#155. The art of dark sky thinking


One of the clichés much loved by business leaders and others is “blue sky thinking”. An implication of this term, it seems to me, is that there’s an infinity of possibility. Although the mainstream press has, in the past, dubbed me “Dr Gloom” and “Terrifying Tim”, I don’t discount the concept of infinite possibility. I’m an incurable optimist – when I’m not looking at the economic outlook, anyway.

However positive you are, though, if you set out on a lengthy expedition, it’s as well to take some wet weather clothing with you, because blue skies can turn dark grey pretty quickly. ‘Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst’ seems a pretty prudent way to think.

Before we address some of the financial, economic and broader issues which might darken our skies, I’d like to draw your attention to an important distinction, which is that ‘situations’ and ‘outcomes’ are different things. ‘Situations’ are circumstances calling for decisions, but, in themselves, they generally contain a multiplicity of possible results. ‘Outcomes’ are determined by the responses made to any particular set of ‘situations’.

This is important, because a lot of what I’m going to discuss here concerns ‘situations’. Many of these look pretty daunting, but the point about a multiplicity of possible ‘outcomes’ remains critical. Bad decisions turn difficult situations into malign outcomes, but wise choices can, at the very least, preclude the worst, and can even produce good outcomes from unpromising situations.

The gloomy non-science

Economics has been called “the gloomy science”. In fact, economics – as currently practised – may or may not be “gloomy”, but it isn’t a “science”. The fundamental flaw with conventional economics is that it assumes that the economy is a financial system, to be measured in dollars, pounds, euros and yen.

This, in reality, is a huge misconception. Throughout history, systems of money have come and gone. A collector might well buy a Roman coin from you, but you couldn’t use it in a café or a shop.  Money is simply a human artefact, often of temporary duration, which we can create or destroy at will.

The purpose of money is the facilitation of exchange, something more convenient than barter. Its other often-claimed functions (as “a store of value” and a “unit of account”) are flawed at best. The “store of value” concept is particularly unconvincing. If somebody in a Western country dug up some banknotes buried in the garden by his or her great-grandmother, their purchasing power would be dramatically lower than when the biscuit-tin containing them was interred between the cabbages and the carrots. Measured using the broad-basis GDP deflator, the US dollar has lost 62% of its purchasing power since 1980 alone, and the pound has shed 71% of its value. Moreover, many countries change their notes and coins at frequent intervals, invalidating older versions.

Money does have important characteristics – which we’ll come to – but it’s not in any sense coterminous with a ‘real’ economy that consists of goods and services. All of these are products of the use of energy. Once you grasp this fundamental point, a ‘science’ of economics becomes a possibility, but as a branch of the laws of thermodynamics, and not, as now, as ‘the study of money’.

The energy fundamentals

As regular readers will know, whenever energy is accessed, some of that energy is always consumed in the access process. This divides the totality of energy supply into two streams – the consumed component is known here as ECoE (the Energy Cost of Energy), and the remainder is surplus energy. Because this surplus energy powers all forms of economic activity other than the supply of energy itself, it is the determinant of prosperity.

The SEEDS model calculates that, over the last twenty years, global trend ECoE has more than doubled, from 3.6% in 1998 to 7.9% last year. That’s already taken a huge bite out of our ability to grow our prosperity, and there’s no likelihood of ECoE levelling out in the foreseeable future, let alone turning back downwards.

The ECoEs of renewables are falling, just as those of fossil fuels are rising exponentially. This is a topic that we’ve discussed before, and will undoubtedly return to in the future, but it seems unlikely that a full transition to renewables, utterly vital though it is, is going to stabilise overall ECoE at much below about 10%. For context, back in the 1960s, when real economic growth was robust (and when petroleum consumption was growing by as much as 8% annually, whilst car ownership was expanding rapidly), world trend ECoE was less than 2%.

There are two reasons – one obvious, one perhaps less so – why an understanding of ECoE is critical to the environmental debate.

Obviously, if we continue to tie our economic fortunes to fossil fuels, the relentless rise in their ECoEs is going to carry on making us poorer, so there’s a compelling economic (as well as environmental) case for transition to renewables.

Less obviously, whilst prosperity is a function of surplus (aggregate less-ECoE) energy, climate-harming emissions are tied to total (surplus plus ECoE) energy. Essentially, we need to reduce our emissions from fossil fuels at a rate which at least matches the rate at which their ECoEs are rising if we’re to stand any chance at all of overcoming climate risk.

It’s a dispiriting thought that, whilst energy-based economics could make a powerful contribution to the case for environmental action, conventional, money-fixated economics can only interact negatively, by telling us how much it’s going to “cost”. Unfortunately, mainstream economics can’t really tell us the cost of not transitioning.

These “costs”, to be sure, are dauntingly large numbers. IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Agency – has costed transition at between $95 trillion and $110tn. These equate to between 619 and 721 Apollo programmes at the current-equivalent cost ($153bn) of putting a man on the Moon.

Moreover, the Americans of the 1960s had a choice about whether or not to fund a space programme. In economic as well as in environmental terms, there is no choice at all about our imperative need to transition.

The invalidation of futurity

The gigantic costs that energy transition involve bring us back to money, where we need to note something that couldn’t really be done with barter, but is well facilitated by money. That concept is futurity.

Time itself has always formed part of economic transactions, and this was the case even before the invention of the first efficient heat-engine enabled us to tap the energy wealth of fossil fuels. When someone bought, say, a table, he or she was paying for the labour (which, of course, is energy) that had gone into making it. Hiring someone to plough a field was a payment for labour in the present, and engaging someone to build a barn was payment for labour in the future.

But futurity is something different. When someone invests, he or she is looking to the future, hoping that income from the investment, or its future saleable value, will exceed the initial outlay. When an insurance policy is agreed, both parties have in mind the likelihood, and possible cost, of some future eventuality. Perhaps most importantly of all, loan transactions make a lot of assumptions about the future in which the loan, and interest, are to be repaid. Very much the same applies to saving for a pension.

All of these transactions can make a positive contribution to the effective functioning of the economy. Vitally, though, they require making assumptions about conditions at some future date. To a large extent, these assumptions – which, collectively, form a consensus – are based on prior experience. To this extent, decisions taken about futurity are only as good as the consensus on which they are based.

Imagine that you’re an insurer, issuing a policy on a car. Historically, this type of car, and this category of driver, is likely to be involved in an accident once in ten years, so the policy is priced accordingly, remembering that competitor insurance companies are likely to be working on a very similar basis of calculation. Then, though, these cars start crashing, not once every ten years, but once in every three. You’ll lose money, because your futurity assumption has been invalidated.

This is a simple example, with corollaries in any transaction involving futurity. The danger arises when prior experience ceases to be a valid guide to the future.

A good real-world example involves the provision of pensions. Prior to the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), historic long-run returns on American bonds and equities averaged 3.6% and 8.6%, respectively. Now, though, forward calculations need to be based, according to the World Economic Forum, on returns of only 3.45% for equities, and just 0.15% for bonds. Critically, this doesn’t just apply to funds invested after the fall in rates – it also cripples forward returns on capital accumulated before rates of return collapsed.

This, says the WEF, has helped created shortfalls so large that they amount to a “global pension timebomb”. Since, according to my calculations, a person investing 10% of his or her income in a pension fund before the GFC now needs to raise that to about 27% to get the same outcome – a percentage not remotely affordable for most people – we can almost say that private pension provision worldwide has been rendered inoperable by post-2008 monetary policy.

If my energy-based interpretation of the outlook for prosperity is correct – and I’d contend, simply, that its logic keeps getting more and more corroboration from events – then the entire basis of ‘consensus futurity’ has been invalidated. SEEDS shows prosperity growth petering out, not in the future, but now, and over a period which began roughly twenty years ago.

This invalidated the futurity consensus used during the massive issuance of debt before 2008, and, equally, destroys the assumptions on which subsequent monetary adventurism has been based.

Slow or negative growth – something which invalidates any projection based on pre-2000 experience – means that “secular stagnation” (or whatever euphemism you care to use) isn’t something that the economy will “grow out of”, much as youngsters grow out of childhood ailments. It’s the ‘new normal’, though it’s not the kind of thing that anyone is going to recognize as ‘normal’.

This, sooner or later, can be expected to cause a financial crash on a scale much larger than 2008, and this event (‘GFC II’) is going to hit, not just the banks, as in GFC I, but the financial system, and the very validity of fiat currencies.

Put another way, the ‘real’ and the ‘financial’ economies have moved so far apart that the latter is destined to topple over into the gap.

And this, remember, is the same financial system that needs to find the equivalent of more than 700 Apollo space programmes to finance energy transition.

I hope I’m wrong about financial crash risk, but I can see only one possible way out of the gigantic commitments – debt, pensions and much more – that we have made to a future that isn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be. The theme tune for this could be a song by the late, great Mickey Newbury – “The future’s not what it used to be”.

That only possible way out is the deliberate triggering of inflation. This would allow borrowers to ‘soft default’ their way out of unaffordable debt, ‘repaying’ lenders but in greatly devalued money. But it’s a medicine whose economic side-effects are at least as bad as the disease. High inflation has killed more currencies than any other cause.

‘De-coupling’ fiction and ‘de-growth’ fact

Rather than going into the implications of a financial crisis dwarfing that of 2008, my aim here is to look at the broader economic and environmental issues both before and after GFC II. Optimistically, one consequence of that event could be a general reappraisal of our situation – and this, of course, is where the logic of choices determining the ‘outcomes’ of ‘situations’ becomes all-important.

One set of possible choices is to try to recreate the status quo ante, but a more positive interpretation is that we will finally be forced to face a reality that, hitherto, few have understood, and fewer still have been prepared to confront.

Already, though, here have been some encouraging exceptions. In Britain, for example, chief environmental scientist Professor Sir Ian Boyd, has said recently that environmental objectives can be achieved only if people can be persuaded to move away from consumption.

This followed a report from a committee of legislators which concluded that, “[I]n the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation”. The committee said that the government should “aim to reduce the number of vehicles required”, promoting public transport and making it cheaper than car ownership. (In passing, it’s regrettable that the committee also advocated the inclusion of hybrids in the future ban on the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars, when it could instead have called for a near-term all-hybrids policy, and a limit on engine sizes).

The situation to be faced can be summarised as follows. Our obsession with “growth” has led us into behaviours which are destructive, not just of our environment and ecology, but in ways that we might term ‘social’, ‘political’ and ‘behavioural’. Now, though, energy-based interpretation suggests that the scope for further growth has ceased to exist. This compels us to change our thinking about the economy.

Of course, I don’t doubt that, even in extremis, a consensus based on conventional financial interpretation of the economy will express outright denial over this, and will come up with yet more hare-brained schemes to follow on from failed credit and monetary adventurism. These may well be attempted but, of course, they won’t work.

The fundamentals are that the surplus energy from fossil fuels which, hitherto, has driven economic growth is being squeezed, from two directions. Whilst the trend ECoE of fossil fuels is rising, our ability to try to counter this by increasing aggregate (pre-ECoE) supply is nearing its limits. The petroleum industry may indeed be guilty of having “cried wolf” in the past over the sorts of prices it needs to overcome depletion, but the reality of ECoE – especially where oil is concerned – suggests that the economics of the industry in many parts of the world really are in trouble. We can anticipate higher production from at least two OPEC countries – Iraq and Iran – and might extend this hope to Russia, though the costs of Russian production are far from encouraging. But US shale production alone is barely economic (if that), and has required, from the outset, subsidy, from optimistic investors and very insouciant lenders.

Whether ‘peak oil’ is brought about by cost-based supply constraint, or by the diminishing ability of customers to purchase petroleum, is something of a secondary consideration. But we do need to note that about 97% of all transport is powered by oil, with electric railways the only sizeable exception.

At the same time, we should dismiss the idea that we can somehow “decouple” the economy from energy. Fortunately, a quite superb recent report from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has debunked the concept of “decoupling” so comprehensively that we can defer detailed consideration to a later discussion.

“Our finding is clear”, the EEB report concludes – “the decoupling literature is a haystack without a needle”.

There – political leaders please note – goes your cherished ambition to deliver “sustainable growth”. ‘Sustainable’ is something to which we can and must aspire. But “growth” is not.

Transition is vital – but at what scale?

This, of course, takes us back to transition. I’ve aimed to leave nobody in any doubt about my belief in the imperative need to make this transition. I share the experts’ concern about climate change, and am horrified by many broader issues, such as the loss of habitats and species.

All of these consequences are a price far too high to pay for an obsession, rooted in quite recent history, with ‘growth at all costs’.

But I do question, very seriously indeed, whether we can wholly replace today’s use of fossil fuels with renewables, let alone use them to increase the aggregate supply of primary energy to the economy.

Financially, a capital requirement of $95tn to $110tn, even spread over thirty years, suggests that we need to be investing an average of about $3,400bn annually, against which actual spending (last year, $304bn) simply doesn’t cut it. Unit costs will continue to decrease. But so too – in a world with diminishing prosperity, and with a near-manic prioritization of immediate consumption over long-term investment – will our capacity for investment.

Then there’s the sheer volumetric scale of what needs to be done. In 2018, the world consumed more than 11,740 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mmtoe) of oil, gas and coal. Replacing that, again over thirty years, requires annual additions of output from renewables averaging 390 mmtoe, from a current base of 561 mmtoe. Last year’s actual increase was only 71 mmtoe, and the rate of capacity expansion has stalled. Even the 390 mmtoe number assumes no further increases in energy supply.

The third consideration, in addition to capital requirements and volumetric scale, is resources. Transition to full like-for-like replacement of fossil fuels would require vast material inputs, most obviously steel, copper and plastics. Ironically, the supply of these inputs currently relies very heavily indeed on the use of fossil fuels.

Back in the 1960s, the television series Thunderbirds looked ahead to a near future in which nearly everything – from cars and trucks to aeroplanes, ships, space rockets and, perhaps, even the humble lawnmower – was going to be nuclear-powered. Some of today’s portrayals of the future as a bigger, cleaner, glossier version of today look like similar techno-dreaming.

The idea that we’ll be driving just as many (or more) cars as we do today (except that they’ll be electric), and that we’ll be taking just as many flights (but in aeroplanes powered by batteries) seems pretty implausible.

Both economic and environmental reality suggest a need to embrace the concept of de-growth. The trick will be so to manage it that an economy that is smaller in size is also more in tune with human needs.

777 thoughts on “#155. The art of dark sky thinking

  1. Pingback: Eats, Shites and Leaves. #BREXIT #brexit #Brino #EUMilitaryUnification. WHAT ABOUT THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! – Not The Grub Street Journal

  2. Geoengineering; Synthetic Foods; Survival; Thriving
    This study of the microbe populations of pesticide grown apples and organic apples may be suggestive:

    Briefly, we know that humans have a small cohort of specifically human DNA floating in a sea of DNA in bacteria, fungi, pieces of RNA, and so forth. In other words, we are creatures who mostly use (and are sometime used and abused by) microbes that are not ‘human’. The current state of the Science boils down to ‘more diversity is good’. We are unable to analyze the unimaginably large numbers of microbes and DNA (numbers with 10 to the eighth power are common) and determine whether the numbers are favorable or unfavorable to human flourishing. For example, we can ALWAYS find some microbes and DNA which might be disease promoting, but very frequently the disease is dependent on quorum effects: small concentrations do not cause harm and may be helpful in terms of immune function. (Children raised in sterile environments don’t thrive.). We frequently create health problems for ourselves when well meaning but ignorant health regulations suppress diversity. That is one reason why many scientists who began to seriously explore microbe issues teach their children to eat a little dirt along with their recently plucked carrot from the garden.

    In this particular study, organic apples and pesticide grown apples have the same number of bacteria, but the distributions are quite different. The bacterial populations are more diverse in the organic apples, and our admittedly limited ability to quantify disease vs. health effects indicates that the organic apples are probably more ‘health promoting’.

    With the current parlous state of the world (the drunken Ben Bernanke apparently seconding that notion), the temptation is to turn to ‘high-tech’ solutions such as geoengineering and reliance on solutions such as manufactured foods. But the goal should be ‘health’, not just tonnage of materials produced or reduced. And here, I suggest, we are still babes in the woods.

    Did the Green Revolution save the world or just make us all sick? Is printing more money actually doing anything beneficial?

    Don Stewart
    PS. Buyer beware. I am not a microbiologist.

    • Hi Don
      Thank you for this. Can I recommend ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree, I think you will really enjoy this book/audible. Diversity is the key and if we leave nature to it, it is quite amazing what can be achieved.

    • I’ve just been reading about the old country folk here: their lives clearly broke every hygiene rule of today – ‘My old dad never had a bath since the day he was born to the day he was laid out’, etc (not much water consumption there!) – but the old people interviewed in the 1970’s were hail and hearty having done hard jobs all their lives. If they had had better clothing, they wouldn’t have suffered so much from rheumatism I am sure.

      One family was famous for their rhubarb, a taste like no other: the ‘secret ‘was emptying the contents of the privy on it…..

      Of course, one has to factor in the high infant mortality; but perhaps that is simply the price to be paid?

      Not every life matters, and the survivors are, generally, strong men and women.

      Anyway, I salute the ‘old bors’, ‘mathers’ and ‘wenches’ who made the fields I walk every day. May their spirits not be aware of what is being done to what they so carefully maintained – thousands of tons of concrete and steel to make a model ‘garden town’, courtesy of the Ancient University of Real Estate Speculation – Cambridge. A sick joke.

  3. Automatic Earth Today
    Some noteworthy pieces:
    *An independent journalist analyzes the stunning defeat of a segment of the Saudi army inside Saudi territory by Yemen armed forces. How a low-budget operation can bring one of the richest armies and oil production to its knees.
    *Putin’s joke. After prodding by a US MSM journalist, Putin responds: ‘of course we will interfere in the 2020 elections…but don’t tell anybody’. Everybody in the room ‘get’s it’, except the journalist. A bad sign that the journalists actually believe the nonsense they write.
    *Putin’s explanation: “we have problems in our own country, and that is our focus…not the US.”
    It is inconceivable that Hillary or Donald would admit that the US has any problems…we are God’s anointed people.

    If you have time, I also recommend Max and Stacey’s piece on WeWork, especially the video clip at the very beginning: Wall Street was right on the verge of selling this turkey to the public for 50 billion dollars.

    Fortunately, (leaning close and whispering), Dr. Morgan has secretly concluded that we have plenty of cheap fuels left…so surviving the nonsense is going to be a cake walk.

    Don Stewart

  4. @HDUK
    Thanks for the reference. It is very interesting. I am involved in a restoration of an old farm, but we are not nearly as far along in our thinking as this group.

    Don Stewart

  5. Pingback: Embodied energy cost of opportunity cost. Which would be a true metric of decision making where resource constraints involve mutually exclusive resource investment decisions. – Not The Grub Street Journal

  6. However, much as there is to be said for it as a concept, I do not like to see the hill farmers displaced and tossed aside by ‘re-wilding’: they are the last real men and women in Britain.

    George Monbiot -the prophet of re-wilding – has never done a days work in his life.

    • @Xabier
      I do not know anything about Monbiot, so can’t comment on that. But rejuvenating a degraded farm definitely involves a great deal of manual labor, as well as trying to figure out how human ingenuity and control of energy can increase the biological productivity. Countries like Ethiopia have been planting millions of trees trying to restore degraded land. China mobilized the Army to plant trees in the degraded Loess Plateau. Chris Marker’s documentary on Peking (now Beijing) in the 1950s featured people wearing face masks to protect their airways from the dust from the eroding plateau.

      As for the hill farmers in the UK. From what I have read, they are making pretty good use of not-very-productive land. It is always easier to restore a wetland, which is more biologically productive than the Amazon. Per hour of labor, the return from a restored wetland greatly exceeds the return from restoring a mountain. But if the mountain is eroding, or causing flooding, then the return downstream can be significant. Humans ARE drawn to mountains, so restoring degraded grazing land in mountainous regions has the potential to generate more tourist revenue than the usually small returns from grazing. In terms of species diversity, a wetland wins every time.

      Again, no specific knowledge of the UK environment. Just general comments.

      Don Stewart

  7. Pingback: An Exchange with the Climate Church of Armageddon continues. A Letter to Greta from Freinds of Science, Cool it and so comes the Wrong Think Police. #CLimateFraud #ClimateCult #Greta #ExtinctionDistinction – Not The Grub Street Journal

  8. Pingback: An Exchange with the Climate Church of Armageddon continues. A Letter to Greta from Freinds of Science, Cool it and so comes the Wrong Think Police. #CLimateFraud #ClimateCult #Greta #ExtinctionDistinction – Not The Grub Street Journal

  9. FYI:

    One of the things that’s kept me busy of late – and has delayed the next article – has been the latest iteration of SEEDS (‘SEEDS 20’). The next article here is likely to be about this new version and what it tells us.

    SEEDS 18 was the first version in which I felt that the methodology was complete, so nothing changes on that front. I’ve reviewed its operation and find no need for changes.

    SEEDS 20 does, though, introduce a global model using market dollars, in parallel to the PPP-dollar version. The market dollar version will enable us, amongst other things, to measure the scope for value-destruction in GFC II, and may help us to better understand the role of the USD.

    At the same time, I’ve reviewed the outlook for energy supplies. Simply put, I agree with those who contend that transition to renewables is happening far too slowly to reduce the role of fossil fuels over, say, the next two decades. But I disagree with the inference that, as a result, we’ll be using a lot more FFs in 2040 than we do now.

    • @Dr. Morgan
      I look forward to the new version. One of the (many) things I admit ignorance to is the mechanics of ‘the dollar short squeeze’. Max Keiser and a guest talk about it in a video this week. They think that the Repo turmoil was caused by the US Treasury draining dollars out of the system to fund the fiscal deficit, and some big bank(s) needing short term dollars. I believe the figure on US government debt shows an increase of 1.2 trillion over the last 12 months. So if dollars are a limited quantity, I can see how a short squeeze would develop…which could bring down some big banks which would trigger the next iteration of financial collapse. Max and his guest conclude that we are seeing deflation in the real economy….which they attribute partially to the monetary operations.

      I am woefully ignorant of all this, so any light your new models can shed on the subject will be much appreciated.

      Don Stewart

  10. According to Joseph Tainter, author of “The Collapse of Complex Societies” (1988), societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. When a society confronts a “problem,” such as a shortage of energy, or difficulty in gaining access to it, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. In Tainter’s view, the ultimate cause of societal collapse is an economical one due to diminishing returns on investments in social complexity.

    Dr. Morgan, I wonder how your SEEDS model, specifically ECoE, relates to diminishing returns. I have the impression that there are different faces of the same coin but I don’t manage to fully relate them. Could you please, if possible, explain it further? Thank you.


    • I really like Tainter book. However I think it is important to distinguish two class of problem “fixing” :

      1) Fixing symptoms, which is exactly the type of fixing that create a whole lot of complexity and bureaucracy. This is generally the least costly in terms of politics because It can be made to fit the ideology du jour.

      2) Fixing roots causes, which is rarely done pro-actively. Often because the root of the problem is also the root of the dominant ideology. For example growth and the various strains of debt-fueled capitalism. Japan did manage to fix deforestation (aka before things went too bad) during Togukawa’s rein. So it is possible to act.

      Most often, what happens is that 1) is done, with the extra benefit of creating room for elite jobs that will keep supporting the ideology in place. Till things don’t work anymore, and the the whole complexity card castle goes down to make place for something new. The point of 2) is to knock down the castle before it grows too big.

      TBH, what we are doing now is adding new layers and fancy towers to an already precariously looking castle by using the lower level pieces. A kind of deadly Jenga game in a sense.

  11. What I find concerning about the people at all levels of government and the environmental sector who formulate policy in relations to environmental matters is there seeming inability to see that their actions may have consequences.

    As you’ll be aware, you’ll know this because politicians say it so often, every penny of public money is “invested” in “essential front line services” so you can imagine the surprise at my local council when they discovered that their attempts to reduce the number of people brining cars into town would cause a reduction in the money they raised from parking charges. Who’d have thunk it!

    An article in the Guardian today says’ “Britain should move to a system of road pricing to combat congestion and compensate for the £28bn loss of revenue from fuel duty as the country makes the transition to electric vehicles, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said.”

    I’m sorry, the roads that electric cars drive on still have to be paid for!?

    My point is that things cost money. That this transition from our current energy system to any new system will cost money. Indeed the need to operate two systems in parallel for a time will cost a lot of money. All this at a time when debt levels and demographics and environmental degradation would present a challenge enough.

    The public debate about a transition in our energy production and uses, seems to me to revolve in the main about motivating our desire to do so and if we can all just get behind the plan whether because we’ve heard the message from Greta Thunberg or for what ever reason then it will all be plain sailing.

    It seems to me that even if we can all agree on the direction of travel, understanding the costs of transitioning and agreeing what we give up and who pays to get there is a debate I am not aware we are even close to properly having.

    • Indeed so.

      There are a number of interconnected issues here.

      One is a failure – despite logic and abundant experience – to move away from failed financial interpretations of economics. After all, if measurement and calibration are wrong, decisions are likely to be mistaken, That’s what we’re in the process of finding out right now.

      Second is the fetish about “growth”. This is why phrases like “sustainable growth” and “sustainable development” are popular, despite being, at best, unproven and, most probably, eyewash. This sort of thinking relies on our ability to “decouple” the economy from energy use. But “decoupling” is nonsense, recently debunked by the EEB.

      Third, any recognition that prosperity has ceased growing will result in an imperative demand for redistribution – and that, for all their claimed commitment to “equality” in every supposedly non-financial area, is something that TPTB cannot contemplate.

    • http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/index.php/advisors/past-advisors/david-mackay/299-a-brief-eulogy-for-a-friend-of-scgi A EUlogy to Prof. Sir David MacKay. On an interesting web site linked to in the earlier Posting referred by Number.
      #85 by Eclipse Now https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/recharge/
      The Science Council on Global energy has Dr James Hansen as an Advisor and links to this video regarding Nuclear energy.

      At the other end of the scale there is the #GreenNewMeal

    • Very few people understand how things work, or the interconnectedness of things; it’s quite as basic a problem as that. I happily include myself among them only a few years ago. Hence being surprised by ‘unintended consequences’, when only a little reflection would have revealed them.

      I don’t think councils in the UK have ever contained many bright sparks, but that instance is a perfect example, and at the simplest level!

      Moreover, we are accustomed, and encouraged, to view these issues -physical and financial, flows of energy and money – as a moral narrative, in which everything officially stamped ‘Green’ is beneficial. We can see this particularly in the planning field.

      If anyone in the UK is interested in seeing what the proposed lovely ‘garden towns’ (You’ll all want to live there!) are going to look like, just look up ‘Eddington’, the atrocious new development by Cambridge University, which I have been watching appalled as it rears its blunt Brutalist head over the ancient fields – fields long neglected by the University because they intended to build there. Award-winning, and a model for the future it seems…….

      Our joy will be complete when the Green busway ploughs through the Green Belt, a Trojan horse for yet more shoddy property speculation and total urbanisation.

  12. Should we ever get to consensus on an energy transition much of the limited discussion about how we get from where we are now to this net zero future is based on the concept of “green growth” as you say Tim.

    In the simple terms that I understand the future that I am to believe in IS much like the past an nothing to be concerned about.

    The same perpetual growth economic model but just a different colour.

    There are those who suggest that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible but I am to believe that it’s perfectly possible as long as it’s green growth? Is that where we are with the debate at the moment or am I misunderstanding it or misrepresenting it?

    • Once it is understood that the economy IS an energy system, claims about “sustainable growth”, “sustainable development” and “decoupling” are exposed as false.

      The planet is finite, in terms both of resources and of environmental capacity. Both are incompatible with ‘infinite growth’.

      “Transition” is a real possibility, and is imperative. But “green growth”, if it means ‘further growth from here’, is implausible.

    • I fully support you on this, Tim. At best, the transition will be uneven and messy. Overshoot has begun to see longevity declining in the US (3 yrs in a row). Russia led the way I believe, a decade or more ago. It is still rising in developing nations as medical technology and nutrition increase there. But I suspect that trend will soon end given negative feedback from pollution increases and enviro decline.

    • I agree that the economy is an energy system, but Hans Rosling’s charts show that quality of life is not necessarily defined by the economy. He illustrates countries which improved life expectancy by reducing infant mortality BEFORE they began to increase incomes. And the examples are not limited to Cuba. Bangladesh is a good example, where the religious leaders began to promote family planning.

      In a world awash in debt, the sheer size of the GDP is the best indicator we have of whether those debts can ever be repaid. But if one assumes that reality will demand some sort of ‘debt jubilee’, then the question of future quality of life becomes less tightly linked to the economy.

      Don Stewart

    • This is pretty much where we are in the debate. Here we even have two green parties, one focused on a “green growth” and letting the market sorting the mess (liberal greens), while the other is more about energy sobriety and fast paced state directed energy transition.

      The debate should be about triage in our energy consumption, aka what do we give up first so that we don’t end up giving it all up.

      “Infinite” growth on earth is not possible. Even if the energy was there (say from abundant and clean fusion power) we would cook ourselves just from the waste heat in 200-300 years top with a 2.8% growth.

      Not to mention that we have nowhere near the materials for such a thing (copper, rare earths and so on).

      Some silly math fun :

      Assuming we :
      1) Work only with solar giving 40% efficiency (real max cap may be a bit higher IIRC) (so extra heat)
      2) Figure a way to replace all the difficult to find and refine elements with very abundant stuff like iron, carbon, aluminium and silicon. Ever thought why all living things are made of water and carbon, and not tantalum and copper XD ?

      Starting with the current 17TW of power we use, at a 2.8% annual growth rate we would reach 68PW after 300 years (12 doublings). 68 PW is 170PW*0.40 and 170PW is the full solar power received by earth. 🙂

      In other words : under the best possible polyanna circumstances, growth cannot possibly go on for more than 300 years. And that would require covering the whole world (including oceans) with high efficiency solar panels.

      Growth was always meant to look like a logistic curve at best, and a gaussian at worst.

    • If politicians cannot promise growth, fake-Green or otherwise, what can they promise?

      Bare survival.

      It’s not a sexy vote-winner, except in a state of war.

    • This is true, and worrying, because it constitutes a threat to democracy. If the incumbencies cannot promise growth, how do they remain in power?

      Indications so far aren’t good, with two examples perhaps indicative.

      In France, the regime has used a very brutal response to the yellow jacket protestors, seemingly setting up a ‘police versus public’ situation which is so difficult for police officers that they, too, have now taken to the streets.

      Meanwhile, the British establishment has come out into the open (rather than, as historically, working entirely behind the scenes) in its opposition to the popular will, as expressed over “Brexit”.

  13. Really, the current Green motto is ‘Triumph of the Will!’.

    Just as the Nazi project for Europe was on the economic and social level a perverse imitation of American industrialism and consumerism (motorways, Volkswagen, mass sports, etc) , so the Green Transition of the GND, is nothing more than a re-industrialisation project requiring mind-boggling capital expenditure, and still pouring a titanic amount of concrete and using vast quantities of steel (and plastics) – generating, in turn, its own resource-scarcity, pollution and recycling problem.

    All to minister to the needs of vast and useless populations, the size and function of which cannot be discussed in polite company…..

    The reality is, surely, this: The more industrial civilization attempts to run away from itself, the more it comes face to face again with its fundamental nature: extract, process, pollute, degrade – always on a vast scale that the Earth cannot tolerate.

  14. Industrial Heat and Solar
    Art Berman’s current twitter refers to Alice Friedemann’s site, Energy Skeptic, and an article on industrial heat which they describe as ‘excellent’.


    I’ll have more to say about WHY humans ignore the gorilla in the room later. But for now, it is enough to understand the connection between Tim Garrett’s assertion that ‘civilization’ is what we have built and our reliance on the burning of fossil fuels to generate heat to build that civilization.

    Don Stewart

  15. Why the Built Civilization is Not in the Spotlight

    Barbara Tversky’s book Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought has one primary premise…spatial thinking is the foundation of abstract thought. You can check her book for all the research and her description of how the substrates in brain and body support spatial thinking. She also gives examples of how abstract concepts can best be communicated. On that subject, she gives a lot of credit to Hans Rosling and his innovative use of moving circles on a graph to convey abstract data through movement (check for Rosling’s TED talks).

    The problem I see is that the built environment almost by definition doesn’t move. The highway that we drive on gets little attention, but we are closely attentive to the vehicle. The process heat used to make the plastic and the metals is ignored, but the styling and the sound system get attention. John Michael Greer’s current post says:
    “nuclear power and renewable energy were both hopelessly uneconomical as ways to power either the electricity grid or the transport grid, the two main uses of energy in a modern industrial society,”
    It isn’t clear to me whether ‘powering the transport grid’ implies all the process heat required, but from Garrett’s perspective, it’s the main show and needs emphasis so that people comprehend that it’s not primarily a question of gasoline or EVs.

    How would one go about illustrating the process heat problem? We could use Rosling like plots of the process heat required to maintain a ‘top 1 percent’ lifestyle, a 90th to 99 percentile lifestyle, a 60th to 89th percentile lifestyle, and a bottom 20 percent lifestyle. We could also show pictures of typical transportation devices in each group. Rosling has used walking, bicycling, motor scooters, and automobiles to segment the population into coherent groups. There are 1 billion people walking, 2 billion bicycling, 3 billion on motor scooters, and 1 billion in cars (a few years ago when the world had 7 billion people).

    So one way of illustrating what is in store for the billion people at the top of the heap is to do some arithmetic and figure out if the world of 20 years from now can afford motor scooters. If so, a picture from Viet Nam will be very instructive. If it’s bicycles, then Beijing of 30 years ago will tell us a lot. If its is walking, then pictures of women carrying water pots on their heads will give us clues. Transportation is very important to people. For one thing, it enables people to go to the jobs which will best suit them. Someone without transportation is stuck with the jobs that happen to be close at hand, or perhaps their subsistence farm.

    In short, Tversky suggests that communicating and thinking about abstract concepts needs some support from spatial thinking, because categories are easier than dimensions.

    Don Stewart

  16. Chris Marker’s Movie: Sunday in Peking, 1955

    Note the improvements in public health which have been made. The face masks against the dust. The presence of bicycles used both for personal transportation but also as trucking devices. The presence of cultural assets such as the zoo. No gyms, but plenty of opportunity for exercise.

    This was before the giant increases in built infrastructure and the use of fossil fuels. An American photographer went to China every year for many decades. It is astonishing to see cranes everywhere as time goes on, and the emergence of a vastly bigger built environment.

    At any rate, it may afford a glimpse of what life might be like with restricted use of fossil fuels.

    Don Stewart

  17. A Prosperous Way Down
    Mary Odum, a part of the Odum clan which included Howard T., Elizabeth, and Eugene, operates a not-very-active blog:
    The title is from the last book by Howard and Elizabeth, titled ‘A Prosperous Way Down’.

    The current essay looks at the new movie which tackles the illusions promulgated by a considerable portion of the ‘green’ movement: Planet of the Humans. Which prompted me to go back and re-read the Odum’s 2001 book. Sometimes you can find PDF versions of the book on the internet, but the paperback is still available and is inexpensive.

    It is sobering to be reminded that in 2001 the Odum’s were so accurately diagnosing the current state of affairs on the Planet of the Humans. It is also sobering that, almost 2 decades later, we seem no closer to being able to come to grips with the necessity for fundamental change.
    *The economics profession awards their version of the Nobel to an ‘infinite growth’ advocate
    *China is buying an advanced missile attack warning system from Russia. The purpose of the system is that if an attack is detected, response missiles will be fired immediately. Thus, the world is literally 20 minutes from utter destruction. What could go wrong?
    *’Prosperity’ is defined as the ability to keep paying on your debts. The Odum’s message that we humans have to rethink our definition of prosperity is no more acceptable, maybe less acceptable, than it was in 2001.
    *The indicators that led the Odum’s to detect rot at the core of our civilization are worse, but denial is stronger.

    There are a few hopeful signs. For example, some corporations are actually realizing that they are prime movers in the deterioration. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsico are apparently determined to eliminate one-way plastic bottles (but I think they are beginning to realize that they really can’t do that and remain viable). Closer to home, a local fast food place is removing donuts from its menu in three stores which are in ‘enlightened’ neighborhoods.

    I remain skeptical that the timid initial actions by the corporations will amount too much. The fundamental problem is that the notion of a ‘healthy snack’ is an oxymoron. Snacking between meals is at the root of many of our health problems…yet these corporations existence depends on selling snacks…whether in ‘green’ containers or one-use plastic. I recently offended a genetic and microbiome testing service by dismissing their ‘healthy snack’ recommendations….just don’t eat between meals.

    As Dr. Morgan lays out his numbers on the decline of fossil fuels and the necessity for wind and solar, I suggest that getting out your dog-eared copy of the Odum’s book, or buying one if you haven’t read it, may be a useful thing to do.

    Don Stewart

  18. It’s interesting to see how the British Establishment is, in effect, de-legitimizing itself over Brexit. They have lost all subtlety in governance – final decadence? I think since the 1830’s and Chartism it has been understood that the gap between the wishes of the governed and the real rulers should not be too dangerously large, and this has now been set aside.

    Our host asks how governments stay in power if they cannot promise – and realise – growth of the kind we have been used to since WW2?

    I suggest the answer is not so much naked repression as the politics of


    They can rob one group to pay another, pitch one sector against another, and so on. Lots of fun and games to keep the masses at fever pitch and distracted. Dangling carrots works much better than the stick.

    Societies will be deeply divided; even though the Yellow Jackets had lost of support, large sectors of French society were against them or indifferent.

    As impoverishment steadily spreads, the hope of gaining from redistribution, as a welfare recipient, public sector worker, or someone getting state contracts, will guarantee votes and support.

    So I see things getting rather Latin American. If they hold together at all, that is……

  19. Just read an article by Isabelle Fraser in the telegraph which shows uk home ownership peaked in 2003 which interestingly enough is very close to where Dr Morgan’s seeds report shows Britain’s prosperity peaking.

    • Perhaps it is my Safari browser, but I can’t find many older threads on this blog. I do realize that several posts of mine were “moderated” out of existence. I’m not alone from what I’ve read in the short time I’ve been here. The below is a response to Roger and Tim. Seems when I mention speculative assertions such as aphysical anything, hackles get raised by people who are in disagreement about many other things. This is the short post:

      1. “I am also offended by the notion that one needs to be one or the other and that Materialism and Idealism are of necessity or custom mutually exclusive. I do not believe they are and there are more ways of being and acting than as through Matter or Thought in three dimensions of time and space.”

      SK: You are in the majority! What we don’t know is infinite. To propose idealism as anything other than anthropogenic imaginings requires objective, shareable evidence. Otherwise it is just speculation.

      2. “Three modes of evolution have thus been brought before us: evolution by fortuitous variation, evolution by mechanical necessity, and evolution by creative love. We may term them tychastic evolution, or tychasm, anancastic evolution, or anancasm, and agapastic evolution, or agapasm. The doctrines which represent these as severally of principal importance we may term tychasticism, anancasticism,and agapasticism. On the other hand the mere propositions that absolute chance, mechanical necessity, and the law of love are severally operative in the cosmos may receive the names of tychism, anancism, and agapism.” — C. S. Peirce, 1893[2]

      Saying something doesn’t make it so, no matter who is speaking. As to:

      (By Tim I believe)
      “I’m not a subscriber to any established religion, but I certainly don’t dismiss the concept that there might be ‘something beyond us’.”

      There may be an infinite number of things/energies. No boundary to reality has ever been evidenced! As I wrote above:
      “What we don’t know is infinite. To propose idealism as anything other than anthropogenic imaginings requires objective, shareable evidence. Otherwise it is just speculation.”

      So, take your fork in the road, but don’t attempt to tell others that your map matches the territory! Recall Korzybski.

      “The map is not the territory.”


    • To the best of my knowledge none of your comments have failed moderation. Please note that any comment which includes a link is automatically held for moderation.

    • I just tried to post a two sentence reply, and it said:
      “Your comment is being held for moderation”

    • Here it is:
      Steven B Kurtz
      on October 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm said:
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Seems all of my posts are being “moderated.” After being warmly received a short time ago, it seems my challenge to spiritual speculations has raised hackles.

    • Seems all of my posts are being “moderated.” After being warmly received a short time ago, it seems my challenge to spiritual speculations has raised hackles.

    • held in moderation no links? Tim.
      on October 5, 2019 at 3:39 pm said:
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Peace to you too Brother Steven
      Big Hugs,

    • Steven, Tarski, Gödel , Cantor, etc.
      Davids Film Dangerous Knowledge is very Good.
      Claes hated it and would not agree to a Live Interview/Discussion with David which I thought was a great shame.
      Claes Dr. Faustus of Modern Physics is well worth reading if you have not.
      Reality is à slice of infinity,

      Reality is à slice of infinity,
      Make sure you try apiece.
      Plenty to go around
      Add seasoning to taste





      Abstract constructs

      Incompleteness and uncertainty
      Are in the nature of infinity
      Falsifiability is in the nature of reality
      Subjects of defined limits create reality

      One can create or falsify one’s own reality
      Reality as objective, subjective or abstract
      It is all an abstract construct relative to subjective limits placed on the infinite continuum.

      There are many realities, but Only one infinity
      Infinity encompasses all realities
      Realities are faceted With infinite perspectives
      Prescribed reality is not necessarily evident
      Roger G Lewis 2011

    • Politically, the shifting of the balance between those who have, or think they can get, who fear losing, and those who can never get, or have lost, will be crucial in the coming politics of Redistribution.

    • @Xabier
      As I see it:
      *Debts cannot be repaid
      *Change must happen at a large scale
      *Debt prevents adaptation
      *Therefore, some sort of ‘debt jubilee’ has to happen one way or another
      *Better a political solution than a blood-soaked one
      *Wise politics would focus on identifying some lower level of energy (e.g., 1955 Peking) and working toward maximum productivity AT THAT LEVEL.

      Don Stewart

    • When someone cannot repay his or her debts, those debts obviously cannot be repaid.

      This leaves us with a choice between two types of default. “Hard” default happens when borrowers simply renege on their obligations. “Soft” default is where debts are inflated away, such that they are “repaid”, but in devalued money. Historically, policy has almost always favoured “soft” over “hard” default.

      This process, however it is carried out, destroys value.

      The SEEDS 20 version of the model calculates the scope for “value destruction” at $320tn. Not all of this is potential default, of course, as it includes a slump in the values of assets, and other reductions in “assumed wealth”.

  20. Dr. Morgan

    You seem oblivious to what you have given the World in SEEDS and what it represents, so will you allow me to spell it out?
    It seems to me it’s a key.
    If someone finds it, lying on the ground, and picks it up they will suddenly see a wall off in the distance they had never noticed before, and if they walk over there they will discover a locked door in the wall, and if they try out the key it will open the door, and if they pass through the door they will discover an extraordinary world they had no idea existed. All their questions from Brexit and Trump to 9/11 and the collapse of Institutions such as Marriage and Democracy are suddenly answered. They have had their minds blown and can clearly see the world that they had lived in up to the point of passing through the door was merely a paradigm, nothing more than a story, everybody told each other with no basis in reality at all.

    They go back through the door and try to explain to the multitude that they were simply living in a paradigm but of course it seems so real and it is all they know so living in deep ignorance of the reality just through the door is impossible to explain.

    As a child of the Scottish Enlightenment I have thought since the 1980’s that the light it has cast on the world was conditioned by a vast supply of very cheap fossil fuels and that without fusion or some such power source (no I’m NOT talking here about solar panels!) the world would swiftly return to a very dark age.

    It seems important to remember that it is a spectrum thing As I have never thought that the economy had anything to do with money, SEEDS is a mere truism but for many, many people it would truly be the key to freeing themselves from the world view they have inherited from their parents/friends/culture/class/education. In short, although you may have trouble coming to terms with this fact, your work is up there with the work of Copernicus and Darwin in terms of changing the existing paradigm.

    Very best regards P.D.

    • Very well put: but for most, if they were capable of grasping it at all, the perspectives opened up by this paradigm would be truly frightening, or, at the best, most unwelcome.

      In our part of Spain, the peasants, in 1936, fought for the return of the Inquisition. They regarded the Enlightenment as an unfortunate error…..

    • Paul

      Thank you, but you are far too kind. Others before me identified the principles of the economy as an energy system. If we can now see a long way into the future using the energy-economy paradigm, it is because we are “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

      My much more modest contribution has been to model the economy in this way.

      Without a model, we could not challenge conventional, ‘financial’ economics on its own turf. With SEEDS, we can mount this challenge. How we do so, and how effectively, remains to be seen.

      It helps us, of course, that the prescriptions of ‘conventional’ economics are now in the process of failing, spectacularly, and in plain sight.

  21. Thankless Tasks
    Let’s suppose you are a very smart and wise person who has figured out something important in the Real World (which has a lot of moving parts). Of course, everyone since Cain and Abel has known that the world is not a smart and wise and neutral place. So you take a look at some science:

    *It turns out that many people cannot mentally animate a series of ropes and pulleys.
    *Many smart college students cannot solve a problem of a boat floating in the water with a rope ladder hanging over the side. The problem stated in terms of a tide rising at a certain rate per hour and, after an interval of time, how many of the rungs on the ladder will be under water. The precise but wrong answer will be determined much as you learned to do arithmetic in grammar school. The correct answer is that the boat floats up with the tide, and the rope hangs from the boat, so there will be no change in the relationship of the ladder to the water.
    *People consistently see themselves as part of a group. Within the group, there is recognition that each member is different from all the others. But people consistently believe that members of the other group are ‘all alike’. We see this misperception used as a weapon all the time in politics and comments on this and other blogs.
    *Partial knowledge. A recent scientific study in the Andes involved moving some soil from high up on a mountain (which is cool) to a lower elevation (which is warmer). The metabolic rate of the microbes in the soil was measured before and after the move, as was the composition of the microbes. The results were that metabolic rate, and thus production of CO2, increased by about 10 percent at temperature levels predicted for Earth during this century. Consequently, warming temperatures are a reinforcing effect leading to further warming. If you were a politician, would you try to earnestly explain the science during a televised debate? In my opinion, trying to explain it would
    #open you up to the charge of ‘cherry picking’
    #be unintelligible to the rope and pulley challenged people
    #would merely confirm that you are part of the faceless bloc of those who are trying to reduce us to poverty
    #would mire you in details, when the point is that the boat is going to float upwards

    Unfortunately, I am short on answers.

    Don Stewart

    • Of course it is not PC to claim that everyone isn’t equal. I’m flabbergasted at how many university students *and faculty* believe that. I’ve a bright, otherwise system thinking friend who was “brainwashed” by getting a degree in eco-psychology around 30 years ago. We were co-moderators of an ecological economics list around 20 years ago. He says training alone can make great athletes, musicians, artists, and that all mental illness is all nurture… Perhaps after more than a decade of debating him he has moved a touch towards some balance of nature/nurture.

    • It has always seemed to me that the problem is the difference between “equal” and “the same”.

      It’s not true to say that every youngster, given sufficient coaching, could play football as well as Lionel Messi, or drive a car as well as Lewis Hamilton. But it is fair to say that all of them are of equal value, and should be given equal opportunities.

      It’s also noteworthy that those most prone to advocating “equality” seldom seem to include equality of income or wealth within their definition of equality. Obviously, inequalities of parental income and wealth necessarily translate into inequalities of opportunity for their children.

  22. Old, old problem, Don, as illustrated in the Sufi tale of the stranger who entered a town and walked very fast up and down the high street:

    ‘Where are you going? What are you doing? Where do you come from?’ they asked.

    ‘I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know!!!’

    Of course, they didn’t realise that he was showing them to themselves….

    Mankind is pretty intractable material: it is fortunate that life has been really rather simple until this industrial mess took off and enveloped us in self-reinforcing complexities from which one may not readily retreat, and which demanded very little of humans except understanding the immediate task – literally – ‘at hand’.

    Our predicament, in all its ramifications, is and will remain quite simply beyond the grasp of most people. Even, it seems, many of those who think they know of a solution……..in fact, especially those people!

  23. Politics of Less
    As an example of what I think would be a good State intervention which would enable people to maximally adjust to lower energy and lower income.

    My Homeowner’s Association proposes to adopt a rule severely limiting the ability of people to rent their houses or to take in borders or to operate businesses from home. All of those things are likely to become necessary as we experience lower energy and lower income. I think that the State would be wise to intervene on the side of ‘homeowner sovereignty’ and negate the power of Homeowner’s Associations. It is much easier for an individual family to make such a decision, rather than going through the political hurdles which the HOAs set up.

    Don Stewart

  24. Iran perhaps offers an interesting model of an impoverished country, with an authoritarian regime not afraid to murder, but which also plays divide and rule with the population, thereby ensuring a sufficient base of loyal supporters, enough to deter any revolution anyway – too many would lose, even if what they have may seem very little to us.

    The Islamic Socialist Revolutionary Republic, no less.

    We may see something similar in the West as things decline.

    • Xabier
      The thing you have written about there is a reflection in the mirror of Western European countries and the US no less. Particularly Perfidious Albion. Iran is still a resource rich country – unlike Western Europe which is are resource constrained/depleted. The ironical thing about this is that the sanctions on Iran that the US and Europe (to a lesser extent) have imposed may have actually helped Iran in the long run. Iran is looking to China and Russia and shunning the West and is developing ways of bypassing the US$.
      It is the bypassing of the US$ and Western financial systems that will be the real story here

    • The US persecuting Iran brings to mind that witty observation on foxhunting, about the ‘Unspeakable pursuing the uneatable.’

      Neither side has the moral advantage.

      The regime is vile, but sanctions will not bring it down: none of my Iranian friends, who hate the clerics, think so.

  25. From ‘another’ Tim.
    “Does economic punditry have to be akin to horror films? The last six years have been the most stable in the past four decades . . .
    The International Monetary Fund brings together data from its 189 member countries to give numbers for the level and growth rate of world output, with the series in its current database starting in 1980. They show that in the 38 years inclusive from 1980 to 2017 the average growth rate of world output was 3.5 per cent. . . .
    In 2012 world output rose by 3.5 per cent, in 2013 by 3.5 per cent, in 2014 by 3.6 per cent, in 2015 by 3.4 per cent, in 2016 by 3.2 per cent and in 2017 by 3.6 per cent. The main feature of the recent past is not the severe instability of growth, but its remarkable stability. In fact, the last six years have been the most stable in the entire 38-year period covered by readily-available IMF statistics.
    Sure enough, the Great Recession of a decade ago was a blot on the escutcheon. But the Great Recession was the exception, not the norm. Indeed, in one respect it was totally unlike the Great Depression of the 1930s with which it is sometimes compared. Whereas the 1930s suffered mass unemployment in North America and much of Europe, the decade since the Great Recession has delivered strong employment growth. Western societies may not have the degree of social cohesion that members of the World Economic Forum regard as right and proper, but unemployment rates in several advanced countries are close to 25- or 30-year lows. . . .
    The anxiety may arise because the world’s impressive economic stability and prosperity has been achieved only at the cost of increased inequality. ”
    Tim Congdon
    “Global growth for 2018 is estimated at 3.7 percent, as in the October 2018”

    And on the prospects of a ‘near term’ ‘crash’.
    “Given that the Fed and the ECB have shown a welcome pragmatism in responding to the current global slowdown, and given also that – despite our concerns – money growth trends remain more or less satisfactory, a central forecast for 2020 can sensibly be for roughly trend growth of the world economy accompanied by low inflation. As ever, many worries surround a benign view of this sort, but recent financial events in China and India – like those in the developed world – also support it. “

    • My answer to this is that, ever since the recognition of “secular stagnation” in the late 1990s, and increasingly over time, GDP has been manipulated.

      In the years before 2008, the authorities used “deregulation” to make credit easier to access than ever before. The credit-fueled “growth” which ensued was a classic instance of a boom created by the “spending of borrowed money”, and was followed by an inevitable bust in 2008.

      Since then, we’ve gone even further, resorting to the absurdity of reducing the cost of debt to negative levels, often in nominal terms and certainly, most of the time, in real terms. Much of the money which people have been “paid to borrow” has been spent. ZIRP/NIRP has had a series of extremely adverse economic consequences but, most importantly in this context, it has falsified GDP.

      Imagine that we were obliged to freeze debt where it is – growth would then fall to very low levels. Go further, and imagine deleveraging, and GDP would fall to a level significantly below where it is claimed to be now. Most of the “growth” since c2000 has been sleight-of-hand.

      The point is that, for as long as we can keep pouring credit into the system, GDP can be pretty much whatever we want it to be. There are analogies here to companies which “grow their earnings” by using debt to fund over-priced acquisitions.

      Building up this massive level of debt isn’t the only instance of pillaging the future to falsify the present. The WEF has highlighted a “timebomb” in global pension provision, to which the crushing of returns on invested capital has been a contributory factor.

      Finally, ZIRP, QE etc were described as “temporary” and “emergency” measures when they were introduced. But that was 11 years ago, which stretches the definition of “temporary”, and suggests that “emergency” is the new normal.

      No major CB even aspires to restore rates to above-inflation levels. If they did do this, the consequences would be an asset market crash and an economic slump.

    • Spot on, Tim M. I responded before getting to your response to the other Tim.

    • FYI, the “other Tim” is, I think, an extremely distinguished economist. I’m delighted to engage with his views, however much we may disagree.

    • It’s ‘benign’ alright; until you realise that it is, in fact, malignant…..

      How can people publish this tripe? But’s it will be seized upon and believed by many.

    • It might interest some of you that my friend of over 40 years, Dr. Edward I Altman, inventor of the Z model of bankruptcy prediction at NYU, agrees with the view that debt has been the main tool of the past decade or so for the “recovery” from the crisis. And he thinks it shows signs of losing potency. If some CBs and government treasuries print like crazy and buy up bad debt, those doing it the most will likely see their currency decline the most on a relative basis.

      Also analyst named Steen recently wrote a short piece that $US devaluation is the last tool in the box to “save” the global economy. Reason: it is still the global reserve currency…but not forever…

    • Indeed.

      I agree with Charles Hugh Smith, who observed recently that we may be nearing the point of “credit exhaustion”.

      This is important, because it’s the point at which borrowers, concerned by how much debt they already have, refuse to borrow any more, irrespective of how cheap it is.

      If he’s right – as I suspect he may well be – then we’re nearing end-game for debt-financed “growth”.

  26. Pingback: On Debt Jubilees, The religious Language of Debt Forgiveness @GrubStreetJournal #Quanta @Wiki_Ballot – Not The Grub Street Journal

  27. Hi Tim,

    “This process, however it is carried out, destroys value.”

    The SEEDS 20 version of the model calculates the scope for “value destruction” at $320tn. Not all of this is potential default, of course, as it includes a slump in the values of assets and other reductions in “assumed wealth”.

    In the matter of Debt default when you say “Value” is destroyed what do you mean?

    Value is but an abstract upon an abstract. Wes Free and I had a very long and productive discussion back in the spring over the course of several weeks regarding Wes’s #Quanta and #Big Apple plan.
    I am not a great fan of blowing smoke up the arse of anyone, see my reservations on Steve Keen, Richard Murphy and also myself. Ingroup Bias is the enemy of intellectual discovery.

    SO in the spirit of advancing the discussion here goes nothing!


    • Let me be a little more specific here.

      If you hold shares priced at $300, you’re likely to think – as everyone does – that you have “value” of that amount. If the market then crashes, taking the shares down to $200, you feel you’ve “lost” $100 of “value”.

      Actually, of course, you haven’t. Rather, the shares were over-priced at $300. If you bought them for $200 or less, using your own money, you’re fine. No money has left your bank account. As JS Mill said, busts don’t destroy value, but reveal value previously destroyed by malinvestment.

      Now imagine, though, that you paid $250 for the shares, and borrowed the money to buy them. This “value destruction” is real, rather than purely notional.

      Additionally, as the share price rose, you might have either (a) used them as collateral for something, and/or (b) gone deep into consumer credit, on the comforting assumption that you could always, if push came to shove, pay it off by selling your $300 shares.

      With due deference to JS Mill, crashes do more than reveal the cost of prior malinvestment. Through debt and collateralization, they cause real value destruction, too – especially for those lenders hit by defaults on debts “secured” against the inflated prices of assets, including property as well as shares.

    • Nothing is destroyed, save an egotistical perception projected upon a reified abstraction. Stuff is stuff and what we feel about that stuff and how we “Value” it are two very different things.
      If one is to have an energy Based Economics we must take stock in the Energy Unit, it is this Tim which I think will hamper Seeds going forward. A foot in both camps is not an option.

    • Roger, if I produced an economic model calibrated in, say, BTUs rather than dollars, it would have no potential for influencing the debate.

    • #WesFree #Quanta Wes has already done much of the heavy lifting Tim.
      People understand KiloWatt Hours perfectly well most people have a leccy bill to worry about. #Quanta takes the Energy metric to a standardised SI unit, when people are given a system of counters and a Game to apply them to they understand the game very quickly.

    • Regarding Quantifying the Energy Budget potential Historically I have already done it here in this Spread Sheet.

      End of Ownership, Circular Economy Proof of Brain and Primary, Intermediary and Consumption Energy Tokens. A Framework Evolves.
      Here is the Final Draft Spreadsheet available to download. ( Work In Progress)

      Here is my Working Draft spreadsheet for the synthesis of the Energy Production of the world in kilowatt-hours and the Debt Based world Financial economy based upon local dollar parity currency exchange rate basis from the CIA World Fact Book.

      Go to Sheet 1.

    • https://twitter.com/wesfree/status/934157475129036803 To Convert my Spread sheet to Quanta divide KWH by 11

      Making it all more user freindly would take additional time I do not have at the monet I did all of this in June July 2018

      On the order of service thats #129

      on June 28, 2018 at 9:34 am said:
      Roger – regarding China – I do know that they’re about the double their oil imports – why should tell you a lot about their energy security.

      Therefore as they are relying on outside sources do you still feel that their 30% borrowing of GDP is not a problem.

      If say they could be totally energy self sufficient with a growing base of energy then perhaps yes – but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

      Just interested in your thoughts

      on June 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm said:
      Hi Donald, I am formulating my thoughts the starting point for me are on this Blog and its links.

      The debate between Bill Mitchell and Steve Keen on whether deficits in Trade are a good or bad thing is informative in that both hold heterodox views and are therefore freed from Orthodox in box thinking.

      My Second Task over the next few days is to take a Generalised Circuit Diagram one where the Store of e

      on June 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm said:

  28. More now on the on going economic and environmental fiasco that is Fracking. Justin Mikulka poses the question will Fracking Peak without ever making a dime? Link here: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/10/will-the-fracking-revolution-peak-before-ever-making-money.html
    Bottom line is that a myriad of problems are compounding an ever escalating financial disaster area. Depletion rates are accelerating due to bad drilling practices. The price of oil is still below a break even levels. Funding for Fracking has dried up and that is now impacting on operations. Debt is piling up and that in the next 3 years over $130 billion has to be rolled over or redeemed. Good luck with that.
    The extent to which Mutual and Pension funds are exposed to all this may soon be revealed…

    • I think that fracking is best seen as a public-private energy subsidy rather than a real business. The subsidy is created from stock hype, low interest rates and low/no liability for the cleanup, which is an other way of saying that the thing is paid for by a mix of investors desperatly seeking returns (e.g. pension funds) and taxpayers (which will pay the cleanup costs and induced AGW related damage down the line, long after the oil is gone).

      The beneficiaries of this sheme are everyone in the short term through cheaper oil prices and the C suite that can skimm a nice layer of fat. In the long term the biggest losers will be the poor schmucks left living in the polluted mess.

      I think fracking will stand as a historical highpoint of our collective idiocy.

  29. Such lucidity in setting these matters out is valuable: although I am surprised that people can’t work this out for themselves – it’s actually quite simple and logical, isn’t it?

    I suppose that the emotional – shall we say existential – values which we tend attach to financial matters clouds their view? We so ant to believe in our prosperity and its continuance.

    I always keep in view, with regards to ‘property wealth’ that it is an asset which is currently grossly over-inflated, might well be at some point unsaleable, and even become a great liability if unsaleable but high taxes are levied on it regardless of my income (historically, we should bar in mind, a favourite ploy of governments in crisis).

    Anyway, let’s get back to Fantasy Island, Ltd, where ‘national property wealth’ (ie bubble valuations) makes vast national liabilities viable, and is just waiting to be ‘unlocked’, maybe to fund the NGD…….

  30. ‘Credit exhaustion’ is a very interesting concept: despite the considerable ‘wealth’ one may have ‘locked up’ in property, after two decades of bubble-blowing, ominous signs globally, income stagnation, and perhaps now a tipping point being reached in real estate valuations, mean it would be unwise to take on a penny more debt, however ‘cheap’.

  31. Energy Returned on Energy Invested, Surplus Energy Economics DataBase ( SEEDS) Embodied Energy Circular Economy. #GrubStreetJournal #GrubStreetScience #GrubStreetEnergy #TheExergist #TheExergyst Exorcising the stupid from the discourse

  32. Hi Tim I asked this question 18 months ago an answer would be great.
    on March 8, 2018 at 10:45 am
    Hi Tim, I look forward to seeing that in due course, what is your definition or what are the components of Energy Economic rent? I do not have any formulas just the individual data entries so I could not reverse engineer to a definition.

  33. Factfulness and Rosling Buckets and Dark Sky Thinking
    This will be an excursion into public discussion of probable futures, or potential futures. Those allergic can leave now.

    If you look at Kurt Cobb’s current post at Resource Insights (‘Factfulness’ may calm you down, but won’t change our ecocidal trajectory), you will find a critique of Hans Rosling’s delineation of how the world has been changing. You may remember that earlier in this series of comments I remarked on the compliments to Rosling from the psychologist Barbara Tversky. Tversky admired the way Rosling substituted a small number (e.g., 4) of categories or buckets for linear relationships. Tversky says that linear relationships are harder for humans to understand as compared with categories.

    Now ‘doomsday’ scenarios are based on complex adaptive systems models which are vastly harder to understand than linear relationships. So I argue that Cobb has not really understood what Tversky admired in Rosling’s methods: lumping or putting into buckets.

    Let me give a concrete example. These items all go together in a realistic scenario:
    High disposable income
    Advanced technology
    Private Enterprise
    Plenty of fossil fuels for transportation
    7 out of 10 people have insulin resistance which will manifest in a variety of named diseases. The ‘cure’ for these diseases is to live one’s life as if the first 5 elements did not exist.

    In other words, it’s not that those first 5 elements necessarily ’cause’ insulin resistance…it’s that they make insulin resistance the path of least resistance…and most people will follow the path of least resistance. Insulin resistance is caused by the pollution generated by industrial societies, the stress generated by such societies, the lack of social cohesion generated by such societies, and the overconsumption of highly palatable food which is highly profitable for the food industry. While it is possible to envision a society which has all 5 elements where the diseases of insulin resistance are rare, it requires constantly swimming upstream.

    The same principle of describing scenarios can be used when contemplating collapse of an industrial society. For one thing, insulin resistance and the resultant diseases are likely to disappear after a perhaps tumultuous transition. There will likely be a re-emergence of close knit societies…and probably a suspicion of outsiders.

    My point is not to debate the exact contents of the potential buckets we should be discussing, merely to point out that Cobb is throwing out the baby with the bathwater…and to point toward what may be a more fruitful method of discussion.

    Don Stewart

  34. Homeostasis and Public Communication
    Is time a line, a circle, or a rhythm? The public overwhelmingly prefers a line, pointing upward. (Old people may ruefully admit that it is running down.). There is a Unitarian minister who preached some astonishing sermons after reading some of John Michael Greer’s theories of rhythmic time…maybe our destiny isn’t the stars, after all.

    Now think about circular time. Do the seasons come around again? Are your molecules recycled for the next generation when you die? It takes some fancy footwork for psychologists to get people to think of time as circular. One way to do it is to prompt the subjects to use hand gestures which involve circles. But in general, people will use lines. It turns out that the idea that Orientals view time as circular is just wrong.

    The scientific notion of homeostasis was discovered by Claude Bernard in the second half of the 19th century, and was popularized (in science) half a century after that. Homeostasis has been a very productive path for scientific conceptualization. The well-known scientist Antonio Damasio wrote a book with homeostasis at its core. But the public continues to think in terms of lines, mostly rising lines but also doomers who think in terms of falling lines.

    The example I gave above features inventions which have permitted humans to move away from homeostasis. Hunter-gatherers do not worry about calories of balanced diets or High Intensity Interval Training or meditating to reduce stress…and they don’t have insulin resistance. All of the things we invented ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’, but undermined homeostasis. And so we get the modern world where most people have insulin resistance and the ‘visionaries’ among us keep promising that, any day now, some magic pharmaceutical will be invented which eliminates the effects of leaving homeostasis…but not putting us back in homeostasis.

    Nature HAS invented, over the millennia, creatures such as us who use more energy but remain in homeostasis. For example, we have what was once a free-living bacteria in every cell, which is specialized for energy production. Therefore, humans can use more energy and remain in homeostasis than any single celled critter.

    But because humans tend to think in terms of ascending lines, as a group we seldom ever consider the need to remain in homeostasis. More comfort, as in a reclining chair, is simply ‘the good life’, and we give not a thought to the need for regular movement in order to avoid insulin resistance. If we do give it thought, because of education, we think that innovations in commercial gyms are the ‘solution’ to the problem…or the latest ‘health food’ fad.

    The best that I see that can be done is to present scenarios such as the one I described above. I don’t really like the cyclical pessimism of the Unitarian minister…because it is possible to pick and choose how we live and perhaps achieve a higher, but still homeostatic state. But we need to be able to think in terms of relationships and homeostasis.

    Don Stewart
    PS Heavily influenced by pages 167 and following in Tversky’s book.

  35. Changing direction here, Gods & Radicals Press (abeautufulresistancedotorg) has a thought-provoking article up titled “Blood . . . or Soil? Fascism, Leftism, and the Coming Food Crises,” containing some original thinking on the subject of preventing the rise of fascism by encouraging the left to take up the interests of farmers and making plans to deal with the radicalizing effects that food shortages, will have particularly in urban populations as climate change adversely impacts food production. The author is an ex-pat American who now lives in Bretagne, France, and the article focuses on America and discusses how the past farm crises here (the Great Depression and the 80s) have resulted in ever fewer family farms and the growth of concentrated large scale industrial farming.

    Coincidentally, on October 2, PewTrustsdotorg posted an article reporting on the fact that rural groceries are disappearing, and lawmakers are wondering what to do about it (hint, they are leaning toward doing nothing). The article notes that in 2015 the median distance to the nearest food store for rural populations in the U.S. was 3.11 miles. I find this simply not credible. I live in the densely populated (by U.S. standards) Northeast (specifically, Boston), and my wife and I have done a lot of travelling within the Northeast over the last four decades. I have no idea how or who calculated this, or what they count as a “food store,” but if they mean somewhere you can buy fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy products and meat, and not gas stations that have a selection of processed junk, canned soups, frozen entrees and fast food, it strikes me as being vastly understated. In mid and western MA, it is not unusual to have to drive (@ 40 – 50 mph) 15 – 20 minutes to get to a supermarket. Steven Kurtz can correct me if he thinks I am wrong. In rural Maine, it is not unusual to have to drive 25 – 30 minutes to do this.

    Nor is this an American problem only. While vacationing on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in Ireland last Spring, we drove about 25 minutes to the town of Bantry to get to the nearest supermarket. It had an excellent selection of good quality food, and a nice offering of wines and spirits. However, while there one evening around dinner time, we heard an unfortunate young mother on the phone explaining to her husband on the cell phone that, although she had just driven 30 minutes to get to this supermarket, because they didn’t have the diapers she needed for her baby, she would now have to drive another 40 minutes to get to the next closest supermarket in hopes that it had them.

    The distribution system we have for food is going to be an unbelievable catastrophe.

    • Great gaps will open up in any interruption in food distribution, that is certain. There is a small town on the Basque coast of 1600 pop. that has no grocery store – undermined by supermarkets. Very common in rural Europe.

      Which is why I have suggested that instead of engaging in destructive, short-termist, property speculation on its old farmland on the fringe of the city, and the destruction of the green belt here, the Cambridge University should have created small mixed family farms to replace the mono-culture fields, and model organic market gardens within a radius of 3 miles of the ancient marketplace.

      It might have taken the lead in renewing hedgerows, planted wood for timber in them, created new copses for fuel and construction, waterlands, maybe even fish ponds, etc. It could have been done, and would have been beautiful.

      The University itself could have provided ample guaranteed business to underwrite the operation: farcically, it already has a policy of ‘buying locally’ which means from as far as several counties away!

      Fake ‘sustainability,’ PR posturing, as ever, trumps the real thing.

      Maybe George Mobus should come an give a talk on Sapience at Senate House……

  36. “Four circles to the kissing come, The smaller are the benter. The bend is just the inverse of The distance from the centre. Though their intrigue left Euclid dumb There’s now no need for rule of thumb. Since zero bend’s a dead straight line And concave bends have minus sign, The sum of squares of all four bends Is half the square of their sum”. Soddy


    Ecological Complexity
    Quantifying sustainability: Resilience, efficiency and the return of information theory

    By Bernard Lietaer


    Contemporary science is preoccupied with that which exists; it rarely accounts for what is missing. But often the key to a system’s persistence lies with information concerning lacunae. Information theory (IT), predicated as it is on the indeterminacies of existence, constitutes a natural tool for quantifying the beneficial reserves that lacunae can afford a system in its response to disturbance. In the format of IT, unutilized reserve capacity is complementary to the effective performance of the system, and too little of either attribute can render a system unsustainable. The fundamental calculus of IT provides a uniform way to quantify both essential attributes – effective performance and reserve capacity – and results in a single metric that gauges system sustainability (robustness) in terms of the tradeoff allotment of each. Furthermore, the same mathematics allows one to identify the domain of robust balance as delimited to a ‘‘window of vitality’’ that circumscribes sustainable behavior in ecosystems. Sensitivity analysis on this robustness function with respect to each individual component process quantifies the value of that link ‘‘at the margin’’, i.e., how much each unit of that process contributes to moving the system towards its most sustainable configuration. The analysis provides heretofore missing theoretical justification for efforts to preserve biodiversity whenever systems have become too streamlined and efficient. Similar considerations should apply as well to economic systems, where fostering diversity among economic processes and currencies appears warranted in the face of over-development

  37. This is a Three and a half-hour lecture I have probably watched it in full 5 times, as I have a photographic memory it is unusual for me to read or watch anything more than twice.

    Why this Eric Dollard lecture is so important is that it makes two very important points about Magnetic Fields and Electric Currents.
    The first is that Electricity does not flow through or within a copper wire or whatever material it is conducted “((Through(sic), Around))” conductor, it flows or propagates around them bounded by the insulator field, the other is that an electric current always flows precisely at right angles to the field
    This bit.
    “The Forgotten part of Maxwell’s Work
    concerns two types of waves one
    is transverse okay a transverse wave is
    like waves on the surface of the ocean
    okay there has to be a boundary and the
    motion of the matter or the ether or
    whatever deal you’re dealing with
    there’s always at right angles to where
    the wave is going okay ”

    Dollard’s story is a remarkable one this lecture represents his life’s work in putting together the fragments of Nicola Tesla’s work.

    The above Empirical fact regarding electromagnetism explains I would submit this. That is Eulers Number.

    On Dons Point above about Homeostasis, for the same reasons that Dollards revelations regarding ELectricity and Teslas Discoveries are dangerous to vested interests so it is with Micrro Fages.
    And the story of GC Maff.




  38. Three Examples of Homeostatic Thinking

    *Ari Whitten and Dr. Brian Mowll are talking about diabetes prevention and treatment. Mowll has run a diabetes clinic for a couple of decades, so a lot of trench warfare experience. They talk about how diabetes is not a symptom of a shortage of Metformin, but instead a sign of surplus calories accumulating and disrupting the insulin cycle. Then they talk about the religious fervor which currently surrounds the arguments about the ideal diet in the US. Mowll has people come into his clinic and insist that their Carnivore/ Vegan/ Paleo by some definition/ Mediterranean/ Juice Cleanse/ High Protein with Low Carbs/ and etc. ad infinitum, diet is God’s revealed plan. Mowll mostly just takes people as they are and works them toward calorie restriction first. Calorie restriction resolves the diabetes problem, which is insulin resistance, as well as all the other diseases which result from insulin resistance, and then there is plenty of time to work on the ‘healthy long term diet’ issue. During the discussion, the conflicting evidence from ‘evidence based experiments’ comes up. They decide that the studies are frequently worthless, because they don’t take into account the attempts by the body proper, the gut microbes, the stomach, the brain, etc., to maintain homeostasis. If a person has been eating a Carnivore diet, their meat enzymes will be firing on all cylinders, but a little bit of carbs may set off repercussions because their body has become used to zero carbs. Then they refer to the Rice Diet, which dates from 1939, which resolved blood pressure issues with a diet based on sugar. In both cases, it is calorie restriction that performs the magic. In fact, calorie restriction is best understood as the body responding intelligently to food scarcity…a homeostatic response. Dr. Valter Longo at University of Southern California has done outstanding work developing 5 day Fasting Mimicking Diets.

    *Dr. Anna Cabeca sends an email to her (mostly) female clients to have more orgasms. Brain scans reveal that 20 distinct brain regions are lit up by orgasms, and three major neurotransmitters are released. (Do you think that action has any implications for depression and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s?) Oonah Duncan, a personal trainer, develops a heath plan which involves establishing habits which are health promoting and rewarding yourself each time you do the habit. Dr. Zach Bush develops a 4 Minute Workout, which flexes the major muscle groups, increases the heart rate, and releases nitric oxide. Don Stewart listens to the ‘women doctors’ talk about how many women take a long, long time to get their body ready for orgasm. He reasons that ‘practice makes perfect’, and the trick is to just have more orgasms and get better at it….not years of therapy. Kishimi and Koga tell us that the purpose of life is to be of service. So what is the deal with being happy and fit and not being insulin resistant? Well, one does Zach Bush’s workout morning, noon, and evening. Husbands give their wives (this is a family blog) an orgasm mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The orgasm need not involve penetration and ejaculation. But it has to result in nitric oxide, neurotransmitters, and lighting up those 20 brain regions (all of which should be anti-Alzheimers). No gyms, no alcohol, no sugar, no red meat from the deforested Amazon involved. Just good habits.

    *Xabier complains about the stupidity of Cambridge University. A Slovak team developed and proved a ‘green’ solution to global warming and heat islands in cities involving managing the water cycle both by planting trees and by simple water retention structures such as brush in gullies and rock dams. The Slovak team had some government funding, which allowed them to hire underemployed villagers. Despite the good results, the government cancelled the funding. Ugh Bardi has written very recently about attending a conference on the same subject. Could Cambridge University have applied those already developed methods, extended to food production, rather than build the monstrosity they are building? Yes…but only if they can somehow manage to think, not linearly, but homeostatically.

    Please note that all of these solutions are deflationary…thus contrary to the stated goals of the Central Bankers and Government Leaders. They require LESS GDP and produce GREATER good. Except for the clueless government leaders, and corporate executives, they are also broadly consistent with human nature and the realities of science. They are inconsistent with the notion that everything good has a price on it, and that more spending (GDP) is a measure of prosperity.

    Don Stewart

  39. Well Don, and bearing in mind that this is a family site, a friend recently escaped from a bad marriage has found a boyfriend who more or less gives her orgasms on demand – I commented on how she was almost literally glowing, having never seen her so happy and relaxed. It wasn’t the result of either ‘meditation’ or ‘having found religion’, as I had speculated, nor a change in diet……

    Behind the awful concrete mess being created by Cambridge University – thoroughly ‘Greenwashed’ of course -is the hard fact that as an insititution it seeks only new revenue streams, and not long-term sustainablity. The ‘wealth,clout and wisdom (?!!) ‘ of Cambridge University – to quote a ludicrous press release – has been poorly directed, but it is no surprise.

    And so agricultural/horticultural knowledge that might have been applied -of the kind outlined by Don – has been neglected in favour of the environmental assault that is ‘development’. The University wants revenue, now : the government likewise wants increased tax take.

    We can extrapolate to all economic activity today: what pays in the short (and, maybe, medium) -term is the only preoccupation of those in charge of investment and speculation.

    As prosperity declines, this will be all the more the case, as vested interest groups will still need to be paid off.

    If ,in our days of ample easy money, we don’t do these things, and experiment with them,how are they ever going to be viable as the wheels come off?

  40. I have been turning my mind recently to our discussions about how our democracies will deal with the next emergency here in the UK. To do it I’ve been considering how we deal with other emergencies, to consider what can be taken from the approach to them.

    It seems to me that looking busy and doing something is just as important as actually doing anything that will have an actual impact on the problem. Tim mentions things that can be done on vehicle emissions now rather than in ten or twenty years.

    If you look at the recent blow up about Brexit and the governments recent attempt to prorogue parliament.

    We were told that that move was a crisis for our democracy, that parliament must continue to sit to hold the government to account etc. That their case was so important that it had to be taken all the way up our courts structure to get a decision.

    My point is that after all that busy-ness and MPs and others being seen to their supporters to be doing something, what have they achieved with the extra parliamentary sitting time that they got? How is the situation changed from what it would have been if they had not been busy doing something?

    Is it reasonable to assume, or is it a leap too far, that in the next crisis or should I say the next stage of the crisis, that the thing for politicians and other leaders to do is to look busy.

    • Point taken, though I don’t think that moving the deckchairs around actually saved Titanic. The one potentially good thing to come out of the “Brexit” mess might be that ‘the establishment’ has been flushed out into the open, rather than working behind the scenes.

      This aside, the outlook for the UK is an unenviable one. It’s one of a number of countries where problems are far more than skin-deep.

    • Unfortunately, I cannot see that having flushed the Establishment out in to the open has done any good at all, when the fundamental mechanism of UK democracy (and I would add that of the EU) has been broken with the over-turning of an effective Brexit, and Parliament reduced to a self-indulgent farce.

      This can only lead to disillusion and bitterness, and a sort of ‘stabbed-in-the-back’ sentiment that afflicted Germany after WW1, among a very large % of the population, and probably permanent divisions.

    • @Xabier
      I am not well-informed about British or EU ‘democracy’. My amateur view from across the Pond:
      *The main thing the US got from Britain was English Common Law. We have eviscerated that heritage with successive Supreme Court decisions and wanton disregard of the common decency which lay at the foundation of that Law.
      *The Constitution of the US set out to define how power was to be exercised. It did not intend to establish what we might now consider ‘democracy’. Benjamin Franklin was supposedly asked by a woman ‘did the Constitutional Convention establish a Monarchy?’. His answer was ‘A Republic, madam,,,if we can keep it’. A Republic is not a ‘democracy’.
      *I am pretty sure that the founders of the EU were wary of ‘democracy’. They saw what democracy had wrought in terms of leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini and the appeasement policies in Britain. They could also look carefully at the breakdown in moral behavior in France after the occupation and establishment of the Vichy government. I am pretty sure that they wanted the EU to be controlled by some elites…who would be more rational than unadulterated democracy.

      The US evolved for a long time in the direction of ‘democracy’…but even then Dwight Eisenhower warned the public about the control by the military-industrial complex as he was leaving office. It seems to this foreigner that in most of the industrial economies, there is a turn toward elitism…it just takes a different form in China, in Japan, in the EU, in Britain, in Europe, and in Russia.

      Max Keiser, in their current podcast, notes that in Hong Kong, over the last decade, the cost of an apartment in terms of the average wage of a skilled worker has doubled. The figures aren’t much better in London and Paris. The US is in favor of ‘democracy’…meaning a revolt against the deteriorating economic situation….in those countries, simply because the US sees it largely as a zero-sum game…and we want to get our share. Hurting the other guys is supposed to help us.

      Don Stewart

  41. Looking Busy
    For tragi-comic relief, I suggest looking at Ecuador. A new Neo-liberal government rises to power in Ecuador and Julian Assange is turned over to the tender mercies of the British ‘democracy’, who will turn him over to the US where torture is practiced legally. His crime? Printing the facts for the public to see. ALL of the important whistle-blowers in the US have been persecuted for telling the truth.

    Meanwhile in Ecuador, the government has made good on their plan to privatize the benefits and socialize the costs. The result is that street riots have forced the government out of the capital. And who gets the blame for the debacle? Why…that evil Maduro in Venezuela, of course. But wait a minute. I thought the televisions told us that Maduro was a fool incapable of even managing the fabulous wealth locked up in all those heavy oil reserves, and all it would take would be a little propaganda campaign and his flimsy government would collapse and US oil companies would replace Chinese and Russian oil companies and everyone would be rich.

    And if you look at SRS Rocco’s current twitters, you find a report showing that in the first 7 months of 2019, half of the production peak of 2018 shale oil wells in the Permian has vaporized. In other words, the wells are ‘one hit wonders’ with exceedingly short half-lives. And I think the most important statement is that ‘the accountants are assuming productive lives much longer than that to calculate profits’. In other words, everyone is telling lies.

    I could go on, but it would get tiresome. I would like to say something that sounded wise, such as ‘where are the adults in the room?’. But the adult response to the Children’s Crusade has been anything BUT adult. Meanwhile, one of my neighbors bought a GMC SUV which must set a new record in terms of tonnage to move a 150 pound human. Which increases GDP….so it must be good!

    I also read a soothing report on the ‘overnight money’ crunch. The Fed is doing the right thing by providing liquidity. It is all under control. Just a temporary glitch. The Federal trillion dollar deficit is NOT sucking money out of productive uses. Congress can just demand more wars from a reluctant Trump which will solve any temporary hiccups.

    Don Stewart

  42. @Xabier
    Another straw in the wind I would like your opinion on. Yesterday I saw a picture of Boris Johnson and Mrs. Merkel next to a headline in a British newspaper which said:
    ‘Having won two wars, we don’t need a Kraut to tell us what to do’

    Is this equivalent to a KKK rally in the US? Or is it something serious?

    Don Stewart

    • I didn’t see that paper, and I’m surprised that the knee-jerk reaction of “blame the Germans” would be quite so blunt. In any case, they should be blaming the French and the Irish, rather than the Germans……

      Moreover, it was the Americans in WW2 who called the Germans “Krauts” (and “Fritz”) – the British called them “Jerries”. (Incidentally, British servicemen in the Italian theatre sometimes called the Germans “Teds”, from the Italian word for German – tedeschi).

      Britain is one of three European countries with extremely serious issues right now. The British voted for “Brexit”, which a majority of Parliamentarians seem determined to prevent. Even the French police are now objecting angrily to being put into the front line against a protest movement whose aims, seemingly, are supported by a sizeable majority. The Irish keep believing their own economic numbers (which reminds me of a UK cabinet minister telling me that no politician “should believe (his/her) own press releases”).

      I should have thought that a KKK rally IS something serious, isn’t it?

    • @Xabier
      scroll down to picture of Merkel. Posted by LEAVE the EU

      As for a KKK rally…many of them are six or seven elderly white men surrounded by a hundred people protesting the rally.

      Which is not to deny the danger posed by resurgent white nationalism. But that, in my observation, results mostly in crackpots getting guns and shooting up malls. It doesn’t seem to affect most people getting along with people of another national Origen or race. I don’t think Trump is a racist in genetic terms…but he certainly despises a number of groups of people: liberals, socialists, poor countries that can’t seem to get their act together.

      Don Stewart

    • There’s something odd these days, whereby certain people (including Mr Trump) somehow become hate figures, for no obvious reason, for rather fanatical groups.

    • Tabloids are tabloids, but one should also remember that the British can say the most awful (in PC terms) things about other races and individuals, without meaning to hurt a fly. As in:

      ‘ Bill, you idle effing mick, stopped beating your effing wife yet, you old bastard?!’

      All totally good humoured, followed by ‘Come on, let’s go for a pint, on me!’

      It’s part of the charm of Britain. A great (Welsh) friend of mine regularly abuses me as ‘the dirty dago’,and I’d be rather disappointed if he didn’t! It’s my badge of friendship.

      I would say that Germans are not a hate-target on Britain at all, certainly not as they are in Spain where they are – wholly undeservedly – quietly loathed (historic, economic and personal grounds).

      But this loathing pales in comparison to what the various partisan groups in Spain feel about one another, I’m afraid, where the Spirit of 1936 is truly alive and well.

  43. The Guardian is always posting articles about ‘ far, hard, extreme racist nationalist white’ groups, and the terror of the ‘resurgent far-Right’: funny thing is, one doesn’t see them at all.

    There was also the ridiculous, and I suspect, entirely imaginary ‘hit’ on their star political columnist Owen Jones- no injuries at all, although he claimed to have been thrown to the ground, kicked and beaten.

    If that’s a ‘Far-Right hit squad, as he claimed, everyone’s quite safe.

    Nor do I see men trying to force women into a version of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’…..

    Widening circles of irrationality, spreading out from the impact of the deepening energy crisis, that’s exactly what we are seeing……

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