Yellow Vests

Yellow Vest

What would happen if we all put on yellow vests and protested in the streets?

Governments would panic and hand out printed money since that’s their only option for providing more stuff in the short-term. As a consequence, the riots would stop, CO2 emissions would immediately increase, and a few months later currency destroying inflation would begin, which would increase social unrest and enable a despot to take over (a la Weimar), who would attempt to increase prosperity with war, except this time war will not help because we’ve already burned all the good booty, and we would enter a scarcity death spiral since war will deplete faster the resources we are fighting over, and finally a few decades later, runaway climate change would take out whatever is left of civilization.

What if governments responded by taxing the rich and redistributing wealth to the poor?

Most of the wealth of the rich is locked up in assets that do not circulate within the economy. If these assets were liquidated and redistributed the poor would immediately spend their new wealth which would dramatically increase inflation because there is far more paper wealth than real wealth in our economy. As inflation destroyed the currency, social unrest would increase leading to the same death spiral described above.

Dammit you’re depressing! What the fuck should we do then?

Comfort on a Razor’s Edge

 

You know you are in trouble when the only comfortable place is a razor’s edge.

When oil prices are rising we can soon expect trouble from reduced economic growth and inflation.

When oil prices are falling we can soon expect trouble from a slowing economy and deflation; and we can also expect oil shortages a few years out because investing in new oil production becomes unprofitable and most of our existing wells now deplete quickly.

 

Q: Why is it so important that the economy grows?

A: Most people mistakenly believe growth is important because it makes us a little more wealthy in the future. The real reason growth is important is that it makes us much more wealthy today.

 

Q: We never used to worry about a little inflation or deflation. What’s changed?

A: Total global debt has grown to over $250,000,000,000,000 (250 thousand billion dollars) and it’s consuming more and more of our income for interest payments.

Inflation causes interest rates to rise which makes it more difficult to service the debt.

Deflation removes money from the economy which makes it more difficult to service the debt given that interest rates are already as low as they can go.

 

Q: Why has debt become a problem?

A: Debt is growing much faster than our income. We must now borrow about $5 for every $1 of GDP growth.

 

Q: We used to achieve $1 of growth with less than $1 of debt. What’s changed?

A: We burned all the cheap oil which caused the price of oil to increase which forces us to borrow more money to maintain our lifestyles.

 

Q: Why do our lifestyles depend on the price of oil?

A: Our comfortable lives are made possible by a growing GDP. Most of our GDP is produced with machines, and energy is the food of machines. As the price of energy goes up, we can’t afford to feed our machines as much, and they produce less.

 

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/09/oil-markets-crude-supply-global-economy-in-focus.html

US crude oil posts longest losing streak in over 34 years, falling for 10th day

  • Oil prices fall for a 10th consecutive session, sinking U.S. crude futures deeper into bear market territory and wiping out the benchmark’s gains for the year.
  • Crude futures fell for a fifth straight week on growing output from key producers and a deteriorating outlook for oil demand deepen.
  • Signs that OPEC and several other oil producers including Russia could soon cut output have not put a floor under the market.

New Badass in Town: Jean-Marc Jancovici (Radio Ecoshock interview)

Jean-Marc Jancovici

Step aside all you established peak oil and climate change pontificators. There’s a new badass in town and he’s an engineer who specializes in energy and climate which means you don’t stand a chance. 🙂

It’s very rare to find someone who can articulately explain in one hour, without hyperbole or bullshit, everything important going on in the world, including the underlying causes, what the future holds, and what we should do in response. Jean-Marc Jancovici is one of those rare gems.

Jancovici’s native language is French so English works by him are scarce. I’ve already posted the only other recent English talk that I’m aware of here.

Today’s interview with Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock is a treat. After investing an hour here you will understand much more about the issues that matter than 99% of the people in the world.

Alex Smith wrote a very nice summary of his interview here:

https://www.ecoshock.org/2018/10/jean-marc-jancovici-whistling-past-the-graveyard.html

 

 

Following are a few quotes from the interview that I thought were noteworthy. Notice how close Jancovici comes to discussing denial of reality on several occasions.

 

Tell me how much energy you use and I will tell you how you live.

 

Governments are not guided by [wise] advisors. They respond to external pressure.

 

The present standard of living cannot be sustained without the help of fossil fuels for physical reasons.

 

Two centuries ago the world was fully renewable and consisted of 1 billion peasants with a life expectancy of 30 years. [We therefore] know of at least one option available to us.

 

Every time you hear the words “energy consumption”, replace them with “fleet of machines” .

 

A future with no growth is considered unthinkable by so many people, including Nobel prize-winning economists, that nobody thinks about what to do if it happens for real.

 

Q: What do you think is the greatest soonest threat: peak oil or climate change?

A: I place my bets on the likelihood that nobody will understand what is happening with either of these threats.

 

No government understands that energy equals machines, and if machines work less, GDP goes down.

No political leader understands that climate change is already putting refugees on the road.

 

Think of peak oil and climate change as opposing scissor blades squeezing your finger. Asking which is worse does not make any sense.

 

You must wait over 10,000 years for surplus CO2 to evacuate from the atmosphere. There is no such thing as a reset button for climate change. The only thing we are sure of is the day that consequences become unbearable, it will become worse later on.

 

A huge misunderstanding is that energy is a sector of the economy rather than the blood of the economy.

On Famous Polymaths

See No Evil

There are two and only two topics required to understand the basis of every success and problem in our civilization: thermodynamics and genetic behavior.

By thermodynamics I mean:

  • the laws of thermodynamics that govern our universe
  • the relationships between energy, economy, wealth, population, and pollution
  • the relationship between debt and surplus energy
  • the maximum power principle of biology
  • the history of energy use
  • the types, sources, qualities, density, scalability, and applications of energy
  • the discovery rate, consumption rate, and reserves of non-renewable energy
  • what is and is not feasible with, and the dependencies of, non-fossil energy

By genetic behavior I mean:

  • human behaviors that are mostly hard-wired
  • genetic behaviors that contributed to our unique success and predicament
  • why those genetic behaviors evolved

Why is it that every famous intellectual understands many topics except the only two topics that really matter: thermodynamics and genetic behavior?

  • Steven Pinker
  • Sam Harris
  • Jordan Peterson
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Sean Carroll
  • Yuval Noah Harari
  • David Suzuki
  • David Attenborough
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Lawrence Krauss
  • Elon Musk
  • Stewart Brand
  • James Hansen
  • Matt Ridley
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Frans de Waal
  • James Lovelock
  • Jared Diamond
  • Joe Rogan
  • Michael Pollan
  • Ken Burns
  • Chris Hedges
  • Vaclav Smil
  • Niall Ferguson
  • Alan Greenspan
  • Thomas Sowell
  • John Kenneth Galbraith
  • David Stockman
  • Joseph Stiglitz
  • Paul Krugman
  • and many others

Why is it that there is no famous intellectual (nor political or business leader) who understands thermodynamics and genetic behavior?

  • ???

Why is it that the few intellectuals who do understand thermodynamics and genetic behavior are distinctly not famous?

  • Dennis Meadows
  • Tom Murphy
  • William Catton
  • William Rees
  • Charles Hall
  • Nate Hagens
  • Tim Garrett
  • Jay Hanson
  • David Korowicz
  • Tim Watkins
  • Paul Chefurka
  • Reg Morrison
  • Jack Alpert
  • Richard Heinberg
  • Joseph Tainter
  • George Mobus
  • Dave Cohen
  • Gail Zawacki
  • Jason Bradford
  • Nicole Foss
  • Steve Ludlum
  • James @ Megacancer
  • xraymike79
  • and very few others

This can’t be an accidental coincidence because famous polymaths are fluent in many topics.

I suspect the answer is that famous polymaths deny everything they don’t want to know, and they wouldn’t be famous if they didn’t, because their audience doesn’t want to understand those topics either.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon to observe once you see it.

P. S.

Why is there only one person in the world, a cranky old retired electrical engineer, who writes about genetic reality denial?

I suspect because denial is the reality that must be most aggressively denied to avoid collapsing the house of cards that keeps us functioning.

Arnica Lake to Elk River Hike

Click here for more photos and videos

My good friend Ian and I have regularly hiked Strathcona Park since we were 16 in 1975. We decided to celebrate turning 60 by tackling the toughest hike in the park.

The first 3 days on Phillips Ridge were excellent although the “undulations” and “lots of down” were much tougher than we expected. A bout of food poisoning likely caused by trail mix purchased from a bulk food bin cancelled our planned side trip to the Golden Hinde peak. Even if healthy I’m not sure we would have tackled it after speaking with returning hikers who spoke of feeling exposed and unsafe, and wishing they had brought helmets to protect themselves from falling boulders. Seeing the route to the peak up close was intimidating. We have new respect for people who accomplish the Golden Hinde peak return trip.

The final “3 day adventure” on the Elk River “route” proved to be a bushwhacking nightmare. Each day we made only about 30% of our expected progress despite grueling effort. We had the best available maps and guidebook but the “route” had no flags or cairns and no signs of recent use. The maps were out of date and did not reflect obstacles like new landslides. On a whim, just before departing, I purchased a digital version of our paper map and we would have been screwed without it and my phone’s GPS. Even with the GPS, we had to retrace many steps and elevation changes many times.

Tired, discouraged, not wanting to face the ordeals of retracing our path, and believing it unlikely we could complete the Elk River route before running out of food, we decided to punch the eject button.

We were very lucky to have brought a satellite phone and to have found a helicopter not already committed to fighting forest fires with a pilot brave enough to fly in low visibility smoke. Our “rescue” was quite a thrill for me because I had never been in a helicopter and the heavy smoke forced the pilot to skim the trees down a river valley to avoid bumping into something hard. Click the link above for some great video.

Next year I hope we do the Bedwell trail out to the west coast but we’ll first find some people who have recently done the trail.

In case you’re wondering, I detected a lot of denial in my brain throughout the adventure. 🙂

If this blog goes dark…

A good friend and I are departing tomorrow on an epic 6-8 day hike in Strathcona Park to celebrate turning 60 this year.

The two of us began hiking this beautiful park located in the center of Vancouver Island in 1976, as this picture of me on a peak proves.

N950-127A

 

Our path, with 60+ pound packs, begins at Arnica Lake and ends at the Elk River, with side trips to Marble Meadows and the Golden Hinde, which is the highest peak on Vancouver Island.

BRMB MapA

If this blog goes dark you will have observed another excellent example of denial.

In this case, 60 year olds who deny they are too old for grueling adventures.

Wish us luck and don’t worry because I can’t think of a better way to go.

Reunion Faux Pas

Carihi Class of 76

I’m the handsome guy circled in red wearing a green polyester suit.

Born at the peak of what may be possible in the universe, we enjoyed amazing lives made possible by a one-time windfall of abundant cheap fossil energy.

Since graduating in 1976 we chose to celebrate our good fortune like yeast in sugar by doubling our population from 4 to 8 billion and increasing our total consumption and excretions by over 500%.

To our grandchildren we will leave depleted oil wells, mines, aquifers, and soils, a dangerous climate, forests displaced by agriculture and sickened by ozone, many fewer species, oceans filled with plastic instead of fish, epidemics of opioids and obesity, and over $300,000,000,000,000 of debt not counting unfunded liabilities like pensions.

1976 graduation motto: “You are a child of the universe.”

2018 reunion motto: “Mission accomplished: We had a great time and left nothing of value for future generations.”

Some old friends from my high school class of ’76 are having a reunion to celebrate turning 60 this year.

I offered to give a talk at the dinner party on how climate change is spinning out of control and may kill our grandchildren, but my offer was not warmly received.

I clearly made a faux pas because climate change has become a little too sensitive to discuss in polite company given how obvious the trends are.

In hindsight, I should have offered to speak on our denial of the collapse of civilization that is underway due to human overshoot and fossil energy depletion, and how our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities is intimately linked to our uniquely powerful brain, and its wacky belief in gods and life after death.

That would have been a much more interesting after-dinner topic that most people haven’t seen in the news, and I could imagine a lively Q&A when I explained that the only “solution” is a global one-child policy, severe government austerity, and a forced contraction of the economy.

Despite the depressing subject, I’m sure there would have been some genuine happiness in the room as old girlfriends breathed a sigh of relief that they didn’t marry me.

Rob Mielcarski