A presentation with audio and another about bioenergy

Two presentations follow. The first focuses on the twin sides of the fossil fuel coin and what we can do about it, as presented in Louisville, Kentucky earlier this week. It’s similar to many presentations I’ve given recently and it includes an audio file, so you can follow along with the slides. The second was presented at International Bioenergy Days 2010 in Rockford, Illinois. As usual, the formats are awkward here, requiring you to download the large files as read-only Powerpoint documents. As usual, an email request will result in me sending you the original Powerpoint file(s).

When I discuss mitigation for ecological and economic collapse, I stress the crucial role of human community. And I’m not the only one: A few students with whom I am working this semester are focusing on how to communicate in community, with full awareness where we are and where we’re headed. They have developed a blog, and I encourage your participation as we struggle to find our way in a world turned inside out.

Louisville, Kentucky public library Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Audio file (special thanks to Nate Pederson for recording and archiving the presentation — may he attract the attention of the government as a result)

Powerpoint (pdf)

International Bioenergy Days 2010 presentation Monday, 27 September 2010

Powerpoint (pdf)

Comments 31

  • Guy, Thank you for posting the audio of your talk I really enjoyed it and I appreciate the Q & A being included.
    What kinds of reactions did you get during your talk? Were most on board or did you have some skeptics? and whats going to happen once the shtf and you have 500 people showing up in your community?

  • Reaction was decidedly mixed, Sue. Many people were surprised about the many people predicting completion of the ongoing collapse so quickly. Almost everybody to whom I speak believes we have a decade or two, not recognizing the “lost decade” the industrial economy has already experienced. Few people pay any attention to the morality of the issue: For nearly everybody, the focus is on how long they live, not how they live.

    It’s a long way from Chicago to the mud hut 🙂

  • Bioenergy Days: Guy, very good briefing, if people don’t get it, then they don’t want to get it.

    Two weeks from now I will be picking up my new team of Suffolk Punch draft horses. The tractors are going bye-bye, the tractor implements are being replaced with good quality horse drawn implements and we are making progress with the conversion off of the grid.

    I don’t know when collapse will occur, end of 2011? End of 2012? End of 2015? It really doesn’t matter for us. What got my attention was raising electric rates and how that was impacting our ability to operate a farm. That single issue led me to peak oil, economic collapse, and the coming end of our “modern” society.

    But, as you point out, that will probably be a good thing in many ways…some days I am excited, other days I’m filled with dread.

    Randy

  • Well, one more year, one less year… it’s not really important for Gaia; does not make any significant difference, except for one thing: many of us haven’t yet made all the needful arrangements.

    Give me one year and I will be a plunderer/farmer. Two more years, and I’ll farm full time. Five, and I’ll have a community… and my own militia. So, for me it means a lot. This sound like a single question: How many years do you think we still have, Guy? One, two? Five…? The oil supply is still big (but there is no way to increase it, of course).

  • Someone who agrees with Guy is Dmitry Orlov http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/ who witnessed the Soviet collapse. He put collapse, if I remember correctly, in about the same time frame as Guy does. Close at any rate. The problem with predicting collapse is that you can’t say any one thing will cause a collapse, rather it is the whole interacting that will do in industrial civilization. But whatever the date the signs keep piling up if one is willing to see them. Demand collapse due to economic collapse has perhaps put us on a plateau extending the time we get to continue the party. But the end of a plateau is usually a cliff not a slope.

    I hope Guy and Dmitry are right for many reasons. One is that if humans are going to survive as a species there will be some number less than what we have now that will be supported by planet earth. Since each year we add 70 million humans to the planet, each year that collapse is delayed 70 million more will die untimely deaths. Since each year collapse is delayed we further add CO2 to the atmosphere and continue the destruction of our ecosystem, the longer collapse is delayed the less humans the planet will support. Thus some number higher than 70 million humans will die untimely deaths. We all die, but Hitler only killed some 6 million people. Think about each year as approximately 12 Hitlers.

    The other reason I hope they are right is for all the other species that are being extincted daily by our rapacious use of our home, planet earth.

  • You made it on Energy Bulletin again! http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-10-03/getting-word-out-oct-3

    Could this be a sign of the closeness of the end – ie how many of your blog posts make it on EB?

  • Kathy, I was pleasantly surprised by the link on EB — usually they refuse to acknowledge the posts the editors there view as dire (economically or ecologically)

  • Guy, perhaps the signs of how dire things are getting are becoming more obvious and thus your posts are seen as more realistic than the Pollyanna posts?

  • One day soon, I hope, population biologists in particular and other knowledgeable people with appropriate expertise in population dynamics will carefully examine as well as openly report extant science of what could be giving rise to the recent skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers. Experts are blindly ignoring, consciously avoiding and willfully hiding science in their silence. Experts with power to make a difference that makes a difference will not continue much longer, I trust, to deny their responsibilities to science and their duties to humanity by refusing to speak out about what they believe to be true regarding the unsustainable consumption, hoarding, production and overpopulation activities of humankind in our time, and by choosing instead to give credence to all manner of preternatural thinking, contrived logic, ideological idiocy, stupidity and madness. By remaining electively mute, they also silently consent to whatsoever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially attractive, culturally syntonic and favorable to selfish interests of the wealthy and powerful .

    Are a tiny minority of influential people going to get away with their forfeiture of future human wellbeing, life as we know it, environmental health and the integrity of Earth’s body?

    Speaking out loudly, clearly and often regarding whatsoever could somehow be true will not sink humanity or the Earth as a fit place for human habitation. On the other hand, if the brightest and best among us conspicuously deny what could somehow be real about the human overpopulation of Earth in favor of support for patently unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation acitivities by the human species, such as we see overspreading the surface of the Earth in our time, then what chance of a good enough future can the children realistically be expected to behold?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/
    http://www.panearth.org/

  • Fiat currencies lost around 3% of the purchasing value over the past week (gold $1340, oil $83).

    But the Dow is up ….. and that’s the only thing that matters as far as most fincancial commentators are concerned.

  • Hope you’re right, Kathy. I for one live for the day when I can no longer hear the whine of the Interstate in the distance.

    With oil comfortably back over $80/barrel, and gold pushing $1350/oz., and the political and financial pundits as clueless as ever, I believe that day is not so far away.

    Surely hyperinflation, or stagflation, or some combination thereof, is at hand?

  • Be careful what you wish for Christopher. We have forced ourselves into a situation where we live off of what we can produce. We both have other incomes, but that all goes into savings, and infrastructure. It’s not easy, and alot of the time it really sucks. Dinner tonight was squash with rice and herbs which probably cost around 50 cents. It’s pretty much the same thing we had last night. If you are not completely ready to live a sustainable live and have everything set in place and never have to leave your proprety then you had better hope things continue as they are.
    Jean if you can be farming full time in 3 years that would be amazing. The truth for alot of folks that I know is completely different. Most smale scale farmers today require at least one person to work off farm. We have no kids, so unlike a Mennonite family it’s just us out there working the farm. Go to a farmer’s market and try and compete against someone with 8 or 9 kids that work for room and board. You better be good enough to specialize in something they have difficulty replicating, because if you are growing what everyone else is growing you won’t last very long.
    To answer your question, Guy said we felt we would enter the dark ages this year or next, and then lights out by 2012. I certainly hope he’s wrong. I would like another couple of years

    Best hopes

    Ed

  • “Jean if you can be farming full time in 3 years that would be amazing. The truth for alot of folks that I know is completely different. Most smale scale farmers today require at least one person to work off farm. We have no kids, so unlike a Mennonite family it’s just us out there working the farm. Go to a farmer’s market and try and compete against someone with 8 or 9 kids that work for room and board. You better be good enough to specialize in something they have difficulty replicating, because if you are growing what everyone else is growing you won’t last very long.
    To answer your question, Guy said we felt we would enter the dark ages this year or next, and then lights out by 2012. I certainly hope he’s wrong. I would like another couple of years”

    My speciality? Well, I studied pharmacy and biochemistry, but after that I made many things… over all, prepare myself for the violent world coming. Now we can say that I’m specialist in violence.

  • Surely what we need more than ever right now is a severe economic shock which shakes society out of the complacency and denial that are so endemic (or is that pandemic?). Thst might just trigger some powerdown strategies (as happened in teh 70s) while energy systems still function …. the ‘soft landing versus hard landing that some of us have been talking about for the best part of a decade (and have been igmored).

    One would assume that the ‘powers that be’ in the US are working furiously to stop the ship sinking before the next round of elections -yet there is much evidence they are failing miserably… gold around $1360, and oil up again in the midst of the biggest financial squeeze since the Great Depression….. perhaps everything (except the US imperialist/oil wars) is now being driven by China.

    The next two months are going to be very interesting.

    (By the way, the ‘idiot’ mayor of Las Vegas was on BBC World yesterday, talking about a construction boom predicated on expanding the population by half a million using water obtained from multi-billion dollar desalination plants and/or trans-state water pipelines. I guess he is typical of the energy illiterate, environmentallly illiterate zombies in the corridors of power.)

  • Ed, I hear you. I had a taste of TEOTWAWKI after Hurricane Katrina. My family and community lived without electricity for two weeks. In Mississippi. In August. It was hard, but looking back, it was remarkable for the relationships that grew. We certainly got to know everyone in our neighborhood much better! Funny thing is, when the power came back on, the relationships withered, and have not been the same since. I think we all found out we’re made of sterner stuff than our lords would have us believe, and we got along just fine without internet, television, and phones… played a lot of cards and board games by candlelight! But my hope is that collapse will prevent our species from committing suicide, and taking down the rest of life on the planet in the process. For that, I’m willing to endure what that entails… I’ve been tested, and am ready to face collapse with open eyes, heart, and mind.

  • Christopher, I guess that proves what alot of folks say and that is electricity isn’t the number one priority. Water is. One of the reasons we moved to the Fingerlakes region is because it has the greatest concentration of fresh water in the world. On 34 acres we have 3 springs which deliver even in the driest of summers. Fracking scares the crap out of us. We are always working at building relationships, developing community, and we hope that these relationships will sustain, but you never know.
    Jean, I have a rottweiler at the front door and a 12 gauge pump shotgun next to my bed. The rottweiler would probably lick you death, and even in my darkest imaginations I cannot invision that I would ever use that gun to kill another human being.
    We like the idea of being slightly prosperous peasants during the coming years. Nothing more.

    Best hopes,

    Ed

  • “We like the idea of being slightly prosperous peasants during the coming years. Nothing more.”

    Honestly, I hate violence; but it’s something you can not ignore about the future: food will be precious during the dark age incoming. Do you think that people living in cities (the vast majority of mankind) will simply sit on their arses and die? No, they will try to survive, plundering if neccesary. A small village of peasants can resist that shit storm, but they need formal training as a militia, plus normalization of weapons, plus a command structure… and that’s precisely my speciality.

    I also like rabbits.

  • Ed you are right that water is prime. However most people in the US rely on electricity to get their water. When the electric grid goes down for good oil will become irrelevant as there will be no refineries much less pumps at the gas station. Its not that gas can’t be pumped by hand. It can. But without electricity the forges that made hand pumps will not be created. Again its not that they couldn’t but society will be so turned on end and no doubt anarchy will reign in the cities that rebuilding an electricity free manufacturing base will become impossible. I don’t relish what is coming. But if humanity is to survive (and as I noted if less humans have to die untimely deaths) then the sooner the crash comes the better. But I am past peak human age and have less living to loose so I can be calmer about what is coming, since my demise is coming relentlessly anyway.

  • When the grid goes down, people will quickly find they’re spending all their time on food, water and shelter, just like huymans have for the past 25,000 years or more.

    In mid-August we went off-grid for water supply only, and am finding it is taking some getting used to; planning water use to coincide with mid-day sunshine, and checking the tank at night to be sure it’s at 48 lbs before turning in if we both will be taking pre-dawn showers, as on a travel day. Pumping switches to AC at night and off AC and supposedly onto solar/DC at dawn, but solar doesn’t kick in for a couple of hours, so there is a potential water-free period there. We put in a switch to manually go over to AC if needed. Next step will be a big holding tank… as I said, you spend more time that you thought you would just fine-tuning a working alternative system – let alone dealing with a completely collapsed one, while your neighbors are all going through the same thing.

  • Helen,

    Very realistic, I can not deny; but that’s a picture of the first days of the collapse (and the last ones of industrial monster). By that moment, I’ll be far away from any town or city, and I hope that you too…

    Indeed, humans will start searching food, water and shelter.

    Perhaps YOUR FOOD, YOUR WATER and YOUR HOUSE… since there will be not enough for everyone. Sometimes Gaia is ruthless.

    Keep sharpening your knives, ladies and gentlemen.

  • Helen, when just a teen I read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. One scene stuck in my mind. The young Chinese peasant was getting ready to go get his purchased bride. He surprised all his family by taking a bath. It was unusual as their custom was to bathe once a year. When you have to pump your own water by hand or carry it by bucket from a stream, your need for baths somehow becomes less. Much of what we do is determined by what we can do. I have a hand washing machine with hand ringer. I can tell you that I wash far far less frequently than I did in the past. If I had to pump that water from our well with our hand pump (installed in one well in anticipation of collapse) and possibly heat it by building a fire, I find it likely that I would wash clothes only when they reached the point where they stood up by themselves.

    Jean, None of us will survive even if BAU continued for 100 years. We are mortal. When collapse comes many will die much sooner and in different ways that we might expect (although not necessarily worse as extended dying in our current culture can often be quite cruel). I say this because I think it is helpful to recognize that no matter how many knives you sharpen, how many weapons you stockpile, you will not survive even though you may survive longer than without those weapons (this is not however assured – sometimes choosing to fight is the more dangerous course of action).

    Knowing and contemplating our mortality can help us (while planning for the future) remember to enjoy the present one day at a time.

  • Kathy that was very well put. Getting water, washing clothes all become so much more difficult and time consuming without the grid. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it will be cooking with a woodstove even though our next big purchase will be exactly that. We already heat with wood. Trying to recreate your previous lifestyle without abundant supplies of FF is impossible, so if you are preparing you had better just forget about it. An off grid/off propane life will have wonderful moments and they may offset the drudgery somewhat.
    Yes Jean Gaia is ruthless. Despite our best precautions, including 250 watt outdoor lighting, coyotes killed 11 of our chickens last night. We have had no problems for 3 years. Dog didn’t bark, the gun stayed by the bed. Don’t get me wrong because I believe in preparing just as you do. Sometimes I wonder if the way some of us are preparing is really the best way.

    Best

    Ed

  • Ed, are you sure it was a coyote and not a fox or bobcat? coyotes here make off with one chicken at a time, every tnight, but foxes act like they’ve landed in the Great Celestial XBox and just kill, kill, kill. I have a freezer full of unplucked, whole dead chickens, owl food from a neighbor’s losses to a fox.

    Ed, wood stoves are wonderful! fear not! though you may re-discover that old-timey feature, the summer kitchen (a second cooking area outside the house).

    We lived on the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center for two years in an old slave cabin with no modern heat or running water. Heat came from the wood stove, a beautiful gray and chrome Home Comfort. The oven got hot enough for pizza (450+), and there were nooks here and there all over it for bread rising, yogurt culturing, plate warming, mitten drying and dog snuggling. It was the heart of the house, and people coming into the tiny room that served as kitchen, dining and living area just naturally gravitated to that stove. We went through a couple of cords of wood in one of the coldest winters in Maryland on record. Water came from a spring, by bucket. We did laundry at laundromats and showered at the Endangered Species office so it wasn’t a thoroughly primitive experience, but it sure was no hardship cooking on that stove. It heated the house, sort of, which was so drafty that upstairs the snow would accumulated on the comforter on the bed on blizzardy nights.

    Back to the summer kitchen: my in-laws were Pennsylvania German and grew up under the shadow of Hawk Mountain. The family home had a summer kitchen with sinks and a wood stove in a lean-to attached to the house, where all cooking the canning was done during those hot muggy Pennsylvania August and September days.

    Wood stoves aren’t too compatible with smoke alarms, though, and it may play havoc with your homeowner’s insurance.

  • Surely what we need more than ever right now is a severe economic shock which shakes society out of the complacency and denial that are so endemic (or is that pandemic?). Thst might just trigger some powerdown strategies (as happened in teh 70s) while energy systems still function …. the ‘soft landing versus hard landing that some of us have been talking about for the best part of a decade (and have been igmored).

    One would assume that the ‘powers that be’ in the US are working furiously to stop the ship sinking before the next round of elections -yet there is much evidence they are failing miserably… gold around $1360, and oil up again in the midst of the biggest financial squeeze since the Great Depression….. perhaps everything (except the US imperialist/oil wars) is now being driven by China.

    The next two months are going to be very interesting.

    (By the way, the ‘idiot’ mayor of Las Vegas was on BBC World yesterday, talking about a construction boom predicated on expanding the population by half a million using water obtained from multi-billion dollar desalination plants and/or trans-state water pipelines. I guess he is typical of the energy illiterate, environmentallly illiterate zombies in the corridors of power.)

  • Helen, thank you very much. Sounds like quite an experience at Pax River.
    I certainly can’t post the following in the most recent blog by Guy, so I hope you get this.
    We have made the aquaintance of a man who is retired, and now supports himself by nuisance trapping. He’s actually trapped for his entire life, and the knowledge he has is incredible. Talked to him for a long time last night, and he said the the only thing that would do that kind of damage was a domesticated dog. Every wild animal would have taken something with them. We have mink and weasals and they would at least take the head. He said its because they like the brains best. There is fox scat around, but a fox would have taken at least one.
    The outdoor kitchen will have to wait until next year, as will the root cellar. At that point we are pretty much done. All the nut and berry trees we could ever possibly need are in as well as all sorts of herbaceuos perennials.

    Ed

  • Ed: ah you are so right… domestic dog(s) will do exactly that, to poultry, sheep or goats. Wild critters go for brains because they are rich and lightweight and fast to process when eaten. Brains are to muscle meat as Coleman fuel is to motor oil. I’ve studied hawks at the nest for years, and in Accipiters (Goshawk, Cooper’s Hawks, Sharpshinned Hawks) the males who do most of the hunting and are on the move constantly come in wtih prey for the brood that’s almost invariably missing the back of the head, ie brain. This isn’t to suggest we should follow suit; as people food, a 3 oz serving of brains contains about 3000 mg of cholesterol.

  • “Yes Jean Gaia is ruthless. Despite our best precautions, including 250 watt outdoor lighting, coyotes killed 11 of our chickens last night. We have had no problems for 3 years. Dog didn’t bark, the gun stayed by the bed. Don’t get me wrong because I believe in preparing just as you do. Sometimes I wonder if the way some of us are preparing is really the best way.”

    OUCH! 11 chickens are bad, but at least I hope you could find some survivors!

    May I suggest the use of traps for coyotes? If one dies, leave its corps getting rotten where it fell.

    About our course of action it’s this:

    1.- produce our own food.
    2.- Learn how to manufacture the basic things we need.
    3.- Learn how to fight.

    If you forget point 3, the inevitable conclusion will be this: “HELLO, MY NAME IS JETHRO, MMMMMM, I like your farm, and I have an M4 assault rifle: thanks for taking so much time and effort to build it for me. Do you prefer being shot in the head or in the head?”: this is the mentality of a plunderer. If they are intelligent enough they will simply build small feudal communities with us (peasants) as servants and they (warlords) as absolute owners.

    I’m serious: I’m trying to build a community and I always have this problem with peace lovers: they don’t notice that desperate people is irrational, and there is no way too feed everyone.

  • We are getting closer to talking about the “mother” of human-induced global challenges.

    It appears that people are beginning to get used to discussing the overpopulation of Earth, despite the formidable and conspicuous resistance of such discussions. For a moment imagine that human overpopulation of the living Earth is like a live human organism having lung cancer. Please note that although it is exceedingly difficult to talk about “the big C”, it is much more demanding to speak out about the cause of the lung cancer: smoking tobacco products. Similarly, despite the challenges we have to speaking out loudly and clearly about the skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers during my lifetime, it is much more difficult say anything about what might be causing global human population growth. Of course that brings us to human population dynamics. This is the last of the last taboos, I believe. The denial of the science of human population dynamics appears to me as one of the most colossal failures of nerve in human history. The abandonment of intellectual honesty and moral courage is unconscionable.

    One day human population dynamics will become a topic of open discussion, that is certain. When that time comes, I trust it is not too late to make a difference in the lives of our children, who are probably going to be unimaginably victimized not only by our outrageous selfishness but also by our abject cowardice.

  • Absolutely agree.

    After the inevitable failure of industrial civilization, we must learn how to control population growth; if we don’t this kind of catastrophes will always happen.

  • One difference between what is happening now and what occurred in every yesteryear leading up to this moment in space-time is simply this: we have knowledge of what we are doing and are choosing, in the face of all the historical and scientific evidence, to do precisely the same things our unknowing ancestors did…. the things that effectively destroyed the world they inhabited. Of course, the failures of our ancestors also did not precipitate the massive extinction of life as it was for thousands of years on Earth, neither did their reflexive behavior threaten the entire planet as a fit place for human habitation.