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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XL–The Road Not Taken

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XL

February 19, 2022

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, 1915

While reportedly written as a joke by Frost for his hiking companion, Edward Thomas, who often struggled to pick a path among diverging ones when they were out on walks together, this poem has been commonly interpreted as a narrative about our choices and how these shape our future. The decision to take the road ‘less traveled’ versus the one ‘not taken’ speaks to the meaningful impact this seemingly innocuous choice can have upon subsequent events[1].

I was reminded of Frost’s poem and the general interpretation of it as I contemplated the request to post for a wider audience a comment I had made regarding an article someone added to a Facebook group I am a member of. In composing this ‘contemplation’ I reflected upon this request, my thoughts regarding humanity’s choices as we consider how best to deal with our existential predicament of ecological overshoot, and some of the conversations I’ve engaged in with others over the past week or so.

Given my belief that we are well into ecological overshoot having surpassed safe limits in a number of planetary boundaries[2] there are, similar to the hiker in Frost’s poem, several paths from which to choose — with slight variations to each. While the decision tree ahead of us is not entirely binary in nature, I will paint it as such for the purposes of this contemplation.

We can continue, for the most part, with business as usual: expanding our footprint on the planet with ever greater numbers and complexities. Alternatively, we can abandon this path and take a significantly different one: purposeful contraction of humanity and its complex systems.

I see the first ‘choice’ as the one we have been upon for some millennia, and one that took a dramatic shift towards a significantly greater global population and associated complex social arrangements with our leveraging of a one-time cache of finite, ancient fossil energy. When viewed over the past 12,000 years, the increase in population[3] has been nothing short of vertiginous in nature since we began employing fossil fuels, especially oil, to ‘fuel’ our growth[4]. Concomitant with this population growth has been a huge expansion of complexities to support humanity: agricultural, sociopolitical, technological, socioeconomic, scientific, etc..

It is increasingly obvious (at least to many but not all, since there are still some that completely deny the following self-evident reality) that this path is ‘problematic’ in the sense that infinite growth cannot continue for long on a finite planet, be it in the number of humans and/or the complex systems that require physical resources to support them. Call me a ‘doomer’, but I’m not buying the argument by some I’ve discussed this predicament with that we’ll just mine passing asteroids for their resources[5], including ice for water, or leave this planet to ‘colonise’ some distant ‘goldilocks’ planet just waiting for this walking, talking primate to bring ‘sustainable development/progress’ to it[6]. The ‘bargaining’ inherent is these views is simply staggering to me. Of course, I cannot predict the future any better than the next person but such beliefs leave me shaking my head at times primarily because of the magical thinking that must be employed to believe in them.

I also see this first path as the one being marketed and cheerlead by the ruling class[7], but with a slight twist: continue to pursue our current lifestyles and complexities but support them by way of a ‘new’ energy source — non-renewable renewables that are not only ‘clean/green’ but fully sustainable (while the natural phenomena that contain the energy we want to harvest are renewable — wind, solar, wave — the technologies needed to harness this energy are non-renewable since they rely upon finite resources — especially fossil fuels — for every step of their production, maintenance, and after-life disposal/reclamation).

I believe this is being sold as the best choice for a few reasons not least of which is the very real fact that it is in the best interests of those who tend to sit atop our power and wealth structures to keep the current systems in place. Because, after all, they tend to own/control/have financial stakes in the industries that stand to profit from this path. To say little about the increasing Ponzi-like structure of our economic/financial/monetary systems that require this ‘growth’ to keep from collapsing.

So, the option that increasingly appears to be being pushed by the ruling class and their narrative control managers (especially governments and mainstream media) is this ‘green/clean’ energy transition one. This is not because it actually will do what the overhyped marketing bellows constantly, but because it is the ruling class that stands to profit handsomely from the endeavour. As they always do, they are leveraging a situation to their advantage while selling a story that it is in the best interests of the masses; because, after all, the ruling class cares deeply for the people and their welfare (#sarcasm).

That many in the environmental movement have embraced such a narrative speaks to both the power of the propaganda/greenwashing/bright green lies of the ‘green/clean’ storyline but also the well-intended desire of people to act in the face of a ‘problem’. The issue I see is choosing, regardless of the best intentions, the wrong path to travel down. Yes, this is the path of least resistance as it, for the most part, supports the notion that we can transition seamlessly to a world not unlike our current one with all its energy-intensive technologies and conveniences, but with environmental ‘awareness’ and ‘cleanliness’. We’re having our energy cake and saving the planet at the same time (#sarcasm, again).

I have to call bullshit on that narrative. There are no ‘sustainable’ technologies (at least none that could support anywhere near the current world population) and there are certainly no ‘clean/green’ energy technologies[8].

For me at least, the choice of which path we need to follow is obvious: purposeful contraction of humanity and its complex systems. It needs to be purposeful if we are to have any say in how it proceeds. I am increasingly coming to the conclusion, however, given everything I have discussed above, that the path I advocate will be ‘The Road Not Taken’; at least not until nature forces us upon it and then we won’t have any say in how it unfolds.

Anyways, without further ado, here is the comment that prompted this contemplation based upon the linked article:

This author begins with a premise that indeed many still fail to grasp: climate change is but one of the existential issues the planet faces (and I would add probably not even the most pressing, with biodiversity loss and pollution loading having far surpassed safe ‘limits’ some time ago). Unfortunately, I believe the author then misses the fundamental ‘cause’ of these predicaments; rather than seeing them as symptoms of humanity overshooting the natural carrying capacity of the planet, economic and political systems are fingered as the ultimate culprit.

This misattribution then leads him to the conclusion that with the abandonment or tweaking of these systems, our various issues can be resolved. But if the real cause has been overlooked, then the shift in human systems he suggests will not resolve the issues he seeks to address.

In fact, many of those who argue along a similar line actually end up cheerleading the pursuit of changes that actually exacerbate our overshoot. They ignore the pre/historical evidence that complexity in the form of large social units (e.g., civilisations, empires, nation states, city states, etc.) and their energy and resource demands are unsustainable regardless of the economic and/or political systems employed; that all of our previous experiments with complex societies have failed because they expand and overexploit their environments, requiring them to disband or takeover un- or under-exploited regions to sustain themselves.

With the human expansion and exploitation experiment we are now entrapped within and having reached its zenith (significantly intensified by our extraction and leveraging of ancient fossil fuel energy), there is but one viable path: a dismantling of our expansion and the complexities that support it through radical degrowth. We cannot even begin to mitigate our predicament if we have identified the wrong culprits. In our motivation to ‘do something’ we are simply making the hole we are in ever deeper.

[1] https://blog.prepscholar.com/robert-frost-the-road-not-taken-meaning

[2] https://stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html

[3] https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_petroleum_industry

[5] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160103-the-truth-about-asteroid-mining

[6] https://www.howcast.com/videos/459203-how-to-colonize-a-new-planet

[7] To clarify, I use the catch-all ‘ruling class’ to help define a loose grouping of individuals/families/institutions that sit atop the power/wealth structures that have existed in every complex society throughout pre/history. With the division of labour and need for organisational structures to help coordinate them in complex societies, differences in access to power/wealth/influence developed. As our societies grew larger and more complex, so did these structures and the ‘power’ of those that occupied the upper tiers. I believe that the primary motivation of those that reside atop these structures grew to be (or perhaps always was) the continued control and/or expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and power/prestige. Everything they do is in service of this. Everything. Whether this ‘class’ of people actually plans anything in concert with one another is certainly open for debate and interpretation, but they are certainly driven to maintain their privileged positions and all that entails.

[8] https://energyskeptic.com; https://problemspredicamentsandtechnology.blogspot.com; https://www.realgnd.org; https://www.brightgreenlies.com; https://planetofthehumans.com;

Finite Feeding Frenzy

Finite Feeding Frenzy

Image by ariesjay castillo from Pixabay

You may be aware that our food industry is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to the point that it takes about 10 kcal of energy input to deliver 1 kcal of consumed food. The enormous energy multiplier is due to extensively mechanized plowing, harvesting, processing, and delivery of food; fossil-fueled fertilization (via methane feedstock); refrigeration and preparation; then of course food waste. In olden times, when all agricultural energy came from muscle power that needed to be fed, the system would collapse (i.e., starve and fail) if energy inputs exceeded energy ingested.

Some have phrased our current practice as “eating fossil fuels,” and in fact a 2006 book by Dale Allen Pfeiffer had this title. So what? More power to us—literally.

The problem, people, is that fossil fuels are finite. We have already consumed a fair fraction (roughly half?) of the accessible allotment. And before concluding that we therefore have a century or so before needing to worry about the consequences, realize that the inflection point happens around the halfway mark, wherein decreasing ease of access tends to result in ever-decreasing output rates in the second-half of the resource. We see this behavior in individual oil fields and in regional (country-scale) aggregations. The low-hanging fruit is taken first, sensibly, so that what’s left is more stubborn.

Because human population has been substantially boosted by fossil fuel input, we have put ourselves into a vulnerable position. What happens when fossil fuels begin to give out on us?

It’s been a while since I did any, you know, math for this blog, as I seem to be living my own worst nightmare and turning into an armchair philosopher (oh the shame). In this post, I return to something closer to math..

…click on the above link to read the rest…

8 Billion Souls

World population is projected to reach a new milestone — 8 billion people — tomorrow on November 15, 2022. According to United Nations Population Fund chief Natalia Kanem:

“Eight billion people, it is a momentous milestone for humanity, yet, I realize this moment might not be celebrated by all. Some express concerns that our world is overpopulated. I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.”

As usual, I beg to differ: the“sheer number of human lives” is a big issue — although far from being the only factor behind the woes of our civilization. Consumption, pollution load, technology use and inequality (among many other things) also play their roles. Since this is a major milestone in human history though, I felt the need to discuss the effect of population growth separated from these other topics, examining its upshot on our, and on future generations’ lives.

Being fully aware that this is a highly controversial topic, I suggest a simple thought experiment to somewhat distance ourselves from the emotions raised by this issue. Whenever I’m confronted with a difficult question like this (Is hitting 8 billion good or bad news? Are we headed in the right or wrong direction?) I always try to imagine two very extreme outcomes and see which one is better, and ultimately where should we — in my opinion — be headed. (Before you label the author an ‘ecofascist’ I’m not contemplating here on how to reduce living populations, but rather on long term trajectories and their sustainability.)

…click on the above link to read the rest…

By wis.dom project: Regress in Progress: My state of mind

By wis.dom project: Regress in Progress: My state of mind

Dire Evolutionary Timeline by Blu

This is an essay from reader wis.dom project who describes his painful personal journey of connecting dots to achieve awareness of our overshoot predicament.

I was born in 1969, at a time when everything still seemed possible. On July 20, two people walked on the moon, which is probably the greatest technological achievement of man to this day. In my youth, I devoured novels by Asimov, Clarke, Lem, Dick and Herbert. The galaxy’s colonization seemed within reach.

45 years later, I realized that I was a victim of mass hypnosis, what I refer to today as techno-utopia – a belief in the limitless human development, genius and almost divine uniqueness of Homo Sapiens. I realized that industrial civilization, like any other dissipative structure, is doomed to inevitable collapse.

In 1972 – 3 years after my birth, a book titled The Limits to Growth was released by the Club of Rome. It was the first scientifically compiled report analyzing future scenarios for humanity. It indicated that unlimited development is not possible on a finite planet. The book was published in 30 million copies and was one of the most popular at the time. Surprisingly, despite the wide range of my readings, the book did not appear on my horizon for a long time. As if it was covered by another intellectual  “Säuberung”. In fact, it was the subject of an intellectual blitzkrieg and relatively quickly evaporated from the media circulation. I experienced this myself by talking to several university professors. Every one of them dismissed the LtG concept with a shrug and an unequivocal, non-debatable conclusion that the theory had long been discredited.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World population is growing faster than we thought

World population is growing faster than we thought

We’ve all heard the aphorism ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics.’ Statistics are an invaluable tool for understanding and responding appropriately to the world, but when the numbers say one thing and the headlines say another, it’s a cause for concern. TOP takes a dive into World Population Prospects 2022.

The world’s population has grown more than anticipated in the past three years.

That should have been the headline when the United Nations released its latest revision of world population data (World Population Prospects 2022) on 11 July. Instead, the headline was that global population would peak in 2086 at 10.4 billion, about 15 years earlier and half a billion fewer than projected in 2019.

Is this fake news? Why should greater-than-anticipated growth yield lower future growth projections? Let’s look at the data they have given us. Apologies if this article is a bit nerdy, but the UN projections play an important role in government planning throughout the world. Any criticism of them needs to be thoroughly justified.

Figure 1 shows the world population as it was estimated in each revision of World Population Prospects (WPP) from 2010 to 2022. The pink line connects each revision’s estimate of the current population, i.e. the mid-2010 population as estimated by WPP2010 connected to the mid-2012 population as estimated by WPP2012 etc. Using this rolling-current estimate avoids any bias in the UN’s model that might be influencing the slope of the projected line.

In blue dashed lines are the projected growth anticipated in each of those revisions. With the exception of 2019, where recent past estimates closely matched what was expected in 2017, each new revision has concluded that growth since the last update was greater than they anticipated.

The world population estimates for each successive revision of World Population Prospects from 2010 to 2022 have been higher than the previous years'

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Our Impending Impasse and Sid Smith’s New Series

Keowee Toxaway State Park, South Carolina
I have a backlog of articles I have started but haven’t yet finished, so I’m starting with this one which has to do with our impending impasse. I think William Catton, Jr. worded that very well. It actually comes from his book, Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse, in which a review is available hereFor those unfamiliar with Catton, he wrote (among other books), Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, and along with other pioneering giants such as Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Dennis and Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth), he brought awareness to the simple fact that society was breaching planetary limits and beginning to reach tipping points in planetary systems. 

Nowadays, it seems that everyone is getting in on some predicament; whether it is climate change, population growth, energy and resource decline (peak oil), pollution loading, or many others, these are all symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot, the master predicament. While I think it is great to have goals and to work towards those goals, I also think it is important to have goals that are not incongruent to what one is working towards. In other words, if one is working towards solving a particular issue, making the issue worse instead of better is senseless. Yet most people have little if any awareness that their favorite goal when it comes to the environment (often climate change) is getting further and further away rather than closer. As long as ecological overshoot is allowed to continue increasing, ANY environmental goal along with most other goals will continue fading into the distance.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s time environmentalists talked about the population problem

It’s time environmentalists talked about the population problem

Bob Brown is right – it's time environmentalists talked about the population problem
Credit: Shutterstock

In all the talk of tackling environmental problems such as climate change, the problem of population growth often escapes attention. Politicians don’t like talking about it. By and large, neither do environmentalists—but former Greens leader Bob Brown has bucked that trend.

Brown recently declared the world’s  must start to decline before 2100, telling The Australian newspaper: “We are already using more than what the planet can supply and we use more than the living fabric of the planet in supply. That’s why we wake up every day to fewer fisheries, less forests, more extinctions and so on. The human herd at eight billion is the greatest herd of mammals ever on this planet and it is unsustainable to have that growing.”

Research suggests our species has far exceeded its fair share of the planetary bounty, and Brown is right to call for the  to peak. It is high time others joined the chorus—not only other environmentalists, but those concerned with international development and human rights.

Population growth, by the numbers

COVID-19 has killed more than one million people. While undeniably tragic, the figure is minor compared to world’s annual growth in population, estimated by the United Nations at about 83 million.

In 1900, the world’s population was about 1.6 billion people. By 2023 it’s expected to hit 8 billion. According to the UN, it will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100.

(The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently forecast a lower peak of about 9.7 billion by 2064, falling to about 8.8 billion by 2100.)

Why is the population growing so fast? Much of it is due to advanced fertilizers and intensive farming practices, leading to higher crop yields that can sustain more people. Health care has improved, and people are living much longer. And many parts of the world have historically had high fertility rates.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A life on our planet – review

A life on our planet – review

I watched David Attenborough’s film A life on our planet the other evening. The first, and largest, part of the movie was very well made. Perhaps not much new, but very well presented and with excellent footage and narrative. Some images are very strong, even brutal, such as a lonely orangutan sitting on a tree trunk in a devastated landscape. I think most viewers got the message: this has to change! And let me underline that this is a film worth watching.

Because the film is so compelling and Attenborough such a sympathetic person, viewers may accept all of its statements and arguments. This would, however, be a mistake in my opinion.

I totally agree with Attenborough that human population needs to stabilize. And it is true that, as far as we know today, birth rates falls when countries get richer (or vice versa). The problem is that lower population growth in one country is associated with increasing total resource use rather than the opposite. At least in the short term and with current consumption patterns, there is no relief for nature from lower population growth.What I missed in the first part was a lack of analysis of the underlying drivers causing the threatening sixth mass extinction. This is also reflected in shortcomings of the much shorter and optimistic second part of the film. The processes and technologies he claims will save the wilderness and human civilization are renewable energy, intensive farming methods, diet transformation, rewilding and reduced population growth.

His claim that renewable energy will make energy everywhere more affordable (than now) is wishful thinking with no evidence in reality.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The population problem problem

The population problem problem

A while ago I wrote a post probing critically at the idea that human population levels were at the root of our contemporary environmental problems. It prompted various critical responses in turn, including this one from Alan Ware and Dave Gardner of World Population Balance that’s only just come to my attention. They published it so long ago that I suppose the moment to engage with it has probably passed, except that it’s helped me clarify a few thoughts – as has a recent article by Meehan Crist in the London Review of Books1. Since the issues involved are still very much with us, it seems worth wading into the population question once again, this time through the lens of the critique levelled by Ware and Gardner (henceforth WG) at my original post.

I mischievously titled that original post “Population – what’s the problem?”, not necessarily to suggest that population isn’t a problem but to question what kind of problem it is. On this score, WG have no doubts – for them, it’s an “existential problem”. They proceed to substantiate this, as do many analysts on the topic, mostly by asserting very emphatically that it is a problem, sometimes invoking the emphatic assertions of others, especially those most respected of others, ‘scientists’. These scientists include the World scientists’ warning to humanity and other works co-authored by Eileen Crist. Seems like you need to be called Crist to weigh in on this debate.

Ah well, I almost qualify – and for my part, notwithstanding all these assertions, I’d say that inasmuch as population is a problem it seems to me a secondary problem that’s derivative of other, deeper ones.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Demographic Doom? Germany, Italy, Korea, & Japan Face Workforce Collapse By 2050

Demographic Doom? Germany, Italy, Korea, & Japan Face Workforce Collapse By 2050

Forget the trade war, debt, deflation, automation, and artificial intelligence: one of the most significant threats to the global economy and the future of the world as we know it is demographics.

A new OECD report, published by International Business Times, said Korea, Japan, Germany, and Italy could see their working-age populations decline to dangerously low levels by 2050.

The report took each OECD country’s population between the ages of 20 and 64 in the year 2000 as a base and was able to project the 2050 population. What they discovered was the working class population by 2050 would be 80% of its base year in Korea and Italy. In Japan, the workforce population would be much worse, approximately 60% of its original size.

For the OECD as a whole, there are about 34 countries from around the world, the size of the working age population is expected to increase by 111% of its original size by 2050. Much of the growth will be driven by stable birth rates and growing populations, like Australia and Turkey.

The OECD noted that Japan’s working-age population has been in collapse for nearly three decades. Korea’s working-age population was expanding until just recently but is expected to begin contracting this year.

For countries experiencing a decline in the working-age population, there will be widespread consequences across all aspects of the global economy: as households shrink, so does discretionary spending, and ultimately will impact living space. In developed markets, large cities will see increased pressure on real estate and rent prices for apartments.

In a separate report, we showed how countries around the world are set to experience a decline in the number of children per household in the 2000 – 2030 period. More specifically, looking from 2015 out to 2030, Euromonitor expects developed markets to have a ~20% decline in the number of children per household and developing markets a ~15% decline.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Vanishing open spaces: population growth and sprawl in America

Vanishing open spaces: population growth and sprawl in America

Before the fossil fuel age began, about 80 to 90% of people farmed to make a living. Since the end of the oil age will send us back to the past, farmland and farmers will once again comprise the greatest numbers of people.  So it’s alarming that on the cusp of peak global production of oil, we’re losing farmland at such a fast clip to development.   We need all the land we can get – in the Great Depression people were hungry, back when there was just a quarter of the population we have now, with 25% of people still farmers, unlike the 2% today. 

Cities were originally built where the best farmland and water existed. As cities and towns grow, they sprawl outwards over this prime farmland – in fact, that’s where 85% of developmental sprawl happens. The United Nations calls this soil sealing – the permanent covering of soil with impermeable materials such as asphalt or structures.  This leads to a total soil loss of food and fiber production, for water to infiltrate and be held and purified, and often increases flooding , the ability of the soil to hold water, loss of purification capacities, loss of carbon sequestration, increased urban heat from the loss of vegetation, and less biodiversity (FAO 2015).

Between 1945 and 1975, enough farms disappeared beneath concrete to pave Nebraska (Montgomery 2007), about 49.5 million acres (77,350 square miles).

Between 1982 and 2010 the U.S. lost 41.4 million acres, 14% of its crop land.  That’s equal to 65,000 square miles, an area as large as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania

Over a third of all land that has ever been developed occurred in the last 25 years.  If we keep paving over cropland at this rate, it will all be gone in 200 years.   

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Economic Doom Loop Well Underway

Economic Doom Loop Well Underway

From 2007 through 2018, births in the US have declined by 470 thousand on an annual basis, or an 11% decline.  The US fertility rate has likewise cracked lower, from 2.12 births to 1.72, an 18% decline (2.1 births over a females childbearing years is considered zero growth).  This has resulted in 4.5 million fewer net births in the US since 2007 than the Census had estimated in 2000 and again in 2008.  This is over an entire years worth of births that never took place.  The sharp decline in births, against an anticipated rise, and a deceleration from anticipated immigration has resulted in the Census downgrading US population growth through 2050 by over 50 million persons (detailed HERE).  This decelerating growth and outright declines are happening across the globe among the “wealthy nations”, leaving little growth opportunity for the “poor nations” (detailed HERE).

The decline in US births has been particularly steep among those with the lowest incomes and assets.  From 2007 through 2016, Native American fertility rates have collapsed from 1.62 to 1.23.  Hispanic birthrates have fallen from 2.85 to just 2.1.  Black birthrates have turned lower from 2.15 to about 1.9 and white birthrates from 1.95 to 1.72.  Again, these birthrates are only through 2016 and the declines in 2017 and 2018 are significant and accelerating downward.

The reason for fast declining birthrates since 2007 in the US and among most nations globally seems to be the current ZIRP and low interest rates and Quantitative Easing programs which have the effect of inflating asset prices.  The majority of assets are held by large institutions and post child bearing age populations.  The flow through of these policies are asset prices rising significantly faster than incomes.  For example, non-discretionary items like homes, rent, education, healthcare, insurance, childcare, etc. are skyrocketing versus wages.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Census Bureau, Treasury, EIA Detail American Insolvency

Census Bureau, Treasury, EIA Detail American Insolvency

Since 2007, US births and net immigration have consistently and unexpectedly fallen sharply.  Over the same span, US federal debt and unfunded liabilities have soared while federal tax receipts, as a percentage of the federal debt and unfunded liabilities, continue declining.  Total US energy consumption also peaked in ’07 and continues declining in contradiction to those soaring asset valuations.

Simply put, this article details an American insolvency and the ongoing attempt to print and inflate away this reality.  America has shown it isn’t afraid of (mis)using this digital printing press via collusion among the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and the Federal Government to disguise the simple truth that America is bankrupt and incapable of meeting its present and future obligations absent unlimited and unending monetization.

Demographic Development and Population Growth
According to the latest 2017 Census projection, the Census expects a near halving of population growth…or 50 million fewer Americans than it expected just 8 years earlier.  But critically, nearly all the projected declines are among the under 45 year old population while the 65+ year old population growth is still on track to swell.

Given the record low birth rates in 2017 and 2018, which came in 700 thousand annually below the ’08 Census projections, plus diminishing immigration, netting at least a half million annually below ’08 Census projections, the 2020 Census is likely to significantly further downgrade the potential for US population growth.  The impact for US economic growth, unfunded liabilities, and outgrowing personal, corporate, and federal debt is devastating.

What Happened?
From the mid 1990’s to 2007, a surge in immigration (both legal and illegal) and a rise in births resulted in significantly larger child bearing population and broad assumptions that America could outgrow its unfunded liabilities and debt issues. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Book cover

It took homo sapiens some 200,000 years to reach the first billion by about 1800. In just the 10 years separating the first and second edition of Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster, the human population increased by the same amount putting increased pressure on an already crowded planet. In the past decade the global use of resources spiked upwards, greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase, income and wealth inequality rose to the highest levels in half a century, the global financial system almost crashed, and mammal, bird and insect populations declined markedly because of increased deforestation and industrialized agriculture. So, while material living standards of the poorest rose, mostly in China, which is something to celebrate, there are many reasons to be deeply concerned about what lies ahead. Humanity’s grossly unequal ecological footprints greatly exceed the Earth’s regenerative biocapacity and it is doubtful whether the planet can support the continued economic growth to which virtually all of the world’s governments are committed.  Can we do better?

The opening chapters of this updated, revised, and expanded second edition Managing without Growth tell how the recent idea of economic growth emerged from the idea of progress, itself only a few hundred years old. There are many reasons for questioning growth as a key economic policy objective supported in the book based on extensive data as well as on conceptual and methodological considerations.  Critical attention is given to the commodification of nature through monetization. ‘Natural’ capital captures the spirit of the times, but it can hardly be said to capture the spirit of nature.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Cheers for Population Decline

singe child family car

Two Cheers for Population Decline

Eventual gradual population decline, provided it results from free choice, should be welcomed. Indeed, the greatest demographic challenge to human welfare is not low fertility and population aging, but rather the high fertility rates and rapid population growth still seen in Pakistan, much of the Middle East, and Africa.

LONDON – Since China abolished its one-child policy on January 1, 2016, annual births, after a temporary increase to 17.86 million that year, have actually fallen, from 16.55 million in 2015 to 15.23 million in 2018. The baby boom that wasn’t should surprise no one.

No other successful East Asian economy has ever imposed a one-child policy, but all have fertility rates far below replacement level. Japan’s fertility rate is 1.48 children per woman, South Korea’s is 1.32 and Taiwan’s 1.22. China’s fertility rate will almost certainly remain well below replacement level, even if all restrictions on family size are now removed.

Population decline will inevitably follow. According to the United Nations’ medium projection, East Asia’s total population will fall from 1.64 billion today to 1.2 billion in 2100. Nor is this simply an East Asian phenomenon. Iran’s fertility rate (1.62) is now well below replacement level, and Vietnam’s 1.95 slightly so. Across most of the Americas, from Canada (1.56) to Chile (1.76), rates are already well below two, or falling fast toward it.

The clear pattern is that successful economies have lower fertility rates: Chile’s rate is much lower than Argentina’s (2.27), and wealthier Indian states, such as Maharashtra and Karnataka, already have fertility rates around 1.8. In the poorer states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, fertility rates over three are still observed.

We should always be cautious about inferring universal rules of human behavior, but, as Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson suggest in their recent book Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, it seems we can identify one.

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