much smaller in Ashland than the other places; that would help to explain the huge discrepancy.

BTW, prices are even lower in Grants Pass, which is not far from Ashland.

Matt, though I agree with your sentiment, and plan to write a post on Peak Oil and Investments later this week outlining some of these concepts, those prices, taken in a vacuum dont tell us much. Id like to know:

a)how do these prices compare to a few years ago when Peak Oil was beneath most peoples radars?
b)At least Willits and Ashland have great localization efforts, but arent those people a very small % of the representative local population

and the $400,000 question:

c)if/when the national real estate market cracks due to recession or peak oil (kind of linked I guess), will these markets also crack or actually rise?


I'd have to go back and compare the prices. But my point is you don't see too many "peak oil havens" where the home price is at or below the national average. (Which I beleive is $220,000) or so.

The main point is $$$ is operative to preemptive peak oil preparations.


No matter how well prepared we might be, we can still get wiped out.  But evolution is about tiny percentage improvements, and how when aggregated over time and population they produce a tangible increase in survival rates.  So nothing is guaranteed, but if I can do some things that will improve the odds for my family and me (which must include helping some of those around me, because community multiplies the success of the individual), then perhaps we can do well enough to beat the odds.  There are, after all, a hell of a lot of people that will be utterly unprepared - so barring some random misfortune, I have to be better off than them.  It's not much to go on, but the alternative is unappealing.  

Besides, it's a hell of a story, and I want to find out what happens!

Collapse has such a negative connotation that we often forget there is the post-collapse future, which could be quite an improvement over the current disneyland sponge-bob culture. If one has cancer, they have extremely painful chemotherapy to rid the body of it, then resume a healthier, albeit more cautious and appreciative life. If I have an exposed tooth root, I am willing to undergo a root canal so I can eat and smile for the rest of my life. Chaos and dieoff, even if Im a casualty, may be a good thing for the planet, and society - because humans will have learned the lesson of limits and that will be embedded more firmly in future cultures.  Sustainability will have culturally 'evolved'.

In some bizzaro senses, I almost hope some sort of collapse comes before we ramp up CTL in a big way, because the positive feedbacks on the climate change models from using that amount of coal kind of might render moot much of my above comments...

"So it's a bit of a weird paradox: people can't come to see that Jay's model of social fitness is highly accurate without impairing their own level of social fitness."

Yes and no.  Certainly one's fitness within the larger human herd is impaired by seeing the big picture.  But there are other options.  One can leave the herd, join the hyena pack, and prey on the human herd.  The dieoff scenario is very liberating to the sociopath.  If the masses are going to die, they are practically already dead.  So why not help them along and rob them in the process?  (All those white collar bond traders at Cantor Fitzgerald will be screwed after economic collapse anyway, it is a kindness to give them a sudden heroic death.)

For those too small and cautious to be predators, the dieoff will present plenty of economic scavenger opportunities.  If one isn't a hyena, one can still be a jackal, and eat the hyena's leftovers.  The combination of personal gain and "I told you so" feels very good.

I suppose that makes me a jackal. I'm running a small solar outlet and, truth be told, would have little chance of success if it weren't for the fact the dominant economy is starting to fall apart.

Paradoxically, the business is dependent on the underlying fossil fuel economy functioning to a certain degree.

one's fitness within the larger human herd is impaired by seeing the big picture.

Evolution has fine tuned the herd's ability to detect the "stranger" within their midst.
So if you start talking weird stuff --like PO, die.off-- they immediately detect your strangeness and reject you.

Maybe that is why "their eyes glaze over"?
It's the stranger-alarm system going into activation mode.

Some years back I was on a flight to Las Vegas for a convention.
People behind me were talking about the city and economic/investment prospects there.
One of their group ventured "but isn't Las Vegas going to run out of water a few decades from now?"

Uncomfortable silence as if he'd passed gas, then the others resumed the conversation politely pretending they hadn't heard.

my theory is that most peak oilers are into peak oil either to make money, make friends, gain political/social power or promote a pre-existing ideology/beleif system. (this applies to me too.) This is just an observation of human nature not an "accusation" of bad behavior or ill-intent.

We had a slight disagreement over that before. (BTW: When I reread it I seem not so nice to you, for which my apologies). You miss one enormously important reason for anyone to discuss this: Predictability. Every mammal has a deeply inbred need for predictability. It means you can divert some energy you used for concentration to different purposes. It is an instinct that prevails over quite a number of others. Dogs acquire predicatbility by routine, change a dogs daily routine and he is deeply unhappy. Men do the same, but add another layer: knowledge. Knowledge means the ability to stretch predictability into the unknown. It is part of the gret success of Homo Sapiens Sapiens that we are able to predict paths we never have walked before. It is that instinct which drives me to discuss peak-oil.


No need to apologize. This is where we come to have ritualized dominance contests, also known as "discussions." If you start apologizing that might set in motion some type of precdenet and pretty soon I won't be able to drop the occassional f-bomb.

There was a highly interesting article on the possible evolutionary origins of religion. I'll advice you: Do read it! It states that we have two independant inbred value systems. One is physical, the other is social. Spiritualism, this article proposes, is the crossover between the two valuesystem: You are hardwired to interpret some actions of lifeless objects as "meaning", which is a social context.

Why this is so interesting for our discussion is this quote:

One version of this theory begins with the notion that a distinction between the physical and the psychological is fundamental to human thought. Purely physical things, such as rocks and trees, are subject to the pitiless laws of Newton. Throw a rock, and it will fly through space on a certain path; if you put a branch on the ground, it will not disappear, scamper away, or fly into space. Psychological things, such as people, possess minds, intentions, beliefs, goals, and desires. They move unexpectedly, according to volition and whim; they can chase or run away. There is a moral difference as well: a rock cannot be evil or kind; a person can.

Where does the distinction between the physical and the psychological come from? Is it something we learn through experience, or is it somehow pre-wired into our brains? One way to find out is to study babies. It is notoriously difficult to know what babies are thinking, given that they can't speak and have little control over their bodies. (They are harder to test than rats or pigeons, because they cannot run mazes or peck levers.) But recently investigators have used the technique of showing them different events and recording how long they look at them, exploiting the fact that babies, like the rest of us, tend to look longer at something they find unusual or bizarre.

Six-month-olds understand that physical objects obey gravity. If you put an object on a table and then remove the table, and the object just stays there (held by a hidden wire), babies are surprised; they expect the object to fall. They expect objects to be solid, and contrary to what is still being taught in some psychology classes, they understand that objects persist over time even if hidden. (Show a baby an object and then put it behind a screen. Wait a little while and then remove the screen. If the object is gone, the baby is surprised.) Five-month-olds can even do simple math, appreciating that if first one object and then another is placed behind a screen, when the screen drops there should be two objects, not one or three. Other experiments find the same numerical understanding in nonhuman primates, including macaques and tamarins, and in dog

It is my firm believe that discussion (Apart from being a good tool for social domination, I'll grant you that: I've seen my share of flamewars.) can be a way of verifying your set of expectations if done in a civilized way. Thereby one can use discussion to "stresstest" your set of expectations. That will enhance predictability, which in turn will make life safer. Civilized discussion thus creates benefits for all participants.

The choice is yours how to use the tool of discussion.

Interesting-thanks. (I will read that when I get off my friends 9 yr old macintosh) one book I neglected to mention which speak to religion and spirituality from a genetic perspective is "Darwins Cathedral" by David Sloan Wilson - it really outlines that we DO act on individual selection pressures but also have between group selection pressures (grooup selection) so the whole picture is more of mulkti-level selction. One of the reasons I am hopeful for communities of reciprocal altruists.

You know, all over the world civilizations have regulated infdividual behaviour, via social codes and taboos, and most often also via religion. That explains why religion survived (Allthough it does not explain the origins of religion, as the article I linked to explores in detail) all the way through history.

So apparently there is a huge evolutionary advantage of being a groupanimal with a code of behaviour that is being forcfed upon the individual, as history shows us that having it having one is a sine qua non for survival of a civilization.

That brings me to another important thought: men are tribal animals, and that means that actually tribes, and not individuals, are the one that compete for fitness. There have been excavations of ancients caves that have uncoverd 30-ish old Down syndrome sufferers. Just think of it: A tribe somehow thougth it was a good thing to do te keep them alive.

It leads me to the thougth that the effects of peakoil on different communities will be very dependant on their culture, and to give the advice that best thing you can do in the face of peakoil is to fix your country/community/tribe's other, non-peakoil-related problems, apart from the solutions Westexas is advocating.

Welcome to TheOilDrum tribe...;)
Hello TheLastSasquatch,

I think this is terrific!  Discussing, then somehow trying to create even a partial solution to what I call Jay's Thermo-Gene Collision [parts 1&2 above] is really the most complex problem ever presented to mankind.  I will be very glad to read about the ideas that you and Jay toss around.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I'd like to see some sort of an interview with Mr Hanson, his take on current affairs, any opinion he has on the growing popularity of his earlier works. I like the severity of dieoff.org but I don't point anyone I interact with directly to his site, I tell them to come here first so they can locate it eventually, when hopefully, they'll be more receptive to his work. Stumbling across his site was my introduction into the whole shebang and I had a dodgy rictus grin and a twitch for a week afterwards.

Or go through the archives on the "Dieoff Q&A" group on Yahoo...

I learned a LOT from dieoff. What should we do? It depends who "we" are. Who are "the elite"? Surely it isn't already determined that those who are now rich (the "plutocracy") will survive the coming events. The elite are those who win, and we don't know who will win. Moral universalism is one of the first luxuries that will be discovered to be expendable ballast; why not shed it now and pick a side? I know that some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
At the risk of bombarding this thread, this is something I feel is very important:

For many of you reading this you may be better off NOT studying human nature. I'm really quite serious here.We are social animals. Much of our sociability depends on lacking an awareness of our own intentions. Much of what makes us human operates subsconsciouly, beyond our awareness and you may be better off not understanding those mechanisms too well. Let me explain by using an analogy. If you study your own programming a bit too much you run the risk of developing an interpersonal version of "Steve Blass diesease."

For those who don't know what Steve Blass disease is: it is a psychological problem occassionaly suffered by baseball pitchers. Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals is a prominent recent example. All his life he was able to accurately throw a baseball quite naturally. This is something that, for the most part, occurs at the subconscious level. You tell your brain "I want to throw the ball on the outside corner" and you do it. You might tweak your delivery a bit here and there but woe be to he who starts to think about it too much.  

Out of nowhere Ankiel started  "thinking" about it during the playoffs a few years ago. Next thing you know he couldn't throw the ball within 10 feet of home plate. This happens every few years to a prominent pitcher and it's really quite a sad thing to see. Also somtimes to infielders or catchers. To you Yankee fans: Chuck Knoblauch suffered a form of this as did Mackey Sasser of the NY Mets a few years back. Alex Rodriguez appears he might be developing a bit of it too.

I spent some time reading some of the materials recommended by Jay but decided to stop for exactly this reason. I understand the basic mechanisms but have concluded that any greater degree of understanding may impair me socially. (I'm actually quite a sociable person in "real life.")

Alex Rodriguez has suffered from it all his life.  It's just particularly acute now, with half the Yankees lineup down to injury and everyone looking to him to pick up the slack.

He needs to turn off his brain and let his body take over.

Jim Bouton did fine when he intellectualized the game of baseball. See especially, "Ball Four."
It's not that type of intellectualization. It happens on the mound not in a writer's lounge. It's a psycho-physcial problem not writer's block. It has nothign to do with your command of the English language or how well you can articulate yourself in the written word.
Jim Bouton intellectualized on the mound all the time. Sometimes this worked for him, sometimes it did not. From his memoir, his mind was seldom out of gear.
Alpha Male, as far as happiness goes, you are exactly right. We would all be a lot happier if we were just totally ignorant of the calamity that is about to befall us. Thinking about it just makes anxious and unhappy.

Last night, while sitting with my kids and grandkids at a kind of family reunion we are having right now, I knew that they all feel that their way of life will last forever. They have absolutely no idea what a terrible ordeal their life will soon turn into. They are a lot happier off simply not knowing the future.

They are like the mouse who's nest Robert Burns turned up with his plow:

Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, oh! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward , tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear

Like the mouse, they do not guess and fear. They think their way of life will last forever.

As I just wrote above, I actually totally disagree with this. Since I know as much as I do, I feel that any future catastrophe will not be so difficult to deal with as if it came upon me as a surprise. At the moment, my life isn't much different than it would be if I didn't know about PO (I go about my life as if I have another 50 years to live it normally), but I feel stronger about being able to deal with the impending future.

I guess this sort of difference has to do with whether one inherently worries about possible disasters (terrorists, earthquakes, nuclear war, etc). I never was before I learned about PO, and I guess now that people who constantly worry are the ones who can't or won't come to peace with the concept of life as they know it coming to the end.

I think the big loss is the loss of a sense of continuity.  Growing up, there was a sense of continuity, the only change being progress, but the background, nature, seemed to have continuity.  I certainly did not expect these rather sudden changes in climate that have changed my world. My world has more radically changed that most because I live at a high altitude.  I am also dependent upon a rather small drainage area which is highly dependent upon snow pack, which is disappearing earlier every year. This year was the worst and may still end up to be somewhat of a disaster for our community.

The age of oil will end so let's get it over with.  But my fear is we go back to the age of coal.  Continued high consumption of oil is unacceptable. The preferred alternative by the TPTB is worse.  

I watched that playoff game.  It was one of the saddest days for many young cardinal fans.  Ankiel was the second coming after, the second coming aka Pujols.  To watch him melt like that in front of everyone in such an important game.  
I have trouble with statements like:

Human nature is much more difficult to understand than energy laws for two main reasons: it's not taught, and we are genetically biased against self-knowledge. In other words, teaching human nature to someone is something like teaching a dog not to bark

which lead to URLs quoting pop-science literature. Where is the hard, peer-reviewed science that Jay touts which demonstrates in definitive fashion that "...we are genetically biased against self-knowledge."

Topping it off is Jay's conceit that only he (or very nearly only) has learned to re-hardwire himself. Brings to mind an image of Jay with skull-cap popped open wielding a pair of klines and a soldering iron in his process of re-wiring. Sorry, I don't take it seriously as a statement that has anything to do with the state of science in the realm of psychology (whatever prefix you append to 'psychology').

i guess thats why i am somewhat fasinated by it. i have mostly been a outcast, at first not by choice but then later by choice. i have been diagnoised with some mental disabilitys though if i remember correctly it was one of those fad ones which are still going around and because of it i lacked the social interactions needed to get the more subtile cues(i was put in the 'specail' classes at school, espicaily in high school. At least one good thing though came out of it. I Rarely had to take home any homework.)
This happened to my golf game. I used to be pretty decent (low 80's, cometimes high 70's), then I got the Golf Channel. Now I can't get under 90 because I keep thinking about "where's my hand/knee/foot/etc... supposed to be at the top...
at impact...

Is this where you suggest white eco-fascism as a response? If so I will say what I always say when you bring that up: I've already set my mind on setting up an apocalyptic relgious cult . . .I mean "multicultural eco-commune." Butt thanks for the suggestion nonetheless.

Me and my buddies know exactly where the White Aryan Nation fascists have their surivalist communities, up by Haydon Lake, Idaho. We are going to take all there stuff and smear them.

Want to come along?

Jay is absolutely right in his final conclusions.  

Our global capitalistic system postulates continued growth.  Population increase adds an additional incentive to growth.  (I need only point out the crux of all the arguments for privatizing social security: Not enough young people to support the old--and this argument holds even knowing that the U.S., for example, is adding three million people a year.  A crashing point is approaching. And for all those hopefuls who think the birthrate is going down, seriously look at the climbing world population.  It is not decelerating.

That we are turning natural resources into garbage is hard to deny.  Is it any wonder that "garbage" as an industry is growing more and more profitable?  It will continue to do so.

Yet, we still have not seriously grappled with environmental destruction that will be increasingly difficult to reclaim.  According to the UN Milennia Report, we have despoiled approximately 60% of the global ecosystem.  Yet economic theory continues its merry way, counting only measurable dollars as these dollars flow back and forth.

And recently we learn that the Brazilian rain forest may be on the brink of collapse, turned into a desert in a few more years--according to a soon to be published report of some scientists at Woods Hole.

A "stealth" plutocracy: I cannot argue with that.  The poor are necessary; without them the rich cannot live comfortably.  Now, in China and India and other developing nations, the poor have been promised that their turn is next.  So far, China is simply an export machine.  Do the poor really think they will make it to the Promised Land, drive SUV's and have well-manicured lawns?

But these are the lies the economists tell, the candy of globalization.  Meanwhile, the money is pocketed.

So many lies the economists tell.  So many promises the politicians make.

Jay is absolutely right in his final conclusions.  
Our global capitalistic system postulates continued growth

But, but Don Sailorman calls it bunk.   Jack doesn't want to believe that one nation would attack another nations money.  And Prodgal Son thinks the money supply is just fine.

How DARE Jay challenge the thinking of all these other great thinkers and excellent observers of humans and the way they act!

Best just pillory Jay and go with what the masses think.

As an economist, I'm always slightly worried about the sloppiness in defining growth.

We are worried about continual growth in energy (especially oil) consumption, not economic growth.

Its quite conceivable to generate economic growth while reducing fossil fuel consumption.

Maybe there won't be much of this sort of growth because oil and in particular transportation is embedded in so many things (most of the economy may well be shrinking), but growth and oil use are definitely distinct, even if they often correlate!

(If I remember corrctly Tertzakian's book "A thousand barrels a second" shows the oil-intensity of GDP in some Western European countries level or falling)

(If I remember corrctly Tertzakian's book "A thousand barrels a second" shows the oil-intensity of GDP in some Western European countries level or falling)

Yeah, because they offshored the heavy manufacturing overseas.  Making steel I-beams and plastic gewgaws domestically takes energy.  Making them in Africa or China and importing them does not.

We switched power plants from oil to natural gas, and I suspect they did that in Europe as well.  Seemed like a good idea at the time; we thought we had hundreds of years worth of natural gas.  Oops.

There was some actual improvement in efficiency...but how long can you grow the economy by increasing efficiency?  There's a hard physical limit to efficiency.  

And Tainter's declining marginal returns applies.  We've already plucked the low-hanging fruit.  Further improvements in efficiency are going to be more difficult.  

I think we've become quite lazy in looking for energy efficiencies.

Focussing on economic efficiencies in an age of cheap oil did that. Hence GM and Ford can efficiently build SUV's.

Higher oil prices should put the focus on energy efficiencies, and how far its possible to go on that front remains to be seen.

I think we will be much better at it than the 1970's. And I retain a latent optimism for nuclear power too.

Unfortunately we will probably need a crisis to find out how much more can be done with less. Whether that will be good enough to prevent a "die off" remains to be seen.

<Its quite conceivable to generate economic growth while reducing fossil fuel consumption.<i>

Do you mean growth of economic metrics as measured by US Dollars or by some other method?

To get from the present model to this conceivable model requires what changes?

Yes measuring GDP using USD or EUR, whatever the currency is.

Its quite a narrow point, and I do not mean to belittle the problem, however economic growth does not have to be energy intensive. To large extant it depends on the sector generating the GDP.

The problem is that some vital sectors are very energy intensive.

Whether something like the farming sector can ever become less fossil fuel intensive and retain its productivity... well if peak oil is here I guess we will soon find out.

Yes measuring GDP using USD or EUR, whatever the currency is.

I know of not 'modern' currency that is not based on expanding growth due to fractional reserve and the willingness of hthe people in charge of the printing press to run said press.

but feel free to show a model which supports your POV.

That would be changes like cars that get 100 mpg or houses/commercial buildings that require no fossil fuel heat or cooling. These are not engineering challenges at all. They are social challenges.
Duh. Can we do that social challenge? Don't ask me.
We see this very similar in that as soon as I started studying economics, one of my first questions was what happens when we use all the [fill in the blank].  I immediatly saw the resource constraint on inputs as the limiting factor, but my econ professor quickly pointed out that in econ terms it won't run out.

To me, thats a cop out.  To say in econ terms it won't run out.  I'm sitting there thinking I really don't give a shit what econ terms are I live in the real world.  I understand his perception, but it's wrong.  Economists run into problems when issues are side stepped.  He should have been real and immediatly pointed out some short comings to this "science."  

I can't prove the point, but it's been discussed that in the most basic sense you can not have continued economic growth without energy.  Now the problem we are running into is a decreasing net energy availability based on EROEI.  So we actually have less energy available say on a BTU basis.  The crude from 50 years ago was higher in BTU content than now, so raw energy availability will never be higher than it has in the past.  In that respect, we truly may have already peaked.

The great growth we enjoy hinges on dense energy that is easy transported.  Now you want to tell me that the energy density will decrease, yet we can have economic growth?  I won't disagree when you say it's possible to increase economic growth while decreasing fossil fuel consumption, even though we haven't seen this happen before.  I think it's POSSIBLE, but due to the fact that the current energy has less net energy available and it's getting lower I really don't see a growth/decreasing consumption working in the real world we live.

tate - i agree with you for the most part - but we COULD have an increase in total BTU production for the planet if we plunder coal in a big way on top of pre-steep decline years in oil and gas. But then we have larger externalities..
Externalities are very bad and the biggest will be GW, this is why I can see why some of the above posters are so doom and gloom, then I pop another Xanex :)
But coal's EROEI is no where near the early 30:1 that oil enjoyed and still not close to the 15:1 that I see as the current ratio.  I don't know coal's energy density, but you allude to the external costs of burning this coal.  I can single handedly guarantee, with limited knowledge, that the total cost (including externality cost) of coal is exponentially more than a switch away from FOSSIL fuels.
If it is possible to have "economic growth" while food, goods and services output are declining, than the traditional meaning of the term "economic growth" is empirically disproven.
If the prices of goods and services soar, that is technically 'economic growth', also (at least as defined by most eco-pundits).  More money changes hands for less, but it is still more money.

Example: "Wow, my house is now worth twice as much as when I bought it 5 years ago!".  "Too bad everything else I have to buy in a month also doubled in cost."
Economic growth?

The US government already reports inflation as a growth in GDP.

While I too agree with his conclusions, Jay probably is a bit egotistical; it really does sound like thinks he is hot stuff for getting it. In my view, understanding the concept of limits to growth -- and our inherent resistance to accepting those limits -- isn't all that tough. You just have to be open to that understanding. If you are attached to the way things run now, and/or someoone who is so attached, pays your salary, you probably won't be open to that understanding. I know some very high-IQ people who will probably never get it. I know some not so bright people, with less emotional stake in "the system," who do get it, even if they might not understand Hubbert's three line derivation of Q(t). I mean, how much horsepower does it really take to understand that our economy turns usable resources into garbage? Or to know that since oil deposits are finite, living by burning oil is not a sustainable strategy? Not a lot.

I don't know if humanity will make it, or what shape we will be in if we do. But if we make it in decent shape, we will only need common sense and the Golden Rule (or reciprocity as one commenter put it above). If those prevail (a very big if) we will apply the knowhow we have wisely and we will invest in expanding that knowhow. The real crux of the problem is a lack of wisdom, rather than a lack of knowledge.

I witnessed the exact moment when the United States decided not to rise to the challenge of energy scarcity -- as a young economist at the CBO, I attended the 1978 Senate Finance Committee hearing where then Chairman Russell Long (D.-La.) killed Carter's energy bill, all 13 sections, in about two hours. I didn't love the Carter bill but I regret that the Committee effectively killed the bill rather than improve it. By the time the US enacted the "rump" energy bill later that year, it was clear that we simply didn't have the courage to tackle problem in 1978. In 1980 Carter lost to Reagan, the man who promised "morning in America," and told America what it wanted to hear after Vietnam, Watergate, the oil shocks, and the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The stage was set for exurban development, SUVs and all the rest of Kunstler's oil-fueled hypertrophy. Party on!

I can assure you that I was not the only person in Washington who knew about peak oil in 1978. We had enough knowledge to make the right decision even then. We simply ignored it. Jay's work is as good an explanation as any.

Agree, the PO policy debate was 1974-1978 and we lost.  There was more money to be made by continuing the oil business as usual.  Of course the pols pushing PO preparedness had their own special interests.  Carter was in part an earnest shill (the best kind!) for the nuclear industry.  My favourite pol in 1976, Jerry Brown, turned out to have family interests in LNG hidden under all the solar panels and windmills.
1978 was a crucial wrong turning for the US and the world in all kinds of ways.
I think that Jimmy Carter was a disaster for US nuclear policy, in no way a shill.  People might think he was behind nuclear power, he did spend a year in the Navy's reactor school, but his administration's energy and fiscal policies resulted in financial losses for the industry, stagnation for the development of improved technology, and a loss of influence in the international community.  He was much more in favor of conservation and alternatives like solar or wind.  While he was PO-aware, IMO, he inappropriately neglected one of the major parts of an effective response to PO.
The real crux of the problem is a lack of wisdom, rather than a lack of knowledge.

Sounds good but can you spell what your idea of "wisdom" exactly is?


Above is a link to a thoughful critique of Jay Hanson and Reg Morrison.  The writer appreciates Jay's accomplishments, but sees problems, too

Ya her "God"said it all wasn't true...


Well done for a first comment PCJohns

Yeah! Caryl Johnston care about peak oil, die off, collapse, bio diversity, etc...
She even care so much that she support Joseph George Caldwell who suggest a "New World Order" (ever seen/heard those words elsewhere...) based on culling mankind with nukes!

This is one more problem with PO, GW & any other collapse threats, they draw the craziest nuts like a honey pot.


I have noticed people with less than balanced mental states seem to be attracted to these issues. I'd also like to think I'm an exception to this observation but am willing to entertain the possibility that I'm as crazy as a loon.
If you read the Harper's article this month, and you'll see that "mentally unbalanced" is an easily applied label.  "Chicken Little" is the politest of the epithets being slung around about us.  But as someone said yesterday, "Absolutely, Peak Oil is a secular mellenialist doomsday cult.  That doesn't mean it's wrong, though." :-)
Those who are considered the most "sane" in this civilization will most certainly be the "crazies" in the times soon to come. And vice versa.
I always forget the name of the psychological theorist who said anyone who wasn't severely emotionally disturbed living in this society was basically sociopathic.
Woody Allen.

Face it, you're a fucking nutter. :)

Still, you're a lotta fun to read. So, as they say in other walks of life, keep up the good work.

Great post thelastsasquatch!!

This is what I think is so often overlooked in the discussion of what to do about peak oil;

"I finally realized it wasn't anything like the "democracy" it claimed to be. It turns out that America is actually a stealth plutocracy"

Once you study this concept you find out how true this statement is.  I used to tell Jay you think that the United States, the so called greatest democracy on earth, is actually a stealth plutocracy and only a tiny handful of people are aware of this fact and you think there isn't a "conspiracy". One of the best books I read on this so called representative democracy is;

Toward an American Revolution Exposing the Constitution and other Illusions
Jerry Fresia

We can talk about energy depletion until we are blue in the face but to what end.  There is nothing we can do about it.  We are not represented by this government.  A select cast of men are going to make the decision whether we live or die. Our fate is in their hands not our own.

"So, I don't see how the founding fathers could have committed us to the principle that `no man should be a slave, and every man should be a master,' or whatever the silly-Billy said. Well, this is a country based on slavery, is also based upon the dispossession of what we miscall the Indians. They were the Native Americans, at least before -- long before our arrival. So, we were not dedicated to any of these principles. We were dedicated to making as much money and stealing as much land as we could and building up a republic, not a democracy. The word democracy was hated by the founding fathers. It does not appear at any point in the constitution, nor does it appear in any pleasant sense in the Federalist Papers. So, we are not a democracy, and here we are exporting it as though it were just something -- well, we just happened to make, a lot of democracy, and cotton and tin and stuff like that."
~Gore Vidal

Here is somebody that has the right idea about what direction this country should take before it is too late to anything about impending energy depletion;



It seems that most that discuss such issues here "get it."  As I have told more than a few people, it's sometimes difficult knowing what I know and the "blank stare" or the downright revolt and resistance that is thrown back to avoid "responsibility."  Jay describes it well as rationalization.  

For impact, I tell people to walk down the street and imagine that only 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 houses actually contain living, breathing families.  Thne I ask them to imagine those homes in ruins (with that same number of people living in amongst the ruins.  

That is what faces us if we don't get to the required steps.  As Dr. Bartlett stated, it's not a matter of whether we do something.  It's a matter of whether we want some choice in the matter.  

"continued social stability requires us to continuously
INCREASE energy use."
In Collapse, Diamond discusses a Pacific Island where the people lived sustainably and peacefully for thousands of years (I forget the name of the group).  They did not need to continually increase energy use.  That would seem to be a counterexample to this theorem of Jay's.  It worked until Catholic missionaries disrupted their way of live which resulted in a predictable population explosion that devastated the island's culture and ecosystem.
There were in fact several such societies described in Diamond's book.  The key is that sustainability, most especially population control, must be the #1 priority.  

However, I can't help but wonder if the fact that these societies were on islands is important.  What drives societies away from sustainability is the "arms race" of competition with other societies.  Island societies are spared that, at least if they are isolated enough.  

What about the idea that the fact they were on an island made the limits of their physical environment visibly inescapable?  As a result they intuitively knew they couldn't grow forever.  There is a terrible paradox about living on a sphere - it feels infinite, but in fact is as bounced as an island.  You just can't see that as easily.  This is why the Apollo hotograph "Earthrise" had such a profound resonance - it was one of the first times a large number of people grokked the limitations of living on a sphere.

Unfortunately, at this time the notion of living in a limitless place is so deeply implanted in our unconscious as to have become part of our wiring.  As Jay points out, this makes it intrinsically difficult to think thoughts that require a wiring based on an understanding of limits to growth.

What about the idea that the fact they were on an island made the limits of their physical environment visibly inescapable?  As a result they intuitively knew they couldn't grow forever.  

That didn't help the residents of Easter Island.  Or those of many other islands in the Pacific that suffered resource wars and dieoff.

True, but how many other island societies continued sustainably for centuries or millenia?  Isn't it possible that Easter Island was an exception (though an illuminating one)? I need to do more reading on this subject, I think.
No, Easter Island was not the exception.  Diamond wrote about some of the others in an article called Paradises Lost.

In fact, you see many deserted islands with signs that once they were inhabited.  

Often, what happens is the forest is cut down (to clear land for farming, or for fuel, etc.).  Once the forest is gone, rain just runs off the land, and drought becomes a problem.  The springs dry up.  With no reliable water supply, the island becomes uninhabitable.  Or supports only a much lower population.

I've read work by Sheila Newman suggesting that, as far as the Pacific islands go, Easter Island was an exception and that many Pacific Islands had stable populations for periods of 1000 yrs. or more.
Suffice it to say, the evidence exists.
I suspect it depends on the island.  Easter Island was especially vulnerable because it was so far south.  It was a marginal climate anyway, so there was little room for error.

In fact, Diamond found the the size of a society determined whether it would prove to be sustainable or not.  With small societies, grassroots organization worked.  The island was small enough that everyone could understand the problem they were facing, and everyone felt a stake in the outcome.  (That's "our" stream, "our" forest, etc.)  

Large societies can also be sustainable, because they're big enough to support central organization, and a king who gets his wealth from his entire kingdom, and who wants his children to inherit that wealth.  He has the incentive to monitor his entire kingdom, and keep it producing.  

Medium sized societies cannot transition to sustainability.  They're too big for grassroots to work, and too small to support central organization.  They collapse in internecine fighting.  

Diamond thinks the same fate may befall large societies with weak central control.

Easter Island's primary vulnerability lay in its relative isolation.  In fact, it is the most isolated inhabitable island in the world. There is not another sizeable island or landmass capable of supporting life within nearly 2000 nautical miles.
I've read work by Sheila Newman suggesting that, as far as the Pacific islands go, Easter Island was an exception and that many Pacific Islands had stable populations for periods of 1000 yrs. or more.
Suffice it to say, the evidence exists.

If such evidence exists I would love to see it. The reason groups set off in boats to look for new islands was the very fact that they were overcrowded. Also a stable population can mean that disease and/or war could keep the population in check. I don't believe there is any evidence that shows a stable population for as much as 1000 years without war or famine. On the other hand, the evolution to the contrary is absolutely overwhelming. Read "Constant Battles" by Steven LeBlanc.

I don't think ANY place has been sustainable without war or famine. Since humans don't have any predators, we keep our own numbers down through war, which simultaneously lowers the population and (if successful) increases the resource base of our own culture.

I fault Diamond for concentrating so much on islands. For an much more comprehensive take on populations, civilizations and soil fertility in the major cultures of the Earth, download some the online copies of out-of-print classics at the Holistic Agriculture Library. In particular check out Dale & Carter's "Topsoil & Civilization" (1955); and Lowdermilk's "Conquest of the Land through Seven Thousand Years" (1948). (plus, you can make a donation to the Library service and help keep these classics available.)

Civilizations live off their topsoils. If they were blessed with good soil and maintain them well, they might last a thousand years or more. If the soils are naturally replenished (the waters of the Nile) then civilization can last indefinitely. If you destroy your soils, then you will go the way of Babylon, Crete, Tunisia, etc., and leave majestic ruins in the desert sands.

I have wondered over farmland here in Arizona that was played out and abandoned many years ago, and they are so depleted that tumbleweeds have a hard time! If you want to get a jump start on avoiding the bad times ahead, get hold of some fertile land and start the process of preserving and rejuvenating it NOW! We are doing it (horse property for half a century on floodplain). It is challenging, but the best thing I have ever done in my life!

Even if P.O. is an easy transition and G.W. isn't so bad after all, you will still have done something wonderful with your life.

A small island could have a stable population for 1000 years if two things were in place

-the death rate was so high that population could not grow
-the population was so small that new inventions which could exploit the environment were never discovered.

basically, a small very primitive society, where most people die before the age of 5, can be stable for an indefinite period unless affected by outside forces.  Not exactly my idea of paradise.

So the global reduction of infant mortality was our species' undoing?  It makes sense, unfortunately.
Yes, the question is not "can one society live peacefully and sustainably?" It is "can ALL societies live peacefully and sustainably?"

You can have 999 societies living in peace and "harmony with nature" but the moment one society decides to not to that throws the system into disarray and conflict.

but the moment one society decides to not to that throws the system into disarray and conflict.

We have seemingly already hit the jackpot here
(see the comments which have been removed from the page, warning this is a huge file)
These are may be the worst but the Jewish fundamentalists aren't bad either, not to speak of the All American fundies, zealots of armageddon.
Oh! I forgot the hindus.

Yeah, there's the dilemma in being a peaceful harmonious society.

You have to be ready to exterminate the society next door.

Tikopia. 3000 years/1300 people.
We shall define as a "social steady state" any society in which the quantity [of energy expended] per capita ... shows no appreciable change as a function of time. ... On the other hand a society wherein ... the average quantity of energy expended per capita undergoes appreciable change as a function of time is said to exhibit "social change." ... Upon this basis we can measure quantitatively the physical status of any given social system. ... The energy per capita [equals the] the total amount [of energy] expended divided by the population.
(Ackerman, 1932, p. 18-19)

Those societies remained in what Ackerman described as a "social steady state".  They did not to increase E because their society was not exhibiting social change.  To go from "Pilgrims" to The most powerful Empire on the planet requires a "continuously INCREASE in energy use."


And if the population exhibits a steady exponentaial growth, you're back in the box.

IMO, what's required here is something like Lovelock's "Gaia" understanding.  It does no good to have a social steady state if the Gaian niche the society is occupying keeps expanding inexorably.

As I recall they engaged in infanticide and expulsion.  I guess the whole planet can't engage in expulsion, but haven't we reached the point where deserate times call for desperate measures.  We could at least start by shutting down all those fertility clinics. And do we really need all those frozen embryos, for babies, I mean.
And they encouraged suicide, rather than considering it "the unforgivable sin."

Japan, another of the sustainable societies Diamond covered, has a history of late marriage, acceptance of homosexuality, suicide, and other behaviors that help keep the population down.

Japan is sustainable only as long as it receives massive imports of energy in the form of coal and oil from other nations of the world.

Japan is sustainable only as long as it receives massive imports grain and other foodstuffs from other nations.

Japan is sustainable only as long as it can send its fishing fleet all over the world's oceans to harvest this great commons to the detriment of the sustainability of the world's fish stocks.

Block all imports into Japan and limit its fishing fleets to it's fair share of the ocean fishery and Japan is in no way sustainable. Japan's population may no longer be growing but she is still deep into overshoot. Because Japan has virtually no fossil fuels she will likely suffer greater than most nations because of peak oil.

I think he meant historically, not necessarily now.

Still, I think Japan may be in pretty good shape, all things considered.  They still have almost 80% of their nation covered with forest.  They are community-minded in a way Americans are not.  Their population growth rate is very low, not least because they discourage immigration.  They've got a lot of experience with nuclear power plants.  

That is one thing we will regret: years of artificial fertility. People with fertility problems were allowed to pass on their bad genes (from a fertility viewpoint). Women with narrow hips, babies with large heads were allowed to live. When IVF and caesarians are no longer available, their descendants will bear the costs of this borrowing from natural selection.
This can also be expanded to other forms of medicine. At first a cure is a bonus, but through time - that can be centuries or millenia - we become reliant on it. Therefore, eugenetics must be a part of any civilization that wishes to practice effective medicine.
Re: Peak oil adaptation and mitigation

I'm going to add a little to my post Extreme Production Measures here and cross-link this comment over there.

As we rush headlong into the future straining mightily to increase oil supply to meet burgeoning demand as the standard economic growth model requires, there is no mitigation in sight. Though this subject was not discussed, my post strongly implied that putting discovered fields into production be deferred to spread the wealth over time, not develop it all at once for short term gain (both economic and societal). What Bubba called "good oil field management" is premised on the idea that both corporate profits and high flow rates be maximized for "instant" gratification.

It is debatable whether this behavour is part of our genetic heritage or whether this is a cultural trait widely shared. As an American, I have seen how our entire culture runs on this premise. I've never been able to decide one way or the other. I do know that hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic did not live this way. Is it because they couldn't? or wouldn't? Gorging yourself on the food supply is not a good thing because there's always the question of what you eat tomorrow. This is exactly the same question I raised about oil production.

"I do know that hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic did not live this way. Is it because they couldn't? or wouldn't? Gorging yourself on the food supply is not a good thing because there's always the question of what you eat tomorrow."

How do you know that?  I suspect they lived more like a pack of wolves does.  The pack expands when game is good, over harvests the available game, then dies back when the game is depleted.  It may well be that every now and then someone figured out that it was better to take less, but the low human populations for millions of years doesn't suggest that the message stuck very often.

Alternatively, maybe they just had to leave any extra behind as they moved on to better hunting.  Eventually they figured out it wasn't worth the extra effort to hunt more if you couldn't take it with you at the end of the season.  Nomads without wheels or horses can't carry all that much.

Perhaps I should have said "based on the best anthropological & archaeological studies I know of, examining all the evidence we have, hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic did not live this way". Better.

Where did get that "wolves" theory? Pulled that right out of your keester, didn't you?

I'll leave it that and I suggest you do the same because this is the dieoff.org thread, the Alpha Male is posting a lot. So, if you don't leave it right there, I will give you what Kunstler refers to as "A *****-Slap Upside the Head" and start quoting citations, giving you links, etc.  

Got it?


There's a dick size contest between me and Don raging up top, I'd like to see some bitchslaps thrown around down ohere so have at it.

The problem I see is that even if 99/100 tribes lived peacefully/sustainabily all it takes is for that one Dick Cheney tribe to come along and screw it up.

Hence my comment several days ago that the only way to keep civilization is to have one, for it to ruthlessly exterminate any competitors, and for it to enforce population control rigorously. Since this is not "acceptable" we will instead get no civilizations. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether you and your descendants are the hunters or the hunted.
On this point, Matt, you are 100% correct.

Failure of defense of territory has always been a leading cause of collapse.

Always has, always will be.

There! I've made a prediciton.

(But only because I have no fear of successful contradiction, based on inductive reasoning.)

Hmm...  Let me check... No, didn't come from there :-)

I was describing a classic predator/prey cycle.  I was specifically referring to the Isle Royale wolf/moose cycle.  There are many references at Eurekalert that talk about the 48 years of study of the closed system there.  

Actually, one good reference that says that paleolithic man never overshot his resources would do it.  I was under the lousy impression that people have been suffering from feast/famine cycles pretty much forever.

[Bracing for my *** slap]

I was under the lousy impression that people have been suffering from feast/famine cycles pretty much forever.

No, that's pretty much a result of agriculture.  As someone else pointed out earlier, many foraging societies refuse to believe it's even possible for people to starve to death.

The exception may be the Inuit and other Arctic peoples.  Their folklore is positively haunted by the fear of starvation.  

The evidence suggests that the Indians at Dickson Mounds, like many other primitive peoples, took up farming not by choice but from necessity in order to feed their constantly growing numbers. "I don't think most hunger-gatherers farmed until they had to, and when they switched to farming they traded quality for quantity," says Mark Cohen of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, co-editor with Armelagos, of one of the seminal books in the field, Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture. "When I first started making that argument ten years ago, not many people agreed with me. Now it's become a respectable, albeit controversial, side of the debate."
From Jared Diamond's The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

Notice that this suggests that paleolithic humans overextended their resources and had to either take up agriculture or die back.

I would expect that most foraging societies don't have to deal with lack of food, they have to deal with warfare from someone else trying to take away their bounty. Do the foraging societies you mention have a word for fight?

Hunter gatherers were quite capable of depleting their resources, and in record time. We only have to look at the fate of megafauna here in North America.

Tim Flannery, in "The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples" (essentially an ecological history from the asteroid 65 million years ago to the present), talks about the "black hole theory" of Pleistocene dieoff. He says that Mammoths, mastadons, camels, horses, burros, zebras, giant ground sloths, etc. etc. etc., all vanished into the "Black holes" between the noses and chins of Pleistocene hunters.

It appears that after surviving at least 17 glacial cycles in the last 3 million years, all these animals disappeared in a space of 300 years after human contact.

We might call it "peak big game hunting."

Most of the large mammals with which we are familiar -- moose, mule deer, elk, gray wolf, grizzley bear -- followed humans over the land bridge from Asia AFTER the existing mega fauna had been eliminated.

I dont think modern man has any monopoly over the legacy of wiping out natural resources.

Leanan, what about what appears to be the extinction of the North American megafauna by the Folsom people when they inhabited the continent about 10,000 years ago?
 And I would also like to note that there were probably Indians who predicted mass starvation and the collapse of stone ageculture when the mammoths and horses were exterminated too.
 We definitely need a new conception of how to order society. The human race seems to be near a huge culling, possibly on the order of the Black Death. But, trying to predict the future very far in advance leaves the realm of science and enters the domain of prophecy. Personally, I'd rather die than be a member of the Dick Cheney tribe.
  The rise and fall of fossil energy seems to contain more analogs to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire as it does to Easter Island.
 Roman civilization was an oligarcy whose economic basis was looting and slavery. There were 10 slaves for every free citizen in anient Rome, and the whole deal fell apart when the empire outgrew easily trainable slave populations.
  The result was a massive die-off and a retreat to a sustainable society with a religeous oligarcy as a nucleus. This is more commonly known as the Dark Ages, which lasted 800 years in relative stability and ecological harmony. But damn, they sound like miserable times to be a human.
  Another example of a large scale sustainable society was China for the last 5,000 years under Taoism and Confucianism.
  Jared Diamond makes some very interesting points. But,does it make sense to ignore the analogs to be found in world history in favor of tiny societies like Greenland Vikings orthe Easter Islanderers? Personally I feel studying Confucious and the I Ching makes more sense as well as Gibbon.
It's not clear Native Americans were responsible for the extinction of the megafauna.  Indeed, the most recent research suggests that it was climate change to blame, not the hand of man.  
Correlation does not imply causation; we all know that. Nevertheless, the striking and abrupt extinction of the megafauna throughout the Americas exactly as Native Americas spread south and east is highly suggestive.

I agree that the issue is still open, but I think the weight of the evidence is still (somewhat, not overwhelming by any means) on the side of the conventional wisdom in this case.

Then how did the megafauna survive previous interglacials?
May not have been the glaciers that were the key.

Megafauna died off around that time throughout the world, not just in North America.

A basic problem with understanding Hanson is that most people find it more palatable to be publically optimistic with regard to the consequences of peak.  Most of that optimism assumes that, as decline sets in, there will be more societal cooperation in order to deal with it.  The assumption is very typically middle-class but as decline sets in, the middle class will shrink while opportunities (or necessities) for individuals to exhibit the baser attributes of human nature will increase.
It only takes a couple glances into the political realm of the US to see that the "ruling elite" here understand that and have been taking steps to try to address the loss of their control over the status quo.
Given that the governing apparatus of a country cannot operate under conditions in which there is a loss of control of the populace, it is in the best interests of the governing apparatus to avoid those conditions.
History is full of examples when governments have lost control of the populace.
This country was created as a result of just such an instance.
There have been and will be times when an event or events have and will occur that precipitate loss of control.

There also are times when such events are known in advance to be more than likely or even inevitable.
In these cases, upon recognition of the likelihood or inevitability of such an event it should be assumed that a government or governments will take steps to organize systems and means of control in advance.

It is well known that fear is a means of control.

Distraction can work for a while.

Surveillance is a tool of control.

During a period of lack of control the legal system can be helpful in aiding a degree of control. Putting laws in place prior to such a period for the purpose of aiding control would be a rational step for a government to take.

Attempts to ameliorate the effects of or forestall a known, upcoming control-threatening event would be seen as a viable course to take. Depending on how extreme the loss of control is seen to be possible, such attempts can get quite drastic.

Force applied toward a country's own populace is another means available if control slips to a certain point.

Nobody likes lack of control.

The first 5 of the above 6 have been taking place over the last several years.

A spokesperson for The Bank for International Settlements has said, "Everyone needs to commit to some unpleasant compromises now, in order to avoid even more unpleasant alternatives in the future."
They do mean everyone, they do mean unpleasant and they do mean commit.

However, it is most likely the case that these "unpleasant compromises" will only briefly forestall the event.

Cheney's secret energy confab is secret for a reason.

The Patriot Act ain't just for terrorists.

The invasion of Iraq wasn't a response to terrorism.

The "us" versus "them" of people calling themselves Muslims vs people calling themselves Christian has not been pursued for religious reasons.

The fear that is constantly being pushed on the world over terrorism is not being pushed as a means to control terrorists.

It may very well be that some acts attributed to "evil terrorists" are not what you think.

It is not being said, at times, that bin laden is possibly hiding in Iran because getting bin laden is a goal.

China and India aren't doing large oil and gas deals all over the world NOW at a frantic pace because they think the price might go down any time soon or that availability will increase in the future.

All the big private oil companies don't now sport hyphenated names as a fashion statement.

The NSA widening their ability to track every citizen's communications is not because they think there's a significant amount of foreign terrorists running around the country.

Right on the money, right down the line.  And don't forget Diebold!
China and India aren't doing large oil and gas deals all over the world NOW at a frantic pace because they think the price might go down any time soon or that availability will increase in the future.

China has signed several long term contracts to lock in prices. Aside from these, they are in several negotiations for additional capacity to support their domestic growth. China knows oil is going up and in addition both India and China have said they are setting up strategic reserves of oil.  China is farther along than India, but both countries are not lemmings.  


China in free trade talks with GCC

BEIJING - China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have completed a round of talks on a free trade agreement as part of Beijing's efforts to secure long-term supplies of oil, state press reported on July 24. Chinese trade officials held talks with council members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in the eastern province of Zhejiang from July 19 to 22, the Beijing Morning Post reported. "Once we establish a free trade zone, then a new, unlimited 'Silk Road' will be formed," the news paper quoted vice minister of trade Yi Xiaozhun as saying.

More than 40 percent of China's oil imports come from the six Gulf states so Beijing is eager to secure long-term and stable supplies, especially as crude prices continue to rise to record heights, the newspaper said.

Most everything else, I'm with yeh!

The corollary to the China/India statement is:

China and India are doing large oil and gas deals all over the world NOW at a frantic pace because they think the price will not go down any time soon and that availability will decrease in the future.

So...I agree with you.

I am not sure that our behaviour is so much determined by genetics (or the specific wiring of our neurons which stems from it). A lot of work is actually being done on the process of decision making and motivation through experimental settings in neuroimagery and neuropsychology. We discuss very often the signification of such experiments among us. I must say that there is not a yet a model which explains satisfactorally these processes.

For very long we have assumed that behaviour occuring in animals has to be genetic in origin because the cultural aspect is absent, especially if the the animal is grown alone. But we know since a few years that a lot of animal behaviour is also modified by cultural aspects.

Humans have expanded their mental abilities through symbolisation, language and modelisation of their environment. Most of our symbolisation and modelisation capacities are shaped by what is transmitted with the vehicle of language. Language serves to construct our most conscious conceptions in science and everyday knowledge for example. It also serves for constructing one's own history and integration into our society. It serves for the creation of myths and then for the establishment of rules which we use in turn for controlling the disorder created by our hypothalamuses and limbic lobes.

It follows quite naturally that a lot of material which we use to modify or shape our behaviour stems from culture, not genetics.

In animal societies overshoot stems from an inadequation between the number of individuals versus resources available. The behaviour of growth stems from reproduction, not overconsumption. Overconsumption is often limited by the mecanism of satiety and reward. Some individuals may have some deficit in these balances but they disapear early because of disease.

In human society overshoot occurs mainly because of overconsumption. I think that we have the quite unique possibility to overrule our genetic determinants which normally would prevent us to overconsume. My belief is that we achieve this overruling of our natural limitating systems through cultural systems. These systems try to keep the state of anxiety in individuals high enough to maintain consumption (consumption providing a temporary relief) but still low enough to prevent motor inhibition. If you don't belief me, look at the commercials on TV.

And of course I think that most of our cultural system prevents us from thinking about ourselves (and not our genetically determined wiring). This is why I see the social consequences of Peak oil as devastating with a real possibility of massif die-off if we don't adress this with utter energy. But because we have now a very powerfull media to modify the cultural aspects of our behaviour I believe that there is a tiny chance (too tiny certainly) we might achieve a serious power-down in a not too peaceless manner.

Neuroil, our every action or thought is a result of both our heredity and our environment, our nature and our nurture. To attribute everything to either one or the other is just silly. Like Matt Ridley, I thought that damn debate had been settled:

For more than 50 years sane voices have called for an end to the debate. Nature versus nurture has been declared everything from dead and finished to futile and wrong--a false dichotomy. Everybody with an ounce of sense knows that human beings are a product of a transaction between the two. Yet nobody could stop the argument....

Let me at once put my cards faceup. I believe human behavior has to be explained by both nature and nurture. I am not backing one side or the other. But that does not mean I am taking a "middle of the road" compromise. As Jim Hightower, a Texas politician, once said: "There is nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and a dead armadillo."

Matt Ridley, "Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human"

It is the very best book ever written on the subject and if you really wish to understand this dichotomy, or false dichotomy, you could do no better than read it.

It is the very best book ever written on the subject

Indeed, although Pinker's "Blank Slate" has to be a close second.

Nature "vs" nurture? Or genes "vs" environment???

I don't think so.

After all, you could think of genes as a compendium of ancestral selective environments.

And most of our "environment" consists of other genetic entities.

And for those here who tend to apply evolutionary "logic" dogmatically, let's not forget Pinker's statement: "My genes can go jump in a lake."

Mike, I have read Pinker's "Blank Slate" and it is indeed a great book. And both books are related however Pinker's book covers a lot more territory. Ridley covers some territory that Pinker does not, but not nearly as much. Ridley does not address the noble savage debate.

You wrote:

Nature "vs" nurture? Or genes "vs" environment???

I don't think so.

Who said anything about Nature vs. Nurture? Not me and certainly not Matt Ridley. You misread, or misquoted the title of the book. It is "Nature Via Nurture", not "Nature vs Nurture". Vs, or "verses" is means one as opposed to the other, either one or the other. Nature via means the exact opposite. It means "by way of".

Just for good measure, a Pinker quote:

I think we have reason to believe that the mind is equipped with a battery of emotions, drives, and faculties for reasoning and communicating, and that they have a common logic across cultures, are difficult to erase or redesign from scratch, were shaped by natural selection acting over the course of human evolution, and owe some of their basic design (and some of their variation) to information in the genome.      
 - Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate
I wasn't putting those words in your mouth, "nature vs nurture," nor quoting the title incorrectly. I was merely paraphrasing what the book says: that it is a false debate.
Oh! Sorry for the misunderstanding. I think he is saying it the debate is never nature or nurture, it is always both. Or more correctly, as Ridley put it, we are a product of a transaction between the two.

By the way, Pinker is a determinist, and so am I. That is we believe we are a product of our genes and environment. We were built, brick by brick by our genes and environment. We did not build ourselves.

Just thumbing through the book, The Blank Slate, I came across this humurous quote on page 178:

Hume's Fork: Either our actions are determined, in which case we are not responsible for them, or they are the result of random events, in which case we are not responsible for them.
Hume's Fork: Either our actions are determined, in which case we are not responsible for them, or they are the result of random events, in which case we are not responsible for them.

What if its a little of each?

Pinker and Dennett have been sooo influential as I go over the hill in life. I've had the pleasure of seeing each of them talk. The topic--evolutionary psychology--is riveting to me.

And I'm an English teacher!

No wonder Jay's site hooked me. He managed to connect two of my favorite topics, evolution and geology, in a very unexpected but "obvious" way. When I realized one of my own professors from the past had a hand in it, I was sold.

I know this is an "argument by authority," but I can't help it.

hello darwinian,

thanks for your reply. The point you make here is exactly going into the direction I wanted to indicate.

That is why I wanted to challenge Jay Hansons premice about us being genetically screened from self-knowledge. This leading to energy depletion and overshoot. If this is true, than we are almost doomed for certain.

But I want to say, that, while of course our brains are genetically wired to be shaped by cultural elements, genetics don't screen us from any knowledge, but cultural framing does that very effectively.

It may seem an ridiculous argument but I don't think it is. Because if Jay Hanson is right, it would take a genetically engineered human to overcome the problems relating to overshoot, while if the tenants of cultural induced behaviour are right, you have to change our basic cultural assumptions.

Both are quite difficult, I must admit.

It follows quite naturally that a lot of material which we use to modify or shape our behaviour stems from culture, not genetics.

Culture is fuelled by genetics, sharp marketers know about that: The reptilian always wins

I already posted this link once
Knowing the basic brickstones of our souls is important. But it doesn't explain how we chose to give way to one or the other of these components. Isn't that the essence of culture ?
I've never looked at this guy Hanson or his site, but I've studied some related fields, relating to human knowledge and decision making. Generally I look at mainstream economic and social science publications.

One of the most universal human traits is self-deception. We fool ourselves in many different ways, adopting comfortable and reassuring beliefs in opposition to the facts. A classic and amusing example is that something like 90% of all drivers rate themselves as above average in skill. Another example is how people getting married fool themselves about the prospects of their marriage surviving.

A specific form of self-deception is overconfidence. People are almost universally overconfident in their beliefs. There have been many studies where people are asked to estimate some obscure factual matter (how many miles of railway in Norway?), and to give a range such that they are 98% sure that the true answer will be within that range. If people were well calibrated then they'd be wrong 2% of the time, but actually they are wrong more like 40% of the time.

Studies have found that informing people of these facts generally does not change their behavior. Knowing about overconfidence and self-deception does not eliminate these traits.

How do we apply this knowledge to evaluating a social, political and economic situation like Peak Oil? Most analysts prefer to turn outward and to point out that people are irrational and will respond badly. But I prefer to turn inward and say, my own analysis of this situation is inherently faulty. I am biased, I am deceived, I am overconfident in my reasoning. My conclusions about Peak Oil cannot be trusted. The same is true of other people, including Jay Hanson.

Given that our own thoughts are untrustworthy, where can we turn? To the experts? No, many studies have found that experts are no damn good. Comparing their predictions against what actuallly happens, they are no better than chimps throwing darts at a chart to make random predictions. That's a common and widely replicated social science result.

I don't have any magic answers for you. I do observe that some institutions in our society have a history of success and progress. One is science as practiced in academia. Scientific progress is undeniable. Hence I would be inclined to accept the scientific consensus on a scientific matter. Unfortunately at this point there seems to be no such consensus on Peak Oil. Economists and geologists are somewhat at opposition.

There is some reason to give greater credence to the market than to predictions by individuals. The market tends to average out many human beliefs and we can hope that their errors tend to cancel. It also provides tangible financial rewards to people with correct beliefs, reducing the benefits of self-deception. Market valuations tend to have high standard deviations, indicating that markets also overcome the human failure of overconfidence. The 95% confidence interval for oil prices a few years hence is something like $15-$300. Few human beings are able to overcome their flaw of overconfidence well enough to acknowledge such a wide range of likely possibilities. This is all evidence that markets do in fact compensate for human failings to at least some extent, hence should be trusted more than individual predictions.

The bottom line is that Jay Hanson is no more believable than anyone else. Our attempts to analyze his writings and judge the soundness of his reasoning are thwarted by our own mental failings. We will fool ourselves into thinking we are being objective when in fact we are merely comparing his prejudices to our own, accepting the ones we like. This is not a sound foundation for predicting the future.

The only solution is like zen, to let go, and stop trying to think it out. Just look at the institutions of our society which have some measure of success, and see what they are saying. So far they are not giving a clear Peak Oil signal.

I like much of your line of thought but need to digest it more. Clearly, our ancestors who were brimming with confidence outproduced their unsure, uncertain, underconfident comrades, even if they were wrong.  As you say, the 'market' is overconfident too - what this means is that a crash is postponed but when it happens it will be steeper than it originally would have been. In fact, looking at historical distributions of market returns, this fact is borne out - returns are not normal - downside months/years, while less frequent, are much greater in magnitude. Facts catch up with overconfidence.

The bottom line is that Jay Hanson is no more believable than anyone else
Here I have to differ - Jay could be very wrong but his opinions, based on research, are magnitudes better than the average person who's never attempted to sythesize this stuff.

As Don Sailorman said, I dont know what the future will bring - I internally adjust my 'possibility matrix' based on new events, and more knowledge. I have an invisible normal distribution in my head that currently has a 10% chance of smooth transition, 60% chance of slow crash and 30% chance of hard crash, using various timelines. I live a little in all worlds -(post coming on this later this week)


But what about the "paradox of the slow crash? Sure at first it sounds a lot less scary and apocalyptic. But in a "slow crash" there is time for Hitler types to germinate and rise to power as their ideologies spread throughout the ranks. So I tend to think  whatever benefits are present in a slow crash are outweighed by the consequences.

Have you considered the possibility the slow crash is what we're already in? And that it begun in 1971 when our domestic oil production peaked?

I don't think it a coincidence that militant Christianity got it's toehold in the mid to late 1970s and has been spreading ever since.  

Matt, you always see crises as places where Hitlers arise.  You never see Lincolns, Roosevelts, and Churchills.
Admiration of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Churchill has not been universal ... they had (and still have) their share of critics.
lincoln did many bad things that history has not recorded.
roosevelt broke the law of the land and made japan attack pearl harbor by having the navy stay there in large numbers and by cutting off oil to the japanese.(yes we traded to both sides before we joined the conflict as all nuetral nations do.)
churchill did not give a damn about the holacost.
"...his opinions, based on research..."
In any field I know anything about it takes ten years or more to acquire the mental apparatus to do real research.
Hanson did ten years of 'research' on every topic that interested him and then he knew everything about everything.
Ordinary people wanting to be oriented in their environment do this thing called 'reading' which is different from research.
Jay Hanson has evidently done a lot of reading & has had some insights as a result but it's an insult to researchers to say that he's done research.
The first thing any autodidact needs to do is figure out how to tell who knows what he's talking about and who's pulling it out of his ass.
No evidence, to me at least, so far in this thread that anyone with the possible exception of Leanan in her comment about Japan, has any notion of history or how malleable 'human nature' is and historically has been.

I will not touch "human nature" with a ten foot pole, although I do think that Charles Horton Cooley had some cogent remarks on this topic about a hundred years ago.

Economists are more like priests than scientists. I would not call a disagreement between geologists and economists, a disagreement among scientists.
And what point in listening to the market when, as you yourself lay out, it is telling us nothing useful?
The free market says many things.  Most are missed in the big pile of information.  Those who are better at picking through it, make more money.  The market is telling people right now that things don't look good long term, and the short term seems to be becoming a burden.  Most people don't want to hear no evil.
I always have a problem with people that predict unavoidable doom.  Too often, this sort of situation leads to paralysis and a self-fulfilling prediction.

A pervasive view here is that society is overly optimistic and that Peak Oil reality is much much more pessimistic.  Some feel that we are so far out of touch that there is no hope, we should not expect to solve anything, or even bother to examine the issues any more closely.  

We are definitely overly optimistic for a continuation of the way things are. However, I think we are way too negative about our ability to implement change, once we see the need for it.
We can be optimistic for controlled change and mitigating alot of the potential pain in our future.  The key is for a significant part of society to realize that big changes are coming, and to have some idea of what those changes are.  Right now, the message is controlled by the PTB/people invested in the way things are, but we Peak Oilers do have reality on our side, and I believe the common perception would tilt/tip in an instant toward our understanding.

We (the Peak Oil crowd) are like the eyes for society, but I think we are only half open so far.  We need to keep on top of the numbers and investigate every social model or example that we can to get those eyes fully open.  The best information is needed so that everyone can decide for themselves and so that those willing to try can focus on productive solutions.

Very well-stated.


Apparently in survival situations (Titanic, Kobe earthquake), people generally split into three segments.

The largest group stands and waits for an authority or leader to tell them what to do.

A much smaller group becomes hysterical and counterproductive: screaming, fighting off rescuers, rushing back into burning buildings.

The smallest group looks for solutions and a way out. We need to support and empower these people.

People are almost universally overconfident in their beliefs.

So what does this mean? Everyone is overconfident in their beliefs? And what does confidence in one's belies say about the truth or falsity of those beliefs?

Studies have found that informing people of these facts generally does not change their behavior.

Ah! But it does change some people's behavior.

No, many studies have found that experts are no damn good.

Really now? Experts on what? Do you ever go to a doctor, an expert in medicine and sick people? True some experts are no damn good but many experts are very good. But please point some of these studies of experts. I would like to read a few of these studies. I have never encountered any "studies of experts".

The bottom line is that Jay Hanson is no more believable than anyone else.

And here Halfin is the crux of your argument, along with its major flaw. All people cannot be put under the umbrella of anyone else. Some people are far more believable than others. Some people know what they are talking about and some do not. Some people have done their homework and many have not. Some people talk from experience and studies in the field of which they speak and some just talk out their ass. Some people back up what they say with studies, reports and statistics and the word of other experts in the field, some just shoot from the hip. I think in each case Jay Hanson is a member of the former and I will not say who I think is a member of the latter.

"Human beings never think for themselves; they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told--and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion."
~Michael Crichton, "The Lost World"
Halfin, your comment "We will fool ourselves into thinking we are being objective when in fact we are merely comparing his prejudices to our own, accepting the ones we like" reminded me of a quote by William James:

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

If only a red flashing light would go on in my brain when that was happening.

"I don't have any magic answers for you. I do observe that some institutions in our society have a history of success and progress. One is science as practiced in academia. Scientific progress is undeniable. Hence I would be inclined to accept the scientific consensus on a scientific matter. Unfortunately at this point there seems to be no such consensus on Peak Oil. Economists and geologists are somewhat at opposition."

Modern economics is not science. It is a form of modern voodoo, using virtual chicken entrails to create rationalizations and circular logic arguments to convince oneself that one knows something when one does not.

Geology is science.

Based on the above two observations, I will bet on geology, not on the witchdoctors of Wall Street.

  Right on, Greyzone! Social sciences have a real history of restating the obvious and then formulating theories that confirm our predudices.
  I love the symetrey and erudition of Jung's conceptions in psychiatry. But, isn't most of his findings refuted by the psychoactive drugs that balance nuerotransmiters?
  Jung also invented/discovered the concept of "projection", I.E. human's tendency to fantasise that their own internal state reflects reality. Because they realise that they are going to die, the apocolyptic doom and gloom crowd projects this belief on to human civilisation and maybe even life on earth.
  Maybe I'm delusional, but I like TheLastSasquatche's figures a whole lot better-things do work out and something comes along, not quite as often as Mr. Macawber hoped, and they generally require a lot more effort than Macawber was willing to extend. It is our job as half aware visionaries to figure out how and to implement our part.
  And, I might note Mr Macawber lived happily ever after, while your average apocollist is the follower of David Koresh or the bunch that commited suicide in Guiana following the People's Temple.
Markets again... Markets are often manipulated, and there are plenty of biases built in, but it's hard to figure out what they are.  Also, I think that while statistics are find for predicting the bahavior of groups, they are lousy at predicting the behavior of individuals in that group (unless yuo can show that the standard deviation is really small...).

Also, just averaging the opinions of a lot of people together is probably most accurate when nothing much is happening.  When change is coming, it can only delay the response.

At last, The Oil Drum is taking a serious look at the likely evolutionarily psychological responses of humanity to this crisis.  It has been the one weak aspect in what is an overall excellent analysis. A good start, keep it up.
I'd like to help but I haven't finished digging the well.
(Just 4' to go before I have fresh spring water all year, no matter how dry the summer)
I'll put <look at the likely evolutionarily psychological responses of humanity to this crisis> on my to do list just after -Buy more .308 ammo.
Fitness equation:

Fresh spring water + .308 ammo > knowledge of ev psych


I got abundant pure water only eight feet down.

And I stockpile .303 for my Lee Enfields and .44-40 for my Ruger Vaquero.

Also am practicing to be William Tell with my brand new Horton crossbow with its delightful red-dot sight.

I think I'll be safe from the driest summer at about 10'.
I prefer the bow and arrow for leisure hunting. However, my father in law bought a nice crossbow when he got too infirm to draw a bowstring.
We'll meet at the well and broil some venison :)
Don, why the Horton? Any particular reason?
Got a fabulously good deal at a "Fleet Farm" closeout--about a $500 machine for $119--could not say no.

The Barnetts are at least as good as the Hortons.

Also, I am learning to make my own crossbows.

   My upsetting personal acquaintance with declining water table is reflected by the several exchanges just above.  The downslope from peak water has drawn my attention away from peak oil, dieoff, etc., at least for a while.  A local driller completed a new well for me this past Saturday that will assure my continued comfort for a few years yet.  Yesterday I began resding my newly acquired copy of Lester Brown's "Plan B 2.0."  Chapter 3 on global water problems discusses what appears to be a far greater threat than declining oil, but lacks the attention it deserves.  Unlike oil, there are no alternatives.
   Thanks for the thoughts about crossbows -- that hadn't crossed my mind.  I had been thinking about augmenting my meager armory, however.  
With respect to other posts above, at 83 I remain an optimist, in that I think a way will be found to achieve sustainability, albeit with massive local and regional dieoff and much residual pain.  Maybe it's an age thing.


There are attachments for cocking crossbows that require minimal effort--about as much as required to lift five pounds.

At our ages we want to minimize stress and strain and recoil. There are good alternatives out there.

Crossbow fishing for huge fish is great fun, as is ice fishing and spearing for Northern Pike in Minnesota.

If it is not fun, why do it?

You are entirely correct about water limitations being more critical than peak oil.

My main quibble with the dieoff principle is its uniformity. As the global system falls apart, its pieces diverge; they create diversity. This will cause different outcomes everywhere. And it's not like everything is the same anywhere, the control mechanics of the empire are not that advanced yet. For example, the plague in the fourteenth century did not hit every area equally hard everywhere. Some regions were devastated. Others escaped only slightly harmed. The dieoff won't start at January 1st, 2012 and end at February 1st, 2012.
Furthermore, the diversity of the genetic repertoire is underestimated, as well as the equilibrium mechanisms that are the result thereof. There is always a balance between prey and predator, a negative feedback loop. Likewise, there is a balance between quality and quantity breeders. Different species are usually geared towards either one of these tactics. Humans are primarily quality breeders. However, there is diversity within the species: some people prefer a lot of children, others few; it's also possible to choose a different tactic (rationally, due to cultural pressure etc.). We will see that when a dieoff happens, it will happen first and primarily where there are a lot of quantity breeders: those that breed to the limit of the available energy. Quality breeders will have much more non-critical stuff to drop before they are mortally threatened. And those that do survive their local hardships, can have learned a lesson.

So, dieoff won't be the final judgment where we will be roasted by the wrath of god. It will be chaos, for better or worse.

Agree.  There will be a die-off, but pockets will survive.  Amurikans may be in the most trouble of all because our infrastructure and agriculture is most oil-based.  Most primitive cultures may have the best chances as life will go on as usual in many ways.  Then, GW will determine which of those geographies do best.
You should read some history; say, Simon Schamas "History of Britain."

Britain suffered a major dieoff after the year 1066. Normandy did wonderfully during that period; prosperity up the wazoo. Why? Was it climate change? Was it disease? Not quite. It was because of a bloke named "William the Conqueror." He redistributed resources from Britain to his own clan (including all the land and the lions share of the food).

After the Crash of 1929, we had other fellows like Hitler and Tojo do much the same. After 1940 Germans ate sausage, while Parisians went hungry and ate inferior grains.

I would be very surprised if the same thing didnt happen again in the near future. Or the near past -- vis a vis Iraq.

Globalization only works when the great powers think there are limitless resources. As the recognition of resource scarcity dawns, mercantilism soon prevails.

We are in for some very "interesting" times, my friends. A fascinating time to be a historian.  

I doubt that more than a few hundred people worldwide (perhaps far less) would be able to really understand the issues I raise in this paper. Probably no more than one or two who actually receive this mailing will really understand it -- for reasons I will attempt to explain...

Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Laureate in physics, was once asked by a Caltech faculty member to explain why spin one-half particles obey Fermi Dirac statistics.  Rising to the challenge, he said, "I'll prepare a freshman lecture on it."  But a few days later he told the faculty member, "You know, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level.  That means we really don't understand it.

If you are going to tell people the world is ending, you should be able to explain.

The problem with this example is that spin one-half particles really do obey Fermi-Dirac statistics. In other words, just because you can't explain something in simple terms to most people, doesn't mean that it isn't true.
If you can't explain it then you don't understand it.  That is my point.  If you don't understand it, you should keep working till you do.

Peak oil is true.  It is geological fact and easily explained.  Die off and the possibilities of alternative energy are debatable, with much informaiton on both sides.  There is no simple answer to the question of the effects oil depletion will have and no one, no matter how much researh they do on the past can predict the future, let alone explain it.

Yes, too many saying IT WILL HAPPEN talking about depletion rates or whatever without describing exactly how there will be this shortage of availability of people's needs- most importantly food and water without oil.
Further, as Jay notes, we are genetically wired to not accept information about how we function socially and why. So for this topic it is not just being able to explain it but for the listener to overcome his built-in screening mechanisms, shut them down, and let the information actually register.
Years later, Feyneman did succeed in this enormously difficult task. I wish I could have had him for a teacher. But of course I have all his books . . . .
Hello Exsuburbanite,

I think Jay has explained his Thermo-Gene Collision very well in the hundreds of pages of Dieoff.com and his thousands of postings.  The short form posted above by TheLastSasquatch is extremely clear if it can be mentally absorbed in its entirety; if a person can 'rewire' their hardware to accurately process this software.

Overshoot and Dieoff is the broad, overarching theme, even Jay admits to not having perfect clairvoyance.  But just as water runs downhill, we can probably all agree that we will soon be headed in the opposite direction of infinite growth; it is just not forseeable to have 15 billion of us packed on this little blue marble.

My theory is the best we can hope to do is to try to optimize the squeeze thru the bottleneck.  IMO, Asimov's Foundation of predictive collapse and directed decline seems to offer a possible path because it merely seeks to accelerate our collective response to 'nature & nurture' behaviorial switches.

For example: imagine if the Mayan leaders had early access to the Foundation knowledge we have now about Overshoot & Dieoff.  Instead of trying to keep their old system going, which only screwed up their ecosystem even more [taking longer to heal], what if they told their people to be proactive and head to the jungle 50 years earlier?  This willful creation of a new Thermo-Gene balance and culture benefits all in the long run because the habitat can rebound more quickly.

If we know that GW is going to submerge many cities--why wait until the last moment and maximize violence?  Not writing flood insurance now will induce people to start moving inland to higher ground in a cooperative, proactive  fashion.

If we are inclined to destroy each other in a full-on nuclear gift exchange, we merely need to convince the leaders that this strategy is futile.  We just need to figure out the proper 'nature & nuture' method so they have no desire to launch; what behavioral switches to enable/disable.

I don't know if this Foundation is feasible or not, but it seems like it is worth exploring more as to its possibilities.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Apologies for a hasty comment (and I haven't read all of the comments above) but it really should be pointed out that explorations into 'human nature' don't proceed in a vacuum; that if you take an (explicitly nihilistic) metaphysic as your guide - which is what modern science does - then you will end up with an explicitly nihilistic conclusion; and that once you start really engaging with these areas then you need to become much more philosophically sophisticated in your analysis (not relying on extremely partial commentators like Dawkins or Dennett) and - frankly - you end up with theology (which Hanson himself indicates in that quote - I'll have to chase it up).

All anthropologies are ultimately based upon a theology, even if it is an atheology. This is why the crisis is ultimately spiritual.

(For those who haven't yet read it, my beginning take on this can be found here: http://elizaphanian.blogspot.com/2006/01/prophecy-and-peak-oil.html)

I cannot agree that all antropologies are based on theologies.

For specific counterexamples, consider the structural-functionalism of B. Malinowski, E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Radcliffe Brown.

I do not say that I agree with their world view in all its details. I do assert that by no stretch of the word is it correct to refer to British structural functionalism as a "theology."

However, when you get to the U.S., Talcott Parsons did indeed distort structural functionalism into a "theology" and was only partly rescued from this mistake by Robert Merton.

For myself, I am a symbolic interactionist in the tradition of G.H. Mead, Herbert Blumer, and Tamotsu Shibutani. Once again, I think it is quite wrong to characterize this perspective as a "theology."  

Have a read of John Milbank's 'Theology and Social Theory', for a detailed explanation of why.

Alternatively, and much more readably, have a read of Robert Pirsig's 'Lila' - making some similar points, but not using the language of 'theology' to do so. His 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' addressed the spiritual side of these things thirty years ago, of course.

Thank you for your references; I've read and enjoyed and learned from them all.

However, I stand by my point: By no stretch of the definition does the symbolic interactionist perspective in social psychology amount to a "theology."

Pehaps that is why I like it so much. BTW, I knew both Blumer and Shibutani quite well and for a decade was one of their favorite students. So perhaps I am a wee bit biased;-)

"Given the right leadership and sufficient external threat, the primary product of such spirituality may be extraordinary social cohesion.
...Almost every leader of note has, either consciously or unconsciously, fished these murky waters at some time or other.
Their reward is a united people armed with humanity's shining Excalibur.  To unsheathe this magic blade, such visionary leaders must first win over the populace with the primal fairy tale, which invariably contains two ingredients;

1.) A Monster-preferably one who speaks an alien tongue, prays to heathen gods, wears peculiar clothing, and/or has different-colored skin. http://tinyurl.com/qhm5f
2.) A Miracle-earned only by sacrifice, but culminating in triumph for the home team and a nasty end for the Monster.

This tired old routine has worked its magic with astonishing regularity since the dawn of history, and no one with fully functioning DNA seems wholly immune to the lure of it.  Its genetic nature shines through the grisly statistics that follow every major conflict, especially those that incorporate genocidal slaughter."
~Reg Morrison, 1999 "The Spirit in the Gene, Humanity's Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature"

How many of you genetic robots have fallen for the old fabricated Bin Laden and global terrorism gag?    Come on admit it, your own tribe would never do that to you right?  You're too smart for that...


"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind."
~William Blake

I have only recently started looking at this blog and cannot help but agree with the essentials of Jay's hypothesis.

As a school kid, in the 1960's, I read a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince - it seemed to make sense even to a 14 year-old.

A little later, I read The Ruling Class by Gaetano Mosca that I found in my school library. He basically shows that every society that the world has ever had was ruled by a ruling class - a Plutocracy.

In the early 70's, I was fortunate to meet, in a work-environment, with one of the guys behind the System Dynamics language Dynamo - the same language later used for developing the World3 model. I was fascinated by levels, positive feedback and negative feedback - I still am. I bought everything written by Professor Jay Forrester.

More recently, I have been reading the 3 volumes of Fernand Braudel's masterpiece Civilization and Capitalism 15th to 18th Centuries - it fits in very nicely with the above references. Unfortunately, these books are out of print and you would have to search for them.

Personally, I try not to have a nihilistic attitude - there will be survivors.

Mosca and Braudel may be OP (Braudel I expect that's temporary if true) but the search to find them not at all hard. These books are available.
And very very good.

Is it only us old geezers who like to read and reread great books?

Nah, it's only certain fellas who reckon they're particularly well endowed, in whatever form, who like to continually reaasure the rest of us as to just how large that endowment really, truly is. :)
Do you consider yourself a "young" geezer?   :-)
I still check ID on the women who demand to come home with me.
It's only you old geezers with the leaky memory that have to re-read books!

(sorry! too good of a set up to let pass!)

Inspired partly by Braudel is Immanuel Wallerstein's "The modern world-system". 500 years of history in a nutshell (a nut tree actually, three large volumes). It discusses the genesis and nature of historical capitalism, and why it cannot exist much longer in its current form - peak oil or not. Greatly recommended - this single work alone made my university ducation worthwhile.


I don't know if this is the right time for me to post this since most of u seem to be on a much higher level of understanding then me but i would like to share the path i have chosen for dealing with peak oil and well, life.

I am not practicing it actively, but i do believe there is an answer in buddhism. I believe that desire is the root of all evil and that all the problems humanity faces find their roots in this truth. I also believe the human race has the potential to overcome these problems.To what degree i don't know but i do believe we have a hand in shaping our own future.

i also believe in balance, so i won't deny the facts i have read here on the oil drum, on the dieoff and other sites i read while learning about peak oil. the problems
humanity faces are enormous and real, but i try to live every day with discipline, respect and kindness towards every living thing (not always easy), in the hopes that this tiny amount of positive 'energy' that is not measured in BTU's will help make the world a sligthly better place.

Buddhism and buddhist economics (thats an oxymoron!!) have a lot of value in this discussion. To desire less in order to make yourself wealthier and happier would be a core principle of powerdown. But as long as cultures fitness metric is more and more stuff, the buddhist vision will be for the minority (survivors??)
Buddhism and PO do indeed go very well together.  Both are fascinating subjects and they compliment each other.  Buddhism and dieoff.org also go well together, since Buddhism is a "science of the mind" which studies death.  Suggested reading would be "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche.  No scientist or engineer among us will be bored by this book.  
I agree. The Buddhist meditational system is a very interesting meme - a "meme-clearing meme" that attempts to gain independence from the selfish replicators that Richard Dawkins discusses in The Selfish Gene Residues of self-referential belief systems - those driven by fear, guilt, hate, wanting to conform, wanting other people to conform, or alternately pride in being better than non-believers - can be recognised for what they are and cleared out.

More here and here if anyone's interested in this line of thought.

I have taken the same exact route...from Peak Oil Awareness to Buddhism.  

I enjoy the following books, all by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  1. The Miracle of Mindfulness.
  2. No Death, No Fear.
  3. The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.

By the way, there are many, many people that practice the 5 Mindfulness Trainings even though they follow the beliefs of other religions (Christianity, for example).


 "If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism."

-- Albert Einstein

Last Sasquatch,
Is your meeting with Jay here in Vermont?  If so, any chance I can attend?  I would love to meet Jay in person and chew the fat with him.  I'll send you a private email.

I've been reading Jay's lists for a long time and have a tremendous amount of respect for him.  He's brilliant and unfortunately I believe his hypotheses are correct.  I find his predictions coming truer by the day.

I was 42 years old when I came across the dieoff site, I was scared and freaking out internally for months.  I had to first, dismantle my entire consumer oriented life mentally in order to accept the end result of what has become so obvious to the members of this site. I have a wife and 5 kids, the numbers suggested that only a fraction of my family would survive the falling off the cliff sceniero, this is a incredibly terrifying position to be in. I have tried in the last 3 years to educate others and to try to become more politically active, I am now leaning more to Yankee's position.I thank the TOD members who put so much time and effort into keeping us informed. I want to live, I am not afraid of my death,  leaving my family to the vagaries of this corrupt failed system gives me nightmares.  You all are making a positive difference. Best to you.
I have been lurking on this site for a while. I've really enjoyed soaking up all the great techincal information on the site.

Reading through much of the comments it seems one of the common issues people are trying to figure out is, How does someone learn to think?

I recently read a book called "Metaphors we live by". Here is a link to an excerpt of the book.


The book goes on to explain how they think people learn and how they figure out if particular statements are tme true or not. I feel like this book gave me a good framework to understand how an individual thinks. It also helped me in some way figure out "why" I thought I believed in certain things. It is also the reason why I think that we can make things better, but we need to educate more people. I do think however that the next 100 years will be dramatic because I overshoot has already happened.

The problem with the Hanson/dieoff thesis is that it pairs very legitimate worries about peak oil and population growth with what Karl Popper called a "reinforced dogmatism" or what others called a philosophically closed system.  

This means:  any criticism of the theory is construed as evidence of its truth . . . i.e. anyone who disagreed with Marx was blinded by class consciousness; anyone who disagreed with Freud was just showing his neuroses.  Anyone who disagrees with Hanson is just showing that "adaptive fitness" prevents all but an enlightened "few hundred people worldwide" from understanding the truth.  

Thus, the argument proceeds from dangers, possible outcomes, etc. to cult-thinking--a closed system being the universal prerequisite for a cult.  

Ironically, dieoff and lifeaftertheoilcrash have done a great deal for peak oil awareness, but at the very moment when their meme is breaking into the mainstream, the "doomer" (I hate this terribly imprecise word) crowd seems determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by declaring that the there is no hope, with some even worrying that the public might catch on too quickly, hampering their plans for "personal survival".  

Whatever.  For all their weaknesses, humans are not closed systems or automatons, and collective responses to problems are non-linear.  For good or ill, events forced great changes in public opinion between 1929 and 1931, or 1939 and 1941, or, for that matter, between 2000 and 2002.  The more that "doomers" continue to argue that the only rational response to peak oil is to panic and kill each other, the more likely they are to help create that outcome.  On the other hand, there is still a window to frame this issue so that when gas hits $10 a gallon, people understand why and take appropriate action.

Peak oil may be a geological fact, but evolutionary/deterministic views of human nature are still matters of debate.

I dont consider myself a doomer, though I do think this generation will be humans first to witness more people on the planet when they were born than when they die. But why do we come here to theoildrum? Other than Matts #3 reason of secret desires to be dictators, its to learn and acquire knowledge of how the world will look when we spring from this liminal space and begin the sustainability revolution. To me, how many people are alive at that point is not the interesting or relevant question; how my friends, family and tribe fare is what Im interested in (and natural systems and critters). I already cringe when I see the masses of people at Wal-Mart - only when I engage in one-on-one conversation with any of them (reciprocal altruism switch), do I care about them as individuals.

I repeat- this discussion need not produce macro-solutions, (though if it could that'd be great) - micro solutions are important too.  I have learned an enormous amount from this website - some info solidified my existing opinions and some info changed them.  One thing Im pretty sure of - inclusive fitness in the next generation will have a different metric than the current one (money) Coming here to learn helps people make that adjustment -even if Peak Oil is a hoax, I could argue that being happier with less, and reducing the denominator of A/D (assets over desires) is a good thing. (Note: I have a long way to go on this: my dopamine amplitude meter was turned way high so I am reducing it stepwise)

Jay Hanson opened my eyes to a new way of thinking - I do not focus on his conclusions, but on the solid logic in between that can be built on (irrespective of the predictions). Research into human behavior and the brain is exploding - if Peak Liquids holds off for a decade, we will know magnitudes more of the synthesis of nature via nurture at that point

The more that "doomers" continue to argue that the only rational response to peak oil is to panic and kill each other, the more likely they are to help create that outcome

ever hear of the war in Iraq?

The "doomer" logic is completely sound... if you combine the basics of capitalism with limited resources with Jevon's paradox, there is only one logical outcome.

What I find amazing is that this is labeled "pessimistic" and those who think this twisted civilization can continue are supposedly "optimistic."

I cannot condone violence under any circumstances, and those who perpetrate it accumulate bad karma and can never be better off for harming others.

That this civilization is imploding on it's own doing is the one salvation that we could have hoped for. We survivors will be able to live in paradise because we caused no bloodshed. The greedy capitalists have hung themselves by their own karma.

Walk through this with peace and love, harming none, and you are bound for heaven on earth. Living and breathing. Back to the Garden.

"I think Dr. Railly, you've given the alarmists a bad name..."

She replies: "I have."

"Surely there is very real and very convincing data that the planet cannot survive the excesses of the human race..."

"This is true" she agrees...

"Proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, pollution of land sea and air, the rape of the environment... in this context isn't it obvious that chicken little represents the sane vision, and that Homo Sapiens' motto : `Lets go shopping' ... is the cry of the true lunatic?"


I have read much of Jay's writings.  I am turned off by his incredibly condescending tone, but much of his work is at least thought provoking if not quite insightful.  I respect him and his work on that level.

He paints a bleak picture to be sure, but I always go back to a simple question.  I hope you will forgive me as I am perhaps over simplfying here, but predicting disater is fine, I suppose, and it is important to understand the seriousness and challenges, but what is the prize for guessing right?

By which I mean, it seems more productive to work for a positive outcome.  Not to get all Pascal's Wager on you, but if there is some hope, it seems a worthwhile endeavor.  If we are doomed, well, we're doomed, so nothing gained or lost.

As mentioned, I suppose the reason many choose to do nothing, or merely focus on gathering more information and facts supporting the view that there is no hope, is just that it is easier than waitin' around to die, not to get all Townes Van Zandt on you.

There is no prize. That's why Jay retired. This debate, like most others, is simply a ritualized dominance contest.
True Matt, but:
  1. there may be positive externalties from it
  2. 1% chance is infinitely greater than 0%
  3. it is also a form of problem-solving, which makes life more meaningful and interesting, like playing a puzzle, building a tree-house, or catching a carp on a fly-rod.  None lead directly to fitness but all appeal to our insinct to succeed/accomplish and we 'feel good' when we do them.

Jay learned what he wanted and is living his life the way he chooses- he is one man. For others, there will be myriad interactions between whats learned (here and elsewhere) and what people do with knowledge - I share your views for the most part, and even though it is a ritualized dominance contest, that explains the origin not the result; the core, not the whole.
Will you stop it. That's really funny. True and funny. Now that's something that doesn't happen everyday. Guess when we stop having to prove our point the point will be self evident. A lot like Jay's decision to quit the public domain. Point taken.
The problem with Jay's thinking (and I could be wrong as I haven't read most of what he's written) is that he doesn't believe that: Phenotype=Genotype + Environment He seems to think Phenotype=Genotype. You're not going to be an alcoholic (phenotype) even if you have two alcoholic parents (genotype) if you never have a drink (environment).
Then, to me at least, you appear to have not understood Jay at all.
Please, set me straight.  He says we are pre-programed (genotype) 7 times in the above text.  What's his code word for environment?
I have a BS in genetics and a PhD in cancer biology, so you'd think I'd be one of the "few hundred people worldwide" who could understand it.
I think he meant to say our pheno-type hardwiring is pre-programmed to a certain extent and then society codes its norms on top of that.

Where I think Hansen goes wrong is in not considering the maliability of young minds. Yes old fools like me are hardened in their ways, but the new generation can easily adapt to radically new paradigms.

The problem with Jay's thinking (and I could be wrong as I haven't read most of what he's written) is that he doesn't believe that: Phenotype=Genotype + Environment He seems to think Phenotype=Genotype. You're not going to be an alcoholic (phenotype) even if you have two alcoholic parents (genotype) if you never have a drink (environment).

Most strange. I haven't read everything Jay wrote but I have read a lot of it, plus I have conversed and debated with him for many years. And I never heard him express anything that remotely resembles this picture you paint of him.

But I can guess where you got it from. Jay talked a lot about genes and genetic influences. But just because a man talks a lot about genetic influences does not mean he denies environmental influences.  

I understand where biologyfool gets that picture painted. Whether Darwinian eyes see it or not that pictue is painted every time the doomers speak.
explain to me how a alcholic can be a alcholic if he never drinks alchol?
Exactly.  That's my point.  You can have the alcoholic gene, but if you aren't exposed to alcohol, you'll never become an alcoholic.

Phenotype (what you appear to be)=Genotype (your genes) + environment (what you're exposed to)

Jay (again from my limited reading) seems to think that we're all pre-programmed (genotype) to do things that will lead to die-off (phenotype) without taking into consideration that we can change our thinking due to our environment.

The Past is Prologue!
In the last depression what poped up but dictators. And what did those dictators get involved in but genocide.
Come the next depression you can expect dictators to rise once more. And the genocide they will get involved in this time will be much worse than any nuclear war senario you can imagine. And it will go on for a loooong time.

As to government, I decided a long time ago that we live in an "Elected Dictatorship". If those elected to represent us were truly representing us, then if 70%+ of the people want term limits on both houses of Congress we whould have that. Or in the case of State governments Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura proposed that the people of Minnesota should have the opportunity to discuss and vote on whether they wanted a bi-cameral legislature or a uni-cameral legislature. Minnesota residents were never given that opportunity by the legislature. You can come up with many other areas where elections were held and the people voted one way and some politician or appointed judge came along and said "No" you have to do what I tell you, not what the majority voted for.

Be glad that you didn't go with the unicameral.  There are not enough checks and balances.  State legislators try to please each other and there are few restraints.  Eventually you end up with one of the highest tax rates in the country.
That is TRULY disturbing.
In the Jay Hanson interview linked to above, he mentions many academic disciplines he has tapped into.  But I could find no mention of anthropology.  Which is a pity because researchers in that discipline actually spend time in the field documenting how people live and think.  The sheer variety of ways-of-life, ways-of-thought, ways-of-being practiced by humans is overwelming, even in our own society.

Sometimes Hanson seems open to that mind-boggling complexity and at other times he retreats behind the simple abstractions.

"Every time anthropologists have attempted to generate universal rules governing human behaviour, the rules have been proven emperically wrong or so trivial as to be uninteresting."  -- Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction by John Monaghan & Peter Just

The most bizarre societal arrangements have been known to exist and persist for centuries.  Generalizations about what people will or will not tolerate are almost always false.

Sure dieoff is a possibility, especially on a local basis, but any dogmatism about it bespeaks an incredibly blinkered view of how curious our world actually is.

I wonder how the theory that declining living standards switch on the war program accounts for the fact that both Israel and Lebanon had decent economic conditions until Israel decided to bomb Lebanon's infrastructure?
Perhaps the Israelis would disagree with you about what good shape their infrastructure was in--given that it was insufficient to prevent their citizens from being kidnapped or their children from being attacked by rockets sent to them by the "Party of God" dedicated to the annihilation of Israel.
given that it was insufficient to prevent their citizens from being kidnapped or their children from being attacked by rockets sent to them by the "Party of God" dedicated to the annihilation of Israel.


Don you're a shining example of genes plus environment.  Because of the environment you were brought up in you believe exactly what you were told.  It's time to grow up...


"One might equate growing up with a mistrust of words. A mature person trusts his eyes more than his ears. Irrationality often manifests itself in upholding the word against the evidence of the eyes. Children, savages and true believers remember far less what they have seen than what they have heard."
Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)


That looks like an incredibily good video.  I have to find 1 hour and 19 minutes to watch it.


Thanks AC. Good to be reminded that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem (in violation of UN resolutions for 35 years). Didn't we attack Iraq because of violation of UN resolutions?
Living in the deep south I have run across a lot of wild eyed religious types.  Mr. Hanson's writing reminds me those people. That doesn't make him wrong, just self absorbed.

Energy is limited and people are dumb animals in human suits. This is hardly some kind of revelation.

What is not acknowledged broadly enough is that we have overshot the planet's carry-capacity for humans by several fold. Plentiful fosil fuels let us mask that problem while we increased the population several more fold.

The oil is like the ghost-blood of the dinosaurs bringing to our species a massive die-off like they themselves experienced.

I think that dieoff is preventable, but there is no reason to believe it will be prevented. If TPTB decide that dieoff is in the best outcome for the TPTB then TPTB will not try to prevent it. TPTB may actually try to help it along. Imagine this thought experiment. Imagine having a button that would kill a million strangers and reward the button pusher with money or oil. How many people would you trust with such a button? What would Dick Cheney do with the button?

TPTB led us into a war in Iraq by telling us complete lies. TPTB could lead us into a controlled and humane powerdown if they wanted to.

Cassandra Syndrome

The Cassandra Syndrome is a term applied to predictions of doom about the future that are not believed, but upon later reflection turn out to be correct. This denotes a psychological tendency among people to disbelieve inescapably bad news, often through denial. The person making the prediction is caught in the dilemma of knowing what is going to happen but not being able to resolve the problem without the cooperation of others.

The origin of the named is derived from Cassandra, who, using her prescience, foresaw the demise of Troy. No one believed her.


Sarah Conner, Terminator II.

Ever since I saw An Inconvenient Truth, I've been feeling like her.

To change the subject, a little, though maybe it's really the same subject (evo-psych-"we evolved for fitness not for truth") why is it that Peak Oilers don't see global warming as the worse threat?

Peak Oilers (heretofore) have thought Peak Oil and the resulting societal impacts will be much much sooner than the 1-5 degree warming predicted over 50 years. Our discount rates are so steeply biased towards the present as to make those future impacts almost meaningless except as an intellectual thought excersise. When people start talking about Amazon being a desert in 3 years as a possiblity, then the balance shifts. Make no mistake - Peak Oil and Climate Change are linked. The only answer to both is to consume less (or less people) or both.

Do you by any chance, look like Sarah Conner?

Depends.  Has she by chance been run over by a truck since the film came out?
My first comment here. I'll try to state something useful:

I compare the dieoff warnings from Jay and Matt with parents warning their kids about impending doom if they continue doing what they are doing. They are probably right as long as you extrapolate the current situation, they probably have to repeat the message several times, but hopefully a problem is avoided and we manage to grow up safely.

However my opinion is that a change to a sustainable society can only be accomplished by completely abolishing our current money system. Either by a collapse of the system that was bound to happen anyway or because people choose to switch to local currencies, where money is a utility and is not used as a store of value. (there would actually be a discount on keeping money in your possession, so it makes more sense to invest it in something that would provide a future return).

Our current money system discounts future supplies and leads to ever increasing competition where the natural escalation is war.

For an excellent explanation see:


there would actually be a discount on keeping money in your possession, so it makes more sense to invest it in something that would provide a future return

Isn't that called "inflation".

And isn't that the basis of our monetary system ?

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
The human race will be extinct within 100 years.  One way or another, we will render this planet uninhabitable.
I hearby bet you five dollars that the human race will not be extinct a hundred years hence;-)
Im with you Don, though I would bet its less than 6.5 billion...we are pesky, devious, adaptive and persistent. Unless Lovelock is right and we have major warming, humans will do just fine.
peak oil means more peak oil.  you're using more energy to recover less energy...until all resources are devoted to recovering energy.  does this sound familiar to dieoff veterans?  If not see how easter islanders devoted all their resources in building statues.

but we'll learn to stop exploring and recovering energy, right?  No...we will not be able to stop people from doing this...sort of a police state.  and even that the government of the police state will be doing the energy recovery.

peak grains mean people would have to do more to get their family fed...this accelerating the destruction of the environemnt and increase energy usage.

Look!  The people of Haiti. In all respect, they have the level of greed a hundred times that of Americans.  All the Haitians want to do is to have a full belly.  The result?  Total destruction of their environment and the accompying wars and killings.

Now imagine what happens to resources hungry Americans and what damages they can do.

more about police state.  JH said quoted that

"In the end, they'll surrender their liberty and said just feed me."

Will Americans do this or wll they revolt?

All the Haitians want to do is to have a full belly.

Trolling, yeah!
This is much too simplistic, how comes Haiti is such a disaster when Dominican Republic made it much better, starting from nearly identical conditions on the SAME ISLAND?


I don't the answer but i don't have to.  The Guru already had it.

"Balaguer launched a crash program to spare forest use for fuel by instead importing propane and liquefied natural gas."

I'm confident that JH is right and I'll continue to argue that way.  I'm confident that the DR will destroy their forest once the oil/gas is expensive to import.

I'm also waiting to see how long it will be before the Northeast is devoid of trees.  We need to heat our homes in the winter and with the news of oil draw this early in the season, I'm afraid trees will be chopped.

People aren't supposed to live up North at all.  It's all possible because of gas and oil to heat the homes.

There are a lot of three hundred year old houses in Maine. People do not need fossil fuels to live and thrive (in limited numbers) up north.

Also I seem to recall that there were a lot of people in places such as St. Petersburg and Montreal long before fossil fuels were much of a factor in heating. Even Moscow is one nasty place in the winter, as that softie Frog, Napolean the Idiot, found out, along with the half million Frenchmen in the "Grand Armee" as they froze and starved to death.