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« Some Miscellaneous Items | Main | How did Mammals and Birds Survive the End-Cretaceous Event? »

February 07, 2013


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Curtis Fromke

Super Bowl partial blackout followed by cutting the number of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and all kinds of people shooting each other from drug deals gone south to rouge cops doing "The Person of Interest" thing shooting other cops, teenagers shooting themselves if some crazy doesn't do it for them. We seem to be on the way to "The Road".

Kallu Kalakar

I hope the end is near.

It is getting really depressing to deal with all the wanton destruction. To deal with people, who will not listen to reason, who will not open their eyes and objectively evaluate the "progress" that our civilization has made.

I also hope that the wise will inherit the earth. Though somehow I am not sure about human beings becoming any wiser. Seems more likely that the survivors will go back to some form of magical reasoning to explain the predicament they find themselves in. And in time make the mistakes that have been repeatedly repeated in the past.

But we can hope...


George, thanks for another honest essay. i'd go a bit further and at least mention that the end you envision (of smaller, permaculture based communities) entails a rather large die-back event for humanity (as well as many of the other species of plant, animal and marine life we rely on for food) due to the cumulative effects of all the toxic pollution we've dumped into the biosphere since the Industrial Revolution began. If we get the Silent Spring event that's surely coming (if you've noticed, large areas of trees are already dying from rot, disease, pests and toxins in the air and soil - worldwide) where there is a severe shortage of food (ie. no exports) then we'll see humanity start to decline in numbers. Combine the food shortages with economic instability, water shortages, increased storms, flooding and more persistant drought, and possibly the failure of the electrical grid - and we have a recipe for a precipitous decline in our numbers. What the worst case scenario brings is far worse - that we don't decommission all the (over 400) nuclear power plants in time and they all go Fukushima on us. If that happens it won't matter much that we're rapidly heading for a 3 - 6 degree C climb in global avg temp. by mid-century. We can also add the huge increase in methane (coming from melting tundra, permafrost regions, boreal peat areas) and other feedback loops to the increased rate of warming. As a presumed fool, i'd predict (using a back of the envelope mental assessment of the differential rates and their intanglement in the climate system) that we probably won't make it out of the 20's either way.
i hope i'm wrong.


It is intriguing that there is now more interest among the chattering monkeys in the MSM about the reality of global decline and a potentially apocalyptic outcome. As these pseudo-journalists are the mouthpiece for vested interests, one must ask whether there is a rationale for this change of direction, i.e. away from usual denial and ignore-ance of the issues.

The penny is certainly dropping. Steven Chu (ex-Secretary of Energy) has bolted from the government, possibly in an attempt to preserve his status and pension, and even Obama (if he has any brain apart from that of a slick political operator) must wonder whether re-election was such a great thing for his legacy. On his Kafkaesque watch, we have witnessed a complete collapse of the due process of law, habeas corpus and innocent-until-proven-guilty protection of American citizens, a dismantling process rapidly accelerated by Bush (father and son) but which commenced decades ago. Now Obama is presiding over the business-as-usual rape of global energy resources that is destined for failure, no matter how much imperial power is flexed in foreign lands or how much hype is put out by over-lunched lobbyists for the energy plutocracy.

My question therefore is this. Are those with imperial power and wealth making concrete plans to dominate the post-bottleneck Earth, or are they simply willfully oblivious of the reality we discuss here as they ride to personal doom in their limousines?

My gut is telling me that the thin line of psychopathic Alpha males running the show have the cunning to fall into the first category. If so, this begs secondary questions. What are the chances of small permaculture communities being left alone long enough to establish themselves and recalibrate human life on a local level? Will those 'lucky' remnant people just be allowed to exist as serfs of the mighty, producing food for the top table in return for survival? The historical precedents are many.

I remain relatively confident - for want of another word - that some humans will still be around after the event/events ahead of us. The issue is whether there will be seeds for a new and better existence, or a repeat of the pitiful systemic failure that has dogged human society for c.10,000 years.

Aboc Zed


Excellent comment.

I always say that elites are not stupid and there are some of them that are fully aware of wheere the whole is heading and they are preparing to remain on top and pass the reins to their children.

the only way human condition and human predicament will ever change is with wise men and women of science taking over the pecking order structure and its operation.

This is not easy to achive because those people of science do not like to get into the dirt of politics - they prefer to pontificate from the sidelines and be "enablers".

Of course both the top and the tier that is next to them are limited in how much they can institute from the top because the whole pyramid is so big and momentum of evolution out of ignornace is so overpowering that only few individuals even consider contemplating what can be done to eventually stop it and reverse it.

A lot of people try to blame the elites for their 'lack of due care' but I think it is unfair because they did not chose to be born into their families and have the pass they had.

I think the most we can do for future generations is to leave the proper language describing how the human condition naturally falls into what we have simply because we evolved out of ignornace and we constantly get fresh injections of neo-nate ignorance.

The sapient sub-species that will eventually find themselves in the dynamic stability of sustainable management (or non-0management depending how you look at it) of the planetary system of LIFE will have to solve a problem of having EACH child planned, conceived, and brought up to be fully functional mamer of the organism-whole in such a way as to shape him/her capable of functioning within the eusocial system in the smooth way and be able to move up and down the hierarchy with ease without questioning why it is hapenning; why it is needed and what is it in it personally for him/her.

We are long way from that but we will eventually get there because it is an attractor state of LIFE as robust self-regulating chemical system of matter.

Tony Noerpel

Hi George

One problem with resilient or transformational communities, etc. is that we are all dependent on the foolishness around us. If corporations start fracking in your neighbor's yard, you are screwed as well. It would seem like a West Virginia holler would be a great place to start a resilient communitybut good luck with mountaintop removal.




Now that one rings a chord!

The crash of 2008 also did send me off to get into EROI a bit more, I started with Pimentel's "Food, Energy, and Society" which is great with its wealth of information.

I also noticed that our politicians start noticing, have a look at the following talk by Denis Meadows in front of a Bundestag commission on growth, the economy, and quality of life (he starts at 0:50, unfortunately the German interpreter is much louder).

This some while later appears to have led to politicians getting questionnaires about the indicators he was talking about. So at least our politicians start thinking harder about energy related decline.

I also hear the topic of growth coming up from some unexpected channels, like some cop friend who just made some growth related remark.

Maybe this rubs off on at least some of your politicians.

Beyond that, the guy on the street just blames other people.

To start off on a different angle, I have read in the past about how combinations of essential oils, saltwater, and vinegar can preserve foods at much lower concentrations compared to using them not in combination. The paper I have read mentioned synergistic effects leading to this outcome. Unfortunately I can not point you straight to the paper but there is a deluge of them available, here is an example:

Now I'm wondering whether synergistic effects could accidentally kill us off faster, to state this bluntly. Maybe this is something that should be avoided. Maybe if there should be priorities on how to adapt to the decline, synergistic effects should be avoided especially. Does somebody already think along these lines?

Joseph Ormond

Great! love your honesty. I have been reading your blog for awhile. Your story reads much like my own. I got into microcomputers (that what we called PCs) back in the late 70 and went through the oil shock then. Made my career in local government service retired in 1998 after putting a PC on everyone desk. I thought I had it all figured out. Started taking geology classes at the Humboldt State University in their over 60 program. Discovered Hubbert curve in a beginning geology book. Invested in mutual oil funds when my mother died and left me some money. Again thought I had it all figured out. Is pent like drunken sailor on shore leave in the run up to $140 a barrel. Lost my ass and courage because I didn't know anything about economics. Started volunteering at the local community garden across the street about 4 years ago. Recently started heading up a food/farm subgroup within Transition Humboldt. Digging up the grass and planting food in the yard. Hope I got it right this time but given my track record I probably don't!

Bodhi Chefurka

I have a recent insight to share on this topic.

First, consider HT Odum's Maximum Power Principle:

"During self-organization, system designs develop and prevail that maximize power intake, energy transformation, and those uses that reinforce production and efficiency."

What does this tell us about why human civilization has developed as it has, and ended up in the shape it has taken?

Next, consider the principle of "Primacy of Infrastructure" developed by anthropologist Marvin Harris as part of the theory of Cultural Materialism.

Harris took Marx's tripartite system of {infrastructure, structure and superstructure} into the anthropological realm. In this interpretation, "Infrastructure" denotes all the technology we use to interface with the natural world's resources. "Structure" is our socioeconomic edifice - the political, economic, corporate, legal, educational and other systems that form the structural backbone of our society. The superstructure is the layer that houses all our beliefs and values - the art, literature, religion, philosophy that describes how we see ourselves and the world.

The principle of Primacy of Infrastructure can be stated this way:

"Social influences probabilistically flow upward, from the infrastructure to the structure and from there to the superstructure. There is much less influence in the other direction."

OK, now consider Harris' principle as a corollary of Odum's.

What does this combination tell us about our chances of reshaping the world towards a decline or even a restraint in the use of energy resources, by using education or activism?

If upon reflection you think our chances are anything but zero, would you please explain why?



since I'm a friend of short quotes let me repeat one by Oscar Wilde I just lately came across:

"The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends."

OSCAR WILDE, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

While this goes roughly in line with most of the things I hear about energy's role in society, there seems to be some hope left. For instance if you read Tainters book "Collapse of Complex Societies" there is some mention of the Kachin people in Burma on p. 17. He explains that these people can be found organized into three different forms ranging from egalitarian to feudal (and mostly they fall back to the egalitarian state). To me this appears hopeful since there doesn't seem to be some kind of automatism that forces people into slavery while others have a decent (Yeah, what is decent?) live.

If you check up on the Kachin in the news you can find articles like the following:

Well damn, hope is under attack!
But besides that, culture seems to make sometimes a lot of difference, i.e. you could compare gun culture between the US and Switzerland.


This is fresh from CNN denying the oil peak phenomena. To me after reading your blog it sounds like self delusion.

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