Insightful thoughts from Sacramento

13 02 2016

Many moons ago, when I was cutting my teeth on Peak Oil issues, and later economic and resource ones too, I ‘met’ this most insightful chap with real life experiences of ‘the simple life’ online through the Yahoo group called EnergyResources…. I haven’t been there for some years I just realised as I looked up a URL for you, and I have no idea whether Arthur still posts there.  I guess I reached a point where I learned what I had to know, and got on with my life to deal with the future.  The rest, as they say……………….

Arthur and I have reunited on FaceBook, the internet sure makes the world a small place. Anyhow, let me introduce you to Arthur Noll.  The below is a slightly edited for clarity version of something he posted on FB, it’s not really meant to be an essay, but it’s interesting reading all the same.  Enjoy……..


Arthur Noll

Arthur Noll

I understand that dealing with collapse isn’t easy, and I see what is needed is a blend of new understanding and old ways of living – older than most want to think of doing.

I feel we need to have scientific expectations of the future, to start. People often think they do – scientists often think they do. But in reality I see a lot of expectations as based on imaginary things being found. That isn’t being scientific. That is dreaming. People think that because dream like things have been found in the past, this will happen again. But again, this is not scientific thinking. There is no cause and effect relationship between what was found in the past and what might be found in the future. People are having expectations that are based on a correlation of events, not a cause and effect situation. Scientists endlessly warn about confusing correlation with causation, but I’m afraid a lot of them have fallen into this trap. Expectations based on correlation, is basically superstition. And what we expect to happen in the future, should obviously have a major impact on what choices we make in the present.

Along with this, I have no respect for expectations based on mysticism. If people insist on holding to either of these expectations, superstition or mysticism, I think they are likely to find their expectations were based on nothing real, and this will be a disaster for them.

My second observation is that human beings live by teamwork and die without it. Everyone has the naked body to test their independence from social groups. If someone finds they can live independently of a group, they have no need to read further. If you can’t, I think we might want to talk about things. Social groups can work together with more or less efficiency. I’d say that surviving the results of expectations based on dreaming, is going to require the highest amount of efficiency that can be mustered. But if we consider how most large societies today are organized, with money market systems, I see huge problems with this. The basic premise of this is everyone acting as an individual player with the amount of money they can get. That automatically gives a mind set of competition, rather than cooperation. People do cooperate to make money, but people are loosely tied together with this. People can win market competition by ignoring conservation, and by paying employees less than the competition. This combination produces a race to the bottom to use up resources, dreaming that the bottom will never be reached, and strangling each other economically in the process. This looks like a ridiculous system.

Instead of this, I think people need to acknowledge they live by teamwork, give up expectations based on superstition or mysticism, give up measuring value with money markets, and use scientific measure throughout. We all have a food energy budget, for example. You must make a “profit”, of food energy returned compared to the food energy you burn. Getting that energy profit is the difference between starving, working to death, or working hand to mouth, or having enough to rest, explore, and reproduce. And along with this, though, you want a favorable food energy profit to be sustainable. It can be easy to have a good food energy profit with unsustainable resource use. That is what we have been doing.

A lot more can be said about all this, but these are the basic things I think we need to be serious about.

Lack of knowledge in the population is a problem. However, I think it goes deeper than that. I don’t think most older people know how to do what I’m talking about, any better than young people, though they may have better basic skills at some things. The question is whether food preserved is sustainable, where does the material for the candle come from, and how is garden soil kept fertile, and how are cows or other animals fed and managed?  
The European model for how this was done in the past, in the US, looks like a disaster to me. People did things as individual families in a monetary system and it was inefficient and very destructive. For example, working separately like this, the ideal was that everyone planted their own garden and field crops and managed their own cow. There was zero thought of controlling their own population or fitting in with the ecology around them. Wild animals that were a problem to this system, were wiped out with commercial hunting and trapping. They had metal tools, gunpowder and guns, and steel traps. They sometimes gave domestic animals free range, and fenced crops, but with wild animals extirpated they would tend to switch to fencing their domestic animals instead of their crops. With metal tools, domestic animal power, and abundant trees or rocks, they made a lot of fence. Overall, they could, and did, apply a lot more energy to the landscape than natives without these things – but this was highly destructive.
Natives couldn’t apply so much energy, so what they did was use the energy they had, a lot more efficiently. They had communal crops and guarded them in shifts. When they became herders, they did similar things with the animals. This guarding didn’t require extirpating troublesome animals. As individual families, Europeans couldn’t keep a 24 hour guard on crops or animals. Their reaction to deer, elk, woodland bison, etc, was to kill them off for money. Their reaction to wolves and cougars and bears killing their livestock, was to kill them off. Their reaction to keeping annual crop land fertile, was to use manure from their animals. That this depleted the soil of pasture and hay fields, was ignored as it happened slowly, but in places like New England where fertility was low to begin with, farms were often simply abandoned and people moved west to find more land to ruin.

But natives weren’t considering their own population, either, nor did they have long term concerns about what slash and burn farming might be doing to soil over the long run. Their population growth with farming led them to fight with each other before Europeans came. In favorable climates and rich soil, like the Mississippi River Valley, they created a destructive civilization that collapsed, and did the same in Central and South America. I don’t have romantic ideas about what native people have been like.

Human beings look pretty much the same to me everywhere. Technology and domestic plants and animals allowing greater energy use on the environment, to take more from it to keep more children alive, has been very attractive, and to take from the environment greater amounts of energy to make more powerful weapons to fight more effectively with neighboring groups trying to also grow their population, has been a common pattern, and long term considerations of where this will end up, have been disregarded everywhere on the planet. If we stayed at the energy level of hunting and gathering, and fighting with stone age technology occasionally, this might have gone on as long as wolves and lions have done similar things. But we have gotten into arms races to take more from the environment and arms races to fight better with each other, and this threatens to exterminate us.




3 responses

13 02 2016

What a blast from the past! I remember Arthur too. I was on Energy Resources before (and after) I joined ROEOZ. Do you remember Ron Patterson also from ER (I think…one of those groups anyway)? He’s blogging now at

13 02 2016

Fancy you being on that one too! Yes I remember Ron a couple of times here somewhere…… and Gerry Agnew too, and Pedro, whose work I’ve mentioned

17 02 2016

So the moral of the story is, change is the one constant of the universe and change created by human will be so great as to ??

Why don’t we know what the change we create will lead to(humans can’t kill life, only species) when all we can think about is how our soft modern fossil fuel based civilised life is the best thing since sliced bread …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s