The Boundaries and Future of Solution Space – Part 4


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    Gustave Doré Dante and Virgil among the gluttons 1868 In case you missed it, we’re doing something a little different. Nicole wrote a very lenghty art
    [See the full post at: The Boundaries and Future of Solution Space – Part 4]


    I’m looking forward to Part 5, though I have a general idea of what it will include, based on past readings and viewings of Nicole’s thinking.

    The subject of this analysis is not civilization but exchange-based civilization. Trust in trading partners, for example, only matters when trade and trust are concepts in turn based on the concept of exchange. Ignoring or overlooking the fact that human expansion didn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather in a society (unique among species) which, through that belief, ubiquitously and perpetually encouraged not only consumption but overconsumption, closes the analysis to possibilities within the solution space. While one might argue (or simply believe) that humans can’t or won’t end the current dominant-cultural belief in the concept of exchange that has fueled our expansion, it can’t be known. Therefore, absent clear indications that exploring that option (preferably in tandem with obviously necessary localization efforts, based on a permaculture design approach, as I’m sure Nicole will continue to advocate) would make matters worse, people would deprive themselves the possibility of a less-stressful and less-painful future by dismissing it out of hand.


    The techno-fantasists annoy me more than those who remain completely ignorant.

    After 4 parts, it appears the “solution space” is going to be quite small.

    I wonder how quickly we will lose access to high tech medical procedures. I have very bad eyesight and I am at high risk for retinal tears. Scary but generally fixable at the moment. Also wonder about basic things like cataract surgery. 5 more years? 15? I can’t even stock up on contact lenses because they expire after a year or two. I plan to buy 5 or 6 pairs of glasses and hope for the best.

    I’ve done many of the things you suggest in your video that will be made into a documentary, including no debt (except child support), no house/mortgage, no car. I have also been building relationships in the community with a local non-profit farm and other community-based food and local production projects. But I do wonder how much advantage these actions really give you when everything goes south. They can’t repossess every house or car, can they? The only advantage I see may be a slight psychological edge–I won’t consider some of these losses so much as deprivations since they will already be my normal state. But if there is no food, or no job, what good is commuting by bicycle going to do for me? Of course my greatest concern is I worry about the life my 6 year old boy will have, especially because I am an older dad.


    Maybe we’ll be lucky and not even notice a relatively quick die-off.

    How many people personally known to you died this year? Most people answer 0 or 1 or rarely 2 to that question. If you answered 2, would your experience of life have changed dramatically if that number was 16 instead of 2? Probably not, especially if those who died were elderly or deemed diseased. Some level of normalcy could continue, and over time more frequent deaths due to disease and conditions of old age that used to be medically treated, would become the new normal. If annual worldwide deaths increased 8 fold, most people would eventually take that increase in stride. Even people living in higher than “normal” death rate areas who would feel a more significant impact would adapt and over a short time horizon not see things as catastrophic, but simply moving towards a new, lower level of stability.

    An 8 fold increase in the number of people dying every year would create a net population decreasing of about 3% per year even if current birthrates continued unabated. At a 3% rate of decrease, world population would shrink from 7.4 billion to 1 billion in about 65 years.

    Within 3 short generations society could be back to living an early-industrial, if not pre-industrial life-style.

    Continued resource scarcity and unwinding of complexity could easily bring a tipping point towards significant population reduction over a relatively short period of time; while ironically, at the same time, allowing most people a somewhat normal life not not characterized by constant war or famine; but instead simply defined by higher general mortality rates which are perceived as a new normal.


    I really don’t see why a managed decline in population cannot be achieved, particularly in advanced nations. Already 25% of the Japanese population is over 65 and their population is falling by about 500,000 per year. The same is starting to happen in Europe though they are about to swamped with the surplus population of the Middle East and Africa if nothing is done to stop it.

    California, e.g. had just 3 million people living there 100 years ago and there is no reason it could not shrink back to that population over the next 100 years. It wasn’t hell on earth back then. It fact it was truly the Golden State with a sophisticated San Francisco and plenty of water available for the orchards and farms of that era.

    Even automobiles are possible if the US kept its population to that the 100 million we had 100 years ago and lived as we did then. A family had one car right up until 1960 or so. Gasoline was expensive- relatively. 100 gallons cost about 1 ounce of gold which would be around $6 per gallon per day! Electricity wasn’t cheap either 100 years ago… for those who had it and not everyone did. I really don’t see a problem for a world of just over 2 billion people, which was the global population 100 years ago maintaining a decent standard of living though some regions, for other reasons, may have trouble providing even a 1920 standard of living for their population that have nothing to do with resource constraints.



    You’re hitting on all 8 cylinders, as the old timers used to say.

    Do not look to the government for any help, solutions, answers, or accountability. It will react as any and all bureaucracies always react: circle the wagons and protect itself-at all costs. As my now departed next door neighbor said about his WWII experience, “Your life ain’t worth a plug nickel to the higher-ups”. Advice well worth listening to.

    John Day

    The easiest thing is to be an “early adopter” in the wave of population reduction.
    I think I have a lot of work to do for the first wave.
    Maybe I’ll get to be in the second wave.


    sangell51, there’s the solution space, and there’s the wishful thinking space. Your comment clearly occupies the latter. That’s why you “really don’t see”.

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