Greenie Techno-Cornucopianism

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Published on The Doomstead Diner June 14, 2017

Discuss this article at the Seasteading Table inside the Diner I regularly cross-post the work of Albert Bates here on the Diner.  He's a true Hero of the Revolution, going back to the 1970s when The Farm was founded as part of the Back to the Land Movement of the era.  The Farm has gone through its ups and downs over the intervening decades, but unlike many other experiments from the era it does still exist, and AB is still there.  Well, at least he is when he's not Jet Setting around the world to attend Climate Conferences or give Permaculture courses.  Albert takes a decent amount of criticism for this, since flying around in Jet Planes is one of the most unsustainable aspects of our industrial civilization, and on a per capita basis is arguably the MOST unsustainable.

AB defends his Global Jet Setting by planting trees, with the assumption that over the lifetime of the tree, it will soak up more carbon than he is burning in a trip to London on British Airways.  Of course, this calculation doesn't work if the tree burns down or dies from some sort of infestation or plain old drought.  However, I don't find travelling around by jet to be hypocritical at all in the context of trying to bring the message of climate change and sustainable living to more people.  For the time being, these planes will fly whether AB is on board or not, or being dragged off said planes kicking and screaming due to overbooking.  Boycotting flying wouldn't do a damn thing to Save the Planet, but going out there with missionary zeal to wake up more people might have some effect.  So on balance this is a positive thing to be doing in his declining years using the reputation he developed as an international expert on many of these topics.

However, as I continue to read and cross post ABs work, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the form of techno-cornucopianism he has been pitching lately, similar in many ways to what another cross poster I feature regularly, Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence, The Club of Rome and Cassandra's Legacy pitches.  In the case of UB, he pitches Renewable Energy, specifically Photovoltaics as a means to salvage at least part of our high tech lifestyle.  In AB's case, he pitches Permaculture and Carbon Sequestration through Bio-Char as means to sustainably feed ourselves and to if not stop, at least slow down climate change.

Besides that, AB has now latched onto another Greeny Dreamy idea, going back to Sailboats to replace all the airplanes burning tons of jet fuel every day to ship around Homo Sap Meat Packages.  Here is the recent high tech sail dream from AB to replace our current fleet of planes and container ships with more Earth-Friendly sailboats:

Atlantic Dreams

Will Nodvik, who studied Computer Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, writes on Quora:
The foiling AC-72s sailed [in 2013] during the America’s Cup top out at around 40 knots in super heavy conditions. Average container ships move at around 20 knots. The mast on an AC-72 is 40m high. Keep in mind that this mast is a rigid wing. The AC-72 is the lightest, fastest, most highly advanced boat. These masts are the strongest material possible since no expense was spared in their construction.
Forty knots (46 mph) is still only 8 percent of the cruising speed of a Boeing 747. Figure three and one half days, if top speed could be held the whole way.


The America’s Cup Challenge resumes this June in Bermuda’s Great Sound. The AC-72 (72-foot) yacht that Oracle Team USA sailed to a historic come-from-behind 9-8 victory over Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay in September 2013 is gone. Obsolete.


Replacing it is a smaller, lighter AC-50 (50-foot) catamaran with 79-foot carbon fiber wing sail and new alloy hydrofoils to give it near zero drag. All the competitors in this year’s trials are expected to fly above water for 100% of the race time.


The sail’s drag is one-third to one-half that of four years ago, while producing about twice as much power. The control system comes from the Airbus A350 XWB airliner, compiling a terabyte per race collected from as many as 1,000 sensors fed into the Oracle Exadata supercomputer for instant analysis. Oracle will predict wind patterns (within half a knot accuracy) all the way down to 100-meter or even 50-meter grids on the racecourse. The sailors — a six man crew (down from 11 in 2013), need only glance at smart watches connected to a small onboard Linux server, to know what they need to do.


Speeds approaching 60 mph are possible in the Bermuda races—about 20% faster than in 2013. That would get us down to a two day Atlantic crossing.
More importantly, the days spent on crossing by sail put nothing into the atmosphere except the breath of the sailors. Today’s commercial passenger fleet is responsible for 3 to 5 percent of climate forcing, on its way to 15 percent according to some IPCC projections. Clearly it is going in the wrong direction.

While it is really cool to think about all this high tech stuff, it's also thoroughly unrealistic for many reasons, on the physics and mechanics end as well as on the economic end.  I wrote this response to his article in his commentariat:

Another artifact of climate change is bigger seas and more rogue waves.  In even mildly rough seas, you can't hydroplane a sailboat.  You need pretty flat water for this.  So it's pretty unlikely you could maintain a constant hydroplane speed all the way across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.

Then you have the fact these high tech boats are built from the lightest weight polymers and carbon fiber material, which all have tons of embedded energy in their manufacture.  The computer systems and servos controlling sail trim are extremely complex, requiring the usual kit bag of rare earth minerals and complex manufacturing facilities.

Even if you do build them, they can't carry much payload.  The whole reason they will hydroplane is because there is so little weight being carried aboard.  You absolutely could not build any facsimile of a modern container ship and have it hydroplane.

Not to say of course sail will not make a comeback, it probably will but not the sort of high tech sail you are featuring in this post.  Much smaller boats, and floating in the water not skimming along the surface.  Such boats will not be able to move around the vast amount of cargo container ships do, and thus will not be able to support such a large population moving food around the globe.

There is no techno-cornucopian solution to this problem, the only thing that can bring Homo Sap back into balance with nature and maintain the habitability of the planet is a massive die off of the current population.  If you knock off 90-99% of the human population, some of the solutions you write about could work.  They do NOT scale to a population of 7.5B meat packages.

RE AB is not the only Doomer out there with the Sailboat Dream, you also have Dmitry Orlov of Club Orlov living on his sailboat and Ray Jason of The Sea Gypsy Philosopher living on his, plus innumerable other Yachties cruising the Bahamas, the Greek Islands and the South Pacific and enjoying their sense of "independence".  The lifestyle gives the illusion of being FREE, able to move where you want as necessary to avoid the worst aspects of collapse if they happen to arrive in your neighborhood. By NO MEANS however is such a life either sustainable or self-sufficient.  Everybody who lives this way has some form of external income, generally retirees with a pension although a smattering of others such as writers and IT programmers who have portable professions.  Dmitry for example makes his living these days bloviating his opinions about Collapse, promoting Mother Russia and insulting various feminist groups. This job can be done anywhere on earth, and Dmitry does these things well enough to make a living at it. lol.  A few of the younger mostly male ones will also take gig jobs on making port somewhere and use the money to resupply with another couple of months of food and then sail to some remote cove and pretend to be Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family Robinson.

I sincerely doubt there is ANYONE out there who lives aboard a 30-40' sailboat who gains all his sustenance from fishing and harvesting coconuts on South Pacific beaches.  On board a sailboat of this size, if you are a solo sailor and stick to compact dried foods, you might be able to stuff it with 6 months of supplies.  If there are 2 of you, reduce by half.  In a good fishing and gathering neighborhood, you might be able to double the amount of time you could spend doing the Swiss Family Robinson before needing to head back to civilization for a resupply.

Beyond the Food Problem of course is the Security Problem.  Most of the places the Yachties currently frequent are Tourist Traps which use the tourist economy as their driver.  Most of the nicer ones sporting Marinas in the Bahamas or Panama are pretty safe at the moment, the customs officials are fairly polite (although always looking for a bribe) and the Marina Convenience Store has bags of rice you can buy if you have Dollars or Euros to spend.  Free Wi-Fi too in many cases. This pleasant safety and convenience begins to disappear rapidly though if you sail outside of these enclaves of retired yachties and are cruising off the coast of say Somalia.  There are already locals in this neighborhood who smell a good possibility for a Ransom Demand if they spy your sails on the horizon, and send out a fishing boat to greet you, complete with automatic weapons.  Say bye bye to your sea mobile home and hope there is somebody back home who will cough up the ransom demand.  This situation is not going to improve as the general economics further spin down.  Finding a place to safely moor your vessel with any kind of local population size will be extremely difficult, so now you are back to trying to do Robinson Crusoe, which just about nobody from industrial culture can really do.

Beyond the Food & Safety issues is the maintenance issue.  Anyone who has ever owned a boat of even moderate size knows they are a total money sink and stuff breaks all the time.  Standing & Running rigging wears out, Winches break, the auxiliary engine quits, sails get ripped in a storm…etc etc etc.  You have to have ports around to get parts and do some repairs you can't do yourself, even if you are a mechanical genius.  You need a haul out and bottom job every so often with anti-fouling paint (an oil product).  If you could keep your sailboat in good working order for 3 years without access to replacement equipment and a well stocked marine supply store I would be shocked. The paradigm for shifting back to sail on the commercial shipping level is in many respects even worse than trying to make the small sailboat Seasteading paradigm work. Modern container ships move enormous amounts of cargo, which in order to load and unload requires enormous ports with oil powered cranes to move the containers on and off the ships.  The days of longshoremen unloading ships by hand are long gone.  This is how we are able to move the massive amount of goods we do around the world to keep 7.5B people fed and clothed.  The last time we were regularly transporting around goods by sail the global population was around 1.5B people, and most of them were not even on this network.  The world was largely populated by subsistence farmers.

Today, many areas of the world can't grow enough food to feed their own populations (see Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen etc, etc,etc), so unless you have the means to ship around enormous quantities of food sufficient to feed entire countries, you're going to have a lot of starving people.  Sailboats aren't going to do the trick here even if you could build enough of them fast enough and train a whole new generation of people to be able to sail them.  This is just not going to happen, not on the scale necessary for keeping 7.5B Homo Saps walking the earth.  So once again you need to reconcile yourself to the fact a large culling of the human population is coming down the pipe, and sailboats and permaculture aren't going to stop it.  This is just techno-cornucopian hopium, dressed up in Green outfit. The Solar PV solutions Ugo Bardi promotes are very similar.  They simply don't scale up to apply to such a large population.  Forgetting all the embedded energy and mining necessary to produce enough Solar Panels is the huge scale up of the current decaying electrical grids to handle the loads necessary for running all the carz, trucks and trains on electricity.  Current wiring isn't near thick enough to handle the load even if you cut the fleet of vehicles by half.  Where is all the copper going to come from to run wiring from your Solar or Windfarm to electric charging stations all over the country?  The best you might do here is have intermittently available electricity at the local level, but this again does not maintain current population levels or anywhere near the current standard of living in 1st World nations.  I highly doubt also any 3rd World nations are going to get wired up with massive Wind & Solar farms either.  If they didn't get electricity yet, they're not going to get it.  Which of course might be good for them, since they won't miss it too much when it's gone. Finally on the scale of techno-cornucopian solutions for today of stuff that just ain't gonna happen is ABs ongoing mission for Bio-Char as a solution to sequestering carbon and keeping Planet Earth from turning into a facsimile of Venus.  What this generally amounts to as I understand it to is planting a shit load of trees, turning them into charcoal briquets and then burying the briquets for soil ammendation.  The amount of area that needs to be reforested this way is enormous, and then how with the remaining arable land mass you will feed 7.5B people without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, tractors & combines is somewhat unclear.  Also unclear is whether the climate in many areas will even support reforesting at all?  I think you would have a pretty tough time these days reforesting Syria and turning it into the lush Garden of Eden it once was 5000 years ago.

All of this speaks to the problem of Irreversibility, which theoretical physicist David Korowicz covered quite extensively in his seminal paper Trade Off: Financial System Supply-chain Cross Contagion – a study in global systemic collapse.  In particular many of the earlier systems we used are simply no longer practical or even available to shift back to now.  New "high tech" solutions don't scale up as necessary, and certainly not inside the time frame we have to work with, which most certainly is less than 30 years before we see extreme dislocations to the current system.  Many are occurring now as we speak, but are for the most part at the moment confined to 3rd World nations and not too much of a bother to the 1st World ones.  Any unbiased and clear headed analysis of all these variables and the difficulties that exist in implementing any of the solutions should inform you that we are in the midst of a clusterfuck of Biblical proportions, and Greeny Cornucopianism isn't going to solve the problems any more than Cold Fusion will.

Given this information then, WHY do clearly very intelligent and wel educated people like Ugo Bardi and Albert Bates continue to promote ideas which just aren't very likely to work, and in fact are counter productive because they are a waste of time, money and energy?  That is pretty simple to understand, it's the "Reverse Guy McPherson" effect.  Whereas in Dr. McStinksion's case he has given up ALL HOPE and considers Homo Saps and the Planet all DOOMED to Near Term Human Extinction by his latest prognostication of 2026, AB and UB maintain a tenacious grasp on SOME hope that we can yank ourselves out of this mess.  I hold out that hope myself, but I do so in what I consider a more realistic manner, which is to acknowledge the inevitability of a MASSIVE DIEOFF of the human population, probably greater than 99%.  This is something neither UB or AB wishes to acknowledge.  In fact, I would agree with them on some of their solutions if they would acknowledge a massive dieoff is inevitable now, I think they could work with a vastly reduced population size.  I definitely think the Reverse Guy McPherson POV they pitch is the superior mindset to the Guy McPherson one, even if it is utterly unrealistic.  Professor McStinksion's philosophy is just utterly defeatist.

So, if we can't reforest the earth, we can't replace the fleet of container ships with green and friendly sailboats, we can't wire the world with Solar PV Panels, we can't stop the climate from warming up and we can't keep most the Homo Sap meat packages currently walking the Earth alive, just WTF CAN we do here beside join Guy McPherson in his nihilistic & misanthropic Death Cult?  What we can do is to start building Lifeboats to SAVE AS MANY AS WE CAN. What building lifeboats in this context means is to consider locations on the earth that will likely IMPROVE in their ability to support human life as the overall temperature regime increase.  Alaska where I live is one such location.  A 10C average increase in temperatures around here on the Last Great Frontier would make the place positively balmy and pleasant.  As the Permafrost melts, that could provide thousands of hectares of fertile land upon which to grow crops.  We can also begin to breed new crops resistant to extreme weather, and we can build grow domes to do food production in a controlled environment.  We can change our building techniques and excavate to live partially underground, where the average temperature of the land mass runs around 66F.  Building such survival communities at high latitudes and high elevations, we can save a portion of the human population.  It might only be .1%, but that is still 7.5M people, which is a lot more than the ZERO that Dr. McStinksion Guy McPherson predicts for 2026!

Over time, with far fewer people infesting the earth and no more burning of fossil fuels, the global climate will begin its long road to recovery, which might take thousands or even millions of years.  In the interim, the great experiment with Sapience will continue, and those who make it through the Zero Point will have the opportunity to evolve into a new and better species, one with more true wisdom.

We have to own up to what is REALISTIC here, not pie in the sky, rainbow shitting unicorn, greenie dreamie fantasies of a world of 7.5B people running in peace and harmony on permaculture and renewable energy.  This is just NOT in the cards at this point.  We can't save everybody.  We can only SAVE AS MANY AS WE CAN.  That's where the efforts of our best and brightest need to go, not into wasting time, energy, money and brain power on faulty solutions that will not succeed.  No more Skittle Shitting Unicorns!

43 Responses to Greenie Techno-Cornucopianism

  • Pintada says:

    Thanks.  Good post.

  • Not to throw stones in glass houses because while I realize I'm more perfect than most people I still have a few blind spots and hang-ups, wouldn't your efforts trying to slay rainbow crapping unicorns also mean you should be a little more pessimistic about human nature, as we've debated before?  Just saying.  And, awesome article.

    • RE says:

      I’m not pessimistic about Human Nature.  It’s not inherently bad.  It’s the culture we developed that exacerbates the EVIL that exists as a seed in all Humans.  Most specifically, MONEY.  It’s like a Fertilizer for Evil.  It makes it grow faster, especially the Weeds like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein.



      • Ken Barrows says:

        Love of money, or so that a**hole Paul said.

        • RE says:

          That's what Paul said.  I am not quoting him, I am stating my own postulate.


          • Ken Barrows says:

            Fair enough.  But if we want to get rid of evil, we get rid of all forms of money.  A slightly simpler society results.

          • RE says:

            If you know my writings, you should know I advocate for the ABOLITION OF MONEY, and the restoration of a Potlatch (Gift) Economy.


      • I would disagree, as human nature was set long before the Agricultural Revolution which brought government and money.  The Agricultural Age is evil in that it contradicts human nature.  Not just money but gov and farming, property and centralization and etc.  Human nature, set prior to all that, is tribal centric and violent.  We are no better than chimps.  I believe your insistance on cooperation being attainable is short sighted.  You cooperate only with your tribe.  You can cooperate with outsiders short term but only until it isn't advantagous.  All of humans good traits are reserved for your tribe, and all the bad traits for those outside the tribe.  Of course, this is evolutionary biology centric so if you don't believe that we can't agree on anything.  It would be like Catholics and Protestants arguing-a complete waste of time 🙂 

        • RE says:

          That's a fundamental disagreement, and no amount of argument will resolve it.  Nor is either postulate provable, so it's a waste of time to debate it.  You have your belief system and I have mine.

          Mine is the correct one though. lol.


      • TLee says:

        You and I agree on most things, excepting the climate warming stuff. That aside, I thought I’d put in my observations over 67 years of living among the apes.
        You mentioned money as the basic problem. I think its one level deeper – concentrations of power in a society. These concentrations of power (economic, political, religious, military, etc.) occur naturally and inevitably in a society due to man’s desire to improve his circumstances. When they occur, they attract people who desire to exercise power over others. People without such a desire won’t compete as effectively for them, so over time, systems evolve that select for the sociopaths. When the society is large enough, the systems become self-reinforcing, and any control the society had maintained over them is lost.
        I would say we are well past that point, and on a global scale too. I also hope that after the reset, something of a little more human scale would be created, but unless we become different than we are, the new societies will suffer the same fate. What is needed is some way for a society to deal with concentrations of power that occur without being oppressive.

  • Craig Moodie says:

    I honestly try with all my heart to read your articles with utmost sincerity and objectivity, however, within the first few paragraphs I have to endure comments like 'save the planet' makes it impossible for me to continue reading. This hubristic  anthropocentric notion that somehow the planet gives a shit about this fleeting irritation, namely human existence, in its vast timespan and that somehow through some pathetic attempt at some form of campaign to Save the planet . Give me a break. The planet will be around long after  us pathetic humans have gone byway of the dodo.

    • RE says:

      That is shorthand.  You can read it as “Save as many of the species currently living on the Planet including as many of our own species as we can”.


  • Frank Thamm says:

    Hi RE,

    with this post you´re mostly spot on, I think. Ironically, that´s what our mutual friend 😉 John Michael Greer thinks as well; he might disagree with you on the details such as the actual number that dies off, or on the timescale in which it happens, but basically…

    Me, I definetely agree that there will be a reduction in human numbers, and soon, but as to the details of where and when, I think they often are unkknowable. It´s the same when it comes to survivable habitat: it seems like a good bet that Alaska (or part of it) will be one of the comparatively pleasant locations on earth, but you don´t really know, it might get f..d up in ways neither you or me can foresee. I live about 53 ° north (in Germany) and we´ve got a very mild climate here at the moment and it´s quite a bit warmer than in Alberta, Canada, which is the same latitude; but of course that´s all thanks to the ocean current that carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexiko to Euorope, and there are already signs of it slowing down. So in the end it might get colder here because of climate change (at least in the short to medium timeframe).

    Sea level rise should not be much of a direct problem in the short/medium term as this area is about 30 m above current level, which should hopefully give a couple of hundred years. In the long run though…who knows. All this goes to show that there will always be a certain amount of chance, guesswork and pure dumb luck involved.


    Frank from Germany

    • RE says:

      The KEY is to be both Mobile and Adaptable.

      These are two features of the species Homo Sap we excel at.  We’re Pros at this.


  • Ken Barrows says:

    What is world energy consumption? 18 TW or so?  The techno-cornucopians seem to think we can run an all electric society and increase energy consumption by multiples.  Has anyone heard differently from an Elon Musk acolyte?

  • Mo Flora says:


    I'm an old fart who makes a lot of biochar and farms a forest using Permaculture principles and techniques.  Although I read your essays with interest, I don't usually respond to articles about collapse because I am too busy (and damned tired) to argue about the exact form and timing of the downfall of industrial civilization – because it's here.  However, today is my 66th birthday and my back hurts like hell, so I will indulge myself.  Besides, you've insulted a good man.

    I should note that  my wife has worked with Albert Bates and looks forward to doing so again.  I find Albert to be one of the most hard-nosed practical people I know of when it comes to climate science and the ecological state of the world.  Your "save as many as you can" mantra sounds great.  Albert actually does it.  He has helped to improve the lives of many hundreds of people (at least) and taught Permaculture skills that will be priceless through the accelerating collapse of industrial systems. His work with ecovillages is helping thousands of people have lives with individual dignity and true community spirit.  

    Of course, Albert could sit behind a computer and pontificate about the inevitability of his particular flavor of doom and how nasty humans are while criticizing and insulting those who disagree with him. Which approach contributes more to saving people?

    I've been involved with Permaculture for 20 years or so as a practitioner and teacher. I know very few PC designers that I would classify as "cornucopian".  I know many who view their Permaculture work, at least partially, as a strategy for life in the post-industrial world. We certainly do.  Permaculture design and practice offers far more resilience to the effects of climate change and societal upheaval than conventional agriculture or community design.

    Biochar has many benefits when worked into the soil including supporting long term fertility, increasing moisture retention, increasing soil tilth, reducing off-gassing of nitrous oxide, CO2 and methane and trapping toxins and heavy metals.  These effects are verified by thousands of scientific studies and thousands of years of human experience. Look it up. The production of biochar and its use in agriculture – on any scale – makes good sense for farmers and the planet.  It has great value as a strategy for moderating climate change because it can be scaled to any size operation.  Monsanto can't patent charcoal.

    RE, you scoff at the prospects of a massive effort to put char into the soil.  My own opinion on the matter is that it is very unlikely to occur on a scale sufficient to counter the current climate trends. There is not enough profit or benefit to the elite for such a project in the current financial system. That does not mean that the plan is unwise or that Albert Bates is a naive techno-cornucopian.  

    The songbirds didn't make it back this year. They're gone.  We dwell in a forest that is suffering the effects of climate change.  All the lodgepole pine are dying from insect infestation.  Many of the larch are sick.  So, we cull the dead and dying, making biochar, and we plant trees and shrubs and herbaceous plants that might stand a chance in the years to come, especially if we design for them correctly.  Many of the trees I planted this spring will not be mature for a hundred years after I'm dead – if they make it.  Am I naive?  No. The odds are stacked against us. We fight with our backs to the wall.  But, we fight.

    We have to keep fighting because we don't KNOW what is going to happen.  The climate trends are clear.  But, a trend goes on until it doesn't.  As an example, consider the effect on global commerce of a major earthquake in San Francisco or Seattle – both overdue.  Consider the effects of a major cyber attack on the financial or distribution systems.  Events such as major war, disease, crop failure all would cause the big complex machine to grind to a halt quickly as you have noted.  I would add that the earth itself has surprises in store for us.  The truly naive position is to believe we have it all figured out.

    RE, I expect that by the time my grandchildren are my age the planet will have about half the humans it does now.  I also think the number will eventually stabilize somewhere around a billion, or what the planet will support on a much lower energy budget.  This puts me in the posiiton of being a weird doomer to some who know me while being a wild-eyed optimist to those who frequent your site.  What we do is try to implement and teach strategies so that those who follow will have a chance at lives with some dignity and joy.  

    Unfortunate, RE, that you find it neccesary to insult those who differ with you.  Personally, I try not to say anything in print that I would not say to a man's face.  But that's me.  In any event, thanks for creating this forum and this discussion.  Now I have to go feed all the critters and turn some compost and plant a servceberry and some gooseberries and…



    • RE says:

      That does not mean that the plan is unwise or that Albert Bates is a naive techno-cornucopian.”

      I like Albert, and Ugo too.  They’re both people I have talked with regularly.  It’s not an insult to say you don’t think somebody’s ideas are practical and won’t work to keep 7.5B Homo Sap meat packages ambulatory on the planet at the same time.

      Insofar as Albert’s Techno-Cornucopianism is concerned, I suggest you reread the Atlantic Crossing article and then come back and tell me you think Hydroplaning Sailboats are going to be carrying freight and passengers across the Atlantic Ocean for future Climate Conferences.


    • Frank Thamm says:

      Hi Mo,

      I think you´re being a bit unfair here to write :

      Of course, Albert could sit behind a computer and pontificate about the inevitability of his particular flavor of doom and how nasty humans are while criticizing and insulting those who disagree with him. Which approach contributes more to saving people?

      RE does more than just criticizing (like the SUN initative), and you can´t hold his health or financial status against him. It´s all well and good to do permaculture if you are financially able and your health allows you to do so (I´m trying that myself, besides working a full time job to finance it), but when one of the these conditions ceases to be, your project, whatever it might be, can go downhill really fast. My back hurts like hell as well today, and I just hope it´s nothing worse than aching muscles: I´ve had a slipped disc a few years back and I know how incapacitating that can be.

      I further think that it should be allowed to criticize other people´s writings without them feeling insulted. RE didn´t engage in personal insults here (and he knows I would tell him if I thought he did), he stuck to discussing the contents.

      One of my best friends has a point of view close to yours and Alberts, while mine is probably closer to RE´s, and sometimes we have a heated discussion about these things, but mostly we swap plants and advice on growing things and have a good time together, with the occasional party thrown in.

      I do not think it is worth it to seriously quarrel and fight about how exactly collapse will play out, but I consider criticizing each other fruitful.


      Frank from Germany


      P.S.: Happy Birthday!

      • RE says:

        Thanks FT!

        Full disclosure here, I DID do character assassination on Dmitry & Guy.

        However, with Albert & Ugo I stuck to the topics.


  • JJPin says:

    I agree with both RE and Mo. The ARES energy storage solution shows the inertia of silo-ed thinking about energy and our future wrt sensible solutions that are long term, not vaporware and not fossil fuel based. Here in Australia the solutions to our recent major household PV generation buildout problems are to call it a lack-of-coal-power plant problem.  RE's analysis is pessimistic as it relies upon the destruction of commons for individual use as the common economic activity of the meat packages rather than the cooperation of the weaker restraining the vicious from despoiling a commons for a longterm economic activity ( in associations unfortunately misidentifying of the strong for the vicious is a common habit , something about the Farm's history springs to mind ). It is the essential problem core, that of sharing with justice the essentials between people(s) some of whom are not sharers, and restraining the evil that some people are and/or do. An ecologically based money system ( a negative amount?) might well replace the currant fiat national groupings (as it could be based on something real) and citizen owned surveillance (ala Brins model) with civitas might help as well.

    Sharing or taking ?


  • RE says:

    RE's analysis is pessimistic as it relies upon the destruction of commons for individual use as the common economic activity of the meat packages rather than the cooperation of the weaker restraining the vicious from despoiling a commons


    WTF did I advocate for destruction of the commons for individual use?  That is completely OPPOSITE to anything I have ever written.  Are you living in an alternative reading comprehension universe?


    • JJPin says:

      Silly rabbit. It's your culture, not you. Living in the USA would make most believe in capitalism of the predatory form. YOU never advocated common capitalism but don't you assume most will happily chug the Kool – Aid? It's your assumption of BAU linearly extrapolated to the future that I'm disagreeing with.


      • RE says:

        Silly Rabbit.  Of COURSE some will happily chug the Kool Aid (those who are reaping some benefit from Kapitalism), but I trust you know what happens to to people who drink the Kool Aid?  You are aware where this metaphor comes from, no?  Ever hear of Jonestown?

        HTF you come up with the interpretation that my writing supports drinking the Kool Aid absolutely baffles me.  You must live in some kind of Alternate Bizzaro Universe.


        • JJPin says:

          We're all silly rabbits. I think the we are lemmings off the Seneca cliff Mcmetaphor is a bit memed out, no? Not helpful. I don't wallow in NBL's defeatism, I eagerly consume RE , JMG and AB's writings as they grapple with the reality of a future that reveals itself through fogs of wilful blindness such as techo-cornucopianism, which is as useful as any blind comforting belief in ( or to ) BAU as the skittles unicorn . AB's sail position would have made more sense if submersible and still not JIT or 1e5 ton container ship replacement. What is sinking us in the Biblical sense? If the work of bioconservatives is fatally undercut by an unELFian streak in all humans ( I theorise this has saved us at least as often as Vasili Arkhipov events ) how do you police wrongdoers in the ecological sense? In the SUN community? I mean, HTF do you value the commons when it may be worth differing amounts depending on your paradigm? The classic ( five eyes partners ) Settler nations history of paradigm clash does not make for pleasant reading. I submit that the aikido Kapitalism idea has some merit, like Mo I don't think it will be enough. It may be enough to spin off some lower impact way of lifestyle learning a la AB's. Still think access to weaponry will be important on an individual's tribal scale. So, when people realise Trump can't fix nuthin' and turn to a hopeful future, giving them rice a tent safety won't be enough for U$ 1st world citizens. A workable ecofuture that includes Net citizenry and can be achieved locally so they don't have to move would suit the non-peripatric and a workable ecofuture somewhere would suit others. If I read you rightly RE you believe somewhat that BAU has uncontestably no future soon and so replacements for these faulty memes have to be forged and installed? Only for the lifeboat passengers or in the steerage class as well, your Lordship?

  • Bach's_bitch says:

    What is the difference between 99% and 100% extinction as a possibility? If either one is likely then the other one is as well, and there is no good reason to say otherwise. I'm mostly a reader of this and related blogs (including McPherson's), and it's clear to me that you have an axe to grind with…let's call them "fundamentalist doomers".

    Is the hippie-industrialism of people like Bates somehow better than the fundamentalists' nihilism? Well, it is if you're the type that considers hope per se to be a good thing. If you are, then you must also think that a student who thinks he can do a year's worth of studying within the night before the exam has a better worldview than one who instead chooses to play video games and whatsapp with the gf.

    "Pessimistic doomer" is a pleonasm as far as I'm concerned. If one assumes that a collapse of industrial civilisation is imminent and inevitable, and at the same time is wholly dependent upon the aforesaid, then one is by definition a pessimist. However, pessimism is not illogical and immoral any more than optimism is logical and moral.

    If collapse of approximately the scale envisioned so frequently on doomer blogs is, in fact, inevitable, then it is literally impossible for to predict its attributes and consequences. "Save as many as you can" is not a valid strategy, because it assumes you know what "saving" means. Unless one founds or participates in a non-industrial society which is *entirely* independent of industrial society in terms of food and energy, one is no further away from escaping the effects of the collapse of the latter than anyone else. Make of that what you will.

    • RE says:

      What is the difference between 99% and 100% extinction as a possibility?

      Sorry to inform you, but 99% Dead People is NOT Extinction.  For Extinction you need 100% Dead People.  99% is a Knockdown/Bottleneck situation.  A species can recover from a Knockdown, Homo Sap already did it once.  We rebounded from just 10,000 Human Souls or 1000 Breeding Pairs to the 7.5B meat packages we have walking the Earth today.  You CAN'T rebound from 100% Dead People.

      What was done once can be done again.


      • Bach's_bitch says:

        I wasn't equating the 99 & 100% extinction scenarios, but the *possibility* of each. If 99% is possible, then 100% is equally possible unless you can provide any reason why the 1% in the former scenario will survive. "It happened once before" doesn't count as a reason, especially since we don't even know what actually happened and how.

        My point though is that the distinction between believing in 99% and 100% extinction is incorrectly labelled. Your position is defeatist in *general* *if* you define any postulation about inevitable extinction to be defeatist in and of itself. The assumed *extent* of said inevitable extinction is irrelevant within the context you yourself have provided, unless of course you arbitrarily consider the mere fact of *survival* to be inherently valuable.

        In reality, of course, whether a collapse scenario is realistic or not has nothing to do with whether it is defeatist, hopeful, pessimistic, optimistic etc. or not. The latter are all *equally* illogical (though not necessarily emotional) states of mind which *equally* skew one's experience of reality.

        All that said, I'm more inclined towards your view than McPherson's, with the exception that I expect a steadily paced collapse with occasional bursts of intensity that may take 100s of years, and with numerous twists and turns.

        The above is also why I dislike *all* extinction scenarios, because it's not possible to give such detailed predictions of the consequences of such a complex phenomenon with so many unknowns. Human extinction – near or full – would only be a small part of the collapse of industrial society. The human race is a force of Nature, and industrial society itself is an even bigger force of Nature and not our "creation". Everything – from the dew to the Donald to the dying star – is a force of Nature, and thus each thing is equally forceful regarding its importance relative to the rest of Nature.

        So while you, McPherson and all the rest quibble over percentages, I shall say with Nebuchadnezzar, via Quidam, via Kierkegaard:

        For the Lord, the Lord possesseth all might, as no man doth possess it, and I will not envy Him his power, but will laud it and be next to Him, for I have taken His vessels of gold and vessels of silver.

        Babel is no more the renowned Babel, and I, Nebuchadnezzar, am no more Nebuchadnezzar, and my armies protect me no more, for no one can see the Lord, the Lord, and no one can recognize Him.

        Though He were to come, and the watchmen were to give warning in vain, because already I should have become like a bird in the tree, or like a fish in the water, known only to the other fish.

        Therefore I desire no longer to be renowned through Babel, but every seventh year there shall be a festival in the land,

        A great festival among the people, and it shall be called the Feast of the Transformation.

        And an astrologer shall be led through the streets and be clad like a beast, and his calculations shall he carry with him, torn to shreds like a bunch of hay.

        And all the people shall cry, "The Lord, the Lord, the Lord is the Mighty One, and His deed is swift like the leap of the great fish in the sea."

        • RE says:

          I wasn't equating the 99 & 100% extinction scenarios, but the *possibility* of each. If 99% is possible, then 100% is equally possible unless you can provide any reason why the 1% in the former scenario will survive.

          I have never said Extinction was impossible, in fact I always emphasize it is inevitable.  The issue is one of timelines and probabilities, not of what is possible or impossible.  We could in fact go extinct tomorrow when we impact with Planet X sneaking out from behind the Sun on a collision course with Earth.

          Absent such a catastrophic collision, then you have to make an estimate of where we will be on the Extinction Timeline in a decade,a century, a millenia from now, up to the maximum time allotment possible on this planet for eukaryotic life forms, approximately 500M years before the Sun is fusing too much helium and the radiation output too high for Homo Saps to survive.

          Now, you can make justifications for just about any timeline here, but some are more probable than others, they are not all of equal probability.  One of the most improbable ones is the one Dr. McStinksion pitches out to his syncophants, 100% Dead People by 2026.  If he would at least give it to 2100 he wouldn't look like such a buffoon.

          Equally improbable are assertions by Mr. Wizard John Michale Greer that Homo Saps will go extinct but we will be succeeded here on earth by a new sentient species descended from Crows or Raccoons in the next 100M years.

          Anyhow, Death Date for Homo Saps falls somewhere between tomorrow and 500M years from now.  When I ran the Human Extinction Survey a couple of years ago, I picked the date for all Dead People In the Year 2525, as prophesied by Zager & Evans.

          Meanwhile between now and Termination Time, are you going to spend your remaining years in Misanthropic Nihilism with Dr. McStinksion, or try and scratch and claw your way to a few more years walking the Earth with Brother RE's Travelling Salvation Show?

          Days ahead will be getting weird, but in the words of the good Doctor…


          • Bach's_bitch says:

            I'm not "with" McPherson as I believe I stated quite clearly in the previous post. Extinction by 2026 or even within a 100 years because of the collapse of industrial society is not realistic at all, unless the millenials start forming suicide cults due to their smartphones not working.

            However, extinction by, say, 2200 due to the inability of humans to re-adapt to a rapidly changing world most likely ravaged by war and division, and where the guarantees of industrial society no longer exist, is realistic to my mind. There is also, to my mind, little to no difference in the probability of 99 vs 100% extinction in that scenario.

            As for my supposed "misanthropic nihilism", you're only right about the first part. A nihilist I am not. I don't believe in the inherent goodness or evilness of human nature, because evilness would actually be a step up for human nature as it is, and goodness is even farther away. In other words, human nature is animal nature. The exceptions to that rule represent, without exception, an *overcoming* of human nature.

          • RE says:

            2200 is plausible.  I put it In the Year 2525.  Extinction is inevitable, like Death.

            Even if it is 2200 though, how do you want to spend the rest of your life?  Moping about oncoming extinction or trying to survive?


          • Bach's_bitch says:

            Well, I'm not moping, but I'm not sure what exactly "trying to survive" would entail in this context. I live reasonably frugally and forbear as much as possible both the pleasures of the flesh and of the mind. I prefer to spend my money on classical music rather than the doohickeys which my peers lust after, and have accrued a fantastic collection which seems to sustain me physically as well as spiritually. It would certainly be enough render the generations who remember a time before the imminent darkness aglow with the Word.

            It looks like we're about to enter the first intense period of the collapse of industry, and I know it will be depressing. Mostly it'll be about "less", but that's not something I'm too afraid of, *unless* it involves not having access to a functional pair of Klipshorns. That "The Marriage of Figaro" should exist and dwell among us is in itself a cause for jubilation – in hoc signo. It is the Big Bang itself; deconstructed, it yields a periodic table of its own. I am no idealist. If a little techno-cornucopianism can place me upon the Causeway of the Divine for about 3 hours every week, I'm all for it.

          • RE says:

            You should be able to play mp3s on your smart phone for as long as it lasts.  I have an old Iphone about 8 years old that still works, and an mp3 player older than that.

            As to what trying to survive means, do you read my blog? I write about how you do that all the time. In fact Part 2 of my Alaska sustainability and resilience series publishes tomorrow.


          • Bach's_bitch says:

            Parsimony and forbearance are the best collapse preparation strategies as far as I'm concerned. Save vehemently, store a little gold and silver, and try not to desire anything you don't urgently need. There isn't much to do besides that, since we don't have any idea what *exactly* will happen, and when.

            However, one strategy that is very likely to work is adherence to a large, well-knit group. Once collapse happens, the larger and more well-knit the group, the more likely the chance of survival for the average member of that group.

          • RE says:

            I disagree with storing Gold & Silver unless you have taken care of the food preps and energy requirements and safety considerations first.  If you have only say $2000 with which to prep up, using that to buy some freeze dried food and a Glock for personal protection would be a wiser expenditure of money than a 1 oz Gold Amerikan Eagle.

            We have a completely different outlook on collapse and how to deal with it.  I am surprised you read the Diner at all.  It doesn’t seem to fit your mentality.


          • Bach's_bitch says:

            Gold and silver will always have value, so it's good to use a small portion of your income to buy them. Besides, I wasn't talking about total collapse per se but rather as a general strategy which is unlikely to include near-term total collapse.

            But in case of near term sudden collapse that will be as likely to cause total extinction as massive dieoffs, your strategy is valid, provided you're part of a large group that can defend itself against other groups which have invested solely in weapons.

          • RE says:

            Gold and silver will always have value

            No, they won't.  I refer you to Revelation 18:12, The Fall of Babylon:

            11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

            12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

            13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

            I remain perplexed why you haunt this website?  Your POV is completely at odds with it.


          • Bach's_bitch says:

            Like I say, gold & silver will only loose their value in a total collapse scenario. 'Always' was not meant literally, i.e., in an inherent sense.

            To be clear, our povs are at odds over the ability to predict and prepare for the world which will follow collapse, not (for the most part) the nature of the collapse itself.

          • RE says:

            It’s spelled “lose”.


  • Mr BS says:

    Mister RE:

    Your claim that rainbow shitting unicorns do not exist was offensive to me and the community of rainbow shitting unicorns. I know they exist because my brother Homer Simpson (not an imaginary person at all) rode one while holding spider pig in his lap. Bart told me about it and he never lies. Also global warming is a Chinese hoax so please stop talking about it. You, Albert and Ugo are all idiots but I on the other hand am a certifiable genius. I know this is for a fact because my psychiatrist said to me, "you are certifiable"   (I'm sure she meant to say "genius" after that). So there.

    Malcolm Roberts Impson AKA Bob "shitstain" Simpson AKA Mr BS

    "It's all shits and giggles till someone giggles and shits"

    Handy hint: root vegetables do not work to plug fecal leakage. A big black dildo has not worked so far either. I will add superglue and see what happens.

  • Andrew says:

    You make several good points, but you do yourself and your audience when you stoop to name calling.

  • JJGrey says:

    RE I think the end goal of your article, and website, and intents is the right one. Save as many as we can. 

    As to the green-techno- dreamers, they want to concentrate on solutions. In other words building the boats, as many as they can. IF they think they can build enough it shouldn’t be for us to tell them that is impossible. That would feed into the Doomers (do – nothings as I think of them, they might be RIGHT, but choosing to do nothing is more wrong than thinking you can do enough to save everyone).

    Yes our population is headed for a die off. Probably a massive one. Our global civilization is crumbling, our resources depleted, and our economy running on mere fumes no matter how often we tap the fuel gauge. 

    BUT that means we should be encouraging those looking to build enough boats to implement their building the boats and get as many of those boats into the water as fast as possible. We probably cant have a single giant ark, instead we need hundreds or thousands of smaller lifeboats that must be built. That is the encouragement we should be providing people like Ugo. And we should dismiss the McPherson do nothing doomers as the nihilists they are. Just because death may be coming to us all, does not mean we should lie down and accept it, and surrender all that we have achieved. Instead we should be fighting to preserve every good thing we can, and let our heirs have as much as possible to build something new with. Including the lifeboats that Ugo and the like want to build as arks. Heck, maybe our heirs can make them into arks, and will be able to do so after the first of the likely multi-phase die off has passed. 


  • Ken Barrows says:

    Just in case you missed it:

    Actually the NYT did some work here.  Doesn't even mention how we'll use electricity for all metalurgy;

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