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Marathon Man Newz / Westminster attacked!
« on: March 22, 2017, 10:28:16 AM »
An act of terror has been committed in Westminster! A woman dies and others critically injured! Here is a live feed to the story:

Westminster attack latest updates

Economics / Food Dumping
« on: February 14, 2017, 01:03:04 PM »
Excess milk? Give the lot to charities who support the poor and homeless. Let the charities foot some of the bill so the farmer does not make a loss. At least that way the most vulnerable in society could have access to milk. If there is a will there is a way. The milk doesn't have to be wasted.

Podcasts / Podcast: Gail Zawacki - Looking at Collapse
« on: September 28, 2013, 03:20:34 AM »

Off the microphones of Gail Zawacki & Monsta

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 28, 2013


Discuss at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

Collapse Café: Gail Zawacki – Looking at collapse

Originally published: Saturday 28th September 2013

Length: 42:53 (39.3mb)

Opening/Ending track: XTC – Dear God/ Fritz Wunderlich Handel – Xerxes

Summary: In this edition of the Collapse Café Monsta and Gail Zawacki have a general collapse discussion covering a broad range of topics from environmental destruction caused by pollution to unconstrained economic growth. What are the underlying reasons for this mindless pursuit of growth even when the detrimental effects on our ecosystem our obvious to anyone who cares to look? Is growth simply a part of the current capitalist economic system or is growth and profit just an underlying trait of the human condition?

What will be the main limiting factors to growth? Will it be energy, resources, excess accumulation of pollution or a combination of factors? And once those limits are reached how will people behave in the midst these converging crisis? Will there be a smooth protracted transition to cleaner sources of energy or will people burn cheap dirty fuels? Worse yet, will there be a die-off or even a extinction level event? Find out more by tuning into the this episode of the Collapse Café!

Spirituality & Mysticism / Tower of Babel: Fact or Fiction?
« on: September 21, 2013, 07:12:23 AM »
Found this piece on The Burning Platform which was written by Stucky. An entertaining read that certainly puts a spin on how difficult it can be to interpret God's actions which do not seem consistent even within the Bible itself. More significant however is the fact that God's action, by needing to investigate the tower, appear to suggest he is not all knowing and is actually insecure about man accumulating too much knowledge. It seems on this point not even an explanation is given from God to man as to why he smashed the tower. Without adequate explanation we can only conclude this was done out of spite or out of fear. I do know the Tower of Babel does appear in Islam although it is not directly labelled as such in the book. In that story the suggestion was made that man was beginning to learn about magic and other forbidden knowledge that was too dangerous for his own good hence the destruction of the tower and the scattering of one language to many. To me that makes more sense and suggests that God had a purpose for making man forget and it does certainly vibe with what we see today. However this message of acquiring forbidden knowledge is not conveyed in the Bible so this line of reasoning cannot be used.

This act of divine intervention does touch on another issue and that is the Bible and other Abrahamic religions placing a great deal weight on the concept of man having free will and the right to govern the world as he sees fit without being directly controlled by God. This act of generating confusion, making man forget their old original language and forcing him to lose the ability to communicate with his fellow man by making him only understand another new foreign language is clearly a violation of free will. God is altering the very minds of men to make them behave differently and he does this without even giving them an opportunity to stop this outcome from happening. As far as I am aware there is no forewarning of this mind alteration event and even if there was a warning this intervention acts against the concepts of allowing man to have free will. It is curious really because coercion or carrot and stick tactics from God are often seen as tactics that undermine the whole free will concept so if those tactics are frowned upon why is it acceptable to believe God can act in this manner? I think this action can only be somewhat warranted if God could foresee great ill in allowing man to accumulate excess knowledge and this point is not stressed enough so I feel this reasoning cannot be used. 

Ignoring these points however perhaps the main reason for the Tower of Babel story is to raise a more simple point. The story may simply offer an explanation as to why man developed many oral and written languages describing the origin of all languages. I could be wrong in this interpretation and this explanation certainly does not match any archaeological evidence of there being either a Tower at the allotted place and time-frame. On top of that there has been evidence of multiple languages existing as long as there been evidence to show human languages. In fact it is very difficult to impossible to conclusively prove that all modern languages can be traced to one language as oral speech pre-dates any written records by a significant margin. And even when it comes to oral languages it is difficult to pinpoint the exact mechanisms that triggered complex oral languages to develop in the first place. It takes more than intelligence and the correct vocal cords to make it happen as the animal has to also trust that the sound signals it receives are accurate and reflect the message that is conveyed by its fellow animal otherwise the signals would get ignored as noise. Any how I have rambled enough; here is Stucky's piece:


TOWER OF BABEL: fact or fiction?

Posted on 20th September 2013 by Stucky in Economy



Along with The Arky Arky and the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel is one of the best known bible stories.

But it is famous beyond its ACTUAL content… A mere 236 words (in English). Yet, the story has come to mean much more than its actual words. For example, the idea that God is so afraid of tall brick structures that he has to create multiple languages to keep people from becoming too smart for their own good.

Most have at least a vague idea of what the story is about, or at least know the name "Babel". But, let's take a look at the entire brief text. I will follow-up with my usual outrageous observations.

Quote from: GENESIS 11:1-9
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."


The Babel story is a great example why a literal interpretation of many OT stories makes no sense whatsoever. A literal interpretation makes a mockery of science, tortures logic, and detracts from the author’s actual spiritual meaning (if any) he intended to impart.

Genesis is a narrative dealing with "beginnings," as its title indicates. It records the beginning of the universe, plant life, animal life, and even mankind. Hence, one is tempted to apply a literal interpretation that the primary lesson of the Babel passage is the record of how human beings began to speak different languages. This is incorrect, as you will soon see.

That being said, "Babel" may very well be a story of beginnings. The city "Babel," is the same exact term used of "Babylon" elsewhere in the Bible. Indeed, the Tower was built in Mesopotamia, not Israel. So, more than just a possible explanation for the confusion of languages, it may also function as the etymology of "Babylon"… The very same Babylonian empire that would wreak tremendous havoc on Israel in sixth century B.C.E.… And the very same Babylon called a "Whore" in Revelation, representing all that is evil, and ultimately destroyed.

Before I get into specifics, it is worth mentioning the origin of the word "Babel". Strong's Concordance says the word means "confusion". That may be true regarding the meaning, but that's not its etymology. In Hebrew 'el' is a name for God… Any God, actually. In Ezekiel — "I am el (God), in the seat of elōhîm (Gods). The Hebrews called God El-shaddai (God almighty), ImmanuEL (God with us), and dozens of other 'el-' names.

The Miriam Webster dictionary gives the following etymology: "Middle English, from Hebrew Bābhel, from Akkadian bāb-ilu, gate". So, what is Babel? Literally, the Gate of God. So, is it the city that's called Babel because that's where God "came down"… as the text says? Or, was the actual tower the people were constructing the "gate of God"… Their attempt to "reach to heaven", or more likely, their attempt to provide a means for God to come down? The text is not clear. So, we'll leave as interesting speculation.


"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."

A literal interpretation presents problems right from the get go. That's because there has NEVER been One Universal Language spoken by all humanity. However, I don’t wish to debate philology. A fine overview of the origin of languages is here; —

Rather, I am much more interested in the status of human language AT THE TIME referred to by the text. Scholars diverge wildly regarding the possible date the Tower of Babel could have been built – anywhere from 3500BC – 2500BC. So, let's take the earliest possible date (3500BC) and briefly examine the archaeological evidence.

I need only one example. Spirit Cave in Thailand is a stratified site showing human occupation from BEFORE 5000 B.C. We do not know what language they were speaking in what is now Thailand …. but we can be darn sure it was not Sumerian, or Hebrew. Also, an archaeological dig in Pakistan revealed trident-shaped writing on fragments of pottery dating even further back at 5,500 years BC. Pretty sure they weren’t speaking Sumerian or Hebrew either. There, I gave you two examples.

The fact of the matter is the writer of Genesis 11 was oblivious to the existence of the Far East, Australia, the Americas, and pretty much the rest of the world beyond a few hundred miles of his locale. Had he been aware of these lands, the peoples, and their cultures… which existed AT THE SAME TIME as when The Tower was built then he would have had a much better understanding regarding the history of language, and he would NEVER have said "The whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."

Furthermore… and quite significantly… the previous chapter in Genesis, Gen: 10, seems to completely contradict the Babel story. Gen 10 is known as the "Table of Nations". It lists all the nations that derived from Noah's sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) after the flood; Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, dozens of other "ites" and even including Egypt and Babylon. No one in their right mind would suggest that ancient Egypt and ancient Babylon spoke the same language. We have written texts from both areas to prove otherwise. So, now we have at least two languages. Of much, much greater significance is the fact that the Bible itself states that once dispersed… These people spoke "after their tongues!" Let's be clear about this; the Bible states people spoke in unique tongues BEFORE the construction of the Tower.

Either the author of Chapter 11 was being redundant at best (an unlikely repetition in Chapter 11 of what was just reviewed in Chapter 10), or much more likely, he didn't know that God ALREADY dispersed the nations… Each speaking after their own tongues. That's quite a conundrum for literalists.


"And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower… Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down,"

1) God says, "let US go down." Who is this 'us'?? Some folks say it is a figure of speech; such as when a British Royal Queen refers to herself as 'we'. Unfortunately, there was no British royalty back then… And the royalty that did exist simply didn't talk that way. But most Christians say God was talking to Jesus in his pre-incarnate form cuz Jeebus existed before he was born. I don't know how to debate time-travel fantasies, so I won't. The more logical explanation is that the ancient Jews, before they developed monotheism, believed in multiple Gods. Even Abraham's father worshipped multiple Gods, and almost certainly Abraham was raised by his own father to do likewise (until he didn't). Many years later, perhaps decades, Rachel was caught hiding the "household idols" inside her camel's saddle. Then after the Jews escaped Egypt, one of their first acts was to construct and worship a Golden Calf. However Christians want to interpret this. The fact of the matter is that early Judaism adopted very many of the Gods they left behind, they believed in multiple Gods, and monotheism actually took centuries to fully develop.

2) Why does an omniscient, omnipotent God need to "come down" to see anything?? And, where exactly is he coming down from? Does he walk, or take a bus? Theologians call this anthropomorphism; "the attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being, such as a God." These attributions must be made because no one has ever seen this OT God. Moses came closest, and even then, he only saw God’s "backside"… literally, "ass". Who said there's no humor in the Bible? "Anthropomorphism" is just a way of saying; "We make our Gods in MAN'S image." Have you ever noticed that Western Gods behave just like humans? Especially the Greek and Roman Gods with all their fornication and backstabbing and jealousy and murder. And the OT God who laughs, cries, repents, has massive bouts of anger so much so that he has attempted to wipe out the human race, is often driven to jealous rage, and suffers from severe bouts of paranoid insecurity. We anthropomorphize deities because the more the Gods become like men, the easier it is for men to believe in the Gods.

3) Regarding paranoia in the Tower of Babel story — why would an omnipotent God be so damn afraid of humans [supposedly] speaking one language? Why is he so afraid of humans building a structure that is, at best, about 300 feet high? Why didn't he strike dead the builders of One World Trade Center who just completed a 1,776 foot skyscraper? Why is God afraid of technological progress? Does God REALLY believe that by having one language that "NOTHING" will be "impossible" for mankind? The implication being that puny finite mankind can (will) overthrow an all-powerful eternal God …. unless their language be confounded. Isn’t this idea just beyond silly, and indicative of massive paranoia?

And this isn't the first time God exhibited his paranoia. He freaked out when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit… Fearing that mankind is "now like us." (There's that 'us' again.) Really??? Humans are now like God because they ate some fruit? Shortly thereafter God freaked out again… Afraid that Adam and Eve might eat from a tree that would give them eternal life, so he had an angel with a flaming sword drive them out of the Garden to prevent that. Another time God was so freaked out over man's wickedness that he sent a Great Flood to wipe out all but eight people from the face of the Earth… You know, because this all-powerful God was totally powerless to influence humanity. There are dozens more stories in the OT where God freaks out, and when God freaks out, humans die. A strange and paranoid God.


Almost always in the reading of God's miracles, they are almost always simply accepted at face value. The reasoning being that God is All-Powerful, and therefore He can do anything He wants. So, when the Bible states that the planet Earth stopped spinning, or the sun stood still, (so that Joshua could kill more Amorites), well, not one in a hundred Christian readers stops to ask themselves "how in the hell is that even possible without the earth exploding into space in a million fragments?" "More miracles" is the only possible response. But that answers absolutely nothing. Such cop-out explanations are akin to the Hindu idea that the elephant holds up the earth. Someone asks, "What holds up the elephant?" Answer: Another elephant. And so on, ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

So, exactly how did God pull this off? Did folks suddenly and immediately in the blink of an eye start speaking, for example, German? Were they suddenly able to pronounce "umlauts" and that crazy "ch" sound? Did they suddenly and immediately understand the nuances of the German language and realize that one can now end a sentence with a verb? Did they suddenly wear Lederhosen? Language is in the brain, of course, so did God have to "rewire" each and every person’s brain, from 5 year olds to 100 year olds? Key question; did they forget their original language… Or were they bilingual, in which case, of course, the people would all STILL have a common language! Lol


It doesn't seem that confounding human language was all that brilliant. SAME language/culture unites… MULTICULTURALISM divides. It is significant to note that up to this point in biblical history, man had not fought against his fellow man other than in conflicts between individuals. There had been no mention of wars, no racial strife, no religious bigotry, no patriotic blood baths. Man had no reason to gang up and attack other groups of men. At that time, man was not at war with his fellow man and all men communicated freely in one tongue. It was this free communication which God knew he must put an end to if he planned on keeping men enslaved. Brilliant!


I ask this because thousands of years later in the New Testament book of Acts (2:1-11), God has a totally different agenda. This agenda is the antithesis of Babel… ONE language. This is the narrative. Believers were all in one place and of one accord (just like in Babel). The story even uses the word "confounded", but for a different reason. This time after having received the Holy Spirit, the apostles preach… And men of diverse languages hear the sermon IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGES. Back in Babel the plan was to separate people, and now in Acts we're seeing the exact opposite; a great re-integration. Bad one time. Good the next time. I wish God would make up His mind.

It seems that God's primary reason for "coming down" was not necessarily the Tower structure itself – that was merely the means to an end — but because the people of Babel wanted to "make a name for ourselves." But, in the very next chapter it is God himself who makes Abraham's name great. King David spends a good portion of his life making a name for himself (2 Sam 8:13) without any negative repercussions or divine reprisals. It can be really hard to figure out what God really believes/wants.


Are we really supposed to believe that the Builders of the tower were motivated by building a structure that could reach heaven? How stupid would that be? They built the thing on "the PLAINS of Shinar." A FLAT plain. There were MOUNTAINS nearby which would have given them a few thousand feet head start. Lol Are we to believe that they thought they could build a structure higher than a mountain? If they really wanted to reach the heavens, wouldn’t they have built the tower on the nearest high mountain? Yes. So, there must have been a different motivation… One we will never know. However, I can speculate on what the writer of the Babel story intended.

We can all certainly agree that the end result in the Tower story is one of division (one of God’s specialities). Let's take a very brief look at one other major example in how God divides. OK. So, God chooses one race to his people… Creating Judaism in the process. God later sends a Messiah to create a second division of his people… Creating Christianity in the process. God then chooses another guy, Mohammed, to create a third division of his people… Creating Islam in the process. And don't tell me it wasn't God who did all this. You should know that for ALL three of these divisions, God used the angel Gabriel as the messenger. Of course, these divisions have resulted in the longest and bloodiest conflicts in human history… Which continue to this very day.

So, what are we to make of all this?

The 16th century philosopher, Machiavelli, may be able to help understand what is going on. Machiavelli described how a third party could manipulate two other parties… And maintain control over them both. It works like this;

1) The Ruler creates a division amongst the people.

2) The Ruler does this by creating conditions which accentuate the differences between groups. This causes conflict, and so the groups fight amongst themselves rather than against the ruler.

3) The Ruler hides that HE is the cause of the conflicts, going so far as to feign innocence.

4) The Ruler then offers support to ALL parties involved, thus maintaining their loyalty and faith in him.

5) The Ruler is now viewed as The Beneficial One – Machiavelli uses the term "concerned parent" — no matter how bad and evil The Ruler might be in reality. After all, ONLY The Ruler can help bring everyone back together. There is a steep cost, of course. Many will suffer. Few will benefit. But, no one will ever blame The Ruler … which is just the way he likes it.

Now, am I saying that God is some type of Machiavellian monster? No. But, I am saying that that's how the writers of Scripture often portray Him. Some may not want to hear this, but I am 100% convinced that the various authors of Scripture had no clue whatsoever that they were writing Scripture. There was no voice from heaven thundering "Hezekiah! Grab a pen. Let’s write some Scripture!." They had no clue that the words they penned would take hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to be considered "The Word of God…" And even then, only by a fatally flawed procedure of humans voting. The Ancient Sages had even less of a clue as to how the world works, human psychology and all that, but that didn’t stop them from trying to explain it.

So they wrote stuff, lots of stuff… Some of it eventually became God's Word… Based on their observations and very limited knowledge. I imagine some smart (at the time) guy trying to explain to the people how multiple languages came into being, so he fabricates a story that at one time all humanity spoke just one language (a blatant misconception). No one apparently knew better, so people believed it. They believed it for so long, that even when the truth of the matter was made know… People STILL believed it. That, my friends, is the power of propaganda, believing the temporary lie until it becomes permanent truth. So, people have a choice to make. For me, the Tower of Babel story is an interesting piece of ancient literature. Nothing more.

Energy / Looking at the Crystal Ball
« on: July 23, 2013, 02:22:01 AM »

Off the keyboard of Monsta666

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

One of the most common discussions that I see cropping up in the doomer blogosphere is the speed of collapse. Quite often there are two camps in this debate with one camp strenuously believing that a fast collapse is inevitable while another bunch will insist that a more measured slow collapse or even decline is the most likely outcome. What is most striking, at least to me, is the degree of certainty that some people have in these debates. In fact in many cases people can be so confident in their beliefs that quite often you can almost sense a sense of disdain to people holding an opposing opinion. I suppose this is only human nature but as I have often said before: the nature of complex systems is they are inherently unpredictable. You can only really predict a general trajectory and perhaps with enough knowledge assign probabilities to possible outcomes but anything more and it just amounts to a lot of guesswork. If anyone makes a long-term prediction with a strong degree of confidence then you can be sure the person either has a blind-spot or worse doesn’t have a clue or maybe pushing an agenda or all of the above.

Making predictions and the questions of timing have always been the most difficult questions to answer in the collapse blogosphere. Despite much analysis of information from various sources we are humbled time and time again when it comes to making predictions. Don’t believe me? Just check out the predictions of what pundits said five years ago and look at ALL their dialogues in the past. The pundit is sure to trumpet their successes but normally there is a heap of false predictions they will quietly brush under the carpet and not state. Making any prediction is always difficult especially if it is about the future. In fact one of the few things I can say with any confidence is that when all is said and done that there will be many twists and turns that will surprise everyone, collapse stars included.

The changes in the 20th century were great and totally unexpected but the changes in the 21st century, if you think about it, will have an even larger, more profound and lasting impact on humanity. Furthermore because of the drastic nature of these changes that will likely change human behaviour irrevocably and kill our religious type belief in infinite growth and cornucopian technological worship I expect these changes will surprise people to an even greater degree. It will have to be a bigger surprise because as we see today it will truly take a hammer blow of gargantuan proportions to prize these ideas out of our collective consciousness.

When we see the future in those lenses and anticipate the big changes that will come – that will have to come – to alter our minds so drastically you come to realise just how difficult predicting the future will be. The issue I see here is when change becomes so dramatic it can be hard to grasp the full magnitude of the situation; we cannot appreciate the weight of the words we speak. The discussion almost takes on an unreal element; like we are talking and describing a dream and not reality. In these cases though, it is always helpful to look back on history to gain a good perspective on matters. When we look back consider what people in 1910 thought the year 2000 would be like. Much of the dialogue there would be way off and likely much of the thinking, conventional thinking at least would have seen people imagine that the year 2000 would look a lot like the year 1910 with a few additions added here and there. As you can see this is normalcy bias at work.

Granted in today’s world it can be argued that communications is far superior and our means of acquiring and analysing data is far better today than it was in 1910 so people can make much better predictions. But has that really been the case? I would say the normalcy bias is as strong as ever and if anything it has grown more entrenched. Our belief in progress, technology and infinite growth have only solidified during this time while older or opposing belief systems to counter this culture or belief structure have been systemically eliminated during this time. So in light of that we must always be aware of not only this normalcy bias but also the cultural bias that we are exposed to.

It is also very prudent to remember that because our industrialised society is so truly unsustainable on so many levels that very dramatic changes must happen for society to regain a balance with nature. And these changes must be sufficient to not just alter the way our relationships with one another but our views on nature must change dramatically as we must finally confront the issues we have been trying to hide in the past few centuries namely that humans are not gods and are actually bound by the laws of nature and do have a finite capacity for ingenuity (only gods have infinite ingenuity). We will have to realise our well-being is dependent on the state of our ecosystem and we cannot detach our economies from the resources of the planet (as much as economists will try and convince you otherwise). Our Earth has a finite amount of resources, our society is dependent on energy (and not technology) and the Earth has a limited capacity to handle the pollution from our daily activities. All these ideas, as basic as they may seem, must be grasped by our collective minds and for that to happen we need some major change for people to alter their behaviour in such a drastic matter. In fact at this point I can only see a hammer blow working in waking zombies people from their collective slumber.

We must also note that these profound changes will be so big they will affect mankind for a very long time. This is especially true if you are to believe that these changes will result in a mass die-off. If the die-off is more than 50% of the population then there has been no historical precedent to this and so the changes will truly be unprecedented (at least in absolute terms thus excluding the Toba event). Therefore if the changes you are projecting will result in unprecedented outcomes it stands to reason that the unprecedented changes that will need to occur to reach the final state will become very difficult to predict as we have no historical measuring stick to base our analysis upon. By its very definition it is guesswork, educated guesswork perhaps but guesswork all the same.

This means that a drastic turning point, of some shape or form must occur. Since turning points are so notorious hard to predict (various experts, in various fields have a very bad record of predicting changes in trends) it is curious how people can say with such confidence what the year 2100 or even 2050 will be like when we consider how much the future will have to change to fit in with reality. We were never good in the past in predicting the future so when we make predictions we must be aware of this and aware of the bias that work against us. When looking at such deep matters it pays to reflect for a moment and stick our heads out to gain a greater perspective when making these debates.

And if you really think about it, it is still early days in terms of collapse. The century is still young so I do feel it is premature to make such strong bets that we can predict what will happen in the coming decades. To me it would be a bit like betting on a football game and me predicting that the score would finish 3-0 to the home team. Then after only 15 minutes in, when the score line still says 0-0, we get some people coming out and saying my prediction are wrong because there has been no sign of a goal nevermind a collapse from the away team. We got to wait a decent amount of time before we can really say with any confidence whether the predictions made by you or I are anywhere near right. I think most collapsers (Greer included) foresee a die-off of some sort by 2100 or even 2050. The question is whether this collapse will be slow, fast or step-wise. Can’t say which path will be right with any certainty until at least 2025 IMHO and we probably need even longer than that. I suspect there will be various twists that take Greer and others by surprise because there are simply no historical precedents to the globalised economy we see today. The Roman Empire or any other empire for that matter cannot sufficiently cover all the difficulties modern society faces.

At the minimum what I think we need to be aware of is how the financial system will handle a scenario when global crude oil production leaves the plateau and begins declining year after year. Even more significant turning points would be when total gross energy of ALL fossil fuels reaches a peak and begins declining. In my Energy part II article I had a graph were this point would be reached sometime around 2025. At that point the amount of total possible wealth in the economy will peak and the claims to wealth that money/credit represent will become fundamentally broken. It will become much harder to continue playing the shell games that is QE or massaging various economic statistics to cover up the fundamental mismatch between claims and actual wealth.

Also as the system continues to deteriorate and get even more stressed you increase the probability of the system reaching a tipping point. It is this tipping point that creates the fast collapse scenarios, this happens because the system will leave its island of stability that is its dynamic equilibrium and system behaviour will suddenly change quite radically. You see this in the Arab springs where the economic, political and social systems were under stress for a prolonged period of time (decades) and all it took was a trigger and poof you got massive cascading failures in successive governments. The spark or trigger was quite small but since the system was already under severe strain that this was all it took to break the camel’s back. You see a similar phenomenon occurring in biological systems when the body fails in cascade fashion when certain the parameters leave a certain threshold. Indeed the definition of a tipping point is the disproportionate reaction of a system to a particular stressor and it is this particular behaviour of systems that is the trigger of fast collapses.

As always it is most difficult to determine precisely when this tipping point occurs or when the parameters become too extreme to push the system out of its dynamic equilibrium but most systems have them. I don’t think we can dismiss them and we certainly cannot dismiss tipping points with any degree of confidence until we have experienced periods of sustained declines in either crude oil production or more important total energy production. It is because of this why I feel Greer’s confidence in slow collapse is unwarranted. I am not saying he is wrong but he should exercise more caution and not be dismissive of these notions after all one of the main points about complex systems is they are inherently unpredictable.

The other complication that trips a lot of people up is the fact that most systems have delayed responses to signals. This issue of a delayed response was most notably seen when production of crude oil began to plateau in 2005. As production plateaued, the price of oil increased from around $50 to $148 a barrel and it is only when oil prices reached the upper threshold did the general economy react in a profound manner. It can be noted this response to a plateau in oil production took three years before the effects truly manifested. This delayed response is a common feature of many complex systems and the nature and responses to these delays in signals is dependent on how efficient or resilient and healthy a system is. A more resilient system will have more redundant sub-systems or buffers in place to handle potential shocks. For example a factory with a large well stocked warehouse is more capable of handling a surprise influx of extra orders from customers before needing to restock (which again restocking is a delayed response to a stimuli) than a factory that operates with a small warehouse which operates a more just-in-time regime.

It is these delayed response to signals that give rise to issues such as population overshoot in the first place as temporarily resources can be consumed at a faster rate than the Earth can replenish resources because it takes time for the negative feedback loops to gain sufficient strength to overcome the momentum of the system which is to grow. And just think, this momentum of growth has got a number of centuries under its belt so it will take some time before the negative feedback loops gain sufficient strength to overcome this forward momentum of the overall system again this is a delayed response. We cannot expect immediate responses even if we believe so on an intuitive level.

In fact when it comes to delayed responses there are two types of delay: the first is perception delay and this is the time it takes before it can be observed there is a change in a system. To offer an example of a perception delay let us consider a bacterial infection. It takes a certain amount of time for the person to exhibit symptoms after contracting the bacteria infection and this incubation time can last anything between a few hours or years depending on the particular bacteria. In system dynamics this would be the perception delay. The second form of delay is response delay and this delay is the time taken between when an action is initiated and the time it can deliver a response. Applying the same example of the bacteria it takes a certain amount of time to for the medication (the action or external agent) to take effect and reduce the symptoms from the disease. The elapsed time to take effect is the response delay.

These delayed responses can also be observed in the price of goods and services because the price of goods will not reflect the true scarcity of resources as it takes time for these price signals to filter through the economy. These distortions are only made worse when we introduce various subsidies such as tax breaks, subsidies or do not pay for the full environmental costs of various activities as all these activities serve to mask the market signals that permeates through the system.

How a system handles these responses is, as stated earlier, dependent on how healthy and resilient it is and the length of delay in responding to various signals. If a system is less resilient and the responses are more delayed then the eventual counter-response is likely to be greater. To go back to the economy if there was another financial crisis similar to the one observed in 2008 then the economy would be in a less healthy state plus it would be less resilient. This means any shock coming from a delayed response (say the plateau of global crude production is left) then it would be less able to handle this shock and therefore the probability of a tipping point being initiated will be that bit higher since the stresses being placed on the system are greater.

On the note if global crude oil production it can be noted that more and more experts seem to believe that we will leave the plateau sometime this decade and the period of terminal declines in production will begin. What percentage these declines will take is difficult to say and there is some source of controversy on the magnitude of these declines but most seem to agree on the time-frames. A notable poster called Ron Patterson (also known as Darwinian in The Oil Drum) has followed crude oil numbers like a hawk for various years and has predicted a decline occurring sometime around the year 2015 give or take one or two years (to follow his analysis please follow his blog that is Peak Oil Barrel). If this really materialises then we can say that if the reaction time is similar to the one before to crude oil production plateauing then we could expect a reaction to this decline in oil production sometime in 2018. Again though, this is merely speculation so it must be taken with a grain of salt. What should be noted in this is that we must look out for changes in trends AND then factor in the amount of time needed for the market to respond to these trends for the reaction is not going to be immediate especially if there are distortions in the pricing mechanisms of the commodity in question.  Plus as alluded to earlier the most important variable would be the turning points in total gross energy or better yet gross net energy which is likely to occur shortly after one another as demonstrated in the graph below:

As to zombies, resources wars etc. if there is a major die-off it seems to me there is a good probability those events will transpire in some shape or form. I can’t see how half the world’s population (or more) will die-off without some of them putting some kind of fight so I think if you believe in a die-off, be it fast or slow, then you need to believe the probability of war and zombies is highly likely. I don’t think it is really possible to have one without the other. If you think the two events are not mutually exclusive then you need to lay out how the die-off will occur in such a way those zombies or wars won’t occur. For such a die-off to go unnoticed it must be really slow. The only way I can see it going silently is if people slowly starve to death and die from the various diseases that come from chronic malnutrition. This chronic malnutrition could also act as a means of preventing people from rebelling and thus starting wars because they don’t have the energy to do so. It is not the scenario that is most likely to happen in my opinion but you are welcome to postulate alternate scenarios were people can slowly die. I will say mass die-offs that involve acute starvation of vast chunks of the population or death through wars would tend to suggest more mad Max type collapse scenarios. The other final possibility is you have a hybrid where certain sections of the world have slow collapses while others have fast collapses or flash crashes. If you think about it, everything is up in the air because it is still early days. We are only in the second decade of the 21st century. The Limits to Growth book still said the world economy would still be growing at this point in their standard run so really it would be a surprise to see fireworks just yet, but just because there are no fireworks does not mean there will be none.

To summarise, we cannot know for sure what will happen and we must recognise the fact that predicting the future especially the distant future is largely a fool’s game. Most people who engage in star seeing will look like fools. Remember that. The main things one can do is appreciate the uncertainty that is life and learn to live with it. It is this feeling of wishing for certainty, wishing for absolute control that contributed to some of the problems to begin with. All we can do is be humble, be honest about our shortcomings and observe the patterns that occur in nature closely and most important of all respect the laws of nature. If we observe the phenomenon that occur in nature we can build models that can give us a better understanding of the world around us which can be enough to offer a general idea of what to expect. However all models are flawed and do have their shortcomings so we must know acknowledge their weaknesses. As Ugo Bardi likes to say all models are wrong. I wouldn’t quite go as far to say that but I do like to use the analogy of a torch. Models are like torches they shed some light to the path ahead of us and make navigation somewhat easier. Some torches especially well built torches are better than others but ultimately no torch can show you the whole picture and most of your environment will still be shrouded in darkness. After all torches are no real substitutes for natural sunlight so the best we can do is acknowledge their shortcomings but use their small benefits to maximum use.

Diner Newz & Multimedia / Monsta-rama's monsterous delights
« on: December 31, 2012, 10:04:35 AM »
In this thread I will post any random articles from the blog, most likely economically related. Feel free to add any blog posts if it is relevant to any of  the posts I make.

Geopolitics / Future of Israel after economic collapse of world/US
« on: November 18, 2012, 08:50:44 PM »
As others have heard from the MSM there is a lot of drama going on between Israel and the Gaza strip. This latest episode unfortunately is not the first nor will it be the last instance of Israel being the aggressors but I do often wonder what will become of them once the US's economy is in such turmoil they can no longer provide adequate protection and they will be left to fend for themselves. Israel do have the strongest and most organised military in the region but they are heavily outnumbered if they decided to take everyone on. Plus as stated in some other thread the force multiplier of armies is likely to diminish once the energy begins to go however it is unlikely Israel would have to face all these Arab nations at once seeing as it is certain those nations will be neck high in shit trying to control domestic turmoils. I mean just think what Saudi Arabia would be like after they are well past peak oil.

Anyways, the main question asked is centred around the long-term outlook i.e. beyond 10-15 years+ from now although predictions of other time frames would be welcome. I do know there are no certain answers or perhaps even probable answers to the details of this question but I think a debate can still be had. Let us hear your WAGs but at the same time let's try and keep this civil folks! I would hope this thread does not end up in the smokehouse.

Economics / The Economics of living in a city
« on: October 13, 2012, 01:45:35 PM »
This article from The Economist makes the case that the future of growth lies in cities as cities not only provide greater efficiencies through economies of scale but they will also result in more productivity gains as more ideas and innovations will occur in centres with a lot of people/companies in close proximity to one another. Here is a link to the article in question:

Concrete gains (The Economist)


Concrete gains
America’s big cities are larger than Europe’s. That has important economic consequences
Oct 13th 2012
AMERICA is full of vast, empty spaces. Europe, by contrast, seems chock-a-block with humanity, its history shaped by a lack of continental elbowroom. Ironically, Europe’s congestion partly reflects the fact that its large cities suck up relatively few people. Although America and the euro zone have similar total populations, America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas are home to 164m people, compared with just 102m in the euro area. This striking disparity has big consequences.

Differences in metropolitan populations may help explain gaps in productivity and incomes. Western Europe’s per-person GDP is 72% of America’s, on a purchasing-power-parity basis. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, the consultancy’s research arm, reckons that some three-quarters of this gap can be chalked up to Europe’s relatively diminutive cities. More Americans than Europeans live in big cities: there is a particular divergence in the size of each region’s “middleweight” cities, those that teem just a little less than the likes of New York and Paris (see chart). And the premium earned by Americans in large cities relative to those in the countryside is larger than that earned by urban Europeans.

The advantage bestowed by large cities can be explained by their evolving economic role. In the industrial era, cities boomed because expensive transport made it attractive for firms to locate near coal deposits, waterways and each other. Isolated businesses could not match the cost savings from compact urban supply chains. The industrial heartlands in Europe and America sprang up for these reasons. Yet falling transport costs have made this centripetal force less important over the past half-century, leaving many industrial cities, like Detroit, in deep trouble.

Cities today have a productivity advantage for different reasons, to do with ideas rather than costs. When one firm in a city comes up with a new technique, product or design, nearby firms may quickly build on it or hire its creator. One firm’s innovation boosts its own productivity but also spills over to other businesses. Companies that prefer seclusion cut themselves off from these “knowledge spillovers”.

Such spillovers mattered in the industrial age, too. Alfred Marshall, an economist, waxed lyrical on the subject in 1890, noting that “the mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air.” In his book “Triumph of the City”, Ed Glaeser of Harvard University describes a fin-de-siècle Detroit that resembles a 20th-century Silicon Valley, as Henry Ford, Ransom Olds and David Buick keep tabs on, and occasionally work with, each other to pioneer a car industry out of their garages.

But the importance of spillovers seems to be increasing, even though the costs of communication are falling. Advanced information technology makes it easier for someone in San Francisco to speak to someone in Paris, but it also makes the ideas to be communicated more complex. Academic citations provide a simple way to track this evolution. A 2008 paper by Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University finds that it takes ever more people to produce new research, a trend he attributes to the increasing “burden of knowledge” associated with rising technological complexity and an expanding knowledge base.

Another study by Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Joshua Graff Zivin of the University of California, San Diego, and Columbia University’s Bhaven Sampat also tracked academic work. The authors find that when a prominent researcher moves from one city to another, his peers in the origin city are less likely to cite his patents. Innovation today requires an ever-larger crowd of experts, preferably working in the same garage.

That makes more densely populated places more attractive to people who want to share knowledge. Technology innovators and entrepreneurs congregate in Silicon Valley, for instance, rather than in smaller places where they have less to offer to, or get from, would-be partners. And knowledge-sharing among such people tends to make cities more productive as they get bigger. In a 2009 paper Mr Glaeser and Matthew Resseger of Harvard University find that in highly skilled areas, city size explains 45% of the variation in worker productivity (it has almost no effect in underskilled cities). This connection between size, skills and productivity is not simply due to brainier workers choosing to live in more populous places. The cities themselves seem to promote learning. Mr Glaeser and Mr Resseger note that new arrivals to big cities do not receive the city’s wage premium all at once, but rather enjoy faster wage growth over time.

No fire without big smokes

What explains Europe’s relatively small cities? Regulatory barriers to growth may be to blame. Tight zoning rules limit housing supply and raise prices by driving a wedge between construction costs and market prices. This “regulatory tax” amounts to over 300% in the office markets in Frankfurt, Paris and Milan, according to a 2008 study by Paul Cheshire and Christian Hilber of the London School of Economics, but is just 50% in Manhattan and, in effect, zero in fast-growing places like Houston. Taxes that add to transaction costs also help explain low European mobility.

Comparatively smaller cities also reflect incomplete European integration. Paris is large by national standards, for instance, accounting for around 30% of French GDP and boasting incomes per person some 59% above the western European average. But if there was genuine freedom of movement within Europe, big-city wage premiums should trigger a flood of migrants from outside national borders. There are linguistic barriers in the way, of course, but other obstacles, like the portability of pensions and the recognition of professional qualifications, make it even harder for Europe to match America’s urban jungles.

Economics / Pensions the great legal ponzi scheme
« on: October 01, 2012, 04:59:22 PM »
So I was reading this article: Pensions auto-enrolment attracts cautious welcome which describes a new pension scheme that came into effect today in the UK. In this scheme all people working for the largest corporations are automatically enrolled into a pension. Over the next few years more and more firms will be mandated to join this scheme and the plan will be fully implemented in 2018 when it becomes universal to all people who are not self-employed. There is an opt-out clause in the contract (fortunately) so the government has not quite legalised stealing just yet but it has got me thinking, what will come of the pensions in the West in the proceeding decade? I do think when the to big to fail banks finally die then all of these pension plans will go the way of the dodo. This realisation of broken pensions, failed dreams and hard work all disappearing in a cloud of smoke is enough to send people onto the streets demanding action and retribution. In fact I do see the grand failure of pensions as a potential trigger to wake J6P to the reality of the situation and perils coming our way.

Still, what gets me is despite all the on-going financial crisis and the fact that most people can grasp the major banks are insolvent people still believe they will be able to collect their pensions in 10, 20 or even 40 years time. I mean I can ask one person and they would say the banks are bust yet they will continue putting their money into a pension and expect to get something back. What is more they would encourage younger people to do the same which is exactly what the article suggests. This dissonance is quite something and it does leave me scratching my head in disbelief. Fortunately some people do get it and if you read the comments section there are a good chunk of people who suspect this is all just a gig to extract further income from J6P to the banks and hedge managers.

This all leads to the question on what people should do if they are holding on to one of these pensions, the strategy will really depend on how far along one you are but I think it is a topic worth discussing. What are your thoughts on this matter?

The Kitchen Sink / DD Webzine
« on: October 01, 2012, 01:35:15 PM »
I am not sure where to put this thread so I just dropped it in the Kitchen Sink :icon_mrgreen:

As the title of the thread suggests, I was thinking that it may be worthwhile to create a Doomstead Diner webzine which would house numerous articles found on the site and give advice to people on how to prep up. Now the purpose of this thread is two pronged, one would be to discuss what to put in the webzine and what things we should do for a first release should we go that far. The second is to discuss if the idea is worth pursuing in the first place. Personally I think the biggest advantage of a webzine is it gives a "hard copy" or legacy for the DD should the internet go to the great beyond. It can also act as platform via plug-ins to attract more people to the website. Any comments would be appreciated.

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