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Collapse you say? Part 5, Over Population

Last time I talked about growth, overshoot and dieoff, and promised to continue with a look at human over population in this post. So here we go.

Figure 1: Human Population level and growth rate 1700 CE to 2100 CE (Current Era)

The diagram above is helpful since it charts not just total population (the green areas), but also the yearly rate of growth (the red line). I believe that, by referring to the various sections of this graph, I can make most of the points I want to make here.

Over on the left side you will note this statement, perhaps not readable on your screen, ".04% was the average growth rate between 10,000 BCE and 1700 CE." From some of the reading I have been doing lately it seems that the growth rate for hunter gatherers before 10,000 BCE was similar.

It turns out that humans are like other species—our population grows when there an abundance of food and shrinks when there is a shortage. For typical species, ways of getting more food include expanding their range, successfully competing with other species and evolving to occupy new niches. This sort of change, based on genetic evolution, tends to happen very slowly. But, unlike other species, we have evolved the ability to have a culture, which acts as a medium for change, and language as a way of passing that change on to future generations. During our approximately 2 million years as hunter gatherers we developed many new ways to access more food and get more good out of it. And we spread to all the continents except Antarctica.

I suspect that by about 10,000 years ago we had just about filled up the world, given the amount of food that was available to hunter-gatherers. Only a few islands, mostly in the Pacific, remained to be discovered and settled. It was not too long after that, in various places around the world, that we began to practice agriculture.

It surprises me that the extra food available from even pre-industrial agriculture didn't cause an increase in our growth rate. Apparently it didn't, but it did allow our population to continue growing at about .04% per year, increasing the population density in areas that were suited to agriculture.

In the millennia that followed the invention of agriculture, we went on to develop irrigation, draft animals, animal and plant breeding, using manure and compost to improve fertility and so forth, all of which increased yields and increased the areas where we could practice agriculture, enabling further population growth.

With a growth rate of .04% per year, a population doubles about every 1700 years. This sounds pretty slow, but give it a couple of million years with no interruption and that population will have doubled nearly 1200 times. No, that's not increased by a factor of 1200, but doubled 1200 times. It would only have to double 10 times to increase by a factor of more than 1000, or 30 times to increase by a factor of more than a billion.

The population around 10,000 BCE was only somewhere between a million and 10 million. It is clear that our past population growth was interrupted frequently, when we exceeded the local carrying capacity, when natural disasters reduced that carrying capacity, or perhaps when diseases reduced our fertility rate. For concrete examples, read Chapter 3 of Jared Diamond's Collapse, which details complete dieoffs on Pitcairn and Henderson Islands in the Pacific and a partial dieoff on the neighbouring Mangareva Island.

This is one of the points I want to make—even with only pre-industrial technology and a relatively small growth rate, the eventual result is that we exceed the carrying capacity of the region where we are living and experience dieoff. The only long term solution is to aim for a steady population with no growth. Again, referring to Diamond's Collapse, read Chapter 9 on sustainable societies in the New Guinea highlands, the island of Tikopia and in Japan during the Tokugawa period. It has been done and without modern technology.

But, with those few exceptions, what actually happened is that around 1700 CE our population growth rate began to increase. I am not certain exactly what caused this, but two things happened at around that time that I suspect had something to do with it. First, we started using fossil fuels to industrialize our economies, greatly increasing the per capita amount of energy available, which drove what we think of as "modernization". Second, Europeans expanded into the so-called "empty" continents of the New World (including Australian, Oceania and parts of Africa). For the indigenous peoples this was not a pleasant experience, with a 90% death rate in many areas after the arrival of Europeans. But it did allow the people of Europe to spread out into new areas, accessing new resources and space to grow. And grow we did.

Around 1900 the growth rate started to increase even more and kept it up with only a couple of bumps until 1968.

A number of advances drove this increased rate of growth. Heat engines burning fossil fuels replaced much of the muscle power used in agriculture, and meant that we no longer had to grow food for draft animals. The invention of processes for converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia made synthetic nitrogen fertilizers available in large quantities. Before that nitrogen in a form accessible to plants was created only by bacteria and this was a serious limitation on the amount of food that could be grown. And advances in medical care significantly reduced infant and child mortality.

By the 1960's essentially all the land suitable for agriculture was already in use and a food supply problem was looming on the horizon. The green revolution "solved" this problem by developing varieties of the major cereal grains whose yields respond very well to irrigation and fertilization, and by using pesticides to control competition from weeds and crop damage by insects and fungi.

The people responsible for the Green Revolution saw it as a temporary solution that would allow us to get our population growth problem under control without a major dieoff. In the years since then it has actually been used a means to support an ever growing population with little serious thought of getting it under control.

All this leads to another of the points I wanted to make. Looking at the human race's history with food and population growth, a trend starts to become pretty obvious. Again and again we have increased our food supply, which has led to an increase in population, which required an increase in the food supply, which once provided led to a further increase in our population. That population currently (January 2021) stands close to eight billion, and the majority of people still believe that we'll be able to pull more rabbits out of the hat as needed, using technology to feed an ever growing population, into and beyond the foreseeable future.

To me this seems unlikely. We are using ten calories of fossil fuel energy to produce a single calorie of food these days. This includes large amounts of natural gas for the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. The other two primary plant nutrients, potash and phosphorous, are non-renewable mineral resources. And much of the water used for irrigation is pumped from fossil aquifers that are essentially non-renewable. So, modern agriculture is critically dependent on resources which are becoming depleted as we speak, and for which there is no renewable substitute. Further, climate change threatens to put an end to the mild and predictable weather that has made agriculture easier to do for the last few millennia.

The good news is that the growth rate of our population peaked out at 2% per year in 1968, and has been declining since then. But population growth itself, as opposed to the rate of growth, is still a long way from stopping. For a long lived species such as ours there is a big delay built into the process—our population has continued to get bigger and will continue to do so before it finally peaks out. There are a lot of people alive today who have quite a few years left to live, and our population cannot significantly decrease until they have died. And there are a great many women of child bearing age, who could bear more children and increase our growth rate if circumstances encouraged them to do so.

The right-most section of the graph, covering from 2019 to 2100, is seen by many as pointing to a solution.

This solution comes in the form of the "demographic transition", which according to Wikipedia is: "a phenomenon and theory which refers to the historical shift from high birth rates and high infant death rates in societies with minimal technology, education (especially of women) and economic development, to low birth rates and low death rates in societies with advanced technology, education and economic development, as well as the stages between these two scenarios."

This phenomenon is largely due to the affluence made possible by fossil fuels and the fact that in modern, rich societies children are more of a burden than a blessing, encouraging smaller family sizes. The graph's authors make the assumption that affluence will continue to spread to the developing areas of the world and the rate of population growth will continue to drop, causing our population to peak out at almost 11 billion by the turn on the century. While the graph doesn't show it, those who support this optimistic scenario assume that our population will actually decrease and settle out at a more manageable level in the next century. Our population growth rate would have to go below zero to achieve this. Admittedly, in many developed nations it already has done so.

Many people embrace this scenario enthusiastically, assuming it means that "business as usual" can continue on with no problems. It is especially attractive to the rich and powerful, who are looking for a "guarantee" that they won't have to give up their privileges to get us through the problems that lie ahead.

As you can no doubt imagine by now, I am not convinced. The trouble with this graph is that it is based on the assumption that there will always be adequate resources to support the existing population and to continue with the development that drives the demographic transition.

So many of the resources we rely on are non-renewable and are already becoming depleted, but even if we could somehow manage to switch over to renewable resources, things don't look good.

We are at around 165% of carrying capacity with a population of 7.7 billion (in 2019). With 10 billion people and no increase in average levels of consumption, we would be at 214% of carrying capacity in 2100. But in order for the demographic transition to happen in the developing nations, their level of affluence must increase significantly, taking us even further into overshoot. This is a bottleneck that is going to be very difficult to get through. I expect that we will experience a significant dieoff long before 2100. That dieoff will serve to correct our over population and over consumption problems, but it will not be a process that we have any control over, nor any wish to take part in.

Has anyone done a study which took into account resource and pollution limits along with population growth? Well yes, actually, just such a study was done in the early 1970s, and repeated twice since then: The Limits to Growth. This study used a computerized simulation of our world which produced results in its base run (Business as Usual) that have turned out to bepretty accurate.

Figure 2, The Limit to Growth: Business as Usual version

I did a series of posts about The Limits to Growth a few years ago if you want more details without having to read the book. But the main thing to note here is that the population grows until around the middle of this century then decreases dramatically , along with the food supply and our industrial output, with resources becoming depleted and pollution spiking just before population drops off.

Unfortunately, very few people have taken The Limits to Growth seriously. Criticisms generally take the form of, well, if we just do this or that, it will nicely get us around those limits. This makes me think most people stopped reading after the chapter that describe the "Business as Usual" run of the simulation. I say this because the authors anticipated what people would suggest and did many more runs of the simulation that tried those solutions to see if they would help. They did not. What did help was reducing our level of consumption and living within the limits imposed by the planet and its ecosystems. But of course almost no one wants to do that, so we have continued to head deeper into overshoot and closer to dieoff.

To see in more detail how this dieoff may happen, we need to be aware that thus far we have been discussing the situation in global averages. But we live on a large planet, with many different regions that experience change at different rates.

Resource depletion and climate change, the driving forces behind the coming dieoff, are just getting underway in many parts of the world, and it is still easy to ignore their effects. But in others areas—the Middle East, sub-Saharan African and Central America certainly come to mind—they are already disrupting human habitation patterns. The economy suffers first, with volatile energy prices and increases in prices of food and water. Many people are left unemployed and governments are less capable of supporting social safety nets. Agriculture suffers due to some combination of droughts, floods and heat waves. People from farming communities are forced to pack up and move to the cities, where more people looking for jobs and food are not welcome. Civil strife and sometimes outright war ensues and refugees start to stream out of the areas affected. Most of the refugees are absorbed in nearby countries who are not themselves in the best of shape.

In the past when a society collapsed, it's members had little choice but to tough it out with no outside help. Today, in our smaller, more connected world, some help is usually available from outside an area that is experiencing trouble. And it may be possible to move to an area that is not yet affected. That's good, but it also means that trouble in one area is more likely to spread to others in a domino effect. I expect that this will intensify during the coming decades and gradually lead to the almost complete collapse of our industrial civilization.

So, this has been a lot of information. What conclusions do I reach from it?

Is overpopulation the main problem we should be trying to solve? I would say no, but it is certainly part of the problem. Increasing the size of our population makes coping with over consumption harder, and vice versa. The thing to remember about trying to control overpopulation is that, because of the large delay between reducing population growth rates and eventually reducing our population, this project is not likely to bear fruit in time to get us through the bottleneck we face. Unless we tackle consumption at the same time.

As a successful species we have the built in tendency to multiply if resources are available and to expand until we overuse the resources. Can anything be done about this? The demographic transition is tied to affluence in many ways, so it seems likely to make things worse by increasing consumption. Greater awareness of our situation could lead to cultural influences which would make smaller families more desirable in areas where the growth rate is still high. Educating women can do much to help with that, without requiring excessive consumption. Like so many of the problems we face, the solution is probably doable, but not likely to be implemented in a timely fashion for ideological and political reasons.

Reducing the food supply would definitely reduce our population, and this is likely to be what happens in the event of dieoff, whether we want it to or not. But to deliberately quit feeding people should be morally repugnant. Especially if forced on poor people by rich people who are exempt. The term "eco-fascist" has been coined for people who are in favour of this sort of thing.

I am not one of those people, and I should make it clear that I am not blaming the problems I've been talking about here on the poorer and more heavily populated areas of the world. Indeed, the high level of affluence in the developed nations is directly supported by their exploitation of the developing nations. And the ridiculously high level of consumption by the rich everywhere is a major factor in the overshoot that I've been talking about. Ten percent of the population of the world does over 50% of the consumption.

Next time we'll take a closer look at affluence, the "A" term in the I=PAT equation, and the way our world is organized to drive the continued growth of consumption.

Links to the rest of this series of posts, Collapse, you say?

The Cow Hat Revolution

This is from a Journal/Essay entry on my own blog.  I did not intend it to evolve into a stand alone entry but it did so I brought it here and gave it a title.

Events are working out that shows my democracy topic is a timely choice to write about.

A man in a cow hat representing a rebel without a cause mob shut down congress while congress certified our President elect. A mob of rabble roused by Donald Trump who refused to leave office and foolishly attempted a coup. His childish ill thought out tantrum has embarrassed America. Five people died. It can't be argued that our political system is not broken. We need to fix it. America is a mess.

Jake Angeli

A known Q Anon provocateur. I suspect well paid by someone.

To fix our broken democracy we have to understand what democracy is and how in America it is broken. There is a solution. I was going to start with an example of the solution but the Washington DC events this week make me realize, if I jump right to an example people will freak out and stop reading. The solution is contrary to American indoctrination. Context has to be set before the solution can be understood and given the consideration it deserves.

Democracy is when people choose their own legislators. This simple definition means a small group does not make social decisions without representation from everyone. This simple bland definition does not make you think. Saying something is a certain way does not mean it is that way. If you are troubled because democracy is not working in America you know everyone is not being represented despite machinery for picking legislators by the people allegedly being in place. But thinking that we might not live in a system that is democratic is unpleasant. In America money corrupted elections and took control away from people. Thinking we might have less control of our destinies than we believe is a scary thought.

Democracy in Athens, the birthplace of democracy, was different from American democracy. The difference is typically explained by saying we have a representative democracy instead of a direct democratic system. The practical reason given that America is not a city state like Athens was. America is a huge nation. But this is a thoughtstopper of a reason. Sausage is assumed but how it is made is ignored. Voting is our sausage.

The human love of technology imagines voting, the patch that makes representative democracy resemble real direct democracy in an obtuse way, to be an improvement. But our pure unquestioning love of technology makes you not ponder beyond if an election was honest and fair or a fraud. Necessity forces a fairness evaluation on you because voting depends on honesty. But an honest election is always considered good in America with untarnished perfection. A dishonest election is simply bad unless your side wins. But the process of voting can be a perversion of democracy even when honest. How this can be I will explore in my next entry.

Voting is aristocratic. In America voting was crafted to preserve the power of politicians and political donors. The established order of things. Rules and traditions in American voting are set to serve the needs of money not people. As things are, we get nothing from government that people need unless money is also served.

Climate change is a human need that money will ignore. We will not get climate change legislation in our broken democracy. Money never favors equality or human need without pressure. Money defers to profit for owners in all decisions. Until we fix our democracy to serve people, lack of health care will continue to kill most of us. Student debt, regular employment at a living wage, pick your issue, if you want any of what you want then American democracy needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed before anything else can get fixed. Fixing democracy is not more important than other problems, but to have any chance of solving any critical issue, democracy has to be fixed.

Equality in general is a good thing and something society should move to. People in more equal societies are happier and live longer. That is a measured fact. Equality in representation is something American Democracy needs or only power is served. Power unchecked will ruin the world and may cause our extinction. People, not the few, need the power. In American Democracy we do not have equality of representation. The needs of people, real human need, won't be provided for until we change how we elect. Democracy has much to offer. Americans have not explored all it can offer.

I will get into what sortition is in detail eventually. I intended to learn more about it and make the exploration of the topic into a project here as a way to organize my effort. If I do a good job (and I will) it will be worth reading. That is good enough, but I intend this effort to be more than good enough.

On my right sidebar you can see a Zardos cube with Biden's face on it. Biden won the election. The cube spins. The cube used to switch between Biden, Trump or Myself when you could make a straw vote for POTUS here. One vote for each IP address was allowed. I added myself as a choice because I think I am a better choice than Biden or Trump was. After the election I left the cube to show Biden since we are stuck with him now.

Adding myself as a choice was not arrogant. I have at least average capabilities and the American leadership bar is very low. Neither Biden nor Trump glows with competence IMHO, and both are career politicians. Trump pretends to be something else, but Trump is a Politician even if he is something else. Politicians are factotums of money and power who do not represent the will of the people. The will of the people being equal representation to address common problems as I will explain.

Had I been elected I would have surrounded myself with very smart people and had them run the country. Rule by experts with me making sure their decisions serve the people, basic morality, and their decisions moved us in the right direction. Sometimes experts have trouble with the right direction. It would be a job I would have taken for a while hoping to do a good enough job to enjoy an unsupervised road trip across the country when my term was up.

My method would not have been exactly like sortition. I fantasized my method before I knew what sortition was. On the surface my method looks ordinary, but my imagination saw sortition. I have figured a few things out. Localize if possible, so people own their actions. Government is an exercise of public trust. Everything short of raw military movement must always be transparent. Julian Assange with Wikileaks tried to bring transparency into the world. Julian Assange is a soldier in the battle for truth who is trying to give democracy a missing ingredient, transparency. Transparency is needed because there are good men and women but there are also broken people who do evil things. Full transparency of public service helps. Like local control where appropriate, it makes make people responsible. I came to realize that people become lost in their own realities and understand sortition is a way to stop that from happening.

My straw poll/election in my sidebar was neither serious nor was it a joke. The Secret Service certainly did not consider it a joke. Of that I know. More evidence of a broken system but that is a topic for another day. I will stay focused on democracy and avoid personal segue. That said, this is a work in progress.

My next entry will examine flaws in American Voting. Sortition involves random numbers, so I will have to give more background than I have about the problems with our existing system before anyone will see randomness as part of a reasonable solution.

If you want to see the spinning cube you have to go here. https://chasingthesquirrel.com/

Collapse you say? Part 4: growth, overshoot and dieoff

Nature's Ice Sculptures Along Lake Huron

Nature's Ice Sculptures Along Lake Huron

On the rare occasions when the subject of collapse comes up in polite conversation, a kollapsnik like me is liable to get responses like: "Collapse you say? Surely not!" Thus the title of this series of posts. But I've found that responding with "Surely yes!" isn't very effective (as well as sounding rather childish). The pandemic this year (2020) has got some people thinking a bit more, but most still expect things to get back to normal any day now.

So in this series of posts I've been talking about what collapse is and why I think the our civilization has been slowly collapsing for several decades and will continue doing so. This in the hope of laying out the facts clearly enough that just about anyone should be able to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

In the last two posts(Part 2, Part 3), I looked at problems with the inputs to and outputs from our civilization, and pointed out a number of issues, any one of which alone should be cause for great concern. And taken together, well….

Now I think it is time to have a look inside the box labeled "Industrial Civilization". When you look around you from within this civilization, you are confronted with a complex and confusing sight, of which I don't have any sort of complete understanding. But there are some aspects which bear more directly on collapse than others, and I'll have quite a bit to say about them in the next few posts.

The problems we've looked at so far—resource depletion, declining surplus energy, climate change, overshoot and decreasing carrying capacity—all seem to be a result of the ongoing growth of our civilization, both population growth and growth in affluence. So you would think we'd be making a serious effort to get growth under control, maybe even initiate "degrowth", in order to cope with these problems. And yet, over the last few decades economic growth has come to be seen as a necessity. If you paid attention to election speeches, you'd conclude that the most pressing problem we face is maintaining and further stimulating such growth, not preventing it. It seems to me that this obsession with growth is a built in feature (dare we say a fault) of our civilization.

To more clearly understand our impact on the planet—our footprint—we need to review the subjects I touched on at the end of my last post: eco-system services, carrying capacity, and overshoot. Eco-system services are things like breathable air, potable water, a reliable climate and moderate weather, arable soil, grasslands, forests and the animals living on/in them, waters and the fisheries they provide, and so on. And also important, though I neglected to mention it in my last post, is the ability of the eco-system to (within limits) absorb and process our waste products. All these things are available to us free of charge and we simply could not do without them.

It is reasonable to call the rate at which the eco-system can supply those services to us its "carrying capacity". The portion of those services that the human race uses can be called our "footprint"—the impact we have as we walk upon this planet.

According to the Wikipedia article on carrying capacity, credible estimates of carrying capacity range from 4 to 16 billion humans, with a median around 10 billion. The literature I've read on carrying capacity and dieoff typically talks about us currently being at around 165% of the planet's carrying capacity. If such estimates were made when our population was around 7 billion, then the carrying capacity was a little over 4 billion. That's at the low end of the range of estimates, which seems prudent. Using the high or even median estimates would lead us to do nothing in the belief that everything is OK and may well continue to be OK. Instead, we should be setting ourselves up to run well below carrying capacity, allowing us to live on this planet without damaging it and with a comfortable margin to allow for unforeseen circumstances.

Being over carrying capacity is called being in overshoot, and it leads to collapse. Some of the extra over 100% comes from consuming non-renewable resources, and some of it comes from using renewable resources at greater than their replacement rate, so that they too are irreversibly consumed. This means that we are actually reducing the carrying capacity of the planet and digging ourselves into an ever deeper hole. Certainly judging from the resource depletion and pollution (mainly climate change) problems we're currently experiencing, it seems that we are indeed in overshoot, and the condition of the ecosphere is definitely worsening.

If we are to solve the problems caused by our overshoot we need not just to reduce our impact below the current carrying capacity of the planet, but rather to go below the smaller carrying capacity that will be left by the time we get to where we are aiming. Further, since it is a big planet with different conditions in different places, we can't just look at global averages, but must consider impact versus carrying capacity on a region by region basis. This to avoid being fooled if we are lucky enough to live in an area that is not as yet hard hit. In much of Europe and North America, it seems we are currently being fooled.

Our footprint (impact) is expressed in the following equation: I=PAT.

"I" stands for impact, or footprint, which is the product of three factors:

"P", which stands for population.
"A", which stands for affluence, or consumption of resources.
"T", which stands for technology, and is included in the hope that improving technology can reduce our impact
We seem determined to do whatever it takes to increase "I", no matter how negative the results. Is this because of something inherent about human beings, or the way we organize ourselves, or the circumstances we find ourselves in? Or perhaps all three combined together?

In the rest of this post and the following one we'll look at this from the viewpoint of our growing population. In future posts we'll look at the role affluence and technology play in our problems.

But first I think we need to understand something about the mathematics of growth. In cases where the rate of growth is related to the size of what's growing, growth is "exponential". If you chart such growth on a graph, it looks something like this:

Figure 1, The Exponential Function

Figure 1, The Exponential Function

This is the kind of growth you get with a compound interest savings account, where even if the interest rate stays the same, the balance in the account increases dramatically over time. It is convenient to look at exponent growth in terms of the doubling rate, the amount of time it takes for that bank account to double. A rule of thumb is to divide 70 by the percent growth rate per year, and that gives you the approximate doubling period in years. If you are lucky enough to get 10% interest, your savings will double in 7 years. At 5% interest it takes 14 years to double and at 1% interest, it takes 70 years to double.

What may not be clear from Figure 1 is the degree to which the curve takes off as it moves to the right. Growth is very slow at first until we reach the "knee" of the curve, then it goes right through the roof, so to speak. A great deal has been said about how exponential growth is counter-intuitive for most people. Here is a short (not quite two minutes) YouTube video about the subject. If you have a little more time (11 minutes), this video goes deeper into it.

But in the physical world, growth consumes resources, which are only available at a certain maximum rate and can a only support so large a population. At some point the rate of growth starts to decrease and the curve levels off rather than continuing upwards. So the exponential curve doesn't really give us a very good picture of how growth actually works. For that we need to look at the logistic function.

Figure 2, The Logistic Function

Figure 2, The Logistic Function

Of course the logistic function assumes a constant supply of whatever it takes to support a population, so that the right side of the curve levels off and stays flat. Again, the real world doesn't exactly work like that. In the real world it is possible to go into overshoot, and over consume resources so that the rate at which the system can supply them is reduced. This results in something like the curve shown below.

Figure 3, Overshoot and Dieoff

Figure 3, Overshoot and Dieoff

The population in this case is of some sort of simple organism with a more or less fixed consumption rate per individual, and a growth rate determined by the availability of food. I have chosen to show the worst case scenario where the population we are considering declines to zero because of decreased carrying capacity and the rest of the ecosystem is so badly damaged by the overshoot that it dies out as well.

Fortunately, this is not necessarily the case—as the population goes into dieoff it eventually goes below even the reduced the carrying capacity of the environment and quits damaging the environment. The environment, if the damage is small enough, may be able to recover, even if the species that was in overshoot doesn't. If it recovers enough before the population under consideration goes extinct, that population may be able to recover as well, something like this:

Figure 4, Overshoot, Dieoff and Recovery

Figure 4, Overshoot, Dieoff and Recovery

What happens as time progresses off the right end of the graph varies. The population may go into overshoot again, then die off and recover, and this may be repeat on an ongoing basis. Or, at any point along the way, a dieoff could lead to extinction. In any case the idea that there is a "balance of nature" that would cause the population to level out just below the carrying capacity is largely bogus. Things are always changing and don't stay balanced forever, or even for very long.

So now that we've looked at growth in general, we need to look in detail at the growth of the human population of this planet. Because human populations can change their growth rates, their levels of consumption and even the carrying capacity of their environment, this is complex, and I'm going to devote the whole of my next post to the subject. In short, though, based on the ideas of carrying capacity, overshoot and our capacity for growth, I am not in the least dissuaded from my predictions of collapse,"dieoff" in the language we've been using in this post.

This has turned out to be quite a short post, mainly because I have split it in two and saved the slightly longer second half for next time. So, there is room here for a couple of graphics about carrying capacity and ecological footprint.

  Figure 5, Biocapacity and Ecological Footprint

Figure 5, Biocapacity and Ecological Footprint

This an interesting and possibly misleading graph, which compares the carrying capacity (biocapacity) of various countries with their consumption, on a per capita basis. The units on the vertical axis are "global hectares per capita, Gha".The Wikipedia article on GHA is a short and informative read. Here is one central paragraph:

"Global hectares per person" refers to the amount of production and waste assimilation per person on the planet. In 2012 there were approximately 12.2 billion global hectares of production and waste assimilation, averaging 1.7 global hectares per person. Consumption totaled 20.1 billion global hectares or 2.8 global hectares per person, meaning about 65% more was consumed than produced. This is possible because there are natural reserves all around the globe that function as backup food, material and energy supplies, although only for a relatively short period of time. Due to rapid population growth, these reserves are being depleted at an ever increasing tempo. See Earth Overshoot Day

To understand what I mean by misleading, take a look at Canada, the country where I live. The graph might make it seem that we are doing fine, since we have a large biocapacity compared to our population. but our per capita consumption (ecological footprint) at 7 Gha is among the highest in the world.

Figure 6, Footprint in terms of "Planets"

Figure 6, Footprint in terms of "Planets"

Another way of looking at footprint is to calculate how many planets like Earth it would take if everyone on Earth today lived like they do in a certain country. As is so often the case, Canada is left out of Figure 6, but a little calculation using the numbers in Figure 5, leads me to believe that if everyone lived like we do in Canada, we'd need around 4.4Earths. I find that quite a sobering idea.

Links to the rest of this series of posts, Collapse, you say?
Collapse You Say, Part 1, Introduction, Tuesday, 30 June 2020
Collapse, you say? Part 2: Inputs and Outputs, Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Collapse, you say? Part 3: Inputs and Outputs continued, October 7, 2020
Collapse, you say? Part 4: growth, overshoot and dieoff, January 2, 2021

The War at Home

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 12, 2020


Discuss this article at the Geopolitics inside the Diner

The War at Home – Rebellion from Scott Noble on Vimeo

This is K-Dog.  With RE having health issues I'm stepping up to help keep the Diner going.  On my own website yesterday I posted a movie.  I'm bringing the video here for you to see.

Many of you know the history of our country is not exactly what we were taught in school.  Howard Zinn's 'A Peoples History of The United States' is a book that describes some of our hidden national history.  Oliver Stone's book with Peter Kuznick 'The Untold History of the United States' is another such book.  'A Renegade History of the United States' by Thaddeus Russell is a third.  The above film carries the tradition of these books forward.  Unless you are a professional historian with an interest in the U.S. labor movement, there will be things in this move you don't know about.  

I have long been a fan of Scott Noble. The film was only released yesterday.  I am on Scott Nobel's mailing list so I found out about his new movie right away.

America is divided, but not like 'never before'. Class struggle in recent decades has been invisible. The riches of progress blurred the dividing line between those who have and those who have not. Yet the structure of American Society has not changed. A small minority continues to control our economy and continues to make all important decisions.

It is common for dissidents to entirely blame our upper class for the oppression of the lower. At the time of the early footage in this film, I agree that was the situation.

I see things differently in our present circumstances. Without making excuses for the tyranny of corporate America people do have power to change things. Voting can bring change. Which is why like the old Soviet Union, America has a one party system. A system owned by our plutocracy. Over time the American Democratic Party became no more than Republican Lite.

Nothing prevents the rise of a new political party. A party that could create a just and fair nation based on principles of equity. A nation capable of dealing with the existential threat of climate change and resource depletion. Problems which no longer loom on the horizon. Problems which have arrived.

Far too many average people imagine themselves as impoverished members of the upper class. Such people dream of the day they will take a place in our plutocracy and exploit their neighbors. Evil is always with us. Unfortunately if justice does not gain serious traction now, if Americans do not re-discover values of truth and trust, misery will ruin America. Poverty and pestilence will dominate our lives with a totality never seen before. I say that with confidence because a species only goes extinct once.

A nation of haves and have-nots will not address existential threat. There is no common interest. That is the reason. If enough money will buy luxury while billions starve, we are in serious trouble.

Single payer health care would be a start. So would a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. Carbon credits are essential (Fee and Dividend with all proceeds distributed as a UBI). Denial of climate change must end.

If One is Good, is 2 Better?


Amputee Doomer


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  November 8, 2020

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As I am sure you have noticed if you are a Diner regular, my Blog and Vlog production has dropped off to near zero over the last few weeks.  This because I have been on an accelerating downhill health curve and finally had to bite the bullet, going the Full Monte with my right leg, which got hit first and hardest by Cellulitis.  3 weeks in hospital followed by 3 weeks in an extended care facility (torture facility) with daily very painful wound care failed to make any real progress, and shortly after returning home I began to experience extreme pain once again.  My electric wheel chair that I depended on to keep some semblance of normality and independence also crapped out on me about a week after I got home and I got stuck in my new hospital bed just like in the Torture Facility, except I had even less help at home.

So I finally called it quits and called 911 to send an ambulance and bring me back to hospital, pretty certain they would admit me and that the only solution was an amputation.  My hope was for a Below the Knee (BTK) saw job, but after an examination by the surgeon and his review of my records, he told me there really wasn't enough healthy tissue to safely cover the remaining limb and I would end up just having to return and do it all over again with an Above the Knee (ATK) cut.  Despite the fact this procedure ends witha much more difficult prosthetic, I agreed with his assessment of the situation and told him to go ahead and cut off the whole fucking thing.

I had the Wound Care dude shoot a couple of pics this week in the middle of a dressing change, so now you get your first look at an Amputee Doomer, with the Staples currently holding the skin together over a sewn together hamstring and quadracep muscle.  Normally right now this is currently covered all the time by lots of gauze and elastic bandage material.

The whole healing process for this is very long, before I can even be fitted for a prosthetic, and at the moment it is unclear how it is all going to get paid for, so this story has many more chapters to go, but most of them will not get written.  Even writing this short synopsis was quite difficult for me, and working up the energy to write it this week was a  trial, so don't expect too much coming off my keyboard for the forseeable future.

I have handed off primary responsibility for Admining the Diner Blog to Irv Mills and the Diner Forum is primarily being Moderated by K-Dog.  I am still Admin of our YouTube Channel at CollapseCafe.com, although like writing for the Blog I am unlikely to produce too much material for the forseeable future.  Just have to see how that goes.

I can't write this post without at least a passing reference to the recently completed POTUS Election, where Uncle Joe Biden has nominally been declared the victor over Donalditry Trumpovetsky, which is good although Uncle Joe won't be able to stop the trajectory of collapse plus he is nearly as corrupt as El Trumpo.  The main problem though is the race and the results were sufficiently close that die-hard Trumpovites will always claim the Dems cheated.  All sorts of interesting questions are out there, such as will he get prosecuted for tax fraud after leaving office in January?  It also leaves open the possibility he will run again in 2024 and spend the next 4 years crticizing the Dems and Uncle Joe, who are bound to screw up.

Anyhow, at least for now he won't get to ride in the new 747 Air Force 1 due for delivery I think in 2021. 🙂


Sing to the tune of "Refugee" by Tom Petty (parody lyrics coming eventually)


Collapse, you say? Part 3: Inputs and Outputs continued

gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Irv Mills

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on September 29, 2020

Renewable Energy


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Kincardine's breakwall awash in the waves

This is the second half of a post that I cut in two because it was just too long (6000+ words). If you haven't read the first half yet, it would be a good idea to do so—what follows will make more sense that way.

That first half finished with a discussion of the problems with fossil fuels as an energy source for our civilization. It's last paragraph is repeated below. Today, we'll go on from there, looking at other inputs that are problematical for our civilization.

Energy, renewable sources

But, you may say, if fossil fuels are no good what about renewable energy sources? There are large amounts of energy available from sources like hydro, biomass, wind, solar and so forth. And they don't involve adding more CO2 to the atmosphere—even biomass is only adding CO2 that was recently taken out of the atmosphere and will be taken out again as more biomass grows. A great many people today believe that renewables can replace fossil fuels and solve both our surplus energy and climate change problems. In fact, it has become very unpopular to challenge that idea, but I am afraid I must do just that.

The problems with switching over to renewable energy sources can be divided into three areas.

  • the political will to do so
  • the economic means to do so
  • the technical feasibility of doing so

Political Will

It is clear that we will have to switch to renewable energy sources if we wish to become sustainable. But it is also clear that, as we'll see in a moment in the section on technical feasibility, renewable energy sources will not be able to support the level of growth and consumption that many of us are accustomed to, and they certainly won't be able to extend that level of prosperity to the poorer parts of the world.

For the overwhelming majority of people, lifestyle is not negotiable. And our current lifestyle demands continued growth and ever increasing prosperity—consumption, convenience, comfort and entertainment. I haven't noticed anyone rioting for the sort of austerity measures that I believe a switch away from fossil fuels would require. So, any plan that can't provide continued material progress is unlikely to be seriously considered, much less implemented. Yes, of course, I realize that we could change our lifestyle, and indeed circumstances may well force us to do so. My point is that most of us don't want to change the way we live, and will resist any attempt to get us to do so.

Plans like the "Green New Deal", which promise to create jobs and stimulate economic growth while switching over from fossil fuels to renewables, are intended to be more palatable. But there is good reason to think they are not economically or technically possible. And, if they were seriously undertaken, they might well make things worse, requiring the consumption of even more fossil fuels in the huge construction project that this switch over would require. This would mean further increases in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and would make climate change even worse, bringing about collapse even more quickly. Certainly not what the Green New Deal promises, but what it is likely to deliver.

The Economic Means

The surplus energy problem that I spoke of last time, and the resulting continued economic contraction that is going on, make it seem unlikely that we will have the wherewithal for such a major construction project in the years to come—we are looking at spending trillions of dollars building solar panels, windmills, storage facilities and an enhanced grid. Most of which will only make the surplus energy problem worse.

Technical Feasibility

For me, this is the real deciding factor. Let's consider the technical problems with renewable energy sources in general and then have a look at the issues with specific types of renewables. This will make it clear why I think a switchover to renewables is simply not doable, without drastic changes to our lifestyle.

The current fossil fuel infrastructure—coal mines, oil and gas wells, shipping, rail cars, pipelines, refineries, storage, distribution and retail facilities, and the equipment we have set up to use those fuels—is actually quite compact, owing to the concentrated nature of those fuels. They contain a lot of energy in a small, light package, and this has been the key to their success.

Renewables are more diffuse and require extensive infrastructure to gather and concentrate them to the point where they are useful. Already we are seeing what I call "energy sprawl" spreading across the countryside in the form of wind turbines and solar panels. But the amount of energy we are getting from this sprawl is tiny compared to our total energy use.

The renewable energy that is being proposed as a solution (wind and solar, mainly) comes largely in the form of electricity. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the energy we use today is used in the form of electricity. The rest is used directly in the form of refined fossil fuels to power transportation and to supply heat for industrial processes, space heating and so forth. The two biggest obstacles are electrifying heavy transportation (trucks and ships), and using renewable power to provide heat for manufacturing things like steel and concrete.

Switching over to renewables not only requires us to build huge amounts (5 times more than we currently have) of electrical generation, all of it powered by renewable energy sources, but also that we switch our transportation fleets and industrial infrastructure over to use electricity instead of fossil fuels as a power source.

This a big job that the "powers that be" don't really seem very interested in undertaking, and there are large chunks of it that we don't even know how to do as yet. I'll borrow a term from the nuclear industry here: "paper reactors". Solutions that so far only exist on paper have a tendency to take longer than predicted to implement, and cost a lot more money than expected. Time and money are two things that we don't have in great supply these days.

The power grid, which in most areas is just barely coping with peak loads, will also have to be beefed up by a factor of five to cope with the switch over to an all electric economy. But using the electricity from renewables presents some significant problems for the grid. Our civilization treats the power grid as an infinite source of energy which is available 24/7. In order to provide this, the grid needs energy sources that are "dispatchable". That is, energy sources can be turned on and off at will and ramped up and down as needed to cope with varying loads. This is usually done using a combination of coal, oil, natural gas and hydroelectricity, all of which are to some extent dispatchable.

But wind and solar are anything but dispatchable. The wind blows when it will, and there are often long periods without any wind at all over large geographic areas. The sun shines only during the day, except when there is cloud cover, and solar panels are often be covered with snow in the winter. None of these variations corresponds in any way to the normal variations in load that the grid experiences. In fact, to make even small amounts of intermittent renewable energy fit into the grid, highly dispatchable energy sources like combustion turbines (jet engines connected to generators, burning jet fuel) must be left spinning on standby, ready to compensate instantly when renewables falter.

This hardly makes the grid any "greener" at all. One solution would be to have a way of storing electrical power which could then be used to fill in when renewables let us down. Pumped storage of water is one alternative that is a mature technology. Water is pumped uphill to a reservoir when surplus power is available and then runs down hill through turbines to generate power when extra is needed. The problem is scalability—there are limited locations where reservoirs exists at the top a large change in elevation and near a supply of water. Batteries or compressed air on the scale that is needed here so far only exist on paper, and further development seems likely to run up against some fundamental physical limits.

Even if all these issues can be solved, we'd end up with a grid that is less resilient and more complex—more susceptible to failure.

It should also be noted that equipment like wind turbines, solar cells and batteries have a limited life. This poses two problems—when they wear out, they have to be replaced, and the old equipment has to been gotten rid of. Hopefully recycled, but more likely just disposed of.

A late addtion: Bev, one of my regular readers, pointed out in the comments below something that I had failed to make clear: while the energy from renewables is renewable, the equipment itself is built with largley non-renewable materials, and using up the quantity of materials we are talking about will no doubt lead to new resource depletion problems. It also takes fossil fuels to build, deliver, install, operate, maintain, repair and eventually decommision that equipment. Someday we may be able to power some of those steps with renewables, but initially and for the foreseable future, it's hard to see if there is really any net reduction in the use of fossil fuels when you look at the whole process.

And finally, even if all the technical problems could be solved, wind and solar do not have very good EROEIs, and would make our surplus energy problem even worse.

To bring this all home, let's take a look at the specific forms of renewable energy that we might turn to if we want to get off fossil fuels.

Power from biomass, basically firewood, is a very mature technology, and it has many advantages. While it is produced only during the growing season, it can be harvested and stored for use during winter. It is quite dispatchable and its EROEI is reasonably high, depending on how far it has to be hauled from the forest to where it is going to be used. Unfortunately, it is not highly scalable, since it competes with agriculture for land at a time when we are struggling to grow enough food for the world's growing population.

Hydroelectric power is another mature technology, with good dispatchability and a high EROEI. It is somewhat seasonal and it is not very scalable since most good locations are already in use. Developing the few remaining feasible locations would mean flooding large areas of land with environmental consequences that we should likely see as unacceptable.

Wind power is quite scalable, but intermittent and not dispatchable at all. It's EROEI is in the high teens, which is borderline for our needs, and probably lower if you take storage facilities into account.

Solar power is quite scalable, but intermittent and not dispatchable at all. It's EROEI is quite low, in the mid single digits, less if storage facilities are included in your calculations.

Nuclear fission power is not really a renewable since it relies on finite supplies of fissionable fuel. If a nuclear powered economy is to keep growing, it will run out of fuel in a surprisingly short time, even if spent fuel from the current generation of reactors can be processed for use in newer reactors. Nuclear has limited dispatchability, being best suited to supply base load. It has pretty good scalability, except that it takes a long time to build new nuclear plants, and we would need a lot of them to replace fossil fuels. We must also overcome many political and safety issues before starting to build more nukes. Lastly, the EROEI of nuclear is around 9, largely due to the complexity and safety features involved, so it only makes the surplus energy problem worse.

Nuclear fusion power isn't renewable either, though it's fuel is much more common than fissionables. But it is a "paper technology"— usable fusion reactors have been "just thirty years in the future" since the middle of the twentieth century, and will likely always be so. If we did somehow find the money to finish developing this technology, it would be very expensive to build, and its EROEI would likely be very low due to its high degree of complexity.

All in all, this is not an encouraging picture. You can see why I am so doubtful about switching from fossil fuels to renewables. One the one hand we desperately need to get off fossil fuels to get climate change under control. On the other hand we desperately need fossil fuels (or the elusive "something equivalent") to supply surplus energy to maintain our growing economy and the lifestyles it enables.

I have no confidence that we will even try to address this seemingly unresolvable conflict, and that is one more reason that I am expecting collapse.

Further, as the weighted average of the EROEIs of all a civilization's energy sources declines it is not just economic growth that suffers, but also the ability to maintain infrastructure. This includes the ability to build high tech equipment, including things like solar panels and wind turbines. At some point, as our industrial civilization continues to collapse, we will find ourselves restricted to low tech renewables and unable to maintain a large scale power grid. We'll be forced to drastically reduce our consumption of energy, and to adapt our use of energy to the intermittency of the sources, rather than the other way around.

So far I have only addressed the problems with energy inputs to our civilization, but there are other inputs that also present significant challenges.

The Ecosystem, and ecosystem services

Figure 2, from my last post

The circle enclosing industrial civilization in the diagram above is misleading in that it would tend to suggest there is a boundary separating civilization from the environment, when it is really just another part of the environment. I have use a dashed line, hoping to indicated that many things flow freely between our civilization and its environment. There is a whole category of such things—inputs to our civilization—that we are absolutely dependent upon. Often referred to as "ecosystem services", these inputs are things we tend not to be aware of, in much the same way as fish are not aware of water.

They include breathable air, potable water, a reliable climate and moderate weather, arable soil, grasslands, forests and the animals living on/in them, waters and the fisheries they provide, and so on. These things are available to us free of charge and we would simply could not do without them.

It is important to understand that the ecosystem can only supply its services at a certain maximum rate—its carrying capacity. If we use those services at a higher rate, the ecosystem suffers and that carrying capacity is reduced. Many of the waste outputs of our civilization can also damage the ecosphere, again reducing its carrying capacity. And we continue to convert nature into farms, roads and cities, yet again reducing its carrying capacity.

This has created the current situation where we are temporarily in "overshoot", using more than 100% of the planet's carrying capacity. We are able to do this because there is a certain amount of stored capacity within the system. Drawing on that capacity has lulled us into a false sense of security. But rest assured, the situation is temporary and shortly the damage to the ecosphere will become obvious, and its declining ability to support us will have disastrous consequences.

To put some numbers on this, in the early 1970s when The Limits to Growth was published, we were using about 85% of the planet's carrying capacity. There was, at that point, at least hypothetically, an opportunity to put the brakes on economic growth and start living sustainably. Of course, we did not do so and now we are using around 165% of that carrying capacity. If we bring the poorer part of the world up to a standard of living similar to that of the developed nations, it would take about 500% of that carrying capacity to support the human race. Many suggest we should do exactly that, as a matter of social and economic justice.

It is hard to disagree with that, in and of itself. But long before this happens, of course, the ecosphere will have collapsed and suffered a drastic decrease in its carrying capacity.

Three factors are involved in our impact on the ecosphere: population, affluence (consumption) and technology. This can be represented by the equation I=PAT.

Population and affluence are politically sensitive subjects, so many people have focused on using technology to reduce our footprint. This is known as "decoupling", since the aim is to decouple rising population and consumption from their effects on the ecosphere, to allow growth to continue without having harmful effects. It turns out decoupling has not yet even begun and is very unlikely to ever be achieved. It is largely a myth. Here are a couple of links (1, 2), to articles that go into this in detail.

In addition to promoting myths about decoupling, those who do not wish growth to stop quibble about exactly what the planet's carrying capacity actually is and just how far into overshoot we currently are. This accomplishes nothing, since whatever that carrying capacity actually is, continued exponential growth will quickly take us past it into overshoot.

So it would seem we should do something about population and/or affluence. Population is such a hot button issue that one can hardly discuss it in polite company. Understandably so, since reducing population must involve either reducing fertility or increasing the death rate. Indeed people have been accused of being "eco-fascists" because they see the need to reduce our population, and look to the most populous areas as the first place to take action. I think "eco-fascist" is a reasonable term, since the most populous areas are also the poorest places on the planet and our impact on the ecosystem is the product of both population and affluence. In the developed world our consumption is so high that even though we have far fewer people, our impact is much larger than that of the poorer parts of the world.

Figure 3

As this chart (Figure 3) shows, the richest 10% of the planet's population does close to 60% of the consumption. The richest 20% does over 75% of it (17.6+59=76.6). So, reducing consumption in the more affluent parts of the world would be a good start to coping with our problems because it would immediately take us out of overshoot and give us some breathing room to address the damage we've been doing to the ecosystem.

Figure 4

As this revised consumption chart (Figure 4) shows, if we could reduce our consumption by 50%, it would reduce our ecological impact down to 82.5% of the planet's carrying capacity, while actually increasing the consumption level of the lowest seven deciles of the population, and only reducing the consumption levels of the top three deciles. This would seem to satisfy our yearning for social and environmental justice and significantly delay, if not prevent, collapse. But since the most affluent people, those in the tenth decile, are also in control of the situation, it seems unlikely that we'll make a serious attempt to implement that solution unless we are forced to do so by events beyond our control that bear a strong resemblance to collapse.

You may say that our population problem exists because our capacity to provide food has increased and our capacity to reproduce has responded, not the other way around. I don't disagree, but I don't think it is very useful to point that out. Deliberately cutting back on food production and letting people starve in order to reduce our impact on the ecosystem is morally repugnant. It is also not particularly effective since the poor would be effected first and they are not the major contributors to our impact on the ecosystem.

It has also been observed that as countries get richer, their birthrate goes down. Extrapolating current trends (including continued development in the developing nations), the UN calculates that our population will top out around 10 billion late this century and then begin to decline. They would tell you that all we have do is hang on until then and all will be well. But again, I disagree. Long before our population reaches 10 billion, especially if nothing is done to reduce our rate of consumption, the ecosystem will collapse and its carrying capacity will crash down to a level that can support only a tiny fraction of our present population. I think 10 to 20% would be an optimistic prediction.

Overuse of Fossil Water

This post is already quite a bit longer than I usually aim for, and I have only covered what I see as the most urgent input and output issues. There are many other areas that I haven't begun to cover, and which I will have to leave for another day. But there is one more input issue that I just can't leave out, and that is the depletion of fossil water.

Many of the important agricultural areas around the world rely on irrigation, and water for that irrigation is pumped out of fossil aquifers. That is, underground reservoirs that took hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate. The current rate of use is many times greater than the current rate of replenishment, and it is only a matter of time, and not much time, until they run dry.

The consequences for agriculture will seriously debilitate our civilization's ability feed us.

Summing it all up

We have seen again and again, from the start to the finish of this post, and the previous one, that resource depletion of various sorts, and depletion of the sinks into which we dispose of our wastes, seriously threaten our civilization. Any one of these issues is enough, all on its own, to compromise that civilization's ability to provide us with the necessities of life. In other words, to bring about collapse. And many of them interact in ways that just make the situation worse.

But inputs and outputs are not the whole story. The interior workings of our civilization are replete with issues that threaten its ongoing survival. Next time, we'll have a close look at some of those issues.

Links to the rest of this series of posts, Collapse, you say?


The Rehab Nightmare


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on October 18, 2020

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I'm on the cusp of leaving the succor and care of our medical industry for further adventures in Home Care, to see how "independent" I can actually remain before I need to be dumped full time into Assisted Care Living prior to buying my ticket to the great beyond.   Unfortunately there is no assisted suicide parlors around here, so my meat package has to go somewhere in this limbo-land between life and death.

I get released from the rehab facility Monday.  Not because I am healed, but because I have used up the 20 days Medicare pays for.  I am still in terrific pain and have no idea really how I will manage to continue to live on my own as we move along here.  I'll be getting some home health care, Physical Therapy and Wound Care amd I'll employ one of my UE neighbors for household tasks, but I'll still be on my own most of the time.  This is a good time to have a family to fall back on, but at the same time you don't want to leave this world remembered by your family as a dying burden either.  After a couple of years, family stop even coming to visit in the nursing homes.

I think the last 2 months have been a complete waste of time, money and subjection to pain I could have done without if they had simply amputated the leg at the beginning.  I am going to try to last another month with the Wound Care treatment plan, but I think before the month is up I will be looking at amputation as my Christmas Present.  I am quite sure I can get around much better on a prosthesis and it should get rid of the pain.

The Main Right Leg Wound

In most respects nowadays, I am already dead.  I don't have anything left to say I .haven't said already, and nothing I do say matters a whit as far as how the future will progress anyhow.   I did everything I am ever going to do in my life already, there are no new adventures to take for me anymore.  Everyone gets to this point eventually, I just made it here a little quicker than some of my peers,

In some respects though I am very much alive, I still consume food and produce waste and I still feel pain.  My entire life such as it is now just consists of eating, excreting, sleeping and living in pain.  Every day is worse than the day before, and I know the outcome, just not the actual end date.  Much like Collapse of course.  Collapse is an abstract thing happening at the social level though, whereas dying is a personal thing happening to YOU.  This makes it much harder to deal with.

The Diner of course is also dying a slow death here, and I no longer have the energy or the will to prop it up on my own.  I will still publish periodic blogs and vlogs as hopefully we get the pain under control, and I'll drop the occasional newz story here on the forum just in case anyone is around reading and wants to chew the collapse fat.

We all know what's coming now, it's all a done deal and everyone is pretty much concerned with their own personal problems in negotiating the end game here of industrial Civilization and the Empire of the Age of Oil.  As bad as Trumpovetsky was, there will be far worse in the future.  I am not interested in endlessly discussing the politics involved here, but this is the direction many people are taking as their focus during the end stages we are now immersed in.  So the Diner is basically obsolete now as a discussion platform for alternative living paradigms and living in a low per capita energy world of the future we are due for.

I hope all the remaining Diners periodically drop in to let us know how things are going for you and your loved ones.  It has been a great run here with this blog, I couldn't have lasted without it.  Thank you all.

COVID Care Comparison: Rich vs Poor


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on October 14, 2020

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Collapse, you say? Part 2: Inputs and Outputs

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on September 29, 2020

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Waves breaking along the Lake Huron shore—and this on a relatively quiet day.  

The title of this series of posts comes from the typical reaction you get when suggesting that our civiiization might be collapsing, "Collapse you say, surely not!" In my last post I said that I am convinced it is already happening or at least will happen at some point soon. Then I went on to explain what I mean by collapse—the process by which a civilization declines in its ability to provide the necessities of life to its members, the end result being that people are forced to fend for themselves or perish.

It seems to me that this is in fact happening today—that for all but a tiny minority at the "top", things are getting continually worse. The how and why of this process is the subject of this post and the ones that follow it.

The means of production and distribution that provide us with the necessities of life in modern industrial civilization require certain inputs and produce certain outputs. Today I want to the look at the problems posed in acquiring those inputs and disposing of those outputs.

I would guess that it's clear that by inputs I mean the energy and materials required to make the things we need. But what I mean by outputs may be less clear. I am not referring to the goods that are produced from the inputs, but the waste products produced in the process and the garbage that is left over when we are done using those goods.

But why should these inputs and outputs constitute problems?

Conventional thinking has our civilization in a box, separate from our planet and its ecosphere. The inputs (energy and materials) our civilization uses come from sources that are seen as essentially infinite and the outputs (waste heat and waste materials) are discharged into sinks that are also seen as being essentially infinite in size. Given all that, no reason is seen for progress—economic growth in this context—not continuing for the foreseeable future. This way of looking at things typifies some of the blind spots of modern thinking on economics and business.

Figure 1

Figure 1 illustrates what I am talking about. As long as there were relatively few people on our planet, and they weren't consuming excessively, it's easy to see how we might have looked at things this way. But now that we are well on our way to filling up the planet—or more likely well beyond that point—this is no longer valid. And sure, many people are aware that this is a very unrealistic picture, but the people who are running things, even those who verbally acknowledge the realities, continue to act as if there are no limits built into the system. In a future post we'll look at why this is so, but for now it suffices to say that it truly is the case.

Figure 2

Figure 2 is a different diagram, which provides a more realistic depiction of things as they exist today.

First of all, our civilization exists on a finite planet, entirely within that planet's ecosphere, with no real separation from it (note the dashed border). Our inputs are taken from that finite source and our wastes are discharged back into that same finite space, used as a sink for waste heat and all our material wastes. This has some truly nasty consequences.

Inputs and outputs come in two forms: energy and materials. Energy flows from more concentrated to less concentrated forms, and regardless of where it comes from, is eventually radiated away from the planet as waste heat. Because of this, at any one level, we only get to use energy once. Materials stay around and can be reused, but generally change from more organized forms to less organized, (and less useful) forms as time passes.

For the planet itself, on the relatively short timescales we are considering, the only significant inputs and outputs are in the form of energy—sunlight in and waste heat out. This means that the planet isn't a closed system and incoming energy can be used to arrange matter into more complex forms, converting the energy used to a less concentrated form in the process. That's the good news—the rest of the news is bad.


Let's look at outputs first, since that will make it easier to understand some of the problems with inputs. As I said, the outputs I am talking about are the wastes from processes within our society, and the garbage left over when we are done with the products of those processes. We simply throw these things away, but the trouble is that there is no such place as "away". The sinks into which we dispose of wastes are part of the very same environment where we get our inputs from, so this is much like shitting in our own nest. And in a great many cases it is not necessary at all. Many of these end products could, with relatively little effort, be fed back into the processes, and not treated as "wastes" at all.

That we haven't "circularized" our use of materials is a really bad sign. Why we continue to do this is inherent to the internal workings of our civilization and I'll go into the details of that in a future post. For now it is sufficient to understand that as long as that civilization exists in its present form, it's outputs will continue to be a problem.

There are a great many different types of pollution, but for our purposes today I'll concentrate on two particular type of waste—carbon dioxide and methane.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced in the burning of fossil fuels and biomass, and in the processes we use to make things like steel and concrete, essential building materials of our civilization. CO2 is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and consequently climate change, and is also the cause of ocean acidification.

Methane (natural gas, CH4) has been touted as a replacement for coal and oil since it gives off less (but not zero) CO2 when burned. But it is an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Between the wellhead and where it is used a great deal of methane leaks into the atmosphere—probably enough to overshadow any reduction in CO2 released by burning natural gas instead of other fossil fuels. Methane is also produced during the decay of organic matter and by the digestive systems of many animals. Warming due to climate change is releasing methane currently trapped in permafrost and in methane clathrate hydrates at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, further intensifying the warming process.

Ocean acidification the lesser known evil twin of climate change, occurs when CO2 is dissolved in water. An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes. Some of it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid. Some of the resulting carbonic acid molecules dissociate into a bicarbonate ion and a hydrogen ion, thus increasing ocean acidity (H+ ion concentration).

Increasing acidity is thought to have a range of potentially harmful consequences for marine organisms such as depressing metabolic rates and immune responses in some organisms and causing coral bleaching. A net decrease in the amount of carbonate ions available may make it more difficult for marine calcifying organisms, such as coral and some plankton, to form biogenic calcium carbonate, and such structures become vulnerable to dissolution. Ongoing acidification of the oceans may threaten food chains linked with the oceans.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the last two paragraphs.)

These are food chains that we sit at the top of, with many people, especially in poorer nations, relying heavily on seafood for protein.

Climate change has been in the news a lot lately, with a wide range of people expressing concern about its negative effects on our future. If, despite this, you are still a doubter or denier, you're in the wrong place on the internet, and need not bother leaving any comments. In my experience, if you scratch a climate change denier, you will find beneath the surface a rich person who is worried about losing their privilege.

So, climate change is real and it is driven by increases in greenhouse gases (CO2 and CH4 among others) in the atmosphere which cause the planet to retain more of the sun's heat. It has also been called "global warming", since it causes the overall average temperature of the planet to going up. The high latitudes in particular are already experiencing temperature increases. Eventually this is going to cause enough melting of glaciers to make for a significant increase in sea level.

In the meantime, climate change is also causing more frequent and heavier storms, which combined with even small increases in sea level, are causing a lot of damage along the oceans' shores. Such storms are also causing more frequent and serious flooding of many rivers.

Climate change is also intensifying droughts in many other areas, and in some of those areas this is leading to wild fires.

How does all this tie into collapse?

Storm surges, high winds, river flooding and wild fires are doing a great deal of damage to human settlements, at a time when our economy is struggling and the added cost of rebuilding can scarcely be afforded. Especially since we tend to rebuild in the same areas, leaving rebuilt settlements just as exposed as they were before.

The effects of climate change on agriculture are even more serious. In the ten or so millennia since we started practicing agriculture the climate on this planet has been particularly friendly to that endeavour. Farmers have been able to count on reliable temperatures and rainfall. This is now starting to change and as the rate of that change picks up over the coming decades, it is going to be very challenging to adapt to. This at a time when we are struggling to keep up to the demands of a growing and ever more affluent population for food and when there is little left in the way of wilderness to expand our farms into.

Even if climate change was the only problem we faced, it is serious enough to place the continued survival of our species into question. We are facing, to quote Jem Bendell, "inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction."

The threat of climate change is serious enough that most people who worry about such things at all are concentrating on it alone. Unfortunately, they are largely ignoring looming problems with the inputs required by our civilization.


The problem with inputs is "resource depletion". We live on a finite planet and we can really access only a small part of it—the lower part of the atmosphere, the oceans and a few thousand feet at the top of the crust. Within that volume, there are finite supplies of the resources that we rely on.

Several problems result from the way we access and use those resources.

We generally access the lowest hanging fruit first. This means that the most convenient, easily accessible and highest quality resources get used up first. That makes sense as far as it goes, but it means as time goes by we are forced to use less easily accessible and lower quality resources. This takes more energy and more complex equipment, and is more costly.

Many of the resources we rely on are non-renewable—there is a finite amount of them on this planet, and "they" aren't making any more. Further, we use them in very wasteful ways. It is important to be aware here that, even at best, there is always some irreducible waste in our use of any resource, but currently we tend to make things, use them once and throw them "away". This means that depletion of many resources is happening thousands of times more quickly than it really needs to, and as I said in the section on outputs, that waste is accumulating in the environment.

Some of the resources we use are renewable, but the processes by which they are renewed work at a limited rate. We are using many of these so called renewable resources at greater than their replacement rate, and so they too are becoming depleted.

Conventional economists will tell you that when a resource starts to get rare, its price goes up, encouraging the development of substitutes. This is true to some limited extent, but many of the most critical resources simply have no viable substitutes. Not unless we are willing to make significant and unwelcome changes to the way we live.

At this point, we should look at some specific resources and the unique problems each of them presents.

Energy, Fossil fuels

Despite what conventional economists would tell you, energy (not money) is actually the keystone resource for our economy. Nothing happens inside our civilization without energy as an input and degraded energy (waste heat) as an output. Money functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account and a store of value, all of which is very useful, but energy is what makes the economy function and grow. About 80% of that energy currently comes from fossil fuels (primarily coal, oil and natural gas). The remaining 20% comes from sources that we can only access using equipment that is both made using fossil fuels and powered by them.

So, our civilization is utterly dependent on having a cheap and abundant supply of fossil fuels. "Peak Oil" enthusiasts have been saying for decades now that we'll soon run out of oil and things will come to a grinding halt. In fact, though, there are still large quantities of hydrocarbons to be found in the earth's crust, so you might ask, "What's the problem?"

Well, there are two problems with continuing to burn fossil fuels.

One is the consequences for the climate of burning hydrocarbons and releasing ever larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is a very serious problem, for which we are having trouble finding and implementing any sort of solution.

The other problem, I'll be calling it "the surplus energy problem", is in many ways more complex and more serious.

Because we use various forms of technology to access energy, many people think that technology makes energy, and with improved technology we can always make more energy. Or, in this case, access the difficult to access hydrocarbons that currently remain in the ground. But in fact, the opposite is true—technology uses energy and won't work without it.

The energy that remains after we've powered the processes used to acquire that energy is referred to as "surplus energy." For instance, the technology used to drill oil wells and pump crude oil out of the ground uses energy. Back in the day, it used to take the energy equivalent of about one barrel of oil to get 100 barrels of oil out of the ground, leaving a surplus energy equivalent to 99 barrels of oil. This is usually expressed as "Energy Returned on Energy Invested" (EROEI), in this case 100/1, giving an EROEI of 100. Another way of looking at this is to talk about the Energy Cost of Energy (ECoE). In this case that would be 1/100, or 1%. Note that both these numbers are just bare numbers without units, and most significantly without a dollar sign in front of them. The "money cost" of energy is another thing entirely and since it is influenced by speculation on future supply and by fluctuations in demand (as we have seen in 2020 during the pandemic) it is not a reliable indicator of the actual cost of energy in energy terms, or the future availability of energy.

Conventional oil discoveries have not been keeping up with depletion for some time and our use of conventional oil actually peaked in the last few years. So we have been forced to switch to lower quality and more difficult to access sources. Conventional oil today has an EROEI ranging from 10 to 30. Tight oil and gas (from fracking), heavy oil and the "dilbit" (diluted bitumen) made from tar sands all have EROEIs less than 5, or ECoEs of 20% or greater.

"So what?" you might say. As long as the net amount of energy available is sufficient to power our civilization, what's the problem? Well, it's not just the amount of energy available from any particular source that really counts, but the EROEI. Or more precisely the weighted average of the EROEIs of all the various energy sources an economy uses. That number needs to be around 15 or more to keep that economy growing.

When the average EROEI goes below 15, growth slows and eventually stops and it becomes difficult to raise enough capital to even maintain existing infrastructure. Why our civilization needs to grow is a topic for another day, but it certainly does. This is what most people are missing about energy. Yes, a country can use debt to finance access to low EROEI energy resources in order to keep the economy going. But only for a while, until its economy contracts to the point where things begin to fall apart. This is certainly the case in the US. Fracking has made sufficient energy available, at what seems like a reasonable dollar price, but the real economy is mysteriously contracting, and debt is continually growing. Both economists and politicians, while putting on a brave face, are hard pressed to do anything about it, because they don't understand the surplus energy problem.

As we saw in the section on "Outputs", there are pressing reasons not to continue burning fossil fuels. But even if that were not the case, it would not be possible to continue running a growth based industrial civilization on the low EROEI fossil energy sources now available to us. For this reason alone, collapse seems like a sure thing to me, and I would say it has been underway since oil production in the continental U.S. peaked in the early 1970s.

But, you may say, what about renewable energy sources? Like non-conventional fossil fuels there are large amounts of energy available from sources like hydro, biomass, wind, solar and so forth. A great many people today believe that renewables can replace fossil fuels and solve both our surplus energy and climate change problems. In fact it has become very unpopular to challenge that idea, but I am afraid I must do just that.

This post ened up at over 6000 words long, enough to try the patience of even my most loyal readers. So I have split it in two at this point, leaving the second half for my next post, which will pick up from here and cover renewable energy sources, ecosystem services and fossil water.

Links to the rest of this series of posts, Collapse, you say?


Industrial Civlization in Intensive Care: The Generational Blame Game


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on October 7, 2020

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Before going on to the closing act of this ran't, I just want to express my thanks to the Lurkers and Viewers who don't post up much but when they do contribute they carry a Big Stick and they don't do it for the accolades or attention.  Today's thanks go out to a Lurker from Poland and to another Krippled Kollapsnik doing the ExPat Tango down in Old Mejico.  They are probably among the most financially challenged Diners, yet they gave among the largest of Donations this weekg.  One thing you will always find true is that the poorer someone is, the more generous they are.

OK,  let's get back and close out the rant.







Industrial Civilization Collapse from Intensive Care: Trumpovetsky gets COVIDified


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on October 5, 2020

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See the source imageIn a long awaited and expected irony, the Denier-in-Chief has been diagnosed with Coronavirus. Trophy Wife Melania has as welll, and so apparently has about half the White House staff. Former NJ Gubernator Chris Christie has it and a whole Gaggle of Senators running for re-election do also . The main question is who will drop dead before election day, and also whether you can vote for a corpse?

At the left here you see a Photo Op for TEN of The Donald's doctors, possibly more including docs who got cropped out of the pic.  Out here in the rel world of the not rich, not famous and not politically powerful, you don't even have 10 CNSs ("Certified Nurse Assistant") per patient, in fact just the opposite, each CNA has about a dozen patients to shuttle around to for changing bedding, cleaning shit buckets and so forth.  At my current Jazzed up nursing facility, these folks aen't even the lowest on the totem pole, we have something called "Neighborhood Helpers" who are below them.  This because apparently not enough people are qualified to make it through a 2 week training class to learn how to change your sheets and properly wipe your ass with Shield disinfectant wipes.

Any given facility of this type has exactly ONE MD or DO nominally "in charge" as Medical Director, and then a couple of Nurse Practitioners and/or Physician's Assistants who also can write prescriptions a pharmacy will fill.  The Nurses themselves work usually 12 hour shifts 3 days a week and they basically cruise around non-stop with a cart, make copious and formula notes to your chart   and then head off to the next COVID patient room to Rinse & Repeat.

At the end of your 12 hour half-day shift you strip off the layers of PPEand hope not to bring home the dreaded virus to your Kindergarten age Girl Scout Brownie and your HS age Quarterback with his first shot at making the Starting Team in a neighborhood where NOTHING is of greater propriety than football.

As for me, I am still doing the Fundraiser for my Hospital Bed for when I hopefully get released out of here at the end of the month.  $300 raised so far, $1900 to go!

View of Industrial Civilization from Intensive Care


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on October 4, 2020

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I have been recording vids while on my Death Bed here in Hospital but do not have my editing software on this computer nor do I have energy to edit the vids if I did have it.  Just working up the energy to gfet the camera rolling and look cheery is a major effort. So I am just going to drop the raw vids on the Diner once or twice a week to catch up on the latest bullshit happening in the world surrounding my hydraulically powered bed. You may or may not find the stuff interesting.

In Good Newz but not covered as of yet in this video is the fact Trumpovetsky has joined me in Hospital, now diagnosed with COVID-19.  This is the ultimate irony of course, the Denier-in-Chief himself coming down with the disease, in fact a strong enough case to already require Oxygen, so the NYT reports.  Assuming he does survive, does this help him or hurt him in the election?  Will the Repugnants run Pensky if El Trumpo is too sick during the rest of the campaign?

Don't forget to make your contribution to the Diner Get Well Soon RE PayPal button so I can order my new bed for my digs before they kick me out of here on October 20th. 🙂  Medicare only pays for the first 20 days in the Advanced Care Nursing faciity, after that first I have a co-pay pf $176/day, then it goes up to the full freight of $985/day.  I will not be staying here to have my piddling savings account bled dry in here this way.

Sick of Collapse


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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on September 27, 2020

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If you're not a regular Diner frequenting the tables inside our establishment, you may not know quite how BAAAAD my health problems actually are just from my Utoob vids where I try tlo put a bright and cheery face onto the Collapse of Industrial Civilization.  No Cheery Face this week; not too many jokes either.  Reason is I came in for a landing at the Mat-Su Valley Regional Medical Center nearly 3 weeks ago and have been stuck ever since.  As Hospitals go, it's a good one, but Hospitals are a lousy place to finish out your life.

After a decade of following the progress of the Collapse of Industrial Civilization on the DoomsteadDiner.net and the CollapseCafe.com Utoob Channel, my body and physiology is starting to violently rebel against the non-stop flow of BULLSHIT being pitched at us by our "Leaders" on a daily basis. OK, to be fair this diagnosis has not been verified by any "doctors" currently treating my symptoms and failing epically to pave a smooth trip for me into the Great Beyond. However, many Diners have been showing a variety of symptoms of Collapse Sickness. The road ahead does not look good.

The view from my Hospital bed

My particular road requires a new machine, a Hospital Bed of my own for my digs so I don't have to die in this God Forsaken place or some Assisted Care Nursing Facility.  So I am out here BEGGING for money again to buy this bed with all the hydraulics which will cost me $2000 + $200 for delivery and assembly.  No donation is too small!  I'll also need to hire in Cripp;e Helpers more often than I have been over the last few months.  Medicare MAY pay for a PT 2 a week for a while, not sure how that one will go yet.  I'll be negotiating this next week with the Social Workers from my Hospital Offfice. lol.  My goal is to get out of here by Friday Oct 1st but I'm not counting on it by any means.  That is a very optimistic estimate.

Hopefully I can make the seat transfers from the bed to the Cripple Cart and the Cripple Cart to the Toilet and Office Chair.  That is my big current challenge, to do those all without assistance.  My Right Leg presnts the biggest challenge to standing up, it simply will not straighten again, no matter how many excruciating exercises I do courtesy of the PT  (Physical Therapist, Pain Today, Pure Torture).  Every day one of them comes in with a big smile and tells you how great you are doing and how much improvement you are making while you scream in agony at the latest exercize to do.

My symptoms of Collapse Sickness are relatively unique to me, but just about all the Diners show some sort of symptoms these days.  Depression is common, as is Denial.  Diners who have been friends and observers of Collapse for a Decade have turned on each other in a cannaballistic frenzy.  This for me has been the most painful aspect of Late-Stage Collapse, even more painful than the exercizes the PTs come up with for you to do with big rubber bands and broom handles.  I think many of even the most dedicated Doomers did not really want to accept that Collapse would arrive in their own lifetimes, and now they choose to blame the other Kollapsniks for the pain that has arrived at their doorsteps.

Close the Skoolz

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on March 9, 2020


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Because dead people can't teach students to spell. If the point is to teach students to spell, dead people can't do it. The same goes for teaching anything at all. Dead people can't teach. What is hard to figure out about this?

The summer could have been spent figuring out how to pair educated and unemployed Americans with students furloughed by COVID-19. Doing this would eliminate problems caused by remote learning and keep lives moving ahead. Like lives matter.

The knee-jerk solution, remote learning, by itself has serious problems. The biggest problem is the mere suggestion of remote learning causes a person to think the problem is solved. Techno-narcissism creeps in and stops thought. Today we have remote learning and tomorrow we will have Mars. It takes a strong mind not to go fantastical. Particularly if you are an educated person who has used the internet to acquire a skill or two or three. You think everyone can do it and you don't see that you are unique, special and hooked up. You are also likely to think that there is no problem technology can't solve.

Remote learning is part of a solution for doing education in a pandemic but it is not a one size fits all solution. Distance learning panders to a connected elite in the same way mail-in voting does but more so. Part of a solution under the circumstances but far from ideal. A minimum computer literacy, which many students do not have, is required for remote learning to work. Those most in need are the least capable.

Schools as a COVID-19 Petri dish is a true fact even to those who deny that COVID-19 even exists. A rational person can be perhaps slightly forgiven for the current situation since the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been contained by September seemed crazy in May. Sadly we live in crazy times, and we are now in crisis. Paring educated and unemployed Americans with students furloughed by COVID-19 leads to small classes which by their size, contain COVID-19 infection.

Thinking about what to do about schools in September was put on hold. According to President Trump America will panic if they find out that we are in a COVID-19 pandemic. Trump's solution thus has been to pretend COVID-19 does not exist and that it will just go away someday. Obeying the impulse to follow the herd, America continued to assume it had a leader all summer long. Easily seduced America trusted in the miracle of remote learning. In both cases trust has been misplaced. Everything goes away and soon enough we are all dirt. Knowing this and knowing that it is the POTHUS job to protect the nation, I find the Trump reassurance disgusting.

Small class sizes so outbreaks can be contained. An obvious answer and one which in a time of no leadership is ignored. A national program using the forcibly retired and unemployed. Homeschooling at the local instead of the family level of implementation. This is and continues to be, a valid solution. Perhaps the only solution. A solution which could be deployed now as early as January.

Elite leadership made the mistake of pretending that the COVID-19 problem does not exist. Getting classes up and running in the fall because of the choice made in the spring is nonsense now. Countries which took appropriate action can recover somewhat. It may be safe to have coffee in a Rome Café now because Italy locked down. Not so in America which made no progress in eliminating their COVID-19 problem with any national lockdown. In America money has been far more important than lives and this continues to be true. COVID-19 remains someone else's problem in America. It is an exceptional point of view which on the scales of cosmic justice does not balance.

I realize an effort to create a New Deal style program of citizen teachers has no chance of being adopted by the major US political parties. It would empower people far beyond any mainstream Democrat or Republican level of comfort. I write this knowing that America will continue to choose ignorance because this is a 'write' thing to do.

The Last Steak Supper

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  on September 6, 2020

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I toyed with many different titles for this article from "A Tale of Two Steaks" to "Birthday in Collapse", but in the end it got the title at the top due to some unforseen circumstances which came after I did the recordings and shot the pics.  More on that in a bitt.

This week marked the beginning of my 64th year walking the earth as a meat package in this iteration of my immortal soul..  Many ups & downs through the years, some of which veteran Diners know from prior birthday articles and autobiographical ones as well.  One consistent joy for me through all the years and trials & travails was FOOD, both eating it and cooking it.  I love fine restaurants, although of course these days you can hardly find an open one.  Not to mention up here where I live "Fine Food" is pretty much relegated to Pizza and Chicken Wings.  lol.  OK, to be fair there are a couple of decent restaurants here in the Mat-Su Valley, but they ain't Lutece or Smith & Wollensky in NY Shity.

Brazilian Steakhouse Meal - Rio Grande Churrascaria | Groupon Of all the food I loved to cook and eat through the years, one stands out as #1.  STEAK! "Beef.  It's what's for Dinner."  In Brasil we had the great Churrascarias (Brazilian BBQ), and when we returned I started BBQing on a little Cast Iron Hibachi in the backyard of our McMansion in Queens.  After the divorce of my parents, when my Dad had me on the weekends for his visitations, every once in a while he would take me to Tad's Steajhouse in NYC.  Pretty decent steak grilled over an open flame for around $2 at the time as I recall.

So to celebrate my arrival here on the Big Blue Marnle 63 years ago I decided I would cook up a restaurant quality STEAK Dinner worthy of Delmonico's or any of the other great steakhouses around the world, generally located in the Big Shities where they can charge the customers through the nose for them.  As it turned out I ended up making not one but two STEAK dinners, one for just me on my actual birthday,  the other a couple of days later for a neighbor and his family.

Flannery Beef - Midwestern Dry Aged Prime Rib Roast - Midwestern - USDA  Prime Beef - Butcher For a great restaurant quality STEAK, you have to start with a great piece of Cow Flesh, generally USDA Prime, although sometimes a Choice cut is about as good if you find a good one.  AVOID Select except for Stews unless you like chewing Shoeleather.  Of course if you really wanna pay through the nose you can go for Wagyu beef, but I can't see spending THAT much money on a STEAK dinner.  I'm not a Billionaire of course.

Anyhow, over the course of the year whenever I saw a great cut of meat at a great price at 3 Bears, I would buy it and stick it in my chest freezer.  For the dinner I cooked for myself, I pulled out a Filet Migon and prepared it in real Gourmet style as Steak Au Poivre.  That's the cooking video at the top of the page.  If you want to see a SPECTACULAR flambe, do not miss this vid!  lol.

For the family dinner with the neighbors, I had scored a FABULOUS Standing Rib Roast whick I intended to cook for the Community for the Summer Solstice,but unfortunately COVID-19 jumped in and my Mobile Restaurant plans for this summer hadda be scrapped.  So it hung out in the freezer a couple of more months until I found enough people to cook it for and a Celebration WORTHY of such a lovely piece of a Dead Cow.  My Birthday definitely qualified as worthy. 🙂

Now, many ecologically aware Kollpsniks are vehemently against eating meat, for all sorts of reasons.   You have your traditional Vegans, Religions which are against it, animal rights activists who feel thiis is cruelty to animals and climate activists worried about Cow Farts and resource depletion.  Raising beef for the dinner table uses up a lot of water and land..

Predicting Mars Cuisine: Grasshoppers with a Side of Fungi | Space Also true is we can't possibly feed the current global population the way Amerikans have become accustomed to, with a Hamburger Joint in every Strip Mall,  There's just not enough arable land and water around to do that.  The most likely candidate for animal protein in the Homo Sap diet moving forward into the Collapse future are insects, which really can be quite good.  Grasshoppers and Mealworms are pretty good, at least if prepared well.

There is the other side of the coin though,which is that Homo Saps have been Omnivores ever since we dropped down out of the trees a few million years ago.  We are geared to eat a mixed diet of veggies and animals, which makes us very resilient as a species.  Given the choice, most HS would choose Filet Mignon or Prime Rib over Grasshoppers & Mealworms.

There is aso the acculturation aspect.  I have been cooking and eating STEAK basically my entire life.  I like it!  Now at 63 years old with one foot already in the grave I should switch to a Vegan diet when there is stiil plenty of top quality beef  in the refrigerated  meat department at 3 Bears?  This will save the world?  OF COURSE IT WON'T!  This will go on until it can't, and all the animal rights protests won' change that.  If I don't eat that STEAK, somebody else will or it will get thrown out.  The cow is already dead.  This is an utterly useless for of trying to improve the world and Homo Sap behaviors.

Now let us move on to the STEAKS themselves, which both were among the most perfectly done I have ever cooked, which you should be able to get a good idea of from the pics. 🙂  Well seaasoned and super juicy too!  Sadly, I couldn't eat more than a couple of bites from either one straight out of the stove/oven and hot like you would get it in a restaurant.  My appetite and ability to eat has once more taken a vacation/crash.  So most of my portions went in the fridge for leftover meals.

In terms of The Cooking Zone YouTube channel, the Steak au Poivre video is likely the last one I will do for quite some time, because my physical collapse has taken a rapid and marked turn for the worse over the last 2-3 weeks.  Now, I not only cannot Walk, , but I can't even stand up or do some seat transfers.  My legs are horribly swollen and extremely painful.  So I cannot stand in the kitchen to cook, and doing it from my Ewz is not at all practical.  I am now subsisting on Frozen TV Dinners, Canned Soups and Fritos. lol.  For the record, this stuff is almost all Vegan.  Pasta dishes for the frozen, Minestrone soup and Fritos are of course just Corn Chips.  I have them with Bean Dip or Salsa, also both Vegan friendly.

I now can no longer avoid going into Hospital, and if I make it out of there alive, then into some sort of assisted living arrangement.  I would rather go to a Euthanasia Clinic, but sadly I don't think they exist here.  I will look into an Assisted Suicide.  I think it's legal in Oregon.  I'm too big a coward to do it myselft, and I would probably fuck it up.

So I am likely to be quite scarce around the Diner as time progresses here, although I will bring my laptop to hospital as I usually do and report from there. I fully expect to be admitted.  I will be shocked if I am not, although there may be a shortage of beds due to Coronavirus.

It is fitting here that my own personal Collapse so closely matched the timeline with Industrial Civilization Collapse.  About the only thing I missed here is the Zombie Apocalypse and Global Thermonuclear War.  Not sorry to miss those.

Take care of the Diner for me, I will drop enough money on the server to keep it running for a couple of years after I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond.

Food Preservation in Collapse: Cheesemaking

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  August 30, 2020

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Candles in Collapse

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  August 23, 2020

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More  from Irv Mills and me on Collapse & Emergency Prepping, this time in the area of Heating & Lighting.

School Lunchrooms: A COVID Petri Dish

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  August 16, 2020

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Companion article to come later tonight or tomorrow.hopefully.  I am too wrecked right now to write, it's been a rough couple of days here.

Some Old White Cripples Once Could Jump

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  August 9, 2020

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Tihs post fits under the category of my autobiographical articles which covered various parts of my life.  The longest of these was the 5 part Over the Road series of articles which covered my years in the Trucking industry, but there have been many others, covering my early years in Brazil, my years at Stuyvesant HS in NYC and my years at Columbia University as well.  I have however neglected one period of my life, the 'tween' years between when I returned from Brazil around age 10 until I headed off on the #7 Flushing Line Subway to Stuyvesant at age 13 or so.

There are a couple of reasons I am writing this post now.  One is that at this time of year, every year, I get nostalgic for the days of my youth, when I was a fast and very coordinated athlete. My birthday rolls around at the end of the month.   That's me in the pic at the left, doing a backflip in the South of France around age 29 as I recall.  Kinda hard to believe that is the same guy you see in the video above in the Header here. The Cripple who can now barely make the walk from his Cripple Cart and pretend to take a shot at the Basket.  It's hard for me to believe it myself actually.  It was Long Ago & Far Away in another Galaxy.  But so it goes, age and living hard and fast take its toll on your Meat Package, and I have done some serious damage to mine over the years, so now I get to pay the price for that.

The other more proximal reason for this post is what went on Inside the Diner on our Forum over the past 3 monts or so.  Two of the longest Diners got in a row over a Political topic they both have strong opinions on, from opposite sides of the Political Spectrum.  Basically it was about Social Justice Warriors (SJW) and Black Lives Matter (BLM).  For a good 3 months, the forum discussion was monopolized by this dispute, which became ever more vitriolic over time as neither of these ideologically pure combatants would give an INCH on the topic.  As the verbal Napalm began to flow ever more freely off both keyboards, it became nothing less than emabarassing.  Embarassing for the 2 authors of these posts which became ever more juvenile and began to resemble the commentariat of The Burning Platform back in 2010,  embarassing for the Diner because it completely took the discussions off Collapse and onto this sub-topic, and embarassing for me because I did not put a stop to it sooner.  The final straw for me came when I got this message in my e-mail:

"Can you please get these two jerks to shut the fuck up on the racism stuff?  I visit the Diner to read about the latest news in collapse, not about racial politics.  Usually you guys have done a good job with this, but I'm not going to come back here anymore if this keeps going."

I myself felt exactly the same way, *I* no longer enjoyed visiting the forum myself!  So that did it for me, I decided to use the Power of Admin to squash this shit out, no matter what the consequences.  The consequences were that  BOTH of them went Walkabout and no longer post to the Diner Forum, and say they never will again.  I suspect both of them will also blame me for this outcome, which was entirely of their own making.

One of the biggest ironies here and what brought me to the topic of Basketball was because both the combatants attempted to justify their positions with anecdotal stories along the lines of "some of my best friends are/were Black".  "I grew up as a Poor White Boy in TX, and worked with all Blacks in a factory".  "I had a co-worker who was a Black Panther back in the 60's".  etc.  On both sides, these stories are not statistically relevant arguments and justify nothing.

What this did do though was bring back in my memories the years I spent playing Hoops on the playgrounds of NY Shity.  Returning from Brazil at age 10, I really was only good at 1 Team Sport, Futbol (aka Soccer here in the FSoA) which was none too popular at that time here.  I played with almost all Black Boys from the Favelas back then.  In NYC at the time, the New York Knicks were a dominant team, with Willis Reed at Center, Dave Debuscherre & Bill Bradley at Forward, Earl Monroe & Walt Frazier in the backcourt and Phil Jackso the "6th Man" who could play any position at all and came in as regualar substitute.  A very nicely integrated Black/White team of the era.  So I decided I would learn to play Basketball.

Which I did, playing by myself usually in my school playgrpunds, mostly filled with White kids because our neighborhood was almost all Irish & Italian.  It was not until my Junior High years that I found out all the REALLY GOOD  hoops players were in the BLACK neighborhoods!  So once I FINALLY got permission from my mom to ride my bike to Jamaica (another neighborhood in Queens but mostly populated by Blacks) I would ride over there and sit on the ground watching mostly, because for at least the first half dozen or so times I went there I never got picked for a game.

This for 2 reasons basically.

#1-  I wasn't Black, I was White.  Usually I was one of the only White boys on the playground at all.

#2-  I am not Tall, and Hoops is in general a Tall Meat Package game.

So I suffered "Reverse Discrimination" in 2 areas, one because of my Skin Color, the other because I was Altitude Challenged.  This sort of discrimination though is obviously nothing compared to economic descrmination as you reach adulthood for a Black kid.  You do get some sense of it though.

Finally I got picked to play in a 3 on 3 half court game, because there was nobody else there with the right skin color and personal altitude to pick.  lol.  I finally had my shot at the "Big Leagues", for my area of Queens anyhow.  Mostly I passed the ball to the other guys, but a couple of times I got an opening and all the time I had spent doing outside Jump Shots paid off.  I SWISHED a couple from around 15-20 ft out.  The next time I got there, a Black guy name of Ruben picked me right off the bat!  He was not very fast and really not a good athlete at all, but he was pretty fucking big for 14 years old, around 6'2" and probabably 220 lb would be my guess.  He could do a good layup and he could rebound, and he could deck about anybody else playing in that playground.  No Refs in playground Hoops, nobody ever gets called for a foul.  Ruben was on the other team we had played against.  We became friends, and practiced together on give & go and fast passing and setting pick & roll.

When I got to HS I practiced more in the playgrounds of Stuyvesant Town with my friend Sheldon and I had one ULTIMATE GOAL!  To be able to STUFF the Ball through the Hoop.  But at my height at the time, this was pretty fucking hard to do.  But I was one White Boy who COULD JUMP, and eventually I worked up a technique to do it, although it took a HUGE run-up and clear sailing all the way to get it done.

So one weekend I went down to Jamaica to play with Ruben and he says to me "Black Jacks and us are getting together and we are going to Harlem to play Full Court next week with the Big Hitters.  You wanna come?"  I nodded my head and gave the Thumbs up on that one!  It was a HUGE honor just to be asked!

The guys playing Ball there were better than us, but not THAT much better.  We got beat most of the time, but ocasionally squeaked out a victory.  We were playing there a few months when my BIG BASKETBALL MOMENT of FAME finally came to pass. 🙂  Ruben was blocking up the lane waiting for rebounds, and then a shot came which I could tell was off trajectory.  I took off heading for my basket just HOPING Ruben would pull in the rebound, which he did, He hurled the ball about 15 ft in front of me and I had to run hard to catch up with it, my full speed of the time.  I was at my top speed and the basket was all clear in front of me.  So no layup this time I decided, a split second decision.  I am gonna DO IT!  In a full court game, not practice!  And so up I went with the adrenaline flowing and every ounce of energy I could muster up and I got the job DONE.  I stuffed it!  Jaws Dropped on the court (especially the girls! 🙂 )  I got the greatest compliment any White boy could get  on the asphalt, "GODDAMN!  That little Mother Fucker is a White Nigga!". lol.

Anyhow, I tell you this history to make a point about the embarassment our two Diners caused us here, which is if you ain't Black, you cannot possibly know what it like to BE Black in a White dominated society, no matter how similar your childhood experiences may have been  For a Black person from the ghetto to rise out of that poverty is even more rare than a small White guy who can jump high enough to stuff the basket.  It does happen, of course, some rare talent in music or sports usually make Millionaires out of some Black people.  Statistically speaking however, it is an extrordinarily rare event.

The outcome of this exercise in Pitching Napalm was that BOTH the Diners went Walkabout.  Not only did they ruin the Diner experience on the Forum for everyone else, they ruined it for themselves as well.  But I am certain they will both blame me for this outcome.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues


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Somebody suggested we get started at the new Global Collapse Forum early.  I'm going to start a Kickoff thread there.https://globalcollapse.createaforum.com/general-discussion/following-in-the-footsteps-of-the-doomstead-diner/RE

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