Among the most curious features of the current predicament of industrial society is that so much of it was set out in great detail so many decades ago. Just at the moment I’m not thinking of the extensive literature on resource depletion that started appearing in the 1950s, which set out in painstaking detail the mess we’re in right now. I’m thinking of those writers who explored the decline and fall of past civilizations, in the vain hope that ours might manage to avoid making all the usual mistakes. In particular, I’m thinking of Arnold Toynbee.
Toynbee’s all but forgotten these days, but three quarters of a century ago his was a name to conjure with. His gargantuan 12-volume work A Study of History set out to trace the histories of all known civilizations and, from that data set, determine the factors that drove the rise and fall of human societies. One- and two-volume abridgements leaving out most of the supporting data were widely available back in the day—my parents, who were not exactly highbrow East Coast intellectuals, had a copy on a bookshelf in the family room when my age was still in single digits. Plenty of academic historians denounced Toynbee, but a great many people read his work and saw the value in it.
Those days are of course long past, but there’s an interesting twist to the disappearance of his ideas from the collective dialogue of our time. Those ideas weren’t rejected because they turned out to be wrong. They were rejected because Toynbee was right.
To summarize an immense body of erudite historical analysis far too briefly, Toynbee argued that new human societies emerge when a human society is faced with a challenge it can’t meet using its previous habits of thought and action. Many societies faced with such a challenge simply go under, but now and then it happens that a creative minority is able to come up with alternative ways of thinking and acting that meet the challenge successfully. The creative minority then becomes the guiding class of the society; even if it doesn’t hold political and economic power itself, its ideas and insights seize hold of the imaginations of the ruling class and direct the energies of the entire society.
A successful creative minority isn’t satisfied with a single set of good ideas. That’s essential, since the world isn’t so unimaginative as to keep challenging a society over and over again in the same way. Sometimes a challenge demands new ideas and new strategies; sometimes it requires doubling back and using something that worked a long time ago; sometimes a single mental leap is all that’s needed, while sometimes a prolonged period of muddling through is on the agenda. The creative minority has to stay nimble and pay close attention to what’s actually happening in order to keep solving problems and retain the loyalty of the rest of society.
That’s how civilizations rise. Civilizations fall, according to Toynbee, when the formerly creative minority stops being creative and sinks into a rut. In Toynbee’s terms, it changes from a creative minority to a dominant minority, and it settles for maintaining control over the society by force and fraud because it no longer has the ability to inspire confidence and loyalty by coming up with effective responses to the challenges faced by society. You know that your society is run by a dominant minority when, no matter what the problem is, the people in power always insist on the same solutions. You also know that your society is run by a dominant minority when the same problems come up over and over again, because they’re never actually solved—they’re just swept under the rug in a frantic effort to insist that the same old solutions really will work.
I was reminded of all this forcefully the other day by the news from Britain. One of the more interesting features of the British political system, at least from an American perspective, is that the lack of checks and balances in Britain’s unwritten constitution means that its parties can be far more blatant about their agendas in public than ours usually manage. Liz Truss, for example, didn’t have to convince a majority of the voting population of Britain to put her into No 10 Downing Street; she just had to make nice with the members of the Conservative Party, and so could be much more forthright about her intentions. The same point is just as true for Keir Starmer, the current head of the Labour Party: all he needs is a majority of party members to keep backing his program, no matter what the rest of the population thinks of it.
Thus I trust it came as no surprise to anyone that once Truss became prime minister, one of her first priorities was to cut taxes on the well-to-do. Making life easier for the rich has been a central goal of the Conservative Party since there was a Conservative Party, and now that the populist wing of the party and its scruffy standard-bearer Boris Johnson have been driven out of power, the old guard represented by Truss promptly tried to get back to doing what they and their predecessors have been doing since powdered wigs were all the rage. Most other people in Britain know perfectly well that cutting taxes on the rich won’t do anything at all to help Britain’s crumbling economy or its increasingly desperate energy shortage, as the public reaction demonstrated, but here we’re in the territory Toynbee mapped so precisely: Truss and her government tried to insist that the nation’s problems have to conform to their preferred solutions, rather than adapting their proposed solutions to the nation’s problems.
And Labour? They’re doing exactly the same thing with a different set of failed solutions. At a Labour Party conference last month, Starmer unveiled a grand plan for Britain’s energy future. You guessed it: more wind turbines, more solar photovoltaic farms, gargantuan investments in hydrogen as an energy storage and transport medium, all with the goal of getting Britain to use next to no fossil fuels within a decade or so. All this was propped up as usual with the standard rhetoric about global warming, as well as a great deal of talk about the impact of energy costs on the ordinary people of Britain. Now of course global warming is a real issue, and so is the burden of soaring energy costs, but it bears remembering that it’s quite possible to grasp that there’s a real problem but go on to commit to a solution that won’t work.
We already know, after all, that Starmer’s project won’t work. Germany pursued the same set of gimmicks most of two decades before, and it failed. As I noted on this blog two weeks ago, if windpower and solar PV farms could provide an industrial nation with an adequate energy supply, the Germans would be fat and happy right now, powering their industrial system on wind and sun while the rest of the world reeled under the blows of high energy costs. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not what happened. Wind and sunlight are diffuse, intermittent energy sources very poorly suited to a modern power grid, so the illusion of the German Energiewende was propped up with vast amounts of cheap Russian natural gas. Now that the prop isn’t there any more, industrial firms are leaving Germany as fast as they can, while ordinary Germans are bracing themselves for a winter of blackouts and energy rationing.
You’d think that any sane person observing this would recognize that copying the Energiewende and going whole hog on windpower and solar PV is a very bad idea. You’d be right, too, but that’s where Toynbee’s analysis shows its strength. Keir Starmer and the other members of the Labour Party leadership have embraced wind turbines and PV panels as The Right Things To Do, and the mere fact that those don’t accomplish what they’re supposed to accomplish never finds its way through the haze of abstractions that dominates political discourse today.
That’s not just a British problem, to be sure. The state government of California has committed itself to the same ruinously ineffective program for exactly the same reasons. California is accordingly on track to become the Rust Belt of 21st century America, with industries, jobs, and residents fleeing at a record pace, while Governor Gavin Newsom blusters and preens himself on his state’s ongoing barrage of virtue signaling. Here again, a fog of abstractions that define windpower and PV as The Right Things To Do makes it impossible for Newsom to recognize that the policies on which he’s betting his political future and the economic survival of his state have failed whenever they’ve been tried and won’t work any better this time around.
Nor, of course, is it any smarter to double down on that other failed technology, nuclear power. When I talked about the fantasies and failures of nuclear power two weeks ago, I fielded the inevitable lectures from nuclear power groupies about how the only problem with nuclear power is that people are irrationally afraid of it, it really is the solution to all our energy problems, and so on endlessly along lines laid down when Eisenhower was in the White House. It somehow never sinks in that even in those countries that have autocratic governments and next to no environmental regulation—China comes to mind—nuclear power has proven to be a technical success but an economic flop. In the eyes of nuclear fanboys—you won’t find many fangirls in that scene—nuclear power is The Right Thing To Do, and mere facts can’t get a word in edgewise past that devout conviction.
If you want a litmus test for the mode of elite failure that Toynbee anatomized, in fact, all you have to do is point out the history of repeated failure to some true believer in windpower and solar PV, or for that matter the comparable history of repeated failure to a true believer from the leftward end of the glow-in-the-dark lobby. If you can get past the flat insistence that it just ain’t so, and the various attempts to weasel the numbers around to avoid the lessons of repeated failure, you can pretty reliably count on getting a lecture about how awful climate change is going to be, winding up with an insistence that windpower and solar PV, or nuclear power, or all three, are the only alternatives to planetary doom. Notice the weird logic: if the situation is really that bad, does it make any sense to cling to a supposed solution that won’t fix it? In the minds of Starmer and Newsom, or their equivalents in nuke fandom, apparently so.
It also deserves to be said here that the threat from global warming, serious as it is, is being wildly overinflated in the mass media and the climate-activist scene. Consider the recent hullaballoo about the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. The Thwaites Glacier is huge—roughly the size of the state of Florida—and it contains enough ice that, if it were all to melt, sea levels worldwide would go up around 26 inches: enough to cause serious problems in low-lying coastal areas around the world. In recent years, furthermore, the floating ice shelf where the Thwaites Glacier empties into the ocean has begun to break up; current estimates are that it will certainly be gone in a decade, and may collapse in as little as 3 to 5 years.
Once the ice shelf goes, the rest of the Thwaites Glacier will begin to slide more rapidly into the sea and melt, a process that will take fifty to a hundred years to complete. The Thwaites Glacier, in turn, makes up a large part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels worldwide by ten feet; the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier’s ice shelf is thought to be a harbinger that other parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are moving toward a similar fate over the next few centuries. All in all, it’s not exactly welcome news for us or our descendants.
That sort of reasonable concern isn’t what’s finding its way into the news, though. The corporate news media are insisting instead that the collapse of the Thwaite Glacier’s ice shelf means that sea level will certainly rise ten feet. Climate activists, eager to outdo the mass media in the exaggeration Olympics, are now insisting that this ten-foot rise will surely happen within three to five years unless all the world’s nations stop using fossil fuels and throw all available resources into figuring out how to stabilize the ice shelf.
I suspect most of my readers recall that according to Al Gore, New York City was supposed to be underwater by now. The main reason why most people in the industrial world roll their eyes and start talking about something else when climate change gets brought up is precisely this habit of taking a serious issue, puffing it up into apocalyptic absurdity, and then pretending that nobody said anything of the kind once doomsday passes and the predicted cataclysm yet again fails to arrive. This is another example of the fixation on failed solutions we’ve been discussing. What shall we do to motivate people to take climate change seriously? Let’s panic them by trotting out shrill apocalyptic claims! And if people stop believing the claims when they turn out to be false? It’s that last question that never gets asked in climate change circles, because the habit of making overwrought predictions of doom has been assigned the role of The Right Thing To Do.
Of course there are alternatives to the fixation on failed strategies that Toynbee anatomized in such detail and we’ve surveyed here. The most important of them is an option we’ve already discussed: instead of trying to force the problem to fit a prearranged solution, find solutions that have some hope of dealing constructively with the problem.
The current situation in Britain is a convenient example. To deal with a serious energy crunch and the soaring prices resulting from it, the Conservatives want to cut taxes so the rich get richer and everyone else has more money to hand over to the energy companies, while Labour wants to sink billions of pounds into a set of green energy technologies that won’t work. Are there other options? Of course there are. To begin with, most buildings in Britain are poorly insulated and lack other basic conservation measures: the lessons of the 1970s energy crises have been forgotten just as thoroughly on that side of the pond as they have been over here.
A systematic program of weatherization for British homes, shops, and factories could quite readily shave 10% off the nation’s energy costs and might well, if it were intelligently designed and applied, get significantly above that figure. Since energy prices are set at the margins, this would have an outsized effect on energy prices. With energy as with money, it’s almost always easier to reduce outgo than it is to increase income, and a vast amount of energy used today in industrial nations is wasted pointlessly without making any contribution to quality of life. Cutting down on that waste is an easy fix that would help a lot of British people very quickly.
Britain also has a huge, functional, but almost entirely neglected energy-efficient transport system in its canal network. Relatively modest investments in canal improvements would enable a significant share of domestic freight to be transferred to canal boats and shipped for a tiny fraction of the energy cost needed for other modes. Reactivating the canal network would also provide a resilient, sustainable worst-case transport network that would remain viable even during severe energy shortages. This is something that British officials and ordinary Britons should have in mind for the future, since the world’s remaining concentrated energy reserves are depleting steadily with each day that passes.
Are these two the only options? Of course not. Are they the best options? That’s a question best settled by local and regional-scale experiment, backed up by detailed analysis by people who don’t have an ideological commitment to either side of the question. Which options will work best will vary considerably from one part of Britain to another, which is why projects to conserve energy and find less extravagant ways to meet human needs and wants would be best managed by individuals, families, local communities, and regional organizations rather than by central planning from London.
Set aside the things that have already been proven not to work, look at unfashionable possibilities that do work, consider all the options, and make ample room for personal, local, and regional experimentation: that approach offers genuine hope at a time when the establishment is busy pursuing policies that have already proven hopelessly inadequate. Put enough effort into this less rigid approach, and it becomes possible to piece together a toolkit of possibilities that would make the twilight of the fossil fuel age much less difficult for everyone. That’s a goal worth pursuing. Even though it’s very late in the day and vast amounts of time and resources have already been wasted trying to force the world to conform to a set of prearranged narratives, it would still be possible to accomplish quite a bit.
California could do its own version of the same thing. So could the United States as a whole—we waste even more energy per capita than the British do, though there are other countries that beat us hands down in the waste sweepstakes—and we would benefit hugely from such a project. So would Germany, for that matter, or any other industrial nation. Will they? That’s the big question, of course. If the current leadership of each of these societies remains stuck in their current status as dominant minorities, clinging to power even though they haven’t had an original idea in decades and have no notion how to deal with the spiraling crises of the present, then there’s little if any chance that anything of the sort will happen.
On the other hand, it’s just possible that the people in power might remember that their job is to find solutions to fit the problems we face, not try to bully problems into fitting their preferred set of solutions. It’s also possible that enough people could come to terms with the failure of familiar narratives to put a new set of people into power who have grasped this crucial point. If that happens, rough though the transition may be, we can let go of the shopworn twentieth-century futures that have failed so reliably, and get busy building futures that work instead.
Back in the day, “Weatherize before you solarize” was practically a mantra. If you had told me back then that this mantra would be so thoroughly memory-holed by the 20XXs, I’d have thought you to be either a troll or an idiot. Ah, the naivety of youth! I guess it’s just not sexy enough.
Great piece, thanks.
Juste one quibble: Boris Johnson is absolutely not different from Truss, he’s just funnier and scruffier.
One should remember his (extremely funny, as always) parting words to the British Parliament:
The sticking point comes down to profit which wins out in Western Capitalism every single time. However, insufficient solar power might ultimately be, the logical deployment would be solar panels on the roof of every suitable building in the nation (world?) and yet the focus is on giant “solar farms.” Why? because that maintains a status quo where utility companies sell power to the people, not the reverse. A British shift to canal transport would have major benefits in many ways, but it would also have a potentially devastating impact on the entrenched transportation sector from vehicle manufacturers to asphalt companies to warehouse owners to roadside truck stops.
Here in the US Senator Manchin has arguably done more to impede responsible reactions to the Climate/Energy Crises than any other American in the 21st century. Why? There are several reasons but the most basic one is because his personal fortune is tied up in coal mines. However, given his support for the Appalachian gas pipeline there is not even a question that his family trust already owns natural gas wells.
It is the old Tragedy of the Commons. Those whose personal wealth, power, and comfort are tied up in the old system will ride it right down to destruction, or at least a point where it is no longer making money. Then they will choose the next most profitable alternative over the most effective one. Ordinary people, on the other hand, are kept fighting so hard just to get by that they don’t have time to care about any of it until their houses get cold, or they can’t charge their cell phones.
Elizabeth Truss really does make a good example of that sort of ossified thinking. I am worried for Britain. At least it looks like she isn’t going to get a chance to try the obviously-useless politicies she wanted. That’s a good sign.
This is completely unrelated to today’s post!
I have a replica British Army Bugle for anyone who wants to pay shipping.
If you can play the trumpet or a bugle, it works.
My father’s cryptic notes (he did play it) say B.T.B. Key of C, old (flat) A=220 and that the bugle accepts a trumpet mouth piece.
I’m estimating about $10 for shipping.
Email me at tdbpeschel @ gmail.com removing the spaces if you’re interested.
First person wins!
A bugle is another piece of forgotten technology. They let you communicate signals to your forces that can be heard over long distances. There are all kinds of bugle commands, just like drum commands (military tattoos) and the troops knew them.
Bugles aren’t just for taps.
I find much to agree with here but are you suggesting that wind and solar (in any form) are not part of a mix of energy sources for the future? I am very happy to agree that they perform quite differently to gas, oil, coal and nukes, and that we have to cut consumption by a huge percentage but do you not feel that wind and sun fill a reasonable part of the gap?
Also, you haven’t mentioned the UK’s desire to replace gas boilers (I think you call them furnaces but I may be wrong) with air to water heat pumps and also to replace all petrol / diesel vehicles with EVs. My fag packet calculations suggest that to do that as like for like would require a 5 fold increase in electricity generation. Sadly this continues to fall on deaf ears in the political establishment.
So many rational ideas to improve our situation have one simple flaw, they don’t include any obvious profits for the Investor Class.
Take the housing insulation idea, simple materials, some trucks to transport/deliver them, and a lot of labor.
Where’s the opportunity for profits to oligarchs, or the investor class,
or at least the PMC ?(professional managerial class)
Our mis-leadership class can and will nix any plan that improves the lives of the masses without also enriching the already rich, and they’ll do it by labeling it as “giving free stuff to undeserving poor folks”
Excellent article, JMG. On a positive personal note, I won an eBay auction for the first eight volumes of Toynbee’s series. I’m currently making my way through the first book, and I hope to eventually acquire the last four volumes. It’ll take me a while to work my way to them!
A question for you and the commentariat, if I may. Can anyone recommend a good resource (book, article, video, etc.) that debunks nuclear power as a solution? I’ve learned enough about renewables to know why they can’t sustain our industrial civilization, but I know less of the flaws in the nuclear approach. Thanks in advance.
Hey hey JMG,
Just a data point. Back in The Oil Drum days, Alan from the Big Easy was fond of pointing out that the Swiss were cut off from oil in WWII. They managed to get by on 1 barrel of oil per person per year. Currently the USA uses 22 barrels per person per year and back in 1945 we used about 10.
Still, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it will be done. I expect our dominant minority to stick to its shopworn tropes even after they are shown the door.
I have no issue with your general assessment.
I would add, having worked extensively in maintaining and repairing large solar pv farm in the past, that you can get a smoother supply of renewable energy. You just have to convert it something else: steam, hydrogen, whatever. I am not mentioning batteries as it is not clear we have enough resources to make that remotely work: lithium is already getting scarce.
Two-obvious problems of course. When you make a power conversion (like coal to electricity) you are going to loose some of that power. The numbers aren’t real good at the moment. It is hard to see your energy output being worthwhile if your conversion rate hovers around 50%. And people get upset when you kill every bird in the desert (not to mention not every place that needs power is near a desert) with your solar concentrators.
The second issue is that fossil fuels are wonderfully concentrated, very portable sources of safe power. They don’t have the bulk of steam, and they don’t threaten your next Hindenburg like hydrogen. Our drive around anywhere we want society isn’t likely to work well.
If fossil fuels are limited, we may have to make due with less energy per capita than was available to the Industrial portions of Great Britain in the 19th century. Given the heavy use of coal for heating in some places during the 19th century, some rural areas will also feel the pinch. Strategies for extending what you do have will be critical.
You can always become a hermit after the world ends: https://beskidzka24.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/8-12.000-z_-789×780.jpg. (That’s actually one of Beksinski’s more cheerful paintings. They don’t call him ‘master of the aftermath’ for nothing. He specialises in a uniquely brutal apocalypse.)
Talking about visions of the future and continuing last week’s discussion about The Flesh of Your Future Sticks Between My Teeth, it had some awesome stories. In comparison my story ‘Human-Derived Product’ didn’t even make me look like the crazy one – which I appreciate. 🙂 But there’s two in particular I want to talk about.
‘A Chi Town Doctor’ by Justin Patrick Moore is like a combination of Hobo with a Shotgun, the French parkour crime film District 9 and its sequel, D12’s ‘Fight Music’ music video, the car culture and duelling from Romeo + Juliet, and side-scrolling beat-em-ups Final Fight and Streets of Rage 1 & 2. But with lesbians. Lots of lesbians. It’s the most spectacular, gaudy and picturesque gang warfare and urban decay I’ve ever seen. It’s basically the game I spent the 90s wanting to play. Would make a spectacular anime too…or a comic illustrated by Eduardo Risso and coloured by Patricia Mulvihill (as in later issues of 100 Bullets).
‘Scions of the High Road’ by Ian Duncombe with its fusion of biological, neurological, and technological enhancement could be a fiction set in the future imagined by Leigh Phillips in Austerity Ecology and the Collapse-porn Addicts: A defence of growth, progress, industry and stuff. I also saw it in the style of Warren Ellis comics like Transmetropolitan, City of Silence, and ‘Angel Stomp Future’ from Apparat – just more utopian than cyberpunk. The really remarkable thing is it actually fulfills the criteria of the original Grist contest better than any of their finalists managed, and despite being a satire made that kind of future more attractive than any of them did.
One factor in the reluctance to consider pragmatic solutions may be that pragmatic solutions are less sexy than the other kind. If you weatherize a house, you improve things for the people who live in that house; even a program of weatherization simply improves things for people in this town or this county, here and now. But if you can solve the problem of providing Free Energy for Everybody, Now and Forever, then presumably you have improved things for everybody in the world. The former solution may be achievable while the latter one is a mirage, but the mirage is much more thrilling.
“Which options will work best will vary considerably from one part of Britain to another, which is why projects to conserve energy and find less extravagant ways to meet human needs and wants would be best managed by individuals, families, local communities, and regional organizations rather than by central planning from London.”
This, I believe, is where the North American conservation efforts went hellishly wrong when they were introduced five decades ago.
Can you save energy by slowing down to 55mph? Sure you can (and some do; I pass them every day on the highway) – but not everybody can deal with driving that slow because of the cost of the extra time. Can you save energy by driving a smaller car? Sure you can (and some do) – but not everybody can fit all they need to into a sub-compact vehicle. Can you save energy by optimizing the itinerary for a minimum-distance trip? Sure you can – but there again, it doesn’t work for everbody. Ditto for use of public transit, lower thermostat settings, dimmed lighting, stay-at-home vacations, etc. etc. The optimum strategy will be different for every individual, depending on circumstance, economics, physical needs, and a host of other factors.
Trouble is, the Faustian mindset cannot on any terms accept this heresy of diversity. It insists – above all else – that imposing The One And Only Right Solution on everybody everywhere whether it works or not is the ONLY viable option. So the 55mph speed limit was imposed on everyone, not because it did anything at all to alleviate the problem, but because it was enforceable as The One And Only Right Solution.
Toynbee’s thesis, as summed up in the article’s 4th paragraph, rang a bell. Ah yes…
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded – here and there, now and then – are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
“This is known as ‘bad luck'”.
– Robert A. Heinlein, “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”, in “Time Enough for Love”
What I love is folks freaking out about the simple fact that you are going to have less and it is gonna cost more.
Fossil fuels are going to be around for a while yet and are going to be part of the mix for many decades, maybe a century, but they are going to be too expensive for the hoi polloi except in small portions.
They are going to try nuke energy, it will be a part of the mix until they figure out that no one can afford it.
Wind and solar might be able to run some LED lights, power your cell phone, and run you fans for hot weather, but they aren’t gonna heat your house or run a factory. I think that folks had better get it out of their heads that they are going to have their cars run on wind and solar.
I think that folks need to change their standards. We say that an administration is successful when there is a big percentage growth. I think that for the next century, we ought to judge administrations on how small is the percentage decline.
Ooh ooh I know a country that wastes more energy! A lot of our ‘per capita’ use is actually the oil sand refineries, they just don’t make that EROI like they used to.
Ontario had to make an unfortunate admission the other day that they won’t generate enough electricity by 2025, and their main idea is a retrofit program and turning down yer AC. Of course if the Great Satan hadn’t canceled all those contracts, we would never have had this problem! We’ll see if they manage to keep that nuclear plant going. Bless those boys, they just keep trying.
I also had to look it up, I was hopeful maybe Britain adopted a new monetary standard in 1702, but it was 1717 I was thinking of. Maybe some Return to Traditional “bimetallism” with a modern twist?
William Jennings Bryan is just not talked about enough these days.
Trying to force the problem to fit pre-arranged solutions…
This explains so well why the global warming/climate change peddlers have made me feel that a fraud was being pulled since Al Gore stepped onto that stage.
Absolute Power and control over humans and resources: the solution.
Since the touted climate apocalypse didn’t happen (yet another failed “rapture” date), societies across the globe are being hit broadside by a non-stop barrage of contrived apocalyptic problems – and when we look at the source of all these cannonballs flying at our heads, we can see that they are all coming from the same group of persons.
To be the master of an enslaved population… the perennial dream of the impotent and valueless man.
Oh, I neglected to say thank you for the wisdom in today’s post. I found inspirational value in it.
Helix, exactly. I want to blow the dust off that mantra and get it into circulation again.
Quos Ego, obviously I disagree. Johnson won by paying at least a little attention to working-class Britons who have been ignored by both parties. Truss has gone back to the older Tory attitude of pandering solely to the rich, and that’s going to cost the Tories bitterly in the next general election.
Btidwell, as you’ve just demonstrated, Manchin is perfectly capable of moving his family fortune into other investments. He’s stood in the way of ill-considered pseudosolutions to the energy crisis because the people who vote him into office depend on the coal industry for their survival, and the Democrats are offering them nothing but yet another helping of poverty and misery. In our kleptocratic system, profit certainly plays a constant role, but too many people blame it for the abject failure of their own politically inept agendas.
Pygmycory, the blowback was indeed promising. Who knows? If she’s capable of learning from her mistakes she might actually accomplish something.
Stuart, sun and wind are important parts of a future energy mix but not as a source of grid power — we’ve tried that repeatedly and it doesn’t work worth squat. Future societies will need to rework their economies to deal with intermittent, diffuse power sources — to use wind as a source of mechanical energy when the wind blows, and to use solar thermal when it’s available, having something else as a backup — but the current energy system, with 24/7 grid availability, is only an option because of fossil fuels and can’t be maintained on diffuse intermittent power sources such as wind and sunlight. As for the insane attempt to electrify everything when Britain can’t afford to keep its current grid powered — well, no argument there. (By the way, I hadn’t encountered the term “fag packet calculations” before; thank you. On this side of the water it’s “back of the envelope calculations.”)
Watt4Bob, there are substantial profits to be made in energy retrofits and weatherization. If the investor class had a clue, they’d launch startups to do the work and lobby for federal and state money to fund it. Kleptocracy is of course a pervasive feature of today’s industrial societies, but there’s more going on here than blind greed — the failure of imagination is even getting in the way of making a fast buck.
Brenainn, glad to hear it. As for the nuclear question, I’ll have to toss that to the commentariat; I did a lot of research on the subject fifteen years ago but I’ve moved several times since then and no longer have the books.
Team10tim, it’s entirely possible for modern societies to get by on much, much less energy than they currently use. All it takes is some imagination and a willingness to adapt. Those are in very short supply just now, admittedly.
Russell1200, that’s exactly it. When you factor in intermittency, conversion losses, and the hard limits on storage — the relatively efficient methods, such as pumped hydro, are only viable in very limited circumstances, and the more generally useful options are far too inefficient — you don’t have enough energy output to maintain the kind of energy use our current system requires. Thus that system will not be sustained.
Yorkshire, hey, at least there are birds and trees in the painting! Yeah, those were good stories. I liked the lot of them — after all, that’s why they went into the anthology. 😉
Michael, granted. There’s another way The (supposedly) Right Thing to Do is cemented into the brains of clueless elites: a certain kind of ego fluffing is among the things they require.
Old Steve, exactly. Exactly. That’s one of the reasons why, bad though it is, rationing by price works better than central planning.
Tom, ha! Yes, I thought of that the first time I read Toynbee. I’d be astonished to learn that Heinlein didn’t read Toynbee — there are elements in his future history that suggest a good solid grasp of Toynbee’s ideas.
Degringolade, yep. Real growth has been over for some decades now — most of what’s counted as “economic growth” in this century has been the unsustainable inflation of financial bubbles in the money economy — and the mismatch between ballooning pseudowealth and declining real wealth is reaching critical mass around us right now. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Pixelated, aw, shucks. I was saving Canada as an example in case I got one of those mainstream-left trolls who like to insist that the US is the worst country in the history of ever and who look up to your prime minister — I suppose that’s easier if you don’t have to deal with his antics personally. I’ll have to find another good example. 😉 As for 1702, I just pulled that number out of thin air, as a date when powdered wigs were still in fashion and the original Tory party was already up to its usual tricks.
Zhao, nicely summarized. Exactly.
Mr. Greer wrote:
On the other hand, it’s just possible that the people in power might remember that their job is to find solutions to fit the problems we face, not try to bully problems into fitting their preferred set of solutions.
Me: I like that phrase – not bully problems into fitting their preferred set of solutions.
I am thinking of electric cars. Actually, my friends in West Virginia would rather not — considering the mountain roads they have to travel on. I do remember that California has mountains — are they daft there in forgetting that electric cars don’t do diddly on mountain roads. As for trucks…… nada as in no company has figured that problem out.
As a friend of mine from West. VA said, “The government is the only one who wants these blank…. blank… cars. And they are going to force us on them. Blank….blank…. the government.”
“Arnold Toynbee, contemplating the idiocy of failing elites.”
I’m reminded of the famous quote which some say was attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”.
“The corporate news media are insisting instead that the collapse of the Thwaite Glacier’s ice shelf means that sea level will certainly rise ten feet.”
We can put Guy McPherson in this group as well. His doom-mongering with certain dates which have long passed has been off the charts to the point he has lost most of his credibility. Al Gore is another one where people got wist to his antics when they discovered his electric bill was five digits per month. Yeah, let me breakout my violin.
Toynbee is interesting because we definitely see the results today. The problem today is the Elite have shiny new toys as in high tech war weapons to distract the Plebs from their failed ideas. As my favorite alt media trends researcher, Gerald Celente likes to say: “From Covid Wars, to Ukraine War to World War. When all else fails they take you to War”.
Tucker Carlson makes this point in his 15 min monologue that makes that point, that the Elite have run out of ideas and they think that it’s okay to start a Hell On Earth nuclear war. It is certainly well worth the the 15 minutes.
One thought I had after reading this was whether any sort of social conditioning for variable (and ultimately lower) energy use might be useful in the years ahead.
For better or (mostly) worse we have grown accustomed to various metrics being thrown at us by way of media channels – covid case counts, vaccination rates, terror threat levels, Dow and Nasdaq trends, etc. – all of which motivate certain people to take certain actions.
What if instead of vague requests to use less electricity on hot days there was a real-time display of demand vs. generation capacity with a sort of stoplight system: yellow if over 90% and red if over 95%? Yellow means try to delay energy-intensive activities for another time. Red means shut off your clothes dryers, unplug your electric cars, turn down your thermostats, idle as many industrial machines as possible, or else the power goes out (rolling blackouts).
As much as I hate the narrative matrix of fear-motivation and virtue-signaling it doesn’t seem to be going away, and I wonder if it could be leveraged to promote conservation and cushion the energy descent ahead while making all of us more accustomed to variable and intermittent energy availability.
As others have said, it’s easy to tell a good societal-level story about new green energy than about home weatherization and conservation, but might it be possible to change that and tell a compelling conservation story by drawing attention to different statistics?
Now, if only there were some kind of environmental party, a ‘green’ party of sorts, that would adopt many of the wise suggestions I read on this blog…
re energy use and the oil sands in Canada.
I’ve noticed that while Canada’s per-capita emissions are higher than the US, per capita incomes are lower. As to why and how things are that way, I’d blamed that on 1a) the oilsands b) a larger percentage of Canada’s economic activity involving natural resource extraction rather than financial shenanigans than the US’s, and 2a) Canada’s size, 2b Canada’s climate, and 2c, the small population compared to the county’s size, meaning that if you don’t live in a major center you may have to travel very long distances for anything you can’t find locally.
I’m guessing that consumption emissions per person aren’t as high as you’d guess from total energy use divided by population because a larger share is consumed by production-related activity, and that possibly a larger percentage of people’s income is spent on energy due to heating costs and long-distance transportation.
Are we still disgracefully wasteful? Oh boy yes. Poor insulation/no insulation in an area like, say Calgary with winters that reach -30C or worse and summers over 30C? It’s a thing. It’s becoming less common, but it’s still a thing. A very stupid one. So are McMansions, and giant trucks and SUVs to drive to the office etc, etc.
Could we use a lot less energy? Yes. Will we? Yes. There’s no way around it, no matter how much people kick, scream, deny the problem, and throw distractions around like confetti.
But the “take the entire economy and divide by the population” approach makes ordinary Canadian citizens look even worse than we actually are when compared to economies heavily dependent on financial wizardry. Although the housing bubble and speculation in Canada makes that less true than it used to be. Until this summer, when it started deflating fast. Toronto has lost an average of over CAN$224,000 per dwelling in the last 6 months. Crash warning! Not that it isn’t already too late for that.
There is a great deal of “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t even try”, especially among Americans. That’s why so many are still living in McMansions and would not dream of driving five miles an hour slower on the highway. If they begin any part of the thought process of conservation, it inevitably leads to a slippery slope where the poor deplorable bottom dwellers lurk in squalor with our bad teeth, generic handbags, and Dollar Tree macaroni suppers.
Based on the fact that I haven’t heard anything about it for years, I assume thorium reactor technology is also turning out to be a dead end – is that a fair assessment?
A sort of relevant anecdote: one of my children just moved into a freshly renovated apartment. Now the landlord did many of the RIght Things when renovating, among them installing an on-demand water heater and low-flow plumbing fixtures. But the new tenants ran into a problem: the water was either too hot or frigid. It turned that the low-flow shower if turned cooler than fully hot didn’t have enough flow to keep the water heater running. My solution: turn on the hot water faucet, then take your shower. I’m told it works perfectly. So much for energy saving…
A google search of “economics of nuclear power” shows a vast stack of resources, both for and against.
The short version is the capital cost is huge. If you get a loan to build it you acquire fabulously high interest costs plus the construction costs with zero income for as long as it takes to built the plant. (search for Vogtle cost overruns). Part of that is learning curve, Vogtle is the first of a new design, but mostly it is just a big project.
Solar installations can be brought up a section at a time. Once the main transformers are installed one section of the installation can come on line as soon as it is done. Now you have cash flow to help pay for the other sections.
The same idea applies to wind farms. As interest costs go up this will make the economics of nuclear power even worse.
PS, We are now it our fifth consecutive day of no significant wind. There is about 3,000 MW of installed wind capacity in this system.
Hello all and JMG,
I recently came across this site near Calgary: https://www.dlsc.ca/how.htm
This a site of 52 houses that use solar thermal for heating and water storage as a battery. It sounds like a reliable concept that certainly can help conserve energy from gas mainly.
Thanks for your post on Arnold Toynbee. I first read his work in 1977 and his key insights are as relevant today as they were when I first read them. Other writers, such as J. Tainter and P. Turchin, have built on Toynbee’s work but have not disproved his description of the development of a parasitic dominant minority as the key indicator that a civilization is its the way to the dustbin of history.
Another insight of Toynbee that is often disputed is that, as a committed Christian, he saw a strong spiritual aspect to the rise and fall of civilization. This puts him at odds with many, if not most, other modern historians and sociologists who are stuck on K. Marx’s obsession with material explanations for social conditions. I think that if you ignore the spiritual, you miss out on a lot of understanding of the human condition.
In the final analysis, our problems don’t lack technical solutions but what we currently lack are social, political, and, ultimately, spiritual solutions. Your frequent assertion that there is a great lack of imagination in the modern world is another way of stating this fact or predicament. Toynbee also shows that when the dominant elites fail in their creative responsibilities, the non-elites (he called them proletariat) take up the challenge, often through spiritual means.
Thanks again John
I’m becoming more convinced every day that the Global Warming caused by human activity meme is all nonsense.
I went to a presentation by Dr Patrick Moore recently, and he showed a chart covering 570 million years of CO2 and temperature data. It indicates that CO2 rises actually follow temperature rises, and for a 100 million years there was an inverse correlation.
Now they are pushing methane as a cause of global warming.
Evidence?? The computer says so.
I’m just starting a book called Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years.
If history is any indicator, we are actually about to slip into another ICE AGE.
Thinking the Climate Emergency is just a reason to eliminate most of the global population. Think Climate Lockdowns.
The Oligarchs will just buy a few carbon credits and won’t have to change their lifestyle one bit.
I recently read that New York state is going the same way as CA in ending the sale of gasoline cars by something like 2030 or 2035 – don’t recall the exact date, and I have already snorted at and then deleted the article, so no reference to offer. No doubt they’re about to follow their friends in CA in relying on solar and wind power and electrifying everything. I also saw something the other day about one of these two states, probably NY, prohibiting natural gas furnaces by some date uncomfortably close. Makes me grateful I live in Missouri.
Last month, after the third of the windows on our house broke to the point where it would not stay open on its own, we had them replaced with much higher quality windows. I will be grateful for every bit that they save us on both heating and cooling costs. (Today we’re letting in free solar heat from the open windows.) Years ago we’d had weatherizing and insulating done on the house and added a wood stove, plus we have the warm clothes we need to survive with heating to only 64F. Besides helping ourselves and reducing our negative impact, whoever lives in the house after us will benefit from the work we’ve done on it.
Have you seen the latest post on Do the Math yet? https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2022/10/the-cult-of-civilization/
Hey jmg great post this week. I’m reminded of a statement that Winston Churchill made I think it was during World War II where he said that the great tragedy of mankind is that he learns nothing from history. Again we’re learning nothing from history and repeating the same mistakes. In my book that’s the definition of insanity. Keep up the good work. And let’s all collapse now and avoid the rush.
Expanding on my last comment…
Dr Moore also showed that Polar Bears, coral reefs, and ice sheets are all doing great, not diminishing as climate activists claim.
He asked the question; if the Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking due to human caused global warming, how is it that the first arctic explorers were able to map out the land mass that is now covered in ice?
“It also deserves to be said here that the threat from global warming, serious as it is, is being wildly overinflated in the mass media and the climate-activist scene.”
Yeah, it’s the Apocalyptic Porn…
The problems with rooftop solar are many, and most of them go away when you do a large ground based install – though I share your opposition to the gigantic solar farms.
Some of the problems with rooftop solar are a result of the regulatory environments (I’m most familiar with the USA, under NEC 2017 rules – that’s what applies to me). For rooftop solar, you need per-panel rapid shutdown electronics that add quite a bit to the cost of an array, even when the sun angles are such that there’s no technical reason for them (all the panels in a string are evenly illuminated). Materials costs for a DIY install in the western US right now come in around $1/W for a ground mount install (counting the frames if you’re welding them together yourself), and about $1.25/W for a roof mount – because of the rapid shutdown hardware. It’s not cheap, and string inverters are far cheaper per watt than microinverters.
Other problems relate to “general difficulty of installation and maintenance.” It is, in every possible way, harder (more expensive) to install and maintain a roof mount solar array than it is to do the same on a ground mount array. You have to worry about your roof leaking (mostly solved, at least for the span of decades, if installed properly – we’ll see how those sealants hold up longer), you have the risks of working on a roof (done it, don’t like it, try not to do it anymore as I get older), and it’s often hard to get inside an array to replace parts – you may have to remove a lot of panels to get to the problem. For a ground mount install, none of these are true, and it’s pretty hard to fall off the ground unless you’ve been too friendly with the ethanol plants. If you have the space, a ground mount install is going to be cheaper, more flexible, and safer to deal with. It’s also going to have a much harder time burning down your house from some variety of DC arc fault (they happen – they shouldn’t, but they do, and if you imagine a sustained welding arc, you’ve got a good picture of what a DC arc fault is if not interrupted).
But beyond that, the power grid is really, really a useful thing to keep around – and retail power rates for residential and small commercial are a combination of the actual energy cost (typically $0.02-$0.04/kWh) and the cost of the power network needed to get it somewhere (most of the rest of the cost, with a bit left over for profit). My solar install is grandfathered in until late 2045 with kWh for kWh net metering, so effectively, I pay $5/mo for power. I’m absolutely not paying my full share of the grid costs and lineworker costs who come out at 3AM to deal with the fact that something has failed (the most amusing one being some sort of ground squirrel dropped on a transformer by a large bird – we found the charred fragments and I’m guessing that bird took off vertically when their snack blew up on landing). So while my solar is good for me, you can’t run a modern power grid for free. And I really, really do think the power grids are something worth maintaining as long as we can. I genuinely like them.
But there’s a difference between an operating power grid, and a power grid that can supply all the energy you want, any hour of any day, as long as you can pay for it. The second is the problem with renewables, and my off-grid power system (my office) demonstrates in great detail just how variable renewables are. I don’t demand my office run everything all the time, though – I just vary my demands to match what’s available, and if it’s a cold, dark inversion in the winter, I bundle up and run one computer out here instead of everything. I typically heat on kerosene or propane then as well. So I’m familiar with the cycles of energy, and the concept of “live on what you can generate now” is something that’s going to have to come back. We can choose to do it, or it will be forced – one way or another, that’s going to be the end state of energy given long enough.
What I’d like to see, and am trying to figure out how to do, are “scattered” PV plants in the 0.5-5MW range. I don’t like the 50+MW plants out in the middle of nowhere, when there are plenty of reasonable places to put smaller plants, that are ground mount or “doing something useful” (picnic shelters, parking area covers, etc), and don’t require building out massive new transmission lines to interconnect, because they fit within the power capability of the area they’re in. They’d also be far easier to convert to useful local microgrids when the power grid does fail eventually – so I view building this sort of thing as an investment in local infrastructure that can then be repurposed. It’s no accident that my ground mount A-frames would be trivially fed into a 600VDC charge controller and battery bank.
I just don’t pretend that doing this, a lot, will let us waste as much energy as we have been. Renewables can provide a useful amount of energy, most of the time. They’re just not good at providing all the energy, all the time, and that’s what people are trying to make them do.
This winter’s major project is going to involve playing around with a thermal imaging camera I picked up (to troubleshoot some issues on my solar install – it was excellent at that) and helping people tighten up their homes. I’ve already been passing around outlet insulators to those who don’t have them, and I plan to make use of quite a few tubes of caulk and a lot of weatherstripping this winter helping people out locally.
@JMG hey, in 1702 the General Court declared the usual tricks unlawful!
Let’s trade comfort and ease for knowledge and skills.
Reference btidwell (#3) and our gracious host’s response in (#19)
As a living proof of my apostasy on the “appropriate” uses of fossil fuels, I have a sneaking hunch that coal may just be a part of an energy mix for the masses in the none-too-different future.
First a bit of a digression. Growing up on an immigrant dirt farm in Northern Utah, we were sufficiently away from infrastructure that heating was an issue. We had a coal-fuelled furnace that heated the house. A ton of coal was delivered in the fall and that was it for the year.
I forgot about this until I spent a year or two outside of Beijing setting up a factory (yes, I was one of the bastards that outsourced entire factories and took away USA Jobs. It seemed like a good idea at the time) and my friends who lived in the village I used to walk through every day to get to work heated their places with yeontan (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeontan)
Now, with the upper grades of fossil fuels being increasingly hoarded by the wealthy, I have a side bet here that simple and appropriate uses of coal for small scale use will also be a part of the energy mix.
Folks love to demonize, but coal isn’t in itself evil. It’s physical characteristics make it useful in a bunch of energy uses. Whether you like it or not, there is energy there for use, and as us low-lifes scrape the bottom of the barrel to find appropriate means to provide thermal energy, I wouldn’t be surprised if coal had a place in the mix. (In other words: us poor folk shouldn’t plan to much on the “higher end” of the fossil fuel pecking order. That stuff is there for our “betters”).
I’ve been following your blogs for 15 or 16 years now, and I’m amazed at your consistency of thought around how civilizations fail, and the political and cultural influences. I had the opinion that as soon as the facts of decline became self-evident, and the adults would have to take control, that at a minimum simple concepts like conservation would take hold and be implemented. Oh, how naive I was about all that.
A slight spin I would put on the predicament we face would be to squarely point a finger at what I describe as “the bean counters”. Working on storage and data protection solutions in IT for the past 25+ years, I can’t count the number of times I pointed out the longer term risk of near-term solutions, and how cost wasn’t everything to consider.
This bean counting approach, especially for infrastructure maintenance, combined with the childish desire to maintain our standard of living at all costs, is now really coming back to bite us in the arse. To watch the insanity continue to unfold is just jaw-dropping. I do hope we can see more of a creative minority come into play.
One quibble, I think the people of Pakistan might disagree that climate change is not every bit the horror advertised.
Actually, the British chancellor of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s PhD was in Political thought of the recoinage crisis of 1695-7.
Boris Johnson and Liz Truss do share a bit of a similarity in style, both of them like a bit of dressing up, they have a liking of a photo opportunity where they get to cosplay e.g. in high-viz and hard hats on a construction site. Boris had more of a talent for waffling in interviews to avoid answering questions, Liz Truss’ recent round of radio interviews had her with long pauses and ignoring the question to awkwardly repeat a soundbite.
Hi John Michael,
Word on the street is that down here, we’re right up there in terms of waste. Makes life easier for me, as the gains are easy.
It’s an odd thing about the area where I reside. The real old timers have taken a shine to me, but the newer folks tend to kind of get offended by my actions on the property. They’re not backwards about sharing their thoughts as well. There’s a simple test to apply to my actions (and theirs for that matter): Does this here whatever, work?
The funny thing about ideology is that it doesn’t have to work, it just has to be believed and repeated. I’m pretty certain that is a form of magic as you’d describe it to be. It won’t do them any good, and meanwhile I’ll just keep on plugging away at things and trying.
PV as a technology is good, it’s just not good enough. Yesterday I recorded 36 minutes of peak sunlight for the entire day. I can run the house on that because I don’t use much and can modify my behaviour to fit the available energy, but it is a big stretch to try and run an industrial civilisation off 36 minutes of peak sunlight in spring.
When I first read ‘Small is Beautiful’ in the ’70’s this quote wound up tacked to the wall above my desk:
“Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s independence on outside forces over which one cannot have control and therefore increases existential fear.”
― E. F. Schumacher
I have used this premise to guide my decision making for more than 40 years and have found it quite helpful.
I spend a fair amount of time reading conservative-leaning Substacks, and I notice a few reliable tics:
– An unshakeable belief in nuclear power (as you’ve noted).
– A horror at the notion that anyone, ever, would have to turn their thermostats down to 78F.
– An unshakeable belief that AI and Mars bases are the new white hot wave of the future.
I want to see the Democrats lose this November, but I expect that if that happens, I’ll still end up straining my eye-rolling muscles on a weekly basis.
Speaking as an American, and with our society “faced with a challenge it can’t meet using its previous habits of thought and action”, perhaps we might, just remotely possibly, be able to get a more fintelligent, forward-thinking and rational dominant elite, if only the American electorate would finally gather the gumption to move beyond its own ossified and Einsteinian-definition-of-insanity voting habits of lurching back and forth between the Tweedledum Party and the Tweedledee Party, because “THIS election the other party will surely save us!”.
@ teresa from hershey:
There are all kinds of bugle commands, just like drum commands (military tattoos) and the troops knew them.
“Spit, boy, spit!”
(from Zulu – and this isn’t a bid for the bugle, I hope it goes to someone who can use it!)
We Europeans will follow, by obligation, your advice to collapse soon and avoid the rush due to the sabotage of the Nordstream.
There is a blogger who believes he has found the evidence of sabotage: https://www.monkeywerxus.com/blog/the-nord-stream-2-pipeline-sabotage
Brenainn @ #8: here’s an article to give you the feel for the monstrous complexity and massiveness of a nuclear power plant: https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/rants/nothing-like-this-will-be-buil.html
Now, the reactor described in that article is an AGR, a more-efficient but more complex reactor than the alternatives, but if you immerse yourself in the article you’ll start, to get an idea of the mind-numbing extreme nature of nuclear power stations. KISS and LESS are in a separate universe from nuclear power stations.
Neptunesdolphins, that’s another good example. Electric cars in the abstract sound like a great idea. Electric cars in the real world work well in some situations, poorly in others, and not at all in yet others. The same is true of every other technology — but too many people are stuck in the abstractions.
Rod, did you notice that you just did a classic Guy McPherson? Your homework assignment is simple: look up all the other times that all the other pundits insisted that the elites were sure to start a nuclear war any day now.
Mark, of course it’s possible. The US slashed its petroleum consumption by something like 15% between 1973 and 1983 using such methods, combined with steep price rises. The question is whether anybody will get around to doing it.
CM, I know. I gave up on the Green Parties a long time ago, precisely because actual conservation is the last thing on earth they’re willing to think about.
Pygmycory, don’t forget that Canada is a US economic colony, and we extract a lot of wealth from your society via unbalanced patterns of exchange. My guess is that that has a lot to do with the disparity.
Kimberly, that’s a good point. I wonder if there’s a way to break through that bad habit.
Isaac, yep. It’s been tried, and though it’s technically feasible, economically it’s even less profitable than uranium and plutonium fission.
RPC, Ha! Yes, that’s a classic.
Druidovik, solar thermal with insulated heat storage is a very viable and well-tested technology. However, I notice this on the website: “System’s Current Conditions through the website and the App was discontinued on June 30, 2019.” Hmm…
Raymond, you’re welcome and thank you. The spiritual dimension of Toynbee’s analysis is one that I tend to soft-pedal a bit, since most people will reject it out of hand, but it’s highly relevant.
Bob, you’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but the evidence as I’ve studied it doesn’t support that claim. I grant that the global warming cultists are drastically exaggerating the situation, but it’s kind of silly to insist that you can dump billions of tons of a greenhouse gas into a system as delicately balanced as the atmosphere and not have an effect.
SLClaire, glad to hear this. Once the real estate market crashes again and I pick up a house, I have some plans. As for Tom’s latest piece, no, I hadn’t seen it — good heavens. I wonder if he’s been chatting to Nyarlathotep or something!
Mark, thank you. I don’t remember the Churchill quote exactly but yeah, it was along those lines.
Bob, you really need to stroll away from the anti-AGW echo chamber and do some of your own research. Pick up some books about Antarctica written before global warming was thought of and see what they say. Just because the AGW echo chamber is peddling nonsense doesn’t mean that going to the opposite extreme is a good idea!
Chuaquin, yep. It’s a popular genre.
Pixelated, well, there you go. That I know of, Truss isn’t trying to burn any witches!
Degringolade, I expect every available ounce of fossil fuel to get burnt before all this winds down. The people who are going on about global warming? They’ll be demanding coal furnaces the moment it sinks in that their lifestyles are at risk.
Drhooves, the bean counters are significant, but remember that they also have a useful role to play. If a technology won’t pay its own bills, it doesn’t matter two farts in a tornado just how much world-saving it could theoretically do.
Scott, funny. Your homework assignment is to go look up how many other catastrophic floods caused by heavy rains have happened in the world in the last century. Did you remember, for example, that Pakistan had similar floods in 2010, and before that in 1992, and so on back through the years?
Mawkernewek, now, I did name Truss specifically. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Kwarteng hadn’t had an original idea since 1697.
Chris, one of these days I should do an occult critique of ideology. You’re right, it’s a form of magic, but it’s both ineffective and dysfunctional!
Ken, it’s an excellent adage — like most of Schumacher’s ideas.
Cliff, I know. It would be nice sometime to see a few more conservatives who actually know how to conserve.
Alan, seems to me that you’re assuming that the majority of the American people want something different. I’m far from sure of that. I think they’re slowly coming to terms with the hard fact that they’re going to have to accept change. It’s as Churchill said: “The Americans can be expected to do the right thing, once they’ve exhausted every other possibility.”
PedroH, I appreciate Europe’s enthusiasm, but you know, it could have been done a little more gracefully…
teresa from hershey (no. 5), Bogatyr (no. 48), here’s the bugle scene from “From Here to Eternity” that made me (an erstwhile trombonist) throw up my arms, roll my eyes, and wonder whether this movie really deserves its reputation as a classic:
For those of you who don’t get it, a bugle has no keys, and cannot possibly be made to play what we hear in this scene.
“Wind and solar might be able to run some LED lights, power your cell phone, and run you fans for hot weather, but they aren’t gonna heat your house”
Supposedly you can heat your house with a windmill.
@Raymond #31 The classical Chinese expression for this is something like “losing the mandate of heaven.”
‘ nuclear power has proven to be a technical success but an economic flop ‘
I am not clear on how the economics of nuclear power do not work to provide electricity to the economy. Does it mean that in the lifetime of a nuclear power plant it costs more to built it and maintain it than it will give in economic value?
Then are nuclear power plants effectively subsidized by fossil fuel energies ?
Then this energy could not be scaled because they have negative net energy over their lifetime?
I’ve already had someone ask for the bugle so thank you!
If that falls through, I’ll repost.
JMG, I apologize.😞And thank you for your phenomenal writings.
People will do ANYTHING except conserve. There are things one can do to use less on a personal level.
Last week, I watched a mainstream news program that had a story about a guy who hadn’t washed himself in weeks due to water rationing. Louisiana, I think. I nearly toppled over at what he said. He had gotten himself into such a state of distress due to uncleanliness that he put up a classified ad (I know not where) to the effect of “Can I rent your shower? I haven’t bathed in weeks and it is driving me crazy. Desperate. Will pay anything.”
(Just so you know, a ten-minute shower uses 20 gallons.)
ENTER “SINK BATH” (aka “BASIN BATH”)
No, a sink bath is not running water in a sink and climbing into the sink.
Step 1. All the guy needed to do was put a gallon of water (any temperature) into a sink or pot, get a towel, washcloth and soap; wash armpits and privates using a measly one gallon of water. (Those skilled in the art of sink baths can wash up using only a cup of water. Try it.)
Notice that neither the guy nor the news crew thought of the obvious solution of a sink bath.
Step 2. Dry off and get into underwear/underdrawers/knickers. Go to kitchen sink, run a couple cups’ worth of water over skull, shut off water, lather skull, scratch in soap to heart’s content, rinse skull with another one gallon of water. The whole episode uses 2.5 gallons of water and takes 20 minutes. One is “Clean for a Day” (get it? Queen for a Day?)
Sink baths is what our ancestors did, AND what our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They got by. They didn’t complain. They knew they were lucky to have THAT much. They practiced being stoic.
It goes to show how much we-the-people have forgotten that showering was not how people lived a hundred years ago. Showers only came into being in the 1920s. In every—and I mean EVERY—family, there was a custom of sink baths. Sink baths were a step up from bowl-and-pitcher-sets one had in one’s bedroom—the days when a chamber pot was the toilet of the night. The extravagance of showers is coming to an end.
Will people these days be too embarrassed to take sink baths? Will they admit to their neighbors that they take sink baths? Will we see sink baths as a sign that things are getting worse rather than better, and not rise to the occasion? How can we glamorize sink baths?
If people don’t learn the skills of frugality by learning how to conserve, and that means using less of almost everything: water, heating/cooling, gasoline, clothing, food, the whole shebang, the alternative is that one will end up having to “do without” entirely. Learn to make do with “some” or one will be faced with “none.”
I encourage people to stop acting like a victim. Stretch a penny. Learn to do more with less. Learn stoicism.
Conserve one thing this week. Good luck.🧲
Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
I had noticed that a lot of the oil sands are being sent south to be used there… but the emissions from the oil sands production is counted as Canadian.
By extension, this logic means that fossil fuel exporters such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Australia etc also have higher per capita emissions than their citizen’s consumption would warrant. Also China, due to its manufacturing for much of the world.
The USA produces a lot of raw materials and manufactured products, but it consumes even more than it produces. In particular, it imports a lot of energy, and finished goods. All the embedded energy/carbon of the latter happened elsewhere. So does Canada, with regard to finished goods.
It’s places the majority of whose population are poor but that export a lot of fossil fuels that are most thoroughly disadvantaged by the per capita emissions measure. Like Nigeria, Angola, Libya etc. This has to be connected to the resource curse somehow.
I’d actually be curious to hear about the spiritual dimension of Toynbee’s analysis some time. It sounds interesting and potential valuable.
It reminds me of a typical Oil Drum thread from so many years ago. There were so many speculations of what would happen, what people and societies would do. Now we’re finally “here” and can see how it played out – and sure enough the “royal” we aren’t gonna do a damned thing even though there is plenty that could be done. There is no will, and at least in the west the people have no leaders to represent their interests anyway.
Of course, on an individual and local level one can still implement many effective energy saving strategies. It doesn’t mean you can avoid the tide of history coming your way, but often people get by hanging from the slightest of threads and you never know what small advantage will help.
At this point I wonder what the scale of this social collapse will be relative to some of the big ones throughout history? We’ve built up an incredible world that depends on fossil fuels for it’s continued existence, and 8 billion people also dependent on that same energy source. That’s gonna leave a mark. Of course I won’t get to see the results of that in this life, although I’ll probably have to live a few more in the wreckage.
you meant to write dependence
Tony, I propose no hypotheses; I simply note that nuclear power, wherever it’s been tried, has turned into a subsidy dumpster that soaks up government money and ends up costing far more than the electricity it produces is worth. That’s why the only nations these days that are building nuclear reactors are nations that have a pretty obvious interest in having the capacity to build nuclear weapons — which was of course the original point to fission reactors.
Northwind, sometime soon I may just launch an open thread on my Dreamwidth account and ask everyone to post their favorite conservation tricks. I’ve got quite a few of them myseif, and will lead off with some of those. Conservation is easy, it’s cheap if you’re smart, and you can do it without impacting your standard of living in any way that matters.
Pygmycory, bingo. The “resource curse” is better described as industrial nations profiteering at the expense of undeveloped nations. I’ll consider something on Toynbee’s spiritual analysis as we proceed.
Twilight, as declines go, this one’s going to be one for the record books. Hang onto your hat.
Nice essay. I have been constantly amazed at the ability of people to continue to double down on failed strategies. It still baffles me. If anything, this tendency seems to be accelerating.
Since you brought up energy retrofits, here is an update on my solar thermal installation. I just spoke to my preferred installer this morning and he has exited the business and is now entirely focused on PV panel systems. Apparently some state subsidies went away and the business dried up very quickly.
I’m going to find someone else, don’t worry, but for those of your readers who want to do something on the individual or family level, please look into a solar hot water installation. There is some risk that knowledgable installers will be harder and harder to come by if eccentric blog readers and druids do not keep up the demand for this unfashionable technology!
I heard a snippet of conversation the other evening on a local conservative AM radio talk show (which was mostly flatulence, i.e., ‘our state would be energy independent because it produces petroleum if only TPTB would let us’, etc.), but the host had a few good ideas, including renaming electric vehicles to the more appropriate “BATTERY-OPERATED CARS”. Just doesn’t have the same appeal, IMO. I wonder what else could be renamed to better reflect reality?
@ Old Steve (#13) – I think that reducing speed (on express ways) to 55 mph was & still is – when appropriate – a fine idea – every little bit helps. I agree with you that mandating it (and other possibly fine ideas) was the wrong strategy and backfired big time. Mandating it was the totally wrong approach and showed a serious lack of imagination and empathy.
@ Northwind Grandma (#57) on ‘sink baths’ – Oh good heavens! I use sink baths between showers. Just makes sense, especially in an arid climate. A ‘GI bath’ is another term for a sink bath, with the following instructions, using a small amount of water and a washcloth: “Wash down as far possible, then as far up as possible. And possible, if necessary.”
Talk of senile elites reminds me of WW1. Australian soldiers were considered by the British officers they were stationed under to be “wild” and “unruly”. Actually, the Australians simply refused to show blind obedience to leaders they did not respect. As many of the British officers were clueless fools parachuted from country estates into decision making positions well beyond their capacity, there were plenty of opportunities for well-earned displays of disrespect.
Part of the reason why WW1 was so important for Australian identity was because most of the Australian men realised from first hand experience that not only were they not inferior to Europeans as most had assumed, they were often better. The best example is Sir John Monash, who was a country boy from Australia who many consider to be the best and most innovative military leader of the war.
It would be great if Australia could rediscover that iconoclasm. Somehow we too have ended up paying blind obedience to senile elites.
@Northwind Re #57
I’ve been doing sink baths for several years now. Once a week I do a full shower. Since the shower head empties into a tub, I close the tub stopper and let the water accumulate while I clean from the waist up. Then I stop the shower and using the bath water to clean below the waist. The amount of water I wind up with for phase two comes up almost to my ankles, so provides plenty of cleaning water (and gives you an idea how much water goes down the drain during a conventional shower). The rest of the week it’s sink baths and they work just fine. Nobody’s complained yet.
I typically use a mix of sink baths (though I called them sponge baths) and showers to stay clean. I find that sponge baths don’t do the job of washing long thick hair properly. And while you can wash your hair in the sink, I really hate doing so. Gets water everywhere, and really hard on my neck. So I usually shower every second or third day, and wash with a cloth on days I don’t shower. Works for me.
How about insulate before you invest? I think it was in the Whole Earth Catalog in the 1970s where they said that before you invest you should insulate your attic. It pays back over and over with no tax. Over the years we insulated the attic, put in good windows and replaced a 50 year old furnace. The payback has been amazing.
I just don’t see any potential national candidates that are viable. They are part of the red/blue duopoly or they do not get on the ballot.
I think small states may find candidates unencumbered by the red/blue game – but large states like my own (TX) are basically country-size. Consequently, they have the red/blue thing going on. It’s more likely to be something county-based due to the way things exist now.
I don’t see this working itself out in the USA until the red/blue game collapses or else somehow a charismatic, unifying person appears to pull the country together. Until then, the best we can do is on a personal or neighborhood level – as soon as red/blue appears, the co-opt will be on.
I think the climate change already has enough holes in it that it is foundering. Covid did open a few eyes, and lower the trust level enough to grow a new crop of skeptics. The more the climate yahoos exaggerate and push lies, the more people begin to peek under the tent flap – and see things as they are. Personally, I am unworried since this next century will see petroleum and coal decline – downhill slope, remember? And that means downhill of most everything else as well. Nature can take care of things from petroleum. Nuclear? Now that worries me, but people will find ways to steer clear of known poisons.
I’m just watching for ways to help where I can – that (to me) is the best thing I can do.
Samurai_47, thanks for the update — and the warning.
PatriciaT, ha! “Battery-operated cars” is good. Thank you.
SimonS, Americans had the same reputation; in the Second World War, the English groused that our GIs were “overpaid, oversexed, and over here.” Only the hard fact that we’re what kept them from losing the war made us marginally acceptable. It doesn’t surprise me that Australians got the sneering reaction too.
Bradley, good. IIRC it was the appropriate-tech classic Muddling Toward Frugality that pointed out that storm windows had a better return on investment than anything on Wall Street.
Oilman2, the possibility that interests me is that one or both parties may be taken away from their current owners. That’s happened more than once already in American history, so it’s far from impossible.
@JMG and pygmy:
“don’t forget that Canada is a US economic colony”
It’s interesting that you put it that way, because I’ve just been pondering this, in context of everything going on in Europe and Kissinger’s quip that “to be an enemy of the US is dangerous, but to be an ally is fatal.”
I’ve been asking myself, from the perspective of this quote, whether Canada is an ally or more of an… appendage. My impression is that for an economic colony Canada really does rather well out of the deal *as long as* it does whatever it’s told.
One thing I admit I cant imagine: anyone now alive excepting the very young adapting peacefully to a declining lifestyle amid declining energy and prosperity. And a few very well informed and virtuous people. And maybe a few backwater hermits. There will be a lot of conflict. I’ve had the thought I need to imagine it though in order to render it more possible.
“I just don’t see any potential national candidates that are viable. They are part of the red/blue duopoly or they do not get on the ballot.”
No kidding. Washington State has a ‘top two’ primary that ensures that only the duopoly is on the final ballot. Well usually, My county had an election between the normal Republican and a Tea Party candidate. And I heard on the West side they had a Bernie-type democrat vs a ‘regular’ democrat.
Normally it’s strictly mainstream D vs mainstream R.
Most of the adjustments we will need to meet future conditions are adjustments in our expectations. We don’t have to go back that far to find people living with only a tiny fraction of the energy we use now. My great grandmother lived for 17 years ( with two children) in an uninsulated cabin on our family homestead in the Centennial Valley of Montana. My great grandfather was away most of the time working in the mines in Butte, a trip he made on foot. The homestead was at 6500 foot elevation and was snowed-in for the entire winter ( they still close the roads in october and reopen them in may). No electricity, no indoor plumbing and a couple hundred square feet of living area. But according to family lore she loved living there and only death took her away from the place. No humans have lived there since, and there is still no electricity, plumbing or cell service. I think we have just gotten soft. But I expect in a few generations people will once again be hardy enough to live in such a place and love it, even if they don’t have solar panels, solar showers or TV.
I have always liked Toynbee, I read ten of the volumes of his magnum opus when I should have been studying for final exams! Though do I find it strange how he blames each civilization in turn for having missed the chance to construct the perfect society. It’s a bit like blaming beetle larvae for not becoming butterflies…
The practical measures you suggest are rather modest, as you say. 10% or 15% reduction of energy consumption through weatherizing is worthwhile and might have a short-term impact on prices, but depletion never sleeps, and after rather few years energy prices would rise again. In fact, German houses have been much better insulated than American ones for many years, and the current government has passed laws to incentivize and mandate even better insulation. The German canal system is not as extensive as the British one, but the canals that do exist are rather busy. None of this has been enough to avert the current crisis in a country that has few fossil fuels left.
Do you only suggest these modest measures because you think politicians would not be successful with more radical proposals like preparations for a future without a 24 hours electric grid? Or do you think it is better to never plan too far ahead and just muddle through? It seems like you expected much more radical changes back in the 1970s.
I note that in your Retrotopia, none of the characters explicitly states that their children will have less energy at their disposal than themselves, and their grandchildren less than their children, in spite of all the ingenious measures implemented in the Lakeland Republic (though it may be implicit in the program of one of the political parties). Do you think a human society can consciously embrace such an outlook?
Mark L wrote, “What if instead of vague requests to use less electricity on hot days there was a real-time display of demand vs. generation capacity with a sort of stoplight system: yellow if over 90% and red if over 95%?”
It’s an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it caused the inverse of the outcomes it was intended to. This far into the corrupt looting of a dying civilization, there’s plenty of people convinced that, no matter how good an idea may seem, they will be left worse off, if it ever gets implemented in the real world. Who knows how many people have already decided to preemptively opt out of all top-down solutions peddled at them. If tried, would there be enough people purposefully beginning energy-intensive activities as soon as the powers that be put out their colored warnings to effectively cancel out however many people instead delayed their energy-intensive projects?
After the Covid lunacy, the Great-Reset trial balloon, the push to eat bugs, etc. a great many people now fervently believe that the rich will invariably lie to them in the hopes of hoarding all the goodies for themselves. I would imagine that any well-intentioned, mass-media-implemented behavior-modification-scheme would quickly begin generating the same kind of sarcastic jokes as they did in the end-times of the Soviet regime. Along the lines of “Look at the TV, Peter, Al Gore must have turned up his A/C again!” or “Oh no, Zelensky’s presidential jacuzzi must have gotten a bit too cool! Must be time for us to lower the thermostats again.” Kinda makes me wonder how many European inmates will keep their thermostats dutifully turned down this winter to the levels required by their rulers’ diktats?
I really don’t think there’s enough sense of communal good or trust left in the industrial nations/extraction-rackets to count on their supposed beneficiaries’ better natures to deliver on the desired level of partnering. Quiet quitting and the great resignation might well be clues about what’s to come. Given how divisively the Right Thing To Do vaccine mandates played out, at this point I wouldn’t bet too much on any other solutions that depend heavily on universal consent or compliance.
I recall that my late physicist father, having made a study of solar energy, concluded long ago that only passive solar, as in having a southern exposure for your house, garden, etc, (in the Northern hemisphere) really worked…And people had been using such passive solar energy for thousands of years….That avoids all the losses that entropy causes for more complicated solar uses…
“The sticking point comes down to profit which wins out in Western Capitalism every single time.”
The Government bailout of Wall Street. Results in Capitalism malfunctioning. QE has distorted the formerly natural incentives so much. Why be surprised?
People keep blaming Capitalism. But it is simply people reacting to incentives with private property and a market economy. And can be distorted like anything else.
“A slight spin I would put on the predicament we face would be to squarely point a finger at what I describe as “the bean counters”. Working on storage and data protection solutions in IT for the past 25+ years, I can’t count the number of times I pointed out the longer term risk of near-term solutions, and how cost wasn’t everything to consider.”
Rule by Excel spreadsheets. There is nothing of the consideration of Beauty, Truth and Goodness in their calculations.
The hideous structures and buildings we see the results all around us.
Regarding the Energiewende, don’t forget also biogas. German farmers were incentivized to install biogas plants to turn their agricultural waste into gas, thus reducing the need for fossil natural gas.
It was very successful. 14% of German agricultural land was devoted to energy production. The problem was, farmers preferred to grow GMO corn which converts efficiently to gas rather than food crops, and Germany was becoming a food importer.
Uh-oh. Food or fuel; what to do?
“…beginning in 2014, the German government reversed course, deciding to curb the production capacity of the industry with a complex system of targeted subsidies.”
But that was before the invasion of Ukraine and the turning off of the Russian gas tap.
Uh-oh. Fuel or freeze; what to do?
“…the German government has announced its desire to “increase the production of ‘green’ gas” this month, as part of moves to boost resilience in the face of rising energy prices.”
Biogas made from farm waste could replace Russian fossil fuels in Germany
Green energy will save the day. No it won’t. Yes it will. [Watch this space]
@ Northwindgrandma and others re: sink baths-
I have a plastic toddler wading basin, 4 ft in diameter, 9 in deep. I place it under the sink, and stand in it to wash hair and sponge bathe. It catches water that misses the sink, and I just pour it back.
This kind of bathing is a chore, but it enables me to live where there is no bath or shower, to speak nothing of minimizing water/energy use.
Also, I don’t have a kitchen, but I’m well serviced with a hot plate, steamer/rice cooker, electric skillet and toaster oven. (When using the toaster oven, I cover food with a pie pan to prevent drying/scorching). I’ve found a Coleman stove unsuitable, as I can’t get the hexane flame to burn blue, so it produces a lot of soot, and I can’t risk setting off a smoke alarm.
Howdy JMG and commenters,
I tried to take a numerical approach to PV and energy consumption (including embodied energy) to make the argument that conservation is vital if we want to reduce carbon emissions. I wrote this because many well-meaning people seem to think that because solar PV can now be bought relatively cheaply, if they load-up on PV then their consumption doesn’t matter: http://guesstimatedapproximations.blogspot.com/2022/08/in-age-of-cheap-solar-pv-does.html
Regarding frugality, has anyone read “the art of frugal hedonism”? It’s well worth a read, and makes a good advertisement for “making do with less” as a lifestyle choice.
The recent goings-on in Russia have reminded me a lot of JMG’s “How it could happen” posts on the old blog. I know there’s a lot that’s unclear about what is really going on, and I’m certainly not feeling complacent, but there seem to be a lot of parallels between real-Russia in Ukraine and the fictional-USA in Tanzania/Kenya.
Bucket baths are also very good. Put half a bucket of water in the bathtub or shower recess. Use a washer to slosh water over your body, soap the washer and wash yourself more carefully. Slosh more water over body then pour the bucket contents over yourself. Surprisingly refreshing.
One more thing. The core science on climate change is collated and moderated by the IPCC – a far more reliable source than individual academics. IPCC predictions / projections have been understated compared to the actual turn of events and while their language is getting increasingly desperate, that it probably due to the refusal of governments / people to take the threat seriously as well as their projections being exceeded.
Coming up with constructive solutions to essentially “save” the planet and mankind is not profitable. Alternative energy resources are temporarily profitable. Although, if you consider how parts regularly need to be replaced in the wind turbines, solar panels and solar batteries and all that surrounds nuclear plants-big time and long term profits! There will be more destruction of the earth with the digging and the waste by-products of all three alternative sources.
And-the only way that these three alternatives would come close to working efficiently, is by placing them strategically across the United States. For example, Nuclear Power Plants need tons of water daily to run properly with minimal “melt downs”. Placing plants along the coast line of the US makes the best sense. The ocean life would suffer as well as fisherman and their buyers.
Solar panels would work best in the Mid-South West of the the US. Plenty of sun yet unpredictable weather. So, is it ideal? Can you imagine the heat index surrounding these solar panel fields?
Wind farms are perplexing to me. I cannot think of anywhere in the US where they would actually be productive. And the upkeep must be astronomical!
Then-there are the power failures that will occur on a regular basis with these alternative energy sources. Nuclear Power Plants are the most reliable out of the three, yet, when an accident happens, it is catastrophic!
There is no way to “get rid of” fossil fuels; if anything, they are needed for back up to all three alternative energy sources. This back up usage is the only logical strategy to testing these alternative sources. Halving the fossil fuel sources by 2030 makes the most sense and we will have verifiable data to show what works and what doesn’t.
“Stuart, sun and wind are important parts of a future energy mix but not as a source of grid power — we’ve tried that repeatedly and it doesn’t work worth squat.”
Are you sure you don’t want to qualify that statement in some way? They do seem to be working well as part of the current energy mix, at least in North America. There have been some issues with power shortages in the West, but this is really more because coal no longer works, and has been retired prematurely without first building sufficient replacement resources. In general, the technical studies show an escalating cost when wind and solar rise above something like 75-90% of deployed generation capacity. The exact point of escalation varies depending on the study assumptions, but the general behavior is very consistent. Wind and solar are working just fine.
Apologies if this has already been said, but today I’m in a hurry.
What shocked me about Truss plan refusal, was that it was not the people who rejected the plan, it was the “currency traders”. It all started when the pound lost part of its value in international trade. It affects british economy so hard that Truss had to turn back. Not even their national bank could do anything against it.
And who are these “traders”? These are the people that speculate with a currency to make money in the trade. They saw the plan as damaging for the british economy, and thus, saw it better to deprecate the value of its currency. Suddenly they were selling their assets in pounds, overwhelming the market. Why? Because we’re in an inflationary period caused by a lack of offer, so the Truss plan would only have raised inflation even higher, according to economists.
Another explanation about the fixation of our elites is that they, too, are absorbed by their smartphones, wasting their time watching cat videos or chating with the school parents group, traped in a bubble of information, so no original idea can come out from this setup.
Thanks for the meme: The Right Thing To Do. It explains much.
Futures that work… I have to say that I find it increasingly difficult to maintain a positive attitude. I anticipated many of the things that are happening right now and that will most likely happen in the near future and over the course of the last years I did a lot to adapt.
The most important part, maybe, was to come to terms with that reality differs from the collective imagination that we call reality. Like with so many things, it’s easy, once you know it’s done but I am able to vividly recall the pains and labour it took me to come to this perspective.
That being said, I am very pessimistic that our society will make that leap. For an individual suffering a psychotic episode it frequently takes a complete collapse to switch back to normal at least for a while and I fear it will take the same on a societal level. Which in turn led myself to another episode of pains and labour because I have to face the reality that no matter how well prepare I think I am, there’s no guarantee that it was the right thing what I did or enough of it. While I do think that my family and I are better prepared than most, I see the many holes in our plans and the parts where we depend on sheer luck – which is cause for a lot of anxiety. But it would possibly be strange if it was otherwise.
With that said – I share the hope that some of our elites or a large enough fraction of it’s minions somehow find out how to u-turn… but when I overhear people talking in the street, I am very doubtful. Personally I think that the frequently predicted dark age is a much more likely future and that for a long time, those creative minorities are limited to micro-communities (like two families in the same village or something like this), most of them created randomly by the pressure of a fast declining society.
As a variant of the sink bath, I bathe in less than 15 liters (4 US gals) of water. I developed this method during the “Day Zero” scare when our city was about to run out of water.
Requirements: bath, bucket, sponge.
Put plug in bath. Fill bucket with warm water and place bucket in bath. Kneel in bath. Use sponge to wet hair. Shampoo and rinse hair, being careful to keep water in bucket as clean as possible. Wet rest of body, soap, lather, and rinse, using sponge to get water from bucket.
Now the bucket is empty and the bath contains dirty water. Scoop the water back into the bucket and use it to flush the toilet*.
I’ve been bathing this way about three years now. Sometimes I stay over at my sister’s place and she says, don’t I want to use her shower and get really clean? The answer is no. I prefer my way these days.
* Bucket flushing the toilet is quite a skill. You need to pour a steady stream against the side of the toilet, at the same time turning the bucket in an arc. Alternatively, fill the cistern and pull the chain.
I know profit is a dirty word to many who advocate renewables but, when your business is energy, wouldn’t profit in dollars be a reasonable proxy for net positive energy production? I know there are plenty of tricks to shift your costs and fake a profit but if there are endless financial losses it’s hard to say the business is making energy above its consumption.
From that standpoint every renewable fails and nuclear is an absolute joke. I read somewhere that a utility in Jersey was selling electricity at around $30 per unit but the unsubsidized cost was over $400.
I went to a renewable energy conference and during a q & a I asked the presenter what the eroi was on a solar panel because I was legitimately interested to know where the energy break even point was. It’s a simple enough concept. Does it happen in a year, 2 years, 10, never? He got irritated and asked for the next question.
Perhaps it’s just evil capitalists who talk about roi all the time that are ruining poor renewables chances of taking us into our shiny and bright (shight) future.
>At this point I wonder what the scale of this social collapse will be
If you haven’t seen it demonstrated in someone’s garage or backyard, it’s going away, will be forgotten, lost knowledge.
The “I have to have the right answer (and success) or I won’t even try” that Kimberly pointed out is one of habits trained in 12 years of public schooling. If everyone recalls, when you were called on and gave the wrong answer, you were then shamed by your classmates and teacher. It leads to learned helplessness, or for those who constantly were able to get the right answer, inflated egos. Those with inflated egos go onto college, then management positions.
I just explained how we got here through years of unthinking.
In other news, I have been informed by my very PMC family members that nuclear is totally possible and the only thing holding it back is environmentalists. I was truly stunned by that reasoning but it must be in the WSJ. Talk about cope.
Yep per capita energy use is very flawed because the global economy is so connected. Big resource, low population countries like Canada and Aus get a raw deal because of our huge resource sectors, the products of which get shipped straight into the global economy to be used by everyone. As you say, this does not mean we are not extremely wasteful and near the top on a global scale, but the raw number is misleading.
I will say though that Australia has an unbelievably high empower per person rating. Empower is a measure of embodied energy (emergy) available per person, in all forms, including the free sources (clean water, clean air etc) provided by nature. It takes into account energy quality and other subtleties and if anyone wants to know more about look up the work of Howard Odum.
You could say it is a measure of resources available per person.
Here is a table with a few countries Odum did back in 2000:
Canada wasn’t included, but I imagine it would be up there too.
Some info about British canal and river freight:
Hi John Michael,
It’s an interesting topic. But how would you protect yourself? Not suggesting you couldn’t, but it’s just that it would be a very dark topic, and there’d be some element of risk there. Dunno.
Hey, the city of Sydney (which is in the next state to the north of here) just had it’s wettest year of rainfall, and the continuous records go back to 1858. How’s 2,200mm (86.6 inches) of rain for ya? Soggy Sydney breaks the rainfall record
The year ain’t finished yet! It’s been a crazy wet year here too (being south of there). Not record breaking here, just very wet.
I think I’ve got the solution to the page-jumping problem. When you post a comment it changes the address to the number of that comment. If you press the back arrow once it takes you back to the generic page address.
Rod #21 I did an article on nuclear weapons years ago, and remember reading that smaller nukes that could take out a division, collapse an underground bunker, or destroy a good sized chunk of a fleet were actually more strategically useful than Tsar Bombas that can turn cities into craters.
My guess is that Putin marks his annexation by moving nuclear missiles onto the land and explaining politely that any attack on the annexed territory is an attack on Russian soil. Should the West be foolish enough to call his bluff, we might well see some small nukes used to break the offensive as soon as those lines were crossed.
From there where it goes is anybody’s guess, though I am 99.9% certain that if it comes to that the West will blink before Russia. For the Russians, this is an existential threat. For the West it’s somebody else’s border dispute. And as the winter grinds on, the Donbas is going to look increasingly irrelevant to a cold, hungry Europe in the midst of a financial crash.
I am less worried about a Nuclear Holocaust than about the use of nuclear weapons becoming normalized. There’s no longer the sense of existential terror toward nukes that you saw in the mid-20th century. If military leaders discover small nuclear weapons can be useful and military contractors realize mini-nukes can be profitable, who knows where things might go?
(posted on previous article by mistake) Your summary of Toynbee’s thesis reminds me of David Murrin on this podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/david-murrin/ where he talks about linear vs. lateral thinkers and how the former overtake and gradually undo the creative work of the latter. He’s quite an arrogant individual but I guess that sometimes goes with being super-smart!
Pondering electric cars made me think of mule and horse teams. My family in Maine did logging, and had horse teams to drag the logs out of the cuttings.
The Skowhegan Fair every year would feature horse pulling contests. However, by the 1980s, the horses were replaced by tractors. I found out later that in places in Northern New England, they decided tractors caused too much damage, so they brought back the horse teams to get the logs out of the cutting area.
Here is story about how Logging Horses are still being used even today.
Horses and oxen have been used to haul logs since pre-industrial times. Much of it was small scale harvesting, but it was hard and hazardous work. Unstable and snagged trees, falling branches, and loose material were the “widow makers” of a rapidly growing but dangerous industry. But as settlers arrived in Canada, more land had to be cleared for home-building, farming, and travel. Ultimately, horses and oxen were replaced with machinery and
logging trucks. But today, some people have kept the heritage of horse logging alive.
Then there was the Log Drive.
Every spring until 1976, they would float the logs down to the mills using the river. The great log drive (In 1976, the feds decided that the logs caused water pollution, so they trucked them instead causing air pollution.)
From the blog: But a decade after that – 40 years ago this spring – the centuries-old Maine tradition came to an end, the result of Mainers and the rest of America’s changing views on water pollution, recreation, paper making and highway transportation.
In 1976, change that had been coming for years finally arrived. That was the year of the last log drive down the Kennebec River from Moosehead Lake to The Forks, then all the way to the paper mill in Winslow and finally to Augusta and Hallowell…….
The environmental impact and the discharges from the paper mills along the river brought the log drives to an end. Bark from the logs that settled on the river bottom caused pollution and killed fish. Logs in the river disrupted boaters, fishermen and canoeists.
I was there for the last drive with my relatives participating. Anyway, The Forks is now a mecca for white water rafting. I wonder if the rise in the price of gas will bring the Drive back.
That is my contribution to a future that works – horse power, river power, tree power, human power.
Regarding the newest packet of sanctions against Russia by Europe it is quite fascinating to watch the European elites acting in this counterproductive and self-destructive way so thoroughly and consistently, with a total rigor mortis of the imagination. And the assembly of the 40 European head of states is itself quite bizarre: it is as if the European elites think they are the only other powers in the world besides Russia; they don’t seem to grasp that there exist ca. 150 other, non-European countries on Earth, the majority of which are on the side of Russia or neutral.
About Toynbee spiritual dimension, what I understood from it is that at the heart of every society there are groups of mystics that had a revelation and came back to bring the revelation to the masses, in a form that the masses can understand and follow via mimesis, similar to a prisoner of Plato’s cave that leaves the cave, see how things really are and come back to the cave to help the people there. One example of this movement in the myths is Moses in the Mount Sinai returning with the Laws. That’s where, as a brazillian, I half-joke, half-serious, say that sociology gives way to “macumba”.
In the case of the western society it’s clear who were the mystics – the first christians in the decades before Rome’s military anarchy. They were the seed of the roman catholic church and the church was the great organizer of western civilization bringing some order and civility to barbarian chieftains and roman warlords, order that eventually gave birth to the Carolingean Empire. So, in our current predictment, the 2nd great downward crisis of our civilization (remember that the first one alredy happened between 1914 and the fifties) where are the mystics that will be the core of the next societies? For me that’s one of the most disgraceful aspects of the modern, post-victorian West: it’s mystics are useless and clueless, their groups are just kinky sex clubs. The freemasons degenerated to a self-serving mafia of lawyers and accountants (at least in my country) and on and on, the sixties New Age was just a drug trip that strenghtned the capitalist system (women’s liberation just depressed everybody’s wages and contraceptives turn them into slaves of the big pharma) … Who will leave the cave and bring salvation from the lack of imagination and mental monoculture? The last guys went deeper into the cave and are as responsible for the current mental monoculture as the rotten dominant minorities.
I fear that the new Moses, Buddhas, St. Benedicts will not come from the West but from either the conquered civilizations – the incas, aztecs and yorubas – or from the other civilizations like the arabs, turks or chinese. That probably means that most of what westerners hold dear will not survive the fall, like democracy, it’s rooted on jarls having a say in the government of the tribe, not in the roman senate, that was dead and buried by this time. All european monarchies began with some kind of parliment of the jarls – the spanish and portuguese cortes, the french states general, the english parliment, the holy roman empire diet… A successor culture that does not come from the west won’t have this tradition. There are many others concepts that the westerns hold very dear that may not make to the other side, like science, that is not a given (just look at the muslims after Al Ghazali).
Sorry for the rant, the failure of the western mystics bother me to no end.
That’s a great analysis of the current situation here in the UK JMG. Here is an extract from Liz Truss’ speech to the Conservative Party Conference yesterday:
“I have three priorities for our economy: growth, growth and growth”.
Bit of a lack of new ideas there, I think.
You say that a dominant majority in decline resorts to force and fraud. It definitely seems like there’s more dishonesty in the air than maybe ten years ago. But I keep wanting to think that all the fraud is because Faustian culture or the United States or something wants to romanticize fraud because of capitalist theory or the wild west or something like that. I realize that fraud is never likely to beyond people who seek power hard enough, and that it’s a natural desperation move.
So, do you think the present-day United States glorifies fraud more than other cultures, Faustian or otherwise?
Do you have any interesting examples of fraud used by failing non-Faustian civilizations?
Martin #90, I did something similar to that when I had a problem with heated water. It was more comfortable for me to heat a small amount of water on the stove than to take a cold shower.
>I am less worried about a Nuclear Holocaust than about the use of nuclear weapons becoming normalized.
My totally irrational hunch about this is that the world has too much to lose right now for nukes to be anything other than a threat used to try to get enemies to change their behavior. At some point, the world will deteriorate to the point where people in charge conclude “Why not? What do we have to lose?”
I predict when nukes do get used, people hearing the news will shrug their shoulders and go back to whatever it was they were doing before. Mainly because they all live outside the cities and the news took 2 days to reach them. As far as the people who were living in the cities, most of them will be so miserable that the end will be welcomed.
We’re not there. Yet. And I could be wrong. But look on the bright side. By then, nobody will remember how to make more of them, so once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Re. the economics of nuclear, don’t forget that we’ve only seen nuclear so far in the context of cheap(ish) fossil fuels (and special preference renewables). If a nuclear powered society could work, but where the average energy cost (NOT electricity, all energy; electricity is a tiny fraction of the mix. A nuclear dominant society would need to produce hydrogen to substitute for natural gas in many many industrial processes) would be north of $150 MWhr, we wouldn’t know that from any data available to us today. All we can say for certain is that it’s not going to be too cheap to meter.
Re. going to Mars and such… it’s not just the moon that is a harsh mistress. A lot of resources we take for granted down here, like air, are in very short supply around our solar system. Any civilisation that can’t adapt to scarcity and be very selective in resource allocation isn’t going to be colonising other planets. We need the Belter mindset for that (a continual low level understanding of how much fuel we have, what it costs us to get from place to place, the daily demands on food and air made by a person…). An Inner mindset won’t cut it.
Re. Britain, we have a *lot* of infrastructure that our recent (<10 generations) ancestors left us. Not just the canals, though those are probably the most resilient, and I would expect any distant post apocalyptic series to include them, they're major game changers in fantasy logistics. Very few people live more than I think 10 miles from a railway line? We could (re)build platforms easily enough, and put a lot more freight on, though that would likely require slowing the intercity trains to free up paths. Other than that, we're a coastal nation with lots of rivers. Dredge them, and we can get a lot more shipped by intracoastal barge. Maybe electric trucks can handle the last 15 miles of the journey.
Re. electricity, it's very helpful in targeting heat. You can't have a gas heated gilet, at least not safely, but electricity makes it possible to heat the person rather than the air. Even when you factor in transmission and generation losses gas to electricity to heat works out far more efficient at keeping people warm than straight gas to heat.
I think you’re talking some very good sense in this week’s post. However, I’m pessimistic about your sage advice being heeded for two reasons: 1) Our current senile elite (speaking both literally and metaphorically here) would probably need to be swapped out for an entirely new leadership class, and it’s hard to imagine such a revolution taking place right now; and 2) I really do think that when we made a collective decision to have one last 30 to 40-year-blowout on our remaining relatively cheap fossil-fuel reserves, we decided on the level of the collective unconscious to ignore the consequences of what we were inflicting upon the future right up to the very end of this last blowout, and it really seems as though the harder the consequences barrel down on us, the more resolutely we plug our ears and shout “LALALALA!”
And I’m not surprised by any of us this, because during a “long, dark night of the soul” back in the summer of 1994, even though I lacked the vocabulary for understanding Peak Oil and related matters, I realized that these were the choices we were making as a society, and the behaviors associated with these choices would only get more pathological the closer we came to “crunch time”. I have yet to see anything happen that would prove this intimation wrong.
>But how would you protect yourself?
Here’s a few first steps.
1. Locate the nearest airport to you.
2. Find out its elevation.
3. If it’s less than 1000′, move to somewhere where the elevation is at least 1000′
Although probably 500′ is good enough, but why not double it and make sure.
Russell Graves (#37), your arguments are technically valid. However, I’ve known two people out in the country who started with a ground mount and ended up with a roof mount. The reason: people don’t drive by and shoot out your panels if your house is behind them. (Like “rolling smoke,” destroying renewable energy sources is a recreational activity for certain segments of the population.)
Hopefully, this is the last news flash for mundane astrologers in relation to the annexation proceas:
According to the TASS Telegram channel, and RT’s Twitter, on October 5, 2022 at 9:34AM, Putin signed the ratified treaties, thus completing the legal part of the annexation process. There are some conflicting reports whether or not the time was 9:34AM or if it was 9:30AM. This is relevant as it affects the 11th-5th house cusps, turning this axis from a Libra-Aries to a Virgo-Pisces axis.
Given the mass of the battery, an electric vehicle should more properly be known as a mobile battery, and the driver as a mobile battery operator.
The biggest challenge we have is not how to keep our houses warm or showers hot but how to rearrange the landscape of where we live and work. Of course the techno-utiopians think we will all work from home on the internet. But I suspect that will all have to change drastically once the internet is done for, and the cars ( of all power sources) stop rolling. Some folks will be able to ride our limited rail transit networks in to a reworked version of central cities from the near outskirts where tracks and stations were built. The tall buildings in these central cities are a problem and I expect many of them will be modified to just use the first 4 or 5 floors. People who live walking distance from places of business ( especially docks, translations, etc.) in small cities will do well. Some people who live in a small town with a key resource or factory will be good ( salt, coal, borax). But for most of the people inhabiting most of Americas suburbs and exurbs their homes will become essentially useless. It will be off to bunkhouses, picker shanties and company row houses near some place of employment. One of the reasons some people are so desperate to believe in the future of EV’s is that once you accept that we are back to a life without happy motoring most of the American Landscape ( and most of the money embedded in it) gets upended. So think about this and move now if you are going to be around for more than 10 years.
Well cornucopian psycho’s are rearing their heads here, latest claim drumroll please – hydrogen.
My God when I was in germany there were hydrogen adverbs everuwhere. The thing went like this: Our great Energiewerde would produce electricity too cheap to meter and then that energy would be used to power hydrogen fuel cells in BMW and Mercedes Benzes everywhere. Lo and behold a CGI like future from recent crappy Star Trek movie with computers anf lens flares gallore. I wanted to cry or laugh when this nosense was rewinded here recently. there is this guy guy called Tytko who claims poland might be an Sudi Arabia of hydrogen?? Ok the people one claimed we can liquify coal and be an Saudi Arabia but hydrogen?? Polish coal is now predominantly brown coal which has a very poor quality to it and is being used due to it’s relative abundance. BTW my grandmother said that Polish anthracite was once soo abundant even low income famillies could buy it in abundance and ship it by rail. During Communist times things were bad especialy towards the end but even then coal never run out unlike today when disaster is hitting home and nobody knows what to do?
It is beyong belief. And OPEC just announced that oil production will be cut!!!! God in heavens Joe and Nancy say godbye to your little post.
Dear comentariat do you think that the democrats in a situation without exit will resort to an another voting thing? What are your thoughts?
Speaking of the future and living standards and the past etc – I read something recently that just astonished me.
JMG often posts about how a single income from a factory worker could comfortably support a family of four, buy a house, buy a car and take a reasonable vacation 50-60 years ago, so I know that’s changed.
But I was astonished to read recently that it was not too uncommon for families in the 1950s to have their own *private plane*. You could buy a cheap plane for around $3000 – this was roughly the US median salary at the time I believe. So the *average* person could buy a PLANE for about his annual salary.
These days I think the median US income is around $40-45k and the cheapest private plane you can buy (forget the cost of gas that’s even worse) is around $2-3 *million*. It’s up 40-50x in terms of affordability.
Here’s an advertisement from the 50s, marketing private planes the way a fancy BMW car might be marketed today:
Along similar lines, but much more recent – in 1999, a cheap meal with a drink at Taco Bell was $3.5 and the minimum wage was around $5.50. Even someone making only the min wage could buy themselves lunch with about 45 mins of labour. Now the min wage is around 40% higher, but the same meal at Taco Bell is around $11-12 – or about 1.5 hours of work – doubled in terms of labour.
It’s just astonishing – the last 25 years are supposed to have been a *low* inflation period..
Scott Harding #42
Sorry sir, but even being a Pakistani myself, that comes across an emotionally loaded cheap shot. You don’t ask how extreme the crime in an entire country is, for example, by asking a mother who’s child had just been violently murdered.
Also for those who don’t already know about this, there is a fantastic BBC series on farming in WW2 in Britain. A bunch of folks relive the war experience and face challenges British farmers faced during 6 years of war. Very enlightening! https://youtu.be/CUsU5s0ofYo
Northwind Grandma, I will admit to using sink baths, especially in winter when getting completely wet first thing on a dark, chilly morning is a less than attractive notion. Now I think of it, my adoptive parents, who grew up on farms in the Depression, never got into the showering habit. All through my childhood it was sink baths during the week, tub baths for the weekend, and washing hair in the sink as well. I had no idea people didn’t know about that, but I’m constantly surprised by the things younger people today have forgotten or never knew.
How does wokeism fit in during this era of decline?
Is it a conspiracy from the top down to pacify and distract the masses with identity politics?
Is it all an accidentally discovered ratings gold mine taken advantage of by media and corporate interests?
Is it a bit of both; the masses want something sexier to focus their anxiety of future hard realities on rather then weatherizing and learning how to grow potatoes?
In my experience (and I talk to a good and diverse amount of folks) peoples eyes glaze over when talking about possibly changing to meet future demands outside the usual nuke, Solar and wind. Or that a solution to get back to “normal” may not ever show up.
To reanimate them just the mention of Trump, or Biden, or BLM is required.
Habits and routine, healthy and unhealthy, seem near impossible to change without large shocks to personal and collective narratives. Which obviously can be taken advantage of by malicious desires.
Since oil seems to be a blip in the human experience, or an abnormality, or even a miss allocated and misused gift; is some sort of hard collapse situation needed to bring humans back into a more balanced state of being?
Sorry for the clutter of my questions.
As always thanks again for an inspiring, insightful, and useful post!
Chicory, good point about hot water. I don’t need much, so my hot water cylinder is permanently switched off. I use an electric kettle for heating water for bathing, and hand-washing laundry and dishes. With LED lights, small bar fridge, no stove or oven, just a hot plate, and no heater or a/c (mild climate, similar to San Francisco), I use 50-55 units of electricity a month.
@ Bei Dawei #52
I know! Bugles have a limited set of notes. My dad (a longtime trombonist) could play it. The lack of keys made for a simple, durable instrument that wasn’t hard to learn.
The sound travels a long, long way too, very useful for sending commands out at a distance.
Bofur, for all practical purposes Canada has the same status as Puerto Rico: ruled by the US, but without any say in who makes decisions in DC. Yes, it gets better treatment on the whole, because there’s that huge undefended border…
Celadon, yes, exactly! The system has done its level best for forty years to keep people from imagining that. Rebel against that pressure, and imagine it — and the cracks start to open.
Clay, I’ve lived in a cabin with no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing, and a wood stove for heat. My bedroom was a loft just large enough for my blankets and a thin foam mattress, with a little space past the head for personal belongings and some hooks down below for my clothing. It was cold and soggy in the winter — this was in northwest Washington State, not that far from the Canadian border. I didn’t mind. I still have fond memories of that time. So, yes, it can be done.
Aldarion, of course they’re modest. They’re not the final step in anything; they’re the opening stage of a long transition. They’re also modest enough to be politically possible, while still offering definite benefits that everyone can see. (A 25% cut in your power bill is noticeable.) Germany doesn’t have the same mix of problems and possibilities, so some different mix of proposals would be better suited there. (Not that you have time to do much of anything but shiver in the dark at this point.) As for whether a society can consciously embrace decline, modern industrial society almost certainly can’t, so a more oblique approach is a better one.
Pyrrhus, the one thing we have now that wasn’t available in ancient times is sheet glass. That makes passive solar even more effective than it was in Greek times — and yes, the Greeks used passive solar to keep their houses comfortable. It also makes solar water heaters more efficient. Your father is quite correct, in other words, so long as passive solar is understood in its broadest sense.
Martin, biogas is great if you make it from waste products — especially manure, human and animal. Making it from crops? Unless you live in a latitude where sugar cane grows, it’s an embarrassing flop. I’m not surprised to find Germany falling into that trap as well.
Gus, good to hear. Quantitative analysis is essential in these matters — that’s how you know whether something is paying its way or not. The use of PV panels as talismans is bad energy policy, and it’s not even especially effective magic.
Stuart, the IPCC is worth watching, precisely because their estimates have turned out to be on the modest side. It’s the activists and the politicians who have gone apeshale with the doomsday claims.
Sylvanmoon, exactly. Wind farms, PV panels, and nuclear plants are subsidy dumpsters, not serious sources of power.
BCV, nope. Solar PV and wind in the US power grid have exactly the same status they do in the German power grid — they look really good until and unless something interferes with the supply of cheap natural gas, which is the fuel that actually keeps things running. That’s why natural gas consumption has kept on rising even while solar PV and wind installations have expanded. As I discussed two weeks ago, wind and PV are Potemkin power systems, a green facade over lots of natural gas and other fossil fuels.
Abraham, oh, a lot of people outside the financial sphere were pretty vexed, too, which is why Labour’s currently got something like a 33% edge over the Tories in the polls. But you’re right that the currency traders were the proximate cause.
Nachtgurke, if I were living in Europe right now, I’d feel the same way. I think there’s a very high chance that Europe is going to land very hard. Elsewhere in the world? Not so much.
DBB, paying attention to profit is essential, because you’re right — if an energy technology can’t make a return on the financial investment, it probably can’t make a return on the energy investment either, and that means it’s an energy sink, not an energy source.
Owen, nicely summarized.
Denis, the alternative is that your family members have to admit that the faith in progress on which they’ve built their lives is the worship of a false god, and that the policies they’ve supported have guaranteed a messy future for themselves and everyone else. Blind faith in nuclear power is much easier.
PumpkinScone, thanks for this! It’s always a good day when somebody brings up Odum.
Yorkshire, thanks for this. Good to see.
Chris, it’s possible to banish an ideology, and it’s also possible to make yourself resistant to its allure. I probably should post something on that, shouldn’t I?
Skintnick, thanks for this.
Booklover, they still haven’t really grasped that Europe isn’t the imperial center of the planet any more. That fact may be brought home to them with quite some force in the near future.
Luciano, the mystics who transformed the late Roman world didn’t come from Rome. They came from a despised foreign sect whose founder was an executed criminal and whose followers mostly came from the lowest classes of society, with a sprinkling of downwardly mobile intellectuals. There were plenty of Roman mystics — Neoplatonists and the like — who had a lot of worthwhile ideas but who were incapable of launching the needed transformation of society. I expect the same thing in this case. The mystics who matter won’t be the well-paid spiritual teachers who pander to the comfortable classes, or the inmates of the big, established, and hopelessly compromised churches. They’ll be strange, despised cults recruiting followers right now in the slums of Chicago or the hill country of Tennessee — or the equivalents in your country.
Toxic, that’s just embarrassing. You might as well have a Tory Tele-Tubby making noises behind the podium.
Canada has done about as well as can be expected from its participation in the US imperial project so far, I think. Far better than many places.
As the US empire declines and the screws on it tighten, it seems to be playing progressively less nice with its allies. Whether is it is abandoning people in Afghanistan and not warning its allies they were about to pull out so they could get their people out in time, fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian, or throwing western europe under the bus economically (admittedly with their enthusiastic cooperation in many cases), I see less advantage and more danger in being a US satellite as time goes by.
And if the US turns out to be the one who blew up Nordstream… not a given, but definitely a possibility, well, with allies like the USA, who needs enemies? And being the US’s ally also means you’re stuck being enemies with the US’s enemies. So you’ve got an ally that doesn’t treat you like an ally, and a bunch of enemies you didn’t make mad at you because you’re allies with the US. It’s increasingly hard to see the advantage here.
To put it another way, the USA is going to find itself increasingly alone because it has taken to treating even formerly well-treated, inner-circle allies like disposable assets in its attempts to save itself, as well as making unnecessary enemies. US allies do have agency, and not all of them will be run by fools forever. Some of them are going to decide that they can do better without the USA, and should leave its orbit before they get thrown under the bus too.
I think Canada needs to start hedging its bets more, making new friends, and doing the bare minimum of picking fights with the US’s enemies required to satisfy the US.
Britain’s per capita energy use has been falling for almost four decades and its carbon output even more so. One reason has been improved efficiency – most coal-burning power stations have been retired and direct coal-burning to heat houses, etc., which was still common into the 1980’s in old industrial areas, has been almost eliminated. Cars and appliances have become more efficient though there are many more of them. The biggest reason though, is of course that we hardly make anything anymore and depend on companies in the Far East to do it for us – plus continental Europe for cars, etc – while our economy runs on financial services, income from pensions and investment trusts, and serving each other coffee and cake.
This leads onto the difficulties the UK will encounter in the rest of this decade under Truss and Starmer. It’s not just that they have no ideas, it’s also that if they – or whoever replaced them during that time period – even floated ideas such as those discussed here, they would be unelectable. As in most western countries, but I suspect more so in Britain than most, the vast majority of voters who actually determine election results under our system just will not see that the right things to do are totally different from all the various Right Things To Do promoted by today’s mainstream politicians. I cannot see any way that an electable leader could emerge who would stand on a policy platform such as JMG mentions here, until Truss has failed, whoever might replace her before the next election has failed, Starmer has failed – now we are up to at least 2028 – and a one-nation/populist Tory has more or less failed after that. So IMO the UK is in for 10+ years of stagflation/recession before we see a government that will even make a start on workable solutions. A wild ride we are indeed in for!
Hey, Toxic Plants Blog #103 and JMG, give Liz Truss some credit. She was just trying to ape the great Tony Blair so she might match his 10 years as PM. It was he who said in 2001: Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. I assume the incantation doesn’t work unless you say the word three times in succession.
JMG, a question if I might. In your study of history and magic, have you come across any effective methods to convince Dominant Minorities that revolution isn’t the best solution for all involved? How does one convince Dominant Minorities to become invested philosophically, spiritually, and probably most practically, financially, in a change that may take their silk sheets and fois gras away? I know that history teaches, basically, “You don’t. The guillotine solves it.” But there must be successful examples where that wasn’t the path. A non-musket option seems preferable, surely. I have to say, I’m unaware of any examples though. People really seem to love fois gras right up until the pitchfork is at the door, grabbing a plate to go as the crowd drags them out of the silk sheets and into the town square.
Writing from the U.K., I have a different view about Liz Truss and her Treasury Minster’s budget. First of all they aren’t stupid. They both have tremendous academic credentials at Oxford and Kwazi Kwarteng was on the winning final team of University Challenge on BBC TV. Their biggest move by far has been a pledge to subsidise every household’s energy bill to about £2,500 per annum. It otherwise would have gone up to maybe nearer £6,000. That isn’t exactly working only for the rich. It might cost £100 billion and the money will be borrowed. That is what mainly spooked international investors and made the £ wobble and the interest rate to spike. And who are the “rich” anyway? Those earning say £150,000 a year and paying higher rate taxes? Or multimillionaires who can arrange their affairs however they wish to pay less or more taxes and for whom national budget days are irrelevant.
Napoleon Boneparte once said “To understand a man, you must know what the world was like when he was twenty years old.” I saw that as a teenager, when I was doing activism against the Viet Nam war. Many, many members of my parents’ generation thought we were fighting WWII Redux and Ho Chi Minh was exactly analogous to Adolph Hitler. I continued to see this same point of view in the attitudes of the older generation even after the war, to the point of an op-ed that explicitly said that the returning veterans of WWII should always be our touchstone for political and, it was implied, moral decisions.
I resolved then not to get caught in that mental trap but instead to always try my best to look on current events with fresh eyes. Most of my peers don’t seem to have done anything like that. On the left are a whole bunch of people who seem to be trying to recreate the Civil Rights movement. On the right, there are all these Zombie Reaganites who think reducing government regulation is the solution to absolutely everything. That latter attitude also came with a heaping serving of economic snobbery. Remember Margaret Thatcher saying that if you’re over 30 and still taking public transit, you’re a failure? That’s a British example, but there’s a similar attitude here that affluence is an essential part of being an American. Frugality came to be seen as a kind of petty treason, or at least to demonstrate a lack of confidence in the nation. In my youth, humility and modesty were still virtues, but in this day and age, that has reversed; pride has become a synonym for loyalty and failure to show off is regarded as dysfunctional.
Neptunesdolphins #20: “electric cars don’t do diddly on mountain roads.”
Granted, you lose range when climbing a mountain. Its no problem if you plan for it, and you gain most of it back again when descending. And they are tremendously torquey and don’t lose power at altitude like an internal combustion car. I loved mine in the mountains of Tennessee.
“That’s one of the reasons why, bad though it is, rationing by price works better than central planning.”
I have tried many times over the years to make exactly this point in conversations about energy conservation strategies, and – with the notable singular exception of the commentariat here – the responses have been alarmingly consistent: I get blasted with a stream of absurdities (at times even presented in the enthusiastic manner of a Duckburg resident) focused on the obscene immorality of actually expecting people to purchase the goods they consume.
How refreshing it is to find a kindred spirit here! Thank you for hosting this forum, John.
“How does wokeism fit in during this era of decline?”
My perspective is that it is, to its believers, an aspect of Progress that is not subject to hard physical limits, and so becomes increasingly important to those believers as the other elements of Progress (cheap abundant energy, space travel, higher standards of living) falter.
Of course it is subject to other sorts of limits and generates strong pushback, but it is then useful for Progress believers to assign the anti-woke as also being at fault for the failure of all types of Progress – thereby having someone to blame rather than being forced to acknowledge the failure of their own ideology to reflect reality.
I think the issue I am having is your statements seem to imply that Wind and solar are useless as grid power sources today because they require fossil fuels in their manufacture. This is true of all generation today. I would argue that building solar and wind gives a better return for the fossil fuels that we are consuming than using the fossil fuels in the building of coal, nuclear, or even natural gas plants (if lifetime fuel consumption is included).
What I do know for sure is that all the transmission operators I have been in contact with have reported essentially the same thing: Their interconnection queues are choked with wind and solar, but mostly solar. This includes ATC (grid operator for the Wisconsin area), ERCOT, NW Power Pool, CAISO, BPA, and others. ISO New England might be an exception for solar; I don’t recall. These requests represent very savvy operators spending real money to identify the most cost effective place to connect their plants.
I do see a future where we will be more energy constrained. I also see that various legislation is misaligned with our actual ability to implement. I also want to support your thoughts on efficiency. I would urge you to modify how you describe wind and solar; I would say your current description implies something that is clearly not correct, and this damages your credibility.
I have taken time off to work on my asparagus garden. It is a lot of work. I usually try to back up my statements with publicly available documentation. I will ask for some charity, as my projects are taking a lot of time and the rains will start soon.
Solutions that have worked in the past with some modern takes…
Off topic from wind and solar, this bit of news came out recently. It is gotten some attention around work:
Essentially, a 200MW/2GW-hr battery that uses “iron, salt, and water for the electrolyte” (according tot he manufacturer).
I am not very familiar with the technology. In general, there is ample room for skepticism with any new technology/ That said, an actual deployment by a operating utility is a significant step, and worth watching. SMUD being a public utility, we should get some good operational performance and cost data as time goes on.
@ Darkest Yorkshire: Thanks for the very kind words about A Chi Town Doctor! You made some real nice comparisons, and it’s probably safe to say all of those things were in my subconscious somewhere -except Hobo with a Shotgun -thanks for the reminder on that title! One of the things I think the winners of the Grist competition missed is good old fashioned fun. You know the kind, pulpy and lurid.
Some of the books I’d been reading before I wrote that piece included Harlan Ellison’s “Web of the City” and Sol Yurick’s “The Warriors.” I’d loved the film of the The Warriors as a kid when it got played on Sunday afternoon TV, but I had never read the book and had needed to remedy that. One of the gangs in the Warriors are known as The Lizzie’s, fwiw… Speaking of pulp, I love the publisher Hard Case Crime. Lot’s of good titles on their list.
I need to sit down with the finished anthology and give it a read, but I’m finishing up some other titles at the moment, but its at the top of the next pile. I’ll look forward to your tale.
I’d also like to thank the editor of The Flesh of Your Future Sticks Between My Teeth, JMG, and the publisher Nathanael Bonnell. Nathanael did a fine, fine job on the book. He found a great artist, and he has a real knack for typography and layout. The size, shape, paper… all artfully considered to make a fine physical object for the deindustrial bookshelf.
BTW, Fix/Grist did a second contest and they just posted the results this week. Good timing. Things like to happen together.
(Please just ignore if this is past your ‘cut-off’ time; I realize you can’t keep responding all week!)
I have been reading Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies and I wonder if you would be willing to address how his theory of collapse coming from marginal returns on the costs of complexity fits (or doesn’t) with Toynbee’s creative minority/failure to adapt theory.
I have to admit that I did find the very end of Tainter’s book jarring; it almost felt like an editor/publisher told him to “give us a little hope at the end”. After all that excellent reasoning he concludes with (I paraphrase), “Global industrial civilization needs to discover a new energy source so we can kick the can down the road a little further.” Really?
Re: sink baths, we call those washcloth baths in our house for some reason. The kids LOVE them–they’d much rather do a quick clean with a washcloth than spend all that time sitting in the tub or shower. Except for my husband, we each take a once-a-week shower for hair washing and then it’s washcloth baths the rest of the time, if/when necessary. Some people who shower constantly (even multiple times a day) may find that it takes a while to transition as their skin or hair gets oilier than normal when moving to less bathing.
We’ve also found that it saves a lot of water to use the excess rain barrel water to flush our toilets three seasons of the year. Our climate seems to be getting much wetter, and we easily and regularly fill 4-5 rain barrels off our modest, 1,300 sqft house. It’s much more than we need for the garden! We keep the water turned off at the toilet, lug a few buckets into the bathroom every day or so, and then pour the water into the back tank after flushing to refill. So far no one has imitated this practice, but our friends and family find it charmingly eccentric–maybe they’ll remember it and implement it in the future?
Takeaway lesson/listen: It’s better to be in the creative minority than the dominant minority. (Brings to mind Bucky Fuller’s concept of the “Trim Tab”)
It’s been a very long time since I tried washing my hair without a shower (though I have used a style of showering sometimes where you get completely wet, then turn off the water. Shampoo hair, soap up rest of body, rinse off with shower. That has the shower on probably for less than 1 minute and I get very clean. Trouble is, it is only really good for summer. Otherwise I end up shivering like mad and I don’t think it’s very good for my fibromyalgia. A sink bath is warmer in cooler weather, or best, a regular shower.) But anyway, I think it’s about time I tried washing my hair without a shower. Just to make sure I know how, and that I know a decent method.
So much for making money on wind,
The cuts are coming to GE’s onshore wind turbine business. Roughly 20% of U.S. workers will be affected. Layoffs are likely in locations around the world too, but cutting staff overseas can often take longer than in the U.S.
“We are taking steps to streamline and size our onshore wind business for market realities to position us for future success,”
One of those market realities is inflation, which has been a particular thorn in the side of GE’s wind business. Contracts for wind turbines can be signed years before equipment is delivered, which isn’t a great business model when inflation is at the highest levels in decades. The entire industry is struggling with that dynamic.
GE reported a $419 million operating loss in its renewable business in the second quarter of 2022. Competitors Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE. Spain) and Vestas Wind Systems (VWS. Denmark) reported operating losses of about $365 million and $157 million, respectively.
On a different topic, EROI for a silicon PV panel was about 2 years as of 2018. This does not include the mount which is hard to quantify due to the variety.(roof top, ground, fixed, single axis tracking, dual axis tracking.) figure at least the same for a simple mount, and twice that for a more complicated one.
Interesting times coming up for the U.S. so JMG’s entry this week is quite timely imo.
I just did a 12 month spread for the U.S. for 2023
For August 2023 I turned over the Rudra-Shiva card! The cosmic wild card of the deck. The Joker-anything-goes card.
For September I turned over the 10 of Swords. Since it’s after the Wild card not even the subtle planes of the universe itself knows what all the fall out will be.
Sri Arya says 10 of Swords is the rock-bottom card. There is no way to go from here but up.
This is the rock bottom card, so there is no way but up. The real enemy is within – self-doubt, belittling oneself, sabotaging oneself, pitying oneself. People change when they have to, not when they want to. Now you have to. The closure of things that have outlived their karma – relationships, work, places of residence. Hopefully the power to fight and overthrow evil forces but only if backed by other cards. Spiritually the death of the Old Man, so the new being is freed. New levels of awareness and wakefulness. Gathering up one’s reserves and resources. Recommitment to the struggle. Warning that you missed your life’s purpose, your entelechy. Irrevocable endings. Illusions blasted to smithereens. Legal entanglements.
That this immediately follows the Wild Card of the deck makes it somewhat enervating. I have no idea what’s coming down the pike but my new 12th month spread says its big enough for the U.S. that it’s effecting even the high, subtle planes in huge ways.
Sr Arya’s entry for the Wild Card which I c&p from last week’s submitted post (#362) *****
0 – The Wild Card – Rudra Shiva – literally the Unmanifest (that-which-is-not) as Rudra – ‘The Howler’. Suit Tattva: Akasha (space). Card Tattva: None/All
If this card turns up in a reading Sri Arya says all readings of the spread are rendered ambiguous whether upright or reversed. It’s karma type is All/None and it’s karma quality is All/None. Which is what renders it as both dangerous and loaded-to-the-brim with potential in as-yet-unformed possibilities underlying the rest of the spread. This Wild Card was the Universe the instant before the Big Bang happened…if you get my drift. Think of any science documentary or podcast about the Big Bang. That is this card – Rudra-Shiva. The Unmanifest activating as the Howler. Big things are in play even in the subtle planes if this major arcana card turns up in a spread.
Chicory, when your dominant minority stays in power by lying, that’s a sign that it doesn’t have the strength to rule by force. The more blatant the dishonesty, and the more the minority believes its own lies, the more likely you are to see everything unravel in the fairly short order. The US uses as much fraud as it does because its dominant minority is extremely vulnerable. As for failing non-Faustian societies, look at the long parade of god-kings whose allegedly divine power turned out not to mean squat.
Alice, and even with plenty of energy subsidies from fossil fuels, nuclear power never pays for itself. If all the energy needed to build, supply, maintain, and decommission nuclear power plants had to come from nuclear power plants, the economics are much, much worse.
Mister N, it does seem unlikely that the current elites will pay any attention to the sort of points I’m raising. It’s by no means certain that they’re going to remain in power indefinitely, however — and as I’ll be pointing out further on, there’s a lot that can be done by individuals, families, and communities no matter what the clueless elites do.
Ighy, thank you again for this.
Martin, ha! Good.
Clay, well, of course. Do you recall the town in late Roman Gaul that ended up moving itself into its own coliseum, and turning that into a cramped but defensible fortified settlement? I’m intrigued to think of what similar things might happen to the absurd architecture of our time.
Wer, of course! The alternative is admitting that the future is going to look much more like the year 1500 than like Star Wars.
RPC, good heavens. That’s a very useful measure. I wonder how many other large purchases were on the same scale.
Travis, my take is that the woke ideology is a desperate attempt to maintain the fiction of progress in the teeth of accelerating decline. If nothing else is progressing, the wokesters can still claim that we’re progressing socially toward some allegedly perfect society. That’s why they’re so shrill and so extreme: the religion of progress is nearing its last stand. I think you’ll find that like most failing ideologies, wokeism will become ever more strident and extreme as it loses supporters, and the extremism and shrillness will help drive people away.
Robert, I ain’t arguing. Right now, only a very small minority of people are willing to grapple with the reality of decline and the inevitable shape of our future. That’s why people like Truss and Starmer are running out of ideas: they can’t address what’s actually happening, or even let themselves notice it, and that places ever-tightening constraints on them.
Murmuration, I don’t know of an example. However, there are many different forms of revolution, and not all of them involve muskets. How many battles were fought in the downfall of the Soviet Union?
Michael, I think of Truss and Kwarteng as examples of Taleb’s very useful label “intellectuals yet idiots.” They’re very smart, but “smart” does not equal “wise” — they’re extraordinarily good at manipulating abstractions, which is of course what gets you academic honors these days, but very poor at relating those abstractions to the real world. (To be fair, Starmer and his clique are in exactly the same category.)
Joan, this is an excellent point — and of course Napoleon is quite correct. It’s one of the things that makes societies vulnerable to extreme stupidity in troubled times.
Old Steve, I know. It’s disheartening.
BCV, if you’ll go back to my post two weeks ago you’ll find that you’ve misunderstood my point of view quite impressively. I trust you’re not just reciting talking points from a list…
Dale, it’s a great magazine.
BCV, that’s been floated half a dozen times since I started blogging. Yes, let’s see how well it actually works — especially before using it as a talking point.
Ken, the cut-off time is Tuesday evening. We’re still early in the discussion! I consider Tainter’s theory to be an important contribution but more of a step in a useful direction than a viable theory — my 2005 paper How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse talks about this. The crisis of excess complexity is only one of the problems with which a creative minority can deal and a dominant minority can’t.
Justin, works for me.
Siliconguy, yep. All the rhetoric praising wind isn’t making it make money, except as a subsidy dumpster.
Panda, thanks for this.
Well done John. Unlike a lot of old boomers blogging and podding with interesting guests, but making a mess of it by trying to sound intelligent on the subject themselves, you stick to what you know and present it in a form that truly holds the readers attention. It’s been an honor reading your work since the old days of the Arch Druid.
Stay safe over there mate.
Just looked up Odum and came across this paper by some NZ academics from 1984 – https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/9094/12647526_J7.pdf;jsessionid=62A5387DAB0B90E2E4648757D788DD15?sequence=1 – which has this quote I thought was worth thinking about:
“To go from structure A to structure B that better fits the external constraints, as with the diesel versus the steam locomotive, one can only proceed through stochastic exploration of possible configurations, and proper selection. In going from A to B then, the flow of information necessary is orders of magnitude larger than the difference in Shannon’s information content between A and B, because of the great number of “failures” that have to be discarded.”
The point is made that this exploration and selection takes energy too.
Lis Truss. She hasn’t had a new idea since 1702. & Keir Starmer. He hasn’t had a new idea yet.
So true! And the folks that help put them in power are devoid of viable working ideas as well.
…winding up with an insistence that windpower and solar PV, or nuclear power, or all three, are the only alternatives to planetary doom.
reply: If anyone would bother to do the math on the above would realize that the cost to build the wind/Solar/Nuclear power systems will never pay. Their environmental and energy foot print is so large and toxic econmically the are DOA (Dead on Arrival).
>That’s one of the reasons why, bad though it is, rationing by price works better than central planning.
Although I would invite you to read one historical account of hyperinflation. Doesn’t matter, pick one. They’re all depressingly the same. And one of those same things would be – price controls.
“I forbid prices from rising ever again”, says the politician. Over and over and over again throughout the centuries.
I do agree with you though about prices and working better. There’s something about the whole process that makes it almost impossible for the average politician from not implementing price controls at some point.
I think there is a way to break through the habit of “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t even try” and that is gratitude. Easier said than done, of course. The problem with the McMansionite who perpetually dwells on the knife edge of a catastrophic fall (they sense this at the pit of their being, which is why they are so paranoid about “safety” and prone to government fear campaigns) is essentially one of gratitude. They don’t appreciate what they have, so they are constantly consumed by the urge to glut themselves on more. Their urges are happily assisted by Madison Avenue and other diabolical forces. What they have is a wendigo. The more they feed it, the hungrier it gets. I have written some blog entries about it:
Forcing them to be grateful isn’t possible, necessary, or desirable. Logically, the only thing I can do when confronted with such toxic perfectionism is to do my best not to help it along. For me, this means combatting my natural urge to take stuff for granted. I can be quite the entitled ingrate if I allow myself the luxury; this comes from being raised in the posh, upper middle class. A contemporary of mine from my neighborhood was miserable because her father was upper-middle class but not a film director. She felt it was some kind of birthright to step into being financed to the tune of millions of dollars for massive projects that would have given her fame and access to the “beautiful” people. Nothing significant changed for her over the years. She is still obsessed with the rich and famous. She will never understand what it is to struggle to make rent or to have her creative work crushed and trashed for lack of money. I could not change her mind back then and I cannot hope to do so now. All I can do is work on cultivating gratitude within my own heart.
Does everybody understand that you don’t need to wash with water? You can just lick your armpits clean. (Or if you have trouble reaching them, each other’s.) I learned this at the Rainbow Gathering.
JMG (no. 141) “…the future is going to look much more like the year 1500 than like Star Wars.”
Actually, if you’ll recall, Star Wars was quite feudalistic. We see peasants who have to scrounge old technology, a noble class.in decline (including rival guilds of religious professionals), struggles over taxes and trade, various mafias and bandit groups, and a military trying to hold remnants of an empire together. (And okay, indulging in occasional boondoggle projects like the Death Star.) The reason for this was that Star Wars was imitating Dune, which was also feudalistic. Frank Herbert thought feudalism was the long-term natural state of humanity.
Now Star Trek, on the other hand…well the intent was that it be like other rockets-and-ray-guns shows, only progressive to the max (no more capitalism!), but the show-runners slip up sometimes, hence the awkward situation of a fractious interstellar federation dominated by one race, whose military wing and intelligence services have become key behind-the-scenes power-holders. I guess that’s just a projection of our own era (something the show is known for).
We often think of science fiction as futuristic (granting that both of these franchises are space opera without much science to speak of), but I recall one critic arguing that it is just as likely to rely on nostalgia.
Ighy (no. 111), is it important which time-zone he was in? Russia has about half a dozen of them, and Putin has been spending a lot of time outside of Moscow lately.
Up to you, JMG, if you want to post because it may sound like an advertisement. In response to Samurai above and for anyone in New England, I had a good experience with a residential solar hot water install in 2016 by a company with an easy name for an internet search. I checked their website and looks like they are still in business!
A few years ago the sensor on the collector on the roof needed to be replaced. Other than that we have not had issues. The system has a 120 gallon insulated water tank in the basement with a couple 100 W pumps to move the anti freeze up to the roof when the collector is hot enough. I like the simplicity. Some years for my family of five It is our only hot water source May through October. There is a secondary heating coil in the tank that is attached to our forced hot water oil burner for winter.
I wonder if you have thoughts about the efficiency of turning off the oil burner in the winter unless needed for hot water. We heat mainly with wood stove, but historically go through 125 gallons of oil in a winter keeping the house temp above 54 F over cold nights and hot water tank up to temp. (I ran the “In the Bank or Up the Chimney” playbook, so the house is well sealed and insulated.)
RPC @ 115:
“She took my silver spurs, a dollar and a dime,
and left me craving for more summer wine.”
Mid 60s, a dollar and a dime was breakfast and coffee at a cheap cafe.
There seems to be a lot of similarities between climate change “the world’s coming to an end” true believers and Second Coming/rapture true believers.
They both postulate dates and events and then, afterwards, pretend they didn’t say it or that they misinterpreted the signs. Those Mayan Calendar true believers did much the same.
Hi John Michael,
Yes, I would be very interested to learn of your thoughts and practical responses to such uses of magic.
I know how I resist ideology whilst navigating through life and the social contexts in which such loose talk arises, but how others might go about doing that, is something of a mystery. And as the old timers were apt to say: An old dog such as myself, can always learn new tricks. Actually, they didn’t say that, but who cares, it works! 🙂
Ok…so I figure I’ll post the remaining cards that I turned over after the Wild Card/10 of Swords combo for Aug/Sep
Oct: The Hierophant R – I recall JMG saying this card R is often the card of tyranny – especially in spiritual matters. Vs Emperor R being tyranny of the material realm. So I’m thinking that whatever happens in Aug-Sep is going to let loose a whirlwind of civil unrest across the U.S. Quite possibly of BLM or Antifa-ish in nature. There is also the possibility of things like BLM vs Proud Boys clashes. Alt-Left duking it out with Alt-Right. Days and nights of angry mobs burning, looting and pillaging.
Unrest to the point many states will call out their national guard to put it down. MSM will be full of news about how domestic terrorism is at an all time high and Executive Orders (aka Royal Decrees) will be issued to declare a state of emergency. If you’re not for The Right Thing to Do that means you’re the domestic terrorist or terrorist-sympathizer that must be stopped. Congress will be such a basket case of gridlock they won’t be able to stop it. I think high-wealth elites might actually be scared for their own lives and begin flying out to a pre-prepared bunkers or some other hidey-hole. Hence another reason to emigrate and begin serious elite-wealth capital flight. Big Tech may get very bold in de-platforming, censoring and silencing anyone seen as a threat to the old-time status quo. Progress is dying so the response is…tyranny.
Nov: The Chariot R – Willpower defeated. The Chariot upright is the card of a premier, unstoppable, unified will. So it’s opposite is one of dispersion, dissipation, scattering and defeat. The people feeling numb, in shock, anxious and depressed. I’m guessing there will be a big spike in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. Rampant upspiral in violent crime everywhere. I think it begins to hit that Progress *horror of horrors* might have just died. Even worse, they lived to see it and now what do they do? They didn’t die. The Apocalypse didn’t happen. The Rapture didn’t happen. What happens now that their “the shining beacon on a hill” is dead or dying? Every day in their mind stretches out into a grey, soulless, entropy they don’t understand and don’t know how to cope with. So they go numb, in a state of shock and can’t digest what has happened.
Right about here is where I think those IT Ukrainians will look around and think, “Good grief, this again? Shrug, then dust themselves off and have a leg up on native-born Americans on how to survive in uncertain times.
And here it is….the final card I turned over for America 2023
Dec: Death (A) – Yama – the card of death of all things that come to their natural end. Yama is an interesting death card. He’s more about death that is a natural end point. Not the kind of Kali-Shock-and-Awe death of Sri Arya’s other death arcana card. Kali as Death card is the shakti of Time’s Up! She gets transition done in a harsh way. Yama’s is more the shakti of closing a book on a story well-told.
This card turned over upright – which Sri Arya says is actually auspicious! When it turns over upright it is about
“karmic transformation, not personal extinction so do not fear. New beginnings after comprehensive endings…the clearing of karmic clutter so that life flows clearly and smoothly. This is usually painful but always necessary and ultimately you feel grateful. Shaw said, ‘Life levels all men. Death reveals the eminent.’ The disintegration you experience will be followed by renewals and infusions of energy. Outbursts of creativity and valuable work. Spiritually a time of immense possibility and progress, but the journey can be disconcerting and disorienting. Destabilising changes at work, surprising reorganizations. Unexpected rewards and promotions are possible.” (his exact words).
So for whatever reason, the universe closes the book on the U.S. for all that it has been during my lifetime (I’m Gen-X) and a new book for it will be written thereafter. Judging from that Wild Card Arcana…well it’s gonna be an interesting ride to see where America goes from here.
In light of my spread I think JMG’s essays will have an outsized karmic influence compared to what seems to be now.
*raises a brewsky*
Here’s to the new JMG Appleseed. 🙂
Tom, thank you! I don’t claim to be relevant, just to be right. 😉
Kerry, thanks for this. That strikes me as a very interesting paper; I’ve downloaded a copy.
Wilnav, of course — but if you admit that they’ll never pay for themselves, then you’re stuck admitting that there’s no way out of the Long Descent, and most people in the developed world would sooner lick week-old bubble gum off the sidewalk than do that.
Owen, I’ve read plenty. Did you read the recent story about some UN agency or other demanding worldwide price controls instead of rising interest rates? Sigh…
Kimberly, and we can both be grateful for the many bad examples warning us of what not to do. (This may sound snide; it’s not. One of the things I’m grateful for is that so many other people have already made most of the mistakes I might be tempted to make, so I can see how that plays out.)
Bei, “feudalistic” doesn’t matter. I’m talking about technological levels.
Matt, thanks for this. I’ve never lived in a house with oil heat, so will have to pass your question on to someone else.
Teresa, yep. It’s all the same gimmick, just with a different coat of ideological spraypaint.
Chris, fair enough; I’ll keep that in mind.
Panda, and thanks for this also.
Europe really does seem to be going down the drain.
I know in the past JMG you have predicted that Europe may get a new load of immigration from Africa/Asia that displaces the current population.
Do you still see this happening?
As it stands now I can see immigration the other way, with people moving east to Russia and Central Asia as that is where the largest resource bases continue to lie. If climatic patterns shift favourably, the Volga Basin and even the enormous river valleys of Siberia (Ob, Lena, Irtysh, Amur etc) could support large populations in comparison to the worn out and energy depleted European peninsular.
Even Africa, who has suffered for so long, may finally get a break from colonialism as Europe fades away and will be able to establish some sovereignty and control over their resources. Same thing for Latin America.
Of course, events may go either way, but to me history shows when empires decline the heartland often becomes a depopulated backwater, and people go looking elsewhere.
JMG it occurs to me that, without reducing to this entirely or even mostly, a creative minority is actually hi-tech compared to a dominant minority. It enables sustainable tech at all.
“One of the things I’m grateful for is that so many other people have already made most of the mistakes I might be tempted to make, so I can see how that plays out.”
As the late great Mae West said, “If you can’t set a good example, you can at least serve as a warning.” She was quite a character!
@ Michael Miller #126
2,500 a year is terribly expensive for home power bills for an awful lot of people ! That is over 200 a month. That is in addition to food being 30% or more more, and transportation, gas, or petrol in our case, doubled. So, fine for middle class maybe to have it limited to 200 a month, but that is going to make low income retirees and other low income people have unaffordable bills, they will not be able to keep heat on.
And I think you guys went to an all in one payment so that poor people could better choose how to use their monthly dole – Ha ! — better to pay them less is what it was. I have seen the news stories out of Britain about certain food giveaways at eh senior center, etc… what was posted on amounts was shameful. A pittance of food. The USA, in addition to food stamps, has many direct food giveaways, especially to seniors. And it is meaningful amounts of food, I have seen a USDA monthly packet. And, there is more programs than that one monthly program.
Maybe UK still has decent housing benefit, compared to here, which wouldnt take much. But, I dont know what these people are going to do this winter in regards to keeping warm if it doesnt leave enough money for eating properly
Bathing. I was out of my house for 18months or so due to damage from the wildfire, and leaving fairly rough in a very small trailer. Here are a couple things I did. The first thing I did was put a galvanized washtub in the back garden with a spare piece of tampered glass on top. The glass actually was too small to entirely cover, if it entirely covered this would have heated even more. I put some water, like 1/3, in it while watering the garden in the morning, put the glass on top. Go out at end of day and get clean. After washing me, toss in the T shirt and undies I had on and swish and step on and get them clean too. dump water on the fruit tree, layout a few clothing bits on a bush, shrug on a dry shift for the night.
I have been inspired to cut down on things like shampoo and soap. SO, I havent used shampoo now for a couple years, I just clean my hair and scalp with water. I have soap, but use it less often. I always use it at the bathroom sink for handwashing ( toilet, garden, taking care of goats, etc…). But, I now limit its use on most of my body. If I feel I need some I do, but soap is a surfactant. It is not a magic sterilizer, nor should it be. Most things you get on your body, you just need a washcloth or luffa and some water. Oil or other stuck on things might need soap to come off easier, but you will find that your body and hair will produce less oil if you dont strip your skin constantly. My skin is in alot better shape now. I smell less not more etc… I had read about this, and after a transition time, my system did adjust. I feel empowered that I dont realy need this whole array of factory products.
The second thing I tried when the season changed was to get clean without heated water at all. The trailer tiny tub shower has a handheld shower head on a hose. I could get my top half wet and washcloth rub and spray off quickly, dry that part, it is cold water in winter, then bottom half, get out of the tub and dry off that part too, lean over the tub and use the sprayer to do hair. It turns out I became alot more cold tolerant in general by only washing with cold water. I still do quick cold water washoffs of parts or whole. This also is empowering, I am not worried about having to have hot water, or very much water, etc…
As others here say, I usually wash my hair ( with no shampoo) once a week, usually in the shower, since I have one, with whatever temp of water is at hand ( like others here, I often have the hot water heater turned off) and clean other parts in between
Feet. I now think that the reason old books like the Bible mention foot washing so much is the toll that going around in sandals with all the dirt and dust does to your feet. It is hot and dusty in my part of CA almost half the year. Gardening outside, taking walks, etc…If you dont get it off, then you end up with cracking skin and other issues, it turns out. A friend of mine up here noticed the same thing. It is best to either wear socks to keep all this dust off or to rinse off feet well and often. But socks are hot. And then you just have to wash them anyways and they get more worn out. Knitting socks is difficult. We are having this more noticable since the fire and alot more dead soil.
PumpkinScone, look at the demographics. Europe is in significant population decline; Africa isn’t. Sooner or later, depending largely on the shifts in climate belts, you’re going to see mass migration north from the Middle East and Africa into Europe. It’s quite possible that refugees from Europe will end up in the river valleys of northern Asia, which will be very good places to be once the Arctic finishes melting.
Celadon, in the long run, yes.
Sgage, she was indeed!
Martin Back #81
I wonder if anyone has ever calculated how much biogas could be had, if Berlin for instance, were to convert all it’s sewer plants, and take all the humanure and use that to generate the biogas. Times every city on earth, times 8 billion humans.
I suppose there must be some sort of sludge left at the end, and that could fertilize fields.
In the first half of the 1800s, before steam power really took off, they used to power ferries with horses!
There’s a book about it- When Horses Walked on Water: Horse-Powered Ferries in Nineteenth-Century America, by Kevin Crisman.
The horses ran the ferries, and horses pulled the trams on train-type tracks in the cities. Horses pulled all the delivery trucks too. And the fire engines. The horse manure was collected and taken out to vegetable farms on the outskirts, then the fresh veggies were sold back into the city.
I can’t find the other book I read on the subject with a quick search. Imagine a treadmill, like people use for exercise. Now make it ten times as big. Now elevate one end a couple feet. Stick an axle through that end. Now lead a horse up on there, and start it walking. Attach whatever machinery you need to run to the axle. With appropriate use of gearing, it’s really surprising how many things you can power with a horse on a treadmill.
Hey hey JMG,
Just an interesting data point. El Gato Malo notes that it is no longer possible to discern the genuine wokesters from the people making fun of them:
Which pretty much means that the woke movement has passed its high water mark and is on its way to irrelevancy.
Thank you so much for your succinct, well written and on-point commentary. You’re a lighthouse of sanity. My previously close pagan circle of female friends now shun me because they got 100% sucked into the Covid19 hysteria (which stunned me, but there you go . . .), whereas I called it out as a heap of crap from the outset – while most (if not all), of my new Covid19 sceptic friends are completely oblivious to energy depletion/peak oil and think all our problems would simply go away if Klaus Schwabb and his cohorts got sucked into a terminal black hole. You are SO spot on with this focus on innovative and localised solutions, problem is the Covid19 cultists are also completely hypnotised by “Green energy” and their opposite number, the sceptics, are clueless about the evolving energy crunch. They think everything’s an “Evil plot,” which is reasonable, given there are a lot “Evil plots” around, but the laws of physics (and net energy), transcend all our human shenanigans . . . I wonder when that message will start to sink in? If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.
From what I’ve heard about thorium fission, it’s a great technology and can provide cheap, clean, safe, and efficient power; the downsides are only for people who want material for nuclear weapons, for which it isn’t very good, but a: they can still run uranium fission reactors for that, and b: that means thorium fission could _also_ help with stopping nuclear proliferation. And the fact that it’s _thorium_ fission might help some anti-nuclear people who don’t understand the details but think _uranium_ is bad accept it.
That’s what I’ve _heard_, and read. I actually don’t recall hearing or reading basically anything bad about it.
Which seems to me to make it a useful example for how to look at some kinds of rosy depictions of certain technologies these days, because if the above were _true_, we’d surely be seeing thorium fission plants being built all over the place. And yet, whether in the profit-hungry, gullible-venture-capitalist-filled United States or under the authoritarian rule of the CCP… a _conspicuous_ lack.
I do wonder just what the problem with it is, exactly, but it seems pretty clear that there _is_ one.
(I _do_ think that uranium fission did indeed get a head start — but it’s been more than long enough by now that thorium power should have been able to catch up and, if it were really so much better, overtake.)
“economically it’s even less profitable than uranium and plutonium fission”
Though, actually, thinking on what you’ve said there, I wonder: perhaps that’s not the case. Perhaps it’s actually just as profitable as them, or actually _is_ better… but _still_ isn’t good enough to be economically viable. And the reason why it isn’t really used at all, then, would come down to… not being good for making bombs with. And thus, not attractive for the government subsidies that prop up uranium and plutonium fission.
If _that’s_ the case, the case of thorium fission power might be illustrative in a _different_ way: what nuclear power is _without_ those subsidies.
I view wind and solar as fossil age extenders rather than replacements for it. If the net energy profit ratio is, say, 5. 5 units of energy is generated for every 1 unit of fossil energy that went in. The fossil energy has been leveraged by a factor of 5, extended it.
We could use this extra energy afforded us to build out a more resilient world like canals or more insulated homes or a less resilient one where we expand world population, complexity and GDP size.
I never finished Dune. To me it seemed like the plot came to a screeching halt when Paul fell in love.
I think tribalism is the natural state of mankind, with feudalism being Step 2. The original feudalism wasn’t as bad as today’s variety where the tech lords and various bosses want you working every minute. The original feudal workload was generally much more reasonable. This was partly because doing necessary things like cooking were much more time/consuming than they are today, partly because the lord’s demands were mainly agricultural and once the harvest is in, it’s in, and anyway he’s probably off crusading and Mrs. Lord is too busy running things to sit around thinking up busywork for her peasants. So unless the lord was a real jerk, or a homicidal maniac, life wasn’t all that bad.
Off to Anglesey tomorrow for a week of walking & log fires. I’ll count the wind turbines & report back on Thursday 20th… Anything else I should look out for?
Growing up on a small grape farm in the 1950s, we used to heat the house on chilly winter evenings with a fire in the fireplace. Fuel was gnarly old grape vine stumps (best coals ever!), supplemented with planks from the packing cases, and coal, which was delivered once a year to the coal shed.
The problem with making a fire is, there are different schools of thought as to the best way, and the family was split along ideological lines.
For instance, does the coal go on the bottom or the top? My father was a bottom man, asserting that what burned was the gas, which needed to go up through the fire. The rest of us were top people, asserting that the coal needed to be heated by the flames. Now late in life I think my father was correct, but at the time I used to defiantly place the coals on top under his disapproving glare.
Then, do you stack the wood in a tepee or make a criss-cross structure? Being of mathematical bent, I preferred the latter, but alas, I had no supporters.
The result was, when it was your turn to make the fire, there was an anxious half hour while you did your best to get it going until it was drawing nicely and smoke going up the chimney instead of into the living room. Many’s the time I had to hold a newspaper over the opening to increase the draft.
A couple we used to visit up in the mountains had a different technique. Their wood was always damp and steamy and slow to get going. No problem. They had a jar of kerosene nearby and used to fling a dollop on the fire from time to time. There would be a whoosh and a great gout of flame, then it would settle down and burn well for a while. As a small child I was terrified and never went near their fire.
#147 one of the strangest episodes of Star Trek was the Next Generation episode where they visit a failed Federation colony world Turkana IV, which had degenerated into gang warfare. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Legacy_(episode). Apparently the last ship to attempt contact with the colony before the Enterprise was the USS Potemkin.
I sometimes imagine whether behind the facade of Fully Automated Luxury Communism in the 24th century Federation there are some massively disfunctional things going on, given on screen we generally see what must be the 0.01% elite of the hundreds of billions of intelligent humanoids the Federation have to offer.
#157 The £2500 isn’t a fixed amount. It is calculated for a ‘median household’ at a certain standardised level of home heating, and then this determines the price cap for daily standing charge and unit rates for electricity and gas. This means that cost still relates to usage, and those using a lot could still pay more than £2500.
It is still argued that it favours the wealthy, because wealthier people with larger houses and higher bills have a bigger difference between what they will pay, and the hypothetical amount if the price cap was allowed to increase to its previously planned value of £3459, which I believe the government is making up the difference of to the energy suppliers.
Whatever one’s feelings about the usefulness or otherwise of solar power it is happening and happening in a big way here in Australia. But I am always amazed at the perverse pricing structure for electricity. Even as everyone complains that solar power is only generated during the day, the power companies still offer discounts to use power at night. Even the federal government on their website suggests one way to save money is to use energy hungry appliances at night on the cheaper rates.
It’s even worse than those in power not doing the right things to prepare for a low energy future, or even to do things that are symbolic but don’t really work. In many cases they are doing things that are the exact opposite and squandering land, money and political capital on energy boondoggles. The other day I had to pick a family member up at the airport. The whole thing was a giant construction zone and the guy at the makeshift coffeeshop ( the rest of the food vendors had all been demolished) said the big expansion would be going on till 2025 or longer. Many things about the low energy future are unclear, but one thing is not. Commercial air travel for the masses is doomed and very soon. But being able to fly the family to Disneyworld, or go to Aunt Bee’s wedding in the Outer Banks, or heading for the bathroom fixture convention in Vegas is so engrained in the religion of progress that preparing for it’s demise is unthinkable. The denizens of Europe will be thinking about the energy burned by those cheap Ryan Air flights overhead as they huddle around their burn barrel fires. I think it is a toss-up between the “Higher Education Racket” or “Air Travel for the Masses” as the first brick in the wall to collapse in our road to the low energy future.
In a response to Robert, (with cues taken from JMG and Kimberley Steele) on the unelectability of people with serious solutions to the crises facing industrial civilization…
I give you, The Poverty Party!
(Tounge only half in cheek)
Slogan: Grow potatoes and be poor!
Don’t worry, we did it first.
Come tour our five room shotgun house! (Tour capacity limited)
See the mysterious materials “Insulation”, and “Weatherstripping” at work.
Treat yourself to a homemade dollar store macaroni dinner!
See the efficient and renewable use of sunlight to grow vegetables!
Watch waste be repurposed and not transported 20+ miles to the nearest landfill!
Put up some hand drawn flyers on a telephone pole near you.
(Preferably within earshot, so you may be entertained by the anguished screams)
Re biogas from city sewage.
There are several papers on the subject. Without going through the math, I would estimate it’s not much. I’ve seen the biogas digester at the Windhoek, Namibia sewage works, and it’s only enough to drive a small generator.
One of the problems is time. Figures are given for gas collected after 10, 20, and 30 days. I’m sorry, but if you have to hold 30 days’ worth of city sewage you will need enormous holding tanks and large areas of ground. Not economical.
Another point they make is the quality of the sewage. Since it’s anaerobic decomposition in a closed tank, all the energy needed for digestion has to be present in the sewage to start with. Probably plenty in American sewage, but less in more malnourished areas. On the other hand, American sewage might be more dilute. It’s energy per gallon that counts.
This website should be a real eye-opener for anyone who still believes there is something to be gained by switching cars over from fossil fuels to electricity:
What the electrical utilities are doing is producing as much as they can from nuclear and renewables, then making up the difference with fossil fuels burned in conventional turbines. How much is that difference? 60%
That’s right, about three-fifths of electrical power is coming directly from fossil fuels. Adding in the extra electricity demand to power electric cars will NOT increase the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources; it will only widen the shortfall – which will then need to be made up by burning fossil fuel.
So to run a car on electricity, here are the stages of energy conversion required, each of which has an efficiency below 100% and therefore incurs a significant loss:
1. Convert fossil fuel (chemical potential energy) into mechanical energy.
2. Convert mechanical energy into electricity.
3. Transmit electricity from the generating station to the charging station.
4. Convert AC grid power to DC battery power.
5. Convert DC battery power to chemical storage in battery.
6. Store energy in battery for a period of time.
7. Convert chemical storage in battery to DC battery power.
8. Convert DC battery power into mechanical energy.
To run a car on fossil fuel, here are the stages of energy conversion required, each of which has an efficiency below 100% and therefore incurs a significant loss:
1. Convert fossil fuel (chemical potential energy) into mechanical energy.
The fallacy is a no-brainer. All that the drive to electrify transportation can ever hope to accomplish is to insert an electrical utility into the supply chain as an additional – and totally unnecessary – middleman. I really wish they’d give up on it!
Sorry for the ranting, John. This stupidity of battery-powered cars is one of my pet peeves.
Great post as always.
I’m in a slight despair about UK politics.
Boris had the right populist instincts but seemed incapable of executing anything or getting things done. His personal approach to government was shambolic and the court politics that surrounded his inner circle was at both absurd and incompetent.
Eventually, Tory MP’s had enough, like the majority of the electorate, with the circus that surrounded Boris and removed him.
Liz Truss campaigned on what I considered relatively moderate positions on reversing the proposed tax rises of Rishi Sunak (which don’t make much sense given we are heading into a recession) and some cuts to business to try and get the animal spirits going in the economy.
She never talked about removing the 45% rate for higher earners or the bankers bonus ban. If she had, I suspect she may have struggled to win, given, contrary to what the media say, most Tory party members are actually fairly sensible in their politics. After all, we also use hospitals, have to deal with crime and disorder and deal in the real economy (even if the average Tory member is relatively affluent).
Some of what Liz plans is fairly sensible but there is an awful lot she could do but won’t has her vision is shaped by a slightly warped view of the 1980’s.
As for Labour, no innovative or interesting ideas or policies emerging from them. They will be the purest reflection of the stasis and stagnation at the heart of the British political and economic establishment. Truss, despite her flaws, has some good ideas from the perspective of better regulation and easing the burdens on small to medium businesses.
Either way, I don’t have much hope for UK (or indeed Western) politics.
In regard to the climate changes that could trigger the mass migratory shifts into Europe, any idea when that might occur?
Obviously, we’re going to need larger subsidies to keep these affordable.
The last time I saw numbers on thorium, the upfront costs on a thorium LFTR plant (liquid fluoride thorium reactor — so called because it’s cooled by molten fluoride; let that sink in) were something like 5x that of a uranium plant. So even though it’s cheaper to run it takes a very long time to break even, and I suspect that’s without taking consideration of the subsidies for refining uranium (since IIRC the refinement process produces weapons-grade uranium and plutonium as a by-product).
There was an idea at one point to convert conventional nuclear power plants to thorium hybrid reactors but it’s still quite expensive upfront and the operating costs are higher than a thorium LFTR.
Then there’s the issue of diseconomies of scale: a handful of small countries here and there using nuclear power is one thing. What happens when large countries all convert and the price of the fissile material suddenly skyrockets?
@JMG, related to Clay’s #113,
There is a trend in my city of converting old lumber baron homes into multiple apartments that can be owned or rented, so one giant house could end up being a dozen or more units. These houses were built to last, extremely sturdy, during the local prosperity of 1890s-1920s. These structures were heated by wood stoves so presumably they have the ability to do so again someday. This is in what is now the older and relatively poorer part of town that is thankfully still somewhat walkable, since everything was already built out before the auto. (I’m grateful since I happen to live here and don’t drive! I still miss my big city with all the trams. I dream about riding the trams.)
What I want to ask you is: what do you think will happen to suburbs and exurbs in the next few decades? In theory they could be converted to apartments, but residents are unlikely to be able to walk anywhere useful the way I can due to living in town. Plus if burb houses were built on the assumption of cheap energy, they may not have the sturdiness of these 100+ year old homes. Thanks for your time.
Ah! It finally hit me. I have a name for that Hierophant R.
That’s why it came up the Hierophant R and not the Emperor R.
When that Major Arcana Wild Card activates its going to deal a mortal blow to the foundation – the ideological scaffolding that has upheld the stratification of wealth and unconscious rules governing what’s permissible for activating opportunities. Of which the prime-most benefactors of these unconscious rules as a caste/class are the upper middle-salary class. Hence the upspiraling ideological tyranny coming down the pike for 2023.
JMG, to be honest my greatest fear is that the powers-that-be figure-out how to do nuclear power. The results would be catastrophic. Our leaders don’t limit themselves or accept feedback or admit that they are wrong, in any area. The earth would look like a wasteland within a couple decades.
California hate is well deserved but we do have a superpower: heat and ac aren’t necessary. I haven’t had either for years. My energy bill is 70% water heating, which is one of the few things that *can* be solved by rooftop solar. Add in pedestrian improvements, a marine highway system, and some tweaks in the crops we grow, and we’re halfway there. Of course, there’s the water issue. Only Northern California is suitable for a large population, long term.
If this all sounds far-fetched, it is. With an economy that can be summed up as “Elon Musk, plus domestic servants”, we’re living in a fantasy world out here, and that certainly applies to our energy policy. Back in the real world however, consider that Europeans are moving to Spain (our climate doppelganger) to avoid crushing energy prices: https://www.euronews.com/2022/09/18/migration-some-europeans-move-to-spain-in-order-to-escape-huge-energy-bills. Now is the average Californian ready to live like a poor Spaniard? No. But neither is the average Minnesotan ready to chop wood to stay alive.
@Andrew Hobbs, #169
Your government is using that price structure to even out demand, not to make maximum use of solar availability. Naturally occurring demand at peak solar availability is about mid range; therefore, it is nice to have the extra kilowatts from the panels and you have to burn less fuel… but it is not game changing.
Peak (domestic) consumption, on the other hand, is at late afternoon/early evening, when the sun is already very low/set. You need to have the infrastructure to supply peak consumption, even if it is not in use most of the time. This usually means burning fossil fuels (supplemented with whatever energy you may have stored in batteries).
Late at night most people is already asleep, so whatever activity the few nite owls in existence may differ for this time is a double win: you do not have to build the infrastructure to serve them too, and you have them to use the infrastructure that would otherwise remain idle until the next day.
In my country, domestic rates depend on usage, not time of day (they are actually flat, but government subsidize up to fixed number of kWh per month at progressively less rates as consumption rises). Industrial rates, on the other hand, depend on time of day and incentivize manufacturing to open night shifts over afternoon/evening shifts to make use of the infrastructure that becomes available as people go to sleep.
Team10Tim, yes, I saw that. The phenomenon I’ve named the Onion Effect — when the real news is indistinguishable from satire — is becoming increasingly pervasive, especially among the comfortable classes.
Kim, thanks for this. I wish I had a good sense on when reality is going to sink in, but I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. My plan for the time being is to talk to those who’ll listen, and see what options for constructive change can be pursued on the level of individuals, families, and small groups while our civilization as a whole lurches down the slope of decline.
Reese, um, no. Thorium reactors have been built and tested at various points since the 1950s. They’re much more expensive than uranium or plutonium reactors. Wishful thinking and what-ifs won’t change that hard fact — but I’m well aware that nuclear fanboys gonna nuclear fanboy.
Ed, if the energy profit from wind turbines and PV panels was that high, government subsidies and political programs wouldn’t be required to get them adopted worldwide. Given how poor a financial profit they produce, my working guess is that the energy profit from both technologies is less than 1 — that is to say, when all inputs are added in, they’re energy sinks, not energy sources.
Andrew, of course. There’s quite a green-energy bubble under way just now.
Clay, there’s another factor: construction projects are classic ways for politicians to pocket public funds without getting caught, since they can inflate the bids and get kickbacks from the construction firms. My guess is the airport is being continually rebuilt because your local and state politicians are pocketing money from the process, and nobody wants to stop the gravy train from running.
WindMan, funny. Thank you.
Martin Back, of course it’s a limited amount. I’m suggesting that in the future, that limited amount will be a heck of a lot better than nothing.
Old Steve, it’s a point worth repeating.
Forecasting, as this week’s post doubtless suggests, I’m unimpressed with both sides. Curiously, Truss’s inauguration chart is fairly favorable, so it’s possible that she will learn from her mistakes — but we’ll see. As for climate, well, were you paying attention this summer? Some of the changes are already happening…
David BTL, I bet!
CS2, here in East Providence a lot of large to midsized houses have been divided in the same way, and there are also a lot of houses that were built as 2 or 3 independent flats — “two up” or “three up” is the local term for them. It seems to work very well. As for suburbs and exurbs, it depends on whether they have any basis for local economic activity. If they do, they may morph into independent towns; if not; they’ll be abandoned to squatters and wrecking crews. (I expect a lot of lumber to be burned for heat in the years ahead.)
Denis, fortunately the laws of thermodynamics are standing in the way, patiently tapping their toes until we get around to noticing them.
Brian, in the long run, California’s got a big future ahead of it. Give it half a century or so of decline, and political and economic chaos as the 21st century’s Rust Belt, and you’ll see the same kind of green shoots there that are popping up all over upstate New York and the Great Lakes states now. It’s the short run that’s going to hurt.
I have looked for Toynbee’s full set for years and never been able to find it, either on Amazon or at any used book sales, which in my old place of residence were sometimes gigantic (I see that one of these gargantuan sales has just returned after years of cancellation starting in 2020). The two-volume abridged set is still widely available, but I’d really like to read the entire set. The city library has a copy in the stacks, but it is in-library use only and I rarely go into the heart of the city anymore.
A post above mentioned how Toynbee’s work has been continued in academia but is out of step with the materialistic worldview of that institution. No doubt that’s why Toynbee’s star fell, despite his being one of the architects of today’s globalized world. There’s an ironic counterpoint to this: What we see around us is the early stages of a spiritual awakening, while academia is stuck in atheistic worldviews popular 100 years ago. I predict that as the popular return to the spiritual life gains ground, academia will increasingly be pushed to the margins as it cannot speak to any common experience with the populace at large. I’ve given up hope that any of our institutions will adapt to changing conditions. Perhaps We the People can come up with new ones to replace the failing and increasingly irrelevant ones.
With regard to the macroeconomic situation, in 2010 Karl Denninger of the Market Ticker blog did some calculations based on the data provided to the public by the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. What he found was, less financialization of the economy, the US economy had been contracting at a rate of 4-5% since 1983. No doubt this trend continued since then and picked up steam (with another major inflection point during the COVID crash and subsequent stimulus). I imagine that the next two decades will entail economic havoc that made the previous four look rather tame.
Seven days of no significant wind.
But it has been sunny. There is a PV farm just north of Lind, WA. it’s easily seen on a recent aerial view, but as to how much useful power it puts out I can’t say. The owners certainly are not bragging about it.
I tried washing my hair from a bottle at the sink. I cut my hair recently so this is a good time to try it out and get the hang of it. It worked okay. A little chilly but not as bad as I remembered, and my hair seems clean. Used maybe 2L of water. A good skill to have, though I don’t plan to completely replace showering with this method any time soon.
Thinking about it, it’s actually pretty amazing how much nuclear fanboyism — like most denominations of the Religion of Progress, but still — resembles Christianity in techno drag: we all just need to stop listening to those evil greenies and stop being irrationally afraid of nuclear power and it will save civilization, especially when fusion power arrives.
In other words: repent your sins, just believe, and wait patiently for the Second Coming of nuclear. (And make sure you pay your tithing in the form of endless tax monies flushed down R&D rat holes.)
Since wind power is being discussed, I thought to share a little nugget of info that recently came my way via my favourite dour Scot – Neil Oliver – in which he mentioned that each gargantuan 3.5 megawatt wind turbine contains more than 4.7 tonnes (!!!) of copper inside. And then, of course, there is the staggering amounts of copper used to attach these splayed out electrical generators to the main grid. (for those who like videos, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dox9tKDsyd4. The whole video is good, as Oliver discusses the lunacy of Labour Party leader Keir Starmer’s stated vision of a “green future” for Britain and puts quite a bit of this week’s post into perspective). Oliver – who is an archaeologist and historian by training – is somewhat amused because he reflects on the incredible value that copper had all over Eurasia during the so-called “bronze age” (archaeology/history buffs may take interest in Oliver’s description of the Great Orme Mine in northern Wales and its massive significance in pre-Roman times in this video).
I am imagining that once the “salvage economy” comes to the forefront, all those towering turbines in land and sea will be felled and gutted for their ever-valuable copper hearts. Were I a filmmaker I’d produce a film on the subject just for the impressive visual effect of crews of salvagers pulling down the turbines and “harvesting” them (like the loggers of the giant redwoods and the whalers of the 19th century). Perhaps a new “copper age” is in store for us! If so, the southwestern corner of Ontario (between Windsor and Chatham) will be rolling in the dough because there are hundreds upon hundreds of wind turbines in the region.
Pygmycory (#122): I’m 100% with your perspective. Being manacled to an empire on its way down is not going to be a picnic. Canada was lucky when it was manacled to Britain during its fall: even though we did a huge amount of trade with Britain back in the ‘40s, the latter’s empire fell quite gracefully and the US filled the void ever so smoothly. We won’t have that luxury this time around! Since for Canada, productive relations with either Russia or China are not in the cards right now (unless you include the presence of an active Chinese police station in my home community of Scarborough – boy, is my blood boiling with this news!), my hope is that Canada has enough sense to court India – though it would help if we didn’t have a Prime Minister who plays “dressup” when going to visit or who has a political ally-of-convenience (i.e., Jughead Singh) who is on India’s terrorist list (seriously!).
Ever notice the common reply to leaders following a bad plan is “If only they were rational, they would see the error of their ways.” It’s always struck me as odd to say that because a.) You can rationally move step by step through a bad plan, b.) You can still assert that a bad outcome was rational, and c.) You can rationally follow a bad plan and reach a outcome that is good only for you.
So my question is, why is so hard to acknowledge scenario c.) That your leaders are rationally following a plan that is bad for the public but good for them?
A question to JMG and everybody else:
I‘m a big fan of turning lemons into lemonade, wherever possible. And since the occult is one of your particular areas of interest ;-), I‘ve been wondering:
Is there any way to put such times of decline to good use and gain something out of them in terms of occult advance?
I‘m not talking about advancing humanity as a whole („It‘s the Age of Aquarius, and in the New World (TM), we‘ll all be Children of Light and whatnot else!“). I‘m also not talking about general developmental pop-psycho babble („All these challenges are great chances for personal development!“)
Instead, I was wondering if there is anything that a person could specifically do in such an area of decline, anything that can be put to good use within such times, to further his/her own occult development?
I.e. in which ways can decline lemons be turned into occult lemonade?
Any thoughts appreciated! 🙂
And yep, I‘ve already proactively checkmarked the bingo card and will meditate on it. 😉
After OPEC just cut its production by 2 million barrels per day, Secretary Anthony Blinken said, “We’ve said all along that supply needs to meet demand …”. Apparently it doesn’t.
Re: big houses. Here in Australia a lot of them behave like economic indicators: built big and showy in the 1880s, then divided into 3 – 4 flats during the 1930s by boarding up some of the internal doors. Then in the prosperous 1960s, the walls came down to make a big house again. Right now dividing them into flats is illegal, so sharehousing is on the rise.
Like adjusting the hemline on a skirt, you can go back and forth as circumstances require.
I have a question about this part of your response to Brian: “and you’ll see the same kind of green shoots there that are popping up all over upstate New York and the Great Lakes states now.” I live in central NY, and except for what you have talked about before, regarding the canals, I don’t see any “gree shoots”. Are you referring to anything other than the canals?
Deneb @ 183. I see there are at least two full Toynbee sets on eBay but they are asking over $1000.
Deneb, I don’t know who holds the copyrights for Toynbee’s works at this point. It would be very helpful to get them back in print, at least in e-book format, but that depends on the owner of the rights.
Siliconguy, yep. If you read accounts of life on tall ships, it’s very clear that the wind is, ahem, an intermittent and unpredictable resource.
Slithy, of course. One of the enduring truths about the allegedly rationalist cults of each civilization’s age of reason is that they’re simply that civilization’s religion with the serial numbers filed off and the gods in various forms of secular drag.
Ron, funny. Did you know that there are huge pre-Columbian copper mines all over the upper peninsula of Michigan? Mainstream archeologists have no idea where all the copper went…
GlassHammer, if you see someone driving their car straight into a brick wall, which is the more reasonable comment? (a) “They must have had some sinister, calculated reason for doing that!” or (b) “What a moron!” I suggest (b) is far more reasonable. The problem with assuming that the people in charge of modern societies are sinister masterminds is that the plan they’re following isn’t good for them, except in the very short term and in certain very narrowly defined ways. Sure, they’ve heaped up lots of money, but the way they’ve done it has debased the value of money so far that in real terms they’re not half as rich as their equivalents a century ago; and the US has lost so much power on the world stage that Saudi Arabia just extended a big middle finger toward Biden and there’s not a thing he can do about it. Nor is the trajectory of their decline anything like finished yet…
Milkyway, neither the expansion nor the decline of a civilization has any significant impact on occult training. You can do the training while the civilization around you is growing, you can do it when it’s at its peak, you can do it while it’s declining and you can do it when the whole thing has crashed to ruin around you. The right time is always now and the right place is where you are.
Kfish, Blinken can insist all he likes that supply ought to meet demand. The decision to set oil production volumes is a political decision, not an economic one. That being the case, the law of supply and demand can go shinny up a stump.
Lydia, I’ve been told by readers of mine in several towns in the Hudson valley that they’re seeing a lot of people moving into the area, new businesses being started, that sort of thing. I take it you’re not seeing that where you are.
Fascinating, JMG! I was not aware of the mysterious pre-Columbian copper mines of Michigan’s UP. Thanks – I’ll look into it some time.
I thought that the outlook for most of California was bad as the cell system moves north and the desertification moves north thru the state ?
Re: Violet LEDs:
I saw a couple of places where overhanging LED lights had gone purple.
One spot was on I-74 in Moline. A whole set of lights had gone full Violet, making for a surreal looking section of expressway coming up on a pair of newly built bridges. The other spot was I-380 in the northern part of Cedar Rapids, and while the lights weren’t all Violet, a few were and many others looked like they were transitioning from white to Violet – and that sight disturbed me more than what I saw in Moline.
JMG said: “my working guess is that the energy profit from both technologies is less than 1 ”
(1) Surely it depends on location?
(2) I have read some of the literature and EROEI varies widely for solar PV (from 0.8 to 45, with an average of 11.6) and wind (from 4 to 40). It is obvious that there are lots of unreliable figures being thrown about by both sides of the debate. My guess is that EROEI of solar PV is probably between 5 to 10 depending on location and between 10 to 20 for wind depending on location and size of wind mill. Let us not forget that windmills provided lots of power in pre-modern times. I see no reason why windmills generating electricity would have below 1 EROEI. But I suspect that small to mid sized windmills have higher EROEI than very large ones.
(3) In Mauritius we have several solar and wind farms (privately owned ones), as far as I know, there are NO government subsidies and prices are not too different that for coal or heavy fuel oil power stations. I cannot remember the price differential exactly but it surprised me at the time. Furthermore, over the years a few factories have invested in solar PV for their own uses. None reported regretting the investment.
(4) I agree that renewable energies cannot sustain our current modern industrial civilisation.
(5) The question that I am pondering upon is what kind of industrial civilisation can renewable energies sustain?
I agree about housing indicators in Australia. I remember the restoring of large houses in the 60s and 70s.Things do move around. My grandparents didn’t own a house until they retired but were able to save enough to do this. Their children lived with parents till they married (a saving in both cost and housing stock) and usually lived with the husband’s family till they could arrange their own place.
One of my grandmothers had living with her, during WWII, 2 unmarried sons, 2 married daughters, their husbands when on leave, 1 daughter-in-law and that son when home from work on weekends. Luckily, they all got on well. It was a high-set house and no doubt the unattached sons lived under the house. I don’t really know.
Our own house could very easily be divided in two down the middle, but we have no such plans. We have certainly become lovers of luxury.
The Onion Effect — from Toynbee to Babylon Bee.
When historians of the future refer to the Dark Continent, they’ll mean Europe, not Africa.
Apologies, I wasn’t trying to assert that a sinister motive was the cause more that they are responding to a very narrow set of incentives that they think are attainable with any benefit to the masses being a very distant secondary goal. Agree with you that those incentives are much smaller than previous leaders enjoyed and shrinking for each subsequent leader.
Not sure I agree with the U.S. being powerless against the Saudis when every weapon system that gives them an advantage over their neighbors/rivals is reliant on U.S. supply chains, U.S. Mechanics, and U.S. military personnel. The joke among the U.S military is that the battle hymn for the Saudi army is “Onward Christian Soldeir”.
About mass migrations: AFAIK sub-Saharan fertility has finally begun to drop. We know that in the past demographic transition has been faster in developing world than it was in Europe, so it isnt impossible that it will be even faster in Africa.
And in the future long range travel is both harder and more dangerous than it is today. And poor, unstable Europe is not going to be as inviting as it has been. Many if not most African immigrants in Europe depend at least partly on welfare state which is already on its way out. Future doesnt look bright for urban underclass.
So I am not that sure of Europes African future. Collapse seems to be progressing too fast for that.
Ron, there are a lot of anomalies like that. Do you recall the brief media flurry when it turned out that Egyptian mummies tested positive for tobacco and coca leaf? Seagoing trade in ancient times between West Africa and what’s now Brazil would account for that, as well as the presence of cotton and several other cultivated tropical plants on both sides of the water, but the archeological mainstream is still too focused on Eurasia to consider that possibility.
River, if the cell boundary moves north, much of California will end up with a climate like Mexico, and the southern end may end up semitropical. That’s going to be hugely disruptiver over the short term, but as I’m sure you know, Mexico has had urban centers for a very long time…
Karim, (1) not really. The efficiencies of the technology are mostly a function of how much energy inputs are needed at every stage of manufacture, installation, and maintenance from raw materials on up. (2) I’ve also read that literature. The difficulties wind and solar PV have in making a profit suggests that there’s something wrong with those estimates. (3) Most of the subsidy comes in at the manufacturing end. Does Mauritius manufacture its own solar panels? (4-5) My book The Ecotechnic Future tried to explore that, but it’s probably worth another few posts down the road a bit.
Martin, ha! I like that.
GlassHammer, elites always pursue goals they think are attainable, and rarely if ever care about what happens to the rest of the population. That’s why elites end up being replaced so often by rising classes tha are less clueless and more aware of what’s actually going on. Sometimes, as in New Deal America, they’re replaced in a relatively peaceful manner; sometimes, as in France in 1789, it’s a little more disorderly. As for the Saudis, they’re cutting deals with the Chinese right now, who can provide them with ample weaponry and as many soldiers as they want; they don’t need us.
Urogallus, “begun to drop” means they’re still a long way from negative numbers, and mass migrations are a common feature of periods of decline and fall — no doubt you’ve heard of the Visigoths and the Huns. I stand by my prediction.
JMG: I have of late been studying my ancestral religious tradition, which was forged in the wake of the Western Roman Empire’s collapse and has some experience at holding things together when everything is falling apart. I’ve found a couple of things that might be of interest to readers here, including two vectors of Christian contagion that haven’t received a lot of attention.
The first thing I discovered was that Christ was also popular with sorcerers and magicians and many Christo-Pagan charms have been found in digs at Alexandria and elsewhere. Several Church Fathers also complain of this, and of course there’s the famous Biblical story of Simon Magus.
Sorcery and magic attract clients and practitioners across ethnic and economic lines. If sorcerers were regularly calling on the Risen Christ for healing magic, that name would become increasingly known both at noble tables and amongst the kitchen help. And it might also spur someone healed by Christ to seek out a local Christian service or chat with the nice old Christian man preaching in the street.
Other than a few complaints from the Church Fathers, Christian sorcery hasn’t received a lot of attention from later Christian scholars. Catholic scholars tend to sweep it under the rug, while Protestant scholars point to it as Papist Superstition and Folly. But I suspect that sorcerers had as much or more to do with the spread of Christianity as apostles and missionaries.
I also learned the Roman military had a Christian contingent from as early as the late 1st century. This isn’t entirely surprising. Rome’s military was drawn largely from the poor and working classes, where Christianity took root early. And while martyrdom legends have long been a big part of Christian mythology, the truth is that most Christians were willing to go along with imperial commands rather than sacrificing their careers or lives.
A Christian soldier willing to dress up as a god for the annual parade would have few problems with the command, nor would fellow soldiers be likely to start trouble and attract their centurion’s wrath. And as their numbers grew, being a member of the Christian military community meant having a big support group that would watch your back.
There’s a story of a miraculous rainfall that saved the legion when they were marching with Marcus Aurelius. One story says that a pagan priest traveling with Aurelius brought the rain: another claimed that the rain was brought by the prayers of Christian soldiers. The second tale was written in a letter by a bishop to the Emperor not long after it happened, so it is contemporaneous with the first claim.
While we can’t know exactly who brought down the rain, we can assume from this that within a century after the Crucifixion there were Christian soldiers in the Roman legions and that Christian magic was considered comparable to other magical traditions in efficacy.
Life in the Roman Army was rough, but upon serving 25 years a Roman soldier received a lump sump payment equal to around 13 years of salary. Many ex-soldiers used this to purchase estates in regions where they had been stationed. These doughty old warriors then became landed nobility, which helped establish Christianity in those regions. There’s a famous story about the son of a retired Roman soldier beating back marauders at Badon Hill. Gildas called him Ambrosius Aurelianus. Later writers called him Arthur.
Re: the ubiquitous EROI of renewables discussion (@Karim @JMG)
This is complicated by the issues of a) energy interchangeability and b) wastefulness of the current system.
If e.g. mining requires liquid fuels, and PV requires mining, and PV can’t make liquid fuels, then there is still a problem even if the EROI is up around 5.
On the other hand, calculated EROI in practice is likely to be higher than the minimum EROI required. In the current global economy with still-rather-cheap energy, PV installations involve shipping panels across oceans, utilizing energy-intensive aluminum mounting systems, and adding components and wiring to meet modern electrical codes. All of that raises the EROI substantially above what would actually be required to create a fully functional PV system.
Wind and hydro are easy to implement in a very low-tech manner, thus increasing their EROI in smaller-scale applications. Solar PV has so far required complex, industrial-scale factories to produce the crystalline silicon panels. If PV technology is to survive, it will be necessary to scale that down, or to change to an alternative chemistry that might be less efficient but easier to fabricate.
Came across NPR’s “Science Friday” yesterday and decided to see what they were talking about. It was about how we are going to electrify all our vehicles. They started with trains. Apparently, a lot of trains have Diesel-Electric motors (diesel generator produces electricity to run an electric motor).
The new idea? Add an engine that is nothing but a bunch of batteries! The commentator said he took a long trip during which they fully charged and discharged the batteries four times on their journey. I’m like, “Wait. You charged the batteries from the other Diesel engines? That sounds like a diesel train with some lipstick on it.” No discussion of where the actual energy comes from.
Of course, The Future is trains running on hydrogen. I could almost hear the host nodding in agreement. This had me screaming at the radio saying, “Hydrogen is not a power source!” and I had to turn it off.
I had this post very much on my mind. The Solution has been declared, never mind that it doesn’t address the fundamental problem. We must all now focus on implementing The Solution. It’s sad to see us throwing our last remaining resources away on wishful thinking, but I’ve been reading here long enough not to be surprised. Just sad. I’m glad I’m not any younger.
@ Atmospheric River
The north coast of CA has a climate more like the PNW. It just doesn’t go inland very far. It should be in pretty good shape climate wise.
#194 there is nothing mysterious about the natives mining native copper in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
“Home to unique, massive deposits of pure, elemental (native) copper, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula has been mined for thousands of years. Industrial-scale mining started in the 1840s, and by the time native copper mining ended in the 1960s, the region had produced produced 11 billion pounds of copper.”
Michigan Technical University was founded for the support of the local industry and apparently still has a mining engineering department.
I also wanted to report that, being in a pretty rural area, I had to drive four hours to take my friend to a bigger city (Santa Rosa, CA) for outpatient surgery. He needed to stay overnight for a post-op follow up. I really didn’t want to go, but my friend was unable to drive and there was no practical way for him to get there other than by personal vehicle.
But, Good Gods! There’s a lot of sprawl down there that is completely built around the automobile. While he was in surgery I walked around some of the older neighborhoods, and they didn’t look too bad. I can see them being quite livable with biking, walking, and some buses. Anything built in the last 50 years is entirely car dependent (and hideously ugly to boot).
The kicker was when we wanted some beer. We could see a liquor store about 40 yards away over the back fence from our hotel. But that’s just it. There was a fence, and no gate we could use to get through. We walked out to the front to get around the perimeter fence, but the place next door also had a perimeter fence. And the place next to that. At one point we were directly opposite the store, across a huge (several acre) open space that was partly paved and partly dirt/weeds (a place for Flea Markets?), but it was all fenced in. In the end, we had to walk most of a mile each way, along the busy road and what should have taken us 10 minutes round trip took about 45 minutes. I like walking, but it was very hot, there were no trees to shade us, and sometimes no sidewalk. This place is not just not designed for pedestrians, it is actually hostile to them!
I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Everything within a mile of that hotel (and a lot more I didn’t see) is completely fracked if happy motoring ends. Maybe that field could be used to grow something, but I don’t think they have enough water. Certainly not enough for all the people that currently live there. Maybe if they took down all the fences it would be more livable, but I have my doubts.
My friend lives out in the redwood forest. When we got back we both sat out in the woods for a few hours to detox. I don’t know how people can live like that. Constant noise pollution. Air pollution. Light pollution (at night I could see the moon and only one star, which was probably a planet. One star!). Did I mention it was ugly? Can’t say it smelled great either. An offense to every human sense. Gods help us all.
In the less-distant future and present, it looks like the gloves have come off as regards sabotaging infrastructure in Europe. There’s Nordstream, of course, but I just looked today, and you can now add the main bridge between Crimea and the russian mainland
and sabotaged cables for the northern Germany rail network to the list.
The cables have been fixed and rail service restored, and the bridge has been reopened to cars though not trucks yet, but if this sort of thing continues and spreads…
If Europe gets a continuing rash of sabotaged major infrastructure for however long the war lasts, you can up your estimate of how much economic trouble they’re going to be in, and lower your estimate of energy use. By a lot, most likely. Can’t use electricity if the power plant has been blown up, or the lines have been cut. Can’t take a train trip if the trains aren’t working, or a use a bridge that’s broken.
It seems to be happening to countries on both sides of the conflict, so I’m not just talking about the EU/NATO parts of Europe.
Talk by Prof Simon Michaux (Finnish Geological Survey) on the resource requirements, especially metals, of moving from fossil fuels to renewables, or at least renewables which generate electricity
From Aug. 2022. In his conclusions, his use of the word ‘difficult’ appears to be a euphemism for an extremely challenging goal which can’t be achieved in the time available, if ever.
It’s a pity no-one did these detailed calculations in about 1980 …
An example of trying to bully problems into fitting their preferred set of solutions:
An ad showed up in my Facebook feed today for software to help “combat quiet quitting”. My first reaction to seeing this was that if a company is under the impression that any sort of employee-monitoring software is going to “solve the problem” of quiet quitting, they are at best systemically naive about the underlying causes of quiet quitting – and technically, kind of right. What has a reasonable chance at happening is that you’re going to turn at least some of your quiet quitters into loud quitters instead, ones that actually hand in two-week (or two-second) notices – and lower their productivity from the bare minimum to actually zero or even negative.
I think my prediction last week that the U.S. may experience a 1998 Far East Asian style financial collapse may be on target. Perhaps 2023 will mop up what 2008 left incomplete. Looks like Europe is in line for that 1998 financial take-down same as the U.S.
@Karim, People love to throw out eroi numbers they hear from the latest Ted talk or the back of a Vestas brochure. But for wind you can do a pretty good job of calculating it yourself with no need to believe anyone else. I have done the numbers for big conventional wind turbines. To start with use the power output of the turbine multiplied by its capacity factor ( this is where most green energy boosters cheat). The capacity factor is the percentage of its actual output it puts out on average over time. This number is almost never over 35% in the best locations and can dip down in to the mid 20’s. I won’t go in to boring detail but if you just calculate the energy in the concrete in the foundation, ( not transporting it, pouring it, or digging the hole) it comes to 2.5 years of output. Adding up all the steel gets you another 2.5 years. Add the giant composite blades, the huge bearings and generator set, the huge machines and cranes to transport and erect it then the power lines to hook it up and you easily get to a payback time of 10 years of output ( and that is leaving things out). Since these things rarely last over 20 years in the real world ( despite what they claim ) it gives you an EROI of 2 at best .
Hello JMG, enthusiastic long time reader here, only an occasional poster.
Another data point on biogas: our largest local sewage plane, serving a population of about a million, produces enough gas from the sewage and from food and other wastes for about 3000 homes, and there is useful fertiliser produced also – so it is useful output, but only a small fraction of the gas currently used by the homes and businesses in the area.
The discussion this week has reminded me of what Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, wrote in the final chapter of his 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery. Describing the actions and behaviour of British elites from the 17th to the 19th centuries, he wrote these points as headings to his conclusions:
– The decisive forces in the period of history we have discussed are the economic forces.
– The various contending groups of dominant merchants, industrialists and politicians, while keenly aware of immediate interests, are for that reason generally blind to the long-range consequences of their various actions, proposals, policies.
– The political and moral ideas of the age are to be examined in the very closest relation to the economic development.
– An outworn interest, whose bankruptcy smells to heaven in historical perspective, can exercise an obstructionist and disruptive effect which can only be explained by the powerful services it had previously rendered and the entrenchment previously gained.
– The ideas built on these interests continue long after the interests have been destroyed and work their old mischief, which is all the more mischievous because the interests to which they correspond no longer exist.
These points seem very apposite today!
For sure, I see the long term, I just think the disruption time frame will take longer than 50 years. All these northern CA forests moving to looking like Santa Barbara or san diego or points south means alot of redwood and doug fir going to a fiery end. Eventually people can repopulate those areas, of course. Santa Barbara is lovely and quite livable if you watch your water usage.
And, I agree with your comment to me last month, basically, leave. I can get nervous as I know that is true, I need to. I am a bit hobbled right now and need to ride out for some more years Im afraid. I live alone and need to move to where someone I know, like one of my kids lands, and ATM I have assets to bring into that if I sell. It is too soon, they are too young, the most likely one I will live around is in 4th year Vet school. Tax ramifications are brutal to sell/buy/sell/buy or sell and hold for more than a couple years. I am too low income to afford that. If I am lucky, this place will still be worth something to sell when that transition is able to happen in a few years. If it isnt much, well, I have plenty of skills to bring with me…. ( child minding/homeschooling/tutoring, cooking, sewing/clothing repairs, canning/drying/food preservation, and years of food growing and goat milking, not to mention knowledge incl on simple living, insulation, heat transfer, etc… ). It is nerve wracking to watch the madness around me and know the fires will come again sooner than anyone would like, not to mention the poor energy planning.
Kinda hard to tell vet student some of the best limitations of where to relocated once the first eyars of on the job are done. Vet student gets why only northn coastal, if stay CA, but gets less why lost of the mountain west (Idaho, montana, wyoming) is likely not good overall, might be some localized ok areas, we will see — hard for them so see what we discuss here, but they also know that I have reasons for what I say in these regards
I am insulating, doing house repair, the wood stove was replaced 2 years ago, new well pump that can run direct off a couple used solar panels even as they degrade, I practice various levels of simpler living/depravations to work out how to do it now when it is not neccessary, I sold an 8 cyclinder truck I used maybe 2000 miles a year and bought a 20 year old ford ranger, listed as 28mpg freeway, manual 5 speed, anemic 4 cylinder, down to 2nd gear on one hill, should be easy to have repaired, can still haul wood or evac goats. I do the long walk to the minimal bus service now and then to knowhow that works, and lots of other walks to keep in shape. ANd, hopefully, in a few years The world will still be such that I can relocate….
>mass migrations are a common feature of periods of decline and fall
Some historians theorize the Sea Peoples from the LBC were actually migrants fleeing collapsing regions themselves.
And on a very tangential note, this picture caught my eye and I thought it relelvant to here:
Kenaz, I’m glad to say that Christian ceremonial magic is a lively tradition these days — granted, the big mainstream denominations frown on it, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people from taking it up, and a lot of groups in the independent sacramental traditions of Christianity are all over it. So that vector is covered for the future, should it be useful.
Mark, oh, granted. Net energy calculations are a bear, which is why profitability is so useful a proxy measure. As for low-tech applications of wind and sun, that’s a crucial point — as long as you don’t try to turn the energy from those sources into electricity, and can handle intermittent flows, you’ve got a robust source of mechanical power in the first case and thermal energy in the second. I expect both to see a great deal of use in the deindustrial future.
Slink, theNPR story is a great example of what I’m talking about. Diesel electric locomotives are more efficient than other forms of electric train because having the engine next to the batteries cuts sharply down on transmission losses, and you can recharge as you go. Any other approach is less viable. Try telling that to a true believer, though! As for Santa Rosa, yep — I’ve been there, and it would be inappropriately flattering to refer to it as a festering boil on the buttocks of the land. It has plenty of company, of course.
Pygmycory, yep. The Russians are taking their usual slow and patient approach, but I wouldn’t want to be dependent on any piece of European infrastructure this winter.
David, I hope you’re being satirical. Of course those calculations were done around 1980. They were ignored by all right-thinking people.
Brendhelm, exactly. “Quiet quitting” means “no longer willing to put up with rock-bottom wages and miserable working conditions so that your boss gets rich at your expense, but not quite ready to walk out the door.” The only software that can fix that would be something that convinces your boss to pay you adequately and treat you like a human being.
Panda, thanks for this. I’m watching the global economy very closely; we’re already in a stagflationary recession, and the possibility that it could turn into a stagflationary depression is not small.
BristolChris, exactly — that gas output would be extremely useful in a deindustrial setting without fossil fuels, but it seems like very little now, in the context of our absurdly extravagant use of energy. Thanks for the quotes from Williams — I may see if I can scare up a copy of that book.
River, oh, no question, it’ll be rough for much longer than fifty years, but that won’t stop the green shoots I mentioned from getting started. Hard times are a good tonic for rising cultural trends. As for your situation, well, I hope it works out for you.
Owen, there’s quite a bit of evidence for the Sea Peoples as migrants — not least plenty of evidence for a ghastly agricultural collapse in the Greek peninsula right around that time. As for the poster, ha! Thank you. That’s great.
It occurs to me that when I was thirteen, major causes of anxiety about the future included air pollution, the “energy crisis,” the “population explosion,” nuclear war, the precarious economy, and my own mother’s complaints about her poor health.
Then, all those problems (except the last one) went away for about half a century. Well, they didn’t, of course, but everyone acted as if they did. Now, they’re all major causes of anxiety about the future again. (Including my mother still complaining about her poor health.)
I’ve heard of reaching advanced age and experiencing a “second childhood” but I didn’t think this is what the phrase was supposed to mean!
Highly OT: attn” Leah Sargent in Voyage to Hyperborea!
For Clay at #213; That is not a bad estimate, but I would point out that the foundation will still be sound after 20 years, and the tower should be too. The blades and bearings will need to be replaced as well as most of the other moving parts. The generator should be rebuildable. If it uses permanent magnets they will likely need to be remagnetized.
So I don’t think it’s quite as dire as you’ve calculated. Maybe 4 to 1. On the other hand I’m not sure they are even getting 10 years out of the blades. missing blades on a windfarm seem to be a common thing. And I’ve seen pictures af pretty severe wear on the leading edge of some of them. That messes up the airflow and reduces efficiency, so the blades may have to be replaced before they actually fold in half and die gloriously.
Regarding the next religiosity, I thought this small paragraph from Das Buchstabenbuch (I’m about a third of the way through translating it) applies:
“In order to be able to devote themselves to this activity [developing the true inner life] constantly, at the beginning of the Christian era the hermits and later the monasteries arose. — The inner life to a high perfection was sometimes the fruit of persistent activity. As a result they established the reputation for especial holiness. You went to them when you needed advice and comfort. The comforted returned home with joyous heart and sought by charitable gifts to show their gratitude. Then the monasteries by and by became rich and the wealth led to their degeneration, their ruin. The actual goal — development of the inner life — was forgotten, and haughtiness, vanity, inordinate ambition, luxury, in short sensuality celebrated the same triumph as before.”
Walt, funny. Not an hour ago I was reading an old favorite from my misspent teens, John Keel’s hallucinatory UFO book The Eighth Tower, and ran across the following quote:
“As our technological society exhausts our resources and limps to a halt, we will revert back to an age of magic. The world of tomorrow will not be a world of wall-to-wall television and a spaceship in every garage. It will be a world of oracles.”
Ahem. You were saying about circling back around to the past?
Patricia M, yep!
Kerry, ain’t that the truth! It’s the normal cycle of religious institutions, from visionary poverty to crass commercialism and spiritual bankruptcy. Then some new visionary arises, and the cycle begins again.
@JMG and Urogallus #202: The Huns were hugely disruptive, but AFAIK left no detectable linguistic, cultural, nor genetic heritage in Europe. The Visigoths introduced AFAIK very few words in Spanish or Provençal (mostly proper names, colours, military equipment) and again, no detectable genetic heritage, as we discussed a few months ago (though a few thousand soldiers must of course have left descendants – it is just not visible among so many other signals). Their most important role was as a focal point for Spanish national feeling during and after the Reconquista.
All of which is to say, the model of whole-sale genetic and cultural replacement of European population by immigrants, which is not original to JMG, but has been floating around the American Right for years, finds very few historical parallels – basically only Britain after 410 AD. It is of course not impossible, but on this blog we usually look to history to decide which futures are more probable than others (as referenced by the title of this week’s essay!). Wholesale linguistic change is much more common, but happens during the heyday of civilizations (Roman, Islamic, etc.), not during Dark Ages.
I don’t deny at all the massive disruption that would be caused by large-scale violent migration.
thank you for that poster! That made my day a lot brighter.
Speaking of futures that don’t work, William Shatner recently went to space and was confronted by the brutal difference between space-as-mythology and space as it really is. To his credit, the lesson seems to have stuck:
Aldarion, yes, I figured that would push your button again. We had this discussion in quite some detail a while back; your views are noted — and you might notice that my comments didn’t talk about genetic replacement. You may have a bit of a bee in your bonnet about that…
Kfish, I’m delighted that he noticed.
@Kenaz Filan, John Michael Greer
Indeed. But I would say however. that “Sorcery” and “Magic” does raise hackles among the Christians. As such acts usually involve spiritual forces other than God. Basically taking other beings outside of God as a Patron. God is a jealous God so its considered Spiritual Adultery to do so.
Of course Sorcerers would invoke Jesus Christ as Magicians. But the difference is that of the 2nd birth by the Holy Spirit. And the use of Prayer which brings about such results.
Prayer especially ensures Divine Mediation. And treating God as a Patron. There is also natural guardrails that a proper Magician doesn’t naturally have. In this way Prayer is idiot-proof because even fools can pour out their soul to God and their foolish requests will be denied. I think the Sacraments do something similar.
In a Spiritual contest. I read a story about a missionary woman was able to prevail over the Shaman who invoked the spirits against this missionary.
In another story. I watched a video about a New Age woman who invoked the Name of Jesus. Who when he showed up got her to give up “Sorcery” altogether. To throw out all the charms, magic stones and literature. Jesus Christ doesn’t tolerate “Sorcery” in that sense.
Please will you stop notifications of comments on this blog. They are overwhelming my inbox and driving me crazy,
Hi John Michael,
Dude, speaking of futures that work, there are a few problems looming on the horizon. The local national news reported this little item: US ammunition supplies dwindle as Ukraine war drains stockpiles. Blink and you’d miss it, but so very unwise a path to pursue.
Whatever, I’m bored with the whole thing over there. It seems bonkers to me. Of course letting go is part of the path of acceptance, and it’s a journey I can tell you.
Now, of more interest, this evening a local Kookaburra bird called to one of my dogs to get onto sorting out a rabbit. And the dog responded by getting onto the rabbit. Of interest was that the bird realised the dog would chase and kill the rabbit, but not eat it. It was quite an astounding conversation between two very different species to witness, where they had motivations which aligned – and how did the bird know? Observation, I’m guessing.
We have a strange situation in the UK right now, but in a way I suspect it might protect us from the excesses of dictatorial government, even as it potentially brings forward partial collapse. Might give some extra scope for groups and communities to manoeuvre the next bit with less interference than state management might otherwise allow. The fuller picture you’ve helped me create certainly makes me read comment pieces like this from The Observer today in a slightly different light:
” Wars cannot be fought successfully by libertarians. They demand collective effort, shared sacrifice, strategies for deploying scarce economic resources and collaboration with allies. All are anathema to a libertarian like the prime minister, Liz Truss.”
Re: Ken’s Schumacher quote,
That rings very true for us in our experience. We lived with very little in the way of technological complexity for many years – no real electricity or indoor plumbing to speak of, chop wood, carry water, and all that. It was challenging in its own ways to be sure, but one thing I can report from that experience with absolute certainty is that we felt a lot less vulnerable. Now that we’re living in a typical American house again, with electricity delivered by wire, internet, gas for heat, and so forth, our anxiety level is much greater than it was then. We’re working diligently on a happy medium…
Probably time for a reread of “Small is Beautiful,” too.
Tangentially related to this week’s post, lately we’ve been musing about emigrating from the U.S. to England. We just feel that England/Wales are…set up better for the deindustrial future. And they have football…;)
Planning a 6 week vacation – probably in ’24 – to check out options. A week across the pond on the Queen Mary II or forthcoming Queen Anne to get a real sense of the scope of our journey and avoid flying, 4 weeks in England/Wales, and then another week back home. Train journey on each end between Lower Appalachia and NYC. In fact, we mean to do the whole thing without a car. If we can’t get there without a personal vehicle, it’s not what we’re looking for anyway.
Like a lot of commenters here I don’t see Americans handling this transition very well…maybe the English/Welsh are kicking and screaming too, but my wife and I get a real sense of foreboding from what we see going on around us here in the Southern U.S. So much finger pointing, scapegoating, no sense of personal responsibility, anger, entitlement, etc. It’s always someone else’s fault. Plus I don’t want my grandkids to grow up talking like people here do! Shallow perhaps, but there it is.
Judging by the way you (JMG) shifted your natal chart to Eastern time and recognized the benefits that gave you and your career, I reckon we should do the same for ourselves, as one precursor to moving forward with this plan. How to do that isn’t really in my wheelhouse just yet, so I’d be thankful for any pointers. And of course any other thoughts you might have regarding such a move. Alternatively, we might be willing to pay someone who does have those skills to run comparative charts for four people.
Also, I’d love to meet anybody from this blog in the U.K. while we’re there who’s willing to meet someone off the internet. It’ll be me and my wife, both early 50s by then, and two teenagers, traveling by train mostly, each with a backpack or roll-behind, and little else. And I’d like to catch a Spurs game, in N. London or elsewhere…I could buy someone a ticket and beer in exchange for the chance to pick your brain about life in the U.K.?
Let me know. I’m usually around here somewhere.
@ JMG and Aldarion #223
Am I missing the point here, but how can you have a replacement of a culture and people by virtue of mass migration, without genetic replacement being inevitable?
I’m thinking particularly about the arrival of Homo sapiens and the demise of the indigenous Neanderthals, but maybe there are other examples – I just don’t know. Certainly some aspects of the old culture remained, but while the genetic make-up of modern Europeans retains a bit of Neanderthal (see Nobel prize winning Professor Svante Pääbo’s work), we are mostly the incoming Out of Africa species in DNA terms.
@JMG: After I commented, I noted you had not explicitly mentioned genetic or cultural replacement, though you were implying in your response to PumpkinScone that your views on this matter haven’t changed substantially.
The “bee in my bonnet”, by the way, is not about genetic origins. My wife and therefore my daughter have some African heritage. There are German-language singers and rappers of African and Near Eastern origins. The bee in my bonnet is that I register a certain glee on your part and that of some commenters at the prospect of the European cultural tradition disappearing, as if Europe had somehow “earned” that by its acts. And as it is improbable that the cultural tradition of the majority of the population is submerged by a minority of migrants, you and others before you have posited mass migration on a scale that would “flood” the original population.
We can certainly agree that violent migration of several million people would disrupt the political and social order, and we can also agree that the dearth of fossil fuels on the European continent sharply restricts its relevance in the coming decades.
@March #228: Sorry for double-posting, I hadn’t seen your comment. I won’t post on this again unless somebody refers to me explicitly.
The issue is defining “mass migration”. 1 million immigrants won’t change the language or culture of 300 million Europeans. 10 million won’t either. 100 million might, but I see no historical precedent for Dark Age migration on a scale comparable to the indigenous population.
Neanderthal populations were very low (I worked on that with Svante Pääbo for a while). Nobody really knows the reason why they were replaced, but populations coming out of Africa might very well have been higher than the Neanderthal populations.
@Kenaz Filan, John Michael Greer
In other words. There is a good reason why Christians don’t like to use the word “Magic” or “Sorcery” for the miraculous results of the Sacraments and Prayer.
All Christians are sprinkled by the Blood of Jesus Christ and anointed with the Oil of the Holy Spirit as symbolized by the Israelite Priesthood around the Ark of the Covenant(God’s Throne) and the Temple housing said Throne.
In this way their prayers are made acceptable to the most High God. Who answers said prayer with such miracles.
All Christians are Priests. Only there is a Hierarchy of Priesthood with Laity at the bottom and the ordained as the Sergeants and Higher so to speak.
This might be more a MM type post, but I’d thought I’d throw it out here. I’m seeing more and more memes from progressive accounts I follow talking about arming themselves with weapons and going on the attack (“you misunderstood me, I’m a polyarmorist” and “I’m with done self-care. It’s time for others harm.”). It’s the very thing the media has been warning would happen from the right for over a decade now, but really hasn’t amounted to much in reality. Considering the most progressive end of our society was ready to move the unvaccinated to an internment camp a year ago, I’m very concerned. If they move from their current practices of verbal abuse, HR policy mandates, and legal overreach to carrying around weapons, given their track record for lack of self-control and their backing by our government (not to mention the amount of prescription drugs, marijuana, and other substances people fill themselves with), things could get very bad very quickly.
When I was thinking about that, what I come up with is that can happen if the migrants are overall not that successful or dont stay. So lots of destruction and disruption, some genetic mixing, but the new ones overall fight with each other with deaths, dont know how to farm or whatever in the different area so are not successful, etc…. or move on/go back.
I am not saying that is what I would think would happen. Some I think would initially, premature movement to the north with disruption, rioting, some dying off or moving on. But, if the climatic zones move north, eventually you are going to need the skill set of Northern African survival and living modes in southern Europe. Who will be there to deal with that I have no idea. ( Here we have Canada, which will eventually have new liveable territory in the northern territories….)
Info, I see you don’t know much about Christian magic. If you’re interested, I can recommend some books, and you’ll find that Christian mages don’t call on forces other than the Christian god. Central to the entire structure of Christian magic is the idea that Jesus is the source of all valid magical power, and that the whole range of magical technique (which is of course not limited to prayer) can be worked in the name of Jesus by baptized and believing Christians who also have an active life of prayer and worship. Mind you, I’m not at all surprised you’re not aware of this — that level of ignorance is embarrassingly common among mainstream Christians these days.
Michael, I can’t do that. Only you can do that — you signed up for comment notification, you have to unsub.
Chris, yep. That’s why the US hasn’t fought a serious war in years — we no longer have the industrial plant to keep our forces supplied with munitions. An astonishingly large fraction of our air force planes are grounded due to lack of spare parts, too. As for the bird, the dog, and the rabbit, I’ve heard that kookaburras are relatively smart — much smarter than US politicians, for example…
Jay, thanks for this. Admittedly, it’s what I’d expect to see in the Grauniad these days!
Grover, casting a relocation chart is really simple. You take your natal chart, and recast it for a different location as though you’d been born there instead at the same moment — correcting for time zones, of course. (You can doublecheck your math by making sure the Moon is in exactly the same degree and minute of the same sign.) All the planets will be in different houses, and you interpret the changes in house positions to give you a good sense of what the different location will be like for you.
Marsh, cultural replacement with only partial genetic replacement is quite common. When the Saxons invaded Britain, for example, the portions that became England suffered almost complete cultural and linguistic replacement, but the invaders mostly killed upper- and middle-class men. Those working class men who didn’t die in the fighting went on working for different masters, and the women — well, we don’t have to get into the details, but they weren’t killed, and there were plenty of mixed-race children thereafter. As Europe goes under I expect similar scenes to repeat themselves.
Aldarion, that glee is entirely in your imagination. My cultural roots are in Europe; the spiritual traditions I follow are British and a good half of my favorite literature and philosophy are German, just for starters, and I don’t see it as a positive thing that Europe will shortly be treated the way it treated so many other nations in its era of empire. That said, history has its recurring patterns, and between Europe’s demographic collapse, the parallel collapse of its historic cultures, and the presence of massively overpopulated countries well within migration range, I don’t expect to see Europe escape the usual fate of falling empires. (See my comment to Marsh above with regard to the relationship between cultural replacement and genetic replacement.)
Info, once again, I can recommend some books by devout Christians that might give you a broader perspective.
Denis, of course. Remember the rule — “what you hate, you imitate.” The left is busy turning into the right; the next step, which has already started here and there, is that you’re going to see more defections from the left, by people who suddenly realize that they belong on the other side of the line. (The Neopagans who are converting to Orthodox Christianity are in the vanguard of that shift.)
Serious respect for that work with Svante Pääbo! That the population of Neanderthals was low relative to the incoming species was what I was driving at; with a larger population and cultural displacement I cannot see how anything other than genetic replacement happens, so I am with you on this one.
Mmm, not so sure about that take on Saxon et al. invaders; the displacement of the Britons into Wales, Cornwall and Cumbria was a big thing at the time and those differences remain very stark, especially in this Welsh-speaking part of the world!
@jmg: Just to wrap this up. Yes, I recognize the example of Britain after 410 AD, and I do have to recognize that it is a possible outcome for the whole of Europe, even if the number of migrants were “only”, let’s say, 10% of the native population. The difference between our points of view seems to be that I consider Roman Britain the outlier, when compared to Gaul, Hispania and Italy, who didn’t change language and culture in the same way. Sorry if I imputed emotions to you that are not true.
I admit I’m curious about what the tarot spread is saying will happen. I think it will be financial in nature but I admit it could be some kind of geopolitical event instead. Or it could be a geopolitical event that’s bad enough it also kickstarts a financial Tsunami.
I remembered back to a blog I followed many years ago that I think is relevant. I found it because the author described the events that led him to take up Buddhism. Anyway, by doing Buddhist practices he eventually reached stream-entry but the event that kicked his taking it up was the financial collapse of his country in 1998.
He was a middle manager of one of South Korea’s huge chaebols. Which I understand to be that country’s version of a Japanese Keiretsu. Anyway…long story short the biggest ones would be like Amazon, AT&T, IBM, GM, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, etc. They’re private companies with listed shares on the S. Korean stock exchange and have lots of “public-private” partnerships and contracts with the government.
One night in 1998 he went to bed. The next morning he woke up to a nightmare. Except this nightmare (daymare?) he couldn’t wake up from. The news everywhere was blaring about the financial bloodbath going on in his country. He found out that all of his savings, etc…allof it was worth precisely zero. He went to bed worth a tidy sum he’d managed to save up from over a decade of fiscal self-discipline. But woke up the next a pauper.
He wrote in the blog he’d pulled out his wallet and stared at it numbly as it hit him he was literally worth only the few bills and coins he found there. About the equivalent of $10 in Kwon. Everything else from all those years he’d squirreled away had evaporated overnight.
Even worse within a few days he no longer had a job. The chaebol he worked for cratered too. A bunch of behemoth S. Korean chaebols disappeared into history’s dustbin within the next two weeks and the government was working full time to stem the emergency. It was basically South Korea’s version of 1929.
There were runs on the banks and financial accounts everywhere. It wasn’t just individual people doing this. Businesses, especially smaller businesses, were panicking too. Apparently this same scenario was playing out in a bunch of far east Asian countries that week in 1998, not just South Korea only.
I remember reading that over the next few months a large number of S. Korean chaebols were put into receivership by the government but eventually completely liquidated because they couldn’t convince international capital that taking on any of these former behemoths were good investments. Meaning international capital saw these chaebols as zombie companies. So long as international capital didn’t call these chaebols’ bluff everything was fine but once it did (just like in 2008) a bunch of them were found to be emperors with no clothes.
I later read in the WSJ quite a few historic South Korean companies who’d been around since the country’s rise to first world status were among those that disappeared forever. It would be like Americans waking up the next day and hearing GM or AT&T ceased to exist overnight.
He walked around the streets in a daze for weeks thereafter watching the collapse unfold. He was in so much anxiety and pain every day that he finally turned to Buddhism because Buddhism’s emphasis on the impermanence of all things of the material plane struck a special chord with him just then. Of course he eventually attained stream-entry from the practice of Buddhism so in exchange for his extensive material loss he received a prize beyond price (imo) – the gift of an awakening soul on its next stage of evolution to a higher, more subtle plane of being. I highly doubt he will be reborn as a human again after his current life is done. He’s moving on and up for the next round. Attaining stream-entry is no small feat. I don’t know anyone personally who has managed to pull it off for example.
Anyway, I post this because I think that’s what may be in store for many Europeans and North Americans next year judging from my 12 month spread.*
Anyway…back to what I was saying…I suspect a non-trivial number of European and American multi-national companies will be found to be zombie corporations. Without eating from the public trough of sweatheart subsidies and contracts they can’t survive on their own “in the wild” anymore. They’re pampered zoo animal corporations now. Without the special “sanctuary conditions” governments provide they can’t hack it anymore. At some point somebody is going to not care that they’re zoo animals. They’ll pull the trigger anyway and take them down then pick through the rubble at their leisure.
FYI – I did a spread for “hidden politically powerful financial elites” in the U.S. for 2023-2024 (yes, I did word it that way – I’m not interested in the Elon Musks’ and Jeff Bezos’ of America) and was shocked and dismayed to discover the cards consistently kept indicating much celebration and joy! It’s what eventually led me to doing that month-by-month spread.
So somebody is going to profit like a robber baron from the financial bloodbath I think is going to sweep all of Europe and North America in 2023.
I think longer term these hidden elites celebration and joy will prove short lived. Especially if a mortal blow is dealt in the European and American public mind that progress is dead or dying for good as I think my 12 month spread indicates. If joy does hold on for the “hidden powerful” it will likely do so only for the remainder of their lifetime. Their kids and especially their grand kids will inherit so much less than what they get to rake in from the coming tsunami.
**[Oh! you should see the utterly bizarre, freak spread and story of what I turned over for Poland with Sri Arya’s deck! I plan to post the story of it and possible (admittedly amateur interpretation of it) to the next Magic Monday.]
@ JMG, your points on EROEI are noted and I will certainly review the literature on the matter, just in case I missed an important aspect. If you are correct that EROI of solar PV and / or wind energy is < 1 then we most probably shall have a very rough time during decline. If EROEI is larger than 5 or 10, we may have a more gentle decline giving us much time to re-tool society.
About 10 years ago I was experimenting with solar thermal energy. I guess I ought to go back to my tinkering….
@ Mark L # 204, You are quite right about liquid fuel. Oil is indispensable for transportation with few substitutes. As we tumble down the other side of Peak Oil, all energy sources, irrespective of EROEI shall be negatively impacted and reduce availability of energy sources or equipment.
@ Clay Denis # 213, your points on wind farms are noted and I'll think about them.
Thanks to all.
@Godozo (#196) I like the symbolism of those lights –
“One spot was on I-74 in Moline. A whole set of lights had gone full Violet, making for a surreal looking section of expressway coming up on a pair of newly built bridges. The other spot was I-380 in the northern part of Cedar Rapids”
My favourite song on the Tragically Hip album In Violet Light, It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken seemed prophetic for where people are at now, as they slowly realise the road isn’t going where they thought it was:
“Find somewhere to go
Let’s go somewhere we’re needed
Find somewhere to grow
We grow where we are needed
‘Cause in the forget-yer-skates dream
You can hang your head in woe
In this diverse-as-ever-scene
Know which way to go.”
“Let’s swear that we will
Get with the times
In a current health to stay. ”
The album name is a play on words with another song lyric; in Silver Jet they use the phrase “Inviolate light”.
“Circling around to the past.”
Are you saying you hadn’t remembered that paragraph from before? Seems like you’ve made several orbits around it since you first encountered it.
I’ve argued with people who insist foreshadowing doesn’t happen in real life. “Have you seen real life?”
At first I misread “…in the vanguard of that shift,” above, as “in the vanguard of that 💩” and I thought “Holy 💩! Things are getting so bad, even JMG is swearing!” Fortunately it was just my aging eyes playing tricks on me again. The world just wouldn’t seem normal if JMG took to swearing up a storm as many bloggers do.
@Slithy Toves #176:
I thought thorium could at least ostensibly be burned in a “simple” CANDU reactor, though?
(Though, of course, I’ve heard CANDU reactors can theoretically burn thorium much more than I’ve heard of them actually _doing_ that.)
Good point on the economies of scale aspect, too, but I’m not sure that’s much of a factor; even if we assume that the countries involved _are_ farsighted enough to consider that, countries with easier access to potential fission fuel than fossil fuels would still have incentive. Even if the price of thorium goes up, if your country goes from importing oil to exporting the thorium left over from your mines after your own needs are met, that could still reduce energy costs at home even as the price rises globally. If the system worked, of course.
Ah. Well, it sounds like most of what I’ve heard may just have been the fanboying, then. I’d guess perhaps because, among other reasons, with fewer active examples, there’s less to get in the way of it spreading.
So the upshot is the same, it sounds like, that it still doesn’t work, but with the rather less interesting reason of “It’s so much more expensive that it wouldn’t work even if uranium and plutonium did”, rather than “It genuinely is cheaper, but still too expensive, _therefore_…”.
One other thing. I follow Martin Armstrong’s blog and he says the Socrates program is indicating something big for the months of January for the globe (which may explain the peak karma cards I turned over for both the U.S. and UK) and April.
So that Rudra-Shiva card may be indicating foolish ideas and actions activating. The Fool card of a traditional deck Sri Arya substitutes with his Wild Card to throw the responsibility back on the person asking the question. Which is why my interpretation above was for the U.S. as a whole since the question was for the whole and not just simply for myself only.
There is a chance that the full fall out of January and April events don’t really hit the public until August. Maybe that’s how long it takes for some big corporations to finally throw up a white flag of surrender? Of course I will post that I could very well be making the beginner’s mistake of overly-catastrophizing. In which I will learn from my mistakes and go back to the drawing board for more training.
Marsh, of course it was a big thing at the time, and still is. The genetic analysis Aldarion likes to quote, however, suggests that there were a lot of people in Roman Britain who didn’t flee from what became England.
Aldarion, I certainly agree that not all of the European continent will suffer that kind of cultural collapse; the border between the Arab- and African-settled sections of the continent and those that remain largely European in culture and language will doubtless be somewhere west of the Urals. Given the factors I noted, however, I seriously doubt it’ll be west of the Elbe. But we’ll just have to see.
Panda, that’s always the frustration with mundane divination — you know a big mess is on its way, but what kind of mess? The possibility of a massive financial implosion, though, strikes me as fairly high.
Karim, and of course that’s the big question. My take is that solar thermal is far more viable than solar PV, and that windpower is extremely useful for intermittent mechanical energy — late medieval and early modern windmills in western Europe contributed mightily to the economy of the time by grinding grain, pumping water, sawing wood, and doing dozens of other energy-intensive tasks whenever the wind blew. I could be wrong, of course, but I think those have a very bright future ahead of them.
Walt, I didn’t remember the passage at all. The weird thing about Keel’s books is that I read them, loved them, then set them aside and forgot the contents…consciously. Have you ever had the experience of reading a book you read in youth and thinking, “Oh, that’s where I got that idea!”? That’s happened tolerably often to me in recent years.
Reese, the entire story of nuclear energy is the repeated collision between colorful, exciting narratives and annoyingly dull facts.
Panda, good! If you turn out to be mistaken, you can learn from that, and if not, why, we’ve had some advance warning.
Ah, Jay #230 mentions the dear Grauniad. For readers who are short of something to tut-tut about, here is a splendid article about how solar power from space can help meet our energy needs:
All the experts who explain how wonderful and economically feasible it’s going to be, you’d never guess, seem to come from companies trying to attract investment in the relevant technologies. Are the journalists – if they can be called that – too dim to see through this or do they choose to turn a blind eye?
Generally, I think the Sunday edition – i.e. the Observer in terms of the print version – mostly has a separate set of writers and they seem to serve up some even loopier articles than the Monday-Saturday Guardian.
Happy Panda, now I’m curious—I’ll pull a spread on the same topic and see what I get.
During the supply line crisis our water heater went out and left us without hot water for about two and a half weeks. This was in March when the average daily temperature where we live is usually below freezing. I went down to the local sporting goods store and bought a solar shower. It’s basically a black plastic bag with a hose out of the bottom and a shower head. There is a valve on the hose to turn the shower head off and on and it holds about 4 gallons of water. We would fill it and hang it in a south facing window and usually by 2 pm at the latest the water would be at the temperature we liked for showering. It worked really well for a cost of about $12, as I recall, and made going without a water heater much easier.
Regarding envisioning the shape of futures that work, and the technological basis of a truly sustainable ecotechnic society, I personally think the technological sophistication has a fair chance of being a bit higher than the Dark Age examples our host has proposed so far.
To give one example, LightManufacturing (https://lm.solar/heliostats/) claims that plastic molding with heliostats is already economically competitive with gas-operated processes. They do use computer-controlled equipment but there is no reason a similar system could not be built with wood, mirrors, and be manually operated, similar to Solar Fire (https://solarfire.io/en). Mirrors and carpentry are technologies several thousand years old, the difference then would be that we can pass on an understanding of thermodynamics to leverage that for heat and mechanical work.
Regarding photovoltaic panels, even if those did not survive a Dark Age, they effectively allow trading oil/coal today for a larger amount of electrical energy over their lifetime, albeit of intermittent quality. So they are definitely useful to soften the descent. While PV panels cannot power a modern grid by themselves, if they are deployed close to the point of use and activity is adapted to the sun availability, they can help us go a long way. For example, an electric rail network to European standards (10m width for two tracks) would require about 1-2km of solar panels to obtain the peak power of an electric locomotive. To deal with overcast days, with only 2-5% of peak production, would mean one locomotive can be powered for every 20-50 km of railway. The traffic could be denser on sunny days, especially for shipping goods. On overcast days, passenger traffic could still be maintained albeit at a lower frequency. Such a system can work with only sun power and no energy storage, uses the existing infrastructure including railways and trains, and simply needs additional structure for solar panels (there is already infrastructure for electrical wires anyway). The system can be deployed now and the only thing that will need to change in the future is figuring out more complicated logistics because of energy intermittency and somewhat unpredictable energy availability. But even the unpredictability is mitigated by the current pretty good weather forecasts 1-3 days in advance.
I would also like to push back against the criticism of electricity. We have significant reserves of highly pure copper embodied in all sorts of modern appliances, houses, and the grid, that requires significantly less energy to reuse than the original mining process. An electric motor, which can serves both as an electric generator and a powertrain, is essentially rolled-up copper around a metal core and can be produced with low-tech means. Many industrial processes use arc furnaces that can reach a thousand or more Celcius. The use of electricity enables concentration over very large surfaces and works in overcast days better than optical concentrators with significantly less supporting structure. Electricity also allows heat production within a very well insulated cavity to minimize heat losses, and makes it easier to automate the routing of energy flows. So it seems to me those properties would still make electricity valuable and competitive through a Dark Age.
Finally, the economics in a Dark Age will be different from now. A human uses about 30W for thinking and produces on average 100W of mechanical power over a day. Sophisticated technologies can be built manually with low energy and material inputs by highly trained artisans. The technologies that can migrate back towards artisan production and produce significant returns on energy/work from the artisan labor will be deployed again once the maintenance costs of automation and the price of fossil fuels will be sufficiently high. Mirrors, carpentry, motor building, intermittent electrical micro-grids, bicycles, etc. are all compatible with this.
On the shortages front:
Salvage industrialism in the rag trade:
And backlash gone berzerk:
Did somebody mention Christian magic? Andrew Mark Henry of the YouTube channel “Religion For Breakfast” actually did his doctoral dissertation on that. Fascinating stuff:
Chris at Fernglade Farm (no. 229), this sort of behavior is not unprecedented. Africa’s greater honeyguide does this with humans:
Since a number of readers have expressed a desire for more kittens, why not join the Society of Hermetic Kittenhood? All you have to do is show up, announce your kitten-ness, and enjoy yourself. Bumbling around on high shelves knocking valuable objets to the floor is encouraged but not required.
Futures that don’t work: amazon is getting rid of its delivery robot programme because it wasn’t profitable.
Score one for human workers, zero for robots on this file. Artists don’t seem to be so lucky, with the Dall-E software actually working.
A rather excellent example of the state of things here in the US:
Godozo, Pixelated – Just a technical note on mild-mannered LED street lights turned violet… many of the “white” LEDs you see these days are not, as one might think, a combination of red, green, and blue emitters, mixed together to make white light. Instead, they’re ultraviolet-emitting semiconductor with fluorescent “filters” over them. It’s the same principle as conventional (mercury-vapor) fluorescent lighting. The ultraviolet light excites a white phosphor. If the phosphor layer flakes off, or is otherwise defective, we see the original violet or some non-white phosphor response.
It’s just another stage in the response of crapitalism to urgently mandated change.
Hi John Michael,
What surprises me is that the history is very well known and documented – to the same result for the forces heading in that easterly direction each time. Like it’s not as if the French or the Germans haven’t both taken on the Bear, with the exact same result. They both lost, spectacularly, for the exact same simple reason – attrition. You don’t need to fight, just keep them engaged getting a little bit more over extended, the winter will do the hard yards. And bizarrely, the Bear gets closer to its supply lines, not the other way around.
I’m genuinely surprised that this is all going on. From a strategic perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever. How many empires need to die by heading in that easterly direction? More than a few apparently!
Yes, the Kookaburra’s weren’t consulted. 🙂
re: the wonders of battery operated cars, a.k.a. electric vehicles –
Just saw this:
JMG, you mention wind and solar thermal as having a future; what about water wheels? My town boomed in the mid 1800s with mills deriving mechanical power from the rivers; those mills remain (converted variously into apartments, art studios, etc.) but it seems like they could be put back to their old role without much trouble.
JMG: now that you mention it, I do vaguely recall the “tobacco Egyptian mummy thing” and my reaction being “well, finally, some archaeologists are catching on”. One of my favourite books as a 9-year old was “The Ra Expedition” by Thor Heyerdahl. I always say that ancient history is way more interesting than most people, including archaeologists, imagine (though not in an Erich von Daniken kind of way!). Thanks for the reminder! Do you recall the 9,000 year old skull discovered maybe about 20 years ago in Washington State which had a bone structure (especially a huge schnoz) that closely resembles that of the modern inhabitants of far-western Europe?
Honyocker, thanks for this! Batch solar water heaters are somewhat less flimsy versions of the same thing, and can be made very easily with relatively low tech; I suspect they’ll be very common a thousand years from now.
Viking, alchemists in the Renaissance were using polished metal mirrors and sunlight to provide a nice steady heat for a range of chemical processes. High-quality optical mirrors are more difficult to make, but it would be worth seeing if a low-tech way of creating them could be worked up. I expect electricity in small amounts to be fairly common — radio communication using battery-powered low-wattage shortwave rigs, for example, is useful enough that I expect it to remain in existence straight through the deindustrial dark ages — but the limiting factor on grids isn’t copper, it’s the fact that grids waste much of the energy put into them through transmission and conversion losses; we can afford that now, but our descendants won’t have that liberty.
Patricia M, thanks for all these.
Bei, do you happen to have a link to the dissertation?
Pygmycory, thanks for the good news.
David BTL, oof. Admittedly this doesn’t surprise me greatly.
Chris, I know. I get the impression that invading Russia is what European elites do when they’re ready to die.
PatriciaT, I saw something about that too. Fun times!
Isaac, water wheels were already a viable technology in Roman times. Where circumstances permit, they’re that exceedingly valuable thing, a renewable source of powerful mechanical energy that’s not intermittent. I’d expect to see them put back to use in a big way.
Ron, yes, and I also read Heyerdahl! Did you know that roughly 1/4 of Native American peoples have mitochondrial genetics, dating from before 20,000 BC, which is only shared with western European peoples? There was clearly a lot of back and forth across the oceans in the Ice Age.
Gee I didn’t think my comment would kick up so much discussion!
What I was getting at is more the inherent assumptions behind the production rather than whether or not a population is replaced. It seems the reasoning given for Arab and African peoples migrating to Europe is overpopulation and climate change. All I would argue is that given the complex nature of climate there is no way of knowing in advance how exactly it will shake out, perhaps Arabia and the Sahara become wetter again, like they have been in the past, and Europe becomes less habitable. Africa as a continent has far greater energy flows than Europe, and can support a far greater population.
Subtropical areas also have the advantage of not needing heating energy in winter, which is offset by massive drought risk. Historically however, human civilisations usually been found in dry subtropical areas along the river valleys. Examples include India, China, Mesopatamia, Egypt, Mexico, and the Inca. Take away industrial agriculture, and arid areas actually outproduce any other climate in food production as long as irrigation water is available, due to the lesser disease and pest risk, and the ability for human hands to control the pulse of growth. Grain agriculture is suited to the pulsing grassland systems of the subtropics, and this is most likely where it originated.
Africa also has far more remaining natural resources than Europe, and therefore if given time and freedom to act could emerge as the more powerful and prosperous region. Therefore, why would people leave? Migration might indeed go the other way.
“Central to the entire structure of Christian magic is the idea that Jesus is the source of all valid magical power, and that the whole range of magical technique (which is of course not limited to prayer) can be worked in the name of Jesus by baptized and believing Christians who also have an active life of prayer and worship. Mind you, I’m not at all surprised you’re not aware of this — that level of ignorance is embarrassingly common among mainstream Christians these days.?
I am definitely skeptical about the fact that they are actually calling on the Christian God. In all the Biblical examples. The actions that Prophets and Apostles took were all under the direction of the Holy Spirit as the Word of God came to them. Allowing them to do those miracles. Or as a result of Prayer.
There will be many who say to Jesus that they did many miracles and cast out demons in his name. Only to be rejected by him.
“I can recommend some books by devout Christians that might give you a broader perspective.”
Very well. I will see if my view is changed by this. Although I prefer if I can access them in PDF form.
JMG, that’s a good one. Suicide by cop for the underclass and suicide by Russia for the elites in Europe. Ouch. Just the fact that Russia rallied under someone like Stalin of all people, to fight the invaders, like they always do, for every hamlet across a thousand miles of steppe, should give one pause….it’s a dirty business sure, so why stir the pot?
“Rod, did you notice that you just did a classic Guy McPherson? Your homework assignment is simple: look up all the other times that all the other pundits insisted that the elites were sure to start a nuclear war any day now”
The problem with this is that you’re proven right to dismiss those pundits every time, except the last one.
It’s like the fairy tale of the boy crying wolf. We’re not supposed to read it as “when someone crys wolf too many times and nothing happens, there’s no wolf”.
For in the end of the story a wolf indeed came, and people were unprepared, precisely because they dismissed it as an empty threat…
Sure the pundits can’t be trusted to always get it right. But they can’t be trusted to always get it wrong either.
@Princess Cutekitten (#251)
I’ll be interested to see it. The more I think about it the more I wonder if I am making the beginner’s mistake of excessively catastrophizing. I don’t think I am but since I’m still a beginner at it there’s a good chance at least one thing I predicted, if not more, will entirely miss the mark. If the spread is referring primarily to geopolitical events rather than financial ones then I seriously missed the mark almost completely on the whole layout for U.S. 2023.
Example…that Chariot R could just as easily be referring to a major miscalculation or major defeat of NATO-backed forces when it comes to the Ukraine Proxy-War of the West on Russia and not about the citizenry after a financial implosion at all. That could also fit in with Armstrong’s Socrates program indicating “war time economic scarcities” around the globe for 2023. He’s officially labeled 2023, “The Year from Hell”.
I’ve decided that for next Magic Monday I’ll post all 12 cards I pulled for the whole year. I limited it in this thread to the final months because I didn’t want to deviate too far from JMGs topic.
Andrew Mark Henry Dissertation: https://open.bu.edu/handle/2144/42022
“but the limiting factor on grids isn’t copper, it’s the fact that grids waste much of the energy put into them through transmission and conversion losses; we can afford that now, but our descendants won’t have that liberty.”
No argument from me here, as long as what we mean by grid is large-scale synchronized electrical networks connected over thousands of kilometers with centralized production by a few producers, and the expectation from consumers that they can consume as much as they want anytime of the day or night. Remove any of those assumptions and we get a very different system with a large design space for working alternatives.
For example, it seems to me perfectly workable to have community built and operated micro-grids that could span tens or hundreds of kilometers without necessarily be connected into a larger continental single grid. The community may choose to adapt their economic activities to the availability of energy. Physics also play in favour of concentrating electricity from a large area in periods of low availability: the losses are the square of the current but only linear in the resistance of the wire, so concentrating a little electricity from a large area results in significantly less losses than if we simply extrapolate from the ratio of energy currently lost in transmission in current grids. Conversely, in periods of high-availability, then the necessary amount will come from a smaller area so there will be less transmission losses.
An alternate intermittent micro-grid design would therefore aim to maintain essential services with the baseline energy production even during overcast days of no wind, and maximize the amount of useful work done during high-availability with the energy “stored” into finished products, refined materials, and transportation. Without the need for storage or maintaining inter-connections to a continental grid, I suspect such community-managed intermittent micro-grids are already or will soon offer energy and products at a competitive price lower than other alternatives.
Here’s a link to Andrew Mark Henry’s dissertation, which is open access:
On the same subject, see also Helen Ingram’s website summarizing her excellent dissertation:
Well, while we wait to see what the new Russian operation entails, your reply concerning future electricity hit my memory cells.
A friend and I were “gaming out” post industrial, and one of the things we envisioned was copper being reasonably common, due to melting point and current ubiquitous-ness. There will not be mining of ore – just recycling of what we have. But we also didn’t see how future lower energy culture could support AC power – too much loss.
However, we did see that what might evolve could be nodes or clusters of local or in some cases regional hydropower or geopower. The tech (low tech even) to make geothermal cost less is already here, but the eggheads at gov and universities are chasing lasers and other things impossible. So we saw geothermal and hydro centers of power, linked by rail or canals or river systems. These could also link up the scavengers (recyclers) that will arise around deserted infrastructures.
So I agree with you – and see nodes of population clustering around easy-to-get energy sources and food sources (trade is always the ‘other way’, right?)
We are actually going to put in a couple of mirrors in the farm to illuminate a loft – should be fun to build the orienting contraption! My son has been wanting to do that for a year…
Off topic, but a historically interesting perspective on the Golden Dawn.
Future that works for the French?
Regarding Progress and pipe dreams about controlled fusion and economically viable controlled fission –
Could it be said that the ‘cure for cancer’ is to modern medicine what controlled fusion and commercially viable fission power (without government support) are to power generation?
You Can Always Dream by J.H. Kunstler
Last night I had a dream… Everyone that I knew… And everyone that you know was in my dream… I saw a vampire… I saw a ghost… Everybody scared me but you sacred me the most… In the dream I had last night… — Randy Newman
“Last night I had a dream. In the dream I woke up to the banner headline: BIDEN ARRESTED. It was only a dream, but was most satisfying, as it made vivid and emphatic what must happen to correct the dreadful tendings of the criminally psychopathic enterprise that our government has become.
The gang behind the shabby and absurd pretend-president — a figure as comically macabre as the plastic effigies of the undead who crowd American front yards this time of year — is not content with running the country into a ditch. Lately these rogues and degenerates are making noises about blowing up the world”………………………
@ Kimberly Steele, the problem with practicing gratitude is that, done well, it teaches you you’re not so “worthy” of what you have as you’d assumed, but that much has been given you by grace (or chance, if you’re of an atheistic mind). That’s not a comfortable thought for brittle egos.
Too funny, The Babylon Bee strikes again! 🥳
Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Town Raises Ukraine Flag So Congress Will Send Aid
“These requests coming in from Florida are small potatoes,” Nancy Pelosi slurred at her meeting with the press when asked about providing hurricane relief. “Sending money to Florida would not save the world from Russia or effectively launder the taxpayer money in any way.”
At publishing time, citizens of Ft. Myers were working on using fake Ukrainian accents and inviting Hollywood celebrities to visit their devastated towns, hoping to convince the ignorant actors that they were visiting war-torn Kyiv instead.
The losses from AC power transmission are not all that large. DC also has issues in that both the inverters and rectifiers cost energy was well. Rectifiers are pretty reliable, but inverters are not.
DC motors have commutators that need regular maintenance, but some designs do offer easy speed control.
Even switches are problematic with DC as you have to interrupt the arc that forms when you break the circuit. AC power goes to zero 120 times a second (in the US) so the arc naturally wants to shut off.
The AC vs DC fight was pretty well documented, but in the end the simplicity of three phase electric motors and the ability to easily change voltages made AC the clear winner.
To chase the topic, we are up to nine windless days and starting on number 10, but the weather lady says it will be breezy later today. The BPA plot shows a twitch, some wind farm is getting a breeze.
Viking – “100W” is a measure of power, but not a measure of energy. Power needs to be generated for an interval of time to become energy. “100W” is a plausible rate of power for an adult human to generate for a full work day, say 10 hours, producing 1 kiloWatt-hour of energy. 1 kWh of electrical energy currently sells, via the grid, for somewhere between 5 and 25 cents, so that’s what a day’s work (as an unskilled crank turner) is worth. Or, to put it another way, that shows how incredibly cheap electricity is.
Also, copper wire is only used inside homes (and appliances), not for power transmission or distribution lines. Those are aluminum (probably with some steel, for strength). (The refining of aluminum takes enormous amounts of heat and electricity, by the way, but I don’t know how it compares to copper.)
Info: I’m guessing that you are or were raised as an Evangelical or a Reformed Protestant. Roman Catholicism, my ancestral tradition, has absolutely no issues with calling on Mary, the saints, or the angels and asking them to work miracles on your behalf.
I’d also note that Catholic folk magic was incorporating old gods and spirits long before Vodou and Santeria, and that most Hoodoo in the Protestant South incorporates a lot of King James Bible magic. There are Christians who draw hard and fast lines between sorcery and Christianity. Many of them put Catholicism in the “sorcery” category, and I’d honestly worry a lot more about a dozen abuelas with Rosaries than with 10,000 spooky kids holding a Chaos ritual. But among the laity, those hard lines have always been blurry.
@ Old Steve #173
I just made that very point to an old friend who said,
“Sure… EXCEPT if you have a Tesla roof, and then you are charging your car exclusively from solar energy…”
(She swears her daughter has both roof and car and attests this is doable)…
I have my doubts…
I admit I’m not incredibly well-verse in the thorium tech and numbers, but I think the CANDU reactors you’re talking about are the “hybrid” reactors the article I read many years ago was referring to. Essentially, a normal uranium
nuclear power plant with minor alterations to accommodate thorium.
As for the economics, I’ll have to defer to actual energy economists. Diseconomies of scale is admittedly speculation on my part.
I know the nuclear fanboys insist that nuclear power is actually profitable and they seem to have their own set of numbers, but hey, creationists have their own set of facts, too.
If I may and if it doesn’t stray too far off-topic… I thought at some length about the ascribed glee that you (and other commenters) seemed to express towards the fate of Europe. I sensed that glee, too, which struck me as odd since I have no reason to rationally assume such an attitude.
But where does this feeling come from, then? I can talk only for myself, obviously. Reading this blog, your books and for that matter a few other peoples thoughts is like gradually removing the pain killers. At some point you realize that it hurts. And then there’s this bearded guy who somehow convinced you into not taking pain killers in the first place and now, just when it’s starting to hurt all over, he is telling you “bad location”. It’s quite easy to project the reason for the negative feelings that arise from this sort of “therapy” into the “therapist”, i.e. you.
But I have to say I’m quite happy without the pain killers anyway. And credit where credit is due – one can not say that you don’t hand out some very valuable alternatives. It is a wild ride though and betimes a very lonely one, unfortunately. Most Germans seem to be caught in deep trance and I fear the moment when they finally wake up into this nightmare, for who knows who they will turn against in the struggle to quench their pain…
Many thanks for all you write and do, I am very grateful!
JMG has spoken often of the professional-managerial class, and how historically the elites in society are never as self-congratulatory as just before things fall apart.
I would suggest that that the Nobel Prize for Economics is perhaps the best expression of the elite’s self-congratulatory nature. The Peace Prize is a close second, but it only goes to warmongers about half the time, whereas the Economics Prize almost invariably goes to people whose ideas have created great wealth for elites and great misery for everyone else.
This year’s prize has gone to a trio including Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve at the time of the GFC in 2008. Essentially he is being given a prize for the supposedly novel idea of simply printing lots of money.
This has serious implications for the current world economic problems, since the Nobel Prize will be taken by many elites as a sign that they should just keep doing what they’re doing.
I am sure everyone saw this ? But Gail Tvberg did a post on how renewables cannot provide winter heat. https://ourfiniteworld.com/
” Ramping Up Renewables Can’t Provide Enough Heat Energy in Winter
Posted on September 20, 2022 by Gail Tverberg…  Energy modeling has led to unrealistic expectations for wind and solar….. Energy models also don’t take into account the way wind turbines and solar panels perform in “real life.” In particular, most researchers miss the point that electricity from solar panels cannot be expected to be very helpful for meeting our need for heat energy in winter. If we want to add more summer air conditioning, solar panels can “sort of” support this effort, especially if batteries are also added to help fine tune when, during the 24-hour day, the solar electricity will be utilized. Unfortunately, we don’t have any realistic way of saving the output of solar panels from summer to winter.
It seems to me that supporting air conditioning is a rather frivolous use for what seems to be a dwindling quantity of available energy supply. In my opinion, our first two priorities should be adequate food supply and preventing freezing in the dark in winter. Solar, especially, does nothing for these issues. Wind can be used to pump water for crops and animals. In fact, an ordinary windmill, built 100 years ago, can also be used to provide this type of service….”
Lots of good, relevent charts and graphs. A new term I nad never heard of in relation to how the grid has trouble with lots of “renewables”. ” One of the issues is torque distortion, “
“Power needs to be generated for an interval of time to become energy. “100W” is a plausible rate of power for an adult human to generate for a full work day, say 10 hours, producing 1 kiloWatt-hour of energy. 1 kWh of electrical energy currently sells, via the grid, for somewhere between 5 and 25 cents, so that’s what a day’s work (as an unskilled crank turner) is worth. Or, to put it another way, that shows how incredibly cheap electricity is.”
I think this is perhaps the best illustration of how cheap fossil fuels are I have ever read. Thankyou.
I would observe, by the way, that nowhere in the world could anyone get a day’s food for the cost of 1kWh of electricity. For example, this Islamic charity puts the cost of feeding a family of seven as USD 56 a month. That’s a bit over USD 0.25 a day For this they get,
800g Concentrated Fruit Powder
5kg Soup (mixed beans)
2Ltr Cooking Oil
This comes in all to about 192,700kCal for the month, or 6,400kCal a day. Spread among a family of 7, that’s under 1,000kCal a day.
Your personal energy put through a bicycle crank and sold as electricity could buy starvation rations for your family.
My laptop uses 50W, by the way. If I wanted to power it with my energy, I’d have to cycle for half an hour for each half-hour of use. Perhaps the solution to Western sedentaryism is requiring that all screens must be powered solely by the individuals watching them?
“I’m guessing that you are or were raised as an Evangelical or a Reformed Protestant. Roman Catholicism, my ancestral tradition, has absolutely no issues with calling on Mary, the saints, or the angels and asking them to work miracles on your behalf,
I’d also note that Catholic folk magic was incorporating old gods and spirits long before Vodou and Santeria, and that most Hoodoo in the Protestant South incorporates a lot of King James Bible magic. There are Christians who draw hard and fast lines between sorcery and Christianity. Many of them put Catholicism in the “sorcery” category, and I’d honestly worry a lot more about a dozen abuelas with Rosaries than with 10,000 spooky kids holding a Chaos ritual.”
Correct. I have an issue with this syncretism. Because it leads to Mexicans having no problems worshipping Santa Muerte and other demons alongside Christ. And Haitians having no problems with the evil spirits of Voudoo whilst claiming Catholicism.
But Demons have no fellowship with God. This a safeguard against unknown Spiritual forces that very often also disguise themselves as good spirits but are evil.
If God has no problem assigning Angels or Saints to my Prayers I have less of a problem.
Then if Christ is treated just like any other Spirits as the Sorcerers and Magicians would often do. Without the Humility and Worship of Prayer that is due to the Most High God. The attitude of Prayer is “Not my Will but your Will” even as one can negotiate with God.
Although I am looking forward to read the writings of those Books recommended by the Host.
John Michael wrote, “Chris, it’s possible to banish an ideology, and it’s also possible to make yourself resistant to its allure. I probably should post something on that, shouldn’t I?”
Well, yes, definitely! Those are the kind of protection spells every practicing occultist could benefit from. Clearing outdated ideologies out of our mental and spiritual realms to make room for ones better adapted to the age we’re living through is probably the most important work we could be doing at the moment. All the various ideologies that point us away from that fundamental task are candidates for just that type of clearing. I do realize that your blogs have always been educational fora, methodically guiding readers in how to grapple with precisely those kind of protection spells; however, any help you could offer now in specific practices would be most appreciated and very timely.
With so many fanatically defended ideologies crashing and burning all around us, I’ve never lived through a time that felt so pregnant with the possibility of testing out new (or recovering old) mythologies and worldviews. If we can get our interior realms uncluttered from the ideological detritus of the passing age, I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with all sorts of previously unthinkable ideas to test out as candidates for the next crop of ideologies to live by.
@Lathechuck I am aware that W is a unit of power, I did use “mechanical power” in the sentence in which I was using Watts. The implicit argument was that this is sufficiently low power that the total energy consumed for the work and thinking of a human throughout a day is really small.
Many automated systems actually typically use vastly more energy than a human for the same task, so 1 kWh of electricity does not produce the same as 1kWh of thinking and mechanical work by a highly-skilled artisan. The current system is viable because the economic cost is smaller than the labor cost of that artisan. But there is a cascading effect to energy price increases that affect not only the consumption at the point of use but also all the maintenance and replacement of equipment and intermediary infrastructure. I suspect the point at which highly-skilled manual artisan labor becomes competitive again for a significant part of the production is much smaller than what we would infer by simply equating watts.
To give one example, I picked up basic wood working skills last Spring, partly by reading and watching Paul Sellers videos to do a one-off prototype. The minimal tools to do manual wood working are a saw, chisels, planers, and square rules. All of those can be maintained over a lifetime with reasonable care and a bit of elbow grease. A fully-automated solution for the same work would have required a CNC table, a computer, a vacuum cleaner, and ventilation to deal with the higher concentration of dust particules. As a rough estimate, I would guess the total power consumption of the automated system must be at least 10-20x that of the artisan on average. I believe a highly-skilled artisan would be less than 10-20x slower than the automated solution, the energy use would therefore be smaller. And none of automated appliances could be maintained only by artisan labor over a lifetime.
I don’t think everything will scale back to traditional artisan production, as there are still significant economies of scales with production lines. However production lines might end up being used in more restricted ways for core commodities rather than for all of economic production. Maintenance of older infrastructure will require more one-off prototypes so will probably require more artisan labor, especially when maintenance will become competitive again with wholesale replacement.
Having trouble accessing your dreamwidth site…is it down atm? I keep getting ‘403 forbidden’ message
Am i missing something you have changed access?
The graph was an eye-opener for me. To paraphrase a Pictish chieftan when confronted with the Romans, ‘you create a desert and call it a Green New Deal’…
No way out but back. Yeah, so it cuts against the grain of the current set of memes: so what?
I’d like to point out that there is NO “Nobel Prize in Economics” What is referred to as a “Nobel Prize in Economics” is really a Swedish central bank prize in honor of Alfred Nobel.
In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize. The prize is based on a donation received by the Nobel Foundation in 1968 from Sveriges Riksbank on the occasion of the bank’s 300th anniversary.
This prize is presented at the same time and place as the real Nobels, giving it an aura of legitimacy. The PMC bought the Nobel organization, a few years before things started going bad for the majority of us. Of course the media has been complicit, for 54 years, in giving this fake Nobel the aura of a real Nobel.
After nine days of dead calm, the promised wind did arrive for at least half a day.
And this was in the news this morning,
“Siemens Gamesa’s 14-222 DD offshore wind turbine prototype has, according to the Spanish-German wind giant today, set a world record for the most power output by a single wind turbine in a 24-hour period: 359 megawatt-hours. This would be enough energy, according to the company, for a mid-sized electric vehicle — think a Tesla Model 3 — to drive around 1.12 million miles (1.8 million km). Siemens Gamesa’s huge wind turbine achieved this power output milestone only 10 months after it produced its first electricity and delivered it to the grid at the test center in Osterild, Denmark.
The SG 14-222 DD is a 14 megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine with a capacity of up to 15 MW with Power Boost. It features a 222-meter (728 feet) diameter rotor, 108-meter-long (354-feet-long) B108 blades that are cast in a single piece and can now be recycled, and a swept area of 39,000 square meters (419,792 square feet). The SG 14-222 DD can provide enough energy to power around 18,000 households annually. In June, Siemens Gamesa was awarded a firm order for 60 of its SG 14-222 DD offshore wind turbines, which will be installed at the 882-megawatt (MW) Moray West offshore wind farm in Scotland. It will be the first installation of this model.”
Purely from a technical point of view I’m impressed. How it does in a becalmed condition is another matter.
” (The refining of aluminum takes enormous amounts of heat and electricity, by the way, but I don’t know how it compares to copper.)”
For rough calculation, on atom of aluminum requires three electrons to reduce it to the metallic state. One atom of copper takes two electrons.
Most modern copper production is done by electrolytic refining. But you can do it the old fashioned way with a Pearce-Smith converter which does not need very much electricity, but will kick out a large amount of sulfur dioxide.
All aluminum production must be done electrically for thermodynamic reasons. Aluminum is just too fond of oxygen.
OT: but food for thought:
PumpkinScone, Africa and the Middle East are already overpopulated and migrants from both regions are already streaming into Europe. In the long run, sure, things will sort themselves out along lines determined by climate and resource availability, but over the four to five centuries that dark ages usually take to run their course, other factors are considerably more significant: concentrations of wealth, population pressure, and cultural politics.
Info, that is to say, no matter what evidence anyone presents to you, you’ll default to the standard prejudices of modern mainstream Protestantism. Gotcha. If you happen to want to follow up on the books I mentioned, Gareth Knight’s Experience of the Inner Worlds and the various writings of Agostino Taumaturgo are good sources — but no doubt you can find some way to dismiss those, too, and keep on repeating the same inaccurate but familiar lines.
Celadon, ha! Suicide by Russia — yeah, that works rather well. Thank you.
European Reader, that argument assumes what it’s trying to prove. What if the wolves have already been hunted to extinction?
Martin, got it and thank you.
Viking, no argument there. It’s quite possible to have small grids distributing intermittent electricity supplies over modest distances, and in some urban areas those might survive for a long time, or even indefinitely. Of course that involves a very different attitude toward energy use than the one we’ve got now, but that’s a given. Have you by any chance looked at my book the Ecotechnic Future? It discusses the prospects for less wasteful technological civilizations into the far future.
Robert, got it! Thank you also for the link to Ingram’s work — do you have the capacity to log into the British system and get her thesis? It sounds worth reading in full.
Oilman2, that seems quite plausible.
Andy and Justin, thanks for these.
Viduraawakened, that seems like a very sound analogy to me.
Rod, trust Jim and the Bee to go there!
Nachtgurke, thank you for this, and of course you’re most welcome. The business with the glee is one that’s puzzled me for a long time. Here in the US it’s bog-standard for believers in progress to insist that anybody who predicts a difficult future must want that future to arrive — weird, but pervasive. It’s as though people have forgotten that the universe doesn’t care what we want.
Hackenschmidt, yep. I read about that and my eyes rolled so hard I saw my own brain.
River, thanks for this. Gail’s good as long as she stays away from predicting apocalypses.
Christophe, I’ll definitely consider something on that subject.
Anonymus, Dreamwidth recently left CloudFlare and they’ve been having no end of problems ever since. With any luck it should clear up in the next few weeks. The site was up last time I checked, fwiw.
Patricia M, thanks for this.
Viking 292 comment.
I have been reading your comments. Very informative and helps me to adjust my thinking. Thank you
I doubt that it has much to do with Toynbee, but it sure seems like bad choices were made; the small rustbelt town where I grew up (about 4,000 people) is located on a river. It used to generate its own electric power from two dams. Decades ago, the dams were sold to a small power company and the town now buys its power from a big regional power company. The dams are still there, gradually decaying. In addition, the town used to have two railroads that crossed near the center of town. Now both are gone. And I haven’t even mentioned the empty, derelict, small factories some of which are still standing. It’s a shame, and not at all unusual. Sometime after WWII we all got stupid!
I do, and I have already downloaded Ingram’s thesis. I’ll email it to you soon.
@JMG wrote: “Have you by any chance looked at my book the Ecotechnic Future?”
Of course I did! That is where I am drawing most of my conceptual framework from! I even used “ecotechnic society” in the first sentence of my first post this month.
I am pushing back against the criticism of electricity because the broad strokes with which you bind together the fashionable and equally ineffectual industrial responses to fossil-fuel depletion may lead readers to conclude that most electricity-involving alternatives would not be worth exploring. You have shown much more nuance in “The Ecotechnic Future” (and comments).
Individual and community-scale initiatives, such as Mots’ DIY Electric Grid (http://diygrid.net/), also point in a direction that would use PV panels with much better energy returns while keeping much of the benefits of the technology in the hands of the final consumer. And while there is not enough lithium to let everyone have an electric car or a powerwall, there is enough to have everyone have an electric bike. As a last example, lead-acid battery production shows that a mostly circular production process is possible, and lithium-based batteries could potentially be used for several decades and possibly up to a century or more with a similar process.
All of these examples are within the broad strokes of the likely futures you have outlined over the years, so they do not contradict your core theses. However, they do point in directions that were not obvious to me from your writings and they suggest that useful things could be leveraged, even from the stirrings of the current ineffectual large-scale industrial responses.
About that glee…
It really isnt that uncommon thing among collapsniks. Lots of sadomasochistic fantasies about future are floating around, in more than 50 shades of kinkiness.
@Kenaz Filan (#203):
Actually, in recent decades there has been a great deal of scholarship on Medieval Western traditions of Christian magic. Much of it has been done by members of the Societas Magica, which I played a modest part in getting started, alongside of the much greater parts taken by Richard Kieckhefer, Claire Fanger and Frank Klaassen.
They have a newsletter with short articles, available gratis on the Societas Magica’s website: http://www.societasmagica.org.
The Societas also sponsors two series of scholarly books, “Magic in History” and “Magic in History Sourcebooks,” which are published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. See http://www.psupress.org/books/series/book_SeriesMagic.html
If magic is worked by people who consider themselves devout Christian, and are regarded as devout Christians by their contemporaries, then from a historian’s point of view, that magic is quite rightly called “Christian magic.”
Theological criteria for what counts as Christian and what does not, are wholly beside the point for historians and philologists, simply because there is not any way that historians or philologists as a discipline will ever collectively agree on any question of theology, or indeed (if they identify as Christian–many do not) will they ever all concede any authority to one and the same visible church of whatever denomination.
I share some, though not all, of your concerns. I will state that some, but not all, Christian mages deal with spirits that are obviously dark. However, not every spirit is dark. If you insist in equating the Holy Virgin Mary to Santa Muerte then it’s your, and nobody else’s, loss.
An approach I found useful to get started in the occult is to limit myself to natural magic. You need not to invoke any spirit (Dark or otherwise) to perform magic. The natural world and the species that inhabited it (and which are meant to be used for the well-being of humankind, per Genesis 1)
Finally, I encourage you to check out the Benedecaria tradition, from Roman homeland where not syncretism of traditions has happened AFAIK. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedicaria
I know I’ve had the experience of re-reading something I read long ago and thinking, “so that’s where I got that idea/learned that thing.” But I can’t recall any specific examples, so maybe none of them were important enough in shaping my life to remember them the second time either! (This phenomenon is sometimes called “source amnesia,” which sounds like some kind of disorder but in such common cases where a long time has elapsed it just means the literal meaning of the phrase: not remembering the source of some knowledge you have, while remembering the knowledge. It can be an issue in academia, if the apt turn of phrase you think you just popped into your head from your own thoughts turns out to be inadvertent plagiarism.)
But it we’re talking about circling back to the past, it’s not reading experiences I might have forgotten that worry me. It’s ones I remember all too well, one in particular (at age 12) that set off a painful (but badly needed) initiation-like mental cataclysm. It felt something like: “You know that world view and personality you’ve been building since birth? It’s wrong and it sucks (respectively). Try again. You can get out of bed and speak again when you’re done.” I hope I don’t have another one of those coming, or need it, this late in life.
It was a classic SF short story, of all things, that set that off. You can probably guess which one, if I tell you I have (and grew up with) a developmentally disabled twin brother.
Time for another late comment.
I was looking for Toynbee’s Study of History in the local libraries, and was surprised to find no digital copies. I can get books of course, but that will take a little more effort.
I’ve been listening to several of GK Chesterton’s more philosophical works, which are readily available. But then he is known for his fiction as well.
On a personal note, I’ve made the move to the Midwest. We’ll close on the new house next week, and then start settling in. I feel hopeful. A house on gravel rather than sand.
@Walt F: “Flowers for Algernon?”
I did not sense that glee from JMG but I do recall American conservatives tossing it my way quite a lot during the migrant crisis. “This is what you get for letting them in.” The implication being a Muslim population with a high birthrate and only mild integration. Just my personal experience!
Both mistakes at once? 😉
Might be too late, see if this comment is seen.
It is not just in energy policies that our betters are trying to make problems fit their solution.
I Just read that New Zealand is going to tax the emmisions of cows and sheep. This from a country that exports butter and wool ! Not to mention, their own citizens have to eat and wear cloths. There is no logic in this, as all herbivores, even the wild ones, also have those emissions. But climate change, methane emmisions….
And while they speculate they can put the tax to good use, what we know the tax will do is make the goods more expensive.
@Slithy Toves #285:
Could be; I’m not an expert either.
And as for the exact numbers, right, who knows — but as JMG says, it does seem telling that fission plants, thorium or otherwise, aren’t built more and more clearly profitably.
“It’s quite possible to have small grids distributing intermittent electricity supplies over modest distances, and in some urban areas those might survive for a long time, or even indefinitely. Of course that involves a very different attitude toward energy use than the one we’ve got now, but that’s a given.”
I’m reminded of early modern municipal water supplies, with which, IIRC, it was common to have the water on your street turned on only on certain days. On those days, people would do the tasks around the house they needed running water for and fill up their own storage tanks and vessels to supply water the rest of the time. In the modern first world, of course, this sort of thing would probably see an outcry if it lasted for more than a week after a major disaster — but it was sure more convenient than having to _walk_ all one’s water home from the nearest public pump.
“It’s as though people have forgotten that the universe doesn’t care what we want.”
Though, thinking on it, maybe more than that? After all, as I understand it, to the believers, progress is _unstoppable_, yes? Or, at the least, stoppable only by apocalypse, and even then only by the heavier apocalypses with the lighter ones only providing delays. Progress to the believer is not a product of human action but a force; it’s the will of Man, not of men (or any other variety of human). Those who act against Man may perhaps slow Him down, but He marches on and drags us with Him to the stars. The religion is insistently secular, but it has us collectively predestined nonetheless. Then are only those who stand with Progress, and will be rewarded, and those who stand against it, and will be run over.
Except, what is the scripture? What does Man command of His followers, and how does one act to please Him? Well, to work in accord with Him is to move towards the future He wants, but since He has not told us, we must guess.
And thus, to predict the future we’re heading towards might be seen as an attempt to divine the Will of Man, and that, in turn, as an attempt to divine the elect from the damned — and your prediction places you and people like you in the former category (while placing most of Progress’s believers in the latter). Why _wouldn’t_ you want that? Or, alternatively, you of course believe in Progress and Man just as much as everyone secretly must, but you know that _you_ are among the damned and so try and doubt Him (and lead others into denial in your wake) — and of course, then you’d want the future you predict to be true, because it would mean He couldn’t punish you as all sinners against Him deserve.
The above is on-the-spot speculation, mind, but it’s at least seeming plausible; after all, as you’ve commented, Progress looks very suspiciously like Christianity with the serial numbers filed off. And some kinds of Christians are, after all, known to have _problems_ dealing with people who claim their god isn’t exactly what they say he is, let alone doesn’t exist at all.
I find it mildly amusing how certain people can turn on a dime.
Medical establishment clusterfrack – monkeypox. a.k.a. “When a senior CDC investigator can’t get a diagnosis or treatment……”
Owen: in some circles, that’s called “realizing you were mistaken, and correcting your recommendations.” Or, “now that the data’s all in, here’s the new projection.”
One last post on a dead column: note, it’s fairly clear they polled mostly people from the comfortable classes –
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