Apr 272012
 
 April 27, 2012  Posted by at 4:00 am Earth
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Gordon Parks We need more growth! Spring 1943
"A Harlem scene, viewed from the subway entrance"

I read a piece on The Huffington Post today that got me thinking. In fact, it got me thinking how curious it is that so many well-meaning and relatively intelligent people arrive at such a diversity of curiously faulty ideas and conclusions, even when starting from what seem to be similar origins. It’s an all too familiar phenomenon, one that frequently has me wondering why at one point or another many dig in their heels and stop thinking when faced with seemingly complex issues.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is so common, I have to always take a close look at myself to try and prevent me from doing the same. Maybe it has something to do with our often pretty desperate desire for – clean and clear – solutions when pondering what in our experience are overwhelming questions. For instance, we often hear at TAE that we offer too much and doom and gloom, and not enough solutions. Thing is, that presupposes that solutions are – more or less freely – available. And as human as that desire may be, refusing beforehand the possibility that there may not be a neat solution to a particular problem doesn't really help the process of understanding the problem.

The article in question was written by Andrew Winston for Harvard Business Review. It addresses a dialogue between an economist and a physicist on the topic of – perennial – growth, written, in turn, by Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. Winston takes the side of the physicist. So far, so good. However, his conclusion is not:

 

Growth Isn't Going to Last Forever

If we stop using the dead-plant, fossil-based forms of energy, and move fast to renewable energy, we can provide all our possible power needs for many centuries and avoid the problems of compounding carbon in the atmosphere. We can also decouple the growth of quality of life (basic needs, plus rising fulfillment and joy) from the growth of energy, possibly allowing us to set rising economic targets for much longer before we hit a physical wall (we'd still need to deal with other limits like water).

Winston is the founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and "co-author of the best-seller Green to Gold and the author of Green Recovery". "He advises some of the world’s biggest companies on environmental strategy. "

Oh boy! Where to begin? How about here: I don't really know for whom that last statement is worse news, for "some of the world’s biggest companies" or for all the rest of us. Clearly, Winston has neither understood the dialogue he himself quotes and clearly endorses, nor a whole slew of other economic and physical facts.

Claiming that "… renewable energy [..] can provide all our possible power needs for many centuries…" is just plain nonsense. First off, it may exist as a dream, but it's not a reality. Whether it ever could be, then, is another question. It certainly isn't proven by any stretch of the imagination. What will make any such proof exceedingly hard to come by is the same physics Winston cites, under the illusion that it will make his point for him. It doesn't. In fact, it destroys it.

There's a whole range of issues, from the very low EROEI (net energy) renewables offer, to their often intermittent character which makes them a huge challenge for any power grid, to the fact that in order to produce solar panels, wind turbines et al, you need a lot of "dead-plant, fossil-based forms of energy", to the often overlooked problems of scalability, that make a world powered at current consumption levels by renewable energy a nice but inherently flawed mirage that disappears from us as we approach it, into a receding horizon.

Winston then dots his i's, crosses his t's and seals his fate by contradicting the very article he so supports: "… allowing us to set rising economic targets for much longer before we hit a physical wall…". Yeah, that's right. Economic growth without physical growth. As you can see below, that was not left as an option on the table in the dialogue, not even for Andrew Winston. Rising economic targets are as illusive as rising energy consumption, be it – the latter – based on fossil fuels or renewables. Efficiency in the use of energy has limits, and while these may not be precisely known or knowable in advance, it doesn't matter: thermodynamics imposes clear restrictions on efficiency.

Tom Murphy, the physicist who wrote the clever, entertaining and thought-provoking dialogue, veers off track at a different point. From his conclusions:

"The conversation recreated here did challenge my own understanding as well. I spent the rest of the evening pondering the question: “Under a model in which GDP is fixed—under conditions of stable energy, stable population, steady-state economy: if we accumulate knowledge, improve the quality of life, and thus create an unambiguously more desirable world within which to live, doesn’t this constitute a form of economic growth?”

I had to concede that yes—it does. This often falls under the title of “development” rather than “growth.” I ran into the economist the next day and we continued the conversation, wrapping up loose ends that were cut short by the keynote speech. I related to him my still-forming position that yes, we can continue tweaking quality of life under a steady regime. I don’t think I ever would have explicitly thought otherwise, but I did not consider this to be a form of economic growth. One way to frame it is by asking if future people living in a steady-state economy—yet separated by 400 years—would always make the same, obvious trades? Would the future life be objectively better, even for the same energy, same GDP, same income, etc.? If the answer is yes, then the far-future person gets more for their money: more for their energy outlay. Can this continue indefinitely (thousands of years)? Perhaps. Will it be at the 2% per year level (factor of ten better every 100 years)? I doubt that.

So I can twist my head into thinking of quality of life development in an otherwise steady-state as being a form of indefinite growth."

The steady state theory of course comes from Herman Daly and Joshua Farley's "Ecological Economics". It is a great theory, and I’m a great admirer of Daly et al. But I don't for a moment believe that we will be able, even for a fleeting moment in time, to impose on ourselves and on each other, globally, a situation of a stable population that uses a stable amount of energy in a stable economic system.

We can't create a stable population because we don’t have sufficient power over people in other countries, or even our own, to tell them not to have children. And even if we did, we'd just create a fast ageing population, an option that brings along a whole additional set of problems. We could kill off one older person for each not-born baby, but for some reason that's not popular either socially or politically.

We can't create stable global energy use, for one thing because we don't have control over global sources. Even if we could sign a treaty with Saudi Arabia, Russia, China etc. to stop producing oil and gas above a certain level, no such treaty would last long: the relative advantage of producing and consuming more would be too great to resist at some time for some leader of some nation.

We will use whatever energy is available. Because if WE don't do it, someone else will, and threaten and/or conquer us with it. That is the tragedy of our species, and the very essence of Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. There is no such thing as a stability for us to create and impose on the world. We are as doomed towards the consumption of surplus energy sources as the yeast in the wine vat.

And even though some of us may know we are doomed in this way, that doesn't mean there's an alternative available. If we voluntarily forgo the use of energy – and I mean as a group, community, nation -, there will always be another group that will not make the same choice. And therefore we do not make that choice either. We may dream of shifting to other forms of energy, but we sure as hell are going to keep that sucker burning. We must, or we will be wiped out by those who do.

The only possible conclusion is, and I repeat myself as well as others here, that like the yeast in the wine vat, our society will crash, way before the energy surplus is finished, because no organism can survive in a medium of its own waste.

And then whoever's left will start all over again. At ground level. But perhaps with big dreams.

And that is a solution in its own right to our conundrums and dillema's. It's not one we've made ourselves, or would have chosen, but it’s still a solution. One that will remind us, if we're there to see it, that nature as a whole bats last, not just the little part of it that's human.

We must accept that there are problems we have no solutions for. And that that's alright, in its own way.

Here's Tom Murphy's dialogue. I hope he doesn't mind I put it up the whole thing.

 

Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist

Some while back, I found myself sitting next to an accomplished economics professor at a dinner event. Shortly after pleasantries, I said to him, “economic growth cannot continue indefinitely,” just to see where things would go. It was a lively and informative conversation. I was somewhat alarmed by the disconnect between economic theory and physical constraints – not for the first time, but here it was up-close and personal. Though my memory is not keen enough to recount our conversation verbatim, I thought I would at least try to capture the key points and convey the essence of the tennis match – with some entertainment value thrown in.

Cast of characters: Physicist, played by me; Economist, played by an established economics professor from a prestigious institution. Scene: banquet dinner, played in four acts (courses).

Note: because I have a better retention of my own thoughts than those of my conversational companion, this recreation is lopsided to represent my own points/words. So while it may look like a physicist-dominated conversation, this is more an artifact of my own recall capabilities. I also should say that the other people at our table were not paying attention to our conversation, so I don’t know what makes me think this will be interesting to readers if it wasn’t even interesting enough to others at the table! But here goes…

 

Act One: Bread and Butter

Physicist: Hi, I’m Tom. I’m a physicist.

Economist: Hi Tom, I’m [ahem..cough]. I’m an economist.

Physicist: Hey, that’s great. I’ve been thinking a bit about growth and want to run an idea by you. I claim that economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.

Economist: [chokes on bread crumb] Did I hear you right? Did you say that growth can not continue forever?

Physicist: That’s right. I think physical limits assert themselves.

Economist: Well sure, nothing truly lasts forever. The sun, for instance, will not burn forever. On the billions-of-years timescale, things come to an end.

Physicist: Granted, but I’m talking about a more immediate timescale, here on Earth. Earth’s physical resources – particularly energy – are limited and may prohibit continued growth within centuries, or possibly much shorter depending on the choices we make. There are thermodynamic issues as well.

Economist: I don’t think energy will ever be a limiting factor to economic growth. Sure, conventional fossil fuels are finite. But we can substitute non-conventional resources like tar sands, oil shale, shale gas, etc. By the time these run out, we’ll likely have built up a renewable infrastructure of wind, solar, and geothermal energy – plus next-generation nuclear fission and potentially nuclear fusion. And there are likely energy technologies we cannot yet fathom in the farther future.

Physicist: Sure, those things could happen, and I hope they do at some non-trivial scale. But let’s look at the physical implications of the energy scale expanding into the future. So what’s a typical rate of annual energy growth over the last few centuries?

Economist: I would guess a few percent. Less than 5%, but at least 2%, I should think.

U.S. total energy 1650-present (logarithmic)

Total U.S. Energy consumption in all forms since 1650. The vertical scale is logarithmic, so that an exponential curve resulting from a constant growth rate appears as a straight line. The red line corresponds to an annual growth rate of 2.9%. Source: EIA.

Physicist: Right, if you plot the U.S. energy consumption in all forms from 1650 until now, you see a phenomenally faithful exponential at about 3% per year over that whole span. The situation for the whole world is similar. So how long do you think we might be able to continue this trend?

Economist: Well, let’s see. A 3% growth rate means a doubling time of something like 23 years. So each century might see something like a 15 20 increase. I see where you’re going. A few more centuries like that would perhaps be absurd. But don’t forget that population was increasing during centuries past – the period on which you base your growth rate. Population will stop growing before more centuries roll by.

Physicist: True enough. So we would likely agree that energy growth will not continue indefinitely. But two points before we continue: First, I’ll just mention that energy growth has far outstripped population growth, so that per-capita energy use has surged dramatically over time – our energy lives today are far richer than those of our great-great-grandparents a century ago [economist nods]. So even if population stabilizes, we are accustomed to per-capita energy growth: total energy would have to continue growing to maintain such a trend [another nod].

Second, thermodynamic limits impose a cap to energy growth lest we cook ourselves. I’m not talking about global warming, CO2 build-up, etc. I’m talking about radiating the spent energy into space. I assume you’re happy to confine our conversation to Earth, foregoing the spectre of an exodus to space, colonizing planets, living the Star Trek life, etc.

Economist: More than happy to keep our discussion grounded to Earth.

Physicist: [sigh of relief: not a space cadet] Alright, the Earth has only one mechanism for releasing heat to space, and that’s via (infrared) radiation. We understand the phenomenon perfectly well, and can predict the surface temperature of the planet as a function of how much energy the human race produces. The upshot is that at a 2.3% growth rate (conveniently chosen to represent a 10 increase every century), we would reach boiling temperature in about 400 years. [Pained expression from economist.] And this statement is independent of technology. Even if we don’t have a name for the energy source yet, as long as it obeys thermodynamics, we cook ourselves with perpetual energy increase.

Economist: That’s a striking result. Could not technology pipe or beam the heat elsewhere, rather than relying on thermal radiation?

Physicist: Well, we could (and do, somewhat) beam non-thermal radiation into space, like light, lasers, radio waves, etc. But the problem is that these “sources” are forms of high-grade, low-entropy energy. Instead, we’re talking about getting rid of the waste heat from all the processes by which we use energy. This energy is thermal in nature. We might be able to scoop up some of this to do useful “work,” but at very low thermodynamic efficiency. If you want to use high-grade energy in the first place, having high-entropy waste heat is pretty inescapable.

Economist: [furrowed brow] Okay, but I still think our path can easily accommodate at least a steady energy profile. We’ll use it more efficiently and for new pursuits that continue to support growth.

Physicist: Before we tackle that, we’re too close to an astounding point for me to leave it unspoken. At that 2.3% growth rate, we would be using energy at a rate corresponding to the total solar input striking Earth in a little over 400 years. We would consume something comparable to the entire sun in 1400 years from now. By 2500 years, we would use energy at the rate of the entire Milky Way galaxy – 100 billion stars! I think you can see the absurdity of continued energy growth. 2500 years is not that long, from a historical perspective. We know what we were doing 2500 years ago. I think I know what we’re not going to be doing 2500 years hence.

Economist: That’s really remarkable – I appreciate the detour. You said about 1400 years to reach parity with solar output?

Physicist: Right. And you can see the thermodynamic point in this scenario as well. If we tried to generate energy at a rate commensurate with that of the Sun in 1400 years, and did this on Earth, physics demands that the surface of the Earth must be hotter than the (much larger) surface of the Sun. Just like 100 W from a light bulb results in a much hotter surface than the same 100 W you and I generate via metabolism, spread out across a much larger surface area.

Economist: I see. That does make sense.

Act Two: Salad

Economist: So I’m as convinced as I need to be that growth in raw energy use is a limited proposition – that we must one day at the very least stabilize to a roughly constant yearly expenditure. At least I’m willing to accept that as a starting point for discussing the long term prospects for economic growth. But coming back to your first statement, I don’t see that this threatens the indefinite continuance of economic growth.

For one thing, we can keep energy use fixed and still do more with it in each passing year via efficiency improvements. Innovations bring new ideas to the market, spurring investment, market demand, etc. These are things that will not run dry. We have plenty of examples of fundamentally important resources in decline, only to be substituted or rendered obsolete by innovations in another direction.

Physicist: Yes, all these things happen, and will continue at some level. But I am not convinced that they represent limitless resources.

Economist: Do you think ingenuity has a limit – that the human mind itself is only so capable? That could be true, but we can’t credibly predict how close we might be to such a limit.

Physicist: That’s not really what I have in mind. Let’s take efficiency first. It is true that, over time, cars get better mileage, refrigerators use less energy, buildings are built more smartly to conserve energy, etc. The best examples tend to see factor-of-two improvements on a 35 year timeframe, translating to 2% per year. But many things are already as efficient as we can expect them to be. Electric motors are a good example, at 90% efficiency. It will always take 4184 Joules to heat a liter of water one degree Celsius. In the middle range, we have giant consumers of energy – like power plants – improving much more slowly, at 1% per year or less. And these middling things tend to be something like 30% efficient. How many more “doublings” are possible? If many of our devices were 0.01% efficient, I would be more enthusiastic about centuries of efficiency-based growth ahead of us. But we may only have one more doubling in us, taking less than a century to realize.

Economist: Okay, point taken. But there is more to efficiency than incremental improvement. There are also game-changers. Tele-conferencing instead of air travel. Laptop replaces desktop; iPhone replaces laptop, etc. – each far more energy frugal than the last. The internet is an example of an enabling innovation that changes the way we use energy.

Physicist: These are important examples, and I do expect some continuation along this line, but we still need to eat, and no activity can get away from energy use entirely. [semi-reluctant nod/bobble] Sure, there are lower-intensity activities, but nothing of economic value is completely free of energy.

Economist: Some things can get awfully close. Consider virtualization. Imagine that in the future, we could all own virtual mansions and have our every need satisfied: all by stimulative neurological trickery. We would stil need nutrition, but the energy required to experience a high-energy lifestyle would be relatively minor. This is an example of enabling technology that obviates the need to engage in energy-intensive activities. Want to spend the weekend in Paris? You can do it without getting out of your chair. [More like an IV-drip-equipped toilet than a chair, the physicist thinks.]

Physicist: I see. But this is still a finite expenditure of energy per person. Not only does it take energy to feed the person (today at a rate of 10 kilocalories of energy input per kilocalorie eaten, no less), but the virtual environment probably also requires a supercomputer – by today’s standards – for every virtual voyager. The supercomputer at UCSD consumes something like 5 MW of power. Granted, we can expect improvement on this end, but today’s supercomputer eats 50,000 times as much as a person does, so there is a big gulf to cross. I’ll take some convincing. Plus, not everyone will want to live this virtual existence.

Economist: Really? Who could refuse it? All your needs met and an extravagant lifestyle – what’s not to like? I hope I can live like that myself someday.

Physicist: Not me. I suspect many would prefer the smell of real flowers – complete with aphids and sneezing; the feel of real wind messing up their hair; even real rain, real bee-stings, and all the rest. You might be able to simulate all these things, but not everyone will want to live an artificial life. And as long as there are any holdouts, the plan of squeezing energy requirements to some arbitrarily low level fails. Not to mention meeting fixed bio-energy needs.

Act Three: Main Course

Physicist: But let’s leave the Matrix, and cut to the chase. Let’s imagine a world of steady population and steady energy use. I think we’ve both agreed on these physically-imposed parameters. If the flow of energy is fixed, but we posit continued economic growth, then GDP continues to grow while energy remains at a fixed scale. This means that energy – a physically-constrained resource, mind – must become arbitrarily cheap as GDP continues to grow and leave energy in the dust.

Economist: Yes, I think energy plays a diminishing role in the economy and becomes too cheap to worry about.

Physicist: Wow. Do you really believe that? A physically limited resource (read scarcity) that is fundamental to every economic activity becomes arbitrarily cheap? [turns attention to food on the plate, somewhat stunned]

Economist: [after pause to consider] Yes, I do believe that.

Physicist: Okay, so let’s be clear that we’re talking about the same thing. Energy today is roughly 10% of GDP. Let’s say we cap the physical amount available each year at some level, but allow GDP to keep growing. We need to ignore inflation as a nuisance in this case: if my 10 units of energy this year costs $10,000 out of my $100,000 income; then next year that same amount of energy costs $11,000 and I make $110,000 – I want to ignore such an effect as “meaningless” inflation: the GDP “growth” in this sense is not real growth, but just a re-scaling of the value of money.

Economist: Agreed.

Physicist: Then in order to have real GDP growth on top of flat energy, the fractional cost of energy goes down relative to the GDP as a whole.

Economist: Correct.

Physicist: How far do you imagine this can go? Will energy get to 1% of GDP? 0.1%? Is there a limit?

Economist: There does not need to be. Energy may become of secondary importance in the economy of the future – like in the virtual world I illustrated.

Physicist: But if energy became arbitrarily cheap, someone could buy all of it, and suddenly the activities that comprise the economy would grind to a halt. Food would stop arriving at the plate without energy for purchase, so people would pay attention to this. Someone would be willing to pay more for it. Everyone would. There will be a floor to how low energy prices can go as a fraction of GDP.

Economist: That floor may be very low: much lower than the 5 10% we pay today.

Physicist: But is there a floor? How low are you willing to take it? 5%? 2%? 1%?

Economist: Let’s say 1%.

Physicist: So once our fixed annual energy costs 1% of GDP, the 99% remaining will find itself stuck. If it tries to grow, energy prices must grow in proportion and we have monetary inflation, but no real growth.

Economist: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. You can still have growth without increasing GDP.

Physicist: But it seems that you are now sold on the notion that the cost of energy would not naturally sink to arbitrarily low levels.

Economist: Yes, I have to retract that statement. If energy is indeed capped at a steady annual amount, then it is important enough to other economic activities that it would not be allowed to slip into economic obscurity.

Physicist: Even early economists like Adam Smith foresaw economic growth as a temporary phase lasting maybe a few hundred years, ultimately limited by land (which is where energy was obtained in that day). If humans are successful in the long term, it is clear that a steady-state economic theory will far outlive the transient growth-based economic frameworks of today. Forget Smith, Keynes, Friedman, and that lot. The economists who devise a functioning steady-state economic system stand to be remembered for a longer eternity than the growth dudes. [Economist stares into the distance as he contemplates this alluring thought.]

Act Four: Dessert

Economist: But I have to object to the statement that growth must stop once energy amount/price saturates. There will always be innovations that people are willing to purchase that do not require additional energy.

Physicist: Things will certainly change. By “steady-state,” I don’t mean static. Fads and fashions will always be part of what we do – we’re not about to stop being human. But I’m thinking more of a zero-sum game here. Fads come and go. Some fraction of GDP will always go toward the fad/innovation/gizmo of the day, but while one fad grows, another fades and withers. Innovation therefore will maintain a certain flow in the economy, but not necessarily growth.

Economist: Ah, but the key question is whether life 400 years from now is undeniably of higher quality than life today. Even if energy is fixed, and GDP is fixed once the cost of energy saturates at the lower bound, will quality of life continue to improve in objectively agreed-upon ways?

Physicist: I don’t know how objective such an assessment can be. Many today yearn for days past. Maybe this is borne of ignorance or romanticism over the past (1950′s often comes up). It may be really exciting to imagine living in Renaissance Europe, until a bucket of nightsoil hurled from a window splatters off the cobblestone and onto your breeches. In any case, what kind of universal, objective improvements might you imagine?

Economist: Well, for instance, look at this dessert, with its decorative syrup swirls on the plate. It is marvelous to behold.

Physicist: And tasty.

Economist: We value such desserts more than plain, unadorned varieties. In fact, we can imagine an equivalent dessert with equivalent ingredients, but the decorative syrup unceremoniously pooled off to one side. We value the decorated version more. And the chefs will continue to innovate. Imagine a preparation/presentation 400 years from now that would blow your mind – you never thought dessert could be made to look so amazing and taste so delectably good. People would line the streets to get hold of such a creation. No more energy, no more ingredients, yet of increased value to society. That’s a form of quality of life improvement, requiring no additional resources, and perhaps costing the same fraction of GDP, or income.

Physicist: I’m smiling because this reminds me of a related story. I was observing at Palomar Observatory with an amazing instrumentation guru named Keith who taught me much. Keith’s night lunch – prepared in the evening by the observatory kitchen and placed in a brown bag – was a tuna-fish sandwich in two parts: bread slices in a plastic baggie, and the tuna salad in a small plastic container (so the tuna would not make the bread soggy after hours in the bag). Keith plopped the tuna onto the bread in an inverted container-shaped lump, then put the other piece of bread on top without first spreading the tuna. It looked like a snake had just eaten a rat. Perplexed, I asked if he intended to spread the tuna before eating it. He looked at me quizzically (like Morpheus in the Matrix: “You think that’s air you’re breathing? Hmm.”), and said – memorably, “It all goes in the same place.”

My point is that the stunning presentation of desserts will not have universal value to society. It all goes in the same place, after all. [I'll share a little-known secret. It's hard to beat a Hostess Ding Dong for dessert. At 5% the cost of fancy desserts, it's not clear how much value the fancy things add.]

After-Dinner Contemplations

The evening’s after-dinner keynote speech began, so we had to shelve the conversation. Reflecting on it, I kept thinking, “This should not have happened. A prominent economist should not have to walk back statements about the fundamental nature of growth when talking to a scientist with no formal economics training.” But as the evening progressed, the original space in which the economist roamed got painted smaller and smaller.

First, he had to acknowledge that energy may see physical limits. I don’t think that was part of his initial virtual mansion.

Next, the efficiency argument had to shift away from straight-up improvements to transformational technologies. Virtual reality played a prominent role in this line of argument.

Finally, even having accepted the limits to energy growth, he initially believed this would prove to be of little consequence to the greater economy. But he had to ultimately admit to a floor on energy price and therefore an end to traditional growth in GDP – against a backdrop fixed energy.

I got the sense that this economist’s view on growth met some serious challenges during the course of the meal. Maybe he was not putting forth the most coherent arguments that he could have made. But he was very sharp and by all measures seemed to be at the top of his game. I choose to interpret the episode as illuminating a blind spot in traditional economic thinking. There is too little acknowledgement of physical limits, and even the non-compliant nature of humans, who may make choices we might think to be irrational – just to remain independent and unencumbered.

I recently was motivated to read a real economics textbook: one written by people who understand and respect physical limitations. The book, called Ecological Economics, by Herman Daly and Joshua Farley, states in its Note to Instructors:

…we do not share the view of many of our economics colleagues that growth will solve the economic problem, that narrow self-interest is the only dependable human motive, that technology will always find a substitute for any depleted resource, that the market can efficiently allocate all types of goods, that free markets always lead to an equilibrium balancing supply and demand, or that the laws of thermodynamics are irrelevant to economics.

This is a book for me!

Epilogue

The conversation recreated here did challenge my own understanding as well. I spent the rest of the evening pondering the question: “Under a model in which GDP is fixed – under conditions of stable energy, stable population, steady-state economy: if we accumulate knowledge, improve the quality of life, and thus create an unambiguously more desirable world within which to live, doesn’t this constitute a form of economic growth?”

I had to concede that yes – it does. This often falls under the title of “development” rather than “growth.” I ran into the economist the next day and we continued the conversation, wrapping up loose ends that were cut short by the keynote speech. I related to him my still-forming position that yes, we can continue tweaking quality of life under a steady regime. I don’t think I ever would have explicitly thought otherwise, but I did not consider this to be a form of economic growth. One way to frame it is by asking if future people living in a steady-state economy – yet separated by 400 years – would always make the same, obvious trades? Would the future life be objectively better, even for the same energy, same GDP, same income, etc.? If the answer is yes, then the far-future person gets more for their money: more for their energy outlay. Can this continue indefinitely (thousands of years)? Perhaps. Will it be at the 2% per year level (factor of ten better every 100 years)? I doubt that.

So I can twist my head into thinking of quality of life development in an otherwise steady-state as being a form of indefinite growth. But it’s not your father’s growth. It’s not growing GDP, growing energy use, interest on bank accounts, loans, fractional reserve money, investment. It’s a whole different ballgame, folks. Of that, I am convinced. Big changes await us. An unrecognizable economy. The main lesson for me is that growth is not a “good quantum number,” as physicists will say: it’s not an invariant of our world. Cling to it at your own peril.

 

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April 27, 2012 at 4:00 am #8549

Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Gordon Parks We need more growth! Spring 1943 "A Harlem scene, viewed from the subway entrance" I read a piece on The Huffington Post today
[See the full post at: The Limits to Mankind]

April 27, 2012 at 11:40 am #2819

Reverse Engineer

That was a fun dialogue presented there Ash.

We are as usual in basic agreement about the general improbability of being able to maintain any kind of steady state ourselves in the absence of an external predator. This would be the Catch-22 of being the absolute TOP of the Food Chain.

However, in a lower energy world where techno-med was not available and nutrition was thin, there are plenty of microscopic predators out there who will do the job of Population Control on Humanity. I don’t think we really have to worry much about a world of 12B People by 2050. Disease vectors alone will make that one improbable to achieve.

The question of “growth” in whoever is left standing after this knockdown of population is kind of ephemeral, its all in how you define the growth. If growth to you means greater physical comforts, further growth here is highly unlikely. However, that does not mean there cannot be further Spiritual and Intellectual Growth in a low energy world.

I’ll give the example of Chess, which I recently discussed over in the Diner. You like Poker metaphors, I like to use Chess because there is no chance at all involved in Chess, nothing random at all. Yet the outcomes and the Games still are Infinite. Even under an energy paradigm at the paleolithic level, thinkers could still play Chess with Rocks and explore all the variations, to find the Holy Grail of the series of moves that will work so White will Win every time, just as you must always win every time if you play first in the game of Tic Tac Toe. If I had nothing to do with my day but spend 4 hours collecting worms and grasshoppers to eat and then could spend the rest of my day playing chess, I’d still have an intellectually challenging and fulfilling life. Tasty well presented Deserts don’t make my life fulfilling, and as you mention, a Ding Dong is pretty much just as good as Chocolate Mousse slathered over Truffles or whatever.

The Universe presents itself to you in the Night Sky, which is a whole lot more visible when there aren’t any ground level Lights burning. There is much still to elucidate just watching the movement of the stars and planets with the naked eye, you do not even really need a Telescope. Any child starting from Scratch can spend a lifetime learning this stuff, its highly challenging to memorize the entire night sky as the Polynesian Naviagators did, and they were STONE AGE people. You just cannot GET a lower energy footprint than that as Homo Sapiens, yet they still had a challenging intellectual challenge and a body of knowledge to learn from childhood that took a lifetime to acquire.

On a Spiritual Level, we still cannot resolve fundamental existential questions, but they do provide fodder for specualtion into all eternity. Like the Holy Grail of the Perfect Chess Game, it is possible that evetually the question of the Existence of God could be resolved. I know I can debate this one into all eternity and be very entertained and have much to think on through that time.

From my POV, the people who worry about our potential for Growth in a low energy world are far too materialistic in their outlook. We still have a LOT of “Growing” to do, in our Intellectual and Spiritual knowledge and most certainly in how we organize our societies as Homo Sapiens. That THIS society with its high energy requirements and low equity will crash big time, of this I have no doubt. Like the Deer on St. Matthews Island, the 7B people currently walking the Earth will go down so fast when TSHTF truly it will boggle the mind. For those few who do remain standing though, there is much growth possible in a low energy world. IMHO, more growth possible than was achieved through all the years of the Age of Oil with all the Computers and all the Toys we have become so enamored of. The growth that is IMPORTANT is growth of Understanding, and that all happens inside the Human Mind. It may have limits, but we are nowhere near reaching them yet. The main question is whether we will ever have a chance to explore them, or if we will instead auto-extinguish our presence on the Earth and end this great experience with sentience we began so long ago. I for one hope that does not happen, but the days ahead do look dark indeed. You won’t survive though if you capitulate to the Darkness, so I will carry on here as long as I can. Pass on what I can to the children I teach, and then eventually watch what comes to pass from my perch in the Great beyond, as I do now from my more limited perch on the Last Great Frontier.

RE

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org

April 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm #2820

Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Sorry, boyo, Ash didn’t post that. And yeah, we can all wax at length on the meaning and definition of growth, but that doesn’t mean it has all that much to do with the article. I think Steady State is an interesting discussion, but it’s also one that I closed a while back: we’re all too human to steady any sort of state. Also, I doubt that the death of 6+ billion people will leave any of us happily contemplating our spiritual growth while the bodies decay by the side of the road. But to each his/her own.

April 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm #2825

Reverse Engineer

ilargi post=2431 wrote: Sorry, boyo, Ash didn’t post that. And yeah, we can all wax at length on the meaning and definition of growth, but that doesn’t mean it has all that much to do with the article. I think Steady State is an interesting discussion, but it’s also one that I closed a while back: we’re all too human to steady any sort of state. Also, I doubt that the death of 6+ billion people will leave any of us happily contemplating our spiritual growth while the bodies decay by the side of the road. But to each his/her own.

In the places where people will survive what is to come, there are no roads. In a generation, the dead bodies by the ring roads of the Big Shities will all be picked clean by carrion and the bones disolved into the soil beneath the cracked asphalt.

As to “all” being too human to steady state, “all” is a very big category. Australian Aboriginals stayed steady state for millenia, so did the Inuit, so did the Kalahari bushmen. In a meager environment with no surplus, nature does a fine job keeping Homo Sapiens at a steady state. By the time the Billions currently infesting the earth finish their locust like consumption frenzy, there will be no surplus left anywhere for millenia to come. It takes a LONG time to build up the kind of surplus we burned up over the last couple of centuries.

Nice to see you back at the keyboard Ilargi :-)

RE

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org

April 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm #2828

ashvin

Reverse Engineer post=2430 wrote: The question of “growth” in whoever is left standing after this knockdown of population is kind of ephemeral, its all in how you define the growth. If growth to you means greater physical comforts, further growth here is highly unlikely. However, that does not mean there cannot be further Spiritual and Intellectual Growth in a low energy world.

I’ll give the example of Chess, which I recently discussed over in the Diner. You like Poker metaphors, I like to use Chess because there is no chance at all involved in Chess, nothing random at all. Yet the outcomes and the Games still are Infinite. Even under an energy paradigm at the paleolithic level, thinkers could still play Chess with Rocks and explore all the variations, to find the Holy Grail of the series of moves that will work so White will Win every time, just as you must always win every time if you play first in the game of Tic Tac Toe.

I love the chess analogy and agree with your points about spiritual /intellectual growth in a world of low material growth. It seems you and I find the most agreement when you respond to discussions that I am not even having.

April 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm #2829

XYZ

@ RE
I agree about spiritual growth, we indeed have a long way to go, but please watch out with your analogies. The bit about chocolate mousse slathered over truffles is revolting.

April 27, 2012 at 10:02 pm #2831

Jeotsu

I highly recommend reading more of Tom’s stuff at his “do the math” site (http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/). He walks through the practicality of all sorts of energy problems from a physics perspective. Very educational.

Jeotsu

April 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm #2832

jal

Great subject to explore.

Growth and steady state

As to “all” being too human to steady state, “all” is a very big category. Australian Aboriginals stayed steady state for millenia, so did the Inuit, so did the Kalahari bushmen. In a meager environment with no surplus, nature does a fine job keeping Homo Sapiens at a steady state.

Big question?

Did the Australian Aboriginals etc. reach a greater state of inner growth than we have with all those years of steady state?

How about the Vedic civilization?

Where has all of their wisdom been recorded?
In the “holy writings”?

Funny how all of this wisdom has been either ignored or trampled on by the forces of growth, greed, and by people striving for a monopoly of resources to guarantee liberty, and their pursuit of their happiness.

In a structure of finite resource, some will have less so that some may have more.

Due to genetic and environment inputs, it is not possible to extinguish “I want more”.

There are many more points worthy of discussion.

April 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm #2833

Reverse Engineer

ashvin post=2439 wrote:
I love the chess analogy and agree with your points about spiritual /intellectual growth in a world of low material growth. It seems you and I find the most agreement when you respond to discussions that I am not even having.

I don’t suppose you guys ever considered putting in a Byline with your articles? I never made a distinction between “autoearthadmin” and “administrator” before. Anyhow my apologies for attributing the authorship incorrectly.

RE

April 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm #2834

Meeks

You are right about there not being a solution much of the time. Yet consider this: When there IS a solution, people don’t want to hear it. I see so many people with lower middle class incomes yet living upper middle class lifestyles. You can tell them to stop spending, and save more. They won’t do it. Isn’t it tragic when people cannot make their mortgage payment, then tap their savings and retirement accounts, yet lose the house anyway–rather then just letting it go into foreclosure from the get-go.

We are now facing a whole new economy/lifestyle, scaled back from what we’ve known. Many people don’t want to accept that.

April 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm #2835

Reverse Engineer

jal post=2443 wrote: Where has all of their wisdom been recorded?
In the “holy writings”?

This question is pretty easy to answer. Since they did not have writing, these cultures only preserve their knowledge through oral tradition. If you want to know anything at all about them, you have to spend time with the few who still walk the earth. You can read from anthropologists who have done this and get their interpretation, but it is second hand and filtered through their perceptions.

Future cultures working along these lines may have writing or they may not. There is certainly not going to be the reams of low acid paper around to write on as time goes by here.

RE

April 28, 2012 at 12:33 am #2836

ashvin

Reverse Engineer post=2444 wrote: [quote=ashvin post=2439]
I love the chess analogy and agree with your points about spiritual /intellectual growth in a world of low material growth. It seems you and I find the most agreement when you respond to discussions that I am not even having.

I don’t suppose you guys ever considered putting in a Byline with your articles? I never made a distinction between “autoearthadmin” and “administrator” before. Anyhow my apologies for attributing the authorship incorrectly.

RE

The author and category tags for features/commentaries are on the front page, and the article’s own page.

For some odd reason, the forum goes with autoearthadmin instead of our names for topics created by us (but not anyone else).

April 28, 2012 at 1:41 am #2837

jal

Great subject to explore.

Growth and steady state

My mistake …

The subject must be avoided … its like digging a grave ahead of time. It will cause someone’s death.

April 28, 2012 at 2:49 am #2838

Viscount St. Albans

Dear Ilargi,
I’ve missed you.
Write again soon.

Can’t we sell happiness? My happiness grows when I read your black and white pixels. It’s worth as much as a savory steak dinner. The secret is the management of expectations.

April 28, 2012 at 3:01 am #2840

Jerry McManus

Excellent article, there are exceedingly few people who seem to get the “if we don’t use it someone else will” dilemma. Tom Murphy is an otherwise smart guy, but unfortunately I can’t help but notice that, like others in the doesn’t-get-it crowd, he is deliriously entranced by so-called “renewables”. The non-solution of the century.

“And then whoever’s left will start all over again. At ground level. But perhaps with big dreams.”

Actually, ground level might be a bit optimistic. One of the more insidious aspects of global ecological overshoot is that it not only depletes resources but it also degrades the productive capacity of the Earth; pollution, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, desertification…, you name it.

The greater the extent of our overshoot, then so too the lower the long term carrying capacity will be. Sadly, our overshoot has been going into overdrive for at least the last three decades.

The breeding pairs of humans who make it through this bottleneck will find themselves living at a level far below what may have otherwise been possible had we been even just a little bit smarter than the aforementioned yeast.

April 28, 2012 at 3:39 am #2843

regionswork

Growth and change for the individual and community have a cumulative and maturing nature. Broccoli at age 12 may be a different experience that at 24. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” will take on different qualities throughout life, as does “To be, or not to be.”

I prefer that our modern world not collapse, but there doesn’t seem to be a glide path for “Voluntary Simplicity.”

That recent economic growth was credit/debt driven, rather that the virtuous outcome of “The Ultimate Resouce,” is a reality difficult to understand.

In many respects we are past limits, but have not recognized this. Solutions are in the past – things we should have done, or not done.

These problems don’t respond to intellectual arguments, because each is underpinned by beliefs.

An objective, off world view might help us appreciate the qualities of this world’s environment and the deterioration of those qualities from quantification, economics and financialization.

Intellect could take such a Spiritual perspective. It has been done in the past. It could be done today. The future could be real instead of a dream of technological singularity, when current technology is making us weaker, unhealthy and susceptible to disease.

April 28, 2012 at 4:02 am #2845

Reverse Engineer

ashvin post=2447 wrote:
The author and category tags for features/commentaries are on the front page, and the article’s own page.

For some odd reason, the forum goes with autoearthadmin instead of our names for topics created by us (but not anyone else).

I don’t ever see the Front Page. My bookmark is to the Recent Comments page.

RE

April 28, 2012 at 4:22 am #2848

JoeP

My bookmark is also “Recent Comments”. It seems sensible given what one has to work with.

April 28, 2012 at 5:06 am #2851

Bot Blogger

What a fascinating interview!
It just goes to show the degree to which economists are in LA LA land.

Older Brother: Bobby there is no Santa.
Bobby: Yes there is.
OB: No there isn’t
Bobby: Yes there is ’cause I get presents every christmas!
OB: That’s Mom and Dad…
Bobby: No, it’s Santa.
OB: Ok now that the arctic ice cap is melting where will santa’s workshop go.
Bobby: He’ll get the elves to build a submarine. And he’ll deliver all of his presents by submarine.
OB: I give.

April 28, 2012 at 7:25 am #2853

steve from virginia

Hard to imagine any economist being clueless as the writer suggests. Check out Steve Waldman, Scott Sumner, Steve Keen, Randall Wray, Axel Leijonhufvud, Mike Konczal, James Galbraith, Umair Haque and find out what real economists have to say. Even Krugman acknowledges limits, the Austrians are all limits whose prescriptions would not allow the kinds of exponential economic growth that has taken place on monetary terms.

Thanks, straw men are not necessary, economics is hard enough as it is. Daly does not have a policy structure as his economics (and others) assume productive industries which in reality do not exist. Basically, all ‘growth’ assumptions are false because growth propelling agents cannot exist without continual credit subsidies.

Moving right along, the assumption that conserving agents have a competitive disadvantage is also false (and does not conform to easily observable current conditions). Non-productive enterprises waste successfully because they have created (by stealth) a credit monopoly.

The biggest problem facing the world longer-term is not growth (which is kaput, btw) but the 440 nuclear power reactors. The operational lifespan for these items is far longer than any human institutions to date. Their investment requirements are also higher than other industrial establishments. How to deal with the reactors will require social restructuring (which explains the denial).

All of our problems are human problems. They are all easy to solve (except the reactors and these are non-problematic ex-humans). We have to decide to solve them.

April 28, 2012 at 11:08 am #2857

Reverse Engineer

steve from virginia post=2464 wrote: All of our problems are human problems. They are all easy to solve (except the reactors and these are non-problematic ex-humans). We have to decide to solve them.

MANY of our problems are Human in Origin, but not ALL of our problems are. For instance, Climate Change is unlikely to be resultant from the activity of Homo Sapiens, and much more likely to be the result of Cosmological causation and the Geological Cycles resultant from them. You can read my Geotectonic Heat Transfer Theory article to get a better idea of where I stand on the issue of Climatic Changes.

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org/blog/2012/04/02/geotectonic-ocean-heat-transfer-theory/

In fact, Ashvin SAID he was going to look deeper into this and debate me on it, but so far he hasn’t shown up to go a few rounds in the ring with me on this one yet ;-) Since I don’t play by the Marquis de Queensbury Rules, perhaps he is afraid of getting a Bloody Nose in a Bareknuckle Fight? LOL.

Just my way of calling you out on this one Ash ;-) LOL.

RE

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org

April 28, 2012 at 7:31 pm #2859

steve from virginia

RE: you have to go over to Skeptical Science and make your climate change arguments there:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

It’s a blog much like this one. Let me know how it turns out.

Leaving out volcanoes and asteroids, that we die and are compelled by Christ to eat too much, the rest of our problems are human problems and thus easily solved because we created the problems in the first place. For instance, if the public decided to be nuclear-free, the world would be nuclear free (it would take about 200 years to become so).

Another more topical problem re- this article is the declining willingness to lend/borrow. This is because what is offered for repayment has no value.

The lending/borrowing process has stripped the world of value, what has been gained in return is transitory/abstract money wealth for a handful of robbers. We voluntarily submit to the robbers because we are afraid of violence that the robbers threaten us with. This isn’t using resources to unman us, it is using the absence of resources to threaten us with more absence.

Left undisturbed the current regime will continue to unwind: fewer will lend because there is no value to obtain in the future. Nobody borrows or is able to do so because there is no net-present value: no returns to offset borrowing costs (even with negative real interest rates).

Value simply does not exist within a mature waste-based economy. Value here is capital. We not only destroy capital we have already destroyed too much capital.

Left to its own devices the credit will be stripped out of the entire industrial system which will stop working (as it requires a constant debt subsidy). That leaves the hairless monkeys with penises-in-hand and 440 conveniently located nuclear reactors boarded over with plywood making ominous ticking noises …

We have to come up with values rather than ‘money’. This is easy but antithetical to the current business approach. I suspect executions of high-level robbers would help the process of creating/discovering new values along …

April 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm #2861

ozziemaland

A recent press release from China claimed that a wood pulp substance, cheap and abundant, can conduct electricity, making ultra-light, plastic batteries available at very low cost. I think that even if scientific knowledge could save the world, humans would continue to gang up in wolf packs to prevent any sensible use of such knowledge. The Luddites were one such pack a century ago, and others like it today defend old orders so that fundamental change cannot occur.

April 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm #2862

ashvin

RE,

Regarding your Geotectonic Ocean Heat Transfer Theory, here are my initial thoughts:

It is not really a debunking of AGW at all, but a hypothesis about an alternate source of warming. Your implication is that all of the warming data/projections can be explained by this natural geotectonic cycle, and therefore human industrial activity is not responsible and therefore would not have to be curtailed/eliminated to stop the process or mitigate the damage.

However, you don’t really provide any evidence for that implication. The closest you come is making casual remarks such as these:

Now, I personally cannot see how slight changes in atmospheric temperatures since 1990 would cause such a volume of water to have so big a rise in total heat content. The specific heat of water is far greater than gases in the atmosphere, so you couldn’t get that much heat into them this way

The Ocean is such a huge mass with high specific heat tht only something much bigger and hotter could effectively heat it up. What is bigger and hotter than the Ocean? The molten rock that makes up the mantle of the earth. If it gets significantly hotter, the Oceans will get significantly hotter, they sit right on top of it. The Ocean isn’t ever going to heat up enough to make the molten
rock under it hotter, but the rock can eaily make the Oceans hotter. Same thing with atmospheric warming. The Atmosphere doesn’t have high enough specific heat to heat the Oceans, but the Oceans do have plenty to heat the atmosphere.

That is just a conclusion you have reached with regards to the heating of the oceans and the atmosphere, and the inability of greenhouse gases to significantly contribute to such heating. Do you have any credible sources to back up this conclusion? AGW proposes that GHGs both absorb and reflect back solar energy that is attempting to radiate back out into space, and a very large portion of that heat ends up in the oceans (atmospheric warming is much less, but more critical to human populations). Do you have evidence to debunk this process?

Another big issue I have with your theory is this:

Further thoughts on the Geo-Tectonic Ocean Heat Transfer Theory, as I am now calling it.Assuming the theory of increasing tectonic activity as we pass through the Galactic Ecliptic in 2012 is correct…

Do you mean our solar system’s alignment with the center of the galaxy by “galactic ecliptic”? If so, then you have a slight problem, because there is no alignment. That is just a bogus myth perpetuated by the equally bogus 2012 apocalypse/new age crowd. Similarly, the Earth is not passing through any sort of highly charged “photon belt”.

This fact does not by any means destroy your theory, though. It just rules out galactic alignment as a cause of your geo-tectonic stresses. I will have to take a closer look at the specifics of this theory, your correlation data, etc. and get back to you with my thoughts later. In the meantime, I second steve’s recommendation that you submit it to Skeptical Science – you will certainly get a more detailed and knowledgeable response from them.

April 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm #2863

TheTrivium4TW

You guys haven’t even mentioned the major reason why a steady state economy simply isn’t possible – the Ponzi nature of Debt Dollar Tyranny. It has to grow or main street is monetarily sucked dry by the predatory, parasite oligarchs.

It is like a vehicle with an accelerator button and a lock wheels button – that’s it.

“Why should the bankers get it all?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-geWu-E9ys

indeed!

April 29, 2012 at 4:15 am #2866

Reverse Engineer

steve from virginia post=2471 wrote: RE: you have to go over to Skeptical Science and make your climate change arguments there:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

It’s a blog much like this one. Let me know how it turns out.

You’re kidding, right? Just how many blogs do you think I can effectively Troll and moderate the Tin Foil in the Diner at the same time? Admittedly I have fast keyboard fingers, but still if I get caught up in discussion over on SS it will limit how much time I have left over to Troll Automatic Earth and Economic Undertow. LOL.

Wait…I GOT it! This is a CONSPIRACY between you and Ashvin to get me busy trolling elsewhere so I stop bugging you! LOL.

Seriously, I’ll go check out the blog and see if I can’t insinuate myself in there and recruit a few new Diners. Sounds like a good Blog to do some Fishing of Commenters.

Leaving out volcanoes and asteroids, that we die and are compelled by Christ to eat too much, the rest of our problems are human problems and thus easily solved because we created the problems in the first place. For instance, if the public decided to be nuclear-free, the world would be nuclear free (it would take about 200 years to become so).

This assumes “the public” has any control over this sort of thing, which it does not short of a massive Revolution and Reign of Terror where we eviscerate the bowels of all the Illuminati. “The Public” hasn’t had any control over this sort of shit for a LONG time. So to say this is under “our” control exhibits a complete lack of appreciation for who actually is running this show and making these choices.

Another more topical problem re- this article is the declining willingness to lend/borrow. This is because what is offered for repayment has no value.

The declining willingness to lend/borrow results from the declining resource base to L&B against. You can’t lend more money to buy Oil that isn’t there anymore. The Lenders used their control over the Capital base of Oil to lend money to buy that which they never really had a right to. If they don’t have enough of the stuff left to sell but would rather keep what is left for themselves, WTF would they lend out more money to buy it and burn it? As you yourself have noted, you cannot Repo CO2 in the atmosphere.

The lending/borrowing process has stripped the world of value, what has been gained in return is transitory/abstract money wealth for a handful of robbers. We voluntarily submit to the robbers because we are afraid of violence that the robbers threaten us with. This isn’t using resources to unman us, it is using the absence of resources to threaten us with more absence.

The submission is not voluntary, its enforced by the Gestapo all over the world. See the recent situation in Montreal. The violence the robbers threaten is very real, so in no sense is there voluntary sumbission going on here.

Left undisturbed the current regime will continue to unwind: fewer will lend because there is no value to obtain in the future. Nobody borrows or is able to do so because there is no net-present value: no returns to offset borrowing costs (even with negative real interest rates).

Value simply does not exist within a mature waste-based economy. Value here is capital. We not only destroy capital we have already destroyed too much capital.

Left to its own devices the credit will be stripped out of the entire industrial system which will stop working (as it requires a constant debt subsidy). That leaves the hairless monkeys with penises-in-hand and 440 conveniently located nuclear reactors boarded over with plywood making ominous ticking noises …

We have to come up with values rather than ‘money’. This is easy but antithetical to the current business approach. I suspect executions of high-level robbers would help the process of creating/discovering new values along …

I agree with all the rest written above, and would just add that the Executions should be Televised and take a Full Season of Episodes to complete.

RE

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org

April 29, 2012 at 4:37 am #2867

Reverse Engineer

ashvin post=2474 wrote:

Do you mean our solar system’s alignment with the center of the galaxy by “galactic ecliptic”? If so, then you have a slight problem, because there is no alignment. That is just a bogus myth perpetuated by the equally bogus 2012 apocalypse/new age crowd. Similarly, the Earth is not passing through any sort of highly charged “photon belt”.

This is a myth? You are telling me the astronomy which generates this graphic is mythical?

Based on what I know about astronomy, the Milky Way Galaxy is a relatively flat disk, and so is our Solar System. All the Planets revolve around the Sun on near the same plane, and the Sun itself does oscillate inside the plane of the Galactic Eclipitc, with a periodicity I think I recall being around 16,000 years but not sure on that number exactly and I’m not going to go Googling for it now.

It only stands to reason that in the central plane of the Ecliptic you would have the most particles, because that is of course where most of the matter got distributed out in the first place. Whatever it is the whole GALAXY is revolving around is one mighty big Gravity Well, that is for sure. What ever is in the middle there is rotating and dragging everything in the well along with it, thus you get the shape of the Galaxy as a flat disk spiral. Such a gravity well is likely to be spewing out neutrinos in vast quantities along this plane, and neutrino detectors have been showing ever increasing neutrino flux as we approach the ecliptic.

So there is EVIDENCE here of the hard science sort, which hardly makes it a mythical idea, unless for some reason you find this astronomy to be suspect and mythical itself. So please elucidate for me what is mythical about the astronomy.

RE

April 29, 2012 at 8:24 am #2870

Reverse Engineer

To add some further analytical depth from my end here, I republished an article I wrote in the direct aftermath of the Sendai quake which sent the Fuk-U-shima Reactors on their way to the Great Beyond.

Included in this article are further links to my discussions on the Peak Oil board during the Yellowstone Quake flurries with my friend Stormbringer and a few Geologists from the USGS and the Oil Patch.

You can read the full article at

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org/blog/2012/04/28/res-geological-cosmological-event-watch/

Just trying to fill you in here Ash on a LOT of conversation that led up to this theory. It doesn’t come out of thin air, and if you read all the response posts on Peak Oil, I think you will get that this has a decent amount of “peer review”.

Now, once again, please justify your assertion that passing through the galactic ecliptic is a “mythical” event concocted by New Age tin foil wingnuts.

RE

April 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm #2876

ashvin

RE,

The myth I was referring to is the one first formulated by psuedo-scientist John Major Jenkins that the winter-solistice sun (and Earth) will be aligned with the central plane of the Milky Way Galaxy on Dec. 21st, and therefore bombarded with energy/particles from the black hole in the center. The only thing remotely true about this claim is that it will appear from Earth that the Sun is close to the center of the Milky Way’s “Dark Rift” for many Winters (at least 70 years), due to the Earth’s tilt and the resulting view of the night sky. From the point of view of anywhere else in the solar system or galaxy, there is NO alignment of any astronomical significance.

It takes our solar system 200-250 millions years to orbit around the center of the galaxy, and about 33 million years to pass through any central plane galaxy on its orbital path (the last time this happened is estimated to be 3 million years ago, so it won’t happen again for many millions of years). If there is no REAL alignment occurring, then there is no reason to think we are being bombarded by gunk from the galactic center. This psuedoastronomical myth has been perpetuated by the various 2012 “prophets” to act as some kind of support for their bogus interpretations of the Mayan calendar, Hopi prophecy, etc. See also The 2012 Deception:

April 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm #2877

HDP

Just a report to the malthusian faction on one country.

As someone living six years SOTB, I defy anyone: come here, speak Spanish, make friends with the locals, as we have done. Make lots of friends here.

You will observe the following: one, almost everyone over sixty, particularly in the urban areas, is sick. People dying left and right of kidney failure and other organ disease. Healthy, leaner people with diabetes, having toes, limbs amputated due to the disease. Park outside any of the innumerable farmacias that have cropped up like weeds, you will see a steady stream of customers. The door practically never stays shut on busier streets. People are damned sick. Tumors this, cancer that, you name it.

Two. Five years ago we admired this trim, lean, witty hard-working people for not being like the US. You couldn’t find fat people anywhere. Willowy girls with hourglass figures as slender as the average US woman’s thigh. Now? I defy you to stand on any city street anywhere in Mexico and find women over 25 who are not at least fat if not obese. I mean heroically obese – lady Michelen figures, concentric rings of flab, up to candidates for burial in piano cases. Men too. Mostly the young men. This dates, of course, to the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in everything and the GMO corn getting into their tortillas. Yes, that monster corn that is said to compromise male fertility. And the men are getting fat. Park at some construction site, and observe masons hand-carrying five gallon buckets of concrete up and down scaffolding all day long… who are FAT.

This did not exist five years ago.

Five years ago you couldn’t toss a cigarette butt without hitting a baby. Beautiful babies, with rapt, fixed eye contact at mere weeks of age, unlike US babies. Quietly watching the world around them. Babies in arms as common as purses.

Now? I defy you, go to any Sorianna’s in any city, look around, and just try to find a baby under two years of age. Go to the infant’s department, which often occupies a quarter of every Sorianna store. Witness how many people are buying baby items: usually zero. None.

You just don’t see babies. Hardly ever. Rarely a pregnant girl.

Yes, malthusians, cheer yourselves on. Your globalists have done a fine job on Mexico already. All the shower of poisons are killing people off en masse and have rendered the young people sterile, thanks to this fatal and sterilizing coctail of goo that “free trade” has showered on the Mexican people.

Stamp your feet for joy! Hooray, a population destroyed! Dead people everywhere, every family busy changing colostomy bags! Wow, you’ve done it! A perfect malthusian world!

Oh while you’re at it go have a look at the sierra – pick any. Oozing with springs. Ponds in the high places. The upper part of the country 99% empty. Good thing they killed off the people to take all the natural resources for the use of you know who, huh?

/snark. But I am not kidding. If you’re worrying about population explosion, Mexico is for you. I am sorry to say.

April 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm #2878

HDP

Of course, Joe Bageant’s sickly death had nothing to do with this state of affairs, right? /snark a la volcán…

April 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm #2879

Reverse Engineer

Reverse Engineer post=2479 wrote:

It only stands to reason that in the central plane of the Ecliptic you would have the most particles, because that is of course where most of the matter got distributed out in the first place. Whatever it is the whole GALAXY is revolving around is one mighty big Gravity Well, that is for sure. What ever is in the middle there is rotating and dragging everything in the well along with it, thus you get the shape of the Galaxy as a flat disk spiral. Such a gravity well is likely to be spewing out neutrinos in vast quantities along this plane, and neutrino detectors have been showing ever increasing neutrino flux as we approach the ecliptic.

RE

One more note on the shape of Galaxies and particle distribution.

Any spherical spinning object spins on just one plane about one axis of rotation. You can’t make a ball spin on two axes at the same time. A large enough ball creates a gravity well, and anything north and south along the axis of rotation gets sucked into the gravity well, there is no couterbalancing force to stop that. The only place particles get ejected is along the plane of the rotation, and the only place matter doesn’t get sucked into the gravity well is where there is enough centripetal accelleration to balance out the gravity, which again is along that plane. So Galaxies all tend to have these flat disk shapes to them, and the Milky Way which is our Home is typical of this.

It only stands to reason that the most particles our solar system would encounter would be during the time it is placed dead center of the flat disk on a north-south orientation to the central rotation axis of the galaxy. The day that occurs in this cycle of oscillations is on 12/21/2012, but all during the time you are moving into greater particle density. What are those particles? Neutrinos mostly, massless particles unaffected by Gravity with close to unmeasurable effects in the tiny number you usually encounter them, but if they get caught in large numbers striking massive objects, they probably do have some effect.

The other effect of being dead center of the disk is the combined gravitational effects of all the matter in the galaxy. At the center, all the forces resolve down to a single vector, essentially its everone pulling on the same rope in just one direction. This could be deforming the earth enough to create heat stress.

Finally there are the magnetic possibilities. The core of the earth is spinning metal, and creates its own magnetic field as a result. The Sun silarly has a magnetic field, and then so does the Galaxy above that, because it is also spinning. The smaller magnets all have to line up with the biggest magnet. If you move from the northern plane of the big magnet to the southern side of it, the magnetic orientation of the Earth’s poles has to flip. This doesn’t mean the whole EARTH flips over, just that all the little magnets inside the core have to flip over. This could create a LOT of stress in aggregate. In terms of experimental evidence, the migration of the North Pole is accelerating, up from about 4Km per year to now about 40Km per year. We know from the geologic record that the Earth flips its magnetic orientation, but the periodicity of this is irregular.

So there are likely some other effects here besides just where you sit in the plane of the big magnet determining whether the orientation flips or not. However, if we are on the cusp of a “flipping event”, then this could be the reason behind core heating.

These are all the possible reasons I can think of to explain the geotectonics we see playing out here. There may be others as well, but what is undeniable is the EFFECT of more energy releasing quakes and eruptions. That energy goes somewhere, because of conservation of energy. Where it goes is into the Heat Sink of the world Oceans.

RE

http://www.doomsteaddiner.org

April 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm #2880

Reverse Engineer

HDP post=2489 wrote:

Five years ago you couldn’t toss a cigarette butt without hitting a baby. Beautiful babies, with rapt, fixed eye contact at mere weeks of age, unlike US babies. Quietly watching the world around them. Babies in arms as common as purses.

Now? I defy you, go to any Sorianna’s in any city, look around, and just try to find a baby under two years of age. Go to the infant’s department, which often occupies a quarter of every Sorianna store. Witness how many people are buying baby items: usually zero. None.

You just don’t see babies. Hardly ever. Rarely a pregnant girl.

“Children of Men” occuring in real time.

RE

April 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm #2881

Reverse Engineer

ashvin post=2488 wrote:

It takes our solar system 200-250 millions years to orbit around the center of the galaxy, and about 33 million years to pass through any central plane galaxy on its orbital path (the last time this happened is estimated to be 3 million years ago, so it won’t happen again for many millions of years).

So the graphic is innacurate then?

RE

April 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm #2882

ashvin

Reverse Engineer post=2491 wrote: It only stands to reason that the most particles our solar system would encounter would be during the time it is placed dead center of the flat disk on a north-south orientation to the central rotation axis of the galaxy. The day that occurs in this cycle of oscillations is on 12/21/2012, but all during the time you are moving into greater particle density.

I just explained to you why our solar system will not be in the “dead center” of this disk. We are actually moving away from the center right now. Even if we were moving into dead center, the various effects you claim are scientifically questionable at best, but we are not moving into the dead center, so the entire point is moot.

Finally there are the magnetic possibilities. The core of the earth is spinning metal, and creates its own magnetic field as a result. The Sun silarly has a magnetic field, and then so does the Galaxy above that, because it is also spinning. The smaller magnets all have to line up with the biggest magnet. If you move from the northern plane of the big magnet to the southern side of it, the magnetic orientation of the Earth’s poles has to flip. This doesn’t mean the whole EARTH flips over, just that all the little magnets inside the core have to flip over. This could create a LOT of stress in aggregate. In terms of experimental evidence, the migration of the North Pole is accelerating, up from about 4Km per year to now about 40Km per year. We know from the geologic record that the Earth flips its magnetic orientation, but the periodicity of this is irregular.

So there are likely some other effects here besides just where you sit in the plane of the big magnet determining whether the orientation flips or not. However, if we are on the cusp of a “flipping event”, then this could be the reason behind core heating.

What really happens during a Geomagnetic Reversal?

“Theories concerning geomagnetic reversals have been circulating every media outlet playing to 2012 worriers and wonder-ers possible over the past few years. The name itself can be off-putting, but simply stated, a geomagnetic reversal is just that: the change of orientation (reversal) in Earth’s magnetic field (geomagnetic) in regards to the magnetic north and south poles. I’m sure those of you either studying or worrying about Y2012 have wondered if we would or even could undergo a geomagnetic reversal during that time and if that reversal would cause the catastrophes the media has foretold (see the movie, 2012).

In short, the answer is no. The longer version, however, gets a bit more complex. Reversals traditionally happen every 300,000 years or so. We are now considered overdue since the last reversal was close to 780,000 years ago and is often referred to as the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal. It is not known exactly how long the reversal took, but geologists estimate the reversal took between 1,200 and 10,000 years to complete the process.

Regardless of when, it is imperative that our focus remains on the “how” when trying to negate Doomsayers. These are the people who use a base of fact to allow their own far-fetched ideas to gather power through fear, and thus validation. In regards to geomagnetic reversal as a theory to cause the devastating results we have come to expect from the Media’s 2012, the loudest voice of doom come from Patrick Geryl.

Patrick Geryl believes that a Geomagnetic Reversal is directly linked to a Rotational Pole Shift. Earth’s magnetic field is formed by electrical currents that are generated by motions within the fluid outer core(1). Note that it’s the liquid outer core not the solid inner core that produces magnetism. Geryl seems to think that magnetism is generated at the solid inner core.

According to Geryl, these geomagnetic reversals happen like clock-work. The last being 11,803 years ago and for Braden it was about 13,000 years ago. (3) This is obviously not the case since the last reversal was known to have happened closer to 800,000 years ago then 12,000. In addition, they are hardly cyclical as the doomsayers would like you to think.

Gregg Braden writes in his books that the “falling magnetic field” is directly linked to our consciousness. When the magnetic field is weaker, we are much more vulnerable to be “changed.”(2) Both Braden and Geryl theorize that these reversals are much more common than mainstream science acknowledges.

The difference between Braden and Geryl is obvious. Geryl predicts complete and utter devastation and death. Braden’s theory does not advocate the selling of fear. In the end, you do not need to fear Geomagnetic Reversals. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that they cause harm to life on Earth. There is also no reason to believe that the reversal will take place in our lifetimes. These reversals take time. When a geologist states that a magnetic reversal happens rapidly, you need to realize what rapidly means to a geologist. Thousands, tens of thousand, hundreds of thousands and even millions of years can mean rapidly for a geologist. Other than having to re-orient compasses and navigational devices, life will not be affected by a reversal.”

These are all the possible reasons I can think of to explain the geotectonics we see playing out here.

The problem is, all of those reasons amount to little more than psuedo-scientific propaganda. I think you should start thinking about other reasons for your observed effects.

There may be others as well, but what is undeniable is the EFFECT of more energy releasing quakes and eruptions. That energy goes somewhere, because of conservation of energy. Where it goes is into the Heat Sink of the world Oceans.

I’m more than willing to consider this possibility. It’s a very unique argument AFAIK, so I haven’t come across anything about it one way or the other. It definitely requires further investigation to determine its relation to warming trends.

April 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm #2883

agelbert

Ethical behavior in regard to other earthlings of all species isn’t optional, regardless of what economists, physicists or worshippers of unbridled predation believe.

We rediscover ethics or we die out, PERIOD.

April 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm #2884

agelbert

If you want to really have some fun with anyone doubting our rather precarious existence in one of the 4 main arms of our galactic disk, mention the dwarf galaxy that intersects with ours to rip away or destroy whole stars and associated planets continuously according to astronomers. It’s called Sagittarius and it snakes around our disk at a 90 degree angle. The last time it was smaking our arm of the galaxy was about about 440 million years ago. It takes almost exactly that long for our arm of the galaxy to spin around to get smacked by the dwarf star ripper. We are due.

Don’t take my word for it. Research and you’ll see that the Sagittarius snake just goes loop de loop through the galactac plain wreaking absolute havoc.

April 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm #2885

agelbert

“At first, many astronomers thought that Sag DEG had already reached an advanced state of destruction, so that a large part of its original matter was already mixed with that of the Milky Way. However, Sag DEG still has coherence as a dispersed elongated ellipse, and appears to move in a roughly polar orbit around the Milky Way as close as 50,000 light-years from the galactic core. Although it may have begun as a ball of stars before falling towards the Milky Way, Sag DEG is now being torn apart by immense tidal forces over hundreds of millions of years. Numerical simulations suggest that stars ripped out from the dwarf would be spread out in a long stellar stream along its path, which were subsequently detected.

However, some astronomers contend that Sag DEG has been in orbit around the Milky Way for some billions of years, and has already orbited it approximately ten times. Its ability to retain some coherence despite such strains would indicate an unusually high concentration of dark matter within that galaxy.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagittarius_Dwarf_Elliptical_Galaxy

April 30, 2012 at 12:19 am #2886

agelbert

Well and truly said. The irony of all this for the ‘too clever by a half’ elite neanderthals is that they think this witches brew of poisons from pollution and empty nutrion designed to kill off the bulk of other humans while the profits keep rolling in won’t destroy them as well.

They just do not get the fact that our problem is realy lack of ethics, not lack of resources or improper tax structures.

Our present clusterf**k is the result of the celebration of unbridled predation with a total rejection of moral considerations in technology and innovation as well as social engineering.

The ‘elite’ are more afflicted by this condition than the masses they are killing slowly. They aren’t simply carriers of the disease; they simply are the main cancer cells that will, of course, die when the ‘body’ they prey on (the biosphere and the earth’s natural resources) dies.

April 30, 2012 at 1:02 am #2887

Reverse Engineer

ashvin post=2494 wrote:

There may be others as well, but what is undeniable is the EFFECT of more energy releasing quakes and eruptions. That energy goes somewhere, because of conservation of energy. Where it goes is into the Heat Sink of the world Oceans.

I’m more than willing to consider this possibility. It’s a very unique argument AFAIK, so I haven’t come across anything about it one way or the other. It definitely requires further investigation to determine its relation to warming trends.

I’m not entirely bought into the 2012 hypothesis, and since there is conflicting “scientific” evidence regarding exactly where we are placed relative to the galactic center all the hypotheticals as to why the earth’s core appears to be heating up are open to question.

The important question to consider from the POV of analyzing effects on Earth is whether the warming of the Oceans is derived from Atmospheric Warming or Core Heating? I think the evidence weighs heavily in the favor of Core Heating, not an Atmospheric driver. The Oceans have a MUCH larger Heat Capacity than the atmospere does, so for the Atmosphere to drive up Ocean temperatures would require a HUGE increase in atmospheric temperature, which just is not evident anywhere really. Conversely, the core of the Earth has a MUCH larger heat capacity than the oceans do, so only a small increase in the Heat radiated there would drive up Ocean temperatures quite rapidly, like turning up the burner under a pot of water on the stove.

I don’t know for sure what is causing the core of the Earth to heat up, I just pitch out some possible reasons for it which may or may not be related to positioning relative to the galactic center. What I do know for sure based on graphs of Earthquakes and Volcanic Activity is that the Earth is pitching out a whole lot more energy than it was 20 years ago. Those graphs are undeniable. The relative energies compared to the burning of fossil fuels are far greater, every big quake releases energy many times that of even the biggest of Hydrogen Bombs. That energy HAS to go somewhere. That somewhere is into the Great Heat Sink of the World Oceans.

RE

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