#170. At the end of “new abnormality”


As soon as it became clear that the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic was going to have profound economic consequences, the aim here was to scope (since it is impossible for anyone to forecast) the implications for the financial system, and for the economy itself. Both have subsequently been converted into downloadable reports which can be accessed at the resources page of this site.

There’s no denying that both reports, stats-rich and based on the SEEDS model, are complex, even though every effort was made to combine clarity with a minimum of jargon. Indeed, ‘complicated’ might well define the whole situation with the coronavirus crisis.

Where once we might have said that ‘whole rainforests are being pulped’ to feed the appetite for comment and expression about the crisis, the 2020 equivalent is that the internet is becoming saturated with information-and-opinion overload.

The aim here is to take the issues ‘on the volley’, in hopes that this might tease out the nuggets of the important from the overburden of sprawl.

First, then, the pandemic itself. There seems no reason to doubt the severity of the health crisis, since neither governments nor businesses are prone to this kind of over-reaction – far from going out of their way to create panic, shake public confidence and cripple the economy, the political and economic ‘high command’ is likelier to promote false reassurance than to whip up unnecessary panic.

Neither do conspiracy theories seem particularly convincing. It seems pretty clear that the virus originated in China, but the idea of spill-over from dangerous experimentation seems far less plausible than the simpler explanation, which is that the virus jumped the species barrier in one of China’s dangerous, insanitary and, frankly, bizarre ‘wet markets’. Equally, it seems logical that an authoritarian, one-party state would react to an unknown threat with a habitual (rather than a pre-planned) denial, and with a bureaucratic, almost instinctive silencing of dissenting opinions.

Likewise, Mr Trump’s apparent belief that the World Health Organisation kowtowed to China by labelling the crisis ‘covid-19’ (rather than, say, ‘Wuhan flu’) seems less likely than the simpler explanation, which is that the WHO conformed to that same contemporary preference for euphemism which has presented the erosion of working conditions as the “gig economy”.

This isn’t to say, of course, that China isn’t looking for ‘the main chance’ where the pandemic is concerned. But it’s only fair to say that such opportunism is by no means a uniquely Chinese preserve. People from all shades of opinion, from every political persuasion and from all points of self-interest are trying to find their own silver linings in the coronavirus cloud. From calls for a world government to demands that “Brexit” be put on ice, we’re seeing hobbyhorses, even of the most irrelevant kind, being ridden to exhaustion.

By the same token, the use of lock-downs seems, on the whole, to have been a sensible response, because a distinguishing feature of the Wuhan virus is its rapidity of spread. The only real mystery about this is why, in an age of digital communication, a policy of physical separation is being mislabelled ‘social distancing’.

Of course, lock-downs come at a huge economic and broader cost, automatically prompting the public to wonder how much longer this situation will prevail. It’s a fair bet that governments around the world are contemplating ‘exit strategies’, but only the rash would insist on governments going public on what those strategies might be.

The priority now has to be to ensure that the public adheres to the principles of lock-down, and that resolve could only be weakened by premature speculation about how this might end.

For their part, economists and others are trying to gauge the possible or probable extent of the damage that the coronavirus and the consequent reductions in activity are going to inflict on the economy. Though Britain’s OBR has presciently warned of the risk of longer-term “scarring” of the economy, the general supposition seems to be that, whatever the severity and the duration of the crisis turn out to be, it will be followed by a “recovery”, involving both the eventual restoration of pre-crisis levels of activity, and a reinstatement of the belief in “growth”.

The view expressed here is that trust in a full economic “recovery” – irrespective of the time that is allowed for this to happen – owes more to obstinacy and wishful-thinking than it does to logic. The very word “recovery” presupposes that the economy pre-virus was robust, was continuing to deliver meaningful “growth”, and constituted some form of “normality”.

It’s worth remembering that, long before the crisis, world trade in goods, and sales of everything from cars and smartphones to chips and electronic components, had already turned down. Financially, extreme strains were already emerging right across the system. Investors had already started turning their backs on shale, and the “unicorn” absurdity – the bizarre delusion that any company combining an “app” with a cash incinerator must come good in the end – was already going the same way as the Emperor’s New Clothes.

There is, after all, precious little “normality” to be found in a system which pays people to borrow, and which places an almost mystical faith in the ability of central banks to ensure that asset prices only ever move upwards.

No apology need be made for saying that a lot of us had already realised that the “new normal” – of ever-rising asset prices, and of an unending tide of cheap credit and cheaper money – had become absurd to the point of the surreal. The best reason, in addition to simple observation, for questioning the validity of this “new normal” mindset was a recognition that the economy is an energy system, and that the energy equation driving prosperity had already turned against us.

Rather than going into the technicalities of the energy-based interpretation, we can simply state that the relentless rise in the Energy Cost of Energy (ECoE) was applying a tightening squeeze to the surplus energy which determines prosperity.

The very extent of the financial adventurism happening in plain sight attests to the scale of bafflement and denial being required of the adherents of the dogma of perpetual growth. It doesn’t help, of course, that our entire financial system is wholly predicated on the implausible proposition that there need be no limits to economic expansion on a finite planet.

The reality, then, is that an ending of growth – and a consequent destabilising of the financial system – were lying in wait for us, needing only a catalyst, which the coronavirus has now supplied.

What this means is that “de-growth” has now arrived. This is not something that we have chosen, however compelling may have been the environmental or the human case for kicking our growth addiction. There’s nothing noble, voluntary or selected about the onset of de-growth which, rather, is a straightforward consequence of the unwinding of an energy dynamic which, courtesy of fossil fuels, has powered dramatic expansion ever since the first efficient heat-engine was unveiled back in 1760.

The necessity now is to understand de-growth, and to make the best of it. Those who have considered this likelihood have started to understand processes such as loss of critical mass, the threat posed by falling utilization rates, the inevitability both of simplification and of de-layering, and the equal inevitability that, just as economies became more complex as they expanded, they will be subject to a process of de-complexification now that prior growth in prosperity has gone into reverse. As shown below, these components of de-growth give us an outline taxonomy of the very different economic world of the future.

It doesn’t require a Pollyanna approach to understand that, just as “growth” has been a mixed blessing, de-growth offers opportunities as well as threats.

If you really valued ‘business as usual’, were looking forward to a world of widening inequalities and worsening insecurity of employment, enjoyed the glitz of promotion-drenched consumerism, and were unconcerned about what a never-ending pursuit of “growth” might do to the environment, you might find the onset of de-growth a cause for lament.

If, on the other hand, you understand that our world is not defined by material values alone, you might see opportunities where others see only regrets.

Degrowth diagram

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Shapes V Z ADG

Scatter transport

278 thoughts on “#170. At the end of “new abnormality”

  1. Xabier, thanks for the good wishes above. Despite the fact that I have no faith in the “hope and change” approach to, and view of, so-called democratic government, my spirits are fine these days; I am keeping calm and carrying on. I am glad for the understanding I’ve gathered since the 2008 crash, esp. on websites like Dr. Tim’s. I feel I have some perspective and am not completely mystified and apprehensive like I was in 2008, when I was very quite fearful that the whole thing was going to go down.

    Judging by your comments, it sounds like so far you, too, are okay; I hope so. I thank Dr. Tim and everyone who comments here. It is a real solace and boon to be able to share such company.

    • I want to echo tagio’s words and express my personal thanks to Tim for providing this forum an for the learning and considered debate. It is a great help.

    • Glad to hear that, Tagio, and I second the vote of thanks to our host and all the other intelligent and informed commenters: I do hope ‘Austrian Peter’ and Donald are OK as well?

      The one saving grace of the (mostly) incompetent and often mendacious, handling of this matter in Britain has been the continued ‘privilege’ of being able to exercise properly in the open air for an hour -unlike the insane Spanish home-imprisonment total lock-down – and I have never been more grateful for having moved to a village with lots of footpaths round about and ancient woods to visit.

      I still have some binding work to do, which eases money-worries for the time being (but how long?) and combined with fencing exercises – rapier and broadsword – can keep fit on the premises as well.

      Although a visit to Cambridge yesterday was utterly depressing and dystopian, only seeing about 15 people in the streets and 4 in the supermarket, all gloomy and subdued. The only jolly person was a drunk loaded with booze you could b smell a mile off.

      The architecture, as ever perfectly lovely, but a university town without students is eerie, a stage-set without players.

      Chinese tourists please note, however that YOU are not missed one bit!

      And if only one could buy bread flour……

    • Thanks, you are all very kind.

      As I see it, we have the enormous advantage of understanding the economy as an energy system – this is particularly important when ‘conventional’ interpretations and models are being blown out of the water. I’ve never been so pleased to have SEEDS available.

      We can’t expect everyone suddenly to recognise energy/economic reality. But we can be here, discussing things constructively and courteously, exploring new themes, generally avoiding the extremes of complacency and panic, and ‘telling it like it is’.

      I*’m certainly not going to sugar any of the bitter pills the world is going to have to swallow during and after this crisis. At least “de-growth” – and its causes – is something that we understand here, so we should be less shocked, and less unprepared, than others.

    • A possible connection
      Justin Sonnenburg at Stanford was interested in whether generations of eating low-fiber industrial food could lead to permanent, inherited damage to the microbiome. Since it is impossible to do multi-generational studies on actual humans, he picked some mice. He implanted a human microbiome in them, and ran the experiment. He found:
      *for a given mouse, the microbiome can be degraded with a steady diet of industrial food…but if the particular mouse is then fed a healthy natural diet, the microbiome recovers
      *But over generations, the industrial food destroys the diversity and resilience of the inherited microbiome. Thus far, it has been impossible to reliably restore diversity and resilience (some have tried to collect fecal samples from Amazonian Indians and transplant it into Manhattan Hedge Fund Managers…but it hasn’t helped).

      Why is this interesting. We know that there is a ‘gut-brain’ connection, with about 90 percent of the information going from the gut TO the brain, and only 10 percent going the other way. Now, if we think about it, the gut is where the chemical reality rubber meets the road. The brain can be easily distracted by clever stores and alluring pictures and invitations to fantasy-land. So when we destroy the gut, we are reducing our ability to react to reality.

      I don’t know whether this theory will go down in history as Stewart’s Prescient Conjecture or The Last Straw which got Stewart consigned to the loony bin.

      Don Stewart

  2. One final post today and I will stop bombarding you all. Tom Lewis authors a blog titled DailyImpactDOTNet, dedicated to “Chronicling the Crash of the Industrial Age.” Yesterday he posted a very short, excellent story that serves as a caution not to place too much trust in even purported “factual” news reports. It is titled “On Counting Alligators and Germs.” Well worth the minute or two it will take to read it.

  3. John Michael Greer
    Full disclosure. I used to read him pretty often. Then he got ever more involved in his obsession with the occult, and I haven’t looked at his blog in perhaps 6 months. But I had a few minutes today, and decided to look. I think this is a pretty good essay on how things may change ‘after the virus’:

    My own conclusions have been molded by walking from my house down a creek to a lake and back again, usually twice a day. I usually log about 20,000 steps per day. Some days I don’t walk, but do a lot of work in my garden. When the lockdowns started, I noticed an order of magnitude increase in the number of people I see on the trail. People with small children, people with dogs, young couples, old people walking together, etc. They all seem happy and carefree…I’m sure that back in the real world some of them are not carefree at all.

    The skies are blue, the traffic noise is seldom even noticeable. Few airplanes overhead. Minnows in the creek and turtles sunning themselves on rocks. What’s not to like?

    Why would anyone want to go back to the kind of awful life that JMG describes? Money, of course. But as he points out, many people can make out as well with a considerable deceleration and substituting home-made for store-bought.

    I was talking with a fellow walker, who is a couple of decades younger than me. I asked him about all the stories of domestic violence, problems between parents and children, fights among the children, alcohol and drugs, depression, etc. He said he thinks it is generational. Old people like me can amuse themselves easily, while the younger generation doesn’t know how to do that. I don’t know…I see young couples in their 20s and 30s who seem to be having a good time.

    My crystal ball is very cloudy in terms of predicting changes.

    Don Stewart

  4. It’s Not Our Fault
    Richard Feynman quote:
    “The problem is not people being uneducated.
    The problem is that people are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught, and not educated enough to question anything from what they have been taught.”

    So our eminent host and all the rest of us are doing a good job explaining to people, but they are educated just enough to believe the mainstream story, and not educated enough to realize that the Emperor Has No Clothes.

    Don Stewart
    Thanks to Tim Garrett tweet

    • Moreover, almost everyone has heard, at some time, the story of the Emperor, the fraudsters, the courtly sycophants and the little boy who saw clearly. So much for the power of stories…..

      Of course, no one believes that they themselves would have been part of that admiring crowd of courtiers, still less the foolish Emperor or the tailors selling something that didn’t exist (Green Clean De-Growth Future (TM) anyone?)

      And if you are one of the tailors, it’s probably paying very well; and wasn’t the little boy taken away and hanged in Part 2?

      Why? Because they lack self-knowledge or even the impulse to seek it. And educational institutions invariably aim at conformity not truth-seeking.

      In the succession of desperate economic crises, both national and personal, which will follow this pandemic, there will be even less interest in knowledge, and every effort will go towards mere survival – as in Egypt, Afghanistan, etc, today, everyone a hustler, trying not to go under.

  5. Xabier, your comment reminded me of something Kierkegaard once wrote. I think it is in “Practice in Christianity,” but don’t hold me to that.

    He said that the way to read Jesus’s stories is to think, every time he is describing someone who is not doing the right thing, is to say to oneself, I am that person, he is talking about me. So when you read the story about the Good Samaritan, you think, I am the priest that walked by and did not help. When you read the story about the crowd stoning the adulterous woman, you think, I am one of the people stoning her.

    It’s a way to hold oneself to account, and wean oneself off the joy of being judgmental of others.
    Matthew 7: 1-5

  6. I made a (feeble) joke about information flow from the gut to the brain. Then, a couple of hours ago, I had to run an errand, stopped for some coffee and started to read again in Paul Davies’ book The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information Are Solving the Mystery of Life. I’d like to highlight some work on information networks in yeast and particularly in ants.

    I’ll skip over many of the details in the interest of brevity, but try to convey the conclusions with enough specificity to bolster my suggestion that this book is essential reading. Page 99 and following:
    * “though complex, the software account of life will still be vastly simpler than the underlying molecular systems that support it, as it is for electronic circuits”
    *”40 percent of node pairs that are correlated via information transfer are not in fact physically connected…conversely, about 35 percent of node pairs transfer no information between them even though they are causally connected via a ‘chemical wire’”
    “It seems to me that if the patterns themselves obey certain rules or laws, then they may be treated as entities in their own right”

    *Quoting the Bible: ‘Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise”
    And then starts an account of some suggestive experiments with ants, particularly at Arizona State and Tufts
    “But integrate many ant-to-ant encounters across a whole colony and the power of the collective information processing escalates”
    *Darwinism 2.0 is yielding an entirely new perspective on the power of information in biology, ushering in a major revision of the theory of evolution”
    “That tumors may be triggered by purely epigenetics contradicts the prevailing view that caner is a result of genetic damage”

    Now I would like to tell in my own words a story from the study of ant colonies at ASU. ASU has an ‘ant lab’ with a manageable number of ants so that they can be tagged and studied. They also have the ability to destroy the ants current home and study how they find and build a new home. It turns out that ants are looking for good food sources and a comfortable place to life. When the old home is destroyed, the ants go out and explore and tell each other what they have found and come to a group consensus which selects the new home. There is no one in charge.

    Now if you believe that scaling laws prevail more often than not in our universe, you might reasons that humans are something like ants. It is easy to see how a colony of humans living without fossil fuels would react if someone in the colony discovered how easy life could be if the colony only chose to manipulate fossil fuels. But what about the reverse process? At ASU, the ants don’t have a choice. Their old comfortable nest has been destroyed by evil scientists, and they have to do the best they can to select a new home and get about building it.

    I submit that what we are likely to see in humans is a series of new ‘homes’ which are steadily less reliant on fossil fuels, and possibly more reliant on ‘renewables’ or just plain old environmental gradients that we used for thousands of years. But accurate information is an essential ingredient. It may not be important to have a Leader. The colony may be able to choose…but it has to have accurate information. I suggest that our governments and corporations are trying their best to prevent accurate information flow about our existential situation. Which will make any transition harder, and potentially lead to collapse because small steps were not taken in a timely manner.

    Nate Hagens has a new Earth Day talk about The State of the Species and Michel Moore and colleagues made the movie Planet of the Humans. Yesterday, I read a scathing denunciation of Planet of the Humans, which I read as requiring us to be told only what some select group of people think we ought to understand. Not very ant-like…the ants seek ACCURATE information. Richard Heinberg, who was featured in Planet of the Humans, thinks that the movie is unfair to some of its targets, BUT STILL PRESENTS AN ACCURATE PICTURE. I think that SEEDS ALSO PRESENTS AN ACCURATE PICTURE.

    I also suggest that the Bible gives us a good hint. We need examples of people who have successfully transitioned to a lower energy lifestyle. The notion that only political sermonizing is adequate to the task is based on the gamble that scaling laws DO NOT APPLY TO US HUMANS.

    Don Stewart

    • The transition to camel-based nomadism by the tribes of Southern Arabia when their irrigation and trade-based civilisation collapsed is perhaps relevant here.

      Homeless, like the ants in the experiment, they sought a new model, offering survival and comfort, and that was suggested by the non-Arab peoples with whom they had enjoyed some contact in trade, who had first tamed the camel.

      Whether anyone was ‘in charge’ of that transition we do not know, But what we do know is that tribes have switched from mostly sedentary to mostly nomadic models of life as needs dictated.

      We, on the other hand, are tied and bound into a falling structure which still pays our ‘leaders’ very well. They will not allow us to make any choices, be sure of that.

      I suspect the main drive in the mass media over the next few months will be to assert that lock-downs were a wise move,and not the monumental balls-up we can clearly see them to have been.

      I also suspect that the majority of people will be so dazed and anxious after all of this they they will not be able to assess things with much clarity.

  7. Something which might be a useful subject for subsequent discussion is corporate behaviour, and its PR and political implications, under current circumstances.

    It’s in the nature of institutions to defend their existence, and to resist threats of extinction or shrinkage, so I’m not suggesting we be too judgemental about this.

    This sort of impetus is being seen in demands such as ‘we are important – bail us out’, and ‘please lift the lockdowns as they apply to us’.

    It’s almost amusing to see a lot of leading football leagues and clubs trying to find ways to resume matches in ways that, to any outside observer, look bizarre given the virus crisis. If they lose, or have to refund, broadcast rights payments, and are stuck with costly, long-term player contracts, many will be in very big trouble. Players at one European club have accepted a 70% pay cut, but this is very much the exception. The one English top flight club which asked players to take a 10% cut was turned down.

    Another affected sector is aviation, both maufacturers and airlines.

    Then there are banks, some (not all) of which are trying to turn a profit on government financial support programmes for businesses.

    I’m not suggesting we ‘point the finger’ at corporates trying to pursue stockholder best interests. A lot of them have taken on far too much debt, in some cases to finance stock buy-backs.

    But a lot of the PR is dreadful – at the same time that popular support for public services is reaching new highs, especially in countries with state-provided health care systems.

    • I know I wouldn’t want to be the PR advisor for a football player who’s getting more that the entire staff of an intensive care ward during the pandemic.

    • Re:
      “I’m not suggesting we ‘point the finger’ at corporates trying to pursue stockholder best interests. A lot of them have taken on far too much debt, in some cases to finance stock buy-backs.”

      It seems likely that those whose bonuses and stock options benefited from higher share prices pushed the debt issuance for buyback schemes. In the long run they often hurt shareholders. I do point my finger at them! Debt for infrastructure development or intelligent acquisitions can add to future earnings. Buybacks only raise current share prices.

    • Doc, a good question might be: dear corporate, what about your savings? Did you preserve some money to counter future disappointments? To provide your workers with, lets say, another 6 months of 80% of your income?

      Or did you just blow away all of it in bonuses and shareholder value?

      And, if that is the case, (we know it is), how much would have to flow back from the assets row to the workers?

      And what that does to stock markets and pension funds?

      Corporates; the facility management of politics & high finance? Or just another example of human failure?

  8. Planet of the Humans
    See this discussion on the Resilience.org website. Richard Heinberg is a member.


    The discussion notes ruefully the poor quality of research for the movie. But also notes that Michael Moore is the top-grossing documentarian of all time…and he specializes in character assassination and sensationalism. Would their own scholarly book showing that there are real problems with wind and solar have been more successful if they had more sensationalism? In the end, they think the movie may force a more sensible discussion of the real issues we face.

    But in the meantime, we are faced with ‘a lonely middle’ where sober minded people can think about what we need to do.

    Don Stewart

  9. The interview on YouTube of Nate Hagens “Uncharted territory” conducted by Asher Miller of Post Carbon Institute is sooooo worth the viewing. His college course sounds so relevant compared to the misinformation In most standard economic courses . If only his work could be disseminated more widely degrowth might stand a chance of succeeding.

    The Doughnut economics of Kate Raworth also has some relevant content but I feel that the energy element is not correctly represented in her model.

  10. Covid 19: Hot Off the Press
    A study from China appeared 2 days ago, identifying those who have severe problems as a result of exposure to the virus.

    I was just on a webinar with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz , who is the author of the book Fiber Fueled, which will appear on May 12 (at least in the US). The book has been the result of 18 months of intense review of the literature, and was put to bed just before the first Coronavirus cases in the US. The book is endorsed by the leading lights in the medical and research communities.

    According to the Chinese study, the major determinant of severe problems is dysbiosis in the gut microbiome as a result of poor diet with a deficit of fiber (97 percent of Americans), problematic behavior such as drinking alcohol, poor timing of eating…e.g., dinner late at night, and monotony in diet…because each microbe is a picky eater…so eat a variety of plants. It should be noted that gut dysbiosis is linked to all of the co-morbidities, such as insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

    Gut Dysbiosis results from a shift in the microbial species away from health promoting to inflammation promoting species in response to a poor, fiber deficient diet.. The shift in composition leads to loss of structure in the lining of the gut, which leads to leaky gut, which leads to poisons entering the circulation in the body proper. The poisons cause an inflammatory reaction by the immune system. If the Covid 19 is simultaneously causing inflammation, we can see the ‘cytokine storm’ which kills people. So there is a direct connection between the food we eat and the severe problems which can result from infection with the SARS virus.

    Dr. B gave us four tips for immediate action:
    *Eat more fiber
    *Don’t sabotage the system with fast food, processed food, and alcohol.
    *Diversity of diet is important
    *Timing is important. Eat earlier in the evening…no later than 7pm, but 5:30 is better. No food after dinner. Stop the electronics early. Early to bed at 10pm and 8 hours of sleep. Keep a steady circadian rhythm.

    Don Stewart
    P.S. Don’t put too much stock in my descriptions. Get the book for yourself. And express a little gratitude toward the Chinese researchers.

    • I should also give a nod to Dr. Denis Burkitt, the British doctor who observed the health of the Africans as compared to the disease of the British and formulated the Fiber Hypothesis. Unfortunately, at the time, we did not know about the microbiome and we did not have the sophisticated measurement tools we have now. So the Fiber Hypothesis lay somewhat dormant for a couple of decades. Now, everything we know reinforces it. So while you are expressing thanks to the Chinese researchers, also give a nod to Dr. Burkitt, now deceased.
      Don Stewart

    • Alas, the realities of modern life preclude eating the main meal before 7pm for most people, and also the alternative of a large lunch and just a small snack in the evening.

      Up at dawn and to bed at sunset is a good rule: but again, not achievable for most.

      We create a system that delivers poisoned food,and militates against sane rules for living.

      Rather than boasting about how ‘ Man can adapt to almost any environment’ -not true anyway as the envelope for viability is very narrow – we should humbly describe ourselves thus:

      ‘Man is a creature which invariably modifies the environment to the one most prejudicial to survival, and both mental and physical health.’

      Watching my favourite bloggers on Youtube, it’s interesting to observe how lock-downs are gradually destroying them – clear signs of growing mental distress, even in England where we can at least exercise.

      Interesting and, when one considers that many will find themselves permanently unemployed very shortly somewhat horrifying.

    • When we think about Dr. Burkitt in the 1950s and his making the connection to the African diet using overwhelmingly whole plants with their abundant fiber and the almost total absence of chronic disease, and how the world ignored that and went down the path of industrial food and industrial agriculture and big Pharma and nation busting medical expenditures…it IS tempting to contemplate the thought that humans are just suicidal.

      Don Stewart

  11. Anyway Don, although you may not approve on health grounds, I shall raise a large glass of wine to your continued good health this lunchtime! There is just too much Southern European to cut that out.

    And indeed to all of you!

    • @Xabier
      If we are active, have a healthy mind and social connections, eat real food (the gist of the ‘Mediterranean way’), then we can thrive to age 100. If we use science to make everything perfect, we may thrive to 120. Wine goes with the first part. And frequently it has a connection to the ‘healthy mind and social connections’ aspect. So I would never preach on that subject.
      Don Stewart

  12. Here is a copy of the email giving an overview of the presentation and a link to the replay….Don Stewart
    PS. I will warn you that there is some horsing around and some gamesmanship on display, but stay focused on the heart of the matter.

    “We had a packed house in tonight’s webinar. We covered a lot of things in the webinar, but the most important thing was this:

    Optimizing your gut health will have a MASSIVE impact on your total wellness. From improved digestion to balanced hormones to a stronger immune system.

    Therefore, it is extremely important to completely understand which foods will lead to a healthy gut to ensure that your metabolic health stays in tip-top shape at all times.

    In the webinar, we had the pleasure of speaking with gut health expert Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, who taught us everything about optimizing our gut microbiome.

    Dr. B, a gastroenterologist, was himself a junk-food junkie who, by his own admission, was doing his gut no favors with his diet rich in processed foods and poor in plants. Sick of his state of health and those of his patients, he turned to the research journals. It changed everything.

    You won’t want to miss the opportunity to rewatch this info-packed webinar.
    Click here to watch the replay!

    In Fiber Fueled, his brand-spankin’ new book, Dr. Will lays out the science (spoiler alert: there’s a lot of it) of what he learned: that the optimal diet for gut health, and total wellness, is actually one that’s rich in a wide variety of plant-based foods. And if you don’t believe us, or him, then we’ll let 600+ scientific citations do the talking.”

    • Don,
      While nutrition and exercise are important topics for human well-being, I didn’t join this blog for that information or discussion. I doubt any others did as well. Have you thought about starting a group for those discussions? I’d like to avoidt automatically deleting your posts, but the volume and repetitiveness is steering me that way.

    • I don’t see how one can consider the effects, long term, of the virus and not understand the biology. If you think they are independent, I think you are mistaken. What they are discussing is genuinely new information.
      Don Stewart

    • The delete button works. You are a missionary, and I for one am not seeking that kind of help. If you think that more than .01% of humans seeing your messages will pay attention and will change behavior, you are dreaming.

    • Steven
      Dmitry Orlov today takes a look at the cost/ benefit of what almost all world governments are doing. He finds the costs far exceed the benefits. I believe that, later or maybe much sooner, the debacle is going to have to be considered in terms of costs and benefits. Maybe explicitly, maybe in secret.

      During the Clinton administration, the rules about welfare children were changed. Guess what? Behavior changed. Young women having babies just because they thought kids were cute was suddenly not a very smart thing to do.

      As I see it, we are at the end of a historical period where a lot of dysfunctional behavior could be tolerated. It seems to me that we either change the dysfunctional behavior or collapse. I would prefer that we change behavior.

      With such momentous issues now current, and not in the distant future, I am drawn to the broad conceptual models…such as the physicist Paul Davies taking up the question ‘what is life’…which another famous physicist, Schrodinger, tackled in 1944. When Davies proposes that cancer is NOT just a result of random mutations, but is instead the result of epigenetics, I think our society should be paying attention. As a society, we do have control over some structural matters which can change the course of epigenetics in a way that we do not control random mutations. Whether one considers that a question of physics or biology is largely irrelevant…it is about life and how we deploy the energy and materials we are able to utilize. In the case of Covid, I think that realizing that ‘we could never have anticipated this’ exhibits a naiveté that is inexcusable given what science is showing us, is a start on the road to making better decisions.

      I am not offended if you hit delete. Life is short.

      Don Stewart

    • I’m involved in whole-system discussions but *elsewhere.* Our host has reminded us twice since I’ve been a member about the intended focus on the physical economic system.

    • Steven
      An economic system exists in order to give humans (or at least those humans in charge of the system) what they want. “What they want” opens the floodgates to all sorts of issues. It’s not like predicting the motion of a pendulum. If the issues under consideration are limited to the way the economy has operated in the last 200 years, and if the economy won’t operate that way in the future, then the discussions will be pretty sterile. Our host has repeatedly said that the mainstream economic models have not worked for 10 years or so. So it seems to me that trying to get some ideas about how things:
      Must Change
      Could Possibly Change
      Are Likely to Change
      should be on the table.

      Since I think that we are in a Degrowth cycle, I particularly look for significant enterprises that can be eliminated or greatly reduced. But I also have a keen interest in trying to get a clue about how fast the decline will happen. If we don’t know that, it will be very hard to manage the decline. I also look into geo-political angles…countries with power will likely use it. Finally, I look for examples of living well with less.

      The excursion into Covid 19 and the microbiome was only because I happened to have some very recent science and thought it might be helpful to some people.
      Don Stewart

    • We’ve been here before, and I do think we’re going too far off topic again into medicine, diet and so forth. Our subject areas here are energy, economics and finance, and that’s what people come here to discuss.

      This crisis poses at least two sets of new challenges, the economic and the medical.

      The net is full of discussion around medical issues but this isn’t the place for them.

      On the other hand, the energy-economy subject is one where we do have new thinking to contribute.

    • Hi Don, Early to bed Don.
      Thanks for info on gut biome. Dr Satchin Panda has some good stuff on circadian rhythms.

  13. @Richard Stone
    I am familiar with Panda (he no longer calls himself a doctor).

    Which brings up the ‘dog that didn’t bark’. Dr. Bulsewicz has all these credentials. Yet by his own admission he ended up addicted to junk food, fat and sick and unable to help his patients. He’s now a new man and a new doctor. Are medical schools missing the important points?

    Don Stewart

  14. Alice Friedemann
    thinks Planet of the Humans is right on target. See her blog at energy skeptic.

    She points to an Oregon researcher who showed:
    “each unit of electricity generated by non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.”

    Using those numbers uncritically (that is, naively) would indicate that trying to blend wind and solar with ever higher cost fossil fuels is going to be very challenging…a critical issue for this blog.

    Don Stewart

  15. I see there’s much comment in the business media about Royal Dutch Shell cutting its dividend. FT Alphaville describes the phenomenon of the oil majors not cutting their dividends since WW2 despite crashes, wars etc as having totemic importance.

    What’s different this time? The business media isn’t sure, but we know that ECoE has never been higher.

  16. Can anyone on the forum explain why, after so much money printing, interest reductions and currency devaluations, there seems to be little inflation?

    One should expect hyperinflation considering the amount of financial adventurism!

    • The first thing to note is that, by inflation, we usually mean consumer prices. This excludes asset price inflation. That’s been extensive, and asset markets are where the new liquidity has been injected.

      Second, CPI inflation is widely regarded as understated, not least because of substitution, hedonic adjustment and geometric weighting.

      Third, we’ve been living through an era of “austerity“, which can be assumed to have reduced consumers’ propensity to spend.

      Fourth, both wage growth and consumer prices have been held down by globalization.

    • Perhaps, as well, a good percentage of the flood of money has merely filled holes made by pre-existing debts which would have otherwise been defaulted. This neutralizes the deflationary effect of defaults, but in an already weakening economy isn’t sufficient to drive general inflation higher.

  17. Thank you Dr Morgan, that explains a lot.

    However, we are living through such unusual times that many things are so unreal. For example negative interest, it seems to be crazy concept.

    In many ways I think, perhaps, we may be paying the price for unlimited globalisation.

  18. well here we are in clown world with 30 million newly unemployed in the USA and unrefridgerated trucks full of corpses being discovered behind NY funeral parlours yet the stock market seems as buoyant as ever,

    I stumbled on this 3 min clip of the Jimmy Dore Show where they’re laughing at the CNBC guys operating their stock market schilling show from home during the lockdown, still hyping things ever upwards as the world outside crumbles,

    the amusing thing is one of the guys being interviewed is so electrified by the market prospects he falls asleep on air!
    also the guys make cracks about these guys being at home but they’ve all put on their ‘uniforms of capitalism’ i.e. suits, shirts, ties, to try and keep the illusion alive whilst the real world heads in the opposite direction outside.

    be warned, there is a bit of ‘effing & jeffing’ involved.

  19. The Swedish response to the current global crisis, whether economic or any potential viral threats is fact-based and level-headed, as devoid of panic as people seem capable of being. Most other approaches will not only torch the economy, but wont even result in the consolation of immunity for the vast majority of the population. The UK’s response is predictably headless chicken.

    Effectively, an unprecedented % of the world’s population is in a mass experiment now, involving at least the suspension of personal privacy and other human rights supposedly for their own good. It has been fascinating seeing the response to the rolling back of democratic freedoms, with the public in places like the UK apparently cheering it on with >90% approval. Having visited countries then under autocratic rule, this fills me with horror, people easily go mad with power and will not want to relinquish it. The elite of various countries now know for sure how easily the populace will submit if certain conditions can be introduced.

    When in school history lessons, anyone capable of critical thinking quickly asked themselves what they would do when covering the Nazi era. (or the Stazi one that seamlessly followed, exploiting the same herd tendency) I have my evidence backed answer now though on whether given superior education including the warnings of the past and a lifetime of democratic expectation, the masses would still stand by and do nothing today. Yes, in a heartbeat, unthinkingly.

    • In my opinion, won’t know for a few years which approach was smart. Reasons include:

      Permanent damage to lungs, heart, brain, vascular system, kidneys, liver, and maybe other organs occurs in some cases; % not yet known. There is evidence.

      Immunity (after recovery) effectiveness and duration is as yet uncertain; some get reinfected within weeks.

      The ongoing health care costs and personal suffering for some survivors could be huge, and if a second wave hits, future lockdowns could incite civil unrest.

      If an effective vaccine is developed, and protection is good, then avoiding the disease until then seems worthwhile.

    • In the absence of vaccines and treatments, lockdowns are the only tool at the authorities’ disposal. This cannot continue indefinitely, but must be relaxed cautiously, as having to re-impose lockdowns would be difficult and damaging.

      There’s a lot of ‘special pleading’ around this from businesses and business sectors. We need to be realistic, accepting that exits from lockdowns will have to occur before the virus has been ‘beaten’. This will mean precautionary measures remaining in place for an extended period. Some activities are not consistent with these precautions. Those activities could only be restarted at serious risk to the public.

      Moreover, we’re into de-growth anyway, a process that will have its own casualties in terms of sectors.

    • I am so tire of this type of thinking at least from a US perspective. The Constitution was designed to promote the General Welfare and the Common Defense and while the Common Defense has morphed into Worldwide Offense, we have given short shrift to the General Welfare. The entire worldwide response has been based on laws and practices that arose as a response to Smallpox and the Spanish Flu and it is no different in the US, with one big exception; all of the lockdowns are based on State Laws and not Federal.

      Now the Feds know how to play the State Law games as they can withhold funds if each State does not conform to Federal requirements but States do not have to comply, but usually do. For instance, each State sets the Blood Alcohol levels (BAC) to determine if a driver is impaired by alcohol. Every State has chosen 0.08 as the level, but they did not have too, but if they set the limit higher that State would lose highway funds.

      The above is somewhat true with Pandemic response as each State passed similar laws to deal with the health consequences (General Welfare) of its citizens until life can return to normal. The laws put in place pass Constitutional muster because they are based on science/past experience with what worked to defeat the pandemic. Most of the laws give some power to State and Local Health officials in decision making until the pandemic is addressed. These laws make long term health and economic sense. General Welfare clauses have been used at times of peril for all inhabitants as those that did not douse the lights when the air raid sirens went off were certainly fined.

      For my part I have thought we have lived under an authoritarian oppressive government all my life as I want have some Coca Tea but I have been forbidden this pleasure due to a Federal Law, which I believe violates my rights to a naturally occurring product. When I bring this fact up to those whining about sacrificing an economy that was clearly flawed for a few months until we figure out the best way to provide security to the citizens then all I hear is silence. If you would like me to wax on about the loss of privacy or any other loss of civil liberties over my lifespan, especially to those with a Bible in their hand I will be happy to do so. But currently I am ok with locking things down based on health concerns.

      Now if we decide as a society to let Herd immunity run, then we should decide no more treatment for Covid patients, just keep them at home with Oxygen and Heroin and they can either ride it out or take the palliative way out?

    • I see people talking up Sweden as if it’s an example to cite when arguing that lockdowns are unnecessary but no one seems to scrutinise what is actually happening in Sweden,
      a lot of the Swedish already work from home, also as the threat of the virus approached most people were becoming increasingly cautious and starting to social distance and self isolate,
      the reality is that the Swedish govt. didn’t need to impose a lockdown because the population were already spontaneously taking appropriate measures,

      sure the shops, restaurants and cinema’s are open but apparently restaurants have seen a 70% drop in trade, cinema’s have seen a 90% drop,

      it’s all very well being open but what’s the point if you have no customerss?

      also when you compare Swedens deaths and infection numbers to Norway next door the difference is quite striking, Sweden isn’t getting off lightly.

      it’s impossible to ignore that the countries that got in early with clearly defined measures and stuck to them, like South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia etc. have already pretty much snuffed out the virus and are bringing their economy back to life,

      the countries that waited too long and then have dithered and faffed around have allowed the virus to spread inside their population, recorded significantly higher deaths and infections and condemned themselves to a progressive slow burn of the virus throughout their entire population whilst hindering economic activity and are now stuck on a path that will last for a couple of years,

      the UK & USA seem to have chosen a long lingering torture instead of a short sharp shock like Taiwan or NZ.

      Peak Prosperity commissioned a survey of peoples intentions and it does rather look like if the lockdowns are lifted a lot of people will still stay home.


      I find the US figures quite shocking, 6% of the global population, a third of the recorded infections globally and a quarter of the global deaths,

      I empathise with how Greg Hunter is feeling.

      I also agree with Steven, seeing as we don’t really know yet what this virus does to us I’m definately taking every precaution to avoid catching it!

      Dr Tim is right that the only tools currently available are classic, old school quarantine methods,

      for all the talk of a vaccines I just want someone to name one successful vaccine for a corona virus that has been created?
      I’ve yet to discover one!

  20. As any craftsman will tell you, it’s not only the tool that matters, but just how and when you use it.

    Therefore, to say that lock-downs are ‘ the only tool’ (not at all true, as at an early stage international travel restrictions, universal simple masks and effective contact tracing are the root of success) and approve their use indiscriminately is far wide of the mark.

    Applied after a certain point -missed by the idiot Boris and his advisors in the UK, and in the USA – they merely wreck the economy, and cause great mental harm to the population and plunge millions into permanent unemployment, with no great benefit to set off against it.

    And we should not lose sight of the fact that this virus is no great shakes as pandemics go , only really a serious threat to elderly retired, or nearly-retired, men: and also to certain sectors of the population with bad diets and exercise habits (hence the apparent severe toll among ban Asians and blacks in the East End of London and elsewhere).

    In other words, dangerous only to those pretty much ready to drop from the tree of life anyway, and offering only a slightly higher risk of death to those who are younger and healthy.

    Unfortunately, now that the authorities have encouraged so exaggerated a fear of this disease they have destroyed that most important factor in life, confidence, and this will be followed up by economic devastation. Many will have no job to return to, our their employer will fold soon after in highly adverse trading conditions. Even more, usually day-labourers – now face starvation in much of the world due to lock-downs.

    Here’s a thought experiment: in a more primitive society without epidemiologists and politicians, this virus would have passed through like a whirlwind, carried off a lot of the elderly and weak, but society would still have functioned: a brief week or two of fever and coughing would have terrified no-one and would only have caused manpower problems at sowing harvest time. This is worth reflecting on!

    I do not feel that timid old men, able to ride out the disruption at home, have the right to demand such disruption in their favour.

    • Xabier,

      Of course “timid old men” have a right to demand such disruption, particularly if they won’t be picking up the bill for the disruption.

      In a democracy people demand lot’s of things, it’s how we prioritise which demands are met and which are not that matter.

      The problem is that the, if I can call it the evolutionary survival of the fittest approach, that you propose doesn’t work in much of the thinking of the modern western public.

      To many if you were to set out your proposed approach, backed up by history, science, biology you would be countered by the response that it wouldn’t be fair.

      Until it directly impacts on many people’s personal wellbeing they will stick to a belief that the human construct of fairness trumps any real world reality that you want to counter with.

      I can’t recall which scientist it was who recently set out all the problems we face in the future as a result of population numbers, the depletion of cheap energy and environmental issues and so on. He was asked what he thought would happen and said he was confident we would deal with it because we all says have overcome problems in the past and also that we have to.

      So to say lockdown of the economy is demanding too much, a significant proportion of the population are still of the view that opening up the economy is asking too much. Returning the economy to the depression of the 1930’s is a price worth paying to perpetuate our arrogant view that we have mastery over mortality. It’s like a scientist arguing facts with a true believer.

  21. We tell little children: ‘Want won’t get!’: well, the Victorians and Edwardians did, then later generations blew it. Except for my mother, very good right hook she had…..

    Now, everything should be done – as far as is consistent with the maintenance of the whole system – to help shelter the more vulnerable people, we would not be worth anything if that were not done, but it really is no great threat to most.

    Read a very interesting piece about nuns looking after COVID patients, but not falling sick themselves: young, healthy, hard-workers, probably good simple diet, too (hello Don!) and good morale. (and not being screwed around disgracefully over masks like the NHS workers).

    The lock-downs, however, have the potential to kill or permanently harm the prospects many millions as well as propelling us head-first into so-called ‘De-growth’, aka Civilizational Collapse.

    I can hardly contain my disgust at those who, thinking themselves safely insulated, view the lock-down policy with complacency, and who refuse to see what is happening. But it is I suppose only too human.

  22. The UK’s response policy is being based heavily on the advice of Neil Ferguson, a computer modeler with a botched record stretching back to the mad cow disease fiasco, astrology or reading the entrails of a goat would be as accurate. This is like carrying a pocket full of posies to ward off the plague in medieval times and about as scientific. This comparison from zerohedge of the efficacy of various state reactions to the pandemic threat gives an idea of the different strategies being tried and the thinking behind them:-


    The mainstream media, owned by various billionaires regularly panics the masses so that they suspend their ability to critically think for themselves and when proven wrong now with this issue, double down on their claims with something unprovable. So if the promised mountain of deaths initially predicted hasn’t materialised, then there’ll be following waves. And if this second coming hasn’t happened yet, then you just have to have more faith, it’ll be here one day, like a death cult.

    • C’mon Guy the people that drive the economy are calculated consumers and when the risks are unknown those consumers do not show up. Ole Tyler and his band of merry mouth breathers want the Swedish way while ignoring the South Korean way. The point of this particular blog has been the premise that the economy was on the wrong track for a long time due the rising energy cost of energy. This so called “Black Swan” came out of nowhere and exposed its frailties just like the so called 2008 GFC1. Sorry the fact is “free market” capitalism built a short sighted, non resilient society that had lots of fluff, but not much stuff.

      Much of the rise in Nationalism is based on ignoring these realities and not working together to solve worldwide issues. I was hoping we would have these discussions, but we are not and Zerohedge proves it. I saw one rational commenter get lambasted with links from Brietbart and Fox which are basically echo chambers for poor studies.

      I am resigned to watch the Swedish model play out in the US but it will not help as people like me, a smart consumer, will not take the risk of the ferryman until there are no other options. Will I lose money sure, will I lose my life, don’t know. But based on the premise of the this blog GFCII was baked in the cake. I do know one thing that those that push for the Swedish way because of the data, but ignore basically the civil war that is going on in America are going to increase the death tolls and still not save the economy. Just like in 2008 we threw copious amounts of money into losing operations and we have done it again. Why bailout Airlines as that industry was already gone and now even Warren Buffet admits it.

      The South Korean Way would work in America, the Swedish Way will continue to divide, kill more people and end up not saving the economy.

    • I’m surprised the normally cautious Warren Buffet invested in airlines at all, given their longstanding dismal history of profitability, and generally poor investment results. Puzzling for a supposedly deep value investor.

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