The Impossibility of Growth
George Monbiot, environmental writer and The Guardian columnist
This piece eloquently sums up our present predicament – the converging catastrophes of climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil. Monbiot also looks at why we are unable to deal with, or even discuss its possibility. Do visit the original Guardian web page to view readers’ comments and a discussion provoked by the article.
It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up
The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
Of Fossil Fuels and Human Destiny
Ron Patterson, Peak Oil Barrel
Fossil fuel is our bamboo fruit, our mat of lichens. We, as a species, are simply behaving like all other animals have behaved and would behave under similar circumstances. Millions of years of struggling to survive has left its mark in our DNA and our species cannot help but follow where it leads us. We raise our families and seek security for them and worry about their future. But the process of natural selection has always worked within local small populations. We are molded by our DNA to worry about provisions through the next winter and to defend ourselves from a possible attack by the tribe a few miles away. The goings on in the rest of the world have never been a concern to us. But globalization has changed the nature of the game and our genes simply are not aware of that yet.
Laudato Si (On Care For Our Common Home)
Laudato Si’ is the appeal from Pope Francis addressed to “every person living on this planet” for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. This encyclical is written with both hope and resolve, looking to our common future with candor and humility.
The Five Stages of Collapse
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one’s career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities, which is what this essay does.
Peak Oil and the Collapse of Industrial Civilisation
By Peter Goodchild, author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse
Systemic collapse, the coming crash, overshoot, the die-off, the tribulation, the coming anarchy, resource wars — there are many names, and they do not all correspond to exactly the same thing, but there is a widespread belief that something immense is happening. This event has about ten elements, each with a somewhat causal relationship to the next. (1) Fossil fuels (e.g., oil, natural gas, coal), (2) metals, and (3) electricity are a tightly-knit group, and no industrial civilization can have one without the others. As those three disappear, (4) food and (5) fresh water become scarce. Matters of infrastructure then follow: (6) transportation and (7) communication — no paved roads, no telephones, no computers. After that, the social structure begins to fail: (8) government, (9) education, and (10) the large-scale division of labor that makes complex technology possible.
Converging Energy Crises – And How Our Current Situation Differs from the Past
By Gail Tverberg
This article presents highlights from a talk called Converging Crises (PDF) given by Gail Tverberg at the Age of Limits Conference. The talk deals with the crises facing us as we reach energy limits, and also addresses the related topic of how our current situation is different from past collapses.
On global warming
Chad Harbach, n+1 magazine
Now we know what we’ve done. Or we should. The fuel-burning binge (and the beef-eating binge, and the forest-clearing binge) we’ve been on for the past 150 years, and especially the last 60, and increasingly and accelerantly, has brought into view the most dangerous threat in the brief history of our civilization. It’s become possible to glimpse the disappearance of so many things, not just glaciers and species but ideas and institutions too. Things may never be so easy or orderly again. Our way of life that used to seem so durable takes on a sad, valedictory aspect, the way life does for any 19th-century protagonist on his way to a duel that began as a petty misunderstanding.
Complexity, Problem Solving and Sustainable Societies
By Joseph Tainter
Talks about the rising energy intensity that is a corollary of any increase in complexity and also the diminishing returns
Reducing Energy Inputs in the Agricultural Production System
By David Pimentel
Modern agriculture is driven almost entirely by non-renewable energy sources. In US, agriculture accounts for about 19 percent of the total national energy use. As oil and natural gas supplies rapidly decline, this paper takes the US as an example to explore how agricultural production can be maintained while reducing fossil energy inputs by 50 percent.
The Oil We Eat
By Richard Manning (Appeared in Harpers Magazine 2004)
This article by Richard Manning on oil, agriculture, food traces the origins of agriculture and the human addiction of conversion of hydrocarbons into carbohydrates
The Tragic Story of Human Success
By William Catton
A Chapter from the landmark book Overshoot
Royal Society Report: People and the Planet
The Royal Society, UK
A major study investigating the links between global population and consumption, and the implications for a finite planet.
The Seneca effect: why decline is faster than growth
Ugo Bardi, University of Florence
When things start going bad, they tend to go bad fast. We might call this tendency the “Seneca effect” or the “Seneca cliff,” from Lucius Annaeus Seneca who wrote that “increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”
Scientific model supported by UK Government Taskforce flags risk of civilisation’s collapse by 2040
New scientific models supported by the British government’s Foreign Office show that if we don’t change course, in less than three decades industrial civilisation will essentially collapse due to catastrophic food shortages, triggered by a combination of climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, and political instability.
Energy and Limits to Growth
John Bradford, Mississippi State University
This essay explicitly address the relationship between natural resources and the modern economic system. It explores the relationship between energy use and economic growth, and the relationship between “peak oil” and the global debt crisis.
We need to Talk About Growth
By Michael Rowan Emeritus Professor, University of South Australia
The idea of economic growth has never been the subject of mainstream political critique. That economic growth is good is a view unchallenged by any major political party. The fact is that if we wish for our economic system to be long lived then at some point we must give up growth. Growth is simply incompatible with longevity.
Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever
By Jeremy Grantham, Chief Investment Officer of GMO Capital (with over $106 billion in assets under management)
One of the world’s largest asset managers, Grantham catalogues many of the issues related to resource depletion in a no-nonsense and urgent tone, yet with an odd juxtaposition – he is saying these things about limits, resource constraints, and human behavior as the head of a firm whose objective it is to increase financial capital.
The Olduvai Theory – Heading into the Gorge
By Richard C. Duncan
The Olduvai Theory is defined as the ratio of world energy production and population. It states that average energy production per capita will decline to its 1930 level by 2030. Collapse will be strongly correlated with an “epidemic” of blackouts around the globe. This warning has come from scientists for more than a century.
Economics in a Full World (PDF)
By Herman E. Daly, American ecological economist and professor at the School of Public Policy of University of Maryland
The global economy is now so large that society can no longer safely pretend it operates within a limitless ecosystem. Developing an economy that can be sustained within the ﬁnite biosphere requires new ways of thinking.
Sustainability: The State Of The Movement
Robert Gilman, Context Institute
Gives a big picture view of the sustianability movement
The Core Challenge Of Our Times
Robert Gilman, Context Institute
If you are new to sustainability concerns, it will give you a big-picture overview about what these concerns are. If you have been around sustainability issues for a while, it will orient you to a unique approach to it.
An interview with Prof. Calvin Jones: “Economics is a child of the oil age”
by Rob Hopkins, originally published by Transition Culture
Technology cannot tackle climate change
Calvin Jones says Wales can lead the way in replacing economic growth with the notion of useful work
Ready for Rationing? Why We Should Put the Brakes on Consumption If We Want to Survive
Stan Cox talks about his new book “Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing.”
The Transition Movement: Questions of Diversity, Power, and Affluence (PDF)
This Simplicity Institute Report presents an overview, literature review, and critical analysis of the Transition Movement, and raises important question about its politics (or lack of it).
The 7 barriers that stand in the way of a Transition Initiative
One of your first tasks, – individually and collectively – will be to navigate the initial barriers – real and imagined – that stand in the way of you starting off on the transition journey. We call these ‘The Seven Buts’.
The sower’s strategy: how to speed up the sustainable energy transition
By Ugo Bardi, University of Florence, Italy
In order to survive the double threat of resource depletion and climate change we need to move as quickly as possible to a sustainable society based on renewable resources. This article argues that the transition can be eased if we adopt the “sower’s strategy.” Farmers, as we know, must keep some of the harvest for the future. Applied to the world’s economy, the sower’s strategy dictates that we use part of the energy and resources produced by means of fossil fuels to build renewable energy plants and a sustainable economy.
The Future of Food and Farming
This report by the UK Government’s Foresight project looks at the increasing pressures on the global food system between now and 2050. Titled The Future of Food and Farming, it highlights the decisions that policy makers need to take today, and in the years ahead, to ensure that a global population rising to 9 billion or more can be fed in a fair and sustainable way.
Deep Future: the ultimate destiny of humankind
By Ugo Bardi, University of Florence, Italy
The way we see the destiny of humankind is inextricably linked to the great “pulse” of carbon burning that has been ongoing for a couple of centuries and which is now reaching its peak. Here are some possible futures of humankind, arranged from the least exciting one (near term extinction) to highly exciting ones, involving expansion over the whole galaxy.
Planetary Boundaries research
The Planetary Boundaries framework was first introduced in 2009, when a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified and quantified the first set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. A Jan 2015 update by the researchers say four of these boundaries have already been breached.
A growing number of scientists now say we are living in a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene, which is changing Earth’s life support system.
The Great Acceleration (slideshow)
This planetary dashboard of the trajectory of the Anthropocene shows increasing human impact
UNEP – Blue Planet synthesis paper
This 2012 paper by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize – often called the Nobel Prize for the environment – urge governments to replace GDP as a measure of wealth, end damaging subsidies, and transform systems of governance to set humanity on a new path to a better future – or risk climate, biodiversity and poverty crises that will spawn greater problems worldwide.
Sharing Cities Toolkit
Shareable.net’s evolving compilation of resources comprised of a mix of How-to’s, Project Guides, example Policy and tried and true Models and Advice.
Sandy Irvine’s ‘Deeply Green’ Book Guide
A set of really outstanding titles that could constitute a basic book collection for any green activist. Also noted is possible follow-up reading, sometimes individual books and sometimes individual authors whose entire ‘back catalogue’ will repay exploration. At the end, a number of authors are mentioned whose works deserve inclusion.
OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST
Research & Degrowth
R&D is dedicated to sustainable degrowth – a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet.
A transdisciplinary open-access journal, Earth’s Future focuses on the state of the Earth and the prediction of the planet’s future. Limited access to articles available at above link.
The Dark Mountain Project
The Dark Mountain Project calls itself “a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself.” They produce and seek out writing, art and culture rooted in place, time and nature. Here’s a link to their manifesto.
The Simplicity Institute
A non-profit education and research centre dedicated to advancing the Simplicity Movement, which critiques consumerist and growth-obsessed economies.
Do the Math of Peak Oil and Convince Yourself
A Step-By-Step Plan to Calculate Hubbert’s Curve by Hans Zandvliet
Ordinary people cannot verify what the experts say about the timing of the peak of global oil production. The entire calculation remains a kind of magical mystery in which to either believe or not. The calculation itself is not the problem; any college student with a bit of affinity for mathematics should be able to do these calculations. The lack of reliable data is the problem. This is where Hans Zandvilet’s article can come to your help.
Uncertainties in The Outlook for Oil and Gas
A doctoral thesis by Christophe McGlade
The most attention-grabbing attempts to predict oil futures have come from geologists and environmental activists, who tend to look solely at production. But this overlooked doctoral thesis by Christophe McGlade, in contrast, focuses on how both supply and demand might be constrained in the coming decades. Peak oil researchers should take note of McGlade’s thesis because he predicted, in November 2013, that oil prices would sink, and that they will stay low throughout the second half of this decade.
Energy and Human Evolution (1995)
By David Price, Cornell University
By using extrasomatic energy to modify more and more of its environment to suit human needs, the human population effectively expanded its resource base so that for long periods it has exceeded contemporary requirements. But the exhaustion of fossil fuels, which supply three quarters of this energy, is not far off, and no other energy source is abundant and cheap enough to take their place. A collapse of the earth’s human population cannot be more than a few years away.
PEAK OIL & INDIA
The India Energy Security Scenarios 2047
India Page – ASPO USA
Regularly updated page on energy news related to India
Peak Oil and Implications for India
S.C.N. Jatar, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis
Peak Oil and India
Are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? An analysis by Akhilesh Singh
India, Oil, And Electric Vehicles
India – Energy Analysis
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)