Brace for impact

Famed energy scholar Richard Heinberg is extremely conservative with his estimates, and he has updated his forecast. Whereas in spring 2009 he was predicting the industrial age would run until 2014 or perhaps even 2016, he’s changed his tune. Radically. Now he says it’s coming to a halt this autumn, a forecast that matches the November 2009 forecast of French bank Société Générale and is consistent with rapid completion of a long decline in the industrial economy in the wake of oil priced at $120 per barrel after being fatally weakened by the first big post-peak spike in 2008.

In other words, it’s game over, folks, and far sooner than most people imagined. Let’s hope Heinberg is correct, and also that the lights are out in time to save us from our hedonistic selves.

Looks like my memoir might be published, but not widely distributed. Regular readers know the story, and I cannot imagine anybody else is particularly interested. The short version is found in the latest issue of Conservation Biology as an article (pdf file).

And it looks like I’ll not be hosting a television show about collapse. Ditto for the documentary film on my efforts, currently in development.

So much for my ego.

More importantly, it appears we will not have a solar ice-maker at the mud hut. Nearly a year in development, I’m already missing what I’ve never had. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a new one.


If you’re reading this post and you make it to one or more of these presentations, please introduce yourself before or after the event.

Tuesday, 13 September at 12:30 p.m., UW-Green Bay’s Christie Theater (bottom floor, Student Union), Green Bay, Wisconsin: Preparing for a durable future in light of climate chaos and energy decline (sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay)

Thursday, 15 September at 7:00 p.m., Ontario Room of Northern Michigan University’s University Center, Marquette, Michigan: Durable living in the face of increasing global temperature and decreasing global energy supply (sponsored by Northern Michigan University Students for Sustainable Living and Transition Marquette County)

Friday, 16 September 2011 at 6:30 p.m., Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore, 104 East Munising Avenue, Munising, Michigan: Transitioning in Munising: Durable living in the face of climate change and peak oil (sponsored by Transition Munising)

Sunday, 18 September at 11:00 a.m. (Community Action and Global Climate Change) and 1:00 p.m. (title to be determined for this workshop in the woods), Lake City, Michigan, Global change and community action, part of the formal program for Earthwork Harvest Gathering

Monday, 19 September at 6:00 p.m., First Congregational Church Fellowship Hall, 200 Harris Street, Cadillac, Michigan: Transitioning in Cadillac (sponsored by Transition Cadillac)

Tuesday, 20 September at 7:00 p.m., Thornapple Township Hall, 200 E. Main St., Middleville, Michigan: Durable Living, Resilient Communities (sponsored by Local Future)

Comments 46

  • Heinberg’s forecast gives me great hope, though I worry that if it’s a miss it may damage his credibility. But with the accelerating pace of things falling apart lately — one can almost hear the rivets popping off the shell of the industrial economy — TPTB are gonna have a hard time holding things together until Spring.

    I’m hoping for a silent Spring, and not the Rachel Carson kind: rather, a Spring without the roar of engines.

    I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

  • I’m doing a piece for National Geographic on their Doomers and Preppers series. They wanted to profile the more community minded prepper, sort of a Joe and Mary Average get prepared. They want to see the bees and the preservation equipment, the foraging and the greenhouse. They won’t see radiation suits or arsenals although I am holding a cider pressing party for them. Like you, I’m wondering if it will ever see the light of day. They better hurry. I sure wish you were going to be at the Mother Earth News Fair.

  • Know what you mean about the ego taking a hit. Thought we had much to offer those who wanted an escape route, just didn’t realize there were so few looking.

    Think it was January 2006 when Heinberg spoke in Eugene. We remember his speech of the movement hoping to wake up 5% of the people, not sure if we’ll reach that goal but hopefully he’s right about this Fall. We noticed the leaves fell early this year off the Big Leaf Maples.

    Wishing you well on your travels and us that know your story thank you.

  • Are people being prevented from examining scientific evidence or else duplicitously biased against science by the mass media?

    How could the perpetration of so pervasive a silence with respect to science of human population dynamics, as well as the widely shared consensually validated broadcasts of pseudoscience, ever have been accomplished during the last four decades? What is going on? I cannot help but ask the questions. How did this willful denial of what could be real occur on our watch? How have the ubiquitous broadcasts of false hopes and promises been maintained regarding a benign, soon to occur, and somehow automatic end to human population growth by 2050? Has delusional thinking and ideological idiocy been allowed to rule the world during our lifetime because many too many experts chose to remain mute regarding evidence of human population growth or, even worse, to act as censors of the best available scientific evidence? Are powerful and influential experts colluding with “the powers that be” to deny science?

    Why would leaders and followers in a single generation choose not to speak out loudly, clearly and often in a time when a paradise is being turned into an inferno? Can malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance, extreme foolishness and outrageous avarice of a tiny dishonest and immoral minority of the human family be at least partially responsible for such an intolerable situation? How else can such a thing as a colossal human-driven extinction event occur so fast, before our eyes, with ‘the brightest and best’, “the smartest guys in the room” leading the way? Are self-proclaimed masters of the universe in possession of critical decision-making authority at the top of the global political economy leading all of us down a primrose path, come what may? Are power and greed mongers shouting everywhere “greed is good” and acting on what they have proclaimed to be their ‘inalienable rights’ to perpetrate some unimaginable sort of global ecological wreckage without a word being spoken for 40 years. Perhaps we are witnessing not only the sixth extinction event, the first such event to be precipitated by a species, but also the sight of something unthinkable: silence killing the world.

    Leaders and followers alike in the family of humanity can do better, and I trust we will soon enough awaken in a determinative critical mass of human beings with feet of clay to the need for behavior change. Support in the form of silent consent of the adamant advocacy and relentless pursuit of a morally disengaged and patently unsustainable way of life — one of endless population growth and unbridled economic expansion — simply cannot be tolerated any longer.

    It is never too late to stand up and be counted or to do the right thing, I suppose.

  • Good read in Conservation Biology Guy.
    It’s all about being able to look in the mirror.

  • Dear Guy, Kathy, Christopher,

    Would you review and comment on scientific research? The article is “Genetic Feedback and Human Population Regulation.”

    Thank you,


    Steven Earl Salmony AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  • Well, permit me to be a bit of a contrarian. Not a cornucopian, but neither a “The End Is Nigh!” prognosticator. I’m not even claiming humans will not extinguish themselves, just that it won’t happen overnight.

    Rome took a couple hundred years to fall. Granted, they did not have as rapid a rise, and the faster you go up, the faster you come down. But the point is that lots of things tend to peter out, rather than go out with a bang.

    A more contemporary example is the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Although the fall of the Berlin Wall and other events make this see event-like, it was actually a process, Russia has lost a significant portion of its population, but largely through attrition and self-abuse (alcoholism). They went through an Orlov Level-3 Collapse, and yet there are still people living there, albeit closer to the earth than before. Some 45% of their food is being produced on 7% of the land via “dacha gardens,” which all the common folk have.

    The question Dmitry Orlov asks is if America could withstand the sort of process the FSU went through. Perhaps not, but will it find out in a period of days, weeks, months, or years?

    Based on the FSU example, I think most people who are working toward personal sustainability — most of you reading this — will “make it” through, because there is incredible waste and excess capacity in the system. Oil has fallen to ~$80 a barrel, so there will be enough for at least a bit more industrial agriculture, if not long-haul trucking.

    I’ve said it before, and it is more of a feeling and belief than anything based on facts and science, but I think humanity will go out with a whimper, not a bang.

  • Guy, you do no one, including yourself, any favors by misrepresenting what others, especially well-known figures, say. Claiming that Heinberg says “the industrial age” “is coming to an end this autumn” (my quotes) had my stomach tightening and my fingers following the link to the relevant interview.

    What Heinberg actually says is: “We literally COULD see a 2008 economic event later this year”. That is extremely serious, and the consequences of another such event at this stage could be dire indeed. BUT, Heinberg did NOT say what you report him as saying, whatever you may believe and hope would follow IF Heinberg’s fears are realised.

    You are an academic, and a lot of people (not enough) pay attention to what you write. The plight we are all in makes the accuracy of your words all the more important.

    I hope you will take this comment in the positive spirit in which it is intended.

  • Jan Steinman, the U.S. industrial economy has been declining since 2000. This is not surprising considering, according to BP data, we hit the undulating plateau of oil extraction in 1998.

    Graham Wells, I’m paraphrasing the linked article by JB Sties at Transition Voice. I will not pay for the podcast or transcript.

  • I tend to believe that collapse is an impending event that will occur. I for one do not relish the idea that many proclaim, for it to happen as soon as possible. How this can be a good thing, in terms of the chaotic events that will most assuredly follow, is beyond me. In no way is 95% (assuming 5% is somewhat prepared)of the population ready for this. If one can envision a future that will be liveable in collapse, I urge you to think again as your best friends, and, maybe family, and hordes of others, come looking to take what you have, by any means necessary!

    To me, this kind of thinking is suicidal ideation on steroids. We must fight with every ounce of energy we have, while preparing at the same time. Hoping collapse comes is giving in and not in any way sane!

  • Guy, the podcast with Heinberg is free (now) although originally it was $1. I was a little surprised by Heinberg’s statement regarding his thoughts on when another financial shockwave might occur. However, the situation in Greece appears to be deteriorating rapidly: default looms ahead.

    the Automatic Earth is also sounding the alarm:

    For those of you seeking a deeper understanding the fate of the Euro and it’s weaker member states, check out Steve Ludlum’s blog ‘Economic Undertow.’ The key issue is debt and petrol. Would YOU sell gas to Greece at this point? If not, say goodbye to Germany’s automakers…

    Good luck with the speaking engagments! Let’s hope your get their attention.

  • P.S. Thanks for the link to my piece!

  • Loyal Hoag, fight for what? A continuation of Business as Usual? If so then you are only fighting to continue the insanity that brought humanity to this point.

  • jb:

    Greece has no cash, no credit, no credibility, but their olive oil is excellent. I would not sell them anything unless they paid in gold in advance.

    The first country to try to go without oil. They could sell tickets to see that.

  • I continue to be of two minds on the issue of the timing of collapse. On the one hand, I long for the end to the destruction of the natural world that the human race is wreaking. (I think, Loyal Hoag, this is what the others mean – at least partly – when they long for collapse.) On the other hand, in no stretch of the imagination am I ready for what will happen. I’m working on it, but I’m not ready. I’ve made significant progress over the past year and I might squeak by somehow if collapse happens this Fall, but . . .

    That being said, it’s all about the speed of collapse. Short of a nuclear war, I don’t think I’ll go to bed one night with industrial economy looming large and wake up the next morning with it all but gone. I tend to think collapse will come in waves or pulses and will occur in pockets first and become widespread as it speeds up. There is ample historical precedent for this. Of course, to my knowledge, we’ve never experienced total global collapse with peak everything before. So, historical precedent may not account for much.

    Regardless how it all plays out, I’m going to just keep living one day at a time, doing my best to live a full, happy life doing what I can to prepare for whatever tomorrow brings. Best wishes to all.

  • A friend made a comment to me the other day that the far right in the U.S. is clearly insane. They appear to be doing everything they can to take as much money as possible from the working and middle classes and give it to the rich, all while making sure that the very people they’re taking from can buy all the assault and automatic weaponry they can carry. Are the Koch brothers, et al, not thinking about who all those gun sights will likely be targeting when the straw finally breaks that camel’s back?

    If there is a major crash this Fall, I’m guessing that there are going to be lots of bullets flying. It may be lights out for an awful lot of folks, but from guns, not the electricity grid failing.

  • Guy, so it’s clear that Heinberg did NOT say that the industrial age is coming to an end this autumn. He has, however, become noticeably more pessimistic, I think not least because he’s had to accept that most people are not as rational as he is, and that the clear presentation of irrefutable facts isn’t sufficient for their general acceptance. It also seems to me that he sometimes moderates his pessimistic tone, depending on his audience.

  • I see another kathy is now posting. So I will in the future add the C to my name to differentiate between us.

    Guy, Heinberg’s first book was in some ways his most pessimistic book. I think he has since then tried to be hopeful. Something I read from him at one point basically said that he needed to try be hopeful, try do something, because the future he saw was too awful.

    In one of his books, I think his first, he indicates that one of the stances the powers could take is Last Man Standing. His reference to The Road would seem to indicate that he still fears that might be the scenario we are headed to. While collapse of industrial civilization would be good for the planet, last man standing with all the nukes flying would not. I fear that may happen, but have some hope that collapse will come so fast and furious that it doesn’t.

  • Dr House, you being a doctor are more aware than most allow themselves to be aware of how a human can one day be fine and the next in the hospital or morgue. Your comment “Regardless how it all plays out, I’m going to just keep living one day at a time, doing my best to live a full, happy life doing what I can to prepare for whatever tomorrow brings.” is the right advice for ordinary life as well as life in time of collapse, for individual “collapse” can happen in ordinary times.

  • + $100 oil, I’m surprised the wheels have stayed on as long as they have.

    It would be nice if folks would look past the TV advertising and see something other than ‘convenience’. It’s not a virtue, ‘products’ don’t make better people.

    I’ve learned to stay away from (hard) predictions, the future is unknowable. The current way of managing ‘things’ is not working at all. Too much television and zero critical thinking. Nasty combination:

  • LOL. The military forces of the World won’t let you walk away from the debt-based monetary system – FORCED UPON YOU. A Thomas Jefferson Agrarian Community – subject to low energy use – low tech – is EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED BY LAW>. Now, get back to work, slave!!!!

  • Guy

    You might be right. But then again, you might be a bit premature. Almost certainly we will feel a major earthquake beneath civilisation in the coming months. How is this NOT possible with the financial world reeling as it is? But I have to disagree that financial collapse equates to collapse of civilisation. Indeed, it might even act as an inhibitor to an extent, slowing demand for fossil fuels a bit.

    If you subscribe to the notion, as I do, that much of the financial instability we witness in the world today is intentional and planned, then you can expect to see over the next few months solutions offered that amount to further consolidation of the world’s central banks and an accelerating disintegration (Rapid? Slow?) of national sovereignty towards a new global financial structure. There is already talk of placing North America and Europe each under a single authority and a world bank to manage financial transactions and monetary policy.

    The folks engineering this WANT us to feel like all is lost and that we will accept most any solution that sounds reasonable. It is all part of the ongoing “shock doctrine”. Create chaos, and in the midst of it act whilst people are disoriented and incapable of rational thought. It is a well-tested strategy over the last 50 years or so, being implemented at a national level across the world. Now it is being implemented on a regional and global basis.

    What these folks have not taken into consideration, however, is the true impact that peak oil will have on the ability to maintain modern civilisation. Nor have they considered the symbiotic link between population levels and modern technology. Peak oil is the gorilla in the room with his finger on the trigger. And, though threatening in recent years, it has yet to assert itself fully and pull that trigger. But it will. And when it does, there will follow great socio-economic chaos in the world and population die-off to a point that the infrastructure of modern civilisation cannot be maintained – not enough people and not enough production to keep it going.

    I believe at that point (with the initiation of the ‘cliff event’ of peak oil), and in the years to follow, you can expect REAL collapse. Until then, we are likely to see continuing and more sharply pronounced socio-economic instability, vast transfers of wealth and power and a more visible movement towards world (or regional) governance as a vain effort to offer a final solution.

    The next five years or so should be interesting indeed. We will see much more clearly the direction things will take within that time-frame, I think.

    In the meantime, live day by day. Enjoy life as you can.

  • Tim E. I am in the middle of the book “Reckoning at Eagle Creek” by Jeff Biggers. It is about strip mining in Southern Illinois. I would say that Jefferson’s “agrarian community” might be a misnomer. Jefferson was a hypocrite – while touting the rights of man, he kept slaves and even made one of his slaves a concubine. His agrarian efforts were supported by slaves, not by community. But I have learned more from this book. Jefferson was entranced by the Watt’s steam engine and wanted such wonders for our country, and wanted them powered by our coal. To such ends he encouraged the development of lands in Illinois that were cursed with both salt and coal. From the book, “With an eye on Europe’s progress, he also admonished every surveyor, such as the legendary Meriwether Lewis and William Clark…to note every deposit of coal, which enviously advanced England’s industrial revolution.” And from Jefferson’s own pen “Money and not morality is the principle of commerce and commercial nations”. One of the moralities involved here was kicking more Native Americans off of their land. While the author notes the “complexities” of his views I think it is more accurate to label him a hypocrite.

  • Victor, who would think that a repair by an employee could knock out power to 1.4 million in San Diego and surrounds. While it is hard to see how another financial set back could knock out industrial civilization, I believe it could. I don’t know how long it would take but I expect it could be quite rapid. We have made our civilization very complex, but removed the safeguards, eliminated redundancy, cut corners in the name of efficiency, and failed to maintain our infrastructure. I believe our foundations are rotten and our connections so vast that it could all just come tumbling down. I think a slow collapse would be VERY bad for the environment – far worse than a fast collapse soon.

  • Collapse will not be a worldwide event that will occur over a matter of a few weeks. Collapse comes one person at a time, one city at a time, one region at a time.

    Regions that have not adopted excessively western lifestyles dependent on the daily consumption of huge amounts of fossil fuels (one thinks of rural eastern Europe, much of South America and much of Africa etc.)will hardly be affected by what happens in Greece or Wall St over the coming weeks. It is western economies that are going to be hard hoit by he unravelling of fiat currencies and the likely sudden drop in employment that could come when consumerism goes ‘kaput’ and tourism goes ‘kaput’.

    I am seeing many retailers around here hanging on through poor trading conditions, looking forward to Christmas-related consumption to get them through the coming months.

    I presonally belive there is a high probablity of a major market jolt his October (Oct 29, Oct 87, Oct 97, Oct 08) but I don’t think the shit will really hit the fan until 2012. Indeed TPTB may well have some contingency plan in place to hold everything together till after the London Olympics, which may well be the final farewell for current economic arrangements. Knowing the way TPTB operate, I caanot see them letting the system fail catastrophically before the London Olympics.

  • Kevin, I think there are a number of things that could make civilization collapse quite quickly worldwide. One of course is a solar flare event like the Carrington event of 1859. While that looks like an act of nature, in 1859 it affected the works of men, largely telegraphs. What it would do now is vastly different BECAUSE of a civilization dependent on electricity. So what would be the cause, the solar event, or our technological dependence and failure to harden the grid.

    But that is just one option for failure. What about trade. Trade depends on trust, insured by letters of credit. If that trust crashes, trade will stop and while not as quick or dramatic, it will crash our civilization, which cannot function without international trade.

    But if the crash is slow and prolonged it will do little good and perhaps more harm for the environment. More and more environmental controls will be abandoned to get at the last of the energy resources of the world. I expect coal will burn more dirty, fracking will stop worrying about where to put their waste water, pipelines will cease having even minimal maintenance, strip miners will cease any pretense at land reclamation etc.

    So I hope for collapse soon and fast. Perhaps that hope affects my beliefs. Perhaps others hopes to have a bit more time affects their beliefs. Never had a global civilization collapse before so we really have no basis to predict how it will proceed.

  • The scriptural advice is to approach worldly duties and activities with an attitude of immortality, while approaching prayer and devotion with an attitude of imminent / impending death.

  • Hi Guy. Congrats on the great Conservation Biology article. Any feedback from conservation ecologists/biologists not previously familiar with your work?

  • While the author notes the “complexities” of his views I think it is more accurate to label him a hypocrite.

    Kathy C

    Whilst I understand your sentiment, I can not in my own mind rightly accuse Jefferson of hypocrisy. My understanding is that at that time only men of property were considered equals. All others, women, Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, etc. were something less, certainly not considered to be equals as they supposedly are today. So Jefferson was both true to his beliefs and those of society in general. And being a businessman, morality played no part in business. Business is business. It is the same today.

    Where is the hypocrisy? perhaps our problem is that we judge folks like Jefferson through current standards, not as he would have been perceived at the time. Only later did it occur to people that the concept of owning slaves was immoral. Indeed, slaves had been a part of various societies for many thousands of years.

    Certainly when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were penned, I suspect none of the authors envisioned the impact the documents would eventually have on American society and the class structure, though even at that time, the issue was beginning to be raised – at least in Europe.

    Personally, I think Jefferson was a remarkable person with vision and ideals that few men have attained.

  • Ah Victor, I learned that putting people on up on pedestals really doesn’t do anyone any good. It is of course easier to put the “heroes” of there than living humans that you know. But it is a shaky place for anyone to stand.

    Think of Newt Gingrich. My father reveres him (his wife having more sense notes his infidelities and has changed her view of him). But he ignores me even when I tell him that Newt has converted from Baptist to Catholic (in my father’s view Catholics are pagan) I am sure this report from Newt’s second wife will show you his hypocrisy When Marianne confronted Newt about his cheating, he had just returned from a speech where he spoke of the importance of family values. Yet he asked her to simply tolerate the affair. She refused, and asked him how he could give high-minded speeches while simultaneously running around on his wife. “It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say.”

    Not too hard to see the hypocrite there even though his behavior is the norm for the politicians in this current (and past) times.

    Were there no abolitionists in Jefferson’s time. Were there no people defending the rights of Native American’s in his time. Were the views of the class of people he was part of the only ones he had ever heard?? Per wiki entry on Abolitionism “in the 18th century, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it (slavery) for violating the rights of man.” Seems like Jefferson was influenced by the Enlightenment movement, but practicalities of making profit on his farm just overcame the part about slavery violating the rights of man eh? This quote I gave from him earlier “Money and not morality is the principle of commerce and commercial nations” surely shows that he knew better.

    The southern view of black people was held by most whites (and still held by many) so lets not accuse them of hypocrisy when the lynch a man on Sat. night and go to church on Sunday.

    We all have some measure of hypocrisy in us. I know I do. But don’t let Jefferson off the hook just because he penned some fancy words that promptly got ignored, even by him.

    I remember reading my first book by Gore Vidal, I think in High School. It was about Washington the demigod of the USA. I loved it, no one can smash icons better than Vidal. It is a healthy thing to do IMHO.

  • I’ve been away for a few days. Returning and coming across the thoughts of such a exceptionally aware group of people is really refreshing. As I read through the comments I felt myself in agreement with much of what was being said, but fortuitously, Kevin Moore’s thoughts, above, are much along the lines of what I would suggest as well.
    Much of the world is far less dependent on oil, technology and the money system than we might think. My neighbors here in Thailand will just delete “working for industry” from the array of strategies they employ for their daily livelihood. That still leaves; “hunting and gathering”, indigenous permaculture”, “herding”, and “subsistence rice farming” to feed their families with. There will be an impact in places like this, but it will be somewhat lighter and, I think, delayed relative to N.A. and E.U.

    It’s definitely going to be tough for people in the developed nations who have not yet taken decisive steps toward independence but, the next few weeks should give you convincing reason to do so and, frankly, no-one is really able to say that you don’t have time.

    I’ve been wrong for most of my life. I thought all this stuff would probably happen back in the 1970s! In 1971 I actually built a cabin deep in the wilderness of northern British Columbia so that I could pursue a life more in tune with nature and ride out the collapse of “the system”. Wonderful memories, but that was 40 years ago and somehow, the financial wizards have managed to jolt the system back into some semblance of life time after time.

    I was struck by something Kevin said: “Collapse comes one person at a time.”

    We are as totally habituated to our system of industry and commerce as an addict is to his drug. Of course, as we watch this pattern of life we have always known come apart, the prospect of losing it is very frightening. Ultimately though, just like an addiction, life will be much healthier and better without it.
    So, don’t let the collapse of industrial civilization cause your own personal collapse. Languishing in anxiety or hopeless paralysis is just a waste of precious time.

    I think we all need to work on becoming the kind of humans whose lives will be a positive contribution to the ongoing life of the planet, instead of….
    well, you know.

  • Kathy

    Jefferson was human and therefore full of imperfection – not a god. And whilst I agree that we shouldn’t put people on pedestals – and contrary to what you think, I am not putting him on a pedestal – I also must say that we should recognise the good in people as well and their value to society. So if a person is not perfect, then they have no value at all? Even the accomplishments that they achieve should be disparaged because of their imperfections?

  • Tamnaa

    Indeed, many are less dependent upon oil than others in this world. But what I have found is that they are generally more connected to modern civilisation than we at first suppose. Many indigenous peoples of the world have adopted western clothes, tools, guns/ammunition, equipment, medicines, food and other items in their lives that will be difficult to abandon should that time come. I do agree that they will have a better chance than the rest of us, but I suspect few will go on as if nothing had happened.

    Further to the point, there are things brought on by modern civilisation that the indigenous have no control over at all – global warming, acidification of the oceans, nuclear plants, habitat destruction, failure of ecosystems, etc. These will ultimately have immense impact upon the ability of many humans to survive at all – even these good folks as climate change takes its bite over the next few decades.

    And whilst Kevin is correct that collapse happens one person, one city, one region at a time, it might well be that they all collapse within a very defined time partition. Civilisation is extremely complex, and the capacity for collapse variations is high. I fear that we shall have to wait it out to see – and even then, we are not likely to know when the process ends as when it ends there will be no communications among the far flung peoples of the world. We will only know when it happens to our own areas – and here, Kevon is most correct…. ;-)

  • It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them.
    On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.
    Douglas Adams
    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

    Victor, Yes I agree we need to acknowledge the good points of people as well as the bad. However I would think that any slave working for Jefferson, if he or she learned that he penned the words “all men are created equal” would consider him a hypocrite with good cause. Sometimes we need to put on other people’s shoes to see things clearly. So we look at Jefferson from the distance and see his fine words and are proud to have been founded on such words. But what about the people owned by Jefferson. Perhaps they found him a kinder slave holder, but still would they find him to be a personally honest man – a man good to his word – a man who thought they were equal to him. Hardly since he owned them.

    But on further consideration, whatever Jefferson’s intent, he gave moral cover to an immoral nation (which civilized country isn’t immoral). But he helped Americans believe that they were somehow better than other people in other nations. He fed us the first lie, and now the lying comes so easy. We are a great people, bringing democracy and liberty and equality to the rest of the world with DU weapons and drones and cluster bombs. He allowed us to justify our evil.

    Perhaps Jefferson was no hypocrite. Perhaps instead he was the first of many who used political speech to justify empire. Perhaps he knew exactly what he was doing, and was as big a liar as Cheney or Bush or Obama. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and stick with hypocrite for hypocrites often convince themselves of their good intentions. I imagine Jefferson did some mental juggling to justify himself to himself something human brains do with ease according to new scientific research.

    But whatever his intent, whatever his mental justification, I am quite sure his slaves did not feel that he believed all men were equal.

  • Tamnaa, yes I think many of the less developed countries or areas will suffer less from collapse. I had a friend once who grew up poor, picking tobacco on her grandfather’s farm. She said “I am not worried about collapse. I’ve been poor. I know how to be poor”

    Knowing how to be poor is a good step, in that you don’t have the mental block that so many in the rich countries will have. You just get busy making the best of things.

    That said, when the collapse comes and cities start starving, it may well be that people will head to rural areas for food. A quick collapse in the more industrialized world would be better for the rural world as well city people might be less able to try to appropriate rural land and supplies.

    As the late Matthew Simmons pointed out, when fuel shortages appear, it will create panic and hoarding. What was a minor shortage will almost instantly turn into a major shortage. That is how things that should contribute to a slow collapse can, because of human behavior, become part of a more abrupt collapse.

  • I’m not changing my own forecast of light’s out by the end of 2012. I’m hoping Sties’ interpretation of Heinberg’s remarks is correct, but I’m still sticking to my long-time forecast.

    Dan Allen, I’ve received one request for an electronic copy of the article. Otherwise, I’ve received no feedback from anybody in the conservation community. To be fair, I’m on the road with no access to email today.

  • As the late Matthew Simmons pointed out, when fuel shortages appear, it will create panic and hoarding. What was a minor shortage will almost instantly turn into a major shortage. That is how things that should contribute to a slow collapse can, because of human behavior, become part of a more abrupt collapse.

    This is a very probable scenario, and will lead to massive and quick shortages. And it won’t be turned around as people will understand that the end has come.

  • With regard to the article “Genetic Feedback and Human Population Regulation” the last sentence of the abstract states

    However, the change on the cultural level, requiring a revision of the social contingency from “food production must be increased to feed a growing population” to “food production increases cause population increases,” would lead to human sustainability.

    In biological media, the paucity of substrate limits the growth of the population by turning on alternate mechanisms (instead of growth) such as sporulation or encystment in populations that have evolved these mechanisms to survive such vicissitudes.
    While “food production must be increased to feed a growing population” is the tail wagging the dog, it reflects a situation where the “population” has already sat down to dinner. Responding at such a time with “food production increases cause population increases,” is saying “sorry folks, but you shouldn’t even exist”.

  • A new essay, courtesy of Kevin Moore, is here

  • Jan,

    The collapse of the USSR, Japan’s “lost decades,” and Argentina’s financial collapse all occured while the rest of the world’s major industrial countries remained relatively healthy – in fact the rest continued to build the ponzi.

    This time it’s Global, and there is No Lender of Last Resort (including china).

    There is still another one or two possible Frauds of last Resort – but each fraud seems to have a shorter half-life than the last (especially in europe – where their lies seem to have a half-life of about a half-a-day now, before the markets see through them).

  • Farmers are expected to have a surplus of 920 million bushels when the harvest begins this month, the USDA said. That’s roughly a 26-day supply of corn, slightly less than the previous month’s estimate.

    But the USDA said the corn surplus could dwindle next fall to about a 19-day supply. A 30-day supply is considered healthy.

  • I enjoy your posts – you always make me think and reflect. The problem that Human Beings have – Homo Sapiens – is that we don’t fit into the environment. We seem to be – as a species – some hybrid creation that can thrive on Earth – as long as we are the “Master” and can alter the environment to fit our needs. The writings of Zecharia Sitchin in regards to his interpertations of the Sumerian Writings would support this. I would argue that Human beings are a frail and delicate species – one that will not last long.

    Is there a bi-pedal species on Earth – that can live within the confines of Nature – without destroying it’s habitat – YES – it is … Sasquatch. (roll out derisions of laughter, name calling – I need help…etc.)

    Perhaps, out of all the websites that describe Sasquatch/Bigfoot – one of the most compelling reads I have seen recently is here:

    Before you laugh too loud – please read them.

    Will they prove Sasquatch as a viable species? I think so. A peer-reviewed DNA report is (suppousedly) in the works:

    “The documentary “Sasquatch: the Quest” is part of the Erickson Project and will unveil, for the first time, a host of never before seen sasquatch footage and other evidence chronicling the journey of the Erickson Project. The release of the documentary will coincide with the release of the DNA findings collaboratively with Dr. Melba Ketchum.”

    Lloyd Pie – and the Starchild:

    Lloyd Pie- “Everything you know is wrong”

    Brainmind and Astrobiology:

    We all know that change is coming. We can all see and recognize this. The coming change will favor species that fit into sustainable lifestyles, that are minimally exploitative. Homo Sapiens are maximally exploitative.

    What you, and many others are trying to do, in recognization to the change around us is laudible – but we cannot survive the change – and thus we have made the way for others –

  • We can readily see what ‘the brightest and best’ as well as “the smartest guys in the room” are doing on our watch. These self-proclaimed masters of the universe are assuring their ‘inalienable rights’ to reprehensibly internalize profits while externalizing costs; rapaciously overconsume and hoard finite natural resources; relentlessly overproduce unnecessary stuff that pollute the environment; and recklessly condone the overpopulation of our planetary home, let us hope human beings with feet of clay are wise enough to recall the words of “The Prince” and to respond ably to human-induced global ecological challenges as we observe what is being done to the “design space” we call Earth, because future human well being and environmental health are being put at risk here and now. For the sake of children everywhere, another path to the future, one that is sustainable, must be taken while there is still time.

    “The Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”
    —Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter Three

  • Speaking of collapse, at least in a relative sense, total local, state, and federal gov’t spending, including personal transfers (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment payments, etc.), plus household debt service now exceeds private and public wage and salary disbursements.

    But, wait, there’s more! Total gov’t spending plus debt service is 124% of private wages and salaries. Oh, my!

    I’m just getting started. Private payrolls per capita are back to the levels of the late ’80s to early ’90s.

    Dismal, you say? It’s worse. Full-time employment per capita is back to the levels of the late ’70s to early ’80s.

    Can’t get any worse than that, you’re compelled to utter? Wrong. If you’re an American male, you haven’t seen employment per capita at current levels since the ’60s (when some of you were probably were not yet a working adult).

    And if you’re age 16-24, your per capita employment is at levels last witnessed in the ’50s and all the way back to before WW II (perhaps before your parents were born and your grandparents were your age).

    US household debt service plus total gov’t spending is now equivalent to nearly 50% of nominal GDP and 75% of private GDP.

    Anglo-American imperial rentier capitalism no longer creates gainful wage labor for a growing share of the US population. Worse, gov’t and debt service costs now exceed private wages to the extent that growth of private sector jobs and small businesses is simply impossible.

    Gov’t increasing taxes to borrow and spend today only ensures that the cost of gov’t to private wages and employment per capita will further increase tomorrow.

    Peak Oil, falling net energy and oil exports per capita, runaway illegal immigration, and population overshoot only exacerbate the per capita jobs and income conditions in the US. Gov’t interventionists can only make it worse by running bigger deficits/GDP and deficits/receipts until they no longer can and gov’t contraction is unavoidable.

    Uneconomic growth is over, folks, but you already knew that.