The challenges of powering down

7 05 2008

Powerdown is a book by Richard Heinberg http://

Markets are the most inefficient way of doing anything. It’s free markets that got us into this mess in the first place, because when supply far far exceeds demand, commodities are so cheap they are squandered. This is exactly what happened to oil. And water. And farming land.

Now, and quite suddenly, population pressures are exposing all the cracks. We no longer have this super abundance, and the market’s way of dealing with this is to increase prices, the idea being to decrease demand. Unfortunately, the high demand is no longer caused by over abundance, it’s caused by [per capita] shortages, and the market does not know how to cope with this. It simply does not compute, growth is sacrosanct. Now I realise we ‘need’ growth merely to pay the interest on the accruing debts the market needs to create more ‘stuff’, it is fast becoming evident that growth must stop. It will stop. Growth simply cannot go on forever in a closed system [like Planet Earth]. It’s immaterial whether we want to end growth or not, it simply will, just like a cancer dies when it kills its host.

Humans did not evolve in markets and money. Money and markets are not in our genes. Money and markets are social constructions.

No a-priori reason exists why people must work to live. Without money, markets or the requirement to work, we would not need banks, insurance companies or most of the institutions we have today.

The market economises “money”, not natural resources. Ninety percent of the natural resources used in this country are wasted on the overhead because people are required to work in order to live. I reckon 10% of the population could do all the essential work that actually needs to be done.

Australians’ diets require something like 3,500 food calories each day, yet in our idiotic Rube Goldberg social system we are actually consuming, when all energy is taken into consideration, something like 200,000 calories every day! [see below]. Clearly, the “market economy” is the most inefficient organization in the history of the world!

The only technical way to reduce natural resource consumption by at least 90% is to put everyone except those with critical jobs on welfare. Forgive debt. Almost everyone would stay home and practice birth control and Permaculture. See SOCIETY OF SLOTH: A Thought Experiment
By Jay Hanson, spring, 1999 at



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