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« Fifth Annual Biophysical Economics Meeting | Main | Evolution: The Roles of Competition, Cooperation, Coordination, and Strategy »

June 21, 2013


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@George - interesting that the temperature of your words has increased with this posting. Whether this has anything to do with your recent interaction with Jim Kunstler (he is famously contagious), I have no reason to doubt your prognosis. I would however be keen to hear your response to another spin report:

It seems likely that we will see more of such unbridled optimism the closer we get to the cliff edge.

I am now going to watch the sun set on the longest day. Hairs on the back of my neck...


Being in Australia the Winter Solstice was yesterday,21 June.I am in a subtropical location and this was one of the coldest days (also raining) I have experienced here over 16 years of residence - max 13 degrees C.In January we had a week long record breaking heat wave right across Australia.
But these are weather phenomenen not climate or evidence of climate change.The scientific evidence for climate change is unmistakeable - ocean warming and acidification,rising sea levels, Arctic ocean ice loss,upward spiraling of carbon dioxide levels and glacier retreat.
There is already a lot of climate change built in due to CO2 and methane increase but we can stop further increases if we act now to cut GHG emissions.This is one of the reasons why I support nuclear power.
As for Jim Kunstler,I have read his blog for some time and one or two of his books.He is a talented and entertaining writer and many of his ideas are based in fact.
However JHK is a catastrophist and it appears that George is of the same persuasion.
I know it is a temptation to get discouraged and sink into a sort of cynical helplessness. But giving up is only an option for the suicidal.
Is that the way you wish to proceed?

Juan Pueblo

I have been boating and fishing as much as possible for many years. Since I gave up on humanity.
Here, in South Florida, the subtropical hammocks and the Everglades are dying faster every year. It used to rain almost every day during the summer, but now we only get rain when there are tropical storms and we have droughts in between.
This is great for boating and fishing, but terrible for natural ecosystems.
Carpe diem, George!


You said: "We are producing nothing of lasting value and very soon, what we are producing will collapse into the void. "

I'm wondering whether the universe actually could ever select for a sustainable lifestyle. Not even hunter gatherers have managed, apart from sparse examples. If we take any other route we are forced to constantly reinvent our society to adapt to the new thermodynamic reality we have just created, so nothing is of lasting value. I would even say that the higher its value the shorter it lasts.

Interestingly there is a line in Faust that reminds me a lot of the fleeting nature of everything, lets see: "And heartily!
When thus I hail the Moment flying:
"Ah, still delay—thou art so fair!"
Then bind me in thy bonds undying,
My final ruin then declare!"

So we seem to have made a Faustian bargain of the energetic kind.

George Mobus


I think Jim asked me for the interview because he knew I was more doomerish than he! He even said something like that in the interview.


Whoops, forgot the season switch down under. Happy Winter Solstice.

Let's examine a few comments.

...we can stop further increases if we act now to cut GHG emissions.

While that might be technically true, realistically how is it going to happen. Even Australia is getting on the bandwagon of shipping more coal to China, for example. Canada is hell bent to extract every last ton of bitumen it can. And the people want more. They would prefer it at a cheaper price, but they still want it. They will continue to want it and politicians will continue to look for ways to enable that. What could be and what is most likely to be are very different.

However JHK is a catastrophist and it appears that George is of the same persuasion. I know it is a temptation to get discouraged and sink into a sort of cynical helplessness. But giving up is only an option for the suicidal.

If being a catastrophist means being a realist then mea culpa. As for being cynical or feeling helpless, I suspect you haven't been reading my work for long. If you go back into past postings (such as the ones I listed in this posting) you will see that what I have given up is the dream of some semblance of BAU for the reason that the laws of physics do not allow it to go on. But I haven't given up on the evolutionary experiment in sentience and sapience we call humanity. Though I strongly suspect that the vast majority of people on this globe are doomed to early deaths (and probably not pleasant ones) I a fair amount of confidence that a remnant population will survive and be the seeds of a new, hopefully wiser, species. How I wish to proceed can be found in the previous writings.


That isn't a bad philosophy in the light of inevitability. We are having a peculiar spring (well now early summer). Usually we get rain and cool right up through July 4. This spring has been much drier and warmer (good for the corn and tomatoes). Rain might be on the way this coming week, but we actually could use it.

The odd thing is that the weather forecasters are almost always wrong these days.


I'm wondering whether the universe actually could ever select for a sustainable lifestyle.

Perhaps it depends on what we mean by "sustainable". By definition no system can go on forever in a non-ergodic universe. It is a matter of time scale and whether the system is, itself, evolvable. If the latter is true (as it is for the human species) then sustainability doesn't mean steady-state but a constant (though relatively slow) evolutionary adaptation to changing conditions.

As for value, lasting value to an individual is anything that provides a steady, reliable flow of energy.



@Podargus - If I may, I would like to add to George's response to your comment. I used to espouse a similar viewpoint to yours, but the more I read up and assessed the scientific facts, as opposed to clinging on to the usual humanocentric hopes and dreams favored by our species, the more I have moved towards acceptance of the inevitability of a natural correction to the out-of-control human expansion on this planet. I don't believe such realism is in any way the same as "cynical hopelessness", "giving up" or "suicidal". I liken it to understanding that we are approaching a cliff edge with unstoppable momentum, and accepting that we will fall is not the same as wanting to fall. It just will be.

We can of course refuse to believe in such inevitability (hope is a human mainstay), and each of us can do what we can to reverse the momentum, but the reality of the situation is that the evidence points to the conclusion that we were already at the point of singularity decades ago, and no amount of cheerleading for nuclear power or cutting emissions as of 2013 can prevent the end of sufficient energy resources - including sustenance - to power the lives of seven billion bipeds, let alone an increase to nine or ten billion that some unyielding optimists predict.

Personally, I don't revel in any catastrophism (I have children), I don't have any fixation about timescale, but my attitude is the same as should a doctor tell me that I have a terminal illness. With such a prognosis, we always have a choice to fight it or accept it, but a realist will soon recognize the science of the matter. Serenity is possible, far removed from depression or a flailing of arms.


@ George - actually I've been reading your blog for several years.It has managed to survive several cullings of my bookmarks.
I'm only too well aware of what Australia is doing in the field of fossil fuel exports.I have massive coal mines and coal seam gas extraction at 3 cardinal points of the compass.In my state there are 3 coal ports exporting millions of tons/year. In Gladstone there is a massive port facility being built to export liquified CSG.There are people and organizations fighting this.I try to do what I can to help but we are up against big money,short sighted politicians and public servants,vested interests and a majority culture of couldn't care less in the citizenry.It's all short term gain,long term pain.
But the resistance is growing and there have been some small wins and the resistance is not giving up,lying down in the fetal position and whimpering about it being all too hard.

@ Oliver - I too am a realist and I am well aware that there will be a bloody correction in the path of Homo Saps. But how that affects each nation is largely in the hands of the citizens of those nations.
There is only one inevitability in this life and that is death.That comes to all of us but not without a fight(for most).

Finally,I'll leave you with some fighting words from our great Australian poet,Henry Lawson,who lived in much harsher times than now.
Must I turn aside from my destined way
For a task your don would find me?
I come with the strength of the living day,
And with half the world behind me;
I leave you alone in your cultured halls
To drivel and croak and cavil;
Till your voice goes farther than cottage walls
Keep out of the tracks we travel!

i feel privilidged to be party to your thoughts.

re Egypt:

had a conversation with a clued-up Egyptian today and he said that the revolution that started in Jan '11 was about bread, justice and freedom. one can't help but note that justice and freedom had been denied for decades but when the cost of food became paramount then those other two were tacked on as 'nice to haves'.

Dave S. Nottear

Wonderful podcast!

As conditions deteriorate, I wonder if most industrial nations will, out of desperation, lapse into a Soviet-style centralized, command economy at some point in the next decade or so.

And, when that fails, the components of each nation might look towards the former Soviet Satellites as a model for their possible fates (e.g. Cuba vs Yugoslavia).

JHK mentions Japan going "medieval" - which I imagine would resemble the "Cuban Experiment."

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