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« Homo sapiens, I'm glad I knew ye | Main | A Heartfelt Thank You »

May 24, 2010


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Georgi Marinov

What could make the curve steeper would be any number of radical social upheavals causing rioting and a government crackdown. Real bullets were shot at Kent State U. Just imagine what they'll use to quell the crowds in our cities.

Posted by: George Mobus May 24, 2010 at 04:26 PM

This is my greatest fear about how the whole thing will unfold - while historically the ultimate reason for civilizational collapse has most often been resource depletion, the proximal reason has typically been the people of that very civilization rioting due to worsening conditions and rapidly bringing down their own society. This is especially true in our case, with many factors combining to make the situation a lot worse than it has ever been. We are incredibly spoiled and with a sense of entitlement to comfortable lifestyles, the distrust of government is probably at an all-time high in the history of humanity, more people have more powerful guns than in any other point in history, etc.

Regarding your original post: people tend to assume that the climate will just shift north and we will be able to grow the same kind of crops we are growing in temperate areas now in what is currently taiga and tundra . Historically, when large climatic transitions have occurred, this has been the case (although obviously nobody was growing any crops at the time), but those transitions took a lot more time than the current change will give us. Right now the soil in the arctic and subarctic areas is just too poor to support agriculture of the kind we are used to, and this is not going to change just by shifting the climate zones north. It will take centuries and millenia for natural processes to build the kind of fertile soil that humans have enjoyed in temperate climates.

So the question of what kind of communities will be able to survive the bottleneck in the north when the temperate areas become uninhabitable deserts is highly problematic.

Areas with high tropical mountains surrounded by seas like New Guinea may have better chance, but they also mean that the people who survive there will be unlikely to develop/maintain any sophisticated technology and science, due to other environmental factors characterizing these regions.


First of all thank you George for all your great work! We are keeping a close eye on many of your articles which are indeed very useful for the discussions we have in our peak-oil awareness association in Galicia (NW Spain).

I'd just read this one and, as a person in transition to a rural settlement, I am also making calculations about land extension needed to provide maximum self-sufficiency.

So, I'm wondering which are the basis for these data you mention: A future society, living in a temperate climate, might require between 10 and 50 hectares (...) of mixed-use land per person to produce adequate calories (esp. protein sources) for a year.

I think it's pretty much! I can't imagine where do you take those numbers from. Can you give us some clue? Thank in advance.


While I was reading these posts from the feasible living thread I was recognizing my own country's villages depicted in your descriptions of a future sustainable settlement!

Let me briefly introduce my country to you and your readers: Galicia is traditionally divided in parishes of about the same size you suggest, an placed in similar sites:

Our country has a strong identity though it is now a part of Spain, and it was the first Kingdom which arose in Western Europe after the Fall of Rome.

It is considered one of the most under-developed parts of Spain, and in fact it mantained since the decade of 1960 a traditional agrarian structure very similar to the one you resemble.

Now we'd like to preserve all those agrarian sustainable heritage, mix it with a little permaculture techniques and help by this way to achieve maximum resilience to our country's villages and hamlets. We count with a great living treasure: many old people who know how to use a loom, make a basket from local plants, guide oxen and so on. They still do all those things in some places!

Our association is called Véspera de Nada after a local proverb which stands something like this: "Day of all, eve of nothing":

Well, I hope this notes can help you understand how useful and meaningful your posts are to us here in this green little Atlantic country.

George Mobus


Thanks for the thoughts.

RE: land requirements:

I think it's pretty much! I can't imagine where do you take those numbers from. Can you give us some clue?

I derived my estimates from the values provided in the Pimentel & Pimentel book. But have additional estimates from various Permaculture/manual agriculture sources. The reason my numbers are larger than you might see elsewhere is that I am considering complete self-sufficiency at above subsistence levels. Notice that I require mixed use lands, which includes forests and pastures (grain production). Also this number assumes some form of crop rotation in the agricultural land to maintain soil health. The total land area per capita has to be large enough to provide excess solar energy flows. I am also considering the need for a high degree of biodiversity to support a hunter-gatherer lifestyle should there be, for example, a bad crop year.

From the Wikipedia article, with the exception of the oil spill problems, your country sounds and looks delightful. Its heritage, if revived, should stand you well.

So here is a little test (thought experiment at this stage). Imagine drawing a boundary around one of your most promising villages, a boundary through which noting gets in and nothing gets out. Make it as large as you can without impinging on the lands of nearby villages. Then ask: Can this village be sustained into the indefinite future given the internal resources alone? That is the test of feasibility that needs to be made. It isn't easy to answer, but asking the question will help you think about many resource issues that might have slipped by in the past.

There are likely not to be any perfect solutions in the future. The land needed to support a village (of 500 or thereabouts) will depend entirely on the climate and native resources along with whatever agricultural technology (e.g. plows and horses!) can be brought to bear. Every region will have its own set of needed responses. You might want to take a look at the climate wizard tool I mentioned to Georgi above. You can use it to see what your region might have in store for the next hundred years.

I wish the best in your planing for a challenging future.


George Mobus


Human reactions. What a conundrum.

RE: climate change. I have been using this tool to assess possible areas where the climate changes in temp and precipitation will have the least shift from current averages for the next 100 years.

The regional models don't predict uniform conditions along the latitudes in the temperate regions. There will be pockets of less affected among them. Think of this as a planning tool ;^)


Georgi Marinov

There will be pockets of relatively stable climate, but in general if you are on a large continental mass, unless there is some sort of very big natural barrier, say you are in a remote valley in Tibet, you aren't going to last long, as those are the places where the millions of hungry people will be.

Ideally, you would set up refuges on Svalbard and Kerguelen, as those places are both remote and the vast majority of people today don't even know that they exist, the problem is that as I said above, they will not be really habitable for a good few hundred to few thousand years, even if the temperate climate zone shift to cover them. Unless you are willing to live on a fish diet, but then, there is the question of what the state of the ocean will be at the time...


Thanks for your answer, George. I've seen a lot of references to that book by Pimentel et al. since I become interested in these subjects.

I'm doing my own investigations, gathering numbers from different sources and right now I consider that 1 ha per family is a bare minimum for sufficiency, though my sources vary a lot.

About your mental test of village enclosure it's quite a common ground for me because we're trying to help first Galician town which officialy recognized peak-oil problem, to make something like an energy descent plan. Of course resilience is all about that experiment you suggest, though I guess some inter-village commerce will remain for non-vital items and it should be taken into account.

Best wishes for your plans, too. And all of your readers'

George Mobus


All suggestions welcomed. The objective though is to find a place and life style that will be above subsistence so that people can strive toward self-actualization as much as possible. This may not work out for the bottleneck survivors directly or immediately, but over the long run that is what I hope we can strive for.


The 1 ha per family might provide basic subsistence, but, as I just commented to Georgi, the goal is to live more comfortably than hand-to-mouth. To be human means to also enjoy and appreciate. Ask your folks what kind of life they hope to live feasibly. I bet it will include some time to sing and dance as well as plow and harvest.



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