For most people, growth is already over……

24 10 2014

I know I often post videos here that I describe as brilliant or other terms to that effect.  THIS one clearly outshines them all, notwithstanding a slightly unsastifying end and question time…..  THIS video should be compulsory viewing.  This video also told me my brain is wired differently to almost everyone else on the planet!

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is a well-known speaker on the big picture issues facing human society. Before watching this, I had no idea he had done the whole “wolf of Wall Street” thing in his early 20’s… that he was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. If you need a shining light on how to reform yourself, Nate is the one..!

Until recently he was lead editor of The Oil Drum, one of the most popular and highly-respected websites for analysis and discussion of global energy supplies and the future implications of energy decline. Nate is currently on the Boards of Post Carbon Institute, Bottleneck Foundation, IIER and Institute for the Study of Energy and the Future.

Nate’s presentations address the opportunities and constraints we face after the coming end of economic growth. On the supply side, Nate focuses on the interrelationship between debt-based financial markets and natural resources, particularly energy. On the demand side, Nate addresses the evolutionarily-derived underpinnings to status, addiction, and our aversion to acting about the future and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to what’s ahead. Ultimately, Nate’s talks cover the issues relevant to propelling our species (and others) into deep time.

He has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC and NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont.

This presentation, Limits to Growth: Where We Are and What to Do About It” goes for an hour and a half……  but it’s the ride of a lifetime.


Degrowth: Getting to the Root of the Climate Crisis

23 10 2014

This is part 4 of a 4 part series of article from my friend the Overthinker.  I am reblogging this without parts 1 to 3 because they have been discussed to death already here on DTM…….  by all means read the rest of it if you want (this is the best part in my opinion…), all 4 parts available here. 


i'm here to live
The following is part 4 of a four-part series titled Degrowth: Getting to the Root of the Climate Crisis, and is adapted from my presentation at the Australian Climate Action Summit, 20th September, 2014.
This article was first published here.  
Parts 1, 2 & 3 can be accessed as follows:

The climate crisis, correctly diagnosed, is the overshoot of one of the nine planetary boundaries that safeguard the health of the biosphere that supports the human enterprise. The cause of this overshoot is correctly identified as the extraction and processing of natural resources and dumping of waste at a rate beyond our planet’s natural rate of renewal and recycling – all in pursuit of endless economic growth.

With the root cause of the crisis identified as our relentless pursuit of infinite growth on our inconveniently finite planet, it makes sense for the climate movement to engage with the concept of degrowth in order to properly address our complex predicament.

Seppo_FinitePlanetTackling growth

There are two key factors in economic growth, and its counterpart, degrowth:

  1. Population
  2. Consumption

Our economy grows thanks to increases in both population and consumption. To address one of these factors without also addressing the other would be an exercise in futility: curbing consumption while allowing population to grow results in no net reduction in emissions; similarly, stabilizing population while allowing consumption to increase in order to service our debt-based economy results in no net reduction in emissions.

We’re going to have to tackle both population and consumption, and, as it is, we don’t exactly make ourselves popular at dinner parties when we talk about scaling either of them back.

But, contrary to popular propaganda, neither decreasing consumption or gradually lowering our population is actually a threat to human rights – or even to our quality of life. Quite the contrary, in fact.

If you’ve been sold the notion that a Big Australia is good for us, you’ve been conned. If you’ve been sold the notion that increased consumer spending is good for us, again, you’ve been conned – most likely conned into buying a lot of crap you don’t need, and a heap of buyer’s remorse. Never trust a salesperson.

Population: a human rights & healthcare issue

Contrary to popular myth, stabilizing population does not require coercive or draconian policies – such as China’s one-child policy (which, again, contrary to popular myth, doesn’t apply to all of China’s provinces – folks in most of the countryside are exempt, and it also doesn’t apply to families whose first-born is a girl). Many countries have adopted sound policies that have been effective in stabilizing and gradually lowering birth rates. These policies revolve mainly around access to contraception and family planning, sound sex education, women’s economic emancipation, access to education, and sovereign reproductive rights.

population growth women's rights

The reality is that when human rights are prioritized, birth rates drop. In countries where women have economic rights, the right to education, good healthcare, and reproductive rights, they choose to have fewer children on average. Most women in the developed world – where there is universal healthcare – choose to have just one or two children on average. This leads, in turn, to a better standard of living for the whole family, better educational opportunities, better employment opportunities, and better opportunities all round for the next generation. Really, what’s not to love?

Consumption – much easier to rein in

What my own work really focuses on, however, is consumption – how we can consume significantly less without sacrificing quality of life. I choose this focus because it is arguably more feasible to rapidly curb consumption than it is to rapidly stabilize and lower population, and many of the tools of degrowth are accessible outside the realm of politics and policy, hence available to everyone.

But there are a few ways we can tackle consumption with policy measures – a few examples would be:

  • Shifting from an income tax to a consumption tax – this way downshifters like myself would be rewarded for living lightly on the planet and other people would be incentivized to do join the movement to power down our way of life.
  • Rationing household and business use of energy according to means testing – an unpopular measure for sure, but not as unpopular as runaway climate change. Ideally this would be coupled with emissions caps and production quotas for the energy industry, favouring cleaner, renewable sources.
  • And, of course, as mentioned before, an end to debt-based finance would enable a steady-state economy to emerge via the elimination of the profit motive from business.

it's not me who consumes too much

Mentioning these policy points is just an academic exercise, however, while there isn’t a politician on the planet capable of getting elected who would consider implementing such policies. The empowering aspect of degrowth needs to be emphasized, as there is a great deal we can all be doing to curb our consumption in the meantime while we wait for a shift in public opinion to usher in a government intent on addressing our crisis at its core. No naïveté intended, of course; this change in government may well not happen until it is too late to make a difference. We cannot afford to wait. We need to downshift now.

Shifting down a gear

Downshifting – otherwise known as opting for voluntary simplicity – is really all about re-imagining the good life. About not buying into the stories we are sold by a materialistic and competitive pro-growth culture.

Downshifters don’t buy into the notion that money equals success, that you have to earn status, that you need to accumulate material wealth. We don’t buy into the cycle of planned obsolescence that forces us to upgrade our gadgets constantly as last season’s model ends up in a toxic e-waste dump in the third world. We’re not interested in keeping up with the Joneses – we don’t live next door to them anyway.

So we don’t sacrifice ourselves to the treadmill of profit to service endless economic growth. We’re happy to work less and play more. We live tiny – a modest home is a cheap one. Our energy requirements are low – again, nice and cheap. And we’re not into shopping – there are more fun things you can do without having to get your credit card out. Simply put, we aim for a one-planet lifestyle, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the developing world who live light upon this planet.

kahlil gibran

Now, I’ve been called a Luddite – as though I’m anti-technology – in response to my stance on the misapplication of technological fixes. While I admit techy stuff isn’t what floats my boat, I certainly appreciate my computer, the internet that enables me to share my thoughts with like and unlike minds, and my car that facilitates my travel to faraway places and events, such as Climate Action Summits.

While I don’t necessarily think all of the technologies I enjoy are sustainable, I don’t think we should all go back to the Stone Age either – and neither do we have to. But we do have to rein in our consumption to what Mother Nature allows, to accept the limits to growth of the human enterprise. The consequences of overshooting our limits have become painfully obvious: if we do not change direction soon, we will end up were we are going. It will only be a question of whether resource constraints or climate chaos strike first, and one will undoubtedly exacerbate the other.

But not everyone is keen on the idea of degrowth, and some are repulsed by it. Some get pretty defensive. I’ve had it suggested to me that I’m an ingrate – that it was technological developments such as the invention of the washing machine that enabled me, a mere woman, to get an education. This, of course, was parroted at me by someone who had swallowed Hans Rosling’s TED talk on why technology is the saviour of all that is good and worthy without question.

As a woman, of course, I know better. I’m quite sure it wasn’t some kind gentleman donating my gender his clever labour-saving device that secured my liberty from the drudgery of what is obviously and rightfully women’s work. And I can’t quite imagine the women’s lib movement protesting in the streets with chants of “What do we want? White goods! When do we want them? After we’ve finished the ironing!” Wins for women were, sadly for the proponents of vicarious salvation through technology, achieved by women, not men, and via political action, not white goods.

Having said all that, I don’t own a washing machine, and my other half does his share of the laundry – by hand.

Walking your talk and eat your cake

Preaching degrowth without practising it through downshifting is not a credible approach to stirring momentum for the movement. Integrity matters.

So, as an advocate of degrowth, what have I done to downshift my own consumption and lifestyle? Well, I live in a small unit, a cabin really – with my partner and two cats – and we have very little stuff. We eat low on the food chain, organic where possible, locally-produced where possible, and always seasonally. We don’t exactly live to shop – my clothes are op-shopped – mostly chez Salvos (do a twirl), and our furniture is all pre-loved. But I must admit we still have our gas-guzzling beast of a car – a four wheel drive we bought second (or third or fourth?) hand for a lengthy road trip a couple of years ago and lived in for a while. I promise we’re planning to sell it off soon and replace it with a couple of bikes. So we’re not perfect, and we’re not purists.

To many middle-class folks we look like we live in poverty – a shocking choice for many of our demographic, whose parents or grandparents didn’t claw their way up from lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder for their progeny to throw it all back in their faces with an ungrateful sneer.

But what does living in poverty mean? Do we lack anything we might need? Do we work hard for little reward? Well, no. We don’t have jobs. We run our own little consulting business – consulting only for the clients whose work we really respect and value – non-profit organizations – and we do it for a pittance really. It keeps a roof over our heads and the wolf from the door, and frees us up to put time into things that really matter – like family and friends, putting time into Sustainability Showcase, the grass roots non-profit we both volunteer for, and SHIFT magazine, the magazine of the degrowth and resilience movement.

And of course it means we have time for events like this – the Climate Action Summit, and for front-line activism, and for spending time out in the sunshine, in the green calm of nature, under the big sky (I love that this country’s sky is so big and boundless), enjoying it all before it’s all destroyed.

Perhaps if you join us on the degrowth journey, it won’t get destroyed after all. I don’t know that much about many things, but I do know this: you can’t have your cake and eat it – so I’m just going to enjoy eating mine.

wanting less is a better blessing than having more


The Energy Cliff Revisited

22 10 2014

Gough Whitlam died yesterday.  The whole country seems to have paused for thought, many media outlets are even saying things like “where to from here”, and the cluelessness abounds.  Where to from here indeed……  Today, our politicians are elected to office based on false promises.  They promise things they can’t deliver, and we continue to be perpetually shocked when they don’t deliver.  We never seem to get tired of this game, we always lose.

I have spent little time posting here, mainly for fear of simply repeating myself.  As I am doing now, really…. but once you ‘get it’, what else is there to say?  As the price of oil fell to $80 last week, much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth occurred on the subject of how long the unconventional oil drillers of oil would last….  while some commentators were despairing at the thought that cheaper fossil fuels would mean the end of the current push for renewables, if you can still call it that.

When I pointed out to these people that the fossil fuel companies were actually going broke, I was met with the derision I am now accustomed to.  I’m getting quite immune to that now, if you don’t believe me, it’s your problem, not mine…  mind you, as we approach ‘the knee’ of the energy cliff curve, it is baffling as to why the price of oil dropped so much, when it should have in fact risen, and risen substantially.  The answer of course is that the global economy is on its knees.  Growth is fetid at best, and in Europe, things are going from bad to worse, even prompting some people to predict that ‘the big one’ was going to occur on the 27th anniversary of the Black Monday crash.  Didn’t happen, unfortunately…..  but the ducks have all lined up in waiting.

Most of us here have surely heard of the seven stages of grief…. Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Guilt, Depression, Acceptance. Where are we in our journey through these stages when it come to the financial crisis, and to growth? There’s only one stage that even remotely sounds right: Denial. We’re not even close to Anger yet, not when it comes to the larger population.  Me, I’d like to add another stage:  REACTION….!

justwalkawayIf enough people just walked away, the whole mess would end.  Any time people post whinges on FB these days, I reply with that picture.

Apart from denial, there is of course ignorance.  The concept of the energy cliff is foreign to just about anyone who doesn’t follow blogs such as this one.  It occurred to me that we have been sliding down the edges of the energy cliff for a very long time.  At the beginning of the oil era, when the ERoEI was 100:1, everything was easy.  We just had to invent it, and we had so much surplus energy that we could fumble our way around and build outrageous cars and airplanes, steel skyscrapers, huge ships, growth was easy…..  and when the ERoEI of oil dropped to 50:1, who noticed?  We still had 100:1 oil to make the equipment needed to get that oil (which, let’s face it, was still amazing value…)

As the easy pickings were exploited, it was still easy to burn 25:1 and even 15:1 energy sources…. but it is at this stage that we approach ‘the knee’ of the nett energy curve, and start falling off its cliff.

Building 5:1 solar energy gizmos with 15:1 oil, let alone with more 5:1 PVs or those appallingly inefficient tar sands and shale oil suddenly becomes a struggle.  This is what people who argue that we don’t need fossil fuels to make renewables do not understand.  Bad ERoEI compounds when you use one low source to get another.  Social complexity utterly relies on surplus energy.  It was with surplus energy that Europe’s cathedrals were build during the middle ages, and the same applies to building wind and solar farms.

If you are new to these concepts, I urge you to watch the video below from Chris Martenson’s excellent crash course series, a must watch program of videos for anyone who doesn’t yet know why the world is going to hell in a handbasket……  NOTE:  This video shows solar as having an ERoEI somewhere around 20:1.  This is because it was made in 2009, and in the intervening 5 years, it has been established that it is fact less than 5…. maybe even less than 3!  This is displayed more accurately in the more recent chart above……

Still on Track for the Collapse of Modern Civilization

15 10 2014

Originally posted on Collapse of Industrial Civilization:


Two recent pieces of scientific evidence really hammer home the predicament of modern industrial civilization, and they have to do with the fact that our globalized, just-in-time economic model is hopelessly wed to carbon-based energy. Once one understands this, then there can be no delusions about why we are on such a catastrophic trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. As was explained in a previous post, GDP is fundamentally and directly linked to CO2 emissions. Below, two graphs(click to go to source) illustrate this fact:

C02 emissions since 1850 (red); exponential growth (blue); cuts to hit climate target (dashed).


It’s not really about evil fossil fuel companies, although they do certainly exert enormous political clout and do conspire to protect their business model by doing such things as spreading doubt on climate change science, but as with all corporations, externalizing social and environmental costs is endemic to the profit system and the coercive forces of competition in capitalist markets.

Firstly, there is the graph submitted by…

View original 1,746 more words

The False Solutions of Green Energy

13 10 2014

Max Wilbert & Cameron Foley expose the fallacies of “green” technology by tracing the process of industrial production for these technologies and exposing the destruction they cause.

I suggest you download the pdf file that has the slides in it, and watch that while you listen to the youtube video…….

Powerpoint slides available at

Revolutions are born of you and me…….

11 10 2014

Consumed – Is Our Consumer Culture Leading to Disaster?

A very powerful video you can watch instead of viewing the Bathurst race..!  The message is clear, we are at the evolutionary crossroads.  Enjoy….

Or for downloads and more information:

Consumerism has become the cornerstone of the post-industrial age. Yet how much do we know about it and what it is doing to us? Using theories of evolutionary psychology to underpin a bold narrative of our times, this film takes a whirlwind tour through the “weird mental illness of consumerism”, showing how our insatiable appetite has driven us into “the jaws of the beast”. Both an apocalyptic and redemptive view of the human condition.

Journeyman Pictures is your independent source for the world’s most powerful films, exploring the burning issues of today. We represent stories from the world’s top producers, with brand new content coming in all the time. On our channel you’ll find outstanding and controversial journalism covering any global subject you can imagine wanting to know about.

More on Renewables fantasy

10 10 2014

As debate continues to rage over at The Conversation I have now mentioned several times regarding future Carbon emissions, I continually come across people who misunderstand our energy conundrums.  It gives me satisfaction to be able to rattle their collective cages, and introduce them to notions like the energy cliff, and the utterly essential continuation of oil production for mining the resources we need to keep business as usual operating.

Interestingly, some of the commentators there introduce me to things I knew nothing about.  Which is good; because it makes me think further about why their solutions will not save the day, and forces me to do some more research and keep the old brain cells alive and ticking.  For instance, when I pointed the conversation towards Simon Michaux’s Peak Mining presentation available on this blog, and that I thought mining without diesel would be impossible, along comes this person who points me to mining trucks powered by overhead electricity, much like an electric train.  This is readily feasible of course, because all those big Tonka Trucks are already running on electric motors, powered by a huge diesel enegine that spins an equally huge generator to produce the electricity for the motors….. very much like a diesel electric locomotive.  My first reaction, however, was ‘how can they move the overhead lines constantly as the bottom of the mine expands and keeps changing shape’?

Here is a video of how they operate……

Now, this video makes claims such as ‘saving energy’, which I suggest it clearly does not.  While running in ‘trolley mode’, diesel consumption may fall from 360L/hr to 45L/hr, but now it’s burning electricity instead, and it’s STILL burning diesel!  On top of that, this video claims that by using electric lines, they can increase the speed of the truck from 8km/hr to 24km/hr….  hello, don’t they realise there is no free lunch?  Going faster requires more energy, especially uphill!  Instead of reducing energy consumption, I think this would actually increase it.  I would like to see total energy consumption in MJ/km rather than merely saying the trucks use less diesel.  You’ll notice that the overhead lines are only used in the uphill sections.

This then got me thinking about why they would go to this trouble.  After all, spending capital to electrify the lifting of ores from the bottom of a mine pit just as the price of these commodities is falling, seems counter intuitive to me.  Until that is, you put two and two together and realise that as the ore concentrations fall off a cliff, more and more ore has to be brought up for processing, and faster and faster to boot, just to keep up with production of the final resource, in this case Copper.  But wait, there’s more…  research shows Zambia produces 200 barrels of oil a day.  NOT 200,000……  two hundred!  On top of that, Zambia gets 100% of its electricity from hydro.  So of course, what else would they do?

Further down The Conversation, someone else makes the comment “Solar thermal is a very new technology, do you think ERoEI values estimated now will apply for all time? ”  Well no…….  thermodynamics dictates that ERoEI will always fall!

“”To maintain a society like ours requires an overall ERoEI of about 12:1″. Perhaps, but perhaps not, that’s a fairly bold assertion, I’m not sure of the weight of evidence behind it. One would also assume that as the easily accessible fossil fuels are increasingly depleted, the ERoEI of fossil fuels would be decreasing (unlike that of renewables which is increasing).”

This is classic.  People who want to believe in a renewables powered future apparently also believe that renewables’ ERoEI can magically rise, just as the fossil fuels’ ERoEI, the very energy sources used to make the renewables, falls.  Talk about white man’s magic….

IF we require to build more and more robots, just build more and more robots, to make more and more PVs to power the robots, and make more robots to build more Tonka Tucks, to dig more and more mineral ores, just so we can build more factories to house more robots to….  well, you get the message.  We are sinking alarmingly increasing amounts of energy and non renewable resources into a black hole, and for what…?

Making someone already rich even richer.  Game over.

By the way, an alarmingly high number of people are predicting a looming financial correction of epic proportion, maybe even this month (October 2014).  I’m not qualified to comment on this, except as just another passenger, but I found this quite concerning.  A bit long at 34 minutes, and the interviewer keeps interrupting annoyingly, but what does everyone else think?


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