by Perry Arnett
Integrate these concepts:
1) Cheap, readily available, high content Energy, with 2) population explosion, and 3) Carrying Capacity.
The integration is, that with the advent of the cheap, readily available supplies of high content energy, world population was able to soar, and thus EXCEED ecological carrying capacity. While population is now at an extremely high level — compared to the non-fossil-fueled past — (and continuing to rise), and the carrying capacity is already ‘overshot’, now feed-in an irreversible DECLINE of the cheap readily available energy that got us where we are. Do this integration now, in real-time.
Universal ‘decline’ is the only possible future.
The finding and exploitation of coal, oil and natural gas as it was done has created a box canyon for humankind that was not foreseen at the early times. In other words, we had a Grand Chance and blew it! We ‘spent our capital’ (oil), rather than ‘living off the interest’ (renewables). We procreated like bunnies thinking that extant energy sources were perpetual. Having spent that capital, it is now both too late to stop population increase (without a catastrophe like war or pandemic) OR develop renewables. So, in order to reach population numbers BELOW carrying capacity, there must be a Dieoff that forcibly lowers living standards and population numbers until some level of sustainability (‘carrying capacity’) is achieved. That will cause living standards for most to drop back to a par with those lived pre-1930 for sure, and probably more akin to the era 1200AD to 1860 or so.
Human civilization cannot live off ‘renewables’ unless the population numbers are below the carrying capacity of the environment. Some suggest this number to be around 500 million or so, as opposed to the 6.3 billions alive now. When living standards descend to that point where an equilibrium between consumption and carrying capacity is reached, and a balance-in-nature is achieved, then life can go on for those who remain. But to try to replace the amount of energy provided by fossil fuels now with other, more diffuse forms of energy, the numbers show there is a massive shortfall that cannot be found, created, dug up or wished-to-be from anywhere… there is no Horn of Plenty overflowing with more oil and natural gas once the current supplies are gone!
Thus, as world energy sources deplete, the world macro-economy must slow down until it finds that natural balance between the available energy needed to drive it, and the size of the economy that energy will allow to exist. As the economy slows, jobs vanish; as jobs vanish, living standards decline; as living standards decline, everything declines — and then you have the exact OPPOSITE of what most of us here have experienced throughout our lives: NO-growth; decline, diminution, loss, etc.
This hydrocarbon bonanza (coal, oil and natural gas) from say, 1700 to 2030 or so, was a one-shot thing; Nature gave us a Hershey Bar and we ate it! When it’s gone, it’s gone. Even though there may be about 1/2 the oil left that there ever was, it will be consumed much faster than the first half was. So much faster, in fact, that for our purpose here, — about all that’s left for most of us is the memory.
Most are unaware of this. When most DO become aware we will reach a ‘tipping point’: a point where the teeter-totter-of-life changes position from where it was — to where it must go. At that point there will be severe gnashing of teeth and wailing in the streets and all that comes with that. We can either believe it now, or believe it later.
Why are we not told about this from the government, or our employers, or our city councils, etc.? Because no one wants to be the one to cause the ‘tipping point’ to occur! As long as the reality can be withheld, or muddled, or glossed over, then the tipping point will be delayed; but that only makes the time of awakening worse… the longer we go until the tipping-point-of-awareness is reached by the masses, the worse it will be.
When the tipping point occurs, it will be suddenly realized by all, that there will be no more reason to build roads, or fix existing roads, or build university buildings, or put braces on your kids teeth, etc. ALL perceptions of life-in-the-future will change, and most all economic activity that is deemed farther out than say, next week, will cease. Ninety nine year contracts will be a relic of a by-gone era; pensions and annuities will cease; cash will become king; and when that fails hard money will reign. When the public becomes fully aware of all the facts and the relevant conclusions to be derived from those facts, the phrase ‘new paradigm’ will have true meaning.
Most of us didn’t get the opportunity to learn any of this in high school, or to connect all the dots if we did study it, so it comes as a bit of a shock to most when they realize the implications of the principles and the facts. But the principles are founded on good biology, good geology and good economics. The facts are available if any choose to peruse them.
“It will be in no one’s best interest to factually report the reality of the decline of fossil fuels once it begins in earnest.”