By Ron Patterson: Africa in Peril

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http://peakoilbarrel.com/africa-in-peril/

The wildlife decline in most of the world is terrible, but in Africa it is catastrophic. By 2100 there will be no megafauna whatsoever in Africa. All elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, and even zebras and wildebeest will be totally extinct. And the culprit in this huge animal extinction is Africa’s massive overpopulation problem. It is terrible today but is about to get a whole lot worse.

The population of Africa, in 2016, was 1.22 billion. The UN estimates that in 2100 the population of Africa will be about 4.45 billion. Notice that is an increase of about 300 million from their estimate just five years ago. But their 2100 population estimate has doubled since their 1998 estimate.

In 2100 one African country, Nigeria will have a larger population than all of Europe combined.

The reason for this Sub-Sahara African population explosion is the decline in infant mortality rates along with their very high fertility rate. With the exception of South Africa, Sub-Sahara African women have 5.5 children (average) during their life. This rate has been slowly decreasing but not enough to decrease the population growth significantly.

The top 15 fertility rates in the world are all in Africa. The Sub-Saharan population is increasing at the rate of 2.5 percent annually. This is double the rate of both Asia and Latin America.

By 2100 there will be no megafauna whatsoever left in Africa except for humans and their domestic animals. Elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and even zebras and wildebeest will all be gone. And of course, all the big cats like lions and cheetahs will be gone as well. Even the hyenas will disappear because there will be no prey for the prey animals to feed on. However, a few wild dogs may remain as there will likely still be a few small ground animals for them to feed on.

Many will say that Europe is even more overpopulated than Africa. And this is true at this point in time. But that will definitely not be the case in the future. And remember that the wildlife in Europe is already gone except for small animals like rabbits and squirrels and a few foxes that prey on them. The wild European megafauna disappeared decades or even centuries ago. Okay, a few mountain goats, lynx other such animals still thrive high in the Alps. But wherever in Europe it is possible for humans to settle and farm, the megafauna has been driven out, usually to extinction. And that will soon be the case for Africa as well. The last habitat for megafauna, in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, is disappearing fast. It will soon be gone.

Extinction is permanent! If civilization survives another million years the elephants, giraffes, lions and all the other megafauna will still be gone. If you don’t think this earth has a very serious human overpopulation problem, then you are stone blind to the peril of our wildlife.

By Ugo Bardi: When governments operate in “cheating mode”

Problems are frequently blamed on the other 50%, or immigrants, or Russia, rather than on pollution, resource depletion, and overshoot.

I often wonder if the elites are knowingly deceitful, or if they are in denial and believe what they tell us.

I suspect the latter.

It seems to be a general observation that, when facing a serious threat, the elites of a country can reason that the best strategy for them is to cheat the people and save themselves. In the present situation, the threat of global warming seems to be driving some elites to do exactly that. They deny the threat while at the same time maneuvering to save themselves by moving to higher grounds and equipping their mansions with air conditioning. For all they care, the rest of the people can drown or roast.

But, as the threat of climate change becomes clearer, the elites may discover that nobody can survive in an uninhabitable planet. Then, they may finally decide to try to do something to save the ecosystem from which we all depend. But it may well be too late.

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.ca/2017/07/when-governments-operate-in-cheating.html

By Joe Barry: Over-population is the Real Cause of Climate Change

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Thanks to JH for bringing this article to my attention.

http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/05/over-population-is-the-real-cause-of-climate-change-its-killing-us-all-off/

…if changing the way we behave requires a reduction in our living standards, then nothing will happen.

The remarkable thing is that the real cause of global warming is rarely mentioned. It is the elephant in the room. Everyone can see it but no one wants to speak about it, presumably because this subject is a contentious one and challenges the core beliefs of many religions.

The undeniable fact is that we, the human race, are the cause of our own difficulties and unless we reduce our numbers, we will self-destruct.

When famine struck in 1985 the population of Ethiopia was 36m. That famine eventually ended and their current population is now almost 100m. In 1960, there were only 11m in the entire country.

Like all animals, humans are programmed to reproduce and increase in number but like lemmings, which periodically breed beyond the carrying capacity of their surroundings, we are facing imminent disaster unless we change our ways.

In the past, wars, famine and plagues kept world populations in check. Happily these are now rare events, but if we continue to ignore the true reason for the environmental disasters facing us, we will rapidly pass the point where we can save ourselves.

 

By Nicole Foss: The Automatic Earth Primer Guide 2017

Nicole Foss has one of my favorite minds on the planet.

She used to write prolifically on our predicament but perhaps after having said most of what she thought needed to be said, and then attending to personal preparations by leaving Canada for the much safer New Zealand, she now writes infrequently.

Today Nicole published a greatest hits summary of her and her writing partner Ilargi’s essays.

If you are seeking to understand reality then I recommend you spend some time reading her catalog.

If you prefer to learn by video, then you might enjoy this interview with Nicole.

https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2017/05/the-automatic-earth-primer-guide-2017/

Nicole Foss has completed a huge tour de force with her update of the Automatic Earth Primer Guide. The first update since 2013 is now more like a Primer Library, with close to 160 articles and videos published over the past -almost- 10 years, and Nicole’s words to guide you through it. Here’s Nicole:

The Automatic Earth (TAE) has existed for almost ten years now. That is nearly ten years of exploring and describing the biggest possible big picture of our present predicament. The intention of this post is to gather all of our most fundamental articles in one place, so that readers can access our worldview in its most comprehensive form. For new readers, this is the place to start. The articles are roughly organised into topics, although there is often considerable overlap.

We are reaching limits to growth in so many ways at the same time, but it is not enough to understand which are the limiting factors, but also what time frame each particular subset of reality operates over, and therefore which is the key driver at what time. We can think of the next century as a race of hurdles we need to clear. We need to know how to prepare for each as it approaches, as we need to clear each one in order to be able to stay in the race.

TAE is known primarily as a finance site because finance has the shortest time frame of all. So much of finance exists in a virtual world in which changes can unfold very quickly. There are those who assume that changes in a virtual system can happen without major impact, but this assumption is dangerously misguided. Finance is the global operating system – the interface between ourselves, our institutions and our resource base. When the operating system crashes, nothing much will work until the system is rebooted. The next few years will see that crash and reboot. As financial contraction is set to occur first, finance will be the primary driver to the downside for the next several years. After that, we will be dealing with energy crisis, other resource limits, limitations of carrying capacity and increasing geopolitical ramifications.

The global financial system is rapidly approaching a Minsky Moment:

“A Minsky moment is a sudden major collapse of asset values which is part of the credit cycle or business cycle. Such moments occur because long periods of prosperity and increasing value of investments lead to increasing speculation using borrowed money. The spiraling debt incurred in financing speculative investments leads to cash flow problems for investors. The cash generated by their assets is no longer sufficient to pay off the debt they took on to acquire them.

Losses on such speculative assets prompt lenders to call in their loans. This is likely to lead to a collapse of asset values. Meanwhile, the over-indebted investors are forced to sell even their less-speculative positions to make good on their loans. However, at this point no counterparty can be found to bid at the high asking prices previously quoted. This starts a major sell-off, leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market-clearing asset prices, a sharp drop in market liquidity, and a severe demand for cash.”

This is the inevitable result of decades of ponzi finance, as our credit bubble expanded relentlessly, leaving us today with a giant pile of intertwined human promises which cannot be kept. Bubbles create, and rely on, building stacks of IOUs ever more removed from any basis in underlying real wealth. When the bubble finally implodes, the value of those promises disappears as it becomes obvious they will not be kept. Bust follows boom, as it has done throughout human history. The ensuing Great Collateral Grab will reveal just how historically under-collateralized our supposed prosperity has become. Very few of the myriad claims to underlying real wealth can actually be met, leaving the excess claims to be exposed as empty promises. These are destined to be rapidly and messily extinguished in a deflationary implosion.

While we cannot tell you exactly when the bust will unfold in specific locations, we can see that it is already well underway in some parts of the world, notably the European periphery. Given that preparation takes time, and that one cannot be late, now is the time to prepare, whether one thinks the Great Collateral Grab will manifest close to home next month or next year. Those who are not prepared risk losing everything, very much including their freedom of action to address subsequent challenges as they arise. It would be a tragedy to fall at the first hurdle, and then be at the mercy of whatever fate has to throw at you thereafter. The Automatic Earth has been covering finance, market psychology and the consequences of excess credit and debt since our inception, providing readers with the tools to navigate a major financial accident.

 

The second limiting factor is likely to be energy, although this may vary with location, given that energy sources are not evenly distributed. Changes in supply and demand for energy are grounded in the real world, albeit in a highly financialized way, hence they unfold over a longer time frame than virtual finance. Over-financializing a sector of the real economy leaves it subject to the swings of boom and bust, or bubbles and their aftermath, but the changes in physical systems typically play out over months to years rather than days to weeks.

Financial crisis can be expected to deprive people of purchasing power, quickly and comprehensively, thereby depressing demand substantially (given that demand is not what one wants, but what one can pay for). Commodity prices fall under such circumstances, and they can be expected to fall more quickly than the cost of production, leaving margins squeezed and both physical and financial risk rising sharply. This would deter investment for a substantial period of time. As a financial reboot begins to deliver economic recovery some years down the line, the economy can expect to hit a hard energy supply ceiling as a result. Financial crisis initially buys us time in the coming world of hard energy limits, but at the expense of worsening the energy crisis in the longer term.

Energy is the master resource – the capacity to do work. Our modern society is the result of the enormous energy subsidy we have enjoyed in the form of fossil fuels, specifically fossil fuels with a very high energy profit ratio (EROEI). Energy surplus drove expansion, intensification, and the development of socioeconomic complexity, but now we stand on the edge of the net energy cliff. The surplus energy, beyond that which has to be reinvested in future energy production, is rapidly diminishing. We would have to greatly increase gross production to make up for reduced energy profit ratio, but production is flat to falling so this is no longer an option. As both gross production and the energy profit ratio fall, the net energy available for all society’s other purposes will fall even more quickly than gross production declines would suggest. Every society rests on a minimum energy profit ratio. The implication of falling below that minimum for industrial society, as we are now poised to do, is that society will be forced to simplify.

A plethora of energy fantasies is making the rounds at the moment. Whether based on unconventional oil and gas or renewables (that are not actually renewable), these are stories we tell ourselves in order to deny that we are facing any kind of future energy scarcity, or that supply could be in any way a concern. They are an attempt to maintain the fiction that our society can continue in its current form, or even increase in complexity. This is a vain attempt to deny the existence of non-negotiable limits to growth. The touted alternatives are not energy sources for our current society, because low EROEI energy sources cannot sustain a society complex enough to produce them.

We are poised to throw away what remains of our conventional energy inheritance chasing an impossible dream of perpetual energy riches, because doing so will be profitable for the few in the short term, and virtually no one is taking a genuine long term view. We will make the transition to a lower energy society much more difficult than it need have been. At The Automatic Earth we have covered these issues extensively, pointing particularly to the importance of net energy, or energy profit ratios, for alternative supplies. We have also addressed the intersections of energy and finance.

By Erik Lindberg: Economic Growth – A Primer

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Erik Lindberg thinks and writes about many of the issues I think and write about. Two differences between us are that Erik is more intelligent and is a much better writer.

Here is the impressive catalog of Lindberg’s work.

His most recent essay is a primer on economic growth and discusses:

  • relationships between the economy, energy, and environment
  • why we like and want economic growth
  • why economic growth is the greatest threat to humanity
  • the magnitude of human overshoot
  • why improvements in efficiency won’t help
  • how and why money is created
  • why the design of our system is brilliant (on an infinite planet)
  • why the design of our system requires economic growth
  • why economic growth must end
  • why the end of economic growth will be very painful
  • why the next economic depression will be different
  • why it is difficult to switch to a new economic system
  • why no one is to blame

I wrote a similar essay here, but I think Erik’s essay is the most accurate, complete, concise, unbiased, and well written treatment of the topic I’ve seen.

For anyone seeking to understand the most important issue we face, this is one of the best places to start:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-02-22/economic-growth-a-primer/

The only topic that Lindberg does not discuss to my satisfaction is why, despite overwhelming evidence, do we not acknowledge or discuss, let alone attempt to act on, our predicament?

Lindberg acknowledges that denial is the reason we ignore facts, but does not explain the ubiquity and strength of denial in an otherwise intelligent species.

I remain the only person I know of that thinks Varki provides the best explanation for our collective denial of reality.

By Gail Tverberg: Elephants in the Room Regarding Energy and the Economy

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Here is the latest version of Gail Tverberg’s thesis that limits to growth are causing too low energy prices which in turn will cause a decrease in energy extraction which in turn will cause the economy to collapse.

https://ourfiniteworld.com/2017/05/05/why-we-should-be-concerned-about-low-oil-prices/

The economists’ choice of the word “demand” is confusing. A person cannot simply demand to buy a car, or demand to go on a vacation trip. The person needs some way to pay for these things.

Falling resources per capita makes it harder to earn an adequate living. Think of farmers trying to subsist on ever-smaller farms. It would become increasingly difficult for them to earn a living, unless there is a big improvement in technology.

Or think of a miner who is extracting ore that is gradually dropping from 5% metal, to 2% metal, to 1% metal content, and so on, because the best quality ore is extracted first. The miner needs to work an increasing number of hours, to produce the ore needed for 100 kilograms of the metal. The economy is becoming in some sense “worse off,” because the worker is becoming “inefficient” through no fault of his own. The resources needed to provide benefits simply are less available, due to diminishing returns. This problem is sometimes reported as “falling productivity per worker.”

Falling productivity per worker tends to lower wages. And lower wages put downward pressure on commodity prices, because of affordability problems.

We seem to have already gone though a long period of stagflation, since the 1970s. The symptoms we are seeing today look as if we are approaching a steep downslope. If we are approaching a crisis stage, our crisis stage may be much shorter than the 20 to 50 years observed historically. Earlier civilizations (from which these timeframes were observed), did not have electricity or the extensive international trade system we have today.

The big problem that occurs is that non-elite workers become too poor to afford the output of the economy. Adding robots to replace workers looks efficient, but leaves many unemployed. Unemployment is even worse than low pay.

Peak oilers recognized one important point: our use of oil products would at some point have to come to an end. But they did not understand how complex the situation is. Low prices, rather than high, would be the problem. We would see gluts rather than shortages, as we approach limits. Much of the oil that seems to be technologically extractable, will really be left in the ground, because of low prices and other problems.

Many people miss the point that economy must keep growing. (…) As the economy grows, we tend to need more energy. Growing efficiency can only slightly offset this. Thus, as a practical matter, energy per capita needs to stay at least level for an economy to grow.

The fact that energy prices can, and do, fall below the cost of production is something that has been missed by many modelers. Prices can go down, even when the cost of production plus taxes needed by governments rises!

It takes energy to have an intergovernmental organization, such as the European Union. In fact, it takes energy to operate any kind of government. When there is not enough surplus energy to go around, citizens decide that the benefits of belonging to such organizations are less than the costs involved. That is the reason for the Brexit vote, and the reason the question is coming up elsewhere.

Oil prices have been too low for producers since at least mid-2014. It is possible to hide a problem with low prices with increasing debt, for a few years, but not indefinitely. The longer the low-price scenario continues, the more likely a collapse in production is. Also, the tendency of international organizations of government to collapse (Slide 38) takes a few years to manifest itself, as does the tendency for civil unrest within oil exporters (Slide 39).

Once an incorrect understanding of our energy problem becomes firmly entrenched, it becomes very difficult for leaders to understand the real problem.

By Nate Hagens: Blindspots and Superheroes

Here is this year’s Earth Day talk by Nate Hagens.

I used to preface Nate’s talks by saying he provides the best big picture view of our predicament available anywhere.

While still true, I think Nate may now be the only person discussing these issues in public forums.

Everyone else seems to have retired to their bunkers and gone quiet.

If you only have an hour this year to devote to understanding the human predicament and what needs to be done, this may be the best way to spend it.