Home » Posts tagged 'resources'

Tag Archives: resources

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Post Archives by Category

Overpopulation and the Collapse of Civilization

A major shared goal of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) and Sustainability Central  is reducing the odds that the “perfect storm” of environmental problems that threaten humanity will lead to a collapse of civilization.  Those threats include  climate disruption, loss of biodiversity (and thus ecosystem services), land-use change and resulting degradation, global toxification, ocean acidification, decay of the epidemiological environment, increasing depletion of important resources, and resource wars (which could go nuclear).  This is not just a list of problems, it is an interconnected complex resulting from interactions within and between what can be thought of as two gigantic complex adaptive systems: the biosphere system and the human socio-economic system.  The manifestations of this interaction are often referred to as “the human predicament.”   That predicament is getting continually and rapidly worse, driven by overpopulation, overconsumption among the rich, and the use of environmentally malign technologies and socio-economic-political arrangements to service the consumption.

All of the interconnected problems are caused in part by overpopulation, in part by overconsumption by the already rich.  One would think that most educated people now understand that the larger the size of a human population, ceteris paribus, the more destructive its impact on the environment.  The degree of overpopulation is best indicated (conservatively) by ecological footprint analysis, which shows that to support today’s population sustainably at current patterns of consumption would require roughly another half a planet, and to do so at the U.S. level would take four to five more Earths.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Our Economy In a Nutshell

Our Economy In a Nutshell

The economy has reached an inflection point where everything that is unsustainable finally starts unraveling.

Our economy is in a crisis that’s been brewing for decades. The Chinese characters for the English word crisis are famously–and incorrectly–translated as danger and opportunity. The more accurate translation is precarious plus critical juncture or inflection point.

Beneath its surface stability, our economy is precarious because the foundation of the global economy– cheap energy–has reached an inflection point: from now on, energy will become more expensive.

The cost will be too low for energy producers to make enough money to invest in future energy production, and too high for consumers to have enough money left after paying for the essentials of energy, food, shelter, etc., to spend freely.

For the hundred years that resources were cheap and abundant, we could waste everything and call it growth: when an appliance went to the landfill because it was designed to fail (planned obsolescence) so a new one would have to be purchased, that waste was called growth because the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) went up when the replacement was purchased.

A million vehicles idling in a traffic jam was also called growth because more gasoline was consumed, even though the gasoline was wasted.

This is why the global economy is a “waste is growth” Landfill Economy. The faster something ends up in the landfill, the higher the growth.

Now that we’ve consumed all the easy-to-get resources, all that’s left is hard to get and expensive. For example, minerals buried in mountains hundreds of miles from paved roads and harbors require enormous investments in infrastructure just to reach the deposits, extract, process and ship them to distant mills and refineries. Oil deposits that are deep beneath the ocean floor are not cheap to get.

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

Has the World Gone Mad?

Understanding the crisis in Ukraine from a peak resource perspective

No, this war is not (just) about getting Ukraine’s resources. Other political ambitions aside, this one is more about the rest of Europe loosing its energy carriers, together with its political power — and stability.

It is no wonder that we use the same word — power — to describe both the use of political force and the rate of energy transfer. It’s almost an axiom, that the more energy (and other mineral resources) a nation has, the more political power it possesses over its neighbors. It is also important note, that power is relative: you don’t need to have all the energy of the galaxy at your fingertips — it’s enough to have a little more than the next country in the row.

In an abundant and growing world (i.e. between 1950 and 1970) this was of little concern. Each and every country had enough —i.e.: enough to generate as much energy and turn up as much minerals and food they need, with headroom to grow — so no one was really bothered to run down their neighbors. Of course this was rarely the case and thus the post WWII years can now be safely considered the biggest anomaly in human history. In ages of discontinuity however, like the one we live through these years, the role of energy is hard to underrate.

Yet, our political leaders and economic pundits would still like to believe that we are in the 80’s and 90’s, the roaring decades of globalization with an ever increasing number of cargo ships criss-crossing the planet’s oceans… Where every international issue and local shortage could be resolved by trade deals or embargoes. What we are witnessing at the moment however, is a dissolution of this idea — together with the myth of infinite replaceability and the effectiveness of sanctions.

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

Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Habitat degradation, low genetic variation and declining fertility are setting Homo sapiens up for collapse 

Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Credit: Jordan Lye/Getty Images

Cast your mind back, if you will, to 1965, when Tom Lehrer recorded his live album That Was the Year That Was. Lehrer prefaced a song called “So Long Mom (A Song for World War III)” by saying that “if there’s going to be any songs coming out of World War III, we’d better start writing them now.” Another preoccupation of the 1960s, apart from nuclear annihilation, was overpopulation. Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb was published in 1968, a year when the rate of world population growth was more than 2 percent—the highest in recorded history.

Half a century on, the threat of nuclear annihilation has lost its imminence. As for overpopulation, more than twice as many people live on the earth now as in 1968, and they do so (in very broad-brush terms) in greater comfort and affluence than anyone suspected. Although the population is still increasing, the rate of increase has halved since 1968. Current population predictions vary. But the general consensus is that it’ll top out sometime midcentury and start to fall sharply. As soon as 2100, the global population size could be less than it is now. In most countries—including poorer ones—the birth rate is now well below the death rate. In some countries, the population will soon be half the current value. People are now becoming worried about underpopulation.

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

World Scientists’ Warnings Into Action, Local to Global

World Scientists’ Warnings Into Action, Local to Global

Abstract

‘We have kicked the can down the road once again – but we are running out of road.’ – Rachel Kyte, Dean of Fletcher School at Tufts University. We, in our capacities as scientists, economists, governance and policy specialists, are shifting from warnings to guidance for action before there is no more ‘road.’ The science is clear and irrefutable; humanity is in advanced ecological overshoot. Our overexploitation of resources exceeds ecosystems’ capacity to provide them or to absorb our waste. Society has failed to meet clearly stated goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Civilization faces an epochal crossroads, but with potentially much better, wiser outcomes if we act now. What are the concrete and transformative actions by which we can turn away from the abyss? In this paper we forcefully recommend priority actions and resource allocation to avert the worst of the climate and nature emergencies, two of the most pressing symptoms of overshoot, and lead society into a future of greater wellbeing and wisdom. Humanity has begun the social, economic, political and technological initiatives needed for this transformation. Now, massive upscaling and acceleration of these actions and collaborations are essential before irreversible tipping points are crossed in the coming decade. We still can overcome significant societal, political and economic barriers of our own making. Previously, we identified six core areas for urgent global action – energy, pollutants, nature, food systems, population stabilization and economic goals. Here we identify an indicative, systemic and time-limited framework for priority actions for policy, planning and management at multiple scales from household to global. We broadly follow the ‘Reduce-Remove-Repair’ approach to rapid action. To guide decision makers, planners, managers, and budgeters, we cite some of the many experiments, mechanisms and resources in order to facilitate rapid global adoption of effective solutions…

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

Revenge of the Real World

Revenge of the Real World

The status quo response would be amusing if the consequences weren’t so dire.

Rather than stare at empty shelves, you have two options for distraction: you can don a virtual-reality headset and cavort with dolphins in the metaverse, or you can trade various forms of phantom wealth that always go up (happy happy!) because the Fed.

Neither distraction actually solves any real-world problems, a reality we can call the Revenge of the Real World We’ve entered a peculiar phase in American history in which illusions of wealth and control are the favored distractions from the unraveling of the real world economy and social order.

Printing trillions of currency units can’t restore the global supply chain or social cohesion, Rather, jacking phantom wealth to the moon is only accelerating the collapse of the social order and the economy even as it accomplishes absolutely nothing in terms of solving real-world problems.

Let’s start with the core economic realities of the 21st century:

1. The number of high-consumption (“middle class”) people doubled from 1 billion to 2 billion. The human populace has expanded to 7.9 billion individuals, but poor people who don’t have enough money to consume large quantities of energy, goods and services delivered by the global supply chain don’t have much of an impact on global consumption of energy and resources. It’s the number of people jetting around the world playing their part in the landfill economy (toss the old one, buy a new one) who drive “growth” (i.e. waste is growth).

Strangely enough, there are actual physical limits to resources being transformed into junk being dumped in the landfills. Humanity’s rapacious appetite for stuff has extracted all the cheap-to-extract resources and now all that’s left are the increasingly expensive-to-extract resources.

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

What is Surplus Energy?

What is Surplus Energy?

I’ve been meaning to write an article featuring Dr. Tim Morgan’s blog for quite some time due to the fact that he has quite an awesome site. You can find his blog here, Surplus Energy Economics. Many people may find the word economics in the name somewhat off-putting, but these economics are more about energy rather than money and relate to the energy cost of energy rather than financial price of energy. This is a primary distinction that many people simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND, which amounts to precisely WHY there is so much misinformation constantly being spread around about all the predicaments my blog focuses on. Energy stocks are a resource that require energy in order to be extracted, shipped, refined, stored, and transported to end users all over the world. The energy stocks remaining (after the energy required to acquire said energy) are available to do actual work and this is the “surplus energy” in the title. Money is nothing more than a claim on future energy. The predicament of energy and resource decline is that due to these facts, money which has value today will continue to become increasingly worth less as time moves forward because the surplus energy it represents is in constant decline.This particular entry, A Moment of truth, is what promulgated this post. It goes into detail about the false narratives which have been attempted to “fix” the issues with energy decline (the constant borrowing from the future to pay for the issues of today) and the fact that degrowth is the only possibility from here on out…

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

Material and other limits to scaling wind up to 24 GW by 2050

Material and other limits to scaling wind up to 24 GW by 2050

Preface. Here are just a few of the many important points made in this excellent paper:

  1. Research showing no constraints on the materials needed to build wind turbines “dismiss potential physical constraints and issues with natural resource supply, and do not consider the growth rates of the individual technologies needed or how the energy systems are to be sustained over longer time frames”
  2. Wind turbines and solar panels depend on scarce minerals (i.e. rare earth)
  3. A fast growth of renewables would add new fossil fuel demand to current demand during a transition period

And ramping up wind turbines given their 25 year lifespan is fraught with difficulties:

“This study investigates the implications of fulfilling these growth patterns by letting wind energy grow exponentially reaching 19 TW by 2030 and 24 TW by 2050. These capacities are then assumed to be sustained to the year 2100. Laxson et al. (2006) describes a sustained manufacturing model, where installed capacity of wind energy grows to reach 1%, 20% and 30% of U.S. electricity demand by 2020 or 2030. After 25 years the capacity installed 25 years earlier are replaced (repowered). The need to replace the capacity after the end of the service life of the wind turbines affects the desired manufacturing capacity of the wind industry. If the installed capacity of wind is to be sustained over a longer time frame, an industry capable of replacing the capacity taken out of use must exist. If the growth trajectory is too slow to reach a manufacturing capacity large enough to replace the old turbines in the future, the actual wind capacity in use can in fact see a drop after the initial goal is reached. On the other hand, if the manufacturing capacity is expanded too fast, the demand for new turbines will drop and leave manufacturing capacity idle.

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

Myth #22: Nate Hagens discredits claim “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money”

Myth #22: Nate Hagens discredits claim “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money”

We can create money, but we cannot create energy, only extract what exists — FASTER.”

“We can create money, but we cannot create energy, only extract what exists — FASTER. And importantly, when money is created the interest is not. This creates a growth imperative for our economy to be able to pay interest in the future. Whenever we’ve encountered resource or energy limits – for example, the 1970s – we started to use the social construct of credit to overcome the near-term economic pain. In every single year since 1965, the United States and the world have grown their total debt more than they’ve grown their economies.”  —Nate Hagens, from his Myth #22

My transcript of this repost focuses on Nate’s 2:55-minute crash course in economics – a valiant attempt to explain to the untutored (like myself) the relationship between money and resources. Without fully understanding his explanation, I’ll just accept at face value that he effectively discredits Myth #22: “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money.” Myth #22 is one of 33 myths Nate covered in his May 21st Earth Day talk titled, Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality. The beauty of his 2hr, 52min long, information-rich Earth Day talk is that it is more of an indexed reference tool for recurrent consultation than a lecture meant to be assimilated in one sitting.

At the bottom of this post is a complete time-stamped list of the titles of all of Hagens’ 33 myths, plus his opening Introduction and closing Interventions (and Wild Ideas). The myths can be watched in any order — but, as Hagens mentions, the order decided on seems logical.

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

Lithium, Cobalt, and Rare Earths: the Post-Petroleum Resource Race

Lithium, Cobalt, and Rare Earths: the Post-Petroleum Resource Race

Thanks to its very name — renewable energy — we can picture a time in the not-too-distant future when our need for non-renewable fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal will vanish. Indeed, the Biden administration has announced a breakthrough target of 2035 for fully eliminating U.S. reliance on those non-renewable fuels for the generation of electricity. That would be accomplished by “deploying carbon-pollution-free electricity-generating resources,” primarily the everlasting power of the wind and sun.

With other nations moving in a similar direction, it’s tempting to conclude that the days when competition over finite supplies of energy was a recurring source of conflict will soon draw to a close. Unfortunately, think again: while the sun and wind are indeed infinitely renewable, the materials needed to convert those resources into electricity — minerals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel, and the rare-earth elements, or REEs — are anything but. Some of them, in fact, are far scarcer than petroleum, suggesting that global strife over vital resources may not, in fact, disappear in the Age of Renewables.

To appreciate this unexpected paradox, it’s necessary to explore how wind and solar power are converted into usable forms of electricity and propulsion. Solar power is largely collected by photovoltaic cells, often deployed in vast arrays, while the wind is harvested by giant turbines, typically deployed in extensive wind farms. To use electricity in transportation, cars and trucks must be equipped with advanced batteries capable of holding a charge over long distances. Each one of these devices usessubstantial amounts of copper for electrical transmission, as well as a variety of other non-renewable minerals. Those wind turbines, for instance, require manganese, molybdenum, nickel, zinc, and rare-earth elements for their electrical generators, while electric vehicles (EVs) need cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and rare earths for their engines and batteries.

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

COLLAPSE! — Think of collapse as a drastic and chaotic reduction in energy and resource use

COLLAPSE! — Think of collapse as a drastic and chaotic reduction in energy and resource use

“… my fundamentally conservative core requires a default position that collapse is the most likely outcome,” says physicist Tom Murphy. —

Tom Murphy

“The first thing I should say is that the word ‘collapse’ freaks me out. I don’t use it often, for fear of sounding like an unhinged alarmist. Surely, respectable scientists should want nothing to do with it…. What keeps pulling me back to it — despite my innate repulsion — is not only credible elements of risk that I will get to in this post, but also that I think it’s too important to tolerate our natural tendency to hide from the prospect. Ironically, doing so only raises the odds of that ill fate: mitigation requires direct acknowledgment. Failure to speak openly and honestly about the less-than-remote possibility of collapse is not in our best interest, ultimately. So let’s grit our teeth and confront the collapse monster. What conditions make it at once likely and off most people’s radars? It is a heavy lift for one blog post to do a complete job in motivating collapse as a realistic outcome of the human enterprise. Any one argument can be picked at, but the totality should be considered. This is a long post, so buckle up. For the purposes of this post, we can think of collapse as a drastic and probably chaotic reduction in energy and resource use per person, the result looking primitive by today’s standards.” —Tom Murphy, Do the Math

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. Murphy’s keen interest in energy topics began with his teaching a course on energy and the environment for non-science majors at UCSD…

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

Monetary Pumping and Resources

As a result of the recent strong stimulatory policies employed by the US government and the Fed, most commentators are of the view that the risk of a deepening slump in the US economy on account of the COVID-19 pandemic has now receded.

Some other commentators are not so certain that the risk has declined, arguing that the economy is still heading towards difficult times ahead. These commentators are of the view that to prevent the possible economic difficulties ahead authorities should continue with easy fiscal and monetary policies until the economy safely placed on the trajectory of stable economic growth.

Most commentators are of the view that by failing to act swiftly authorities are running the risk of raising the cost of an economic slump in terms of idle or unutilized resources such as labor and capital.

This way of thinking is succinctly summarized by Ludwig von Mises,

Here, they say, are plants and farms whose capacity to produce is either not used at all or not to its full extent. Here are piles of unsalable commodities and hosts of unemployed workers. But here are also masses of people who would be lucky if they only could satisfy their wants more amply. All that is lacking is credit. Additional credit would enable the entrepreneurs to resume or to expand production. The unemployed would find jobs again and could buy the products. This reasoning seems plausible. Nonetheless it is utterly wrong.

Conventional thinking argues that boosting the overall demand for goods and services is going to strengthen the supply of these goods and services – demand creates supply.

However, why should an increase in the overall demand be followed by the increase in the production of goods and services? This requires a suitable production structure that is going to permit the increase in the production.

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

Demateralizing the economy isn’t happening (Hint: All that material is actually hiding in plain sight)

Demateralizing the economy isn’t happening (Hint: All that material is actually hiding in plain sight)

If you are trying to prove something is true and certain facts get in the way, it’s almost always useful to exclude them. This is apparently what technology cheerleader Andrew McAfee has done in his recent book More from Less, which claims that advanced economies have been dematerializing for something like the last 40 years. Simply put, those economies are producing more output with little or no increase in physical resources.

There’s just one little problem as anthropologist Jason Hickel points out in his review of More from Less: McAfee forgot to count the physical resources used in making products imported from other countries by all those advanced economies. McAfee only counts those resources extracted within the boundaries of the advanced countries.

I am highlighting Hickel’s piece not so much as a book review. There are dozens of books making similar ridiculous claims that are contradicted by the facts. I am highlighting the piece because Hickel provides perhaps the clearest, most concise refutation of the nonsense that McAfee and others like him are peddling.

Let me touch on the high points though I encourage you to read the full article:

  1. “There has been zero dematerialization. No green growth. It was all an illusion of accounting.”
  2. Global resource use has actually been accelerating faster than growth in the global economy. We are becoming more resource-intensive, not less.
  3. Ecologists believe human societies are 90 percent over any sustainable rate of resource consumption.
  4. The economy can’t become infinitely more efficient. There are limits on how much efficiency can be taken out of any process as each increment of efficiency in resource use is more costly to implement.

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

Material challenges of bicycle manufacturing in a post-growth world

The idea of a world based on active transport, and on cycling in particular, is a recurring theme in thinking on degrowth. This was one of the proposed transformative paths of the Manifesto of the Mouvement québécois pour une décroissance conviviale[1] and this notion also plays an important role in the reflections of the Degrowth.info group, based in Germany[2]. The mainstream media also associate degrowth with cycling.[3]

Most degrowth advocates agree that the bicycle is a useful and desirable tool in a post-growth world, although some favour the promotion of walking.[4] One of the precursors of the philosophy of degrowth, Ivan Illich, describes the bicycle as the ecological machine par excellence:

The bicycle and the motor vehicle were invented by the same generation, but they are symbols of two opposing uses of modern advancement. […] It is a wonderful tool that takes full advantage of metabolic energy to speed up locomotion. On flat ground, the cyclist goes three or four times faster than the pedestrian, using five times less calories.[5]

French engineer Philippe Bihouix, for his part, sees it as an example of a low-tech machine, despite the relative technical complexity involved in  its manufacture. Even a simple model, he points out, contains several hundred technically complex basic parts, which are difficult to produce locally. The processes include metallurgy of alloys and different metals, the machining and fitting of parts, vulcanizing tire rubber, producing anti-corrosion paints, and grease for the chain. Once built, however, “it is clearly possible for ordinary people to fully understand how it works, to tinker with it […] to keep it in good condition for many years, not to say almost indefinitely”[6] (translation).

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

The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy

The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy

Endless growth is destroying the planet. We know how to stop it.

In July 1979, shortly after installing a set of solar panels over the West Wing, Jimmy Carter did something peculiar for a peacetime president. He asked Americans to sacrifice: to consume less, take public transit more, value community over material things, and buy bonds to fund domestic energy development, including solar. From our vantage, this may sound very farsighted and bold. But any prescient, planet-saving leadership seen shimmering through hindsight is a mirage. The speech and the panels advanced a program with the narrow goal of energy independence, not decarbonization. Carter wanted to expand and secure the nation’s economic wheel beyond OPEC’s reach, not question it, shrink it, slow it, or “green” it. “We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias [and] more coal than any nation on earth,” he boasted in the speech. “We have the national will to win this war.”

It’s a different event, buried in the Carter record, that offers a flash of the ecological vision often falsely ascribed to the ’79 energy plan. On the afternoon of March 22, 1977, between meetings with the prime minister of Japan and the National Security Council, Carter sat down in the Oval Office with a British-German economist named E.F. Schumacher. Four years earlier, Schumacher had achieved international fame as the author of Small Is Beautiful, a trenchant critique of the spiritual poverty and delusional frameworks of mainstream economics. His White House visit made him the most radical guest of a sitting president since Warren G. Harding requested an audience with Eugene V. Debs.

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

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Click on image to purchase @ FriesenPress