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points to a deeper problem:  

Our civilization, throughout its history, has treated ALL energy sources as non-renewable, and exploited them to exhaustion, even when they were not intrinsicly so.  

You could say that we got our warning when Europe deforested, and everything else since then has just been conning and delusion.  

Why?  Because trees are renewable, AND YET we harvested them into (practical) extinction.  

Without an underlying change of mind, we will do this to every resource that exists--as we ARE doing--until we simply turn up unlucky and find no new resource to loot out.  

That is bound to happen sometime.  

Tant pis.  It looks like somtime is now.  

Not only do we not have a future, we NEVER had a future:  This was our fate from the outset.  It is all there in the Greek myth of Erischthon.  

How does that one end?  Starving, and then devouring ones own flesh--to starve FOREVER.  

The Greeks knew:  They had already done that.  The Greek civilization that DID do that is pretty well lost from history, even from archaeology.  The dark age that followed it consumed all the evidence and traces, except for a few broken-down piles of stone, a few graves the robbers missed, and a few stories of warning.  

You can't toy with the Fates.  

It is SERIOUSLY unwise to try.  

We will soon learn in full.  

Thank you for your interesting, depressing, diary.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 02:11:39 AM EST
Our civilization, throughout its history, has treated ALL energy sources as non-renewable, and exploited them to exhaustion, even when they were not intrinsicly so.

Jared Diamond gave examples of Japan in the Edo period (reversed deforestation) and then some Pacific island where they decided to limit the population to 1000 or so, and get rid of all pigs. Societies can be aware and manage the resourses.

But aghr... those examples are not exactly of "our" civilisation, or are they?

by das monde on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 11:11:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But aghr... those examples are not exactly of "our" civilisation, or are they?  

Too true.  A different current, that has only touched ours recently.  What is the hope of learning from it?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 10:50:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your evidence that all these curves are logistic points to a deeper problem: Our civilization, throughout its history, has treated ALL energy sources as non-renewable, and exploited them to exhaustion, even when they were not intrinsicly so.
Considering "all these curves" refer to non-renewable resources (coal, oil gas, nuclear) it's not surprising that our civilisation has treated them as non-renewable. The only renewable source in the data is wood, and 1) its share of primary energy production is in decline; 2) by construction in the Marchetti model it is not a logistic decline; 3) even though its market share is declining, wood is not exchausted: its rate of consumption is still growing.

Given the information in this diary and in Marchetti's first paper it is not obvious that the absolute consumption (as opposed to "market" share) of each energy source is logistic.

But you are right, from other sources we know that we are perfectly able to exploit renewable resources to extinction (fisheries and European forests are good examples).

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 06:51:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering "all these curves" refer to non-renewable resources (coal, oil gas, nuclear) it's not surprising that our civilisation has treated them as non-renewable.  

I might have said it better.  Look at it this way:  How SHOULD a civilization treat a non-renewable resource?  Sparingly, perhaps?  That the curves are logistic shows that our attitude is NOT sparing.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 10:58:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, logistic consumption seems like a reasonable way to go about it. Given that you will use the resource, using it at a rate proportional to how much is left ensures that you never run out of it.

It is using a renewable resource like it's non-renewable (depleting the stock instead of just harvesting the new production) that is insane.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 11:15:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which has merit.  

But if resources were utilized this way, you would see a short steep upslope representing the development of the technology and utilization of the resource, and then a long slow downslope representing its sparing (but logaritmic) utilization.  

What we see in stead is maximization:  The resource is simply utilized as fast as possible, and the upslopes and downslopes are nearly the same.

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 02:43:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When substantially less than the total amount available has been consumed, effectively the amount available appears infinite and there's no reason not to grow exponentially. When a majority of the amount available has been consumed, the end is in sight and one can consume a constant fraction of what's available. The logistic curve, where the up and down slopes are mirror images, is the simplest way to bridge the gap.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 06:30:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
amount available appears infinite  

What can I say?  From the OUTSET the end was foreseen.  "Appears infinite" maybe, but it is a WILLFUL delusion.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 at 09:18:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, look at it this way.

Assume that the growth of estimated reserves is logistic, and assume that consumption is a constant fraction of estimated reserves. Since the growth phase of a logistic is very approximately exponential, you get exponential growth.

The "Zeno approach" is unrealistic, also in that it assumes superexponential growth at the beginning, as the technology develops (quickly going from zero consumption to its all-time maximum value). To assume that this is possible is to ignore all the frictions in training people, investing, building infrastructure, and then when the target rate of consumption has been achieved, laying everyonw off and disusing the plants used to build the infrastructure.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 03:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Is that what you are doing?)  

So, if I understand you right, humans are NOT smarter than yeast.  

Maybe we need a better theory.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:13:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, if I understand you right, humans are NOT smarter than yeast.  

In groups, when we're not paying attention? No, we're not.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:24:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In groups, when we're not paying attention? No, we're not.  

So then, we need to learn to pay attention?  

Come to think of it DeAnander has been saying that for months . . .

Straight Zen.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:07:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost everyone here has been saying that for a long time.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:08:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm doing is telling you that your model assumes perfect information. For instance, that from the outset you know reliably what the total amount of reserves is.

I also don't understand what's wrong with logistic growth. Unless you have perfect information you can't do much better than that.

What is wrong is overshoot and collapse. If yeast achieves logistic growth, it's pretty smart. Probably smarter than humans. Though I don't think yeast achieves logistic growth either.

You've also (or was it DeAnander?) in the past claimed that even the Lotka-Volterra model (prey = renewable resource, predator = us) is "a wrong model". I don't see how it fails to represent human collective behaviour, as far as the hypotheses go. It also predicts overshoot and collapse.

I don't believe in master planning, be it theological, capitalist or socialist. Do you?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:30:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't believe master planning happens, or you don't believe its (ever) a good thing?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:33:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it's a good thing.

I'm having a bad run on that this week.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:34:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everyone runs around trying to imagine what they would do if they had perfect information, and then they go and apply their conclusions to the real world and wonder why it didn't work.

So, I believe it happens all the time, and I believe it can never work.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:37:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just what any mathematician knows, before pulling out a calculator ;)  

Too much to ask, right?  

In our case, all resources are finite.  So you know you will run into trouble in ten years, or ten million years.  Which is it?  You watch and see.  Well before it happens you should be making your plans to recognize it and switch out when you need to.  

But really, everything we are arguing about was predicted decades ago, sometimes centuries.  That's why I used the word "willful."  

To be specific, the troubles we are in right now were perfectly plain by the 1970s.  We did not seek to switch out, even then:  We raced at the cliff.  

If yeast do that, that is their problem.  But when WE do that, it is OUR problem.  

Now I am not arguing you are wrong--or at least, not always wrong, but since there certainly are peoples who did not follow our path it would be good to know how they did it--what their mind was.  

You can certainly do better than logistic growth--if it leads to destruction--by anticipating that.  You do not have to limit yourself to responding to first derivatives, and then discovering afterward that you have walked into a dead-end box.  

I don't see how it fails to represent human collective behaviour  

Well, it predicts some human behavior, particularly OUR human behavior, but since we are destroying ourselves perhaps the model is fine as a description of us but very bad as advice.  That is, it describes well precisely what we should not do.  We should do something else.  

It would be better to follow a model that does not lead to self-destruction, even if self-destruction can be modeled very well.  

I don't believe in master planning,  

Anyone who does not do their own master planning is courting trouble--this is true for individuals and groups.  Plans have to be flexible to work.  But if they do not exist, they certainly don't work.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 05:57:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I claim logistic growth does not describe destruction. You get overshoot and collapse when you couple the logistic equation with delayed feedback.
To be specific, the troubles we are in right now were perfectly plain by the 1970s.  We did not seek to switch out, even then:  We raced at the cliff.
Well, yes, I wonder if Dennis Meadows will live long enough to get the Nobel Prize in Economics for The Limits to Growth.

Anyway, can we agree that these logistic or predator-prey models approximately describe the way our civilisation currectly functions?

The questions are: how else could it function? [I still haven't seen a simple model of that, can you provide one? Use however many derivatives you like, and delayed feedback]; how do we get there from here?; how many people can be sustained?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You forgot the last question, though it might be implicit: how does the new system protect itself from change? One of the strengths of the existing system, from its point of view, is that it's very resistant to change because the short-term interests of many people depend on its not changing.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:14:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I have a partial idea of how to get there from here, though: guarantee everyone a living income (say, above relative poverty level: 60% of median). Rewards those who do work but let people not work if they don't feel like they need more income than the guaranteed minimum. Share work by limiting the working week. If the absolute living standard starts to sag, more people will be motivated to work to make up the difference. If anyone rants about the protestant work ethic, lock them in an insane asylum.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:22:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and tax wealth (property).

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 06:23:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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