Richard Heinberg: Systemic change driven by moral awakening is our only hope

[ Although this was written over a year ago on August 14, 2017 by Richard Heinberg on Ecowatch, it’s as true today as it was then, and worth republishing since people forget what they’ve read in the past

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. Overshoot is a systemic issue. Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival. Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefited from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components). As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates. Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution. Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate. Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.

However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion. Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted. It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy. There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision? Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely. A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.” Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).

If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures. Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production. Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it. All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.

The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes. The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors. After all, everybody loves technology. It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined. Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose. But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology? Color me doubtful. I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation. At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity. Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution. When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth. The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management. That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse and recycle.” It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy. But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.

The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”). Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior. Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well. We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment. We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.

In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point. Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations. These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.

Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed? Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether. Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice. Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope. The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either. A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.

The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.

The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society. We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities. We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change. And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.

There’s more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts. Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage. Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.

But machines can’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path. Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

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20 Responses to Richard Heinberg: Systemic change driven by moral awakening is our only hope

  1. Ken Barrows says:

    Sounds great. But, somehow, most people think our current culture is worthy of survival.

  2. sheila chambers says:

    Given the state of human culture, it’s mired down with RELIGION, we have been unable to use the knowledge & technology we have to stop population growth & humanely reduce our numbers down to what can be sustained without fossil inputs because of our crippling religious beliefs.

    I see government after government following the dictates of a religion doing all it can to force women to have children she doesn’t want & can’t afford.
    The rulers want, demand more growth not less.
    That’s why I think we are doomed to collapse, we will continue to cut, burn, drill, frack, mine & consume until we can’t then “nature” will do what it has always done to any animal that has exceeded it’s environments carrying capacity, mass die off.
    Religion & the refusal to accept the evidence will be our downfall.
    This is so dam tragic!
    When I look at the art to be found in the worlds great museums, I weep at what will soon be gone forever, the many libraries full of our knowledge, will be lost, same for our awesome architecture & our god like technology, all to be lost because of our greed, willful ignorance, our stupid clinging to ancient myths that cripple our thinking, our irrational responses to the symptoms of overpopulation as we insist on just treating the symptoms while refusing to address the cause, overpopulation!
    We haven’t got a prayer.

    • Andres Barriola says:

      All the things that will be lost are very much part of the problem….

    • Observations on the ground inspire that it is not religion that makes people reproduce more but the sense of danger!

      Gaza, Iraq and Africa are an example. The three places have lived almost fossil fuels-deprived now for decades, yet population growth is steady, if not hugely increasing in Africa.

      This weakens or even destroys the thesis that fossil fuels are the only factor behind exponential population growth.

      Fossil fuels have been the factory-line that has produced all the weapons since the steam engine. 300+ million people have killed and died in conflicts and wars in the last century, most of them in their price age.

      How to reconcile that with the current mantra that without fossil fuels we wouldn’t be as much?

      Washing hands, brushing teeth and early forms of Penicillin can be practiced without an abundance of fossil fuels, and that alone will significantly extend life expectancy.

      No one can claim now that humans today are only a product of fossil fuels, until the dust settles and the figures are revisited once the fossil fuels age is behind.

      Managing fossil fuels centrally since coal peaked in Britain in 1913 and earlier, has played havoc with our civilisation, to that extent we’ve consumed almost all carbon reserves but nothing spared for the future other than going back to slavery.

      Let’s rethink and not getting the issue of population now under that same regime!

      • sheila chambers says:

        Fossil fuels enabled such excessive population growth, it is not the cause of such growth & neither was it just a “sense of danger,” well before they were stressed from overpopulation, they were having way too many children, many died due to lack of sanitation & modern health care.
        Now thanks to sanitation, imported food & modern health care, more children survive but they continue to have litters of kids because of their governments & their RELIGION.
        Here in the USA for example, women have been fighting for decades for the RIGHT to control their OWN BODIES by being allowed to have access to sex education, birth control & abortions, the fight continues!

        Just because many overpopulated areas use little FF themselves, it’s their pro natalist religion, theocratic governments & the IMPORTATION of FOOD that made their excessive growth possible.
        Most of these overpopulated countries import more than 60% of their food!

        If it hadn’t been for FF, their wouldn’t be 7.6 BILLION HUMANS on this planet but closer to 1 or 2 billion but now with all the destruction of our environment, far fewer humans can now be sustained.
        Now that we know about sanitation, vitamins & human anatomy even without FF, we could be healthier than in the past but many of the antibiotics & immunizations we have now will cease to exist without our high tech, high energy civilization.
        Fossil resources are a source of high density energy AND raw materials, something most people forget when getting all excited about “renewables” which are also tightly tied to OIL. Those “renewables” are a high tech, low density, intermittent source of only electricity.

        We cannot eat electricity & “renewables” cannot power our highly mechanized agricultural system, mine or produce ANY fertilizers, or pesticides that are ESSENTIAL if we are to just feed 7.6 billion humans.

        The low density energy produced by “renewables” also cannot power the huge machines now necessarry for mining the raw materials essential to our way of life, they cannot power our long haul trucks, trains or airplanes that move us & our goods.
        A low energy way of life will be very different from how most of us live now & there will be far fewer of us IF we survive climate change & the coming wars for resources & messy border wars to stop unwanted migrants/invaders.
        “Long pig” will be the new white meat for a while at least.

        • Up to the 1960’s, the non-religious China has hardly used any fossil fuels, yet the population there was then in excess of 400 million.

          Today, China is producing 2+ billion tonnes of coal a year. This massive mass and volume require people to extract AND then consume the energy dug up, encouraged by our centralised economics.

          Otherwise, overseas clients wouldn’t find and buy Chinese goods made with that coal, paying for them in US dollars, dollars don’t go to New York and ‘Growth’ dose not occur!

          It is our Economics that has made fossil fuels trading on the basis of supply-and-demand, sold below energy-cost of extraction, pushing them into the globalised market priced cheaper than bottled water, as if they are looted – until fossil fuels became the only real value-item in the whole economy, which then required humans to be around and consume – no less than a herd that came to existence because there is plenty of hay that MUST be sold and bought or the GDP doesn’t score!

          Mobile phones have now reached saturation point. Why factories in China are making them on 24/7, as if there is no tomorrow, and most of them remain unsold?

          This is not an over consumption issue that powerless nations should be depopulated for, but an issue of a synthesised abundance of finite fossil fuels!

          Before mobile phones, there were personal computers, and before both of those were cars, and the list goes on and on.

          “If it hadn’t been for FF, their wouldn’t be 7.6 BILLION HUMANS on this planet but closer to 1 or 2 billion…”

          Nobody can claim this assumption is 100% true, until fossil fuels age and all its legacy are behind. Baghdad in the middle ages had a population of more than 1 million, well before the age of vaccinations, MRI, and diesel-powered farming.

          If an unconscious bacteria can fill a petri dish in 24 hours, how about humans, the ultimate intelligent creatures on this planet?

          “Most of these overpopulated countries import more than 60% of their food!”

          This happens not by choice but by the harshest geopolitics choreography man ever seen. The Middle East, for example, the geography that is immensely resourceful in farming opportunity, has been subject to countless campaigns of invasions and wars since the age of oil, which has destroyed and destroying any domestic capacity to be self sufficient. Refer to Bremer’s condition put before Iraq after 2003, committing it not to import any plant seeds from other than certain providers. Read on how Turkey has blocked rivers into Iraq. Also read about cases of N. waste being deposited in Somali waters, the primary source of food for that nation.

          No fossil fuels No emissions, and fossil fuels are vanishing very quickly!

          Why an Iraqi should be worried Sri Lanka being overpopulated and not leaving that issue in the hand of that nation to decide and deal with, playing god in the process?

          I feel, it would be better leaving nations to deal with their issues of over or under population, or we turn ourselves another Hitler, in a hurry.

          Think Locally, Act Locally and Live Locally.

          Read: Charles Mann: ‘The relationship between population and consumption is not straightforward’

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/10/charles-mann-book-wizard-prophet-interview

          • Ravi says:

            You are right in saying that 1-2 billion carrying capacity is an arbitrary number but it is possible to get a rough idea by looking at the amount of arable land.
            India has the highest arable land of any country in the world.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arable_land

            India did not start using fossil fuels until 70s-80s.The population before that was around 450-500 million but there were massive famines quite often which shows that it was the peak of carrying capacity. Of course now the population is 1.25 billion thanks to fossil fuels.

            The global arable land is about 9 times as much so by that logic the carrying capacity ought to be around 4-4.5 billion.

          • Ravi – Obsessively thinking ‘globally’, is a product of the a reality where synthesised abundance of finite fossil fuels made available on the developed nation market, since the 1950’s.

            If a colony of ants in Africa worries about the arable land of another ant’s colony in Brazil, nothing can be done due to distance – an opportunity for diversity in meeting challenges and live with them successfully (see how mathematics has developed from different pieces compiled between distant geographies since the Sumerians).

            Without fossil fuels supplies sold cheaper than bottled water, a person in Norway wouldn’t worry too much about a population issue in Mexico – due to energy-cost associated with any potential physical action between those two distant points on Earth, or the researcher needs to workout first how he would row a boat all the way to Mexico).

            Most of Energy researchers today jump, first of all, and discuss overpopulation in the world as the primary issue we are facing, likely an escape from the inability to address their own energy predicaments, locally.

            You often hear from most brilliant Energy analysts today the phrase: “We have 7+ billion people to feed, and counting“!

            Why these experts feel they are responsible of feeding all humanity? How beneficial making the quest for “feeding humanity” a centralised process?

            Why they don’t feed their communities and leave other communities worry about their future?

            “Of course now the population [in India] is 1.25 billion thanks to fossil fuels.”

            There are still 270+ million people in India who don’t have access to electricity. It is difficult to assume their parents and grandparents were awash with energy supplies, either, and the three generations are a product of fossil fuels!

            If we inject India today with fossil fuels supplies and machinery equal to that consumed and run in America (including the media machine and social systems), it might be we see India’s population comes down to 330 million!

            In fact, fossil fuels might be found in the future being an overpopulation killer not creator, all along!

            However, (god forbid) fossil fuels no more, unfortunately, and we yet to see how humanity will grow or de-grow in population naturally, post our fossil fuels age!

            Time to tell researchers, thinkers and commentators worldwide to spend their time, energy and effort and craft their works assuming there is no fossil fuels around – a prelude to a reality that is just around the corner – for all of us!

          • Ravi says:

            EntropynEnergy – Are you suggesting that fossil fuels have had no influence on the growth of population?

            “There are still 270+ million people in India who don’t have access to electricity. It is difficult to assume their parents and grandparents were awash with energy supplies, either, and the three generations are a product of fossil fuels!”

            This is true of many developing countries but even in the poorest countries farmers use fertilizers made from fossil fuels,tractors for ploughing the fields and irrigation powered by fossil fuels.

            “If we inject India today with fossil fuels supplies and machinery equal to that consumed and run in America (including the media machine and social systems), it might be we see India’s population comes down to 330 million!”

            This is also true of most developed nations but has little to do with fossil fuels.It has more to do with rights of women,awareness and social systems.In developed countries women marry late or remain unmarried and have fewer children.

            Good examples would be Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Cuba consumes less fossil fuels compared to developed countries but its population growth resembles that of developed countries whereas Saudi Arabia has doubled its population in last 30 years despite being one of the highest consumers of energy per capita.

            I agree that the population problem is local and not global but even by that logic the European continent cannot sustain 600+ million that are expected to live there by 2050 without FF. One of the primary reasons for Europeans colonizing other continents was them running of resources.

          • Ravi – Nobody can jump to a conclusion on what fossil fuels have done to us until all fossil fuels are well gone;

            If valid, the generalisation you outlined makes even Women rights a product of fossil fuels?

            Are we going to lose Women rights post fossil fuels age, too?

            If yes, then no wonder fossil fuels-deprived nations today don’t practice Women rights in the style of our developed world!

            Britain has increased its population almost 6 folds between 1100-1700. Was that also a product of fossil fuels?

            The standard of living in Saudi Arabia, a country more than 2/3rd of India’s size, has deteriorated 28 folds since the discovery of oil in the country, revealed by reports on the Internet – the more oil exported, the more the poverty seen rampant.

            What fossil fuels that have been the major factor in that population-doubling AND poverty at the same time?

            The assumption that all poor nations are awash with fertilizers and tractors is unrealistic. See Iraq (which remained under sanctions and wars for the last 40 years), Syria (under sanctions and wars since 1967), Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the list goes on and on…

            What Europe, America and other continents can or can not sustain after fossil fuels – we do not know! Who knows if Europe can or can not sustain more than its current population if transportation becomes mainly done with bicycles and muscle-powered farming replaces diesel-powered machinery?

            The arrogance we demonstrate today, thinking we can predict and draft the future just out of our past 300 years experience with fossil fuels propelling our outgoing social, tech and social trends – is yet to be examined and tested when the time comes and fossil fuels no-more!

          • Ravi says:

            EntropynEnergy – ” Nobody can jump to a conclusion on what fossil fuels have done to us until all fossil fuels are well gone”

            We can look at statistics,facts and do thought experiments.
            In 1961 India and many other countries were at the brink of mass famine when Norman Borlaug(father of the green revolution) was invited to India. After the technology transfer was complete the yields increased by almost 10 times per hectare and the catastrophe was averted.The Green revolution was completely based on fossil fuels and without it population would not have doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion in just 40 years.

            “If valid, the generalisation you outlined makes even Women rights a product of fossil fuels?”

            This is evident by the fact that men are physically stronger than women and before fossil fuels muscle power was the only source of energy. Hence it was a male dominated society.

            But as we started developing machines for all our tasks this difference in strength was reduced and women could do the same tasks men could with equal efficiency.The women’s rights movements can be traced back to the beginning of the industrial age.

            “Britain has increased its population almost 6 folds between 1100-1700. Was that also a product of fossil fuels?”

            In the millennium between 500 and 1500, Britain suffered a major “corrective” famine about every ten years; there were 75 in France during the same period.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines

            “The standard of living in Saudi Arabia, a country more than 2/3rd of India’s size, has deteriorated 28 folds since the discovery of oil in the country, revealed by reports on the Internet – the more oil exported, the more the poverty seen rampant.”

            Can you provide a credible source for the number you quoted “28 times”?
            Poverty in Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with Fossil Fuels and everything to do with corruption of the Royal Family that rules the country.
            Saudi average life expectancy is 74.49 years whereas average American life expectancy is 78.89 years,which is on par with developed countries.
            Also Saudi Arabia is a welfare state where citizens enjoy benefits like national healthcare,free education and subsidized fuel.All of this despite the corruption of the Saud family. If the wealth distribution was equitable then its possible that Saudis would enjoy a standard of living that rivals even the Nordic countries.

            “The assumption that all poor nations are awash with fertilizers and tractors is unrealistic. See Iraq (which remained under sanctions and wars for the last 40 years), Syria (under sanctions and wars since 1967), Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the list goes on”

            I was talking about stable countries where people can wake up and work in the fields without getting killed by bombs or bullets,which have a relatively stable climate and farming is possible.

            There are many poor countries which fit above criteria like India,Sri Lanka,Vietnam.
            Also when I say industrial agriculture I don’t mean the harvesters,combines used in developed countries. Just a tractor,fertilizer and pesticides,all of which along with irrigation are dependent on fossil fuels.

          • Ravi says:

            “Post fossil fuels age, life on Earth will be different, yet alone statistics and your assumed ‘facts’.”
            I agree that things will be different because we will not be able to make fertilizers,run diesel engines which are the backbone of our agriculture and civilization.
            As for gathering information why do we have to wait till the end of fossil age to reach conclusions about agriculture?
            It is fairly simple – We have certain inputs going into agriculture over certain area of land which results in certain amount of yield. If we remove those inputs can we sustain the same yield?
            This seems like a simple question to know the answer to.
            The land under cultivation has not increased substantially since 1960 but yields have tripled.
            How is this possible without Fossil Fuels?
            “Most of the irrigation done by running diesel pumps from the age of WWII. The ‘green’ revolution India very well known to have caused more and more farmer suicide cases, though.”
            It matters not what age the pumps come from as long as they consume electricity or diesel they are powered by fossil fuels.
            25% (40 million ha) of Indian farmland is irrigated by ground water.It consumes so much energy that it caused the largest blackout in history.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrigation_in_India

            The suicides of farmers has nothing to do with Green Revolution and has more to do with bad monsoon and caste systems.

            http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/caste-above-all-else-in-zone-of-farmer-suicides/
            “India needs another 30 years, at least, to come any close to the agri mechanization of the US..
            I never said that India is approaching U.S or other developed countries when it comes to mechanization.Please read my comment – “…Also when I say industrial agriculture I don’t mean the harvesters,combines used in developed countries.”

            https://tradingeconomics.com/vietnam/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

            https://tradingeconomics.com/india/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

            https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

            From the above data it is clear that India,Vietnam and other countries are rapidly industrializing their agriculture.It is also clear that machines and and agro-chemicals have played a major role in increasing crop yields.

  3. Cassandra´s Apprentice says:

    ¨Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption…¨

    When is this blessed event supposed to happen? I live in South America and in my country there is little sign of either. I´ll give Heinberg props for even mentioning the dread word ¨population,¨ but he (like almost all the others) never says anything specific about how to accomplish (or even attempt) a worldwide program of population reduction (the late biologist David Price thought this was as impossibility and said as much. Nothing in the interim since his death has shown him to have been wrong).

    As for consumption, forget it. They had a booth for the new iPhone 10 at our local mall in Quito, with is also chock-full of things that the people absolutely do not need. They want them, though. Rather badly, if the traffic is anything to go by.

    I wish these guys (ditto Paul Ehrlich) would try preaching their gospel in places other than U.S. college campuses and transition towns where people have already gotten the message. They might get some idea of how hopeless things really are.

    • energyskeptic says:

      I think Erlich and others would say that we can’t control population outside of our borders, all we can try to do is set policies in our own nation to encourage fewer children. Which isn’t happening, and won’t, since the mantra of all politicians from left to right is growth, growth, growth. Still, it ought to be a topic of discussion, and limiting immigration here so that nation’s that don’t allow women to have birth control and abortion can’t use our country as a safety valve for their excessive populations.

  4. John says:

    I would agree that business as usual (BAU) doesn’t have a prayer. Once the overshoot becomes obvious and the disruption to BAU I believe enough of us will make the required shifts and restructure our communities to ensure the survival of humanity. Will many things be lost? Without a doubt, but most of it will not be useful in an limited energy world.

  5. Ravi says:

    EntropynEnergy

  6. Ravi says:

    “Post fossil fuels age, life on Earth will be different, yet alone statistics and your assumed ‘facts’.”
    I agree that things will be different because we will not be able to make fertilizers,run diesel engines which are the backbone of our agriculture and civilization.
    As for gathering information why do we have to wait till the end of fossil age to reach conclusions about agriculture?
    It is fairly simple – We have certain inputs going into agriculture over certain area of land which results in certain amount of yield. If we remove those inputs can we sustain the same yield?
    This seems like a simple question to know the answer to.
    The land under cultivation has not increased substantially since 1960 but yields have tripled.
    How is this possible without Fossil Fuels?
    “Most of the irrigation done by running diesel pumps from the age of WWII. The ‘green’ revolution India very well known to have caused more and more farmer suicide cases, though.”
    It matters not what age the pumps come from as long as they consume electricity or diesel they are powered by fossil fuels.
    25% (40 million ha) of Indian farmland is irrigated by ground water.It consumes so much energy that it caused the largest blackout in history.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrigation_in_India

    The suicides of farmers has nothing to do with Green Revolution and has more to do with bad monsoon and caste systems.

    http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/caste-above-all-else-in-zone-of-farmer-suicides/
    “India needs another 30 years, at least, to come any close to the agri mechanization of the US..
    I never said that India is approaching U.S or other developed countries when it comes to mechanization.Please read my comment – “…Also when I say industrial agriculture I don’t mean the harvesters,combines used in developed countries.”

    https://tradingeconomics.com/vietnam/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    https://tradingeconomics.com/india/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    From the above data it is clear that India,Vietnam and other countries are rapidly industrializing their agriculture.It is also clear that machines and and agro-chemicals have played a major role in increasing crop yields.

    If you cannot provide the source for your claim then it cannot be taken as true.
    Also Saudi GDP per capita is 55,000$ (purchasing power) ranking it among the developed countries with a high Human development Index.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odCZpBPfFQk

    I assume this is the documentary you are talking about.The speakers make a compelling point that today 1 calorie of food requires 10 calories of fossil fuels.
    How can this be done without fossil fuels?

  7. Ravi says:

    Hi Alice..you are doing a great job with putting together such a comprehensive and detailed collection of information on such diverse topics.I regularly visit the site to check out latest news on our predicament.My comments for this post are not appearing despite posting several times.I tried replying to EntropynEnergy and only the first word was posted in the comment above.

    • energyskeptic says:

      That’s because I am sometimes out of town or trying not to get sucked into Computer World and reading an old-fashioned book. But I eventually look at posts!

  8. Ravi says:

    “Post fossil fuels age, life on Earth will be different, yet alone statistics and your assumed ‘facts’.”
    I agree that things will be different because we will not be able to make fertilizers,run diesel engines which are the backbone of our agriculture and civilization.
    As for gathering information why do we have to wait till the end of fossil age to reach conclusions about agriculture?
    It is fairly simple – We have certain inputs going into agriculture over certain area of land which results in certain amount of yield. If we remove those inputs can we sustain the same yield?
    This seems like a simple question to know the answer to.
    The land under cultivation has not increased substantially since 1960 but yields have tripled.
    How is this possible without Fossil Fuels?
    “Most of the irrigation done by running diesel pumps from the age of WWII. The ‘green’ revolution India very well known to have caused more and more farmer suicide cases, though.”
    It matters not what age the pumps come from as long as they consume electricity or diesel they are powered by fossil fuels.
    25% (40 million ha) of Indian farmland is irrigated by ground water.It consumes so much energy that it caused the largest blackout in history.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrigation_in_India

    The suicides of farmers has nothing to do with Green Revolution and has more to do with bad monsoon and caste systems.

    http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/caste-above-all-else-in-zone-of-farmer-suicides/
    “India needs another 30 years, at least, to come any close to the agri mechanization of the US..
    I never said that India is approaching U.S or other developed countries when it comes to mechanization.Please read my comment – “…Also when I say industrial agriculture I don’t mean the harvesters,combines used in developed countries.”

    https://tradingeconomics.com/vietnam/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    https://tradingeconomics.com/india/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/agricultural-machinery-tractors-wb-data.html

    From the above data it is clear that India,Vietnam and other countries are rapidly industrializing their agriculture.It is also clear that machines and and agro-chemicals have played a major role in increasing crop yields.

    “To my memory, the scientist who has given the figure on how Saudi people descended into poverty the more the country has exported oil, was one of the experts shown in ‘Crude Awakening’, a documentary you can find on Youtube.”

    If you cannot provide the source for your claim then it cannot be taken as true.
    Also Saudi GDP per capita is 55,000$ (purchasing power) ranking it among the developed countries with a high Human development Index.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odCZpBPfFQk

    I assume this is the documentary you are talking about.The speakers make a compelling point that today 1 calorie of food requires 10 calories of fossil fuels.
    How can this be done without fossil fuels?

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