Killing the Natives: The Ecology of Systematic Extinction

by Sandy Krolick

As Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega summarized, it seems the USA was “isolated” — a regular persona non grata — at the Summit of the Americas last week in Columbia. Nor were our military and Secret Service ‘dicks’ very good sports themselves at the Pley Club there in Cartagena. It seems they wanted a reduction in the bill for services rendered. But that is not the only country in the Americas where the now globalized and increasingly rapacious tendencies of a dis-integrating Western curriculum are unwelcome.

A single superhighway built from Sao Paulo to Brasilia deprives an entire rain forest of its autonomy; [the beasts] killed or driven off and the natives coerced into compliance. The fact is, there remains little wilderness anywhere that does not have its resources scheduled on somebody’s industrial or real estate agenda… (Roszak, Wasteland, 16)

It was 1972 when Theodore Roszak wrote those words in his scathing critique of modern industrial society, Where the Wasteland Ends. He wrote this for a generation that was charged with overturning the applecart, halting the chaos, stopping the beast in its tracks. It was my generation, but I never fully understood the call back then. It is now forty years later and Roszak’s observations and prophetic words continue to ring true, finding validation after ugly validation. Now, for a larger part of humanity it has become a race against the illusion of time, driven by the self-propagating demands of an industrial civilization gone wild, and its underlying logic — the Curriculum of the West.

I do not know if we should call this is a foot race, a tractor-pull, or a Formula One Grand-Prix event. But what I do know is that this race to the end of the world — the one fixated on profits, progress, and predomination — is coldly, callously, and ravenously taking down every ecological niche, all biodiversity, and every alternative culture in its path. One of the more recent tragedies of this race is a small indigenous tribe occupying a humble but lush piece of rain forest along the banks of the Tabasara River in Panama — the Ngabe tribe. Glenn Elis, a filmmaker for Al Jazeera news, tells the story of this Central American people trying to save a small parcel of pristine nature, their home, in the face of new dam construction and a hydroelectric project that will serve principally to enrich wealthy Panamanian politicians and industrialists.

Here the Ngabe have carved out a little piece of paradise for themselves, and I saw at once why they are fighting so hard to protect it. There is an open air school where children are taught in the Ngabe language, which is vital if their unique culture is to survive. And I enjoyed a continuous stream of hospitality as we talked into the early hours under a night sky unblemished by light pollution.

The following morning Ricardo[my host] gave us a guided tour of the village, explaining the close bond between his people and nature. I was taken a short distance to the riverbank where a little girl showed us a colony of Tabasara Rain Frogs, one of the rarest species in the world, which are found nowhere else on the planet. If the government has its way, all this will be flooded and the frogs will disappear.

Yet a few miles downstream from Kia, the massive construction site of Barro Blanco [dam and hydroelectric facilities] is an ugly blot on the landscape. As the enormous dam takes shape, armed guards patrol the perimeter to keep the villagers away. When the dam is complete the village of Kia will be lost.

From Kia I travelled northwest to visit Ngabe villagers who had already lost their community. They had been made homeless by another hydroelectric project last year, when the mighty Changuinola River was dammed. Here I met Carolina. Her house had been built on higher ground than those of her neighbours in the village of Guiyaboa, but it was still not high enough. The village now lies deep underwater and all that can be seen is the roof of Carolina’s house, jutting out of the water like some incongruous monument. She told me that she and countless others had received no compensation for loss of their land, crops or housing.

I traveled on through Chiriqui province, the scene of the crackdown, and met and interviewed survivors and the relatives of those who had been killed by the police. I found it hard to understand why they had died. All the Ngabe had been asking for was an opportunity to talk to the government — a concession that the authorities had to make in the end anyway. It is not surprising that, away from the glitzy skyscrapers of the capital, a terrible sense of injustice and resentment is simmering below the surface.

Back in Panama City, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega, the country’s powerful minister of government, agreed to meet me and explain the government’s side. He admitted that things could have been handled better at Changuinola, but insisted that during the recent crackdowns the police had behaved very professionally. He was keen to underline the importance of hydroelectric energy for Panama’s booming economy and then stated categorically that nothing would be allowed to stop the Barro Blanco project going ahead.

“There’s one thing that I have to make clear,” he said. “We’re not going to cancel Barro Blanco. The Barro Blanco project is under construction and it will continue.” As I listened I thought of Ricardo and the other villagers whose future was being decided by the minister and his friends.

By now news had got around that a filmmaker from Al Jazeera was in the country and someone discreetly passed me a lengthy document detailing the government’s future hydroelectric plans. It was an eye-opener. The sheer number of the projects is startling; if they all go ahead they will surely produce far more electricity than Panama will ever need, no matter how dynamic or fast growing its economy. Which begs the obvious question: What will they do with all this power?

Alongside each project listed were the names of the company directors involved – a roll call of Panama’s wealthiest families. It was not difficult to put two and two together. Electricity is a commodity like anything else and if there is spare capacity it can be sold to energy-hungry consumers in neighbouring countries. Someone, it seemed, was going to get very rich. Unsurprisingly, that document has never been made public. (Panama: Village of the Damned, Al Jazeera)

Such stories are not new, but they seem to surface now with far greater frequency, as indigenous tribes or villages that have already been pushed to their limits desperately struggle for survival. Certainly, there have been centuries, even millennia of invasion, exploitation, and destruction of indigenous lands and peoples throughout the world. From Australia and New Guinea to Siberia, Africa, and the Americas, the heedless and blood-filled march of this warped civilization (even in its pre-industrial phase) has picked up its pace as essential natural resources continue to be depleted or poisoned. Yet, it is not only indigenous human communities that have suffered at the hands of colonizers, contractors, capitalists, and captains of industry alike; it is the sensitive ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet that suffers as well, impacting all life on earth. The bioregions which are home to native Americans, Australian aborigines, New Guinea Highlanders, and tribal peoples around the globe have experienced the heavy hand of our civilized and civilizing armies, our rapacious entrepreneurial businessmen, as well as other merchants of death, including our own imperialist settlers. Yet, we dare to call those indigenous populations the barbarians.

Look at the Khanty people of the northern Siberian taiga located in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District of the Russian Federation. Originally persecuted under Stalin’s regime during the nineteen-thirties, this nomadic people’s very survival was again threatened in the earlier part of this century by large Russian corporations like LukOil, backed-up by federal legislative mandates. Oil exploitation on Khanty land subsequently polluted their forests and lakes, killed the reindeer herds and scared off other local game. The Khanty were forced to relocate to ‘National Villages,’ away from their sacred ancestral hunting grounds, becoming dependent upon the Federal administration and the very companies that exploited them. Not unlike the forced dislocations of Stalin’s regime. Yet, in fact, we have to look no further than what our settlers, governments, and armies did to the American Indian populations over the course of five hundred years.

Stories like these are repeated from the Ecuadorian rain forests to the Niger Delta, from tribal villages in West Papua, New Guinea, to the Dongria Kondh of Eastern India, and the Yanomami of Brazil.

This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global … A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital — oil, gas, timber, minerals — lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus. (The Guardian, ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’)

It is an all-out war for resources, and in large measure, nations and oligarchs are taking aim at lands still occupied by indigenous tribes that have already been pushed to the margins. This is exemplified, closer to home, in the Koch (brothers) Industries’ theft of oil on Native American lands in the 1980’s and 90’s, where we may see the uglier complexion of this rapacious beast. And such activities are only accelerating globally. We understand, of course, that such acceleration is a direct response to the rapid depletion of essential resources (e.g., oil, water, land) brought on by this culture’s unrelenting march of destruction, consumption and exploitation — a march only supercharged by industrialization and capitalism, the shining stars of the Western Curriculum.

The saddest part of this forced extinction event is that these very peoples — tribes whose ancestors survived over so many centuries and millennia — would still stand the greatest chance of survival after our civilization collapses, if we only allowed them the breathing space to live now. But, our political and business leaders are seeing to it that nothing living survives the unfolding holocaust as they themselves flail about recklessly in a rapidly vanishing environment — and most especially, not the natives.

Comments 60

  • Sandy Krolick gives a great summation of the global predicament of native peoples. The native people need healthy eco-systems in order to survive. Wealthy individuals, NGO’s and corrupt governments conspire to steal what they have always with the tired lament of “Sacrificing the needs of the few for the needs of the many. The truth is it’s about the greed of the few usurping the needs of all of us; in the end we will realize that these eco-systems provided the foundation for all of our survival. You can’t eat nor drink money but those who control the money use it to enslave the rest of us.

    This attack on indigenous peoples is a global phenomena that’s been ongoing for over 2,000 years. The rapid industrialization fo the last 100 years has only accelerated that attack. If there is any hope to halt the destruction it will require an unprecedented push-back by groups and individuals not normally associated with native peoples to stand in solidarity.

    Where is GreenPeace and the Sierra Club?

  • Ah yes, the moralistic, Manichean worldview of the eco-leftist, entirely isomorphic to that of the most rabid Abrahamic fundamentalist. In this imaginary cosmology, civilized man fell from grace when he left the primal Eden of hunter-gatherdom, and now a wrathful Gaia, the female version of Yahweh, will punish us for our sins via the Eco-Apocalypse. Gotta love that old-time religion!

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, this planet shows no signs of caring about such imaginary morality plays — its only concern being survival. And on that scale there is really no moral outrage whatsoever. Forced extinction event? On which planet? At last count the Earth’s human population was 7 billion and growing, thanks entirely to agricultural and industrial civilization. If this is extinction, why am I surrounded by hordes of fat people? As for the natives, well, that’s just the way of things; evolution has always rewarded higher levels of order, organization and power, and there’s not much we can do about it. Don’t blame me, I didn’t make the rules!

    So to the eco-puritans I say this: Your fire-and-brimstone ideology is as erroneous, unsound and delusional as any backwoods preacher’s. The moral order you are attempting to overlay upon the world may be entirely imaginary, but the good news is that all you have to overcome it is change your mind. In the words of Master Yoda, “you must unlearn what you have learned.”

    The Taoists say the world is perfect, that everything is as it must be, and surely this is a wiser philosophy than eco-puritanism or any other variety of Western moralism? The rise of civilization and industry are as much the expressions of the natural order as apples blossoming on a tree. Who are we to judge the higher evolutionary process we are part of? Perhaps Galactic Empire is the will of Gaia/God/the Force after all, for surely there is no future for us whatsoever in this hostile universe without a larger, cosmic civilization!

    The cosmos is rich in mystery, and none may claim to know its will. All I can say at the end of the day is this: May the Force be with you…

  • Sandy—
    Thank you for your painful but accurate indictment. Ecocide and genocide have been and will be the means to our end. The most painful part of that is knowing I was at least partly responsible.

    Requiem: (from Kurt Vonnegut’s “A Man Without a Country”)

    The crucified planet Earth,
    should it find a voice
    and a sense of irony,
    might now well say
    of our abuse of it,
    “Forgive them, Father,
    They know not what they do.”
    The irony would be
    that we know what
    we are doing.
    When the last living thing
    has died on account of us,
    how poetical it would be
    if Earth could say,
    in a voice floating up
    from the floor
    of the Grand Canyon,
    “It is done.”
    People did not like it here.

  • To prep for our coming rough landing,
    We have temporary group banding:
    At first between nations,
    Then smaller locations,
    Until it’s the last man standing.

  • Sean the Jedi:
    but the good news is that all you have to overcome it is change your mind. In the words of Master Yoda, “you must unlearn what you have learned.”

    Better still, the advice of Master Orlov:
    Dmitry Orlov advised you to have kinky sex with chickens on an alfalfa roof. You should really follow that advice. 

  • Sean,

    Good to see you have restored balance to the force.

  • Sean,

    Good to see you have restored balance to the force

    I meant your choice to diverge from the Sith path. While I enjoy your writing flair, I think you may still be misdirecting your efforts. In regards to Taoism, I believe the following refutes your argument

    The Three Treasures or Three Jewels are basic virtues in Taoism comprising Compassion, Moderation, and Humility. They are also translated as kindness, simplicity (or the absence of excess), and modesty. Arthur Waley describes them as “[t]he three rules that formed the practical, political side of the author’s teaching”. He correlated the Three Treasures with “abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment”, “absolute simplicity of living”, and “refusal to assert active authority”.

    None of these virtues are expressed by industrial civilization. That’s because industrial civilization, while perhaps natural as you’ve argued, is no less a destructive mistake. In your cold depiction of nature, extinctions do occur and yes, mistakes are made. Adapatation is the hallmark of success in evolution, and we’re adapting here.

    What are you doing, other than writing fiction?

  • Sandy. Thank you for this contribution to the sanity agenda.

    Can I just add that the industrial-financial system has not only declared was on nature and war on indigenous peoples but has also declared war on the very citizens who make up industrial civilisation. And ‘the beast’ has declared total war on he next generation.

    As many in NBL already know, I am in the process of attempting to defend the district I live in from wide ranging assaults the District Council wishes to make upon the environment, the general populace and children who live in the district in which I live.

  • Sandy, thank you for the essay. While I don’t believe in hell, sometimes I wish there was a hell for those who make life on earth such hell for others. I saw a documentary on a dam being built in India. One village did not want to be relocated and so decided to stand their ground and drown. The day the flooding began they did just that but when the waters rose around them they were dragged off. Even that was not allowed to them. Words fail….

    Benjamin, as always I enjoy your limericks. Dmitry Orlov says that humor is a very important asset to have in one’s tool kit for the coming times.

  • Thank you for the great essay Sandy. As Jacques Ellul has said, the murder and extinction of native peoples is our greatest sin. We all know who the real savages are. Is it any wonder our Western societies are so corrupt given their basis and legacy in genocide and dominance? We owe it to these people’s to at least preserve their knowledge.

  • Sean – Thanks for the lovely prose! I see from your handle and from your blog that you revel in fantasy. It is a good place for riding out the storm, especially for those trapped in their own solipsistic delusions. And Lao Tzu’s best advice was – wei wu wei! Not a very viable expression of that soul of the Tao in our Western heritage; is there?. Just sayin, don’t ya think. best, sandy

  • Hey Old Man! The future isn’t grim

    No wonder the crowd is suffering a malaise. In addition to the real fears, they have lots of fake ones hanging over their heads. After a Great Recession, this is to be expected. We had the rise of the End of Worlders and the Zombie Bears. They are best ignored.

  • Kathy, thanks!

    “…Dmitry Orlov says that humor is a very important asset to have in one’s tool kit for the coming times.”

    Humor’s a multi-use tool
    For support when we run out of fuel,
    And to ease our foreboding
    Of nuke plants exploding
    And heat in which we can’t keep cool.

  • Benjamin – nice :)

  • In China, Lao Tzu said wu-wei
    Is a difficult concept to convey
    If paradox makes you queasy
    Simplifying it’s easy—
    Stop complaining and do it my wei.

  • navid for real?

    Oh i don’t for a second deny that there are bright young thing’s out there … i know a couple myself.

    But the cold hard reality is that the world you describe does not exist for most of the population of the earth.

    I don’t understand why you seem to have omitted THE EARTH from your world perspective….all I am seeing is cold.hard.denial.

  • Thanks for the essay, kulturCritic, I read it first on your site. 

    From the Wikipedia, on wu Wei
    Another perspective to this is that “Wu Wei” means natural action – as planets revolve around the sun, they “do” this revolving, but without “doing” it; or as trees grow, they “do”, but without “doing”. Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think “now” is the right time to do “this”, but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.

    This is described as non-volitional action, or “action fallen into” (pravapatitam karyam): before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  That is also implied in the title of Robert Aitken Roshi’s book The Mind of Clover: clover grows naturally, but lacks a mind or a sense of “self”. The same happens the case of enlightened humans, and in addition their minds also function in conformity. 

    Three Treasures or Three Jewels (“triratna”) are the Three Features of Existence: “All composite things are transient” (= leading to simplicity), “All entities are without any abstracted essence – i.e. soul – (= leading to modesty), “All composite things are – in their ultimate nature – sorrow (= leading to compassion).

  • Sorry about the bad link to wu wei.

  • Also, the Three Jewels are Buddha – the essential nature present in equal measure in all sentient beings (=modesty), Dharma – the natural law of consequences (=simplicity) and Sangha – the community of all sentient beings, all wittingly or unwittingly striving for the same goal (=kindness).

    Formally becoming a Buddhist is “taking refuge” in each of these three.

  • Redreamer

    Read the comments section at that post – amazingly, there are some sane people responding to his childish drivel.

    I check his blog for updates on financial fraud. Ritholtz is very good in that niche. He is a complete idiot when it comes to The Big Picture (the name of his blog).

    I asked “who will participate in his utopia, and who will be consumed to try and build it “… no response.

  • Just wait, John the Jedi. The carrying capacity of the earth is being diminished, and trust me — there are contingency plans for those who will oversee a massive human die off. Perhaps your children will be among the dead, and they will owe it all to your truly monumental stupidity and ignorance.

  • Sandy, thanks for the essay. It’s a tragic reality we’ve repeated throughout history. I wonder, though, given how destructive we are now, and how destructive our untended garbage (nuclear power plants, etc.) will be when we’re gone, and assuming some aboriginals survived us, would they be able to survive once our pollution/fallout reaches them? It’s anyone’s guess, I suspect.

  • Sort of on topic:

    The mud daubers are missing. Normally, mud daubers (aka dirt daubers) are everywhere around here. I see them in the garden gathering mud. I see their nests all over the carport and the front porch. I see them down at the pond. I see them hunting spiders. But this year, I haven’t seen even one. There are still plenty of other types of wasps, just no mud daubers. Has anyone else noticed similar events in your area?

  • The mud daubers are missing.
    Just another indication of our ignorance of the immense complexity of ecosystems. And more malignant by orders of magnitude is our ignorance of our ignorance.

  • Dr. House, I don’t usually see them at work, only some of their work so I don’t know if mud daubers are missing yet. Cabbage moths and squash bugs are very much down, but I have seen a few. Of course I have never had any squash this early before. The fruit are starting to make. Lambquarters is considered by farmers a weed, but we find it as good a spinach and a lot easier to grow as it just comes up from self seeding wherever some ground is exposed. It is in short supply this year and much of what is up is not doing well. I am not sure the cause – chickweed was fantastic this year – did it keep the lambsquarters from germinating? Is our strange weather at fault. Last year millipeds disappeared and I haven’t seen one this year. Some Elephant Garlic has aphids on it, never had that before.

    Robin, your comment captures a huge part of the human problem.

    About the time we complete the project of killing the natives we will no doubt to on to extinct ourselves

  • Dr House, I got thinking about what else was different this year. No wrens around the house and no blue jays down in the chicken yard.

  • Somehow human beings with feet of clay have got to find a way to do something more and do it somehow better than things are being done in our time. Inasmuch as humankind’s reckless per capita overconsumption, relentless large-scale overproduction and unregulated overpopulation activities worldwide can be seen threatening future human well being and environmental health, perhaps people who are so fortunate as to possess the scientific knowledge, ‘the lights’ and the wherewithall to realize and respond ably to what is happening on our watch, have a duty to warn the human community of the ‘ecological cliff’ toward which all of us are madly careening. As things appear now, the masters of the universe and their many minions are denying science and failing humanity. Are we witnessing the greatest failure of nerve in human history at the worst possible moment: when everything (i.e. life as we know it and Earth as a fit place for human habitation) is at stake?

  • Just realized no geese flew over this spring. No wasps. Few flies. No grackles. Fewer finches on the sunflowers last fall. I finally got the bamboo fence finished around my garden to keep neighborhood cats out – a 20-year project, and more cardinals and wrens hatched out this spring. In the past, cats always got them. No one will keep their cats inside.

  • a duty to warn the human community of the ‘ecological cliff’ toward which all of us are madly careening.

    The herd is in full stampede towards the cliff. Those who have the inclination to yell warnings to it are already doing so. Those who have an inclination towards self-preservation are distancing themselves as much as possible from the herd. Dr. McPherson is doing both.

  • one thing i noticed about spending time with indigenous people.

    Their world is ENOUGH.

    Maybe that is their true thread. Navid thanks for responding. Lot’s of fake ‘good news’ out there and it pollutes the perception of what really matters.

    Sandy thank you for this essay. The Industrial Complex is eating indigenous people and all. It is an unmitigated tragedy.

    ***One might think about how we define “advanced” and “primitive” when one considers that our modern cultures are only several hundreds to thousands of years old, while Aboriginal culture was 60,000 years old when Europeans stumbled upon it. Some of the important issues facing our world today and in the future, such as maintaining social cohesion, avoiding major wars, dealing with overpopulation, preventing the degradation and destruction of our environment, and the use of non-renewable resources, had been overcome by Aborigines and their ancient culture as they filled every part of the Australian continent. In these areas, perhaps we should regard Western culture as “developing” and Aboriginal culture as “advanced”.***

    We have MUCH to learn.

  • Now i’m seeing crap like this starting to crop up:
    Matthew Hulbert

    “Peak oilers have had a pretty hard time lately. Not only have global unconventional finds flattened Hubbard’s ‘peak’, more and more conventional plays are cropping up. ‘Running out’? We have more than enough of the black stuff to incinerate ourselves several times over. Such supply side bounty has been well documented in the Americas – not just in the US and Canada, but across Latin America, offering a second pass at resource riches. Head all the way over to Australia, and you’ll see a dazzling display of unconventional technologies rapidly increasing kangaroo LNG production. The North Sea can squeeze out a few more drops; Europe can finally get it’s ‘energy sovereignty’ back from shale plays, all while the Arctic offers Russia untold oil riches. Anywhere you look, the narrative is the same. But just when we thought the global hydrocarbon map was complete, another serious player has cropped up, and it comes in the form of East Africa. This is the new African oil rush, and the race to secure regional riches between East and West is on. Nobody wants to lose: Peak oil is dead, the Great Game is back.”
    (there’s more gushing about all the reserves of oil and natural gas and nothing about the consequences of its continued use)

    We aren’t learning a thing – we continue to repeat the same mistakes until we kill ourselves and everything else apparently.

  • Sort of off topic, but relates to infrastructure collapse. We have covered up declining ERoEI by cutting corners – apparently China is doing the same
    This would be funny if it was a joke video instead of something happening to a real human being

    Girl swallowed by pavement in China


    That’s 3 in just over two weeks. Granted not exactly the same as Argentina and Egypt, but part of a trend.

  • Peak oil is dead, the Great Game is back.

    Highlights the consequences of not being thought how to think – or maybe inattentivess in arithmetic class in primary school.

  • Maybe this explains things – except it doesn’t explain why they aren’t afraid of climate change or energy depletion….
    Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying
    Walk a mile in your ideological counterparts’ shoes…if you dare.
    May 2, 2012 |

    Consider for a moment just how terrifying it must be to live life as a true believer on the right. Reality is scary enough, but the alternative reality inhabited by people who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or think Michele Bachmann isn’t a joke must be nothing less than horrifying.

    Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals. Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala” ($$). The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that’s activated during states of fear and anxiety. (The researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex” – a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity.)
    full article at

  • Glad there is something salutary
    On the negative side
    Arab Grain Imports Rising Rapidly
    Sara Rasmussen
    The Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they take in more than 20 percent of the world’s grain exports. Imports to the region have jumped from 30 million tons of grain in 1990 to nearly 70 million tons in 2011. Now imported grain accounts for nearly 60 percent of regional grain consumption. With water scarce, arable land limited, and production stagnating, grain imports are likely to continue rising

    rest at

    As countries like Egypt move from net exporters of oil to net importers this importing of grain can’t be sustained, which means the population can’t be sustained.

  • And on the economic front
    From Zero Hedge “We were the first to note the dire state of youth unemployment in Europe here, and reiterated here, as this terrible social situation just goes from bad to worse this month. Whether youth unemployment is a proxy for sales of PlayStations or for the much more critical likelihood of widespread social unrest and eventually the dissolution of Europe’s political compact is unclear but one thing is for sure – Europe’s leaders will be watching this chart and quaking as nation after nation breaks to all-time high levels of joblessness for the critical tinder-box of Under-25 year-olds. The Euro-zone youth unemployment rate is back over 22% for the first time since September 1994. With Spain and Greece over 50% (and rising) and Italy now joining Ireland over 35% at the same time as Germany’s youth unemployment falls below 8% for the first time since May 1993 – one can only surmise the rising tensions between the haves and the have-nots (even as Germany’s PMI disappoints).”
    rest with charts at

  • So I was thinking . . . the only way for complete collapse to happen, oil supply/production must drop significantly. As long as there is oil which can be extracted and refined for less amount of energy than it produces, there will be someone out there to do it and use it. Which in turn means that the last vestiges of the industrial economy will linger on in spite of grid failure, nuclear war, water shortages, etc. Oil is what got us to where we are today, and oil will be what brings us down.

    We can talk about all the many other variables which may cause collapse, but I don’t believe any one of them will be able to undo the industrial economy sufficiently to ensure it stays down. Only oil can do that.

    The availability of affordable oil will be the difference between complete collapse and partial collapse.

    I may be thinking about this incorrectly, but that seems to be the way of it to me. I guess that’s why I’m always watching the oil production numbers.

  • Dr House

    I think you are correct, and have said so on multiple occasions. It is also why I have agreed with those who target a window of 2012-2015 as the interval in which we should begin seeing a real drop-off of production in the midst of continued high demand, even though the demand might decrease a bit due to poor economies.

    It is that continued high demand that is the critical issue here. Globally, can can have nothing but a continuing high demand, primarily because we are so dependent upon oil.

    And the real production issue will be seen clearly when we find ourselves having used up all spare capacity (nearly there now) and global demand not being met. There is a point at which demand will not be met even at the right price. This will cause a cascade of economic events, ending eventually in the complete collapse of industrial society as we know it.

    It will not be the financial systems that collapse civilisation. It will be lack of oil to drive transport, the lifeblood of industrial commerce.

  • It is not just the number of barrels of oil, but the net energy from them. When one barrel of oil invested can extract 100 barrels of oil, out of those 100 extracted barrels, one barrel could be re-invested in extracting more oil, and 99 barrels could be used in the conversion of other resources into products. When 30 barrels of oil are needed to extract 100 barrels of oil, out of the 100 barrels of extracted oil, 30 barrels have to be set aside to extract more oil, and 70 barrels will be available to power production. Even if the number of extracted barrels stays the same, the number of barrels available for production decreases. The plateau in number of barrels after Hubbert’s peak hides this decline in the barrels available for production.

    It is the process of conversion of other resources into products that directly or indirectly provides all employment. When that process slows down, there is less employment available. 

  • Robin

    Excellent point about the energy content of the oil being produced. You not only will be paying more for your oil, but getting less out of it. And while the States talk might have (for now) the Canadian oil sands, that will never be enough as the EROEI is very low for such products. Soon they might not even have that if pipelines like the Keystone are actually built. These pipelines are wanted by the oil companies because at this moment nearly all their oil must be produced for the US, as it is practically speaking, the only viable market given the current infrastructure. Build those pipelines and you are looking at opening up the Canadian fields to the world where they will catch a better price. The US is screwing itself again by building these pipelines.

    As for employment, what you say is true, but I would only add that the impact on employment will be relatively minor compared to that on transport and the costs of doing business across the board. Such impacts will first start shutting down the transport infrastructure which will impact everything, including employment but also shutting down the ability to get new parts, equipment and supplies – without these the whole system collapses.

  • War with Iran drawing in Russia or China or both

  • Production – the conversion of resources to products – involves many processes, including the transportation of resources and intermediate products, for now on a global scale. The components of a salad can (and often have to) travel thousands of miles. Transportation is an integral part of production, even if by horse-drawn cart from farm to village market. 

  • Failure to harden the grids leading to massive failure from a solar flare like the Carrington Event followed by inability to repair the grid (can’t pump gas to send out repair vehicles etc.) can’t replace transformers (on backorder even now) followed starting about a week later with 435 Fukushimas.

    Both this and war relate to declining oil but don’t require actual shortages to occur.

  • Prodcution of food severely impacted by climate change so that many or all countries are experiencing actual shortages of the primary human energy – food. Food riots ensue – governments fall.
    “Carryover grain stocks—the amount left in the world’s grain elevators when the new harvest begins—now stand at 469 million tons, enough to cover 75 days of consumption at current levels. Between 1984 and 2001 grain stocks hovered around the more comfortable level of 100 days. In 2002, however, grain production fell 88 million tons short of demand, and since then annual carryover stocks have averaged 72 days of use, close to the bare minimum for basic food security. In 2006, stocks bottomed out at 62 days, setting the stage for the 2007–08 food price spike when international grain prices doubled or tripled in a short amount of time. For poor families in developing countries who spend half or more of their incomes on food, often grain staples, this led to empty plates and frustration. Protests erupted in some 35 countries as the number of hungry people in the world climbed above 1 billion.”

    So many ways to collapse, so little time before the planet can be saved as a place where humans can live.

  • so little time before the planet can be saved as a place where humans can live.

    Can it be saved now?

  • Victor, probably not.

  • Speaking of “The Great Game is Back” some of you already noted this, however, the USGS is now crowing about tests it’s run to trap arctic methane hydrates from the permafrost as a source for natural gas.

    They are playing it as a source much greater than conventional natural gas in the Arctic. Just like the 1500 years worth of gasoline people claim is available in the Bakken Shale Play. What is that “play” anyway? In every way, the people involved in energy seem to have the same mentality as the high rollers in Vegas or the “Fantasy Football” crowd, thinking of nothing but the next quick fix of excitement and rolling around in a bathtub full of money. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” as a species because of what we do today.

    Instead of trying to hold the temperature down so that the methane in the Arctic is not released to cook the atmosphere the government is actually trying to get it out of the ground (or from under the ice, or from deep in the Gulf of Mexico) so we can burn it. Woot! Woot! We will be saving our way of life by burning the methane! Huzzah!

    Michael Irving

  • I was just ranting to my wife about the USGS. She got tired of listening and said, just to slap me around, that burning methane will be great because when it warms the planet up none of us will have to heat our houses with natural gas any longer thus providing an abundance of cheap hydrocarbons that can be converted to fuel for our cars. No wonder I feel like I’m going crazy.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael Irving

    How does your wife feel about having no rain or food? Is that a comforting thought for her?…. :-)

  • Pete Seeger’s 93 birthday today

  • Upping the ante on war as the civilization ending event
    “General Nikolai Makarov, Russia’s most senior military commander, warned Nato that if it proceeded with a controversial American missile defence system, force would be used against it.
    A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens,” he said.
    Gen Makarov has threatened to target Nato bases hosting an anti-missile system designed by the US to protect European allies against attack from states such as Iran.
    He said that Russia would counter Nato deployment by stationing short-range Iskander missiles in the Russian Kaliningrad exclave near Poland, creating the worst military tensions since the Cold War.
    “The deployment of new strike weapons in Russia’s south and northwest – including of Iskander systems in Kaliningrad – is one of our possible options for destroying the system’s European infrastructure,” he said.”

    rest at

  • With great thanks to Sandy Krolick, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s here.

  • It is avoidable.

    It’s the strong eating the weak.

    Only the high and mighty will survive, and nature will be manufactured to suit their needs.

    Some people’s only crimes are not born in to the homes of high and mighty.