Carrying Capacity, Overshoot and Species Extinction

Notice: Please limit your comments below to the subject matter of this post only. There is a petroleum post above this one for all petroleum and natural gas posts and a non-petroleum post below this one for comments on all other matters.

First, let us define carrying capacity and overshoot. And none has done that better than Paul Chefurka.

Carrying Capacity: Carrying capacity is a well-known ecological term that has an obvious and fairly intuitive meaning: “the maximum population size of a species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment”.  Unfortunately, that definition becomes more nebulous the closer you look at it – especially when we start talking about the planetary carrying capacity for humans.  Ecologists claim that our numbers have already surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet, while others (notably economists and politicians…) claim we are nowhere near it yet!

Overshoot: When a population surpasses its carrying capacity it enters a condition known as overshoot.  Because carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that an environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary.  Populations always decline to (or below) the carrying capacity.  How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers.  Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers.  For humans one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.).  A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource.  Like oil, for instance…

When we talk about carrying capacity we need to define exactly who or what we are carrying. Are we talking about humans, all animals or what? Well, let’s just talk about terrestrial vertebrate biomass.

Okay, Vaclav Smil and Paul Chefurka (and the estimates of most earth biologists) are correct, the long-term carrying capacity of terrestrial vertebrate biomass is a little over 200,000,000 tons. But how do we know that amount is correct? Easily, because that is what it was for millions of years before the advent of agriculture and other things brought about by modern day Homo sapiens.

Plant and animal species all struggle to survive. In doing so they have evolved to fill every available niche on earth. If a plant can grow in an area, any area, it will do so. If an animal can find a habitat in any area on earth, it will do so. At least since the mid-Triassic, about 225 million years ago, plants and animals have occupied every available niche on earth. If any animal overshot its habitat, dieoff would soon correct that situation. So for many millions of years, the terrestrial vertebrate biomass remained at about two hundred million tons, give or take. I say that because climate change, sea levels rising and falling, continental drift would cause the long-term carrying capacity to wax or wane. Also, the estimate is just that, an estimate. It could be slightly higher or lower. But the long-term carrying capacity of the earth always remained at one hundred percent of what it was possible to carry.

Then about 10,000 years ago man invented agriculture. At first, this only enabled a slight increase in population. Soon only plants that produced the most grain, fruit or tuber per plant, or per area of ground, was selected for replanting. Genetic engineering goes back thousands of years.

Then they discovered fertilizer. Animal and human waste could greatly increase plant production. Animals were domesticated and the plow was invented. More food per area of ground could be produced. Then chemical fertilizers were invented and the population floodgates were opened. At first phosphates from bird guano dramatically increased agricultural production but around the middle of the last century nitrate fertilizers from the Haber Bosch process enabled the green revolution and enabled the population to expand three fold.

It’s mostly cows, then humans, then pigs then chickens then… Interesting that the biomass of chickens is ovwe three times that of all the wild animals combined. If this chart does not shock you then you are totally unable to be shocked by anything concerning the earth’s biosphere.

The world population is still expanding at an alarming rate. By 1989 the population was expanding by about 88 million people per year. Then by the year 2000 population growth had slowed to about 77 million per year. Then the slowdown stopped and started to increase again. it stands at about 79 million per year according to the US Census Bureau.

Now they are saying it will start to slow. But that slowdown has not yet started. True, the fertility rate has been dropping but that has been offset by the increase in population. The fertility rate is dropping but on more and more people.

Notice the U.S. Census Bureau starts the slowdown at almost the exact date this chart was drawn, August 2017. If they had drawn this chart in 1995, then no doubt they would have started their prediction of constant decline in 1995.

But I have no doubt that the population will start to decline. It must, it must because we are destroying the ability of the planet to feed all its people.

Paul Chefurka created the above graph in May 2011. I think he was a little off. He has the world population hitting almost 8 billion then starting to drop around 2030.

I am more inclined to agree with the U.S. Census Bureau who thinks the world population will hit 9.4 billion around 2050. Then I believe the population will start to fall. The rate of population decline and how far it will fall is hard to predict. That will depend on many things but primarily on if and when globalization collapses. The collapse of globalization will bring about civil strife, border wars, and famine around the world.

I want to call your attention to the green, wild animal, portion of the second graph at the top of this post. Notice the wild animal portion of the terrestrial vertebrate biomass, by 1900, had dropped to about 20% of its historical value. Then by 2000, it had dropped to half that amount. Then by 2050, we expect that 2000 value to be cut in half again. 

By 2100, it will very likely all be gone. Well, almost all gone. There will still be plenty of rats and mice and perhaps a few other small vertebrates will still survive, but all the large megafauna, except humans, will be gone. Gone forever… or at least for the next million years or so. It will take that long for new megafauna to evolve after the human population has been greatly reduced to a billion or even a few million people.

But the far distant future is of little concern to us now. The sad fact of the matter is your descendants will live in a world completely free of wild megafauna. There is no way to avoid that fact now, it is already too late to stop the destruction.


Yes, why? Why are we destroying the earth’s ecosystem? Why are we driving most all wild animals into extinction? Why have we dramatically overpopulated the planet with human beings? Why did all this happen? However, when you ask why, you are implying that all this had a cause, that someone or some group of people are to blame for this damn mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Was it the early farmers who invented agriculture. Or was it the early industrialists like James Watt or Thomas Edison? Or was it Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, are they the villains that got us into such a damn mess? No, it was none of these people. It was no one person or no group of people. It was not even any revolution like the industrial revolution, the medical revolution or the green revolution. There is no one to blame and there is nothing to blame.

Agriculture enabled the very small early population to expand. The industrial revolution and later the green revolution enabled more people to be fed. The medical revolution enabled more babies to survive and people to live much longer. Our population has exploded simply because it could. We have always lived to the limit of our existence and we always will. It was just human nature pure and simple.

Now many will say that we are now controlling our population, that we have learned how to limit our fertility rate. Well, yes and no. Reference the below chart and table that were produced by the Population Reference Bureau in 2012.

In the developed world, where most of the world’s energy is consumed, we almost have zero population growth. But in the less developed world, the population is still growing.

Here is the perfect example of what is happening, what is still happening, in much of the world. Notice the difference in the infant mortality rate and the annual infant deaths. Most of the world’s people are still living at the very limit of their existence. 

<sarc>But not to worry. The death rate is rising, babies are dying, the population will soon start to fall in the undeveloped world. </sarc>

Note: The Paul Chefurka graphs in this post were created, primarily, with data from the research of Vaclav Smil and is published in this 24 page PDF file: Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact. The file includes over 2 pages of notes and 4 pages of references where Smil sources and documents every stat he quotes. Below are a table and some text from the paper.

The zoomass of wild vertebrates is now vanishingly small compared to the biomass of domestic animals. In 1900 there were some 1.6 billion large domesticated animals, including about 450 million head of cattle and water buffalo (HYDE 2011); a century later the count of large domestic animals had surpassed 4.3 billion, including 1.65 billion head of cattle and water buffalo and 900 million pigs (FAO 2011). Calculations using these head counts and average body weights (they have increased everywhere since 1900, but the differences between larger body masses in North America and Europe and lower weights elsewhere persist) yield estimates of at least 35 Mt C of domesticated zoomass in 1900 (more than three times the total of all wild land mammals) and at least 120 Mt C in the year 2000, a 3.5-fold increase in 100 years (and 25 times the total of wild mammalian zoomass). And cattle zoomass alone is now at least 250 times greater than the zoomass of all surviving African elephants, which in turn is less than 2 percent of the zoomass of Africa’s nearly 300 million bovines (Table 2).

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393 Responses to Carrying Capacity, Overshoot and Species Extinction

  1. George Kaplan says:

    Great summary. Mainly so I don’t have to think about all the depressing aspects: do you not think if humans disappeared but even a few of our larger domesticated animals survived that evolution could go bonkers and we’d have new familes and species springing up all over in far less than a million years. After all homo spapiens are only a few hundred thousand years, and dogs (admittedly still technically wolves) only a few thousand. It would depend a bit whether we left much of the planet that was actually habitable of course – i.e. there’d need to be plenty of evolution pressure, but not too much. I guess your point would be we’d get new species but not the mega fauna, but I think there’s evidence that isolated small islands can lead to either pygmy species or giants depending on the exact environment.

    • George, I would have to start by saying that humans are not going to disappear. Other than extinction via natural disaster, like a giant meteorite hitting the earth, species are driven into extinction. That is they are outcompeted for territory and resources. Humans are the drivers of extinction, no species will drive us into extinction. We occupy every habitable niche on earth and will likely continue to do so even after our numbers have been dramatically reduced.

      If we have a collapse of globalization, and I believe that is inevitable and will happen within the next one hundred years, then the human population will be devastated by civil strife, border wars, and famine. Seven to nine billion hungry people will be a disaster for all other animal life, domestic as well as wild. So I do not believe there will be enough domestic animal life to kick-start evolution of new wild species of megafauna. As I have said before, we will eat the songbirds out of the trees. So there sure as hell will not be any cows left.

      Okay, so perhaps it will not take a million years for other large megafauna to evolve. Perhaps it will only be in the hundreds of thousands of years.

      • The Cunning Linguist says:

        So, after we eat the songbirds from the trees, what the hell will we eat then?

        Is it not possible that the human species will drive itself to extinction because we are so successful at destroying the natural environment which we depend upon for our survival?

        After industrial civilization collapses, the great human die-off will rapidly reduce human numbers by more than 90%. Life for the remaining humans will be extraordinarily hard. If the overall stress level is high enough, it will be very difficult for humans to raise enough offspring to reproductive age to maintain the species over time. Biologists call this pre-extinction phase die out. Once a species numbers fall below replacement level, they go extinct.

        And what the hell do you mean: “If we have a collapse of globalization, and I believe that is inevitable and will happen within the next one hundred years…”? Within the next 100 years? You are dreaming! We are in the early stages of apocalypse right now! Rapid die-off will begin within the next few years. 100 years from now, there will be no one alive who will remember it.

        • Ghung says:

          Cunning said; “After industrial civilization collapses, the great human die-off will rapidly reduce human numbers by more than 90%.” …..

          …..while what is left of nature will rapidly move into the niches vacated by species humans have wiped out. If (big if, maybe) there are remaining reproductively viable human populations, they will exploit those recovering niches at rates which will be far below the astounding rates of exploitation during the industrial age. Where humans have abandoned their schemes of destroying the natural world for their own purposes, nature, in some form, recovers quite quickly.
          On the other hand, if global warming goes off the scale (ala Guy McPherson, et al), all bets are off. Everything larger than a shrew will be toast.

        • Once a species numbers fall below replacement level, they go extinct.

          The replacement level for animals in the wild and the replacement level for domestic animals are two different things entirely. For animals in the wild, the replacement level may be several hundred to several thousand. Animals in the wild have to find each other in order to reproduce. For domestic animals, the replacement level is two.

          In this regard, we Homo sapiens are far more like domestic animals than wild animals. An example would be the Polynesians who migrated to distant islands in sailing outrigger canoes. Their numbers, in those canoes, likely numbered only a dozen or so. Yet huge numbers eventually sprang from tiny numbers.

          Yes, stress during periods of great strife and famine will be great. Stress will likely take a great toll. But there will always be survivors. Everyone is not equally affected by stress. Some can overcome, some cannot. It is a little like a plague or disease. There are always some who are immune or otherwise escape the problem.

          As for rapid die-off coming within a few years, yes that may happen but I doubt it. Humans societies are far more resilient than you might expect. For instance, look at Somalia, or Venezuela. Somalia, a failed state, has been in turmoil for decades yet no massive die-off has occurred. Venezuela is in a state of almost total anarchy, yet no massive die-off as of yet.

          I believe the die-off will start within the next hundred years. Next week is within the next hundred years. But I doubt it will happen by then, or even within the next few years or so. In my opinion, it will take several decades for things to really fall apart.

          • The Cunning Linguist says:


            You said:
            “But I doubt it will happen by then, or even within the next few years or so. In my opinion, it will take several decades for things to really fall apart.”

            What about Limits to Growth? That study forecast that real problems would begin in the first or second decade of the 21st century, in other words, now. Why is Limits to Growth wrong? How do we avoid sudden, catastrophic collapse once world economic growth comes to an end?

            What about the fragile, debt ridden financial/credit/monetary system? Have you read the Korowicz paper? How will industrial civilization gradually unwind over many decades when the world economy freezes very suddenly and food stops arriving at the grocery stores? That should lead to a very rapid die-off as every city suddenly becomes uninhabitable.

            • What about Limits to Growth? That study forecast that real problems would begin in the first or second decade of the 21st century, in other words, now. Why is Limits to Growth wrong?

              Hey, I have a copy of Limits to Growth right here in my hand. On what page do they predict catastrophic collapse before 2050. Help me out here but I just can’t seem to find it.

              As to real problems, hell yes, we are having real problems right now. We have been having real problems in Venezuela and a lot of other places. But there is a tremendous difference between real problems and catastrophic collapse.

              And what about all the other terrible things you are say are happening right now. Hell yes, they are happening and they are terrible. But they have not yet led to catastrophic collapse. But it is very likely they will lead to collapse… in three or four decades from now.

            • This a unique, one-time only collapse because we never relied on fossil fuels in the past, and we certainly won’t in the future. If you look at energyskeptic/3) Fast Crash, you’ll see the many reasons I think collapse will unfold quickly. Turchin, who has looked at the patterns of collapse in civilizations going back to Mesopotamia, says it takes about 20 years on average. That is in line with Hook’s estimate of a 6% exponential decline, which is the rate at which the 500 giant oil fields decline on average after peaking (something like 270 of them last I checked), all others (offshore, shale, smaller, and so on) decline much faster, hence Hooks estimate of an exponential increase of .0015 a year as non-giants increasingly contribute to what’s left of production (giants are now 60% of world oil production). If Hook (2009) is right, that means we’ll be down to 10% of what we produce after global peak production in 16 years. At that point, even if governments are rationing oil wisely to grow and distribute food, you’re reaching the breaking point. Oil makes all other resources possible, so although many resources reaching their limits, the decline of oil will be the true beginning of the end. No more pumping water from the Ogallala 1,000 feet down, going 10,000 miles on factory farm fishing boats, and so on. Oil is masking how incredibly far we are over overshoot. Above all, 99% of the supply chain transport – trucks, rail, ships – depends on oil. 80% of communities in the U.S. depend entirely on oil, by far the least efficient mode of transportation of the three. Well, it is too big a topic to cover in a comment. I have a lot more to say in my book “When Trucks Stop Running”.

              Oh, and when I heard Dennis Meadows speak at the 2006 Pisa Italy ASPO conference, he said that if anything Limits to growth was head of schedule, with collapse starting as early as 2020. We’ll see, too many factors. Also in the past, nations avoided collapse way past their carrying capacity by trading or conquering other nations, like the Roman Empire, which had to import food from Carthage and Egypt, no way to grow enough food in Italy.

              Hook, M., Hirsch, R., Aleklett, K. June 2009. Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production. Energy Policy 37(6): 2262-2272

              • OFM says:

                Hi Alice,

                I’m hoping to see more comments from you in the future, and not just in this one thread, lol.

                It’s very common for experts in any given field to presume there are none in other fields that are capable of solving the problems they see as civilization killers.

                There are no guarantees of success, but success is possible when it comes to finding and implementing solutions to problems such as the eventual depletion of oil.

                Once the shit starts hitting the fan pretty hard and fast in terms of declining oil supplies, both good and bad things will happen on a scale that will take the breath away.

                The bad will unquestionably include economic collapse across large swathes of some and maybe most societies.

                The good will come in the form of action on the part of awakened LEVIATHAN, the nation state. Those of us who cannot see that once LEVIATHAN stirs and focuses on such problems as we FORCED to deal with soon have little understanding of history , human nature, and technology.

                Now WHETHER , or NOT, Leviathan, Uncle Sam, John BULL, the Russian BEAR, et al, can do enough to keep the wheels on and turning, instead of falling off, is an open question.

                I believe they can, depending on how far gone things are once they begin to come to grips with the various troubles that will threaten their existence.

                People CAN AND DO come together, and work together, sometimes. Consider the case of the USA. We were mostly all isolationists the day before Pearl Harbor, but within a couple of days after, we were all ready to to go flat out to murder our enemies on the grand scale, and DID.

                Neither I nor anybody else can prove either way whether we WILL work together well enough to prevent outright collapse meaning we die hard deaths by the tens of millions even here in a country such as the USA.

                There’s no question that we CAN work together, once we realize we must. Whether we get started soon enough is probably going to determine just how bad things will get in economic terms.

                But between what scientists and engineers can do for us, by way of providing us with better tools, and what we can collectively do for ourselves by way of collective action, there’s a real possibility that some countries will pull thru ok, no longer sleek and lazy and fat and wasteful, but at least still functional, and with most of their populations still alive and leading a reasonably dignified life style.

                I will have more to say about what Leviathan awakened, scared and enraged can do later on, way down thread someplace within the next few days, by relating some historical examples.

              • Survivalist says:

                I too feel that one day the trucks will stop running. It will be a very interesting transition to observe. I imagine it will have a progression that goes something like this:
                -trucks running will increase in cost as will the things that they are running about with inside them.
                – trucks will run to less and less places.
                -trucks will run to less and less places less frequently.
                -trucks will run only very rarely and only for high priority reasons.
                -trucks will stop running altogether.

                As this process takes place I imagine there will be measures taken to fill some of the void, where and when it is possible to do so.

      • George Kaplan says:

        Ron – do you think humans will still be around in a million years or even a hundred thousand? If they are I think it will only be because they have made themselves irrelevant to the environment (i.e. small in numbers and having found a way to live sustainably) and other species will be evolving without too much human involvement.

        • Yes, George, I think humans will be around in a million years. Not nearly as many as are around today however. If I had to guess, and I do have to guess, then I would guess around 10 to 15 million humans would be around a million years from now. That would be one person alive then for every 500 alive today.

          Of course, all fossil fuel would be gone and everyone would live off the land.

          But if you doubt human survival, then just what do you think will wipe everyone out? What will bring the human population to zero?

          • George Kaplan says:

            That sounds as good a guess as any. Part of my point was that they could only survive if they were not intrusive, and therefore would not be an impediment to evolution of other mega fauna. I think average species life time is estimated at around 1 to 2 million years, homo is a family rather than a species so the sapiens could go and something else come along, like we took out the Neanderthals. On the other hand if the bottlenecks get small enough in different locations we could just be whittled away by different causes.

            • I think average species life time is estimated at around 1 to 2 million years,…

              The point is George, Homo sapiens is not an average species. If we were an average species we would still be competing with other species for food and territory, losing some of those battles and winning others. But our numbers would be kept in check by our success and failure of that struggle, just like every other average species.

              Our dominance has overwhelmed all other species. Like a plague, we are killing them all off. There is nothing average about us as a species.

              • George Kaplan says:

                Ok, but our numbers were kept in check and we were competing like that for almost all of our history, until the Holocene interglacial came along and we decided agriculture was a good idea, or maybe we had a go before and it never took in a less stable climate. But before that there is evidence of some pretty tight bottlenecks when we were almost gone either locally (e.g. in India) or globally. And things like the Roman empire collapse suggest we can forget any kind of technological advantages in a couple of generations.

                • You lost me. I don’t understand your point.

                  But since our brains to a degree where we could create stone tools and use fire, our population has been on a slow increase, bottlenecks notwithstanding.

                  What has made us not average is our brains, our mental ability. That is the one thing that has given us a huge advantage over all other species.

                  We are smart enough to wrestle all the world from every other species that stood in our way. If another species had something that we wanted, including even their flesh, we got it. We are smart enough to dominate the world, but not smart enough to see that we are destroying it.

                  • George Kaplan says:

                    My point is that unless we find a niche in which we can exist sustainably despite our intelligence and ability to get whatever we want and dominate the world, then we won’t survive very long, and may not even then.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Ron,

                    I think some (you for example) are smart enough to see that we are destroying our World.

                    It may not be a majority view, though I think the numbers are increasing.

                    I would agree that we so far have not demonstrated that we are smart enough to change what we are doing (reduce the rate that we destroy the planet as rapidly as possible to zero (or negative, by which I mean restore the planet closer to a natural or sustainable state).

                    This may never be accomplished, but we cam move in that direction while reducing our numbers and our impact.

                  • Des Carne says:

                    What it is about our brains that makes us not average is our capacity to deny reality. The mind over reality transition (Varki &Brower) is arguably what gave “sapiens” the advantage, successful but apparently impossible risk taking, to do away with neanderthalensis. In small scale hunter bands surrounded by magafaunal predators, denial of reality is a decided advantage, but in mass societies with the capacity to produce mass belief in non-realityy, it is the disadvantage that could do us in. Although not experimentally demonstrable, the idea that this mind over reality transition was an evolutionary event in the hominid genus 100-200 thousand years ago is a plausible explanation for sapiens’ dramatic cortical development and the development or consolidation of female sexual selection, not present in our forebears or current great apes.

                    In a future world scratching a living as we did for most of our history as hunter-gatherer bands, but from a depleted world absent of any predators, we might evolve the ability to believe reality, without sacrificing cortical development. The first inhabitants of my country (Australia) managed to get by fot 60,000 years by killing off the megafauna. They were helped by climate change which dessicated the continent, but hung in there making it an extremely attractive aquisition by my ancestors when they came along.

              • OFM says:

                Hi Ron,

                In broad terms, I agree with what you are saying here.

                “Our dominance has overwhelmed all other species. Like a plague, we are killing them all off. There is nothing average about us as a species.”

                But we aren’t doing any better than rats or fire ants, lol.

                You’re dead on about humanity not being an average species. We will be around at least until some other species capable of wiping us out evolves, and it’s unlikely that we will ALLOW such a species to exist, unless it’s a microbe and we can’t wipe it out.

                If chimps were to evolve just a little further along the lines of using tools and being able to communicate and work together, and started attacking humans, numerous humans armed only with primitive weapons such as fire and bows and arrows would kill every last chimp, and they wouldn’t lose any time in doing so.

                This brings up an interesting question. We know chimps use stone tools as hammers to break nuts, etc, , and that they fight ORGANIZED fights to the death sometimes.

                Is there any evidence they are using stones as weapons …. YET?

                • No, chimps do not use stones as weapons but they do use sticks to flail another chimp with.

                  Chimps will not evolve much further if any. Their numbers are dropping like a rock. They will all be gone in 20 or 30 years.

                  • Survivalist says:

                    I once heard an interesting story about chimps. Might have been in one of Pinker’s books, I can’t recall.

                    If you hang a bunch of bananas from the ceiling that a chimp cannot reach and you leave an A-frame ladder laying on the ground the chimp will set the ladder upright and get the bananas.
                    If you do the same thing with 2 chimps and a ladder so heavy that one chimp alone cannot set it upright, but 2 chimps working together could set it upright, they’ll never get on the same page, so to speak, and cooperate in setting up the ladder. They will both try individually and fail. The bananas will never be reached.

                  • TechGuy says:

                    The problem with Chimps is that they are way too agressive and war like to share sufficient cooperation to build a society. Chimps have been around for about 6 Million years have never evolved cooperative intelligence. Seems very unlikely the would ever replace humans, or ever develop a civilization.

          • Dennis Coyne says:

            Hi Ron,

            The charts in your post suggest about 1 billion might work, I would say 500 million would be my guess, not sure where you come up with 10 to 15 million.

            Note that 500 million is roughly the World population in 1550 CE.

            Just a different guess as I think a sustainable society could be reached by 2300 at these lower population levels, though perhaps fertility levels will remain below replacement over the long term so population will continually decline eventually some optimum will be determined and fewer than two children will not be encouraged.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Humans, that is Homo Sapiens per se, maybe not. Don’t forget Cro-Magnons probably caused the extinction of Homo Neandertalis in about 40,000 years or so ago. Some other future species of the Genus Homo, very likely will be around for another million or so years. This is what I think they might look like. Maybe they will be called Homo technoligicus implantabilis, feel free to call them whatever you want. In any case resistance will be futile and you will be assimilated. 😉

      • Nathanael says:

        First of all, Ron, a species which destroys its own food supply or its own habitat *does* go extinct. They’re currently referred to as “superpredators” — it’s happened repeatedly throughout history.

        Second, regarding population growth, my primary charity for 20 years has promoted sex ed, access to contraceptions, and education of women worldwide. We know how to halt and reverse population growth in the “underdeveloped world”. It’s not difficult except for the religious groups which oppose contraception and oppose women’s liberation.

        Often the same religious groups who promote burning of fossil fuels. And deforestation.

        Basically, whether humans survive depends on whether we defeat those groups, IMO.

        Countries like Cuba which are very underdeveloped but essentially *lack* those religious groups (thank you Godless Communism!)… they’re doing OK on population stabilization.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Nathaneal,

          There are countries that are religious such as Iran that have seen rapid demographic transition (15 years for TFR to go from over 5 to under 2). Also non-communist nations such as South Korea saw rapid transitions.

          I agree education and gender equality as well as access to modern contraception are helpful.

          Electrification will also help.

          • OFM says:

            Thank you Dennis,

            Religion has it’s points, as Twain used to put it, both good and bad. Preachers and priests have a way of figuring out what is in their own best interests, short term, medium term, and long term.

            There are some religions or cultures, which are not necessarily one and the same thing , that do encourage or more or less actually force women to bear lots of children.

            I come from a culture that is very often ridiculed here in this forum, which doesn’t bother me at all personally. It’s ridiculed on such a broad scale that it’s hard to find a public forum peopled with technically well educated people where ridicule isn’t the NORM.

            As religion goes, my own personal extended family is about as religious as they come in the USA. My nieces and nephews and third cousins, the children of my FIRST cousins, are having kids at less than the necessary 2.1 rate needed to maintain our blood lines, lol. My informal seat of the pants estimate is that the extended family birth rate is down to somewhere around one point five.

            It’s well known that the birth rate in some countries that are supposedly Catholic has fallen like a rock over the last couple of decades.

            And while I can’t prove it, it’s my firm opinion that once the priesthood in any country comes to understand that it’s own long term interests are best served by encouraging small families, small families WILL BE ENCOURAGED. That may not happen for another generation or so, and it may not happen at all in some countries, if there is no top down control of the culture and religion.

            Priests and preachers don’t exist to serve GOD, or any combinations of gods, etc. They exist because they have found a way to provide a secure and relatively easy way of living largely off the work of their followers.

            This is not to say their followers don’t get back as much or more as they contribute. Every society has to have leaders, and priests and preachers can be and have often been very effective leaders. Some of them are effective leaders today.

          • Nathanael says:

            Iran’s an interesting case. The doctrinaire do-what-you’re-told religious character is skin-deep, and the underlying Persian culture is intensely pro-scientific.

        • First of all, Ron, a species which destroys its own food supply or its own habitat *does* go extinct. They’re currently referred to as “superpredators” — it’s happened repeatedly throughout history.

          Really, I have never heard of that. The only superpredator I ever heard of are human beings. But if you can give an example of a species destroying its own food supply and habitat, please enlighten me.

          • Survivalist says:

            Humans on Easter island is the only thing that comes to my mind when thinking of such an example. I’m no expert on Easter island, however I understand people there did not go extinct, and that there was a small group living there when the island was found by Europeans. Again, not terribly well informed about that particular bit of history.

          • Nathanael says:

            The examples I’ve read about are supported by fairly tenuous evidence because they’re VERY VERY OLD, as you might expect, and the evidence is paleontological.

            Short summary is that an apex predator which has no controls on its own population seems to tend to go extinct by killing all its prey.

            This has been hypothesized to be the cause of a few of the otherwise-perplexing ancient extinctions of apex predators, though I’m having trouble finding the references at the moment — it was a few years ago that I read the articles.

            It does make sense ecologically. Consider the classic wolf-rabbit ecological cycle, only where the wolves are much too efficient at eating the rabbits.

            • Short summary is that an apex predator which has no controls on its own population seems to tend to go extinct by killing all its prey.

              No, no, no, that doesn’t happen. When prey animals get too low the predator population drops until it allows the prey animals to repopulate. See my essay: The Competitive Exclusion Principle

              Evolution is all about a struggle for survival and reproduction. For predators, it becomes an arms race. For hundreds of millions of years predatory animals have honed their offensive weapons while prey animals have evolved ever more effective defensive adaptations. Each animal, predator or prey, carved out their particular niche and occupied that niche until they were driven out, to another niche, or went extinct, or still occupy it today.

              And that’s the way it went for hundreds of millions of years. Every species multiplying its numbers to the limit its niche or habit would support. Species waxed and waned, predator and prey maintaining a balance. When the prey numbers would expand the predator numbers would expand and when too many predators reduced prey numbers, then the predator numbers would also wane.

              If you can cite an example where some evolutionary biologists claim that a species has gone extinct by destroying all its prey animals, then please do so. But I just don’t think you can.

            • Caelan MacIntyre says:

              “Okay, Vaclav Smil and Paul Chefurka (and the estimates of most earth biologists) are correct…” ~ Ron Patterson

              “Smil’s a crank, Caelan. Has always been a crank.” ~ Nathanael

              “But I just don’t think you can.” ~ Ron P.

          • TechGuy says:

            Seems unlikely that Humans would starve themselves into extinction. There are always self-sustainable tribes that never destroy their environment.

            That said, No other species development weapons of mass destruction. Another global war is inevitable when resources become constrained. The West continues to mettle in regions that aren’t fully developed (aka lack the means to defend themselves) and have desired resources. If it wasn’t for shale oil and advanced oil recovery methods the global war would have already happened. When the masses become hungry they revolt and install strong fisted leaders that use any means to restock food shelves. Hunger is a very powerful motivator, and sidelines logic and reasoning.

            With a global war using Nuclear & Biological weapons, and 440+ Nuclear power plants (hidden doomsday machine) its very likely Humans and probably all vertebrates will go extinct. I can’t imagine the toxins that are released when all of the major cities burn for months or more with no one or no means to put out the fires. It took nearly a month for the NYC Trade center fire to be full extinguished after 9-11. All that toxic fallout will cover the planet, and the seas will probably become a dead zone as all the runoff ends up in the seas.


            FYI: This is the closest we been to WW3 since 1958.

            The Cold war is back, Just about every industrialize nation is on arms build up. They are all gearing up for the next crisis which may lead to direct military conflict.

      • Kathy C says:

        When things begin to collapse the grid infrastructure will collapse. Coal factories in China and elsewhere will shut down and dimming will end. James Hansen estimated that warming may be held back by 50% by dimming, so we can expect warming to shoot up.

        When the grid collapses the nuclear power plants will no longer be able to be cooled. We know what happens then. This article addresses that happening from solar flares or emp attack but of course the failure of the grid from civilization collapse would do the same thing

        With collapses of civilization their will be no remediation of forest fires. Chemical and Nuclear Dumps will burn as well as the nuclear power plants that have gone Fukushima.

        A very underappreciated study is that of decaying leaves around Chernobyl While horses and other wildlife might now roam around Chernobyl the implications of leaves not decaying is enormous. “However, there are even more fundamental issues going on in the environment. According to a new study published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem.”
        Read more:

        To just state that humans wouldn’t disappear is nothing more than an assertion, as is stating that they would certainly disappear. However what faces humans is much more daunting than just the chaos of civilization collapse. Those who survive everything else will have a hard time reproducing with all that radiation around

        Of course long before civilization collapses the countries of the world may well play out the scenario that Richard Heinberg describes – Last Man Standing. Sound like politics today?

        • Survivalist says:

          I suspect someone will bulldoze the nuclear power plants into the ocean before they let them melt down on land. Just a WAG.

  2. Fred Magyar says:

    I posted this as a reply to a comment by GF a few threads back.

    I highly recommend the following three ASU Origins Project debates and panel discussions to get a good feel for the big picture. It might take up a good four hours or so of your time. This isn’t something suitable for sound bites. It involves a lot of in depth cross disciplinary knowledge.
    Great Debate: Transcending Our Origins – Violence, Humanity, and the Future
    Great Debate: Extinctions – Tragedy to Opportunity
    Conversation: Inconvenient Truths – From Love to Extinctions

    Maybe we are all royally fucked already but I also recommend E.O. Wilson’s book ‘Half Earth’.


  3. Tom Welsh says:

    “Why did all this happen? However, when you ask why, you are implying that all this had a cause, that someone or some group of people are to blame for this damn mess we have gotten ourselves into”.

    I would like to suggest, respectfully, that this wording is the wrong way around. The essence of the problem is that no one has been in charge, no one has taken responsibility – and that is hardly changing at all.

    The world is teeming with governments, corporations, NGOs, and “leaders” of all kinds. But what are all those leaders, and their estimable organizations, really trying to do? Some are aiming to earn as much money as possible. Others are trying amass as much power as possible. Most of their programmes have a lot to do with gaining more money and power – which become interchangeable at a certain point (as can be seen from a study of the US Congress, for example).

    An intelligent alien visitor to our planet would reasonably conclude that, although individual humans are intelligent to various degrees, the human species as a whole is profoundly unintelligent. It has ample means of diagnosing what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual’s conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces.

    • Tom, I think my wording was correct, you just did not quote all of my explanation. You wrote:

      The essence of the problem is that no one has been in charge, no one has taken responsibility…

      No one can take responsibility because no one is in charge of the human race. And as far as being “profoundly unintelligent”, I think that is an unfair charge. Having a blind spot in our DNA does not imply that we are unintelligent. The human race has never been faced with such a dilemma before. Our brains evolved to its present state during our hunter-gatherer days. We are molded by evolution to do everything possible to survive and reproduce. There is nothing in our DNA that tells us to protect the biosphere because the lives of our grandchildren depend upon it. So we don’t.

      What is happening is just human nature. That’s all.

      • Joe Clarkson says:

        What is happening is just human nature.

        Evolution has resulted in all species, including humans, having a biotic potential that is greater than the carrying capacity of the niches in which they live. Populations are limited by resource limits and predation, not by self restraint or mutual agreement.

        It would have been very unusual, perhaps unique in evolutionary history, for humans to have deliberately limited our population, even though it might have been theoretically possible due to our ‘intelligent’ ability to foresee our probable future. Despite Malthus, Limits to Growth and many other warnings, no realistic attempt has been made to remain below carrying capacity.

        As you note, a massive die-off is inevitable, the only real question is when. Like The Cunning Linguist, I personally think it will be whenever people lose confidence in the global monetary system, as in Korowicz’s “Trade Off: Financial system supply-chain cross contagion – a study in global systemic collapse”. Once money stops flowing so does the food supply.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Joe,

          What would cause this rejection of the monetary system? I don’t follow the argument. Everyone decides at once that money is no longer a reasonable medium of exchange. Didn’t happen during any financial crisis so far, people couldn’t access their money at Banks after the 1929 crash, but this was less of a problem in OECD nations during the GFC.

          The ETP nonsense is just that, anyone who knows their thermodynamics knows that theory is full of holes.

          • Joe Clarkson says:

            Didn’t happen during any financial crisis so far

            No, but we did come close in 2008. All sorts of debt instruments including commercial paper, CDOs (the root of the problem), many derivatives and letters of credit all froze up. Without prompt dramatic action by the central banks and the US Treasury, the financial system could have collapsed. Nobody knew who was solvent or insolvent, so the central banks had to backstop every financial institution. All this over some mortgage securities based on the US housing market.

            Now imagine that growth has turned to continuous worldwide economic recession, the inevitable fate of the global market economy in the face of energy and resource depletion ( it will happen despite the stupidity of the Hill’s Group). Unemployment increases year after year and tax revenues continuously fall. Every kind of debt instrument, from sovereign debt to mortgages, to municipal and corporate bonds is more and more likely never to be repaid. Defaults are increasing with greater and greater frequency. The equities of every company become suspect as more and more companies go under.

            Sooner or later, a critical mass of people are going to realize that most debts can never be repaid and are therefore worthless as assets. Since almost all money is created from debt, almost all money becomes worthless.

            The only thing that makes money work is confidence in its value. When confidence in money (debt repayment) fails, the monetary system fails and without a monetary system, the global market fails.

            Billions of lives are dependent on that market functioning smoothly every day. When it fails to function, people will die. I fully expect to lose every financial asset I own at some point, that’s why I am preparing to live without money. Unfortunately, most people in the developed world can’t do that, though they should be trying to do so with utmost urgency.

            I admit that if there were a concerted international effort to declare a debt jubilee and start all over with a new world currency, some form of monetary system might continue after the present one collapses, but I really doubt that creditor countries and debtor countries are going to cooperate with the rapidity and solidarity needed to manage such a transition.

            And even though all the productive assets in the world would still continue to exist after a financial collapse, without a market to mediate their interconnected function, everything would grind to a halt. I don’t see an international command economy taking over either. That would be harder than creating a whole new monetary system.

            The global market economy is very complicated and very fragile. I certainly wouldn’t trust my family’s life to something that could collapse virtually overnight and neither should you.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Joe,

              There are a lot of if’s in your scenario, any of which if broken makes the conclusion invalid.

              I suppose it is possible that all of those things could happen, just as it is possible that a large asteroid will strike the planet.

              I choose not to concern myself with very low probability events.

              Pretty sure neither of us will convince the other. If you are convinced buy some good farm land and maybe gold, guns, lead, and gun powder.

              Probably even better, find a nice community somewhere.

              Note that as long as governments are willing to intervene in the economy when necessary, the system is much more resilient than you believe.

              The biggest risk to the Global financial system would be free market fundamentalism where government intervention is never invoked.

              I cannot imagine a continuous world wide economic recession, this is a fundamental flaw in your argument.

              This assumes what you are trying to prove.

              • Joe Clarkson says:

                I cannot imagine a continuous world wide economic recession, this is a fundamental flaw in your argument.

                Well, I can’t imagine how the global market economy and industrial civilization are going to have a steady state economy forever at present levels of production and affluence. Overshoot means eventual retrenchment and die-off.

                Up-thread you estimated the carrying capacity of the earth at around 500 million people. You obviously expect to gracefully reach that level (in 2300!) through birth control while still maintaining current standards of living.

                I expect that we will reach that population, or fewer, due to complications from resource-depletion-caused economic failure (famine, war, pandemic). There simply isn’t enough energy available to make the transition you desire without also destroying the climate, even if there were the political will to do so, which there isn’t.

                I suggest looking at the history of the last 100 years to decide which future is more probable. Humanity has had the ability to create a high technology, steady-state civilization with sustainable population levels for over a century, but has failed to do so. There is still no evidence that we are serious about making the attempt now. I wonder why you can believe that such a thing will happen at a time when the resources to make it happen will be declining rapidly. Continuous world-wide recession is a certainty and unless you are very old, you will live to see it.

                And as far as your suggestions for prepping go, my family has already got it’s lifeboat ready in a rural tropical community. I’ve got the productive land, the community and the guns. I don’t expect to rely on gold at all. To my mind, the best durable trade items are ammo, fishing equipment and livestock.

                If raising my own food and living without money is necessary, I can do it. If your eco-modernist utopia magically appears, I won’t be disappointed, or regret one iota of the ‘unnecessary’ preparations I will have made, but I prefer to err on the side of prudence.

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  Hi Joe,

                  I don’t expect to live forever and as I said don’t plan ahead for scenarios I believe have a very low probability of occurring. As fossil fuel resources become scarce they will become more expensive and we will use them more carefully (or efficiently). There has been no need to do so for the past 100 years as they have been relatively cheap and abundant. There will be enough energy from Wind, solar, hydro, and perhaps nuclear to make the transition, as fossil fuel becomes expensive these will be produced as they will become cheaper alternatives. Much of freight traffic can be moved to rail, which can be electrified, moving goods from rail to factory or store can be done on overhead wires on main roads with EV used for the last few miles.

                  Also keep in mind that fossil fuels by nature are quite inefficient in producing electricity with about 60% of the energy wasted, for heating systems compared to heat pumps there is also higher energy use. The transition to non-fossil fuels will result in about one third the energy use for the same exergy (or work and useful heat) provided.

                  I make no assumptions about living standards being maintained, perhaps the transition will be very difficult and living standards in the OECD will decrease while living standards in less developed nations increase. Note that declining population will reduce resource pressure and realization of resource limits (as will be clear from fossil fuel scarcity) by the majority of citizens may lead to changes in social behavior.

                  Also note that we have only been aware of the climate problem for about 38 years (using Charney report in 1979 as the starting point).

                  If fossil fuels are very limited (say 1200 Pg C emissions from 1800-2100) then climate change might be less of a problem, but this will still be adequate for a transition to non-fossil fuels. Even 1000 Pg of total carbon emissions from all anthropogenic sources (including fossil fuel, cement and land use change) may be adequate for an energy transition, though it will need to begin in earnest in the next 5 to 10 years, the sooner we begin the easier it will be to accomplish.

            • TechGuy says:

              “Sooner or later, a critical mass of people are going to realize that most debts can never be repaid and are therefore worthless as assets”

              So far people haven’t figured it out. It seems likely that those that know prefer to keep the game going for as long as possible, others that simply cannot accept and choose ignore it, and those (the majority) simply don’t have a clue.

              If there was going to be a global financial meltdown it would have happened already. It seems everyone is content with Central banks printing Trillions every year to prevent a collapse. CB’s can get away with QE (Money printing) for a very long period because the debt load is deflationary. As long as wages remain constrained (demographics cliff, automation) CB’s will have the freedom to print. The problem is when the globe starts to run in to resource depletion issues (energy, food, etc) which will eventually prevent the CB’s from containing inflation. Shortages usually lead to inflation via stagflation. Seems like the world was temporarily saved by Shale Oil\Gas & advanced Oil Recovery methods. Had these resources have not been developed, it would have resulted in a global depression.

              “I admit that if there were a concerted international effort to declare a debt jubilee and start all over with a new world currency”

              That would be a bad idea. As the Lord RothChild said:
              “Let us control the money of a nation, and we care not who makes its laws”.

              The world is already close to a global currency: the US dollar since just about every nation accepts US Dollars for trade. The US dollar has lead to the Petrodollar, and set up the USA as the Worlds policemen which hasn’t been a stellar success. The last think we need is a world controlled by one gov’t or one world currency. I for one, prefer a distributed system, each operating as independently as possible. Should one system\nation collapse it does not take down the entire global economy. Imagine if the World Appointed some like Robert Mugabe as the World Central Bank Chairman? Oddly Robert is now available having been recently seperated from his previous job 🙂

              The Reason why there is a world wide debt problem is that the global economy is dominated by a handful of major players (USA, Europe, & China). For example, Europe would have likely avoided its massive debt problems if they weren’t bound by the Euro. Over indebted nations with floating currencies would have been forced to contain debt, otherwise their currencies would have been devalued.

              • Dennis Coyne says:

                Hi Techguy,

                The stagflation in the US during the 1980s was rather unique and probably due to a severe shortage of oil caused by the Iran Iraq war. I suppose another major war in the middle east could cause something similar, though the World is somewhat less dependent on oil output today than it was in 1979. No doubt if 15 Mb/d were taken off the market in a short period there would be another bout of stagflation, but perhaps not as severe as the 80s.

                • TechGuy says:

                  “The stagflation in the US during the 1980s was rather unique and probably due to a severe shortage of oil caused by the Iran Iraq war.”

                  Stagflation in the US began in the 1970’s after The US exited the gold standard. It later morphed into inflation in the late 1970’s, and then crushed when Fed Chairmen Volker raised interests above 10%.

                  We currently have an asymetrical inflation. While Energy prices remain contained, Healthcare & housing costs continue to increase much faster than wages.

                  Considering the mess the Middle East is in, and the anti-Russia policy its concievable of Oil disruptions. KSA is buying about $350B in US arms, and KSA Iranian tensions are flaring up. With the loss of Syria from KSA and Yemen, its possible that KSA/Iran’s Proxy wars will esculate. Yemen has been firing short range missiles at KSA. Its likely that Yemen rebels may attack KSA’s Oil infrastructure, causing a tit-for-tat between KSA & Iran.

                  On the other side, If the US goes to war with NK, its likely to distrupt US/Asia trade. We get just about everything from Asia: Computer Chips/Electronics/Automotive Parts/Machinery/etc. A distruption of Asian parts for a period would likely cause shortages.

                  Bottom Line: The World is a basket case & what seems unlikely a few years ago, could happen at any time.

          • OFM says:

            Civilization world wide certainly might suffer a very hard landing as the result of a loss of confidence in our present day money systems, but it’s not at all likely to “crash and burn” due to a failure in confidence in money.

            We may lose confidence in the money we use NOW, but if that happens, we will invent and substitute some new form of money, and we will get thru the transition by way of authoritarian government running the show as long as necessary. The transition may be and very likely would be extremely tough. It might even involve fighting some very hot wars. But it won’t result in the end of life as we know it, in the destruction of technological civilization.

            The new form of money need not be all that different from the money we use now. It will need a new NAME, and it will be necessary that all or most of the claims of ownership based on the OLDER form of money will be null and void.

            I’m not a commie, by any means, but the commies realized a few fundamental truths. Money is not productive capacity. Men, their backs and brains and skills, plus material resources, are the true basis of productive capacity.

            Money is merely a means of keeping score and making it easy to conduct trade without the necessity of direct barter. It’s an incredibly useful TOOL and lubricant that allows the wheels of civilization to turn freely, but it’s not necessary that it exist in any particular form, such as Yankee dollars or Euros.

            If or perhaps I should say WHEN the shit hits the fan, the people that have millions and billions now will generally be wiped out, and as a result, society will be freed of their claims on future production.

            Whatever REAL productive capacity exists, in the form of human and physical capital exists will be put back to work, using a new form of money. This new money can be for all practical purposes about like the OLD money, except that not much of it will belong to the OLD rich people and companies, at least not at first.

            Society in general, and societies individually, will create this new form of money, a new currency, and such new money WILL be accepted……… because whoever is around will find it a thousand times more to his advantage to accept it than to reject it……….. and acceptance will be FORCED, physically, as necessary, by the authoritarian state, by LEVIATHAN.

            If the big Leviathans die, a hundred old smaller ones will spring up in their place.Each one of them will create a medium of exchange, which will serve also as a store of value, a universally accepted IOU good for ANYTHING for sale by anybody within that society.

            That’s all money is , really and truly, in the very last analysis. A Yankee hundred dollar bill is something you get by working for it, or as a gift or by stealing it , or selling something . Once you have it, everybody else living in Yankee land is obligated to accept it, in exchange for anything they wish to sell. Money’s a universal IOU owed by society as a whole, and by the individual members of a society, to whoever possesses it.

            Societies have reneged on or disowned their debts before, and will do so again. No society to my knowledge has ever permanently renounced the use of money, once it has been accepted.

            It’s too useful a tool to give it up. But like a physically existing tool, it can be replaced once it’s worn out or broken.

      • OFM says:

        “What is happening is just human nature. That’s all.”


        I posted a long rant down thread trying to get this across to people who somehow think we are DEFECTIVE because we don’t collectively behave more rationally, hoping to get it across in terms that are intelligible to those of us who have HEARD of evolution, but never actually studied it for more than an hour or two at the most.

        • alimbiquated says:

          Nonsense, this is just Libertarian propaganda, which is actually a fake religion invented by real estate investors in the fifties in a political catfight to avoid rent control legislation. It has now widen to some kind of pseudo-Darwinistic hocus pocus, but it ignores the obvious fact that we became the world’s dominant species be collaboration and long term thinking.

          We’re doomed if we don’t get along with each other, and lots of propaganda is pushing you to believe we never have or could, and never can or will. But that doesn’t make it true.

      • Phil Stevens says:

        I’d like to question the assertion that no one is in charge of the human race. In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States” (Yale, 2017), James C. Scott demonstrates fairly convincingly that humans actively avoided adopting grain-based agriculture because the labor:reward tradeoff was far less satisfactory than what could be obtained through hunting and gathering. The accumulation of surplus, and presumably the insurance a surplus would provide against yearly fluctuations in food supply, in other words, was an insufficient motivation for humans to give up hunting and gathering. As Scott documents quite clearly, this refusal to adopt agriculture as the basis of the human economy persisted for more than 5,000 years in Mesopotamia, and much longer elsewhere.

        So what caused the shift? Alas, Scott fails to explore this in any detail. (Just one of the many weaknesses of the book, which nevertheless manages to make its central argument very well.)

        I will speculate that what caused the change was the coming-together of a sufficiently large number (five? a dozen? who knows?) of individuals who lacked the ability to feel remorse, shame, or compassion, and who were motivated purely by a desire to enrich and empower themselves. Modern psychology calls these types psychopaths. I suggest that it was these individuals who, likely with help from others with the related disorder of sadism (see recent research on “the dark tetrad”), were first able to subjugate (Scott uses the very apposite term “domesticate”) human communities and force them to labor on the land to produce a surplus, which of course then could be appropriated by the psychopaths and their henchmen.

        I am not aware of anyone else who has advanced the notion that civilization was founded by psychopaths and sadists. But recent psychological research (popularized in books such as Babiak and Hare, “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work”) suggest that psychopaths are four times more commonly represented in upper management than in the population as a whole, so it seems plausible to me, at least, that the project of civilization and its attendant destruction of the ecosphere has been, from its inception, forced upon humanity by a small minority.

        • Phil, thanks for a great post. I have no doubt that psychopaths have had a great influence on civilization. Many great leaders were no doubt psychopaths. Hitler and Stalin come to mind. However, not all of them were psychopaths. Rosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, and many other U.S. presidents were not psychopaths. Neither was Churchill or Gandhi.

          However, your original sentence was: I’d like to question the assertion that no one is in charge of the human race. So I kept reading, waiting for you to tell us just who was in charge of the human race. Of course you did not do that.

          • Phil Stevens says:

            Fair enough, Ron.

            My short answer to your question would be to ask “Cui bono?” Doubtless not everyone who reaps the most benefit from the biocidal trajectory of late capitalism is dominated by one or more of the traits of the Dark Tetrad, of course. Some of us might even be able to argue plausibly that we were unaware of the consequences of our actions. But even though late capitalist society is sufficiently robust that it continues to work out its internal logic without a lot of direct guidance by the dark few, I doubt it would last long without their presence among the wealthy and powerful classes. If their interventions on behalf of the killing machine could be eliminated, my guess is that dismantling the machine would be a much easier project.

            Ultimately, it’s the ones in positions of power who manifest the traits of the Dark Tetrad whose interventions are critical to maintaining the status quo. If anyone can be said to rule the earth, it’s them.

        • TechGuy says:

          FWIW: Its likely that Religion is the primary driver for nation building. All of the earliest settlements point practicing some from of religion. Once humans started building religious monuments, it likely drove people away from nomadic life. Religions mostly like built all of the first nations as it was a tool to bind large numbers of people together. Kings became human deities and enable them to control people to do harmful things (go to war, back-breaking labor, etc).

          Another possibility was beer and wine, which need to be cultivated kicked it off.

          Also a Nomadic live isn’t fun, especially for young children that would have difficulty coping with frequent long trips on foot. Finding or setting up shelter each time the camp is moved isn’t easy either. Plus nomads may run into other tribes that choose to defend thier terriorities from outsides. FYI: Most game migrates seasonally, and thus Hunter/gatherer tribes would need to follow herd migrations.

          In any case it does not really matter. You cannot put turn back the clock nor can you put genie back in the bottle. Trying to blame something started more than 8000 years is futile.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      An intelligent alien visitor to our planet would reasonably conclude that, although individual humans are intelligent to various degrees, the human species as a whole is profoundly unintelligent. It has ample means of diagnosing what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual’s conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces.

      That is my view as well! Though some like E.O. Wilson argue that we have evolved into an eusocial species and can at least in theory function as a hive or termite mound. Where the collective intelligence emerges and even though the individual ants or bees are stupid the anthill is an entity unto itself is smart and knows how to defend itself. See also Douglas Hofstader and Daniel Dennett’s book, ‘The Mind’s I’, Chapter 11 titled Prelude… Ant Fugue.

      Also check out Curtis Marean’s talk at the end of Inconvenient Truths – From Love to Extinctions from the link I provided above from the ASU origins debates. He specifically makes that analogy about aliens, in his talk.

      Marean is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the associate director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. He is interested in the relation between climate and environmental change and human evolution, both for its significance as a force driving past human evolution, and as a challenge to be faced in the near future. Curtis has focused his career on developing field and laboratory teams and methods that tap the synergy between the disciplines to bring new insights to old scientific problems. He has spent over 20 years doing fieldwork in Africa, and conducting laboratory work on the field-collected materials, with the goal of illuminating the final stages of human evolution – how modern humans became modern.

      • OFM says:

        ” Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual’s conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces.”

        Such an organ would be very costly, in terms of depriving humanity of the energy and resources devoted to it, depriving us of the use of these resources for other purposes.

        Evolution doesn’t create organs that will be useful in dealing with new circumstances, by plan, ahead of time, except by accident. It’s just a “lucky accident” FOR US TODAY that our own ancestors evolved hands capable of grasping things such as branches…….. which set the stage for us to be able later on to grasp a stone and use it as a hammer or weapon.

        No planning is involved. NONE. Various deists who accept the reality of evolution but still believe in higher powers disagree of course.

        I can’t prove they are wrong. I don’t believe anybody else can. All we can do is demonstrate that they have no evidence that such higher powers exist.

        An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, lol.

    • George Kaplan says:

      I doubt if “intelligent” aliens are any different than we are – and therefore probably have a very short life expectancy should they ever get to an industrial age – evolution can only work from one generation to the next and is therefore incompatible with longer term planning for species longevity.

      • Steve says:

        “It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on the Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing intelligence this is not correct. We have or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only.” – Sir Fred Hoyle

        • Thanks for posting this Hoyle quote Steve. I have read it before, many times. And the truth of it is so obvious. All the things that have enabled this wonderful abundant life will soon be gone. Then what?

          • Dennis Coyne says:

            Hi Ron,

            We recycle what we can, we use less of scarce resources as prices rise and we try to find substitutes for resources as they become scarce. Also population will fall as TFR falls (with a time lag due to population momentum) putting less pressure on resources.

            None of this will be easy, and perhaps not possible, hard to predict the future.

            • Dennis, Hoyle here, is talking about long-term. Recycle or not, we will run out of all fossil fuels and eventually all metals. However, recyclig will help, in the short term anyway.

              No, we cannot really predict the future. All we can do is look at what is happening right now and say: “If this continues….” And Dennis, it will continue. Human nature may be changed by evolution. But that will take many generations and tremendous evolutionary pressure. So right now, human nature being what it is, we can predict that collapse is just down the road. Just how far down the road is what we are trying to figure out right now.

              • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                Ron, if we look at the apparent numbers, say of many species, collapse appears already here, just that the shockwave hasn’t hit yet. Remember, if you see an explosion in the distance, it takes awhile to hit.

              • Dennis Coyne says:

                Hi Ron,

                Yes some things will continue and others will not.

                For example fossil fuel output has grown pretty steadily in absolute terms (about 163 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year from 1981 to 2016) and I expect that will change (it will not continue).

                The total fertility ratio has decreased at about 1.38% per year from 1965 to 2015, but I expect this will continue until the World TFR approaches the high income nation average of about 1.75 (which would be reached in 2040 if the 1965-2015 rate of decrease continues).

                There may be more fossil fuels available than either of us think, but if my medium scenarios are correct there may be enough fossil fuel to enable a transition to non-fossil fuel, then we just need to deal with other depleting resources.

                Note that the fact that fossil fuels have peaked and declined (which should be apparent by 2035 at the latest), may enable people to realize that this will be true for every scarce resource and perhaps we will plan ahead and recycle, and use resources more efficiently.

                Much of this is a matter of education.

                Perhaps the meaning of soon we use differently.

                When you say “will soon be gone.” Can you define soon in years.

                The sun will eventually destroy all life on Earth, but not “soon”, as I define it. 🙂

                • Well, perhaps I should not have said “gone”. There will always be trace amounts of everything left. And nothing will suddenly disappear. There will be a decline curve for everything. But let’s deal with the one with the least future abundance, oil. I believe we are at peak oil right, or very near it anyway. The bumpy plateau may last from 5 to 10 years. Then the decline curve will be much steeper than the ascent.

                  That’s about the best answer I can ive you.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Ron,

                    Let’s assume for the moment you are correct and the peak is either now or next month and we remain on plateau for a year or two.

                    What happens to the price of oil?

                    Let’s assume that you agree that unless there is a severe World recession in the next year or two that oil prices are likely to rise.

                    What happens it oil output if oil prices rise to say $100/b or more?

                    Eventually I expect output will reach a peak no matter how high oil prices rise, I just disagree it will be at the current level of output.

                    Can you define your limits for the “bumpy plateau” (high and low 12 month average output level)?

                    If the limits were 80 to 85 Mb/d, then we would agree and I would say we may be on a bumpy plateau between 80 and 85 Mb/d for 10 years or so.

                    I suspect you may expect output to remain below 81 or 82 Mb/d (World 12 month average C+C output).

                  • Dennis, you must be familiar with the phrase “You cannot get blood from a turnip”. High prices will not create more oil in the ground. We will most definitely have higher prices but they will be high because we have reached the peak. So, $100 oil will not create a higher peak.

                    Just my guess but I believe the plateau will average less than 82 million bpd.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Ron,

                    So could you define your “bumpy plateau”?

                    Is it a trailing 12 month average of between 80 and 82 Mb/d?

                    I imagine we will break above 82 Mb/d in 2018 if oil prices are over $65/b (Brent in 2016$) for the annual average in 2016.

                    For the most recent 12 months (EIA data) ending August 2017 we are at 80.93 Mb/d.

                    In the low price environment since 2015 the trend in World output is an annual increase of 280 kb/d. This rate of increase is likely to double (at minimum) with oil prices over $80/b, which would bring us to 82 Mb/d by 2019 or 2020, perhaps this will be as high a output rises, but my guess is that there is a 50% probability that output will continue to rise above this and perhaps a 25% probability it may reach 85 Mb/d around 2025.

                  • I thought I did that Dennis. I the bumpy plateau will average about 82 million barrels per day or less. There could be spikes and dips and it will last from 2 to as much as 10 years. But when it heads down, it will do so with a vengeance.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Ron,

                    I was making sure I understood (you did not give a lower bound), I tend to think of a plateau as having both an upper and lower limit to define it, note that using a 12 month average smooths out most of the spikes.

                    I think your scenario is plausible if oil prices remain under $85/b for up to 10 years, but I think that is unlikely if we remain at 82 Mb/d or less beyond 2019.

                    I also disagree that decline will be rapid, unless there is a major World recession which curbs demand or the transition occurs far more rapidly than I believe to be realistic. Until one of these two things occurs (or WW3) the decline in World C+C output is likely to be 1 to 2% per year with very high oil prices ($150/b or more in 2017$).

                  • Eulenspiegel says:


                    100 or 150$ oil can “create” oil and lead to a higher peak.
                    It happened once with fracking oil nobody would have touched before 100$ oil.
                    It could happen again with tar sands, class B tight oil and even kerogen.
                    The only thing preventing this are
                    – a global enviroment consens without Trump & co
                    – an economic crash
                    – a better solution being cheaper than 100-150$ oil, perhaps combined with point 1 leading to investments making other options cheap

                    Green river kerogen alone could give a trillion barrel of oil – not usable yet, but at an oil price of 150$ people perhaps would get greedy.

                    This would lead to 4K global warming scenarios – but the stuff is there.

                    We need cheap alternative electricity and cheap batteries for storing and transport – then we can leave oil age. Be it solar, wind, geo energy, fusion or all together.

                • TechGuy says:

                  DC Wrote: “There may be more fossil fuels available than either of us think, but if my medium scenarios are correct there may be enough fossil fuel to enable a transition to non-fossil fuel, then we just need to deal with other depleting resources.”

                  Well there is always Titan, and its only about 9 AU away!

                  “There may be more fossil fuels available than either of us think, but if my medium scenarios are correct there may be enough fossil fuel to enable a transition to non-fossil fuel”

                  And yet no “serious” transition is being made. Consider that Shale/Oil and some fancy Oil Recovery methods were developed when Oil was about $100/barrel. You think nations would have started Apollo style programs by now reduce dependency. Yet, nothing. In fact the biggest building boom is in new NatGas power plants!
                  The small amount of Solar & Wind development is tiny to fossil fuel use.

                  That said the industrialize world faces a demographic cliff as the older generations retire and there are fewer younger workers with STEM professions. Currently the US relies on foreign STEM Workers to replace retires. That declining TFR in the Industrial world has some big negative consequences: Fewer skilled workers to run the factories and build new or replace aging infrastructure. One area that has a serious brain drain is skilled electrical grid worker: Those that build, maintain & operate the grid and its power plants.

                  Another issue is the aging agriculture workforce, I believe the Median Age of Western farmers is about 60 years. I am sure its not much better in most of Asia consider their aging populations. Most people simply don’t want to do farm work. its just easier and more profitable to become a truck driver.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Techguy,

                    When fossil fuel prices increase after fossil fuel peaks, then a serious transition will begin, probably around 2030. It will no doubt be difficult. Those industries without enough skilled workers will see rising wages, this will attracted skilled workers to those industries.

                    Yes falling TFR can be a problem, but as far as I know Japan and Southern Europe have been dealing with this and the World can learn from lessons learned there.

                  • TechGuy says:

                    DC wrote: “When fossil fuel prices increase after fossil fuel peaks”

                    Fuel prices already rode, Peaking at about $147/bbl if I recall correctly. You would have thought this would have been a wake-up call!

                    The time to act was about ten years ago. Once oil shortages become permanent, it will be too late. Kinda like signing up for fire insurance after your house has burnt to the ground.

          • alimbiquated says:

            Blah, nobody needs coal or oil in the long run, and metal is never “gone” unless you shoot into space or a fission reactor.

            For every obvious problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

            -H. L- Mencken

        • OFM says:

          Hi Steve,

          I will have a lot to say later on tonight.

          For now, all I have to say is that while Sir Fred forgot more about astronomy than I have or ever have even DREAMED of knowing, he didn’t know shit from apple butter about biological evolution……. not even as much as a good student in a good public high school after finishing one high school level course in biology.

          “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged through evolutionary processes is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the material therein.”

          It’s very common for people who are great experts, sometimes even renowned experts at the very peak of their professions, to make fools of themselves talking about subjects of which they know less than nothing.

          Hoyle is the best single example I know of and the one I use most often to point out this very common shortcoming.

          For what it’s worth, he would be RIGHT if the problem were the one of having a gazillion monkeys typing at random and one of them eventually turning out Romeo and Juliet, correct to the last letter.

          That involves getting every letter right in one try.

          Evolution doesn’t work that way. It’s more like a poker game, in which you can discard cards you don’t want, and keep the ones you do, until you have a GREAT hand.

          In a real poker game, discarding is usually limited to two rounds, but in real life and evolution, the number of rounds is literally unlimited, the same as the number of generations. If you have two pairs, you can keep on discarding until EVENTUALLY , assuming all the discards go back into the deck, you have a full house. And given time enough, you could discard your pair, and eventually have four of a kind.

          YOU DON’T usually throw away a pair of aces, lol, even in a game that allows you to ask for a redeal if you have no more than a pair.

          Evolution is a blind, and runs on random chance, at the individual level and generational level, but at the species level, it’s a blind BUILDER, one that generally retains what works from one generation to the next, and builds on it. Over time….. lots of time, usually.

          But significant evolutionary change can happen in very quickly, in terms of evolutionary time. House flies evolved resistance to DDT within the space of a single generation of humans, lol.

          Biologists work with time on roughly the same scale as geologists and astronomers, counting in billions of years. It’s quite possible that life originated not too long after the first stars evolved to the point that the heavier elements were first created from lighter ones.

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            “I will have a lot to say later on tonight.” ~ OFM


          • Hightrekker says:

            Hoyle, IMHO, is a closet Cabbage for Christ.

            • Caelan MacIntyre says:

              Hightrekker’s Alpine Garden of Eden Restaurant

              ~ Menu ~

              • Talking Snake Au Jus (So fresh, you can almost hear it hissing!)
              • BBQ Rib-Woman’s Ribs
              • Stuffed Cabbages for Christ
              • Wing Pawn Garlic Prawns


              • Apple Pie A La Mode (So sinful, one bite and you will be cast out of Eden, after you pay your bill.)
              • Tree of Knowledge Crepe Flambé (Ask about our Summer Forest Fire special!)
              • Adam’s Fruit Cobbler


              • The Blood of Christ
              • Holy Water Cider
              • Milk of Holy Cow

              • Hightrekker says:


                • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                  Stop the presses! I forgot the…

                  • Cider-Marinated Free Range Chicken Wing Pawn Platter for Two

                  BTW, I just began my first ever apple cider home brew, Nov 30th…. (I actually tried making sauerkraut ages ago.)
                  What I did was buy half a liter of fresh-pressed raw organic apple juice, and then added the peel of an organic apple to it for a wild yeast innoculation, and closed up top with a simple cellophane wrap and elastic with a toothpick-prick hole on top for ventilation…

                  I used these instructions and accompanying YouTube video, Eat The Weeds, episode 9.

                  So now the bottle is just hanging out in one of my lower kitchen cupboards, and we’ll see what happens. (Does it need light?)

                  I’ll try to let POB know if it works and I get a good batch or if it throws a bad one and I have to start over. I am unsure what a good or bad batch is supposed to taste like, but I guess if it’s tasty, then it’s good.

                  • Survivalist says:

                    My fav post that you made was a link to some great riot porn! Oh man that made my day 🙂

                  • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                    Hi Survivalist, glad you enjoyed it.
                    Frank Lopez’s Sub.Media channel, (which is probably where I sourced the riot-porn-in-question from), its videos, have been picked up by, incidentally.
                    I’ll admit that some of the riot porn was a bit dubious with regard to its ‘methodical randomness’, but it could be from the younger ‘anarchists’ who may be still learning. That’s perhaps also why some of the Antifa members have sometimes gotten criticized for their (apparent misplaced or misapplied) ‘violence’ tactics.

                    The image is of the cider in question– about one litre. With the unwashed organic apple peel in it as the only yeast ‘starter’, it’s supposed to take 2 to 3 weeks to start bubbling. The pin you see is to pop the hole in the plastic when it starts doing so.

                    If it throws a good flavour, I intend on keeping the yeast, and innoculating some more juice but also some kind of straight-up water-and-honey or sugar mixture and see if I can get pure alcohol or ‘mead’ or something like that from it, using freeze distillation (a ‘jack’). (And yes, I am aware of the methanol issue, but apparently, it is not a big deal at this scale/amount, although I’ll recheck it to be sure.) (You can of course select the image for a larger image popup.)

                    If, when or as the ‘trucks stop running’, we may want– and have– to look into more local/home-brewing and other locally-/homemade things of course. So we might as well start sooner rather than later.

                  • Survivalist says:

                    Once upon a time I provided health services to inmates in a prison. Generally speaking I liked the inmates better than the guards, who for the most part were men who had wanted to become cops but were too stupid to pass selection. I met some real brewmasters (inmates) working that gig. Good luck with the brew.

                  • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                    Interesting line of work, Survivalist, and thanks, fingers crossed…

          • TechGuy says:

            OFM Wrote: “Evolution doesn’t work that way. It’s more like a poker game, in which you can discard cards you don’t want, and keep the ones you do, until you have a GREAT hand.”

            The issue is that evolution is painfully slow process. Life is been on Earth for at least 4 Billion years*1. It wasn’t until about 600M years ago that multi-cellular began. Meaning for the first 3.4B years of life, it remained as slime & mold. Multi-cellular life began during Earth’s snowball phase when the entire planet was under a 1/2 km of ice.
            It took another 240M years before the first vertebrates appeared and another 360M before the first intelligence species appeared. 4.1B years is a very long time for life to evolve an intelligent species. Thats a long time for a planet to remain in a stable location, free from stellar dust clouds, Supernovas, galactic collisions, or other stellar natural disasters. Also consider a 6-Mile wide asteroid plunging into the planet would probably wipe out many species on the path to intelligence.

            if this is the norm, that its very likely intelligence species is very rare. We might very well be the only intelligence species in our galaxy.

            “But significant evolutionary change can happen in very quickly, in terms of evolutionary time.”

            Doubtful, consider the Fermi Paradox, which an advanced civilization could colonize the entire galaxy in a few million years. That said its possible that intelligence species never develop the means of space travel, or lack the enviroment (ie land dwellers) with access to abundant resources (ie metals, hydrocarbons, uranium, etc) to industrialized. Perhaps they persist as an underwater species or stagnated. However stagnation almost always leads to extinction.

            FWIW: I am in the camp that believes intelligent life is extremely rare.

            PS: The evolution poker analogy is flawed since sometimes the better lifeforms are culled by external events (ie the extinction of species during the Cretaceous & Permian ages when natural disasters disrupted evolution causing it to change directions. Evolution does not discard cards, and it does not selectively pick winners. Most species just happen to be lucky. Evolution is more like a shotgun, spewing out a wide variety of minor variations. some which happen to be in the right spot with the right abilities to survive.


            • notanoilman says:

              Alternatively, the intelligent species decided it is not a good idea.


            • OFM says:

              “PS: The evolution poker analogy is flawed since sometimes the better lifeforms are culled by external events (ie the extinction of species during the Cretaceous & Permian ages when natural disasters disrupted evolution causing it to change directions. Evolution does not discard cards, and it does not selectively pick winners. Most species just happen to be lucky. Evolution is more like a shotgun, spewing out a wide variety of minor variations. some which happen to be in the right spot with the right abilities to survive.”

              Analogies are never perfect, and I’m not about to argue that this one is perfect. It’s just a way of illustrating the “nature” of the nature of evolution.

              Sure some “superior” or “better ” species are wiped out by events.
              Events also wipe out less successful species as well. This doesn’t prove the analogy is flawed, but it does illustrate that chance plays a big role.

              Evolution most certainly does “discard” cards in the sense that various species and entire classes of species have failed, and will fail in the future. If you want to discuss it at the gene level, genes disappear too. New ones evolve.

              Evolution most certainly does “pick ” winners. The CURRENT winners are the species that are extant today. The “losers” are those that are no longer with us. There’s no conscious plan involved of course, no deliberation. Most of today’s winners will be losers within the next million or ten million or billion years. Some will lose this year. A few disappear every single day.

              OF COURSE evolution creates lots of minor variations, and some of these minor variations prove to be very advantageous , and become the new norm, surviving and thriving. You can call it LUCK if you wish. That doesn’t change the fact that random chance results in the “hand” improving with the discarding of cards, and the random distribution of new cards by way of mutations.

              What you are saying is pretty much EXACTLY the same thing I said, although you seem to think I’m wrong, and you’re right. I’m not sure why you think so.

              If you have time to spend reading about punctuated evolution, etc, you will soon learn that change can happen very fast, in terms of evolutionary time,which I pointed out, which you say is “doubtful”. You mention two major turning points yourself, both of them times when fast ( in terms of evolutionary or deep time ) happened.

  4. Paulo says:

    Up early today and lit the shop woodstove; just waiting for light to get on with my day which always starts (after chores) with my dog and I going for a walk.

    Ron, I do not disagree with your post or comments, with the exception of when population will peak and the aspect/timing of social disruption?

    On this morning wait for daylight I have been reading various blog sites with CNN ticking over in the background. Maybe it is the speed of the news cycle and my being used to the insanity of what is being reported, but today, after seeing the Trump tweets on Muslim Violence (film clips), the so-called tax plan, sexual misconducts, the recent reports on KSA, Yemen, Syria, and what is ramping up concerning North Korea, I think we are at a crux right now. I think there will be a Market collapse and war; perhaps global in scale. Further to that I don’t see any desire or mechanism for defusing tensions or a way to recall the situation.

    I am 62 and was a kid during a recent/last big social reset. I had older sibs and parents who moved us north to Canada in ’68 because they had had enough. My WW2 veteran parents proclaimed they had seen enough to be afraid, and sold out to start over and build new lives. While I was thinking about it, and your post, I realized that in today’s situation there are no simple answers and not really any places to run to. It seems different because of the population numbers and armaments, plus the willingness of people to pretend it’s just ‘tribal/crooked politics as usual’. Then, I thought about photographs and how a few catapulted us into rapid change last century. Certainly, the haunted faces of the Dust Bowl sparked a move towards reform. Images from the south and the stories of the KKK…perhaps Rosa Parks herself helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. For me, the image of the young lady holding the dead student at Kent State, (her anguish), the burning Monk and young girl coated with napalm coupled with the lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident pushed me into cynicism; so much that I was not surprised about the non-existent WMD of Iraq.

    Perhaps it won’t be an image, or story that we look back to as a turning point. Maybe it will be a tweet. Maybe it will be the Market collapse or a premptive attack on North Korea that sets everything in motion. I just think we are loaded and tamped down like a pipe bomb ready to blow.

    I do not think we will continue to grow in population until 2050. I think it could start to unravel pretty fast and any day. I don’t see any step back from war(s) in either the ME, or Korea.

    From Wiki: (just one event that pales alongside today’s triggers)
    Kent State
    “Just five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters. Ray Price, Nixon’s chief speechwriter from 1969 to 1974, recalled the Washington demonstrations saying, “The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That’s not student protest, that’s civil war.”[10] Not only was Nixon taken to Camp David for two days for his own protection, but Charles Colson (Counsel to President Nixon from 1969 to 1973) stated that the military was called up to protect the administration from the angry students; he recalled that “The 82nd Airborne was in the basement of the executive office building, so I went down just to talk to some of the guys and walk among them, and they’re lying on the floor leaning on their packs and their helmets and their cartridge belts and their rifles cocked and you’re thinking, ‘This can’t be the United States of America. This is not the greatest free democracy in the world. This is a nation at war with itself.'”

    I apologize if this seems North American centric; and in blinders. I wish to reiterate that our population numbers, plus increasing divide and disparity, proliferation of weapons and intolerance, coupled with environmental degradation and Climate Change, makes this much much worse. It’s a gun waiting for a trigger, imho.

    • Yes, things are pretty bad. But things were bad during the Kent State/Nixon era. Yet we survived.

      It has been my experience, following this biosphere destruction for many years now, that people who see and understand the destruction, almost always expect things to fall apart real soon. They never do.

      I once spent several months as a stockbroker. One thing I learned during that period was a truth about insider traders. That is traders who trade the stock of the company they work for. They see things happening inside their company and expect it to cause great trouble or great profit. They are almost always right and almost always way too early with their predictions. Things just never seem to happen as fast as they expected.

      We, you and I and a few others, are insiders to this problem that I have described in my above post. We know something terrible is going to happen. But most of us expect it to happen way before it actually will happen.

      An example is “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich. I think he was spot on, but things just did not happen as fast as he expected. I hope to avoid his mistake.

      • Ghung says:

        Yep, Ron, and we need to be careful about saying “this time is different”. Perhaps we need a list of things that really are different this time.

        One that should be obvious to anyone paying attention is that, in the late 60s, US debt to GDP was in the mid 30% range. It is now over 100% according to a number of sources. As Gail T. is wont to say, unservicable debt will likely be the trigger that results in a cascading failure of financial systems, and everything else is likely to follow. In short, our financial house of cards has grown three-fold in 50 years, as the global reserve currency is tagged to nothing.

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Ghung,

          I think the debt problem is a little overblown.

          Now people use debt differently sometimes implying “total debt” and sometimes “public debt” and sometimes “central government debt”.

          Which one are you talking about?

          I don’t read Tverberg’s stuff.

          Looking at your numbers and the link below

          it seems you are talking about total US federal government debt.

          Consider Japan

          They have been over 100% debt to GDP since 1999 and have been around 200% since 2014.

          If Japan has collapsed, I missed it. 🙂

          Note that I agree with the idea that when the US economy is doing well (which at present is the case), that paying down debt is a better idea than reducing taxes. I would raise taxes if anything ( a carbon tax would be ideal) and reduce the deficit to less than zero and pay down the debt.

          Or just balance the budget and let economic growth reduce the debt to GDP ratio.

          • Ghung says:

            The figures I posted only include US government (National) debt. Total US debt (public+private) is, of course, much higher.

            US National debt currently around $20.5 trillion.

            US GDP for 2016 per the World Bank was $18,569,100.00

            As for Japan, most of what they owe is to themselves while they own a lot of that US debt, above. Japan also uses the carry trade to stay afloat.

            I only posted this as being one of the things that is different about our situation ~50 years ago. People can make of it what they will. I personally think it is significant since the world runs on credit. No credit, no growth.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Ghung,

              Hard to imagine no credit.

              Also in the 1960s there was less borrowing by the government (so less credit) and higher growth rates (at least in the US) than today.

              In the old days there was concern the government would “crowd out” private debt, as if there was some fixed amount of debt the system could sustain and the system always remained at this maximum debt level.

              Instead it seems the system had room for higher levels of debt as government debt as increased, but there is little evidence of “crowding out”. There may be some maximum debt level that an economy can sustain and Japan may be there. Also note that 50 years ago debt was at fairly low levels, but in 1946 Debt to GDP was 118% of GDP, rapid economic growth from 1946 to 1974 reduced this debt to GDP to 31%, by 1992 it was at 61%, and in 2016 it was 105%.

              Strange that the Republicans want to raise the debt higher by cutting taxes, this made sense when the economy was doing poorly during the Obama years and the aftermath of the GFC.

              I agree debt could become a problem and would be worried if central government debt to GDP was 200% (as in Japan).

              I also don’t buy into the unfunded liabilities argument, laws change and governments don’t always fulfill their promises, that is just a fact of life.

          • OFM says:

            Personally I believe Tverberg is a person who has discovered a niche she can exploit and is making a living out of it. I had the pleasure of seeing her make her canned presentation at a conference once, where all the presentations were repeated several times over for three days so the entire attending crowd could see them all.

            If you ask her a real question, she seizes up like a deer in headlights. She knows some elementary level stuff that is worth some thought, in the case of people who know little or nothing about the overall economy and environment.

            Her answer in the case of a real question is the same answer you get from a politician who doesn’t WANT to answer. She just pretends you asked a DIFFERENT question, and provides a stock answer to THAT question.

            She doesn’t have anything to say worth listening to , in terms of the level of understanding of the contributing members of this forum.

            • Hightrekker says:

              Being a Cabbage for Christ and a AGW Denier doesn’t exactly lend credibility to her work.

              • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                She denies AGW?

                • doomphd says:

                  She does not deny AGW. She just doesn’t think the effects of AGW are going to be our biggest problem going forward, especially if we run low on fossil fuel flows in the near future.

        • Nathanael says:

          UK government debt to GDP was well over 400% for decades running; it was never a problem. Don’t worry about it. Government debt is not really debt, it’s actually money.

      • Paulo says:

        Good point on the rate. I remember my grade 11 Social Studies teacher talking to me after class in 1972. One of our class texts was The Population Bomb. He expected to see, in his lifetime, a collapse of sorts. When I asked him to expand further he described small scale gardens/farms of no more the 2 acres. The primary machinery used would be walk-behind tractors.

        I smiled at the memory when I bought my BCS walk-behind ten years ago. I smile every spring when I till the gardens. I still think he was right, just off on the timing…(just like I was when I got out of stocks several years ago and put my money in term deposits.) 🙂

        The older I get, the less I understand. I take comfort in knowing my Dad wouldn’t get it, either.

      • George Kaplan says:

        I thought Ehrlich’s book “The Dominant Animal”was fairly well measured, and generally in line with the post above (I haven’t read the population bomb).

        • Hightrekker says:

          Ehrlich underestimated the Green Revolution and Haber/Bosch factor that was really upping food production at the time.
          Ultimately, he will be proven right.

          • OFM says:

            I met Ehrlich personally when he visited Va Tech sometime around 1972. Visiting scholars often have smaller seminar meetings after making their presentation to the larger U community, which he did. Not many people attended the particular seminar I participated in , probably less than a couple of dozen. I was taking some ag courses there at the time, and enjoyed a long conversation with him.

            You’re dead on. He badly underestimated what we farmers could do, and are still doing, given the necessary industrial support system that keeps industrial level agriculture humming.

            Sooner or later…. We are going to have to deal with the Population Bomb. The resources we are devoting to industrial ag aren’t going to last forever. Neither are nature’s one time gifts of soil and water so long as we are in overshoot.

            I was head over heels in love with a milk and corn fed girl from Ohio and we were about ready to join the Peace Corp or something along that line, and go someplace and save the people in some backwards community by teaching them how to farm the American way all day and enjoy each other all night of course.

            But one of my crusty and profane old professors took me aside and asked me if I really wanted to go to XXXXX and teach starving people how to produce twice as much food so that twice as many of them would starve a generation down the road.

            HE was right about the increase in production just resulting in more mouths to feed……. back then. Since then, things have changed…… dramatically………. in SOME countries.

            There are good reasons to believe that birth rates may fall dramatically within the next decade or two in at least some of the countries that still have exploding populations. Maybe a few of them will manage to avoid starvation on the grand scale long enough for their populations to stabilize and decline.

            It’s too late for falling birth rates to prevent famine on the grand scale in a hell of a lot of places.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Old Farmer Mac,

              Let’s assume Ron’s prediction of 2050 for a peak in World population at around 9 Billion is correct (this seems a very reasonable guess to me).

              Also assume for the moment the grain is freely traded throughout the World with few barriers to trade (tariffs and outright bans).

              Are you suggesting that it is likely that World food output will not be adequate to feed the World under this scenario?

              Typically famine results from war and food supply not being able to be safely transported to those in need, at least in the past 50 years or so.

              Do you expect this to change before 2070?

              • OFM says:

                Hi Dennis,

                I’m going to answer twice, lol.

                First off, do I think it’s technically possible that we can feed a population that peaks around nine billion a few decades down the road?

                This answer depends on how well energy supplies and the overall world economy holds up, with some wild cards thrown in relating to climate, depletion of certain critical resources such as fresh water and minerals such as easily mined phosphate rock, etc.

                New technology and the reactions of the people to it will also play a big role.The role played by governments local to national to international will be critical, and huge, because only governments will have power enough to FORCE some changes that may and probably will be necessary.

                Here are a few examples.

                It may be necessary to force well to do people aka the middle classes, to give up eating red meat for the most part, so that grain ordinarily fed to cattle and hogs can be diverted to human consumption.

                (I expect rich people will still be able to get a ribeye or pork chop any time by buying up ration tickets, or buying on the black market, or paying an exorbitant consumption tax, or any combination of these strategies.)

                Fuels, especially motor fuels, may be tightly rationed, so that enough will be available to run farms and food processing and distribution industries.

                Large numbers of people may be paid or coerced into going to work on farms or in community gardens or greenhouses.

                A substantial fraction of the resources currently devoted to other needs or wants may have to be diverted to building sewage treatment infrastructure designed to capture and recycle the nutrients in human sewage.

                I could go on all day.

                Bottom line, I think that barring bad luck, it is technically possible that we can feed that many people that long, and for a while afterwards, as the population hopefully starts trending down.

                As a practical matter, I don’t think there WILL BE food enough for nine billion.

                It’s more likely in my opinion that some countries are going to come up desperately short of food, and be unable to beg, buy or steal it from other countries. Some people, and some countries, are likely to resort to taking food, and other resources of course by force from weaker neighbors….. maybe even “neighbors” on the far side of oceans.

                I may be too pessimistic, but I’m one of the regulars here who think that climate change for the worse, much worse, is in the cards, and I spend a few hours every week reading history. Humans have always been ready to go to war, even without good reasons. A lot of people in desperate situations are going to see war as their best option, in my opinion, over the next half century.

                Maybe my fellow Yankees will be willing to give up their burgers for beans so that kids in some far off country can eat. I’m not so sure we are compassionate enough to do so on the grand scale.

          • Dennis Coyne says:

            Hi Hightrekker,

            If total fertility ratios continue to fall (for the World they fell from 5 in 1965 to 2.5 in 2015) about a 1.38% per year, there may be no catastrophic collapse.

            If that average rate should continue for 16 years then World TFR would be at 2 (below replacement level) by 2031. If the rate of decrease in TFR experienced from 1965 to 2015 continues for 35 years (to 2050), the TFR for the World would be 1.54 in 2050.

            Based on UN data from 2015, 65% of the World’s population had a weighted average TFR (weighted by population) of 2.05, but a more sophisticated calculation using estimates of the population of Women of child bearing age I have not done, I simply used total population to weight the TFR from each nation which implicitly assumes the age structure of each nation is identical which is clearly false.

            • Hightrekker says:

              We are adding 83 million per year to a already population in drastic overshoot.
              The barn door is already open, and the horses are gone.

              • Exactly! That’s been my point from the very beginning. It is already way too late to fix things.

                We have a predicament that must be dealt with, not a problem that can be solved.

    • alimbiquated says:

      Yeah, they shot white people. Can’t have that. Nowadays the cops shoot three people on average every day in America. Nobody cares, life is cheap in America. Gun deaths are the price of freedom. Native Americans run about three times the risk of white folks, and black folks run about twice the risk.

  5. GoneFishing says:

    It is obvious that humans are the major drivers of extinction on the planet. We are in the Sixth Extinction event and we cause it directly and indirectly through our actions. the why is quite obvious, all species live to propagate and expand to their limits, our limits are global at this point and so are our effects. I don’t see energy as much of a problem as there is plenty of it in various forms and we can obtain it if we want it. That however means continuing the high tech industrial form of civilization which we have embarked upon. Can that be made sustainable and much less harmful, even helpful? Of course it can, it’s all about wise choices and thinking before we act instead of just going for profit.

    The loss of vertebrates is just horrible but the loss of invertebrates will be the undoing of our farming and food production and much of the other life that depends upon them. The loss of insect life due to global human generated poisoning of the environment, especially food production areas, will unwind much of the food production.
    As collapse starts, the chaos of riots and crime will rise sharply. All those mentally ill and drug addicted people will no longer have their chemicals, causing a trigger point of violence and chaotic actions.
    However the major fast cause of loss of human life will be disease. People forget how it was just a few generations ago before antibiotics. Diseases will spread rapidly among the weak and starving, public sanitation will fail causing more disease to spread. Clean water supplies will become absent, compromised or even purposely wrecked. Hospitals will fail because of both being overrun and the power will fail plus supplies will fail. Disease will grow and spread among both people and their animals. It could take less than a generation to drastically reduce the population of the species, with the resulting loss of knowledge, technical ability and industrial ability the cascade will go further.
    In the bad case scenarios much of the infrastructure will burn putting up a cloud of aerosols and GHG’s as well as causing a large toxic pulse to the environment.

    But on the other side humans are very inventive and determined to continue the system that supports a huge population. So we may expand this time forward for quite a while, but only through smart choices and changing how we do things such as agriculture, industry and technology. Smart choices, not choices just for profit.

    Just one example of our innovative and creative ability.
    From sand to soil in 7 hours

  6. SRSrocco says:


    Humans need not worry about the Falling EROI, the Falling Carrying Capacity or the degradation of the environment. Those no longer matter now that BITCOIN is now trading over $11,000.

    Technology will solve all our problems and Bitcoin will make us all wealthy once again.


  7. Doug Leighton says:

    Ron — The full text of this paper in SCIENCE will cost you 15 bucks but in my opinion, is well worth it; below is the Abstract. Commenters are welcome to talk about educating women, etc. but its too late for Africa for the balance of this century. I have personally observed the situation in Central Africa where you can see a school each containing about 1,000 kids located at roughly one-kilometer intervals along all significant roads — a lot of kids. Virtually all schools in Africa are run by churches (of all types), and you can guess what these guys are teaching about birth control: I’ve asked, and the answer is NOTHING. AFRICANS LOVE KIDS. And, health care has improved greatly over the past few decades meaning general health has been upgraded and infant mortality has been reduced greatly. In fact, I would say the bulk of the UN’s efforts in Africa are directed towards improving general health at which they have been successful.

    Sorry for the inarticulate ramble but this is a rather personal interest of mine partly because our family is supporting a young girl in Uganda who will soon become a medical doctor. I had promised to stop commenting on the Blog but the African over population crisis issue is one dear to my heart.


    “The United Nations recently released population projections based on data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, the world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion people, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion in 2100. This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility rates and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working-age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations.”

    • There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion people, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion in 2100.

      I think you are about 237,500,000 too low with your estimate of world population. Well, that was as of a few minutes ago. It was 7,437,500,000 last time I checked.
      World Population Clock

      However, I think the UN is way off on their population projection. I believe that world population will reach 9 billion by 2050, just about a billion and a half above where it is now. However, I doubt it will ever go much above that. The UN, of course, is predicting no catastrophes. After all, that’s not their job.

      • alimbiquated says:

        The UN systematically underestimates the fall in birth rate associated with better education for women and their access to health care and contraceptives.

    • GoneFishing says:

      Here is the free pdf version of the paper”World population stabilization
      unlikely this century”.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Doug,

      Glad you decided to comment.

      Yes Africa is indeed a problem as far as population growth. With education and improved access to health care and internet access on smart phones, African women may become empowered and decide to control their fertility using modern birth control. The transition to lower fertility can happen in a generation.

      As an anecdotal example, my family and my wife’s averaged a Total fertility ratio (TFR) of 5.5 for the two families (close to the average sub-Saharan TFR), the next generation of 11 children in total had a total of 6 children for a TFR of about 1.1.

      Unscientific and likely too optimistic, but not that different from what occurred in the upper middle income nations of the World (population about 2.4 billion in 2015) where TFR decreased from 4.93 in 1975 to 1.93 in 2000 a period of 25 years.

      It is the low income nations that have lagged in reducing TFR, economic development is a key ingredient to getting population under control. Easier to say than to accomplish.

      The article below is hopeful

      I saw something similar on PBS

      • George Kaplan says:

        Dennis – I guess this site is rightfully energy-centric but what’s your view on the other limits that are showing up like potable water, top soil, phosphorus?

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi George,

          I think recycling human waste might help with top soil and phosphorus, though a Farmer would know more than me. I think recycling water from sewers can also be done and eventually the expansion of solar power may allow desalination of sea water.

          In short, I think there are solutions to these issues, especially as we move to more sustainability (less beef production would help) and a peak in population as education levels improve would also help.

          Some nations such as Iran have made amazing progress on their TFR, from 1990 to 2005 (15 years) the TFR fell from 5.62 to 1.97 and by 2015 it had fallen to 1.75.

          African nations should find out what happened in Iran over that period and import some of the lessons learned.

          Note that there are many examples of a rapid demographic transition, another is South Korea where total fertility ratio (TFR) decreased from 5.63 to 1.60 from 1965 to 1990 and in 2015 had fallen to 1.26.

    • Nathanael says:

      The churches which promote childbearing must be destroyed. They are basically the enemies of humanity. Since they’re losing in North America, Europe, South America, and most of Asia, they are targeting Africa.

      (And *targeting* is the correct word — they are deliberately sending missionaries to spread their sick, twisted doctrines and spending lots of money to do so.)

      • islandboy says:

        If you read my story below, Food for the Poor is a religious group. In Jamaica I believe it is affiliated with Missionaries for the Poor, an international Catholic organisation. So while they are doing yeoman service in providing shelter for poor folks, they are doing diddly squat to encourage poor folks to stop creating more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and shelter. Isn’t that just dandy?

        Incidentally here’s a recent newspaper article from my neck of the woods:

        Crime strangling growth – Youth unemployment in Caribbean highest in world, fuelling criminality

        Youth unemployment in the Caribbean is said to be the highest in the world, and crime, partly fuelled by this high rate of joblessness, is a major obstacle to economic growth in the region, according to Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

        The IMF boss, who addressed the sixth High Level Caribbean Forum, held yesterday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, said that crime imposed several economic costs such as public spending on security and the criminal justice system, as well as private spending on security. She also highlighted social costs arising from the loss of income owing to victimisation and incarceration.

        Can anybody spot my comment? Hint: I used a pseudonym that should be familiar with everybody here.

        • Hightrekker says:

          Can we be so unpolitical correct to call for “A Pope onA Rope?”
          Someone must draw a line in the sand- or should we all be under a religious spell?
          Or do we want to break that spell?

        • GoneFishing says:

          This was discussed just this morning on NYC NPR, concerning homelessness and the housing provided for low income people. The gist of it was that although there were programs to help the people with food and housing, very little was really being done to solve the problems.

      • OFM says:

        “(And *targeting* is the correct word — they are deliberately sending missionaries to spread their sick, twisted doctrines and spending lots of money to do so.)”

        It’s one of the little accidents of life that I happen to know a hell of a lot about Christian missionaries, because I grew up in a place that has LOTS of churches that sends LOTS of missionaries out to other countries. I retired back to this same place.

        Consequently I know a lot about missionary work as it is practiced by mainline Protestant churches. I don’t know of any that actively discourage the use of birth control. OTOH, I don’t know any actual CATHOLIC missionaries, or just what any Catholic missionaries may be teaching, since Catholics are very scarce in these parts.

        Perhaps you will be so kind as to provide some links or details proving your case ?

    • Fred Magyar says:

      “This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility rates and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working-age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations.”

      I have the impression that many of us myself included have an outdated and still colonialist view of African societies. I think changes happening in many parts of Africa will surprise us and technologically leapfrog over much of the built infrastructure of the OECD countries. I have seen it happen first hand in previously underprivileged parts of Brazil.

      How we’re using drones to deliver blood and save lives

      Keller Rinaudo wants everyone on earth to have access to basic health care, no matter how hard it is to reach them. With his start-up Zipline, he has created the world’s first drone delivery system to operate at national scale, transporting blood and plasma to remote clinics in East Africa with a fleet of electric autonomous aircraft. Find out how Rinaudo and his team are working to transform health care logistics throughout the world — and inspiring the next generation of engineers along the way.

      BTW, I have a serious question! Does this kind of technology make the population crisis in Africa better or worse? Would like to hear some thoughts on the matter.

    • TechGuy says:

      “I have personally observed the situation in Central Africa where you can see a school each containing about 1,000 kids located at roughly one-kilometer intervals along all significant roads — a lot of kids.”

      One issue I see is the increase risk of major pandemics. Seem like every couple of years there is a serious pandemic threat. Currently there is an out break of a pneumonic plague in Madagascar. Its likely going to be contained, but these serious diseases is like playing Russian Roulette. If Africa population is indeed exploding, than it’s going to make it much harder to contain future outbreaks.

      Most Panademics get stated from malnutrition. If Oil prices move back up, or their is a major drought its probably going to sow the seeds to a major pandemic in Africa.

      Another issue is that Medical care is reaching the end of the road as antibiotics has run its course. Microbes are become resistant, and more and more people are getting hit with un-treatable infections.

      Also the number of people become infected with 19th Century or cronic\incureable diseases is on the rise:
      “Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is prevalent in China. Approximately 600 million people have ever been infected by HBV”
      Hepatitis is even becoming a problem in the US
      •1 in 20 Americans has been infected with the hepatitis B virus (12 million)
      Worldwide: 2B are infected with Hep-B
      •2 billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus (1 out of 3 people)

  8. islandboy says:

    It is uncanny how this lead post has come about just when I have been thinking about this subject recently. I am currently very depressed, to the point I suspect it may be clouding my better judgment with respect to various matters. This depression is partly caused by my views of the future of my little island in particular and the world in general. Let me try and illustrate how my thoughts have been brought into focus recently.

    I travel around the city I live in, passing through all the different types of communities from time to time. We have pockets of extreme wealth as evidenced by palatial homes with swimming pools, tennis courts and all the creature comforts you would expect in the home of a wealthy first world resident. Leaving these pockets of extreme wealth, one doesn’t have to drive for more than five minutes to reach pockets of extreme poverty, people who are so poor, they cannot pay rent and cannot envision ever buying a plot of land or a house, so they build structures on any piece of land that they can get away with. This type of activity extends across the island and there is no area that does not experience informal settlement (aka squatting). There is a political aspect to this, in that in an effort to garner the votes of the large voting block that poor people make up succesive governments have not discouraged squatting, to the point of encouraging it. See yesterday’s cartoon in one of the local rags for a satirical perspective of the situation but, I digress.

    I try to avoid too much contact with people outside my socioeconomic and educational class because it inevitably leads me to being depressed but, sometimes I end up in that exact situation. This past Monday night was one such case and it was my observations from Monday night that got me thinking about Peak Oil and carrying capacity and overshoot. I was invited to visit a gathering and told to bring drinks and that they were going to cook so, I decided not to eat a meal before leaving the city. It was a forty five minute drive, including a drive through late evening heavy traffic heading westward out of the city, past a big highway construction project being carried out by a Chinese (honest to God, from China) construction firm that has been active in the island for a number of years. On arriving at my destination I was told by my host that the gathering was at another house less than half a mile away.

    This particular house was one of 39 houses made possible by the efforts of a couple from Grand Junction, Colorado (with pics) along with the local branch of Food For The Poor. I estimate that, these “houses” measure about 13ft. by 15 ft. inside and are supposed to include a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. The sister of my host was the recipient of this house, being qualified for the charity as a result of being unemployed with four children, one of whom was either newborn or yet to be born at the time the house was handed over to her. She was not yet thirty years old when her last child was born. Does anybody see where I am going with this yet?

    Back to the gathering. On arriving at the house my host informed that no food had been cooked. By this time I was hungry and asked where was the nearest cook-shop where I could purchase a meal. I traveled with my host to Old Harbour, the nearest town apart from Spanish Town. I can only describe Spanish Town as an overpopulated, crime infested, thug controlled mess, that becomes a ghost town by midnight even though it is surprisingly busy by day. I asked my host if I should buy a meal for them also and they declined but, by the time we got back to the house, they declared that they were hungry and needed to get something to cook to go with the rice they had. So off we went to try and find a local shop that had what they wanted and was still open. First one was a 24 hour joint, built using an old cargo truck body but it didn’t have all they wanted so it was off to another one that we managed to catch just as they were closing. We came away with a small packet of “veggie chunks” and some cooking oil. The little propane stove had been fired up and the rice was almost done so in less than fifteen minutes a meal of rice and veggie chunks was being served to four or five adults, one of whom had an infant, less than a year old, sharing the meal with her.

    So let me weave together how all of this ties in with the subject of the lead post. First the “house” was only possible through the generosity of citizens of a first world, developed country. The materials that made the house (lumber corrugated, galvanized steel) are the products of extractive industries that rely heavily of FF, petroleum in particular. The soft drinks and alcohol that I brought to the gathering were manufactured, distributed and retailed in a system, heavily dependent on external energy. My vehicle runs of diesel. The rice for the meal I ate and the one at the house was imported from outside the island, again produced and delivered with lots of help from petroleum. The chicken I ate was locally produced with imported grain, a product of industrial scale agriculture, probably in the USA. Thankfully many of the chicken farmers are involved in a project that started with 15 kW systems at about 40 chicken farms and seems to be expanding. The veggie chunks are a meat substitute protein made from soy meal, again a product of industrial scale agriculture.

    The cooking oil was probably one of soy, palm, canola, corn or coconut oil, produced at an industrial scale and imported to the island. Jamaica was once an exporter of coconut oil before the industry was decimated by a disease called lethal yellowing back in the early 70s. Virtually the entire population of coconut palms on the island was wiped out by this disease and even though efforts have been made to resuscitate the industry using disease resistant varieties, more than forty years on, the manufacture of coconut oil in Jamaica is a tiny cottage industry.

    So here we have five or adults, two males and three females, one of which had four children with the other two having one each. There were other people at the gathering but as far as I am aware only two had jobs, the brother of my host who left before the meal and the woman with the infant who has a part time job selling lotto tickets. All of these people are living on the edge, heavily dependent on a system that is in danger of collapse for their very survival and they are far from alone. there are thousands of them if not hundreds of thousands on this island alone.

    If for whatever reason industrial scale agriculture fails, the songbirds are going to be eaten out of the trees. I used to dissect rats in my sixth form (12 and 13th grade) biology classes and there ain’t much meat on them but, if we get hungry enough maybe we’ll turn on the rats. Without affordable propane, every tree and shrub will end up as firewood. This is the reason why I have an almost obsessive focus on renewable energy, solar in particular. It is my hope that the deployment of renewable energy can stay ahead of FF depletion long enough for global civilization to transition away from FF. It is my hope that our civilization, seeing itself on a real time, renewable energy budget, will begin to recognize the fragility of our situation. I have to ask Ron and others to forgive me as I continue to bring attention to the hopeful stories. It is the only way I can keep myself from sliding into depression and despair. It is the only way I can cope.

    • alimbiquated says:

      The Green Revolution in the 60s was supposed to solve all our problems, and it solved a lot of them, especially in Europe and Asia. It works well when you have a lot of water and farm intensively, but is destructive in semi-arid conditions and when used in extensive agriculture, like the American Midwest.

      After the Green Revolution, Asia boomed and Africa fell behind, prompting racist theories. Geography and climate are more likely explanations. In India, for example, the more arid north did less well than the wetter south. The Chinese were the first to realize the problem, and started a new generation of re-greening projects to boost agricultural production.

      Meanwhile bad farming practices continues to rapidly degrade wide stretches of North America and South America. I was reading recently about a county in SD that lost 19 inches (not feet!) of topsoil between 1960 and 2014. Many places in America simply abandoned farming, like New England and Appalachia. People blame red dirt and the crick risin’ in Appalachia and glacial rocks in New England, but that wasn’t a problem before soil degradation set in.

      The Green Revolution focused on genetics and chemistry, which makes sense if applied correctly. Development economists were puzzled that Kenyan farmers were uninterested in high yield seeds, but the explanation as simple: They need a regular water supply, not better seeds. A lot of places in the world get 3-4 weeks of rain a years, and good seeds don’t solve this problem. Pumping the water out of the aquifier isn’t the solution either, just ask anyone in Antelope Valley CA, a former grassland turned desert by the alfalfa farmers.

      My mother warned my to watch out for flash floods when camping in the desert. It took me decades to understand why flash floods are a particular problem in the desert: More or less by definition, deserts are places where there are flash floods. The flash floods are both cause and symptom of soil degradation. Deserts aren’t places where there isn’t enough water — they are places where rainwater runs off the surface instead of seeping into the soil. Degraded soil can’t absorb water fast enough, surface runoff degrades soil.

      The problem with industrial agriculture is that it treats the great outdoors like a hydroponic farm — it ignores soil ecology and just assumes the hydrology will work itself out.

      A more modern approach starts with water and soil. It’s spreading rapidly in Africa, for example with the sand dams in Kenya, the terracing in Ethiopia and Kenya, and the various planting pit (like zai and demi-lunes) in the Sahel and agroforestry (planting trees in fields, or crops in orchards) in a lot of arid places.

      It’s true that mankind is pushing the limits of what the current ecosystem can carry, but it’s also true that the ecosystem could be much bigger than it currently is.

    • GoneFishing says:

      That very same first world country that donated the materials has plenty of homeless and large amounts of poor. It also has large amounts of empty buildings and huge amounts of food waste, yet they do not take care of their own. That is even a sadder situation as people freeze to death, starve, and die of simple preventable health problems in one of the richest countries in the world. Basic needs are not met and the governing bodies are constantly fighting to reduce the paltry benefits that are given. It’s a country full of hate for their own people and hate back at the haters.

      • TonyMax says:

        There’s no inherent evolutionary advantage to caring for people you have no relation to. That’s the real reason why all of these ‘safety net’ programs you describe are hated in the general sense and under attack as time marches on.

        • GoneFishing says:

          Now Tony, we all know the public programs are under attack because of the greed and selfishness of people who already have too much money and stuff.
          We all know it is the greed and the overconsumption that is causing the destruction of our environment and possibly the whole human race. That is a huge evolutionary disadvantage.
          Helping, sharing and cooperating is the advantage. The selfish and greedy are like ticks sucking the world dry for their own personal benefit.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          There’s no inherent evolutionary advantage to caring for people you have no relation to.

          That is absolute Bullshit!

          Dr. Sarah Mathew

          I study the evolution of human ultra-sociality and the role of culture in enabling it. I am especially interested in how humans evolved the capacity to cooperate with millions of genetically unrelated individuals, and how this links to the origins of moral sentiments, prosocial behavior, norms, and large-scale warfare. To address these issues, I combine formal modeling of the evolution of cooperation with fieldwork among the Turkana. The Turkana are an egalitarian pastoral society in East Africa who cooperate, including in costly inter-ethnic raids, with hundreds of other Turkana who are not kin nor close friends. Through systematic empirical studies in this unique ethnographic context, my research project here aims to provide a detailed understanding of the mechanisms underpinning cooperation and moral origins.

        • Survivalist says:

          evolutionary advantage of caring for others
          About 232,000,000 results (0.58 seconds)

          This information is not exactly carved in a stone tablet and hidden on the dark side of the moon.

  9. Caelan MacIntyre says:

    Hi Ron,

    I haven’t read your good article just yet (although it is doubtful any of it will surprise me or add to what is already more or less understood), but just to mention that I recently listened to a podcast from Chris Martenson’s site, Peak Prosperity, featuring William Rees from the University of BC…

    Two things about the podcast that stood out was that William was in fine form (articulate, clear, concise, passionate, ‘deathly’ serious, etc.); and the second was his mention of possibly fundamentally changing the natural system of Atlantic cod (fisheries), so that they may never recover. Not everything can simply reverse, and quickly enough, if they can, such as, say, with the depletion of the ozone layer, and when it involves all kinds of living systems– much, and the intricacies/complex interconnections, of which we are blissfully unaware of, despite some of our arrogant pretensions to the contrary (such as with regard to the avocation of most if not all forms of geoengineering)– it is very serious.

    What concerns me also is how some people, such as on this site, can ostensibly claim a required greenwashed BAU from out of one side of their mouths, while on the other side, express grave concerns for the ecosystem. We cannot have it both ways.

    To me, much greenwashed BAU is just swapping out different forms of rampant resource extraction, pollution and inequability for other forms.

    The system, along with its ‘power-politics’, is still intact.

    IOW, there is no real change.

    Loren, assuming that’s you, I am certain that radical decline, if not outright collapse, is already well underway, despite the obstinate mindlessness of some people. Just because some don’t see something or want to see something doesn’t mean it is not there.

    My simple recommendation, especially for certain people WRT this deathwish-for-a-culture is to let go/get out (and in the process, learn things like permaculture and local community resilience, and how our ancestors did some of it). Your comforts are much of an illusion (and predicated, for example, on natural draw-down).

    • islandboy says:

      I knew you’d show up sooner or later and since you’ve always been critical of my support for renewables and EVs, let’s bite.

      “To me, much greenwashed BAU is just swapping out different forms of rampant resource extraction, pollution and inequability for other forms.

      The system, along with its ‘power-politics’, is still intact.

      IOW, there is no real change.”

      Are you saying that “there is no real change” going from corporate owned, centrally located, large scale, FF fired generators to small scale, individually or community owned, distributed renewable generators? If so, that’s not what the FF and corporate generator class in Australia thinks. They have captured the Australian federal government and are fighting renewables as hard as they can.

      Are you saying “there is no real change” going from ICE powered vehicles to EVs that, are perfectly happy to suck electrons from any source including renewable sources individually owned or owned by a co-op of which the vehicle owner is invested? That’s not an opinion shared by the Koch brothers who are spending millions of dollars to try and paint EVs in a bad light in the eyes of the public.

      Surely you realize that an individual with solar on their roof and an EV is giving a big middle finger to the status quo, including FF corporations and utilities who will no longer be able to feed at that individual’s trough. In case you don’t realize it, that is a very big disruption of “system, along with its ‘power-politics’” and no, in case you haven’t been listening, “The system, along with its ‘power-politics’”, will not be “still intact.”

      Now if you read my fairly long narrative further up, I hope the point I am trying to make does not escape you. That point is that there are millions, no lets make that billions of poor poorly educated folks who depend on things like industrial agriculture and the current status quo for the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter. If the status quo collapses they are dead, let me say that again, dead! I’m all for dismantling the status quo and replacing it with something that is much kinder to all life on this pale blue dot we call home but, I shudder at the thought of millions or billions of human beings starving to death, just as I shudder at what we are doing to the biosphere. Can you see why I’m depressed right now?

      • Caelan MacIntyre says:

        This is my cameo appearance. LOL…

        There is no real change if we are still relying on the monstrosity that is the crony-capitalist plutarchy/government-big-biz symbiosis, such as for solar panels, etc. and/or what some misleadingly refer to as ‘renewable’.

        If you are in the biz– and I think you wrote hereon that you indeed are– then some might suggest, maybe even me, that you are, say, ‘soft-shilling’ and/or rationalizing for your product using POB as your platform, and maybe problematically skewing the narrative a little more towards a dystopic system that we should be getting the hell out of, while making preparations to do so, like learning how to do the basics in a local, resilient context so that we do not need industrial agro. The longer we rely on industrial anything– and as if it’s somehow morally/ethically neutral– the harder/faster we will likely fall, maybe along something of a seneca curve.

        We cannot eat solar panels and electricity is not a necessity, except to for the brainwashed and the brainwashers.
        Attempting to play on people’s heartstrings, such as about poor people in so-called undeveloped locales to sell a product they don’t need and that would risk locking them– and others– into a certain (‘Western’) lifestyle, in some contexts, approaches contemptible, by the way.

        You should already know how sociogeopoliticultural ideologies like Westernisation is foisted upon the global masses through physical, cultural, mental and intellectual colonialism, with the result often being wars and deaths to people and traditional ways of life. Just consider the Middle East right now. In the name of what? Oil and oligarchy?
        You’ve said it yourself hereon that you have some kind of slavery in your family, yes? Well, many people are still slaves anyway, if with coats of white paint. Libya was in the news recently about that– slavery– incidentally.

        If we want to do solar panels etc. the right, ethical ways, we need sea changes, such as that avoid slavery and privilege-by-gun, but I highly doubt we will manage them in time, and suspect that we are already long past that time.

        That said, how do you feel now?

        • islandboy says:

          I am not yet in the business of doing anything with solar PV so, as of right now I have no product that I am shilling for, soft or hard. I am in a business connected to entertainment if you must know. The entertainment business can by no means be classified as non-discretionary and recent technology has allowed far more people to compete with me so it will be necessary to get out of that at some point. How about viewing this as something I see as as worthwhile pursuit for the future of mankind, given my skill set and thus my advocating it as a worthwhile area for me to pursue a vocation in? I am not only advocating for solar PV because it’s a field I can participate in but, because I think it can contribute a great deal to reductions in carbon emissions among other noble aspirations.

          Are you going to start suggesting that I want to get into the business of manufacturing and selling EVs just because I am suggesting that large scale EV adoption would be a good thing? I ain’t no Elon Musk if that’s what your thinking. Now, if the shit hits the fan and motor fuels became really unobtainium, I might take a stab at an EV conversion business, a la Jack Rickard but, right now even Jack seems disillusioned with that pursuit, having posted only one new video since the middle of August and only two new blog posts since the last week of July. At any rate the necessary preconditions for such a business to be successful in an age of factory made EVs, do not exist.

          I am with OFM on the point that some of your ideas for agriculture cannot adequately serve the needs of a rapidly growing population of 7.5 billion people. My dad who was a descendant of rebel runaway slaves, known in Jamaica as Maroons, was into agriculture and left me and my surviving sister a six acre homestead when he died. I can tell you agriculture ain’t a walk in the park. It’s damned hard work and carries all sorts of risks not faced by other pursuits (droughts, thieves, diseases pests etc.) . You seem to have some romantic view of agriculture that I do not share.

          As for locking people in to a western lifestyle, that doesn’t apply to Jamaica. The western lifestyle came with colonization and slavery. Do you think that people outside of the developed word should forgo electricity, computers, cell phones, the internet and other modern conveniences?

          Despite all of that, the Caribbean has been bucking western culture for centuries. Trinidad and Tobago has their carnival and it’s music and Jamaica has had as big an impact on western culture with our music (reggae and ska) as western culture has had on us. Even this past weekend, a dark skinned Jamaican woman sporting a huge afro, placed third in the Miss Universe pageant. The girl that won was from South Africa and could pass for Caucasian whether she is or not and I didn’t see any other black women in the contest sporting an afro hairstyle (not that I watched it).

          When it comes to some things, that train has already left the station. No point in romanticizing about what could have been. I’d rather focus on what small steps we can take to improve things in the here and now, while moving us to a more sustainable future. I will probably remain depressed until the new year. Probably more to with not having any immediate family around for “the festive season” than anything else. Maybe the new year will bring some good news on the renewable/sustainability front! That would cheer me up!

          • Hightrekker says:

            After being in Central America for quite a while, and that heavy Catholic noose around everyones neck, it was so liberating to get out to the islands.
            Lets Party Mon!

            • islandboy says:

              Now you’re talking! We in the Caribbean know how to party! I wouldn’t be surprised if we woke up the morning after the collapse and said, “Collapse? What collapse? We were too busy partying to notice” 😉

              Having said that, Trinidad is heavily influenced by catholicism, their carnival being associated with the catholic observance of Lent. I don’t see any evidence of the Trinis (as they are known in the islands) taking the admonitions of their various religious leaders too seriously. Hell! I’ve never been to Trinidad carnival but, I hear it’s one wild party!

              On the other hand, Trinidad should have some long term concerns about what they are going to do after Oil and Gas production fall below consumption and they have to start importing hydrocarbons. What if either prices are too high or supplies are limited? What if prices collapse due to lack of demand as Seba suggests will happen after EVS and solar begin to dominate transport and electricity generation?

                • islandboy says:

                  Way too early to say. The article dated October 4, 2017 says this:

                  “The feasibility study will evaluate the viability of installing the wind farm, which would represent one of the first offshore wind installations in Jamaica and the greater Caribbean region.”

                  I expect the feasibility study is going to take months and I would expect them to do some detailed analysis of the offshore wind resource in the process. It is good that this study is being done so soon after two devastating hurricanes have hit the region. Should keep hurricanes very much in the picture.


                • GoneFishing says:

                  Looking at some Caribbean buoy data it looks like wind would be a good source of power for the islands.
                  Beside the wind, the island has about 54 billion kwh/day of sunlight falling on it. That is more than ten times the total energy production per year for the island. Energy is not a problem, how the energy is generated is the problem.
                  Cover less than 0.1 percent of the island with solar panels and make up the difference with wind power.

                  • islandboy says:

                    I have done some numbers in terms of what it would take to power the island entirely with renewables, mostly solar. Not impossible but the technocrats, one of whom is a college classmate of mine, cannot wrap their head around 100% renewable electricity!

                    Incidentally, I came across a video presentation on Youtube (with a really annoying backing track) that at about 3 minutes in contains the following text:

                    “Seba’s forecasts are predicated on the assumption that the cost of generating and storing electricity will continue to fall – to the point where just about all generation will be solar by 2030. But electricity production would only have to increase by 18 percent in the US to cope with a complete switch to EVs, he said”

                    That 18% figure squares quite nicely with some back of the envelope calculations I have done.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    The choice is to transistion or fail.

              • OFM says:

                I’ve made good friends with a couple of guys from Jamaica who have friends and family here that have managed to get their permanent paperwork taken care of.

                Unfortunately it doesn’t look as if they will ever be able to get permanent resident status. They’re older guys, and about as mellow and fun people to be around as I have ever met. They come up for an extended family visit every fall, which just HAPPENS to be the time of year local farmers need a lot of extra help, lol.

                As soon as I’m finished with family duties, I’m going down to spend a month with them. 😉

                Will be spending some money on food and utilities and a few new nice things for them of course, because while they’re friends, they’re not well off.

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            “How about viewing this as something I see as as worthwhile pursuit for the future of mankind, given my skill set and thus my advocating it as a worthwhile area for me to pursue a vocation in?” ~ Islandboy (and all further quotes)

            What’s your skill set and what are your ideas along those lines vis-a-vis what you may want to pursue a ‘vocation’ in? (Skill sets tend to be very transferrable, but sometimes it takes a little imagination in how to do so.)

            What’s a ‘vocation’ to you and why specialize if that is what you would be doing in its pursuit? Could you generalize?

            But, ok, how about ‘business-/work-/community-cooperatives’ in your vocation? Or would you just be vocationing by kissing corporate ass like far too many others around the world?

            How about getting to that land of yours– is it fallow?– and setting something up natural and maybe community-oriented/shared with/from it and that you might be able to even trade, such as by sailboat and such as with my locale? I have almost 3 acres and we could co-own it. We could place our lands/microecovillages in something, say, like a land/share trust and trade/network with each as well as with others with land and/or interest in the network in order to set up and grow a decentralized country of sorts, based on shared green-based ethics.

            “I am not only advocating for solar PV because it’s a field I can participate in but, because I think it can contribute a great deal to reductions in carbon emissions among other noble aspirations.”

            There are a lot of problems/issues with solar PV and other so-called renewables, but you already know that. There will be a lot of people around the world who will make every rationalization to remain in/with and uphold BAU. Solar PV, in its current manifestation, is part of the BAU process. We need to get out of it.

            We need to get our house (Earth) in order first before we continue to pursue our BAU-supported vocations. Solar PV’s will be of no use to us on a dying planet. We need to get our priorities straight. A living planet and helping it live is the priority, not BAU and the so-called economy.

            “Now, if the shit hits the fan and motor fuels became really unobtainium…”

            First, the shit is already hitting the fan, hence Ron’s article. Second, if you have an ICE, you have a generator. Third, as the shit hits the fan, your land and skills to that effect might come in extra-handy for you and your community, especially if those of your locale come increasingly on-board.

            “I am with OFM on the point that some of your ideas for agriculture cannot adequately serve the needs of a rapidly growing population of 7.5 billion people.”

            First, they are not my ideas. They are the ideas of many of those practicing permaculture and other forms of alternative agro outside of industrial, as well as the general idea as put forth by Rodale and the United Nations, for examples– in short that we need to get off industrial agro. I already mentioned much of this on POB.

            I am unsure anyone knows whether our forays into alternative agros will be sufficient to feed 7.5 billion, but what seems certain is many think that industrial agro appears increasingly as one of the poorest bets.

            “My dad who was a descendant of rebel runaway slaves, known in Jamaica as Maroons, was into agriculture and left me and my surviving sister a six acre homestead when he died. I can tell you agriculture ain’t a walk in the park.It’s damned hard work and carries all sorts of risks not faced by other pursuits (droughts, thieves, diseases pests etc.) . You seem to have some romantic view of agriculture that I do not share.”

            Go dad!
            …Depends what you mean by ‘agriculture’ or ‘walk in the park’, but I can tell you with great certainty that knowing nearly nothing about alternative agro (permaculture, ecological, organic, decentralized, etc.) will prove even less of a walk in the park should you find yourself needing to. Indeed my view will turn romantic pretty quickly by comparison. LOL

            “As for locking people in to a western lifestyle, that doesn’t apply to Jamaica.”

            How so?

            “The western lifestyle came with colonization and slavery. Do you think that people outside of the developed word should forgo electricity, computers, cell phones, the internet and other modern conveniences?”

            Not necessarily, but if they cannot be produced using one Earth or less LOL, then they simply won’t be happening. Much technology is also the result of ‘mental colonization’… You’ve heard of ‘manufactured need-creation’ and the like, yes?

            “I will probably remain depressed until the new year. Probably more to with not having any immediate family around for ‘the festive season’ than anything else.”

            The ‘festive season’ can be year-long, every day, rather than the limited mental colonization that it is.

            • TechGuy says:

              Caelan MacIntyre:
              “Not necessarily, but if they cannot be produced using one Earth or less LOL, then they simply won’t be happening. Much technology is also the result of ‘mental colonization’… You’ve heard of ‘manufactured need-creation’ and the like, yes?”

              I think the point you should make is:

              Jamica is probably 100% dependant on imports for technology since it does not manufacture PV or even any of the raw materials needed to make PV panels. Ditto for EV’s, Computers, Smartphones, etc. What happens when those items or replacement parts become unavailable do to a global crisis.

              FWIW: The issue I see with Renewables and the Caribbean islands is the frequent Hurricanes that rip them to shreds. Hurricanes Maria and Irma destroyed any wind or solar farms in their path.

              PVs, EVs are 100% dependent on globalization. I am sure an average EV or even smartphone contains parts from dozens of countries, and probably double that for the raw materials used to manufacture electronic components. If Caribbean does have the means of manufacturing Renewable components and parts, and there is a major global crisis. Its going to put the islands in a very untenable position. What’s Plan-B?

              • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                Agreed, those are excellent points, TechGuy. Thanks for making them and nice to catch you again hereon too.

                I seem to recall even Islandboy previously mentioning, including with some attached images, some of the post-hurricane alternative energy destruction.

                ‘What’s Plan-B?’ is of course a perfect end to your point and kind of feeds back into my own.

                BTW, there is a classic sailing ship that apparently did a rum (etc.?) trade somewhat recently… Ok, found it.

        • Hightrekker says:

          Bottom line:
          It is really hard to face the extinction of your species, no matter what reality presents to you.

          • GoneFishing says:

            What has been highly disturbing is watching the natural world be run over and steadily destroyed.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          We cannot eat solar panels and electricity is not a necessity, except to for the brainwashed and the brainwashers.

          Than do the world a favor and unplug yourself from all sources of electricity! At least we here won’t have to read your fantasies!

          BTW there are plenty of people who understand that the current capitalist system is not the answer, read Kate Raeworth’s, Donut Economics for starters.

          Modern humans could no more live without electricity in the 21st century than they could live without food and water. Try living without refrigeration in any city in the world. You would cause massive starvation in a few days. Try providing medical care to an urban population without electricity.

          You have to be completely delusional to suggest that electricity is not a necessity!

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            That’s all irrelevant to my point which still stands– especially when the system is destroying our planet. We have lived with electricity for a relative split second of our existence as a species on this planet.
            Besides, if we’re not treating the planet properly, do we even deserve electricity and its conveniences? I think not.

            And then there are assorted uses for electricity, some being more questionable as priorities than others.

            Electric car versus fridge?

            FWIW, I have personally lived without refrigeration for months in a major city, at least at home after shopping at the grocery store LOL, but also in the country– more hard-core.

            If your local community especially is growing and processing its own food, then it’s easy.

            There’s pickling, drying, fermenting, spicing/salting, alcohol, etc., and natural cool-storage, such as root cellars and simple cooling-by-evaporation systems.

            There’s also ‘eating as you go’. Other animals do that, and I’ve never heard of an animal that needs a fridge or electricity, have you? Maybe your cat at home, but even Meow Mix can last outside the fridge, yes?

            But some of us have to actually help make the changes, such as to the narrative, and limit the cling to some kinds of BAU narratives and fantasies.

            Do it for Mother Earth, Fred. Or me. Or Harvey Weinstein or whoever/whatever motivates you. Coral.

            Obviously, we can’t just turn off the lights and fridges overnight, but there are plenty of ways to manage, maintain and consume food that don’t require a fridge. So if we can’t just turn off the lights and fridges overnight, maybe we should start talking more about how to live without them and/or with greater resilience.

            But even if the juice stays on forevermore, some juiceless skills and knowledge are great to learn, have and apply.

            BTW, I just watched this documentary on rare earths– the apparently highly-polluting stuff that’s supposed to help power, until they run out, all these new and relatively-useless electrical gadgets now and in the future to get off of those other pollutants.

            • TechGuy says:

              “There’s pickling, drying, fermenting, spicing/salting, alcohol, etc”

              Unfortunately, Picking & salting all your food isn’t very healthy, especially as you get older.

              “Besides, if we’re not treating the planet properly, do we even deserve electricity and its conveniences? I think not.”

              As I see it, if your over 40, you would likely be dead already adopting to a pre-electric lifestyle. Most people pre-electricity died before they reached 50, probably from poor diets with excessive salty foods & too much alcohol.

              I just recently moved to the sticks. As I see the world is going down in flames no matter what I do. I fully intend to keep my refrigerator, my computer, my tractor and whatever else I need to maintain my lifestyle. There is no point in making sacrifices when the world is heading for WW3. At least here I can grow some of my own food, there are no Jerry Springer celebrities in my neighborhood.

              If it counts, I not wasting money on an EV. I rather spend the money on a skid steer. I am also trying to get away from buying store foods since they keep on fowling up the food with crap. Now even fruit has a wax coating (Disgusting). So I am working on planting my own Orchard.

    • Hightrekker says:

      but just to mention that I recently listened to a podcast from Chris Martenson’s site, Peak Prosperity, featuring William Rees from the University of BC…

      Highly recommended.
      And I’m not a fan of some of Martenson’s guests.

      • Caelan MacIntyre says:

        I came across the podcast indirectly via another site, but do sometimes run into Chris’ material. He seems good at interviewing and is easy to follow in videos.

  10. OFM says:

    This post is going to be a gold mine for me, because it relates directly to so much of what I’m working on for publication in book form if I ever manage to finish it to my satisfaction. Here’s hoping it attracts over a thousand comments, lol! I’m especially interested in comments that dispute my own, because those are the ones enable me to understand my own blind spots. 😉

    Now so far, nobody has said anything about what I will refer to as the SECOND key fact that one must understand to understand evolution. Hoyle missed the first one altogether, making a total fool of himself, although he was a brilliant scientist, one of the top men in HIS field, his mistake being that he failed to understand that evolution BUILDS on it’s PAST ” accomplishments”.

    The second key fact I am hereby pointing out is that while evolution creates new life forms that reproduce to fill any and all available niches, there’s no GUIDANCE involved, no overall PLAN, no GOD in charge, if you wish to put it that way.

    Evolution is characterized in large part by parsimony, by being conservative in the use of resources. Animals that don’t have use for claws don’t have claws like tigers, lol, and animals that don’t eat grass out in the fields don’t have digestive systems like COWS. Evolution creates organisms that are “good at” taking advantage of whatever resources are available, WITHOUT REGARD ANY FUTURE CONSEQUENCES because there is NO LONG TERM PLAN. Behavioral BRAKES that aren’t needed don’t evolve, lol, and countless things that would be extremely useful, like eyes in the back of our heads, which would keep us from being attacked from the rear, don’t often evolve either, because ….. well because of more factors than I have any inclination to cover at this minute. Half of the SHORT answer is that eyes in the back of our heads would cost us more in terms of sacrificing something else than they would gain for us. The other half of the SHORT answer is that since pure chance plays such a big role……. the odds are astronomically high against it happening anyway.

    This a comment/ rant, not a BOOK. The BOOK is in the works, and will be available free to member of this forum who may want to read it and point out shortcomings in it before I publish it, most likely for free on the net. I’m not so arrogant as to think anybody will PAY for it, lol.

    Dead ends, blind alleys, and death, at the individual level, and or at the species level, means absolutely NOTHING to “Mother Nature” because she is not sentient, she’s not moral, she’s not even ALIVE in the usual sense. She’s just an artifact, a tool, that we naked apes have invented in our efforts to understand reality.

    What I’m getting at, since She IS parsimonious, is that She does not provide brakes where none are needed.
    Sometimes things do evolve that prove to be useful under new circumstances, but when this happens, it’s just a lucky accident for the creature involved. If for instance a creature evolves a forelimb capable of grasping a branch, so that it can climb better, lol, later on the ability to GRASP something MAY come in very handy, because it sets the stage for that creature being able to grasp a stone which can be used as a tool or weapon. This does NOT mean the creature WILL eventually discover the use of tools and weapons. It DOES mean the probability of such evolution is vastly enhanced. There’s NO PLANNING INVOLVED……. except in the minds of deists who accept the reality of evolution while also retaining the concept of a God or gods or some guiding force of some sort.

    IF the need arises for BRAKES, well then, die off, or even extinction, takes care of the problem. If a given species eats only a given plant, and that plant goes extinct, Mother Nature does not grieve for either the plant, nor the species that feeds exclusively upon it,which very likely also goes extinct. She doesn’t even consciously keep score, as indifferently as a hired bookkeeper keeps books for a client he has never met and will never meet. She does however inadvertently create a RECORD of historical “scores” , which we can read. It’s the fossil record.

    It’s rather amusing that professional biologists go around talking about human stupidity as if there is something inherently WRONG with people, as if we are collectively DEFECTIVE. We are what we are because we are final product ( up until today ) of our own evolutionary history. We’re as ” good ” or “well designed “as we are evolved to be, like all other living creatures.

    Engineers build in safety margins, and add features that may be useful, under certain circumstances, when they design things, because they DO work with and from PRECONCEIVED PLANS. Mother Nature doesn’t make plans, she just deals and redeals the cards, over and over, and will continue to do so………… until all life on this planet perishes……… which won’t be until the sun expands sufficiently to destroy the last vestiges of life on it.

    We are NOT something different from the rest of biological creation, we do NOT operate under different rules, we aren’t on some sort of fucking pedestal, separate from the rest of the biosphere. THAT whole crock of shit sort of thinking is one of the cornerstones of kinds of the thinking that some of the regulars here like to make fun of, such as religion, nationalism, racism, etc.

    A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No.

    We have succeeded,basically for no other reason that accident in the last analysis, to the point we compete mostly with each other, rather than other species.

    The evolved PROGRAMS hard wired into our brains that drive our behavior DO NOT include much in the way of built in brakes, because BRAKES HAVE COSTS. If we over populate, if we use up critical resources on which we depend for our survival, and perish, there’s NOBODY who gives a shit.. other than some of us who are aware of the fact that we ARE in overshoot. Mother Nature is INCAPABLE of giving a shit.

    The whole fucking idea that we are SOMETHING SPECIAL was probably originated by the first priests and their allies. It’s an idea that has little to do with any discussion based on real SCIENCE within the context of understanding our own overshoot .

    Now none of this rant should be interpreted as indicating I don’t know and understand that humans are tribal creatures, that we are social creatures, and that we survive and thrive because we DO live and work cooperatively. The thing is , we survive and thrive as COMPETING communities, tribes, and nations, rather than as a SINGLE global community. Wolf packs compete. Prides of lions compete. Bands of chimps compete. We humans compete with each other. Talking as if we are DEFECTIVE because we behave this way is a waste of time.

    When the shit hits the fan hard enough and fast enough, we do sometimes cooperate with our former enemies, at least temporarily.Old enemies can be new allies.

    It’s at least THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE that we can cooperate as a SPECIES, at the global level, in order to solve some or maybe even most of the problems associated with our own overshoot. We have cooperated before at levels up to and including the global level. In WWII, most of the developed countries of the world were involved as partisans on one or the other side. We cooperate to some extent at the global level now, in economic terms, and in terms of our physical security, as for instance in arms control agreements.

    But just because it’s theoretically possible that we can cooperate at the species level globally doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I don’t think there’s any real likelihood of it happening, although alliances consisting of the various major economic and military powers do exist and will continue to exist and some of these alliances will prove to be critically important in determining the course of future history.

    • GoneFishing says:

      “A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No.” Do you mean E. O. Wilson has his head up his ass?

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Do you mean E. O. Wilson has his head up his ass?

        Edward O. Wilson’s New Take on Human Nature

        The eminent biologist argues in a controversial new book that our Stone Age emotions are still at war with our high-tech sophistication

        Read more:

        In his newly published The Social Conquest of the Earth—the 27th book from this two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—Wilson argues the nest is central to understanding the ecological dominance not only of ants, but of human beings, too. Ants rule the microhabitats they occupy, consigning other insects and small animals to life at the margins; humans own the macroworld, Wilson says, which we have transformed so radically and rapidly that we now qualify as a kind of geological force. How did we and the ants gain our superpowers? By being super-cooperators, groupies of the group, willing to set aside our small, selfish desires and I-minded drive to join forces and seize opportunity as a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe. There are plenty of social animals in the world, animals that benefit by living in groups of greater or lesser cohesiveness. Very few species, however, have made the leap from merely social to eusocial, “eu-” meaning true. To qualify as eusocial, in Wilson’s definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice “at least some of their personal interests to that of the group.” It’s tough to be a eusocialist. Wouldn’t you rather just grab, gulp and go? Yet the payoffs of sustained cooperation can be huge. Eusociality, Wilson writes, “was one of the major innovations in the history of life,” comparable to the conquest of land by aquatic animals, or the invention of wings or flowers. Eusociality, he argues, “created super­organisms, the next level of biological complexity above that of organisms.” The spur to that exalted state, he says, was always a patch of prized real estate, a focal point luring group members back each day and pulling them closer together until finally they called it home. “All animal species that have achieved eusociality, without exception, at first built nests that they defended from enemies,” Wilson writes. An anthill. A beehive. A crackling campfire around which the cave kids could play, the cave elders stay and the buffalo strips blacken all day. Trespassers, of course, would be stoned on sight.

        As is evident by some of the comments on this thread, while the hive may be able to display collective intelligence, the individual ants can still be pretty dumb! Do check out the link I posted to ‘The Mind’s I’ chapter 11 Prelude to Ant Fugue.

        • GoneFishing says:

          If we can’t cooperate globally then the idea of Half-Earth is a farce.

          • Fred Magyar says:

            The idea is still sound! If humans have not yet evolved to the point that they are able to include the whole globe as a part of their hive… Well, that’s a separate issue and may indeed mean that we are collectively fucked! Because not enough of us have reached that particular point in our evolution.

            As George Carlin once said: “The Planet is fine, it’s the people that are fucked”

            • GoneFishing says:

              An idea is sound only if it can be implemented, otherwise it is just a bunch of sugars turned to heat and in this case trees turned to wastepaper.

              My point was not that E.O. Wilson is wrong, but that he would not have presented such a point if he did not think it possible or even probable. It was OFM that was the one saying it was not possible, which is a rather narrow view of humanity. Humanity cooperates on large scale right now.

              Looking at the update of Limits to Growth I get the feeling that the flattening out of some of the parameters (energy, industrial output) may be misinterpreted. The same thing would happen if an energy and industrial transistion were occurring.
              The key question is what does a transistion look like initially?

              A field to a forest transistion looks a lot like field, then some bushes with a few small trees, then eventually almost all trees. Originally the trees are hardly there at all and don’t seem to be having much effect as their leaves smoother a lot of plant life around them and they take up more and more of the solar energy that used to reach the ground. It starts small then spreads to complete takeover.

              An energy and industrial transistion goes hand in hand with a social/governmental transistion. It looks small and scattered at first but steadily fills in even despite the resistance of the legacy systems. Key to the fast takeover is the weakening of the previous growth and it’s demise leaving easy space for the takeover.

              For example, I have a kitchen ceiling light fixture. It has three bulb positions. I had replaced the three 60 watt incandescent bulbs years ago with a 100 watt CFL (running actual 25 watts).
              Last night the CFL started flickering so I pulled it and it had burn marks on the base of the bulb. The CFL bulb has now been replaced by two 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs which together use only 16 watts and provide more light than the CFL.
              Also the LED bulbs may never have to be replaced in my lifetime. 180 watts to 16 watts and no more replacement, that is high ground transistion! Now $4 replaces over $500 on the user end and eliminates large amounts of pollution.

              The power cost and economics have overshadowed the legacy instrument in an inexorable way. The death of an individual instrument allowed the replacement by a superior one.
              I think that effect has been happening all across the world in many areas of energy use and industrial process for decades. This effect may have been interpreted as a reduction in energy and industrial output while it is really mostly a transistion in process.

              So how do we get a fast takeover? Strand and remove the old legacy assets and systems plus do not replace dead systems with the same system. The action is harsh, but that is how it is done.

              I will know we are on the right course when I see those large glass buildings being stripped of their components, their glass re-used, their steel reused and recycled, their wiring removed as they are removed. Why and how do we put up R2 buildings that soak up huge amounts of energy for heating and cooling? They need to go now. Passenger vehicles that get less than 150 pMPG need to go now and no passenger vehicle that gets below 400 pMPG should be built ever again. There are many inefficient, harmful and problematical systems that could be removed and changed.

              Trash the old ways now and insert better ways, ones that work longer with less harm. Make new systems that heal soil and nature in general. The collapse is occurring now, take advantage of it by putting in superior systems that allow E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth idea to flourish, not finish.

              Personally, until a lot of the old stupid harmful systems are put aside we can’t see clearly if a fast collapse is at hand or not. Maybe if we just stop following bad and stupid we can ease off our consumption of the planet and reverse some of the major problems we face. There may be no real need to go through a grand scale collapse and huge loss of species.

              • Fred Magyar says:

                Yeah, I have to agree with most of what you said.

                “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
                To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

                ― R. Buckminster Fuller

              • OFM says:

                “”It was OFM that was the one saying it was not possible, which is a rather narrow view of humanity. ”


                Here’s what I actually said in a comment upthread. It was posted a day previous to your comment, lol.

                “It’s at least THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE that we can cooperate as a SPECIES, at the global level, in order to solve some or maybe even most of the problems associated with our own overshoot. We have cooperated before at levels up to and including the global level. In WWII, most of the developed countries of the world were involved as partisans on one or the other side. We cooperate to some extent at the global level now, in economic terms, and in terms of our physical security, as for instance in arms control agreements. ”

                Perhaps I ought to lecture you a little on the meaning of the word EXPECT within the context I used it, which I think is obvious enough to anybody who WANTS to understand. In this context, expect means (or not ) that cooperation will happen spontaneously, or with only moderate incentives.

                I don’t think global level cooperation will happen, IF it happens, until the incentives to cooperate are OBVIOUS and overwhelming, when it comes to really changing the way we do things. I don’t think any competent biologist will argue with this position, speaking in the broadest terms, painting with the so called broad brush.

                We do after all have a few thousand years of known history that indicates that we are as apt to fight as cooperate, lol.

                When the shit hits the fan hard enough, id it also hits slowly enough for us wake up , I EXPECT ( PREDICT ) that WE WILL COOPERATE on the grand scale, at least up to the nation state level, in most nations, and frequently at the international level, and MAYBE even at the global level.

      • OFM says:

        Hi GF,

        I must admit I’m a little behind in reading E O Wilson, who is as capable a scientist as any in his field, and head and shoulders above almost all the rest, in my opinion. He’s also one of the best writers ever in his field, probably THE best writer in biology in my personal opinion.

        But so far as a I know, and I have read all of his older books, unless I’m mistaken, he would basically agree with me, because I am, as I interpret his work, AGREEING WITH HIM.

        There’s a HELL OF DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING people to cooperate on the grand scale, and believing they are capable of doing so.I believe we are capable of cooperating on the grand scale, given sufficient motivation to do so, and have said so already in this thread. I don’t EXPECT us to cooperate with people we see as outsiders and enemies, but given new circumstances, new conditions, new problems, new fears, we can and sometimes do find new common ground, and make friends with former enemies.

        I’m ready to bet the farm that I’m WITH E O WILSON, rather than AGAINST HIM.

        Nuance matters.

        To me at least, lol.

        A couple of days back in another thread, you lectured me, telling me to THINK GLOBALLY, as if to imply I ‘m unaware that most of the people in the world are still desperately poor. I have never said that most of humanity is well off. I have never IMPLIED that most of humanity is well off.

        What I DID say, is that FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH, quoting myself, that there is a sound case to be made for the trickle down effect, and that a substantial number of even very poor people humanity HAVE ALREADY benefited greatly from economic and technological progress.

        Hundreds of millions of desperately poor people are benefiting today from progress made in fields ranging from public health to industrial agriculture to renewable energy , etc. Hundreds of millions of very poor people are making relatively fast economic progress by some measures, for instance in the rate at which they are able to make use of at least some electricity, even if it’s only a single light powered by a battery recharged by a small solar panel.

        The less you have, the greater the marginal value of anything new you are able to get.

        Just one rechargeable light is worth a LOT to a person who has no other option than perhaps a candle or kerosene lamp or a home made torch.

        Incidentally I can remember being told by my grand parents that back when they were kids, it wasn’t at all usual to literally light a ( corn ) shuck to provide some light so as to make a quick run to the outdoor privy or take care of some other after dark chore. They had kerosene, but it was considered wasteful to use it unnecessarily.

        Things can and do get better sometimes, even on the global scale, lol.

        • GoneFishing says:

          E.O. Wilson would not have written the book Half Earth if he did not think that people could and would cooperate on a grand scale. I don’t think he was just blowing wind. Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others.

          I have not read his latest book yet ” The Social Conquest of Earth” which relates to this subject.

          See mine and Fred’s comments above.

          • OFM says:

            ” Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others.”

            Bullshit again. You’re deliberately twisting my words into something I didn’t say.

            You brought up his name, and you have put words in his mouth, as well as mine, in a manner of speaking.

            I will say it again. There’s a DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING or PREDICTING cooperation between large and diverse groups of people EXCEPT when circumstances leave the various groups little or no choice, and they have COME TO UNDERSTAND that the only real option they have IS to cooperate.

            ONCE various competing groups or societies come to understand that they have little or nothing in the way of viable choice other than cooperation, well then I PREDICT OR EXPECT them to cooperate.

            I believe my position is entirely consistent with E O Wilson’s thinking and beliefs, speaking in general terms.

            If you want to play word games,I’m ready, because it’s TRAINING as well as entertainment for me. I need all the practice I can get when it comes to making my arguments clear before I go out on my own with my own book and web site…….. EVENTUALLY.

            The audience here is sophisticated enough to understand nuance, lol.

            Well, MOST of the audience here , anyway.

            • GoneFishing says:

              You ask for opposing opinions then you get nasty and personal and show no sign of wanting to learn or discuss anything, just shove your ideas. Since you apparently are not capable of dealing with opinions or thoughts other than your own, I will cease interacting with you. Plus you are always yelling in your comments, very rude.

              Here is what you actually said ““A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No.”

              • OFM says:

                I want opposing opinions , and I’m always on the lookout for new facts. I do NOT want my words twisted into pretzels so that they appear to mean something diametrically opposite to what I actually said, by taking them out of context.

                I think you are more interested in finding personal fault with me than you are in actually discussing facts, possibilities, and ideas.

                I use a lot of caps, but seldom more than five or six words at a time, because caps are a lot quicker for me than taking time to use italics or bold.

                I’m not presenting a paper for publication here, lol. I’m just participating in a conversation. If you want to take offense, feel free, it’s still somewhat of a free country.


          • OFM says:

            ” Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others.”

            Bullshit again. You’re deliberately twisting my words into something I didn’t say.

            You brought up Wilson , and you have put words in his mouth, as well as mine, in a manner of speaking.

            I will say it again.

            There’s a DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING or PREDICTING cooperation between large and diverse groups of people under ordinary circumstances versus under new and compelling circumstances.

            IF AND WHEN circumstances leave various groups little or no choice other than cooperation, , and they have COME TO UNDERSTAND that the only real option they have IS cooperation , well then …….

            I expect or predict that such groups WILL cooperate, sometimes, maybe even almost every time.

            I believe my position is entirely consistent with E O Wilson’s thinking and beliefs, speaking in general terms.

            The audience here is sophisticated enough to understand nuance, lol.

            Well, MOST of the audience here , anyway.

            Understanding is tough for those who prefer NOT to understand.

    • alimbiquated says:

      This is pretty much nonsense. People are very different than other animals because they get ideas in their head and follow them. That’s the secret to our success — we change our game plan all the time instead of being stuck in a single niche like most species. It’s always hard to guess which ideas are going to work out, but societies choose — so to speak — whether to destroy themselves or not.

      America has been choosing self destruction for several decades, and the eschatology our wacky creed planted in our minds seems very attractive, especially to old farts — the alternative is to try something different.

      Many societies have shown themselves to be resilient an sustainable. America has a colonial mentality that doesn’t support that, even when it’s obvious. My grandmother was born in Kansas and when she talked about the Dust Bowl she would shake her head and say, “I always told them not to cut down those cottonwoods — they were the only thing keeping the farm from being blown away”. Now they’re depleting the aquifier in Kansas by planting maize for diesel. So the desert will continue to spread.

      But the Japanese aren’t like that at all. They’ve been planting trees for centuries. They don’t have much choice, because the hills aren’t very stable there. They’ll get through.

      And the Sahel Zone, the world’s worst and poorest place, is changing as well. They’ve started replanting. A lot of them will survive.

      Crazy hippies like this may do better than you think. Civilizations come and go, the species won’t die for a while.

      Root hog or die, as my father used to say. You can’t imagine a world without Walmart, but it isn’t the end of the world.

      Another thought — The Tasmanians. They were probably the wolrd’s most primitive culture. They were cut off from the very old Australian mainland after the Ice Ages, and seems to have even forgotten fishhooks one of mankind’s oldest technologies. But they had their ways, and they survived.

  11. Hightrekker says:

    A panda who was “really, really, ridiculously good at sex” brought the species back from the brink of extinction, but things are still weird

  12. Hickory says:

    thank you Ron for this posting. I am in complete agreement with you on this.
    nothing more important. it is a bizarre and tragic spectacle to behold, and to participate in.
    what a poor use of such an incredible biosphere.

  13. Gene Orleans says:

    Many people from the looks of it here try to deal with the crises we face as a species and civilization the same way as myself. I spend much time here in front of modern electronic gadgetry. It’s useful in distracting the mind from a diseased dying world along with a way to pass the time while waiting on my Lord and Savior to return to cleanse all the wickedness Satan has saturated humans with. Yes this is truly a sick sad world we live in now. Matthew 13:38-40.

    • It’s useful in distracting the mind from a diseased dying world along with a way to pass the time while waiting on my Lord and Savior to return to cleanse all the wickedness Satan has saturated humans with.

      You are likely to be waiting a very long time. Religious stupidity makes the problem worse, never better.

  14. Watcher says:

    Didn’t know this was here.

    1. Any quotes of someone’s book on collapse and how collapse happens based on history . . . all worthless. There is no history.

    2) There is no history because there has never been 7 billion before. There has never been collapse with nuclear weapons involved before. There has never been collapse with the maggot and fly total in the atmosphere from 6.5 billion corpses before.

    3) Chinese oil consumption lags US per capita and they are striving mightily to correct that, as they should. When per capita consumption growth becomes difficult, they HAVE to take oil from someone else. That someone else’s population starts to starve for lack of food production or transport. They object to the theft of “their” oil. War. They must. War or starve.

    4) Consider Japan. Consider the relations between China and Japan. Japan cries out . . . you’re taking this oil to improve your country’s standard of living and you are starving our country to death to do this. How can you find morality in this? China will have no trouble whatsoever contriving morality in this.

    5) Simply that. When there isn’t enough to go around, no one will quietly accept inadequate amounts. Nor should they. All other stuff about global warming and debt and sacrificing lifestyle for someone else is just so much bizarre delusion. You got too little to live, you kill whoever took it.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Watcher,

      If you were correct there would be constant World War, most humans realize that conflict does not always lead to a positive outcome.

      In an anarchic world things might play out as you imagine, we don’t live in such a World.

      Most people will do all they can to prevent anarchy.

      • Watcher says:

        Ahh so only evil people resort to war.

        Haven’t you noticed only good guys win?

        • Survivalist says:

          ‘Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning’ by Timothy Snyder is quite good. If you’re not into the minutia of east European history circa WW2 then just cut to the conclusion. ‘Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin’ is good too.

          Here’s an interview with Timothy Snyder if you want to get a taste.
          Will this be the catalyst for the next Holocaust?

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Watcher,

          No mention of evil in my post. Sometimes violence is necessary, generally non-psychopaths resort to violence as a last option rather than their first option.

      • Hightrekker says:

        Almost anyone, I suppose, can call himself or herself an anarchist, if he or she believed that the society could be managed without the state. And by the state—I don’t mean the absence of any institutions, the absence of any form of social organisation—the state really refers to a professional apparatus of people who are set aside to manage society, to preëmpt the control of society from the people. So that would include the military, judges, politicians, representatives who are paid for the express purpose of legislating, and then an executive body that is also set aside from society. So anarchists generally believe that, whether as groups or individuals, people should directly run society.
        -Murray Bookchin

        Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
        -Edward Abbey

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Hightrekker,

          I define anarchy as without government.

          Let’s assume for a moment a World without any governments at all.

          Let’s also assume there at 7.4 billion people in the World.

          I just don’t see how that works. The World is not a perfect place, but it is far from clear that a World without any government(s) would be an improvement.

          When some one comes up with a plan that is appealing to the majority of citizens in some nation, perhaps such a form of non-government will be instituted.

          • Caelan MacIntyre says:

            Collapse Dynamics: Initial Conditions, Media Manipulation and The Short-Circuiting of Consensuality

            Hi Dennis,

            I see anarchy, if it is understood correctly, as potentially having government if it is optional/consensual/legitimate.

            For example, if I want you to represent me until which time as I say otherwise, then you can if you wish.

            I also see anarchy as potentially ‘hierarchical’, or at least pseudohierarchical, if it is chosen freely.

            So, for example, if I want you to tie me to a bed and have your way with me as your ‘slave’ if you wish, until which time as I or you opt out, then that is still ok. (fans face with hand)

            It is about consensuality and a large part of the whole idea behind media manipulation of the masses is to ‘short-circuit’ consensuality– IOW, to make the masses consent to what they might not have normally consented to.

            At the moment, I do not consent, for example, to what we call ‘government’ to take my money, or ‘skim my labor’, such as in the form of taxation. It is an ‘initial condition’ (think the butterfly effect) that can cascade, and seems to have cascaded, over time into dangerous, ‘hurricane’, territory. I mention this angle also to hopefully appeal to your apparent understanding and appreciation of physics and physical dynamics over time.

            Right now, there is software available, ostensibly to support government governing consensually, called Loomio. There are likely others as well.

            • Dennis Coyne says:

              Hi Caelan,

              See free rider problem. If taxes are not required, then very little is collected. So essentially, not taxes is roughly equal to no government.

              How do legal agreements work in this no coercion society?

              When there are disagreements how are they settled?

              Come up with a system which works in a World with 7.5 billion and maybe someone will pay attention.

              • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                Hi Dennis,

                Your assertion does not necessarily stand to reason and is just an assertion without support. I could flip/modify it this way:

                If taxes were consensual, then people would likely feel a greater sense of belonging to their locales and how they are shaped and so give them freely and as they see fit.
                Consensual tax collection could be viewed as part of the modus operandi of actual government, rather than as a kind of large-scale centralized armed coercive mob, such that it appears.

                See also here. I’ll paraphrase some of it for you (again)…

                “…if economics is to become an instrument of freedom and prosperity instead of an instrument of statism, then there are certain fundamental fallacies that must be continually challenged and discredited. Chief among these is the persistent non sequitur from externality to coercion — that is, the bogus conclusion that coercion is a proper means to solve problems involving economic externalities.

                One of the most blatant examples of this non sequitur occurs in discussions of the ‘free rider problem’ and the alleged solution of government provision of so-called ‘public goods’. This is a particularly insidious economic theory that bears a great deal of the responsibility of derailing economics into the ditch of statism.” ~ Ben O’Neill

                A system that works for many more people, rather than a handful of elites, would appear to be a system that truly echoes what the people actually want, rather than what they are forced to.

                • Dennis Coyne says:

                  Hi Caelan,

                  Point to a system that works.

                  The fact that you can find one person who writes that a society with no coercion is viable, does not make it realistic.

                  Utopia is a nice thing to strive for, getting there with real people who sometimes behave badly (don’t follow the rules that the majority has agreed upon) and on occasion need to be coerced.

                  A world with no coercion would be very nice.

                  Have you seen such a world (not just sentences on a page)?

                  • Caelan MacIntyre says:

                    Hi Dennis,

                    Plural anarchy is a system that works and we have had it for almost all of our existence.

                    And we don’t really have government, as I define it, since you want to define anarchy.
                    We have an elite mob in non-plural anarchy; ‘people behaving badly’, if you wish.

                    It is important to bear in mind, too, that the system within which you perch, and from where you ask me to point to a system that works, is failing… and dragging everything down with it– again, ‘behaving badly’.

                    So we can come up with a better system or some of us– like you I guess– can look for excuses to do nothing and just let the current one continue to fail.

                    Either way, I’ll get my plural anarchy.

                  • Caelan, I think you are not just wrong, but horribly wrong. Well, that depends on exactly what you mean by “plural anarchy”. I am just not sure. Anyway:

                    “When law enforcement vanishes, all manner of violence breaks out: looting, settling old scores, ethnic cleansing, and petty warfare among gangs, warlords, and mafias. This was obvious in the remnants of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa in the 1990s, but can also happen in countries with long tradition of civility. As young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).”
                    Steven Pinker: The Blank Slate

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Caelan,

                    Through most of human existence population was very small. Plural anarchy (whatever that is) might be viable in a World with a population of 5 to 20 million (estimate of human population of the world in 5000 BC).


                    Why is it that current social systems have been formed? Possibly because they are the most viable systems for large populations. Perhaps we will develop something better, but likely there will be some form of government with laws which are enforced.

  15. islandboy says:

    On the matter of carrying capacity, I have a minor quibble with some of the ideas presented here. Let me start by outlining my understanding of what is being said about carrying capacity.

    “So for many millions of years, the terrestrial vertebrate biomass remained at about two hundred million tons, give or take”

    So that lays a base line for carrying capacity but, unnatural selection, the selection of higher output varieties of crops or genetic engineering of crops would have raised the carrying capacity and I suggest, that increased carrying capacity would be sustainable indefinitely. The use of fertilizer, primarily organic types, if done in a sustainable way and by that I mean, returning animal and human waste streams to the soil, would also result in a more or less permanent increase in carrying capacity. So far, I’ve outlined two methods that humans could have used to positively influence carrying capacity more or less permanently.

    The big change in carrying capacity comes with the FF age and the industrial revolution, first with the advent of mechanization and then with the Haber-Bosch process. A quick Internet search to refresh my memory of what the Haber-Bosch process entails, reveals that it is the chemical synthesis of ammonia (NH3) from nitrogen and hydrogen. Herein lies the basis for the connection between the petroleum industry and fertilizer industries and by extension carrying capacity. However, if we have enough excess energy we can easily get nitrogen from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water though I’m not sure how well that would work at a industrial scale at a global level.

    So between the manufacture of fertilizers and the use of diesel powered machinery in farming, we have seen a huge increase in the ability to produce food. Ostensibly this ability can only last as long as the NG used to obtain hydrogen at an industrial scale and the petroleum to fuel the farm machines. However, the University of Minnesota has a Wind to Nitrogen Fertilizer project that aims to use excess wind power to manufacture ammonia so, it may well be that, if sufficient amounts of renewable energy can be harnessed, the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizers could be extended way beyond the end of the petroleum age.

    That is the basis for my minor quibble. Obviously, fossil hydrocarbons have allowed us to increase the carrying capacity of the planet in a way that can only last as long as the finite hydrocarbon reserves do. Might it not be the case that, a transition to renewable energy on a massive scale would allow a more or less sustainable increase in the carrying capacity of the planet above and beyond the 200 million tons of terrestrial vertebrate biomass that existed 10,000 years ago? I would argue that, from the standpoint of energy, renewable energy has the potential to yield a far more sustainable increase in carrying capacity than fossil energy has. What the level of that carrying capacity is would require a fair amount of academic research.

    I fully concede that there are all sorts of other resource limits that will negatively affect carrying capacity. Maybe I’m just bargaining.

    • Islandboy, there is no doubt that the carrying capacity of human beings can be increased somewhat by the use of organic fertilizers. But it is chemical fertilizers that have very dramatically and very temporally increased our carrying capacity.

      Of course when the carrying capacity of humans is increased the carrying capacity of wild species, especially megafauna is decreased.

      That is one thing that just drives me up the wall. Everyone is concerned about the welfare of human beings. No one seems to give a rats ass about the welfare of all other species.

      • HuntingtonBeach says:

        Hi Ron, I hope your doing well. Thank you for a great post. It sure explains why Costco was so F’n busy last weekend.

        “No one seems to give a rats ass about the welfare of all other species”

        That’s just not all true. I’m pretty sure GoneFishing cares about his dog a lot more than myself.

        “the selection of higher output varieties of crops or genetic engineering of crops would have raised the carrying capacity and I suggest, that increased carrying capacity would be sustainable indefinitely”

        I think you could include the knowledge of harvesting water and controlled irrigation also increasing sustainable capacity

  16. James says:

    Humans evolved to become the equivalent of RNA in cells. We use tools and information, primarily in technological cells and use them with ATP equivalent fossil fuels to do work. Like organisms or cells in the ecosystem, human organizations seek to grow, profit and take market share – to further their existence.

    The human brain is primarily a reward seeking organ as is most neural tissue in the ecosystem. Since humans are dissipative structures, not seeking rewards is the greatest threat they face. Most other threats, short of being chased by a pack of wild dogs, can be watered down and ignored since the brain must concentrate on getting resources and energy. Even though a human can think about things, it does not substitute for being greedy and gathering as much wealth as possible and reproducing prolifically. We’re selected for doing that.

    The natural greed which evolved because of natural scarcity in the ecosystem, did not wane as we evolved into a technological setting. There is no limit on our desires to be “rich” because we perceive associated advantages in survival and reproduction. Civilization is an explosive cancer that emerged from the ecosystem to consume and destroy the ecological body. Humans are the RNA that can’t stop reproducing and stimulate the growth of new cells and distribution systems until the entire consumable earth is covered and the ecosystem dies or at least becomes much less complex.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi James,

      In many wealthy nations total fertility has fallen below the replacement level, in fact for about half the World’s population TFR is below replacement (dividing things up by nation state). Generally it is higher income nations where this is the case and correlation between education level and total fertility is very strong.

      These facts and the trend in Global education levels for women don’t square very well with your theory.

      As Ron has suggested, homo sapiens sapiens is not your average species.

      • James says:

        Even the education occurs in schools, the cellular equivalent of the nucleolus. Instead of pursuing the rewards of children, women are pursuing “wealth” created by the technological system. I’m not sure which one is most damaging.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      The natural greed which evolved because of natural scarcity in the ecosystem, did not wane as we evolved into a technological setting. There is no limit on our desires to be “rich” because we perceive associated advantages in survival and reproduction.

      And out of which orifice did you pull all that BS out of?! Let me guess, you are of the Neo-Liberal Economist school of though, right? Try cracking a few tomes on human evolution and anthropology instead of failed 20th century memes about the nature of man and rationality of markets.

      • Hightrekker says:

        Speaking of the rationality of markets:

        Whitefish is halting Puerto Rico power repairs, claiming it’s owed $83 million

      • James says:

        You don’t see any greed? None in the ecosystem? Why is everyone trying to accumulate more wealth? Why do all organisms struggle to eat and reproduce to the maximum? Look in the cell, it’s all happened before, but mostly with sunshine at the base.

        Why do we worship the likes of Warren Buffett?

        Cooperation exists, but only to enhance competition against a similarly cooperating group.

        • Cats@Home says:

          Warren Buffett seems like a good man but Jeff Bezos is the businessman I admire most right now.

          • Survivalist says:

            The Creepy Religion That Explains All Of Trump’s Actions.
            “The Prosperity Gospel is quintessentially American. One journalist described it as the “religion of winning,” so we have to assume Charlie Sheen is onboard too.”

            • Hightrekker says:

              Blowing Up the Territory
              Trump’s biggest break came from the Democratic party. Booking Hillary Clinton as the good guy in this match was a colossal error, especially when the most improbable thing in all of politics was waiting in the wings: a legit babyface.

              Bernie Sanders came off like Paddington Bear next to Hillary Clinton. Bernie was a nice old Jewish man from Vermont who legitimately meant well, and he got a real pop from his fans. He drew like crazy. Hell, even I sent him money, the first time I have ever contributed to a political campaign—every time he got on TV and started shooting about marijuana smokers going to jail while Wall Street hoodlums were walking, I Paypaled him five bucks. I had waited my whole life to hear a politician cut a promo like that—I think he eventually ended up with a Jackson from me, straight from my personal pot budget.

              As a face, Clinton just had too much baggage, a lot of it achingly familiar: A partner known for predatory sexual behavior, wicked family ties to big business, an entitled daughter, a family charity fund loaded with foreign money, lies, flip flops. . . . What was good for the goose might have been tolerable for the gander, but all she really got was a cheap pop, and if she had any moral high ground at all, she lost it when former Democratic operative Donna Brazile, while working for CNN, leaked potential questions to the Clinton campaign before a debate with Sanders. That was cheating, behavior clearly unbecoming to a babyface. But more important was that she failed to deliver on the only thing that matters: she didn’t draw. For a while it looked like there might be a “Dusty finish,” a gimmick ending (named for Dusty Rhodes, the legendary wrestler and booker who invented it) in which one wrestler is declared the winner, only to have the decision reversed on a technicality—for instance, interference from Russian hackers. This was a finish guaranteed to drive crowds insane, but Hillary couldn’t put it over.

              So who’s the best worker? If we are using the Hulk Hogan index, it is indisputably Donald Trump. He won the election. He’s the president.

              But when it all comes tumbling down, be ready for a fresh wave of Trump-brand kayfabe—transparently flawed in both conception and execution, except that he actually believes it. He’ll ride off in his helicopter claiming that Washington was too dirty to clean up, that he tried but he couldn’t drain the swamp, that they wouldn’t accept the One Honest Man. He’ll blame obstructionist Democrats for staging a witch hunt, and the Republicans for not having the guts to back him. In wrestling parlance this is called “blowing up the territory.”

              Pundits will argue: How much of it was real, how much reality show? How much was a put-on, how much of it was a guy legit skating at the edges of madness and dementia? Was it a work, a shoot, or a worked shoot? The only thing we can be sure of is that the secular writers will get it wrong. And, existentially, at least, Trump will still wear spandex when he mows the lawn. He can’t help himself, that’s just the kind of jerk he is.


        • Survivalist says:

          Organisms evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power. With greater power, there is greater opportunity to allocate energy to reproduction and survival, and therefore, an organism that captures and utilizes more energy than another organism in a population will have a fitness advantage.
          Individual organisms cooperate to form social groups and generate more power. Differential power generation and accumulation result in a hierarchical group structure.
          “Politics” is power used by social organisms to control others. Not only are human groups never alone, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each group must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will grow its numbers and attempt to take resources from them. Therefore, the best political tactic for groups to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off and take resources from others[5].
          The inevitable “overshoot” eventually leads to decreasing power attainable for the group with lower-ranking members suffering first. Low-rank members will form subgroups and coalitions to demand a greater share of power from higher-ranking individuals who will resist by forming their own coalitions to maintain it. Meanwhile, social conflict will intensify as available power continues to fall.
          Eventually, members of the weakest group (high or low rank) are forced to “disperse.”[6] Those members of the weak group who do not disperse are killed,[7] enslaved, or in modern times imprisoned. By most estimates, 10 to 20 percent of all the people who lived in Stone-Age societies died at the hands of other humans.[8] The process of overshoot, followed by forced dispersal, may be seen as a sort of repetitive pumping action — a collective behavioral loop — that drove humans into every inhabitable niche of our planet.
          Here is a synopsis of the behavioral loop described above:
          Step 1. Individuals and groups evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power, which requires over-reproduction and/or over-consumption of natural resources (overshoot), whenever systemic constraints allow it. Differential power generation and accumulation result in a hierarchical group structure.
          Step 2. Energy is always limited, and overshoot eventually leads to decreasing power available to some members of the group, with lower-ranking members suffering first.
          Step 3. Diminishing power availability creates divisive subgroups within the original group. Low-rank members will form subgroups and coalitions to demand a greater share of power from higher-ranking individuals, who will resist by forming their own coalitions to maintain power.
          Step 4. Violent social strife eventually occurs among subgroups who demand a greater share of the remaining power.
          Step 5. The weakest subgroups (high or low rank) are either forced to disperse to a new territory, are killed, enslaved, or imprisoned.
          Step 6. Go back to step 1.
          The above loop was repeated countless thousands of times during the millions of years that we were evolving[9]. This behavior is inherent in the architecture of our minds — is entrained in our biological material — and will be repeated until we go extinct. Carrying capacity will decline[10] with each future iteration of the overshoot loop, and this will cause human numbers to decline until they reach levels not seen since the Pleistocene.

          • Hightrekker says:

            will cause human numbers to decline until they reach levels not seen since the Pleistocene.

            Such a optimist!

    • Hightrekker says:


  17. Hightrekker says:

    “There’s no indication that we’re going to do anything philosophically different,” said Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University. “With a few modifications, it’s business as usual.”

    As Houston rebuilds from the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history, local officials plan to dredge waterways, build new reservoirs and a coastal barrier to protect against storms that experts say are growing in intensity due to a warming climate. They have asked Washington for $61 billion to pay for it all.

  18. Hightrekker says:

    “Half the inhabitants of Melbourne have probably never seen something like this,” Mr Williams said.

    “This is a vast, intense, high impact event for this state.”

  19. George Kaplan says:

    Apart from our own actions there may be random events that can take us out. There’s a report in the Times today of research into super-eruptions. The Toba explosion, 75,000 years ago, almost took out Homo sapiens. The latest research indicates such events (maybe not quite as bad) happen on average every 17,000 years instead of every few hundred thousand as previously thought, and we are currently in an unusually long hiatus from these.

    The biggest explosion since “civilization” started was probably Krakatoa in the 6th century, which has been proposed as the beggining of the dark ages in Europe and the end of a couple of other civilizations, though there’s a bit of controversy about that theory, but it was much milder than an explosion from one of the major calderas would be.

    (paywall – but there might be some free articles per month available and the research is to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters)

    Sorry – probably the wrong thread.

  20. Doug Leighton says:

    Continuing from above (this mirrors my own experience in Central Africa where families currently seem to be averaging about four kids each):


    “In the past year (2016) the population of the African continent grew by 30 million. By the year 2050, annual increases will exceed 42 million people per year and total population will have doubled to 2.4 billion, according to the UN. This comes to 3.5 million more people per month, or 80 additional people per minute…since the early 1990s, family planning programmes in Africa have not had the same attention (as Asia and Latin America), RESULTING IN SLOW, SOMETIMES NEGLIGIBLE, FERTILITY DECLINES. IN A HANDFUL OF COUNTRIES, PREVIOUS DECLINES HAVE STALLED ALTOGETHER AND ARE REVERSING.”



    “…but Hamani is unusual in that three babies are enough for her. Despite having the highest fertility rate in the world, women and men alike in Niger say they want more children than they actually have – women want an average of nine, while men say they want 11.”

    • GoneFishing says:

      Sounds like an explosion that will lead to implosion and migration. Families used to be fairly large in the European and American regions not long ago. Some still are.
      There are 27.7 million people in Uganda. But by 2025 the population will almost double to 56 million, close to that of Britain, which has a similar land mass. In 44 years its population will have grown by nearly as much as China’s.
      “You look at these numbers and think ‘that’s impossible’,” said Carl Haub, senior demographer at the US-based Population Reference Bureau, whose latest global projections show Uganda as the fastest-growing country in the world. Midway through the 21st century, if current birthrates persist, Uganda will be the world’s 12th most populous country with 130 million people – more than Russia or Japan.

      • Doug Leighton says:

        “There are 27.7 million people in Uganda.”

        That sounds about right and from personal observation almost all 27.7 million of them are school kids who (currently) are quite well nourished and with decent health care. A big problem, as I see it, is that virtually all schools in Uganda are run by “Western” churches who seen determined to increase the size of their flock by NOT teaching their students about contraception and the benefits thereof: sound familiar?

        • Survivalist says:

          “In 2015, the median age of the population in Uganda was 15.8 years.”

        • George Kaplan says:

          Doug – like you I have some sponsorship in Africa – a general women’s group rather than an individual. From their letters what they want is education (both formal for the children and also just tips on farming and running a business), enough money (very little) to start a business so they can feed their children, a way to manage HIV if they are infected (many still are) and peace and quiet. What they don’t want is more children, forced marriage through kidnap, the return of their husbands to beat them up, interference from the elders (all men) in their business. Often they only realise these options are even possible after they have had contact with the groups set up by the charity.

          • Doug Leighton says:

            George – My African experiences are mainly restricted to Uganda (the pearl of Africa) where my family visit annually and have done so for almost 20 years; we love the country, the people, the wildlife. Its been a joy watching the girl we assisted progress from kindergarten to medical school; to meet and relate to her extended family who’ve become our close friends. The country (Uganda) and the people are currently doing well, very well indeed (unless you happen to be gay). Wildlife parks flourish and are well managed. My concerns relate to the future. There are too many kids. In my opinion, without reigning in population growth the country will face immense over-population problems in the future. I hope I’m wrong. Having said that, I agree with your comments — all of them. And its true, woman’s business groups are in many respects the future of Africa.


  21. For anyone seeking a plausible scientific explanation for why:
    – one species has a uniquely powerful brain
    – why the brain of that species is capable of visiting the moon but incapable of understanding or acting on it’s own overshoot
    – why one small group of hominids exploded about 100,000 to take over the planet
    – why religion emerged simultaneous with the behaviorally modern mind about 100,000 years ago
    – and more big questions:

    I find this theory by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower very satisfying.

    • George Kaplan says:

      That’s a smart site you have there. I read that book some time ago, it’s interesting but I thought a bit of a just-so story, but that’s maybe becasue the ideas woud be so hard to prove one way or the other. It’s a pity Brower died before his ideas got out to more discussion.

      • Your initial reaction to the theory is perfectly reasonable and common.

        If you dig deeper and start connecting dots I think you may find it is the best available explanation for many big unanswered questions. The theory may not be correct but there are no known facts that slay it, nor any other equally elegant theories that fit the data better.

        Varki acknowledges the difficulty of testing the theory, but does point to some promising avenues of research. Unfortunately Varki’s speciality and day job is in a different domain so his theory is likely to sit on the shelf until some young scientist with a defective denial gene picks up the baton.

        • George Kaplan says:

          I did find it neat and convincing as you say, but that’s the point of just-so stories, plus it’s difficult to know where to go if it is correct, but I’m going to be visiting your site without question.

  22. Doug Leighton says:

    I suppose this 2014 piece is apropos,


    “Our new projections are probabilistic, and we find that there will probably be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people in 2100,” Prof. Raftery told Medical News Today. “This projection is based on a statistical model that uses all available past data on fertility and mortality from all countries in a systematic way, unlike previous projections that were based on expert assumptions.”

    “A key finding of the study is that the fertility rate in Africa is declining much more slowly than has been previously estimated, which Prof. Raftery tells us “has major long-term implications for population.”

  23. Hightrekker says:

    Declining uncertainty in transient climate response as CO2 forcing dominates future climate change

    (Nature Geoscience, not Watt Is My Head Doing Up My Ass?

  24. Fred Magyar says:

    No discussion about human evolution or even biological evolution across all species can be considered complete without at least a basic understanding of the biochemical and molecular biological basis of CRIPR-Cas9 gene editing technology and gene drives.

    Sam Harris’ latest podcast has a discussion of this technology with Jennifer Doudna.

    In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jennifer Doudna about the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9. They talk about the biology of gene editing, how specific tissues in the body can be targeted, the ethical implications of changing the human genome, the importance of curiosity-driven science, and other topics.

  25. E.O. Wilson
    I have always been a great admirer of E.O Wilson. I have followed his work for years. I especially liked “Sociobiology” and “Consilience”. I have followed his feud with Stephen J. Gould, Steven Rose, R.C. Lewontin, and Leon Kamin, (as reported by Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins). (I always came down on the side of Wilson et al.) And I am very proud to say he is a fellow Alabamian.

    That being said, there are areas where I must disagree with him. For instance:

    From Kirkus Reviews of “Half Earth”:
    In this final volume of his trilogy, Wilson (The Meaning of Human Existence, 2014, etc.) opens with a compelling proposal on how to slow current species extinction rates: set aside half of the planet (noncontiguously) as wilderness preserves free from human encroachment, a measure that the author claims would stabilize more than 80 percent of species.

    Fred Magyar, above, quotes from Edward O. Wilson’s New Take on Human Nature:
    Wilson argues the nest is central to understanding the ecological dominance not only of ants, but of human beings, too…..

    By being super-cooperators, groupies of the group, willing to set aside our small, selfish desires and I-minded drive to join forces and seize opportunity as a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe…..

    To qualify as eusocial, in Wilson’s definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice “at least some of their personal interests to that of the group.” It’s tough to be a eusocialist.

    First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous. Which parts of the U.S. would we set aside, parts that make half the land area? Could we convince every African nation to do the same? Or Russia? Or China, South Korea or Japan?

    Second, as much as I admire Wilson, I think he is just flat wrong on his new take on human nature. And I think Pinker and Dawkins would agree with that opinion. If you had read Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature,” and I have, you would know exactly what I mean. Our minds are not blank slates to be molded by society, to be made to behave like ants in a colony, like a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe. All those traits that Wilson says we must give up are in our genes, human nature.

    I will not deny that humans can be ruled. An Iron Fist could compel us to behave in such a matter. But all such Iron Fists carry within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s just human nature.

    • OFM says:

      Hi Ron,

      After reading your eight fifty six am, I’m telling ya straight…….. Between your ears, where you live intellectually, you are a TRUE conservative.

      The people who we refer to today as conservatives, meaning those who inhabit the right wing politically, are not REAL conservatives, not according to my definition.

      Don’t forget that I am a follower of the Humpty Dumpty School of Linguistics. Words mean exactly what I intend them to mean, when I use them, rotfl.

      To my way of thinking, the first and single most important qualification of a TRUE conservative is that he must have a sound grasp of human nature. You have it. You understand that we cooperate with friends, family, known community, and compete with outsiders…….. and that when circumstances compel us to do so, we make friends or at least ally ourselves with former enemies or strangers, and work together……….. but mostly only when we have little or no choice but to do so.

      I’m just teasing you a little, not making fun of you. 😉

      Decent people, left or right wing, want the same things, when you get down to the basics. Peace, dignified life, freedom from unnecessary worries, etc.

      I haven’t yet read Wilson’s latest books. Hoping to get around to it, this winter.

      We need to keep it in mind that just because somebody presents a grand plan in a book, and writes as if it might be possible to implement it, he does not necessarily believe there’s a snowball’s chance on a red hot stove that his plan will ever actually be implemented.

      Such books are sometimes intended as sources of inspiration for a new generation of people following along in his footsteps……….. and such a plan MIGHT be implemented……. a few centuries down the road, lol. Stranger things have happened, historically.

      Such a book can be the result of an old man’s dreams being put in libraries so as to achieve a sort of immortality……. Wilson had that already of course.

      I reckon you’re even older than I am, and here’s wishing you the best at the personal level.

      • To my way of thinking, the first and single most important qualification of a TRUE conservative is that he must have a sound grasp of human nature. You have it. You understand that we cooperate with friends, family, known community, and compete with outsiders…….. and that when circumstances compel us to do so, we make friends or at least ally ourselves with former enemies or strangers, and work together……….. but mostly only when we have little or no choice but to do so.

        Sorry Mac, but I just don’t get the connection. The definition you pen here could just as well be the definition of a True Liberal.

        I am a conservative when it comes to conserving the environment, saving animal habitat and saving species from extinction. But those are qualities held by most liberals and not held by so-called conservatives. Right-wing Republicans call themselves conservatives.

        So I just have to accept the lexicon as it exist today. I am a liberal, not a conservative.

        • OFM says:

          “Sorry Mac, but I just don’t get the connection. The definition you pen here could just as well be the definition of a True Liberal.”

          You DO GET IT, Ron, except you haven’t yet quite got around to thinking of labels as jokes or weapons . Labels are for partisans. Labels are clubs we use to pound each other into submission.

          People with real working brains generally come to the same basic conclusions, regardless of the way they’re labeled by themselves or others. There’s usually more than one route by which we can travel and arrive at the truth.

          You’re a man willing to tell it like it is, as for instance when you have pointed out the realities of the way things work in some countries ……… where you worked yourself. A partisan D just won’t repeat that sort of stuff, true or not.

          When you say you’re a liberal, you’re just labeling yourself. What you ARE is something else. You’re a man with a working brain, a man who understands reality, a man who tells it like it is, as you perceive it to be.

          • You’re a man with a working brain, a man who understands reality, a man who tells it like it is, as you perceive it to be.

            You are a goddamn right man, and that means I am a liberal. 😉

            • OFM says:

              Ah yes, but liberal is still just a label.

              It is however true that the so called liberals are more often right by a substantial margin than the so called conservatives in terms of having objective facts on their side when considering issues such as the environment, public health, and many others.

              But they’re not always right. Sometimes the liberal camp seems to have it’s head as far up its backside as the conservative camp.

              The leaders of both camps seem to be more interested in having plenty of foot soldiers to serve as cannon fodder than they are in the actual welfare of the country.

              I can provide as good arguments for any sort of truly sound public policy from a conservative pov as you can from a liberal pov.

              To me this proves we both have working brains, and are capable of looking the truth in the eye, and publicly agreeing on what IS true, and what is not.

              If we could free ourselves of goddamned infernal partisan politics and identity politics , based on our community cultures, we could make things happen politically.

              If for instance we could put the question of subsidizing wind and solar power to a referendum, I could easily convince most of the so called conservatives I know that voting in favor of subsidies would be a GREAT BARGAIN for them, long term. Well, the ones with brains enough that they know a little about the business world anyway. That’s at least half of them, and more than enough.

              They won’t ordinarily support subsidizing renewable energy as part of a package deal because they perceive the PACKAGE to be weighted in favor of their political and cultural enemies. Supporting renewable energy subsidies would mean voting for D’s and they don’t like the overall D agenda.

            • OFM says:

              Back to you one more time Ron,

              I’m not sure WHERE this comment will appear, but hopefully it will be below my two forty pm.

              Allow me to approach this liberal/ conservative label thing from a different direction.

              Suppose you meet a new person, and get to talking about oh let us say water pollution, and fishing, and having to spend your local tax money on a sophisticated water treatment plant, because there’s too much of this or that and the other as well in the river that passes your town to drink the water, without spending a lot of money. .

              If you NEVER MENTION anything that LABELS you as a liberal or conservative, you can talk meaningfully to just about anybody about this issue.

              Identify yourself as a liberal, or a conservative, you more or less automatically blow your opportunity to say anything to your new POTENTIAL friend who thinks of himself as your opposite and enemy, politically, other than something he already knows and believes, even if what that something is factually incorrect.

              Label yourself as a liberal, and the typical serious Christian voter in the state of Alabama automatically thinks of you as a murderer of yet to be born children. Forget labeling yourself, avoid it to the extent you can, and you have an EXCELLENT shot at talking to that voter about supporting only candidates who have a decent record of being respectful to women, immigrants, minorities, etc.

              If I label myself as a conservative, I’ve automatically blown my chance to have a serious conversation with a liberal about the possibility of having some real choice in education…. meaning breaking the teacher’s unions and government’s de facto monopoly control of our educational system.

              You may not like this idea, but think about this…… how much better are your options NOW, given that we have email, fax, UPS, Fed Ex , etc, when it comes to getting a letter or package where it needs to go FOR SURE and RIGHT AWAY?

              I have heard lots of liberals say that allowing any real choice in the schools would mean the end of any real opportunity for poor kids, inner city kids, etc, to get a decent education. Sometimes, in the same breath almost, I hear those same liberals admit that the public schools in lots of communities large and small are literal disaster areas, where hardly any of the kids learn anything. I used to know quite a few of this sort , back in my younger days, when I was living in the Fan and hanging out with the older ( grad students mostly ) kids at VCU having a good time, taking a course or two per semester to keep my grad student ID up to date. I spent about ten years there off and on.

              Ya know WHAT? EVERY LAST COUPLE I knew among them moved out of town when their OWN kids got old enough to go to school.

              Quite a few of them spent their careers as teachers, lol. And my guess is that not more than one out of ten of those couples ever moved to a place where the schools were the sort of hell holes we read about so often these days….. and that tenth couple of course had NO KIDS, lol.

              Yet they almost universally believe in the de facto teacher / government educational monopoly as it exists today, as it totally ruins the prospects of millions of kids…… denying them, or more accurately, their parents, any real choice in the schools their kids attend. If liberal versus conservative comes into the conversation, it’s OVER. The liberals aren’t going to listen, any more than conservatives listen.

              How many members of this forum think Roy Moore ought to be tarred and feathered ? How many have ever had the intellectual integrity to say the same thing about Bill Clinton?

              Liberals are liberals, and conservatives are conservatives, and the gulf between can be as vast as the gulf between East and West. Communication is tough to impossible.

              But if we avoid the labels……. communication can happen.

              Incidentally this rant does NOT mean I am a supporter of the Trump administration in general, or the Trump education department in particular. Nothing I know of concerning the Trump administration seems to be about the good of the COUNTRY or of the majority of the people of this country.

    • Hightrekker says:

      First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous.

      Even stopping the rape and scrape accelerating is highly unlikely.

      This is total fantasy.
      At best, the survivors (if any) on the other side of the wall we are about to crash into, will have enough wisdom and intelligence to embrace the condition they are in.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous.

      That isn’t what he proposes even though it is the title of his book. May I suggest you read it! What he is really arguing for is more along the lines of a network of ecological corridors that might connect already existing nature preserves, parks and private property and therefore allow isolated pockets of natural ecosystems to be connected with others.

      To be very clear, E.O. Wilson is not in any way naive about our predicament and says so.
      That’s not to say he has thrown in the towel, especially given that he is now in the later portion of his 80’s. He apparently doesn’t want to go down without a fight.

      I have read his book twice already and have the Kindle version on my laptop. To be honest I’m not what anyone might call overly optimistic about the prospects of his proposals coming to pass. Having said that, I do admire his deep knowledge base about the natural world and have the greatest admiration for the man! More power to him for trying!


      • GoneFishing says:

        Fred, I read Half Earth and have to agree with E.O. Wilson. I think my personal bias is toward nature, but that aside, humans can do what is needed. All the gadgetry in the world cannot replace a functioning ecosystem. Those functions are mandatory for the preservation of life on earth. We need to preserve, expand and enhance (if we get smart enough) natural ecosystems around the world.
        Why not build armies? Armies called the United Conservation and Environmental Protection Corp, whose job is to protect and expand natural areas around the world. It would increase employment and be funded by monies that otherwise go to military purposes. This and other organizations could be doing things that make the people proud to be human, rather than just wheels and cogs in basically destructive system.

        This is not naïve, this is just choices. Humans make choices, that is one of our inherent abilities. Our current state and appearance is due to a set of previous choices that have not quite worked out. We get stuck in old choices, time to make new ones.

        • I think my personal bias is toward nature, but that aside, humans can do what is needed.

          Really now? If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. Species are going extinct at a rate as fast as the last great extinction 65 million years ago. And the extinction rate is accelerating. If humans can do what is needed it is goddamn time they got started.

          Our current state and appearance is due to a set of previous choices that have not quite worked out. We get stuck in old choices, time to make new ones.

          Those choices were made, and are being made, by 7 billion people. And yes, it is time those 7 billion people changed the way they are behaving, it is time they made different choices. But don’t hold your breath.

          I am sorry Fishing, but I just don’t share your optimism.

          • Doug Leighton says:

            Yup, reminds me of China, driving to a restaurant half way across Beijing with a car full of Chinese because they knew about a hot spot where some endangered species or other was on the menu: get it before you’re too late. Life in the real world!

            “Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.”


          • GoneFishing says:

            “If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. ”
            “I am sorry Fishing, but I just don’t share your optimism.”

            By destroying the environment we destroy ourselves. I think that will soon become quite apparent and then those who are already on track can leverage that.

          • Fred Magyar says:

            Really now? If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. Species are going extinct at a rate as fast as the last great extinction 65 million years ago. And the extinction rate is accelerating. If humans can do what is needed it is goddamn time they got started.

            Ok, let’s assume for a moment using round numbers that there are currently 7.5 billion humans living on this tiny planet as I type these words. How many of those humans do you suppose are actually aware of the fact that we are probably in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? I’m going to go way out on a limb here and guess about a couple hundred thousand.

            Now most of those couple hundred thousand are in shock and denial of reality. So there are maybe 100,000 humans who are aware and are actually starting to do something.

            While that may sound like a minuscule amount I can cite data and research that shows that may be enough to really start to change the current paradigm in a big way.

    • Hightrekker says:

      Yea, the feud between Gould/Lewontin/Rose VS Wilson/Dawkins/Dennett has been interesting.
      Being somewhat Marxist in my orientation, I was kinda presupposed to the Gould camp, but the Wilson/Dawkins have proven to ring much truer.
      The Blank Slate puts the nails in the coffin for Marxist view of human nature, as Marx viewed it as totally a function of environment. Pinker buried that view.
      Orr was always Gould and Lewontin’s go to guy with media, as he had power in the NYT’s and Boston Globe, and could often control reviews and and coverage.
      It has been interesting.

  26. Fred Magyar says:

    I’m sure most here are familiar with what Carl Sagan said about our Pale Blue Dot

    This excerpt from Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan’s suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.

    Now guess what?!

    At present, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is 21 billion kilometers from Earth, or about 141 times the distance between the Earth and Sun. It has, in fact, moved beyond our Solar System into interstellar space. However, we can still communicate with Voyager across that distance.

    This week, the scientists and engineers on the Voyager team did something very special. They commanded the spacecraft to fire a set of four trajectory thrusters for the first time in 37 years to determine their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses.

    The Voyagers have reached an anniversary worth celebrating
    After sending the commands on Tuesday, it took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the signal to reach Voyager. Then, the Earth-bound spacecraft team had to wait another 19 hours and 35 minutes to see if the spacecraft responded. It did. After nearly four decades of dormancy, the Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured thrusters fired perfectly.

    “The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy, and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

    Humans can do some pretty incredible things!


    • GoneFishing says:

      Yes, they can even teach their young to love the life of the planet and help keep it safe.

      • HuntingtonBeach says:

        Not if your born in the South and damaged by religion

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Well, E.O. Wilson was born in Alabama into an evangelical family. 😉

          • So was I. Well, sort of. My dad was a Deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church but he was not a crusading evangelical.

            I have told this story before but I will do it again here.

            I was about 17 or so when I sidled up to my dad who was sitting in his easy chair. I asked: “Dad, how did them kangaroos get from Australia to over there where Noah’s Ark was? And how did they get back?” Dad jumped up from his chair, stuck his finger right in my face and yelled: “Son, that is the word of God and that is not for you to question.”

            I never questioned my Dad again about religion.

            • HuntingtonBeach says:

              It takes character and courage not act like sheep. My hat goes off to you. Ron, I’m sure you understood exactly what I meant by my earlier comment.

          • Stanley Walls says:

            Add me to the short list of contrarians to your claim.
            Regrettably, it took the first 50 years of my life being spent under that dark delusion before I escaped. Am I bitter? YOU’D BETTER GODDAMN WELL BELIEVE IT!

            All is not lost though! Yesterday I took my oldest granddaughter to buy a graphing calculator for a course at school. She’s almost 17 now. Since I’ve escaped the dungeon, I’ve been trying to educate first myself, then my 2 children, and hopefully lend some direction to my grandchildren’s teaching, so as to hopefully see them have a life without the influence of such stupidity as the religion that I was under the influence of.

            So, on the way back home yesterday with her, as we were talking about her plans for college, I asked, “How old do you think the Earth is?” She didn’t hesitate at all before replying “A few billion years old.”

            Made my day!

            BTW the religion I was raised in was one of the most restrictive and ignorant of all in this area. All the mainstream religions here allow a much less restrictive lifestyle, thus their adherents can go right on claiming to be religious without it impacting them so much, thus they see no real reason to ask the hard questions concerning the matter.


            p.s. After posting this reply, I re-read the above. You could have left out the born in the South part. Some of the more bizarre religious nuts I’ve read about were from other places. Jim Jones? The Mormons early adherents? And the present-day followers of them? Many more if you care to explore the subject. Warren Jeffs? Hell, the link above re Norman Vincent Peale! That’s God’s plan? What a sick fucker! Thrump’s religion?
            Goddammit, I gotta get off this subject. Ruins my attitude.

  27. Hickory says:

    When countries begin to hit the wall economically ( as happened in Germany in the 1930’s for example), the populace will often out of desperation (and ignorance of course) enable a dictator to come to power. This is with the false hope that grandiose promises of prosperity will be fulfilled.

    This explains why Trump was elected, even though the American has yet to be tested by disruption, much.

    As the world hits the wall of growth limits, the risk is for more and more leadership failures, the rise of warlords, the failure of functioning democracies.

    Violent choices and dysfunctional government will serve to be a mechanism of population decline, ugly population decline. Current events can be seen through this lens as time unfolds.

    Hard to watch.
    May be better to have no TV.
    The de-evolution will be televised, will be televised, will be televised…

    • George Kaplan says:

      The general population in Germany did not really enable Hitler to come to power. He was appointed as a compomise by the two leading parties in an election who had split the main vote. They both thought he would make such a mess of it that they would sweep the board at the next election. As soon as he was appointed he started killing or imprisoning these smart opposition leaders, and there wasn’t another clean election. It was more like an extended coupe, admittedly with a large number of supporters, often ex WW-I soldier thugs, in the general population.

      • OFM says:

        George is in the bullseye about how Hitler came to power, considering he was painting fast with a broad brush in such a short comment. I have devoted many a long evening to reading the history of war in the twentieth century, so as to better understand the history of my time.

        Wars are usually the result of politicians either wanting them, or being boxed into situations where they either can’t avoid them or consider them the best of an assortment of bad options.

      • Hickory says:

        Point taken George. Despite that the general notion that as crunch time develops, there will be a trend towards extremist and totalitarian regimes throughout the world. Along with pockets of failed states, anarchy and warlords. ‘Have nots’ will take big risks.

    • GoneFishing says:

      No devolution involved. Just human nature.
      The loose knit groups with similar hates, anger and dislikes were temporarily brought together. It was an inverse election that utilized the negative and more volatile side of human nature. it only hangs together with constant stirring and occasional negative results (pound the enemy). Finger pointing and passing the buck is not enough, the groups start fracturing.

    • Hightrekker says:

      Lose the Tee Vee—-
      The more you watch, the less you know.

      • HuntingtonBeach says:

        The difference between the “Tee Vee” and the Internet is exposing your ignorance to the world

  28. A question for Dennis Coyne, or any other cornucopian who believes renewable energy will save the world from economic collapse, at least for the next 200 years or so.

    Dennis, I understand your very optimistic outlook for the welfare of future human populations. I don’t agree with it but I understand your argument. But as I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, your entire argument deals with the human population of the earth. I don’t remember reading your predicted outlook for the rest of the animal kingdom? Perhaps you did make one and I just missed it.

    That being said, you have read my outlook many times. And it was all repeated in my post above. Do you agree or disagree? Just where do you see the large wild animal population in the year 2100? Please elaborate.

    Edit: Dennis, I know you do not consider yourself a cornucopian, however, I was just comparing your outlook for the future of civilization to mine. And using that comparison?

    • islandboy says:

      Nice! I was just thinking about a response to a comment following one of mine further up and this pops up, which dovetails nicely into what I’ve been thinking. In my comment I mention using wind power to make ammonia as a foundation for chemical nitrogen fertilizer and you (Ron) in you reply stated that, ” But it is chemical fertilizers that have very dramatically and very temporally increased our carrying capacity.” I don’t know if you realized this but, that sort of was my point in that, the manufacture of ammonia and the resulting chemical fertilizer using excess wind (and/or solar) power might well result in a much extended (permanent) increase in carrying capacity by allowing us to continue the manufacture of chemical nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate if memory serves me right) in the absence of oil and NG.

      This can be viewed as a downside to the ongoing exponential increasing capacity of renewable electricity generation. If renewables grow big enough fast enough, there will be incentives to use any excess to do things like manufacture fertilizer allowing mankind’s expansion into wild habitats to continue. I think it is important that the existing population of the planet continues to have more or less adequate food supplies in order to avoid the sort of situation that exist in Haiti but, the real problem as I see it, is to get poor people in less developed countries to believe that they would be better off not having as many children. Based on utterances I have heard in my neck of the woods, as recently as last night, many of these people do not see any problem with having lots of kids. There seems to be an attitude abroad that there is a great big world out there, just ready for the taking. No limits. I wonder whatever gives people that idea?

      I wanted to post some pictures of garbage, sitting in open storm water channels, just waiting for the next big shower of rain to be washed out of existence. At least that must be what the people who dump this stuff into the drains think. I have to wonder if they ever bother to think about where it’s going to end up but, it seems to be a simple case of out of sight, out of mind. I guess some readers will have figured out that if you visit any area of the Jamaican coastline that does not have a regular, structured clean up crew, you will see where the trash ends up. I have seen it and it is depressing.

      • I don’t know if you realized this but, that sort of was my point in that, the manufacture of ammonia and the resulting chemical fertilizer using excess wind (and/or solar) power might well result in a much extended (permanent) increase in carrying capacity by allowing us to continue the manufacture of chemical nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate if memory serves me right) in the absence of oil and NG.

        Errr…. I don’t know if you realize it but you cannot make nitrogen fertilizer without natural gas…. or some other source of hydrogen. Of course, you might get the hydrogen from water via electrolysis but that would be super expensive.

        Fertilizer Made with Natural Gas Is Lifting Our World
        Referred to by some as the most important technological advance of the 20th century….Between 3 and 5 percent of the world’s annual natural gas production – roughly 1 to 2 percent of the world’s annual energy supply – is converted using the process to produce more than 500 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which is believed to sustain about 40 percent of the world’s 7 billion people. Approximately half of the protein in today’s humans originated with nitrogen fixed through the Haber-Bosch process.

        • islandboy says:

          “Of course, you might get the hydrogen from water via electrolysis but that would be super expensive.”

          Not if you are experiencing negative electricity prices as has happened when there’s lots of wind and no demand or transmission capacity for the electricity being generated. I think OFM has alluded to this a few times in his ramblings, suggesting that hydrogen production via electrolysis or desalination might be useful ways of avoiding otherwise wasted electricity when the resource is available but, there is limited demand or transmission capacity.

          If we ever get to the point where wind and solar generators are ubiquitous and abundant this could be a distinct possibility. In case you missed it in my earlier post here’s The University of Minnesota’s Wind to Nitrogen Fertilizer project:

          We are pursuing a Grand Challenge – the challenge to feed the world while sustaining the environment. In the spirit of this grand challenge, a team of researchers across the University are pursuing an elegant concept in which wind energy, water, and air are used to produce nitrogen fertilizer.

          WCROC energy from the windEnergy generated from the wind is used to separate hydrogen from water. Nitrogen is pulled from air. The hydrogen and nitrogen are then combined to form nitrogen fertilizer that nourishes the plants surrounding the farmer.

          Next to water, nitrogen fertilizer is the most limiting nutrient for food production. Minnesota farmers import over $400 million of nitrogen fertilizer each year and are subjected to volatile price swings. Furthermore, nitrogen fertilizer is currently produced using fossil energy which contributes significantly to the carbon footprint of agricultural commodities.

          and from

          “Green” ammonia demonstration programme:

          Siemens is participating in an all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system demonstration programme at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Oxford. The demonstrator, which will run until December 2017, is supported by Innovate UK. Collaborators include the University of Oxford, Cardiff University and the Science & Technology Facilities Council.

    • Dennis Coyne says:

      Hi Ron,

      I do not know much about the subject so I should probably not offer an opinion, but because you asked…

      I agree that humans are the problem and believe that fewer humans (as in reduced population) will improve the situation. Will humans choose to protect some of the mega fauna, until population falls to a more sustainable level? I have no idea.

      Is it possible? I would say yes.
      High probability? My guess would be no (less than a 66% probability).

      So I do not have a prediction for the Earth’s megafauna in 2100, except to say I doubt your prediction that we will be reduced to rats and mice, etc. is correct. This is no doubt because I believe there will be a gradual transition to a more sustainable society. I believe some of the mega fauna might be preserved until human population falls to 1 billion or so (by 2150 to 2200). Most likely in North America, Scandanavia, and Siberia, and perhaps in the Himalaya and parts of South America. The rapid expansion of population in Africa makes it less likely the megafauna will survive there.

      I am using the 40 kg cutoff for megafauna, though there are many definitions.

      Note that some would consider cornucopian an insult.

      Certainly I do not think fossil fuels are as abundant as those who believe scenarios such as the RCP8.5 scenario (with about 5000 Pg of carbon emissions) are plausible.

      I also do not believe resources are unlimited or infinitely substitutable, which tends to be the cornucopian viewpoint. There is great need to utilize resources more efficiently and to recycle as much as possible (cradle to grave manufacturing should be required by law).

      Now if you define cornucopian as someone who is less pessimistic than you, then I am by that definition a cornucopian. 🙂

      I am certainly more optimistic than you, but if we all agreed there would be little to discuss.

      Clearly the future is unclear.

      The outlook for the wild megafauna is tragic and we should do what we can to preserve species diversity. Getting human population to peak and decline would improve the situation of other species, but I share your pessimism that this will be enough, I am just less pessimistic than you.

      • I believe some of the mega fauna might be preserved until human population falls to 1 billion or so (by 2150 to 2200).

        Okay, let’s do the math. It looks like the world will reach 9 billion people by 2050. Then if it were to fall to 1 billion by 2150, that would be a decline of 80,000,000 per year or 219,178 per day. That is deaths above births. That would be a catastrophic collapse by any stretch of the imagination. And of course, most of those deaths would be by starvation. And for sure, as I said before, we would eat the songbirds out of the trees.

        Hell, if that scenario takes place, there will likely be no rats left. No, no, no, Dennis, please forgive me. You are definitely not a cornucopian. Oh God, how could I have been so wrong?

        • GoneFishing says:

          The most rapid population decreases have been from disease. A few bouts of virulent diseases in a world with little medical help and control could dramatically reduce population.

          Population Collapse in Mexico (Down to about 5% in a century)

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Ron,

          See chart below. If total fertility ratio (TFR) falls to 1.5 by 2050 then population can fall from 9 billion to 4.5 billion by 2125 and to 2.25 billion by 2200 and to 1 billion by 2300, a fall in TFR to 1.25 (South Korea is about 1.26) would result in more rapid population decline. It is not clear how low TFR can go for the World, it was cut in half in 40 years, whether that can continue so that 1.27 is reached in 2055 is unknown. This scenario assumes life expectancy rises to no higher than 90 for the World.

          Deaths would be natural rather than from starvation, this is just a matter of people choosing to have fewer children as is the case today in many East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan and in many European nations as well.

          Education for women and access to birth control and electrification (watch tv, instead of other forms of entertainment leading to increased family size), and empowerment of women in general will reduce population growth. Higher income also helps.

          Chart from paper linked below

          • Doug Leighton says:

            Keeping things in perspective, why not go with the experts until they’re proven wrong?


            “American Statistical Association. “World population likely to surpass 11 billion in 2100: US population projected to grow by 40 percent over next 85 years.”


          • Dennis, you are assuming that the population will alter their fertility rates to a lower value. Yes, that has already happened in developed countries. The fertility rates in undeveloped countries are still controlled by what their economy and environment will bear.

            The vast majority of the human population lives in undeveloped countries. They will continue to push, push, push against the very limits of their existence. And that will still be the case 50 years from now, and 100 years from now, and 150 years from now.

            There are reasons the fertility rate is dropping in developed countries. Female empowerment, contraception, and so on. There are entirely different reasons the fertility rate is dropping in undeveloped countries. Poor nutrition, almost no prenatal care and so on. Also, much higher infant death rate helps keep the population in check. Please check my chart above from the Population Reference Bureau.

            I think that if you could just live just one year in Bangladesh, or the Congo, or Zimbabwe, or…. you would have an entirely different outlook. You would be forced to take off those rose-colored glasses.

            Again, check the Population Reference Bureau chart above.

            • Doug Leighton says:

              “… if you could just live just one year in Bangladesh, or the Congo, or Zimbabwe, or…. you would have an entirely different outlook. You would be forced to take off those rose-colored glasses.”

              Wouldn’t take a year, one week would do it: even keeping the rose-colored glasses on. 🙂

              • Survivalist says:

                I spent a bit of time on leave in “Liberated Burma”/Karen State shortly after the fall of Manerplaw. A week would do it, however I was there for about 3 months. I haven’t had a bad day since.

                • Hightrekker says:

                  Got chased out of Myanmar by someone with a AK, lucky I wasn’t a captive. Walked across from Masi.
                  It wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

                  • Survivalist says:

                    I linked up with some folks in Mae Sot on the Thai side. It was well planned before hand. There’s was a lot of back and forth across the border in those days. Did some long range mobile medical patrols in Karen and Karenni State. Got chased around by Tatmadaw/SLORC a bit. When I was 25 that was my idea of a good time. Yeah, kinda fucked I know.

                  • Hightrekker says:

                    I was the only Farang around in Masi, and everyone else was going back and forth.
                    Very interesting place.
                    That was a long time ago, in a land far, far away.
                    It would be impossible in the homogeneous police state we are currently inhabiting.

              • Dennis Coyne says:

                Hi Doug and Ron,

                I spent about 5 months hitchhiking through North and West Africa in 1981-2. Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Zaire (as it was known in 1982).

                The TFR of half the World’s population as of 2015 is less than 2. The World TFR decreased from 5.02 in 1965 to 2.51 in 2015.

                Different experts have different opinions





                • GoneFishing says:

                  The problem I see with fertility rates is the same problem I see with planting trees. Even though I support a foundation to plant trees I realize that future changes could allow people to wipe out those and other trees very quickly, thus rendering the effort useless. I also realize the preserved areas of nature and wilderness could quickly disappear or be irreparably harmed by government decree, war and material/food pressures.
                  The same goes with lower fertility rates. Since they are only based on decisions and not biological, the lower rates could reverse quite quickly. Just stress the population and see how fast it will change.
                  Once people realize that technological progress is an empty dead system that moves us to an empty dead world, birth rates will climb quickly.

                  Rather than adding to our knowledge, Tompkins argues computers and smartphones represent “deskilling devices; they make us dumber. We’re immersed in a system that now requires the use of a cell phone just to get around, just to function and so the logic of that cell phone has been imposed on us.

                  “The computer is a mechanism for acceleration, it accelerates economic activity and this is eating up the world. It’s eating up resources, it’s processing, it’s manufacturing, it’s distributing, it’s consuming. That’s what the computer’s real work does and it does that 24/7, 365 days a year, non-stop just to satisfy our own narrow needs.”

                  Tompkins foresees a dark future dominated as he puts it by more ugliness, damaged landscapes, extinct species, extreme poverty, and lack of equity and says humanity faces a stark choice; either to transition now to a different system or face a painful collapse.

                  “The extinction crisis is the mother of all crises. There will be no society, there will be no economy, there will be no art and culture on a dead planet basically. We’ve stopped evolution.”


                  • Fred Magyar says:

                    Rather than adding to our knowledge, Tompkins argues computers and smartphones represent “deskilling devices; they make us dumber. We’re immersed in a system that now requires the use of a cell phone just to get around, just to function and so the logic of that cell phone has been imposed on us.

                    So put the damn cell phones to better use. They can also make us smarter… They can be used to track illegal logging in endangered rain forests. The fact that I have a device in my pocket that gives me access to all of human knowledge and access to GPS does not make me dumber.


                    When a tree calls for help | Topher White | TEDxCERN

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Really? You have cell service in the rain forests? I barely have cell service where I live and it disappears totally between the mountains near me. I don’t need electronic mapping and GPS to get around so no problem for me.
                    Let the rest feel nervous as they get out of touch. For many it’s a disaster if they lose their phones, fully dependent.

                  • Fred Magyar says:

                    I don’t need electronic mapping and GPS to get around so no problem for me.

                    I actually learned how to use a sextant and a compass but GPS is available so I admit that I do use it upon occasion.

                    In any case my point was that it is possible to use technology for purposes other than tweeting or posting selfies of oneself to Facebook every ten minutes.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Fred, they are highly capable machines but just machines. How they are used is determined by the machine and the operator interface.
                    I could go on for hours how they have had very bad effects on personal time and personal interactions. For many people life is a series of texts and phone calls with real time life being the background now. Interruptions are the norm now. Sacrilege is when they have to turn them off.

                  • Fred Magyar says:

                    You won’t fix stupid no matter how hard you try…


                    Texting and walking fails compilation

                  • notanoilman says:

                    I come close to nailing a textwalker or walkytalky nearly every time I am out on my bike. SOP, watch out for the buggers. It amazes me that people are unable to move about (foot, moto, car, bus, truck) without a phone in their hand.


                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi Gonefishing,

                    Yes total fertility ratio can change, the aim is to reduce population to 1 billion or less as rapidly as possible.

                    For high income nations TFR has remained under 2 since 1985 (2015 population about 1.4 billion) and fell from 2 to 1.75 by 2015.

                    If we add upper middle income nations to the high income nations there are 3.8 billion people in 2015 and the weighted average TFR (using only population to weight the groups) is 1.81 in 2015.

                    As long as a transition to a sustainable path is taken TFR could potentially fall to 1.5 or lower (as in the low TFR nations (excluding China) with a combined population of 1 billion). Again I weighted TFR by total population.

                    Once population falls to a sustainable level, TFR can rise to replacement.

                    Clearly this is a choice that humans must make if we don’t want to destroy the ecosystem for all creatures.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Dennis, I wonder about the 300 NYC equivalents that would be added to the planet before the population finally peaks. That and the other 3 to 6 billion people that have increased their lifestyle (more energy, food and material use).

                    Can we build and maintain another 300 NYC equivalents of population, infrastructure, water, food supply, material and energy services?

                    This will be like adding another China and India to the world plus additional areas for food and materials. All in just 30 to 40 years.

                  • Dennis Coyne says:

                    Hi GoneFishing,

                    Some demographers such as Wolfgang Lutz, believe population will peak at about 8 to 8.5 billion. If that is correct and resource constraints lead to a change in social behavior such that less is consumed (due to recycling and generally greater efficiency in the use of resources) per capita, then perhaps catastrophe can be avoided, try we must.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Population will stop rising between 2024 and 2035. What horrendous occurrence will do that? Certainly won’t be education and contraception in that short of a time.
                    We just crossed 7.439 billion so stopping at 8 to8.5 billion seems quite abrupt.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      A question for Dennis Coyne, or any other cornucopian who believes renewable energy will save the world from economic collapse, at least for the next 200 years or so.

      Ok, I’ll take a nibble!

      First of all, why do we have to accept the current definition of what the economy has to be? All of nature has existed on renewable energy since the beginning of life on this planet 3.8 billion years ago, so obviously the problem isn’t renewable energy. If it were, life wouldn’t even exist. The extractive, linear growth based neo liberal idea of the economy that we have come to accept as normal, is a relatively recent construct that was created by a small group of people at the beginning of the 20th century and it certainly is an aberration! Personally I don’t think it is worth saving.

      That economy will certainly collapse and no energy source can ever make it sustainable. Therefore it will by definition collapse. However there is nothing that says we need to continue on that path. There are indeed choices that people and societies can make. Even to the point of something that is considered radical and taboo like limiting population growth. (that is a separate dissertation from my point here)

      With regards alternative economic thinking maybe start with Kate Raeworth. Not everyone in the world who has ideas that are out of the box are automatically naive cornucopians.

      How to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. 45:00 minutes.

      What is the goal of economics? Does GDP really tell us all we need to know about a country’s wealth and well-being? Our guest in this show argues that our economic system should be designed to meet everyone’s needs, while living within the means of the planet.

      Kate Raworth is the author of the acclaimed book ‘Doughnut Economics’, and she will join us in the studio for an exploration of a new 21st century economic model and why she believes so many economists have got it wrong for so long.

      The implications of her Doughnut Economics are profound and and can be read and embraced as a roadmap for change not just by experts or economists, but by everyone! This is a chance to challenge her with your questions and critiques.

      If you want to think a bit more about how ideas like E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth might look here’s a TED talk that touches on it.

      Nature is everywhere — we just need to learn to see it 16:00 minutes

      How do you define “nature?” If we define it as that which is untouched by humans, then we won’t have any left, says environmental writer Emma Marris. She urges us to consider a new definition of nature — one that includes not only pristine wilderness but also the untended patches of plants growing in urban spaces — and encourages us to bring our children out to touch and tinker with it, so that one day they might love and protect it.

      Emma Marris is a writer focusing on environmental science, policy and culture, with an approach that she paints as being “more interested in finding and describing solutions than delineating problems, and more interested in joy than despair.”

      I agree with Gone Fishing, we do have choices! There are people all over the world who are making them.

      • david higham says:

        Regarding the first paragraph of your reply. Conflating the functioning of ecosystems
        using the renewable energy from the sun with the ‘Renewable Energy’ required by industrial civilisation is a common mistake. The energy from the sun is renewable.
        The infrastructure required to collect and store that energy requires the mining of the
        requisite minerals,transportation,smelting,manufacturing,installation. The energy
        required for all of that is supplied by fossil fuels. All of that infrastructure,and all of the
        rest of the human-constructed industrial world,has to be rebuilt. Solar panels last
        about 25-30 years. Wind Turbines about 50 years. Our industrial constructed world
        has an immense amount of embedded fossil fuel energy. The mineral density of many ores are declining now,which means that the energy required to extract a given amount of mineral is increasing. I haven’t done much reading on this site. No doubt someone has posted this link before. It gives a good idea of the scale of the construction required.
        Natural ecosystems are quite different. The energy collection occurs using biodegradable
        and recyclable materials,without the energy input of fossil fuels.

        • notanoilman says:

          You don’t seem to have come across the concept of recycling.


          • GoneFishing says:

            This is just the typical FF anti-renewable blurb slightly rewritten. It has more holes in than Swiss cheese.

          • david higham says:

            Have a read of the numbers in the link. All recycling requires energy. I don’t know if anyone has done an analysis of the amount of energy
            required,but it would be very large. It is also worth remembering that some of the minerals in that infrastructure are difficult to separate and

            • notanoilman says:

              Plenty of people have investigated recycling and are doing it. You obviously haven’t. Even the Giga-Factory is building a recycling facility.

              On the personal level, I have just replaced my washing machine and stove as the old ones were falling apart – literally. The stove is ready to go to the local recycler where it will be separated and then sent to be melted back to new steel. The washer will be checked over by a refurbisher who will decide if he can use it or it’s parts and what is left will go to the recycler. Simple. All my waste metal goes to the recycler but, unfortunately, we have no glass recycling so that just has to go to land fill.


              • Blessedcat says:

                Regularly now I do recycle my household product packaging, but never in any of those curbside bins. Every government-sponsored recycling program I’ve ever seen involving the bins either dumps it all back into the general waste because many plastic and glass items aren’t worth the cost of recycling, or the government-sponsored program charges more to participate than is recovered by actually sorting and processing the products. In that case, the government-sponsored program becomes a government-sponsored scheme benefiting those who already have a stake in the general waste industry.

                Then there is the whole other glaring problem with these programs, how the bins locally are picked up large, inefficient trucks that have poor emissions and circle the block at least twice on recycling day as people are allowed to place the bins either curbside in front of their property or in back alongside the alley. It’s another example of government waste coming out of your very pocket indiscriminately, instead of something which makes financial sense. Ultimately you don’t get much more than a “feels good” contribution about as useful as driving a Prius around because you want to show the world how real you believe climate change to be.

                Recycling is in trouble — and it might be your fault

                • Hightrekker says:

                  Glass is a push at best, positive under some ideal conditions, but with sand shortages, that may change.
                  Plastic is down-cycled, not recycled, but has its uses..
                  Aluminium is a huge gain (98% energy saved, as I remember), and other metals make sense.
                  (I worked for AmeriCorps VISTA where we did recycling, but that was quite a while ago, so things I’m sure have changed)

                  • notanoilman says:

                    Used to have glass recycling in the UK and made use of it, I’d like to see it here to get rid of the throw away bottles that litter the roads with broken glass and puncture my tires. Another aspect is to avoid bottles being reused to sell fake alcohol by being refilled with coloured industrial alcohol that poisons people.

                    41 Kg of scrap stove went for 84 MXN today, missed the washer man – I’ll try tomorrow.


                  • Hightrekker says:

                    My Pacifico bottles were worth more on the trade in in Cabo in the 70’s than the beer.

                  • notanoilman says:

                    Chelas and ballenas have trade in but barrelitos, spirits and coolers are disposable 🙁 I keep a couple of ballenas in stock in case I want a refill:)


            • GoneFishing says:

              Amazing how FF people push against conservation, recycling, renewables and lowering pollution; then complain how those things are not fully advanced and fully operational. They also complain about energy wasted while at the same time fossil fuels are the biggest energy wasters on the globe with most of it just going to waste heat along with pollution and noise.
              And yes, photovoltaic’s are ten times better at using solar energy than the natural system, but there is no comparison. They do different things and play different roles. PV reduces pollution, gives energy directly in a form that can be used very efficiently and taps an essentially infinite source of energy without harm, versus one that depletes and harms life on the planet.

              The hackneyed statement that renewables need fossil fuels to be made has been debunked on this site so many times I will not go into it again. It’s from the deniers playbook.

        • islandboy says:

          “Solar panels last about 25-30 years”

          Thanks for letting us know! I didn’t know that. I thought it was just that the performance was warrantied for 20-25 years. One question though. What happens to a solar panel after 25-30 years? Do they just fall apart or do they have some other feature that renders them totally useless? I seem to have missed the expiry date on the panels I bought!

          Wait! Hold on a minute! What’s this?

          Solar Panels Creating Electricity for Much Longer than 20 Years

          “As indicated in a study Josh wrote on just a couple weeks ago, the lifespan of a solar power system is far longer than the 20 years most analysts use to calculate solar power costs. Last November, Susan featured one that was going strong at 30 years. A Facebook fan notes that solar panels at the Technical University of Berlin have been in operation for 31 years. Similarly, Kyocera, one of the oldest solar panel manufacturers in the world, recently posted on the fact that a number of its early installations continue to generate electricity reliably nearly 30 years after installation.”

          By the way the above article is six years old so, unless the installations listed in the article have stopped producing electricity, you can add 6 years to the 20 stated in the headline. Then there’s this:

          What Is the Lifespan of a Solar Panel?

          Photovoltaic (PV) modules typically come with 20 year warranties that guarantee that the panels will produce at least 80% of the rated power after 20 years of use. The general rule of thumb is that panels will degrade by about 1% each year. Is that rule accurate?

          Degradation Rates

          The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) performed a meta-analysis of studies that examined the long term degradation rates of various PV panels. They found that the 1% per year rule was somewhat pessimistic for panels made prior to the year 2000, and today’s panels, with better technology and improved manufacturing techniques, have even more stamina than their predecessors. For monocrystalline silicon, the most commonly used panel for commercial and residential PV, the degradation rate is less than 0.5% for panels made before 2000, and less than 0.4% for panels made after 2000. That means that a panel manufactured today should produce 92% of its original power after 20 years, quite a bit higher than the 80% estimated by the 1% rule.

          Sorry for going OT but, I’m a bit curious as to why “david higham” thought is was necessary to inform readers that “Solar panels last about 25-30 years”? I guess the idea is to spread an idea that solar PV is unsustainable? What if, instead of lasting 25-30 years, solar PV panels continue to generate electricity for more than a hundred years?

          • GoneFishing says:

            Do they close off oil wells when they hit 80 percent of initial flow?

          • TechGuy says:

            ” What happens to a solar panel after 25-30 years? Do they just fall apart or do they have some other feature that renders them totally useless?”

            Yes they can fail. Sometimes thermal cycling leads to cracking that can short them out. Also PV (non MonoCrystaline) suffer accelerated degration rates as the age and can suffer up to 20% degradation after 20 years (depending on PV type). I believe MonoCrystal do not suffer accelerated degradation.

            The degradation can become a problem when panels are connected in series to obtain higher voltages or parallel. If in Series, the current will be limited by the panel with the most degradation. if wired in parallel, the output voltage will be limited to the highest voltage output of the degradated panel. So the output reduction will be compounded when panels are connected together, much like if you shade one cell in a panel, the entire panel output is disproportionally decreased.

            That said PV panels can be damaged via hurricanes or during wind storms if they are struct with heavy debris. Nearby lighting strikes can cause localized EMP that exceed the PN Junction voltage, permanently damaging them. I don’t believe Manufacturers provide warranties for storm damage. My guess in hurricane prone zones, PVs will occur some damage from storms (unless they are dismounted or protected before the storm arrives). This is OK if your install a few on a home, but probably more difficult to do when PVs are installed at solar farm consisting of hundred if not thousands of PV panels. And one nearby lighting strike can take out several million $$$ of PV panels in about a nanosecond:


            “Solar panels and their associated control systems are highly susceptible to damage from both direct and –>indirect<– lightning strikes. The reason for this susceptibility is due to the physical makeup of the panels themselves (being large and flat with fully exposed surface areas)"

            FYI: Their Surge Protection products can only protect charge controllers & inverters, not the panels since the high voltages can be induced into the PN junctions directly, not through the cabling.

            • GoneFishing says:

              I guess that all those solar farms and residences near me have all gone up in smoke/failed or are mostly not working. Sounds bad.

              Any real data on this besides a commercial outfit blurb?

            • islandboy says:

              Yes please, like GF said any real data/statistics to go with that? The data in one of the stories I linked to, was from analysis of panels made before and after 2000. I’ll go with what NREL says. I can think of no benefit NREL would gain from falsely portraying a technology as more reliable than it actually turns out to be. That would destroy it’s reputation and once destroyed, any future pronouncements from them would be of little value.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          The infrastructure required to collect and store that energy requires the mining of the requisite requisite minerals, transportation, smelting, manufacturing, installation.

          The energy required for all of that is supplied by fossil fuels. All of that infrastructure,and all of the rest of the human-constructed industrial world,has to be rebuilt.

          Well for one thing, you obviously haven’t the slightest clue as to how energy and materials flows work in healthy ecosystems. And you seem not to understand why the current economic system is patently unsustainable. You seem to be stuck in late 19th century thinking. That dog don’t hunt no more!

          This is probably a total waste of my typing pixels on a screen but… Maybe start here:

          If nothing else try Kate Raeworth’s Donut Economics, she is looking for a critique of her ideas and work, maybe you can prove us all wrong and show us why her ideas are flawed. Personally, I doubt you are anything other than a fossil fuel industry shill and not the least bit interested in a serious dialog or exchange of ideas.

    • OFM says:

      Hi Ron,

      I used to be a hard core doomer myself, but no longer. OTOH, I’m not a cornucopian by any means, except that I believe that with luck and pluck and hard work, we can prevent an all around economic and ecological collapse from happening world wide.

      Luck will play huge role.

      Not many people have stopped to consider the possibility that some geographical areas, such as let us say most populous parts of Africa and some of the poorer and more populous parts of Asia or the Americas, may collapse without bringing down the rest of the world wide economy and ecology.

      It’s possible that various geographical areas will suffer severe collapse for a number of reasons, singly or in combination. Lack of water alone appears to be a sufficient reason to believe countries such as Saudi Arabia will collapse, given that country’s climate and population, once the oil is gone.

      Other countries such as China may collapse in part due to climate, in part due to extremely high levels of pollution, and in part due to the degradation of soil, lack of irrigation water, etc.

      The population in other areas may be reduced by fifty percent or more by war.

      What I’m getting at is that while all we humans are one species, we nevertheless live as arguably distinct populations. Some populations, such as that of the USA, can without any doubt in my mind survive and even thrive……eventually……. without any economic interaction with the rest of the world. Sure we Yankees would have a hell of a tough time adapting to being entirely self sufficient, but we DO have enough of everything that ESSENTIAL to survival. The few things we are short of we could do without by substituting others.

      So…. if you accept the premise that we Yankees could survive, economically, within our own borders, then the question becomes would be able to survive ecologically, or in biological terms?

      I don’t believe there is any way we can actually know the answer to this latter question, because we don’t know how bad things can get and WILL get, outside our borders. We wouldn’t survive the world ocean flipping to an anoxic state, but we would survive the loss of salt water fisheries. We can survive without importing oil, or any particular mineral. We survived fifty years ago without any of the things that have been invented in the last fifty years, lol. Ditto a hundred years. What did we import a hundred years ago that we couldn’t do without?

      Now would we survive the loss of ALL the higher species of animals, and many or most of the higher species of plants, and in this context by higher I simply mean the larger ones that are more familiar to most of us?

      First off, I don’t believe we will lose ALL the larger species of animals, because I believe it’s very likely that in some places some people who understand how valuable these animals are will protect some of them. So long as there’s grass, there’s no reason there can’t be a few cows and horses still around, protected by whatever strong man or dictator or wise old woman controls a large enough tract of land. So long as the last few dogs are protected, there’s the foundation for a new population of wolves and foxes……. or at least wolf and fox like descendants of these few dogs.

      There may be some places where there aren’t enough humans left to wipe out the last of the larger animals once the shit hits the fan. It’s a well known truism that so long as you sit very still and keep very quiet, you have a good to excellent chance of surviving the night stranded alone in man eating lion territory ……. because if lions were so thick on the ground that one would be likely to find you……well, the lions themselves would be deep into overshoot, you see. Pretty soon, lions would be starving themselves. The foxes seldom if ever get every last rabbit. I don’t see any reason to believe that men will get every last bird and larger animal, across the board.

      I believe the odds are pretty good that a fairly large number of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and other classes will survive .

      And while I didn’t believe it was possible a few years back, I have spent a LOT of time studying the question, and I now believe it is possible that technology CAN, potentially at least, save our sorry naked ape asses. Some of them anyway, lol.

      I’ll rant on a while about the possibilities of technology later.

      • I believe that with luck and pluck and hard work, we can prevent an all around economic and ecological collapse….
        I don’t believe we will lose ALL the larger species of animals, because I believe it’s very likely that in some places some people who understand how valuable these animals are will protect some of them.
        I believe the odds are pretty good that a fairly large number of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and other classes will survive….
        I now believe it is possible that technology CAN, potentially at least, save our sorry naked ape asses….

        Okay Mac, you now believe! Well good for you. I am sure your faith gives you great comfort. However, as you know, I am not a man of faith.

        • OFM says:

          Back atcha Ron,

          The Kings and Queens of Europe protected and preserved just about every last one of the larger endemic species of animals for over a thousand years simply because they considered them to be their own personal property, and they wished to continue to hunt them for sport and for the table.

          So …… not much faith is necessary to believe that powerful individual families may retain control of enough land that some or a lot of larger species will survive. It’s also possible that some governments will survive, and protect some animals.

          There’s no real reason to ASSUME collapse will take down EVERY country and every society, although this is possible.

          We know how bad collapse CAN be, but we don’t know how bad it WILL be. It need not be complete. My own study, entirely informal of course, but informed by my professional background, leads me to believe that while collapse is very likely to happen, it’s more likely to happen in a localized and piecemeal fashion than globally and more or less all at once.

          Five or ten years ago, I didn’t believe that wind and solar electricity would get to be cheap enough, and efficient enough, in relation to the cost of producing it, to support an industrial civilization even remotely like our own. I was wrong about that. Wind and solar power are now obviously capable of shouldering the load, and the cost of them is still dropping like a rock.

          Furthermore, we’re just now beginning to realize the true limits of industrial automation. We’re just now getting to the point that we can build machines to build our machines…… unattended. Automatically.

          We now ALREADY know how to build wind farms and solar farms that return the energy we invest in the construction thereof within the first couple of years of operation. We already know how to make just about any and every IMPORTANT machine we use today work on half the energy it uses per unit of work output. We still have a stock of fossil fuels ample to last another forty or fifty years at least, and while we are going thru that stock like ignorant kids running wild on inherited money, some people and some countries are already well aware that we will be forced to deal with short supplies and high prices, and doing things to forcibly speed up the transition to renewable energy.

          And while it seems to be more or less impossible for a typical LIBERAL ( I’m making a JOKE , ok, poking fun at LABELS, MOSTLY ) to even consider the possibility, nation states have ways various of forcing down birth rates, and may well employ them. We have already witnessed one of the biggest countries implementing a one child policy for a good long while on a grand scale before abandoning it for various reasons………. but the Chinese didn’t abandon it because it didn’t work. It worked.

          Do you find it hard to believe that young men can be rounded up singly or collectively, and sterilized? The vasectomy procedure itself can be performed in just a few minutes by medical technicians trained to do this one procedure repeatedly all day, day after day. I don’t think this would be even half as tough a problem as inducting young men into uniform and indoctrinating them and training them to fight as soldiers. A BENEVOLENT government forced to deal with extreme population problems would be likely to allow each young man to father one child, maybe even two in some societies if the first one is a girl.

          So called CONSERVATIVES don’t seem to be so inhibited when it comes to imagining just where the limits lie in respect to the power of the state, once the state is aroused to action. I don’t have any problem imagining some parts of the world being QUARANTINED, in effect, if that’s what it takes, to prevent uncontrolled emigration of the people living in those parts to countries that are still functional. Or maybe countries that are still functional will build walls and fences, and man them with troops with ample incentive to shoot to kill, and allow the bodies to pile up as deep as necessary.

          It’s possible that a drug exists already that will induce permanent sterility in men or women or both. If not, it’s rather likely that such a drug can be invented.

          I don’t sleep well anymore,and so I’m up at all hours, but I’m very sleepy at te moment More later.

          • OFM says:

            Some more.

            We expend enormous sums of treasure and blood in order to protect ourselves from other aggressive naked apes, and we up until recently have waited till the last minute, until reacting to such threats. ( This is no longer true, we Yankees are now the biggest and by far most powerful country in the world in military terms.)

            Once the threat of fast declining fossil fuel supplies and or economic and ecological collapse are obvious and undeniable, we Yankees and many other countries will react with a vengeance, utilizing measures such as martial law, military conscription, and top down economic control to deal with the risk as best we can. There’s every reason to believe that laws will be passed, and enforced, utilizing as much force as necessary, to compensate for declining energy supplies, vanishing soil, polluted water, and so on.

            If anybody doubts the power of a nation state to accomplish almost unbelievable tasks when ALL THE CHIPS are on the table, I refer them to the history of nazi Germany, accepting the risk of being called a nazi myself for using this example. Germany went from flat broke and short of just about every sort of resource except human capital between the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII, which Hitler started of course.

            Germany managed to build what was without any doubt whatsoever the most powerful military machine in the history of the world starting in the thirties, in less than ten years……. WHILE VERY SHORT of natural resources except water , for the most part. .

            Now I won’t be around, personally, since I’m an old guy already, but if I were a young guy, you can bet that I would be ready ( and have friends on hand to help) to make sure that as many as possible species of local wildlife survive, up to and including penning up some specimens and or feeding them to the limits of my ability to spare rations for them.

            And I would be doing this MOSTLY for my own sake, and that of any children I might have, knowing how important these animals would be to them.

            Now I am NOT saying we will succeed in avoiding a crash and burn collapse scenario, world wide. I AM saying we have a fairly decent shot at avoiding such a scenario on a world wide basis, and that we Yankees are as well or better positioned than any other people to pull thru, skinny and chastened no doubt, but ALIVE, most of us anyway.

            How many wind farms, and solar farms, can be built for what it costs to build just one aircraft carrier and provide planes and crew and keep it in service?

            How many people could be put to work refurbishing older houses and buildings so as to cut the need for energy for heating and air conditioning by half?

            How long would it take in the event of a REAL energy crisis to outlaw the sale of seven thousand pound vehicles used primarily as personal transportation ?

            How long would it take to simply cut off immigration, stop it dead in it’s tracks, into any prosperous country, once the threat of uncontrolled immigration becomes OBVIOUS to even the most harebrained ( but well intentioned in most cases ) people ?

            I am NOT advocating such policies. I AM pointing out that such policies are real possibilities, and very similar ones have been quite commonly pursued in the past by many countries, for reasons fair and foul.

            Bottom line, I believe it’s impossible to know if a flat out “crash and burn” collapse scenario is baked in and cannot be avoided.

            I do believe that “crash and burn” aptly describes what is going to happen in some parts of the world…… large parts.

            I believe that a hard landing is in store for just about every place in the world, but as they say in the air plane biz, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

            I believe that the odds are somewhere between fair and very good that some people in some places will pull thru the coming bottleneck more or less whole, in terms of continuing to live dignified modern lives, with electricity, food in stores, medical care, cops, and so forth being the norm for THEM.

            Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see any PROOF I’m wrong.

  29. Hightrekker says:

    Diet pills?
    Kinda makes sense.

    Elton John blares so loudly on Donald Trump’s campaign plane that staffers can’t hear themselves think. Press secretary Hope Hicks uses a steamer to press Trump’s pants — while he is still wearing them. Trump screams at his top aides, who are subjected to expletive-filled tirades in which they get their “face ripped off.”

    And Trump’s appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald’s, with a dinner order consisting of “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.”

    In another episode, Lewandowski describes how staffer Sam Nunberg was purposely left behind at a McDonald’s because Nunberg’s special-order burger was taking too long. “Leave him,” Trump said. “Let’s go.” And they did.

    Trump’s fast-food diet is a theme. “On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke,” the authors write.

    The plane’s cupboards were stacked with Vienna Fingers, potato chips, pretzels and many packages of Oreos because Trump, a renowned germaphobe, would not eat from a previously opened package.

    The book notes that “the orchestrating and timing of Mr. Trump’s meals was as important as any other aspect of his march to the presidency,” and describes the elaborate efforts that Lewandowski and other top aides went through to carefully time their delivery of hot fast food to Trump’s plane as he was departing his rallies.

    • Hillary says:

      “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.”

      Oh let there be a god

      • Hightrekker says:

        Just saying.

        If we had a parliamentary system like every other advanced country this government would have fallen and we’d be having a new election. Instead, our wonderful system is allowing his rabid minority to enact an extremist agenda while the majority has to watch helplessly, waiting for the next scheduled election.

  30. GoneFishing says:

    One of the biggest problems we face as population and industry grows is obtaining enough fresh water. Sure there is a lot of water on the planet, but it is mostly salty.

    Marcia Barbosa talks about the many anomalies of water and how exploiting them with nano-tubes could help address the problem of freshwater shortages.

    Marcia Barbosa has a PhD in physics from Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, where she is now the director of its Physics Institute. She studies the complex structure of the water molecule, and has developed a series of models of its properties which may contribute to our understanding of how earthquakes occur, how proteins fold, and could play an important role in generating cleaner energy and treating diseases. She is actively involved in promoting Women in Physics and was named the 2013 L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards Laureate for Latin America.

  31. Doug Leighton says:

    Fred – As you know my bag is astrophysics, with climate change denial being merely irritating BUT when I see science news headlines like the following then I really get pissed off, or feel sick. Who gives a shit if Earth can “carry” 7 or 9 or 11 billion people when dolphins & elephants are relegated to “bush meat“ and when species are disappearing at increasingly alarming rates. You’re probably the only one here qualified to assess this issue so please give us your thoughts.


    “Life on earth is remarkably diverse. Globally, it is estimated that there are 8.7 million species living on our planet, excluding bacteria. Unfortunately, human activities are wiping out many species and it’s been known for some time that we are increasing the rate of species extinction. But just how dire is the situation? According to a new study, it’s 10 times worse than scientists previously thought with current extinction rates 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.”

    • Fred Magyar says:

      Doug, if you get a chance, watch the ASU Origins project debates to which I have posted links recently addressing the topic of extinction. This is a very serious cross disciplinary discussion and can’t really be done justice in a quick response here. It probably necessitates a full post of similar length to Ron’s.

      Here is a very short teaser.

      Origins Project Highlight: Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change & Mars

      Link to ASU Origins Project home page:

      • GoneFishing says:

        I look on space habitats as being trapped inside a giant iron lung. Exploration is one thing, but actually thinking of Mars as a possible home for humans is just sad.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          Couldn’t agree more! And that’s from someone who lived and worked in a hyperbaric chamber as a saturation diver on oil rigs. I’d say that is pretty close to living in an iron lung as well 😉

          The part about going to Mars that has always bothered me is the radiation exposure.

          • GoneFishing says:

            Plenty of dangerous and exciting exploring, work and research to do right here on Earth.

  32. Doug Leighton says:

    While we bicker about future human fertility rates (as if only humans matter),


    “More than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade.”

    • Doug Leighton says:



      “Spot prices up around 30% from this year’s low as China seeks new supply… Coal accounts for about 60% of China’s energy consumption. Although the country has been increasing imports of natural gas for environmental reasons, its growing power consumption continues to rely heavily on coal. The International Energy Agency forecasts demand for thermal coal will be robust through 2030.”

    • GoneFishing says:

      If population and/or high economic use of the world stay high for a few more decades, one can forget even the fragmented nature we know today. In the race toward destruction and extinction, the humans may come in near last.

      In the meantime I have witnessed a fast population shift in vultures in my area, which is a historic vulture roosting ground. Twenty five years ago the vulture population here was about 95 percent turkey vulture with the rest black vultures. In that stretch of time, the population of the two species has completely reversed locally with turkey vultures becoming an almost rare sight.
      After looking up national trends it appears both populations have been on the rise but the black vulture population is increasing two to three times the rate of the turkey vulture increase.

      So is that the fate for humans? The high rate producers will push out the low rate producers? Won’t matter much for the rest of the life on the planet, probably belly up for them no matter what unless humans get their act together in the next two decades. Even the bugs are in trouble.

      • Doug Leighton says:



        “The combination of forest fires with land use change and climate change could speed destruction in areas like the Amazon and contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the gases that contribute to global warming, the report said. Worldwide, global tree cover losses rose 51 percent in 2016 from the previous year to 297,000 square kilometers (114,672 square miles), according to data from the University of Maryland compiled by Global Forest Watch.”

        • GoneFishing says:

          Soil erosion, disturbed hydrologic cycles and atmospheric changes all add up to more environmental change on a larger scale than just the forest burn.

          • Fred Magyar says:

            Here’s an interesting perspective on the scale of the problem.


            The 4 Climate Projects Ernest Moniz Says We Must Do Right Now

            We’re wasting time, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says in a podcast released today, by not working fervently on four large-scale projects for managing the carbon responsible for anthropogenic climate change.

            The Nobel Prize winning physicist sat down Friday to record a conversation with economist Michael Greenstone, the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, in which he pressed for urgent action on four carbon-management technologies…

            Carbon Sequestration At Massive Scale — “You know, the scale isn’t fully appreciated,” Moniz said. “If you have 1,000 megawatts of coal plant and you capture 90 percent of the CO2 for 50 years—let’s say the life of the plant—and you put that CO2 underground and it forms a reservoir, that reservoir would be equivalent to 2 billion barrels. From one 1,000 MW (plant)! That’s the size of a big oil reservoir. So it gives you an idea. Now if you need a thousand of those, this is a big deal, with lots of science problems and lots of policy problems, regulatory problems etc. to manage.”

            Maybe it is past time to take some of that tar out of the tar sands and combine it with chicken feathers and apply it in spades to all climate deniers, especially the ones who belong to fossil fuel industry and our so called conservative politicians…

            Link to podcast:

            Oh and a note to all the morons who are always spouting nonsense about how bad wind and solar are for the environment, so how does that paragraph I highlighted compare?! I have some tar and feathers for you as well!

            • GoneFishing says:

              That might have worked if we started doing those programs back in the 1980’s when we were first strongly warned at a governmental level. Those and many other programs.
              By the time we get anything going on a global scale (doubtful) the feedbacks will be so far along that stopping at 3C will be improbable. Though who knows what knowledge we will have and what civilization will look like in 2050 or 2060. The US will take even longer since it is split strongly across this point.
              It won’t matter anyway if we spend the next few decades further wrecking the environment and life on this planet.

              Our civilization is not up to global manipulation. Our only alternative is to stop the harm and destruction. Stop the burning.

              You can hope for some great tech wonder in the future to solve the situation or you can start helping yourself right now. The alternative involves a lot of screaming.

              • Fred Magyar says:

                Our only alternative is to stop the harm and destruction. Stop the burning.

                You won’t get any disagreement from me, well, except for maybe burning a few politicians at the stake. And maybe a few bankers. They have high fat content and would burn clean and bright!

            • Nicholas Schroeder says:

              Just in the duration of my own life, I have been told about how so many things were going to kill me or harm me so badly, that there would be utter annihilation of the entire human race if I didn’t do something drastic right this very moment!

              Included in these things, but not limited to were; acid rain, global cooling aka (a coming ice age), global warming, avian/swine influenza, SARS, Ebola, AIDS, and so on. What I came to recognize early on is how the alarmists pushing these things all have conflicts of interest; aka they all have something mighty to gain by motivating people through fear. On the other hand I have nothing at all to gain; but and it’s a big one, I do indeed have much to lose, including my common sense and my wallet.

              These climate change soothsayers are exactly like the ones pushing entitlement programs to eliminate poverty. They got no proof, no results. For instance Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines gives off tonnes and tonnes of carbon emissions a year; yet he himself is trying to get ordinary people to pay into an carbon offset program. That money would go to third world authoritarians who could then spend it on his airlines and space program; keeping people like him living in the high roller’s club. Anyone in our government who continues to push rubbish down the throats of the American public needs thrown out of office along with a required mental fitness examination.

              • GoneFishing says:

                Hmmm, sounds like those snake oil radio hate talk show scripts that I used to listen to for research. Still find it hard to believe that people actually take any of it seriously. It’s just a pack of lies to get people angry. I mean we have to blame somebody for the mess we and our ancestors created. Blame and anger sure solves everything. GIGO
                Hey all you white supremacists and angry white conservatives, one of your favorite talk show hosts is Jewish!

  33. Carnot says:

    This is a subject that I have been following for years and read the earlier posts of Paul Chefurka. There is not much I disagree on save that I think most people underestimate the speed with which collapse will happen. The instabilities are manifold, but the over-arching problem will be the monetary system and debt. As the monetary system unwinds so with will our major industries, especially extractive industries. Within a generation we will loose much of the tools that we need. Take RO membranes . If you think these are easy to produce you are wrong. How dependent have we become on plastics. No electric cables, no insulation, no detergents, no food packaging .Some might see this as good, but that means food will spoil. Even making simple products like Portland cement will be impossible as we will lack the high EROIE sources of energy that we currently use. Drug companies will go bust and hospitals will loose many of the products that we take for granted. Vaccines. Basic drugs. I see potable water as a major issue, let alone how we propose to maintain the infrastructure. That includes roads, railways, ports, marine cables, bridges, water distribution, sewage- the list is endless. Our knowledge base will be denuded as we will not have computers or a means to secure what we now know.

    Praying to God, Allah or Buddah is not going to do diddly squat.. It is the four horsemen and by the time the Apocalypse is over the carrying capacity of the planet will be WELL below 1 billion as all the easy mineral deposits will be long gone.

    • Fred Magyar says:

      How dependent have we become on plastics. No electric cables, no insulation, no detergents, no food packaging .Some might see this as good, but that means food will spoil. Even making simple products like Portland cement will be impossible as we will lack the high EROIE sources of energy that we currently use. Drug companies will go bust and hospitals will loose many of the products that we take for granted. Vaccines. Basic drugs. I see potable water as a major issue, let alone how we propose to maintain the infrastructure. That includes roads, railways, ports, marine cables, bridges, water distribution, sewage- the list is endless.

      Maybe we need to stop being dependent on things like toxic chemicals, plastics, Portland cement, etc… and yes, the list is endless!

      I simply do not accept the idea that we are stuck on that path and that we do not have alternatives. At this point I could easily give ten thousand examples of other ways to do things and name people who are doing them.

      I’ll just put up two to start the conversation:
      We don’t need plastics or fossil fuels or Portland cement. If you begin to understand how Abalone makes its shell using CaCO3 and a natural polymer Chitin to produce a super material like nachre that outperforms some of our most advanced ceramics you can begin to grasp the possibilities!
      The Biggest Revolution in 3D Printing is Yet to Come

      So how do we get to a different economic paradigm and what should that paradigm look like? Yeah we have our work cut out for us. And success is certainly not guaranteed but the Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet!
      How the Circular Economy Can Disrupt the Development Paradigm | DIF 2017

      I owe you 9,998 more examples… 😉

  34. Hightrekker says:

    MACHOs are dead, WIMPs are a no-show — say hello to SIMPs

  35. Doug Leighton says:

    And on it goes. Someone remind me how EVs are going to save our planet, please.


    “Wild relatives of modern crops deemed crucial for food security are being pushed to the brink of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. More than 20 rice, wheat and yam plants have been listed as threatened on the latest version of the IUCN’s Red list. The wild plants are being squeezed out by intensive farming, deforestation and urban sprawl, say scientists. Modern crops can be crossbred with their wild cousins to safeguard foods. ”To lose them would be a disaster,” said Dr Nigel Maxted of the University of Birmingham, who is co-chair of the IUCN’s specialist group on crop wild relatives.”

    • Doug Leighton says:

      BTW, just checked: We are adding over 200,000 people to our planet every day, or over 140 people every minute. Isn’t that exciting?

      • Fred Magyar says:

        We are adding over 200,000 people to our planet every day,

        If memory serves me, I think that’s roughly the total number of all the members of all the great ape species alive in the wild today…

        BTW re: And on it goes. Someone remind me how EVs are going to save our planet, please.

        They ain’t! but that’s NOT what they are for!

        • Dennis Coyne says:

          Hi Fred and Doug,

          There is not a single problem, nor is there a single solution. The problems and solutions are manifold.

          On apes, the point of reduced human fertility is that it will result eventually in reduced population, as humans are the problem, fewer of them may be part of the solution.

          • Doug Leighton says:


            In this Ted talk Rosling leaves no doubt in the minds of the audience that unless there is a nuclear war or some similar catastrophe the global population will reach 10 billion. The way he illustrates it with cardboard boxes is even more powerful than his gapminder statistics, and leaves no room for the audience to wriggle round the conclusion.

            For market researchers there is a useful lesson in how to present complex information. For the word are some very big messages:

            1. The world needs to plan for the resources necessary to cater to the needs of 10 billion people.
            2. The industrialists and capitalists need to find ways of ensuring they don’t choke or poison the planet when 10 billion people are buying their goods and services.
            3. The greens need to work out how there is going to be enough money/resources to ensure that the 10 billion have sufficient access to health care and education to ensure that the population does not grow beyond 10 billion.


            • GoneFishing says:

              I think it all applies if you just replace “10 billion” with “7.4 billion”.
              If we haven’t done it yet, we need to work fast, 8 billion is just a few years from now. Been hitting a new billion about every 12 years.
              Extrapolating that means over 14 billion people by 2100. Better hope the population slowdown actually occurs and holds.

              If everyone queued up in a line it would wrap around the equator over 150 times.
              That is why we have to stack them.

          • Fred Magyar says:

            There is not a single problem, nor is there a single solution. The problems and solutions are manifold.

            Riley now?!

            Methinks we are dealing with multiple dilemmas wrapped within a manifold of interconnected conundrums, the solutions to which do not exist in our space time continuum. 🙂 Meaning we are probably pretty much fucked already. But hey, why go down without a fight, eh?

            BTW, one should not confuse manifold with many-fold.

            Definition of Manifold:
            A topological space X is called locally Euclidean if there is a non-negative integer n such that every point in X has a neighbourhood which is homeomorphic to the Euclidean space En (or, equivalently, to the real n-space Rn, or to some connected open subset of either of the two).[1]
            A topological manifold is a locally Euclidean Hausdorff space. It is common to place additional requirements on topological manifolds. In particular, many authors define them to be paracompact or second-countable.

            Now imagine many-fold of these.

            • Fred Magyar says:

              Oh, and Hans Rosling is a highly educated imbecile. I’ve watched him perform his clown acts a few times. He isn’t capable of any critical thought process.

              • GoneFishing says:

                You mean he is a dead “highly educated imbecile” who helped solve a major African health crisis. You also mean he led and guided major health and aid organizations across much of the world and wrote several books as well as being an educator.

              • Doug Leighton says:

                Don’t speak ill of the dead. Hans died on Feb. 7th, 2017, Uppsala, Sweden. In 2009 he was listed as one of 100 leading global thinkers and in 2011 as one of 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company. In 2011 he was elected member of the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and in 2012 as member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences. He was included in the Time 100 list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012.

                • Fred Magyar says:

                  GF and Doug,
                  Sorry to hear of his passing, I didn’t realized he had passed on. I thought he was a doctor. Nothing personal against him but he didn’t seem to be able to connect the dots between population growth, fossil fuels and the consequences of resource depletion. I never once heard him say a word about ecological overshoot. He was always on about how wonderful and successful we humans were as a species. I guess his presentations just tended to rub me the wrong way.

                  Alongside Steven Pinker, Rosling has been criticized as being Pollyannaist about the global situation in the face of tragedies such as the conflict in Syria.[8] His work on population growth has been roundly criticised by Paul R. Ehrlich, the U.S. biologist and Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, and Anne H. Ehrlich, associate director of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, referring to him as “A Confused Statistician” in an article published online by the MAHB
                  Source Wikipedia

                  Having said that, I’m sure he had many accomplishments and was a decent human being. May he R.I.P.

                  • GoneFishing says:

                    Fred, energy is not the problem. More energy than we could ever use falls on us every day.

                    Rosling was the humanitarian who in the end merely described the population shifts and changes using hard data.
                    Ehrlich is the cold scientific prophet who predicted things so wrongly so many times.
                    Will Ehrlich be correct in the long run? Maybe, but predicting the obvious takes timing which he never had.

                  • Doug Leighton says:

                    And, as I recall, Hans Rosling was a medical doctor/statistician: hardly an imbecile.

                  • Fred Magyar says:

                    Ok! You guys win this one. Rosling was not an imbecile. Certainly not compared to many who walk among us today. I also accept the fact that he was a humanitarian.

      • GoneFishing says:

        With 350,000 babies being born each day, that means there are more than 150 million pregnant women each year. It all boils down to about three percent of the population. Imagine if more got involved.

        • Fred Magyar says:

          The daily global death rate is 151,600. To solve the global population problem all we have to do is increase it by about 210,000. Because obviously even talking about ways to reduce the birth rate is considered taboo…

          Maybe we can promote unsafe sex, and increased tobacco and alcohol consumption. Ban seat belts in cars and eliminate speed limits on highways. Make drinking and driving laws more lenient. Be less stringent with laws that control toxic chemicals and pollution. Make sure everyone has easy access to guns!

          Any other ideas?! I’m sure we can find ways to top that 210,000 needed to start reducing the population. Hmm maybe tax the poor and do away with health care.

          Or maybe we can just wait for climate change to increase droughts and floods to cause famine and spread pestilence. Maybe a few wars could help too.

          I’m sure if we put our collective minds to it, we can easily find ways to cause another 210,000 deaths per day!

          • Stanley Walls says:


            I usually stay out of political discussions. But as I read your post I couldn’t help thinking that your proposals mostly seem to mirror the things the Repub’s are doing! So, easy fix. Just keep the present circus going, we’ll get there soon enough!

            And yes, I do understand that your were just kidding.


            • Fred Magyar says:

              True enough but the entire population of the US only makes up 5% of the global population and Repubs only a fraction of that. We need all the dictators, authoritarians, fascists, neo-nazis and religious fanatics the world over to also get with the program…
              Otherwise sooner or later people around the globe will start planning their families, and you know we can’t have that!
              Cheers! 😉

    • Hightrekker says:

      Speaking of EV’s, a very creative owner:
      One Tesla Owner:
      Planted a bitcoin mining computer in the trunk and parks all day at a SuperCharging spot for free.

      Smart enough for the con, too stupid to realize the results.
      (the perfect employee?)

  36. Hightrekker says:

    Well, that clears things up:

    “Not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
    — Sen. Chuck Grassley (Republican, Iowa) on why someone might not leave an estate worth $5,000,000

    • JN2 says:

      “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
      ~ soccer player George Best

  37. OFM says:

    I guess this thread is dead now, but this link belongs here.

    It’s a great long read accessible to any layman.

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