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« More News on the Economy | Main | What Are the Limits of Sapient Judgment? »

August 18, 2010


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As usual you are spot on and I completely agree.
I call it the New New Deal.
We still have plenty of energy flow rate to accomplish all you prescribe and more but the lacking element is political will.
Just as in the 1930s, the opportunity to implement change will be catalyzed by pain and suffering.
No one will change behavior or be open to new ideas until the current behavior not only doesn't yield the desired neurotransmitter cocktail but results in negative outcomes.
Just Like the rat touching the paddle switch in a feedback experiment.
You would think that humans with their soaring intellect would be more aware of these limbic responses and hence able to recognize and modify behavior......but alas most people don't even know what the word limbic means.
One of the courses of study at U 0f N should be why we behave the way we do viz. biological psychology and taken a step further how to apply reason to deal with these "feelings".

This would make an excellent "Campfire" topic over on TOD.
See if they will post this Saturday.
I bet you get a ton of interest.

We need to go from "panem et circeses"
"Panem et negotium"


If it doesn't serve the narrow monied interests of transnational corporations, then it will never see the light of day. And of course our "elected" officials work to make sure those interests of the corporatocracy are protected above all else, even at the expense of our future generations very survivability. So I don't think your cynicism is off base at all. Due to the short term, linear thinking of our leaders, resource depletion and climate change are not seen as a problem.

Gavin Kent

This plan would only be possible in a genuine nation state and very difficult even then. But USA is not a real country, just a collection of disparate nations without many shared values or culture. Now not even a shared language. This really limits future possibilities. But it was exactly what your elite wanted, an atomised, de-racinated, low social cohesion country of greedy and lazy consumers.
Being realistic, USA will struggle desperately to maintain business as usual until way into overshoot. And when eventually impossible, it will rapidly collapse.
As will my country, UK, for exactly the same reasons.

Good luck,

George Mobus


Looks like it will show up as a Campfire article one of these Saturday evenings. We'll see what that crowd thinks. Thanks for the tip.

PS. My Latin is rusty!?


Agreed, cynicism is most likely in order. But just in case anyone wants to actually try to do something I feel compelled to at least write down what seems to me to be physically feasible.



You are likely right. But then what? What is the end point of collapse in your view?




from bread (read food stamps, welfare, etc) and circuses (read entertainment)
Bread and employment.

George Mobus

A quick update for regular readers. This blog has been picked up by The Oil Drum for the regular Saturday night Campfire discussion. If you want to see a lot of comments about it, read what other people think, you could go there:



Collapse is similar to a re-boot of society, but at a more appropriate - much lower - level of energy use, complexity and population.
Here in England - using pre agricultural revolution methods - we could support maximum population of about six million on long, tern sustainable basis. If we had used last thirty years for transition, then perhaps maximum population of about 25 to 30 million, on long term sustainable basis. This would have included techniques like four field rotation with winter roots, intensive deep bed market gardens, etc.
However, economic sacrifices needed probably impossible without stimulus such as war of survival. And then only with high social cohesion society of past; low GINI index, negligible ethnic minorities, etc. But requirements therefore include asking ultra rich to lower their standard of living and also repatriation of ethnic minorities. Both politically taboo impossibities.
However, under Roman rule, Britannia had more ethnic minorities than today and equally ultra rich elite. Neither survived collapse.
So collapse makes necessary but wholly unacceptable actions become possible.
Looked at in some ways, perhaps an important role, although obviously transition can come at quite a high cost for participants.

Looked at in another way, collapse is no longer avoidable, so bit too late to worry about it now. Just dig out your old Cannibal Cookbook from back of cupboard :-(



My dream!

I would add,
1) there's lots of work to clean up forests infested by the bark beetles. Turn the wood into energy, chemicals, and char coal. 19th century chemistry. Could perhaps even get profitable: Get carbon credits by sequestering the char coal in/as soil (aka biochar, aka terra preta, ...). No c21st agriculture without char coal. Hurry, before the trees all rot or burn.

Here in the Bavarian Forest I call this dream "Bayerwald Standard Wood Oils Corporation" (plural no typo).

2) The best place to start and get support for is perhaps Haiti. And quite a challenge. (Give me money and a gate to the Dominican Republic for biochar compost bootstrap - and I'll try.)

Robin Datta

"What is needed is understanding and bravery." Quite true, and quite essential. But political understanding might not have a sufficient common ground with an understanding of ecological or energy matters. And moreover an understanding of the latter subjects does not translate into political savvy: indeed too much emphasis there can be political suicide as happened in the case of Jimmy Carter, one of the few presidents with a significant science background.

Marie Antoinette is reputed to have said "Let them eat cake". The implicitly accepted assumption in the Business As Usual model is "Let them eat fossil fuels".


The impetus for overconsumption is Profit (the accelerating force which acts on money/debt). The counteracting force would be a sales tax, not forced employment with more income taxes to pay for it. Income taxes are actually a tool of those who control the acceleration of money, but they are never employed to reduce consumption. Implement a mechanism that slows the use of money ( and raise the rate until the economy is stabilized).
People don't need jobs at all. They need food, clothing, and shelter (and we already have more houses than are needed). Increase the prebate of the FairTax plan until it pays for these basic needs. Encourage people to pursue useful hobbies and services, rather than pushing them into jobs they hate to simply 'produce' for money and be exploited by the top 1%. The failure mode of a sales tax being too high would be for people to stop buying retail and start making things for themselves (localization). If we can't assign some amount of resources to guarantee needs of our citizens, then all of the Bill of Rights become moot. If we can't figure out what people are FOR, then why all of the arguments about what they DO? What is the usefulness of the human race to the future of our planet or the universe? If we are not going to be responsible enough to discuss how to be intentionally Net Useful (give more back than we consume) to our own future, then why bother discussing our demise? Cooperation with each other and with the universe/environment is needed. Competition is a tool of the exploitative few. We don't have to compete with each other anymore.


P.S. The short version of your article is this:
We have spent the last 100 years or so replacing the physical labors of human beings with petroleum. Now that petroleum is getting expensive, we need to replace petroleum with human labor (smaller farms, localized economics based on careful forestry and agriculture, etc).
British Columbia recently made one of the most important steps: encouraging local butchering of animals (Class D meat processing). Food safety (and other processing/manufacturing) should focus on minimizing batch sizes rather than maximizing oversight.

Robin Datta

The value of any currency has to be anchored in actual goods and (the most basic of) services for the currency to survive over the long haul. Theft through inflation and taxation in an environment of fiat "growth" can only happen when the link between currency and and the real world of goods and services is severed.

George Mobus


Are your "pre agricultural revolution methods" in line with permaculture?


Good idea. I suspect there are a number of related projects that a modern version of CCC could get involved with.



What I said was needed would be needed (esp. the bravery and also a willingness to fall on the sword for the good of humanity). But both are lacking as far as I can tell.


One very useful hobby is repairing the soils, no?



Jean-Paul de Vooght

Thanks for your post and very interesting blog I discovered only recently. There's another movement to watch named Transition Movement or Transition Culture which has been initiated by another permaculture educater - Rob Hopkins. There are several hundred transition towns today suggesting that people are not waiting for something to happen. They are taking resilience in their own hands. I can't fail to think that bottom-up sustainability seems to be catching up the more we hear about failed global conferences on a variety of sustainability topics. OurWorld 2.0 anticipates an upcoming fiasco on Biodiversity in a few weeks.
What I like reading here, is the need for control though. While the distributed approach of Transition Towns sounds appealing, it seems a bit too extreme along the local-global continuum. I wonder even to what extent a model like Stafford Beer's VSM could be applied to the coordination of towns for an overall aggregate viable result.

George Mobus

Jean-Paul de Vooght,

Thanks for the comment. Stafford Beer is one of my heros! I studied his work while getting an MBA in management and decision science at San Diego State. I used his work in my thesis. There were a number of systems thinkers from several different "disciplines" that I tried to integrate in that work and it still guides my thinking to this day.

I am familiar with the Transition Town movement (in fact I may be talking about this subject to some folks in Portland one day). I maintain a position of wait and see regarding just how much resilience this approach can produce in light of peak energy. I am more drawn to permaculture ideas because they appear to scale well (as you point out, TT may rely too heavily on locality, but we will need to see.)



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