7.5 billion and rising

The world’s population just passed 7.5 billion.


Canada’s population has grown 19% since 2000.


An informed aware optimist believes the planet can sustain up to 2 billion people when affordable fossil energy is gone around 2040.

An informed aware pessimist believes the planet can sustain up to 1 billion people when affordable fossil energy is gone around 2025.

Both understand that the maximum possible population will be much lower if we assume a current North American standard of living.

Both understand that the maximum possible population will decrease as each decade passes for the next several thousand years due to climate change impacts on human habitat and food production.

The vast majority of people, on the other hand, are uninformed and in denial, and either don’t believe 7.5 billion people, fossil energy depletion, and climate change are problems, or do not think about the issues.

It’s no surprise that not one of the three parties competing in BC’s election have population reduction as a priority.

Nor mitigation plans for fossil energy depletion.

Nor an honest discussion of what 410 ppm CO2 means.

Denial on. Party on.

On Why Things Appear (sort of) Normal

Assuming I’m not in denial (which I admit might be possible given the underlying genetic basis of denial which makes it difficult to detect denial in yourself) I like to think that I belong to a small group of people that understand what is going on in the world.

Despite this understanding I was completely wrong in predicting the global economy would collapse before today.  I think I understand why I was wrong but I do catch myself from time to time marveling at how well the wheels have stayed on since the 2008 crash.

It is wonderful reading someone like Tim Morgan who with a few words explains clearly why we have delayed the day of reckoning.


…there’s a big difference between reasonable optimism and outright delusion, and the latter, it seems, has been taking a big hold over many of those whose job it is to forecast our economic weather.

In 2016, global GDP grew by 3.4%, adding $3.9tn to GDP. Where debt is concerned, we do not yet have comprehensive data for the whole of the year, but we do know that world debt increased by over $11.4tn in the first three quarters of 2016.

In that nine-month period, governments borrowed more than $5.5tn, households $2.3tn, and non-financial businesses $3.5tn. That stacks up to $3.90 of borrowing for each $1 of reported growth, even if we assume that prudence reigned supreme, such that nobody borrowed at all in the three months running up to Christmas.

To be sure, we cannot make a one-for-one comparison between borrowing and growth. But we do know that a lot of this credit expansion went into consumption expenditures, not least because that’s what governments spend most of their money on. The calculations made by SEEDS suggest that, stripped of the spending of borrowed money, reported growth of 3.4% falls to an underlying level of just 1.2% – and even that probably makes some pretty generous judgments on the validity of a very big pile of borrowing.

Nor is that all – because debt is not the only hostage that current practices are handing to posterity. Debt, though it adds to the burdens of futurity, can at least be managed, if we let inflation accelerate, essentially bilking lenders by paying them back in devalued money.

This cannot work with other forms of futurity, most obviously pensions, where the same inflation that devalues debt simultaneously increases the burden of future payments, not just of pension commitments but also of welfare. It should come as no surprise whatsoever that pension deficits are continuing to widen alarmingly.

On the B.C. Election

There is an election soon in my province.

I decided to get educated on the choices and read the platforms of all the parties.

Not one party mentions the only issue that matters: human overshoot.

By overshoot I mean the combined and interrelated threats of:

  • social unrest and war resulting from the end of economic growth and soon to burst debt and asset bubbles caused by the depletion of affordable fossil energy;
  • runaway climate change and resulting disruptions to food production and human habitat;
  • unprecedented species extinction and fisheries collapse caused by human overpopulation;
  • unsustainable consumption of almost every resource used by humans.

Not one party has population reduction as their top priority.

Not one party even mentions the critical need to reduce our population.

Not one party discusses the need to manage a necessary and unavoidable contraction to our economy.

Not one party mentions the need to live on nature’s interest rather than its capital.

I was planning to vote for the Green party but even they don’t have a clue.

Denial is amazing.

Monkeys Throwing Darts

The depth and breadth of denial on almost every topic of significance is staggering.

I have a tough time watching the news now. Every single story is distorted. No one acknowledges what is actually happening.

It’s especially interesting listening to economists discuss why there is so little economic growth. They speculate on anything and everything except the truth. Monkeys throwing darts at the wall would be more effective.

Inherited denial of reality is the most likely explanation because even monkeys should randomly land on the truth once in a while, but economists never do.

Their profession is a disgrace and should be banned from universities.


Varki’s MOR vs. Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

I am reading Julian Jaynes‘ “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” and am trying to understand how it relates to Varki’s Mind Over Reality (aka Denial of Reality) theory.


  1. Is Varki a prerequisite for Jaynes, or does Jaynes stand on its own?
  2. Does Jaynes answer questions not answered by Varki?
  3. Does Jaynes conflict with Varki?
  4. Do the two theories offer different explanations for:
    1. the singular emergence of a brain with an extended theory of mind;
    2. the singular emergence of a brain capable of advanced physics;
    3. the singular emergence and universality of religion in the cultures of behaviorally modern humans;
    4. the reason that belief in life after death is the only common denominator between thousands of human religions;
    5. the reason that otherwise intelligent humans deny all aspects of their overshoot and the severe damage they are doing to the ecology that sustains them.

If there are any readers that have pondered these questions I would love to hear your thoughts.

I intend to write a summary and offer answers to the above questions after I finish the book.

Jaynes is quite a dense and unintuitive book so it may require several readings before I have the confidence to tackle a summary.

Shame On Them

It’s been about 7 years since Tim Garrett published a paper that explains everything anyone needs to know about the cause of climate change: US$1 (1990) = 10mW.

Or in words, wealth is proportional to energy consumption, and since 90+% of energy is fossil carbon, and since all “renewable” energy depends on fossil carbon, climate change is proportional to total human wealth.

Almost all climate scientists ignore this vital relationship and pretend we can address climate change without shrinking the economy, our lifestyles, and our population.

Now with this recent paper we see a hint that climate scientists may be just starting to understand reality.

Climate scientists have wasted many years by not speaking the truth about our predicament. Most don’t even set good examples in their personal lives.

Shame on them.

Maybe in another 7 years they will understand the equally important relationship between net energy, economic growth, and debt. Although I suspect they won’t due to inherited denial of reality.


Titled “Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems“, the paper describes how the rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions (“bidirectional coupling”) are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press’s multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, has highlighted the work in its current issue, pointing out that “the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates.” See Figure 1 from the Highlights article, reproduced below.

“Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)” said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. “For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid.”

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who was not a co-author of the paper, commented: “We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. The implications couldn’t be more profound.”