Environmentalism

On Being a 21st-Century Peasant

An environmentalist warns: We're getting a whole new planet.

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Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, by Bill McKibben, Times Books, 272 pages, $24

"Here's all I'm trying to say: The planet on which our civilization evolved no longer exists," Bill McKibben declares in Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. "The earth that we knew—the only earth we ever knew—is gone." The climate is about to get really freaky due to man-made global warming, and we're also about to run out of oil: peak temperature and peak oil combined. The result, McKibben says, is that we're about to find ourselves living on a much less friendly planet he calls "Eaarth."

McKibben is no stranger to environmentalist jeremiads, having declared The End of Nature due to global warming and the rise of biotechnology back in 1989. Twenty years later he's declaring the end of civilization as we know it.

Eaarth follows the time-honored structure of environmentalist tracts, opening with a quick rehearsal of the science that allegedly seals our terrible fate, followed by a much longer disquisition outlining the author's elaborate plan for salvation. Give McKibben some credit: Unlike many prior doomsters, such as Paul Ehrlich and Stephen Schneider, he doesn't argue for a top-down solution. He sees a situation so dire that centralized strategies will fail and we'll have to return to living in villages and farms, becoming 21st-century peasants.

McKibben's evidence of the impending apocalypse includes melting Arctic ice, melting mountain glaciers, expanding tropics, acidifying oceans, worsening hurricanes, and rising seas. All these things except the hurricanes are happening. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, for example, the Arctic ice cap has been shrinking at a rate of about 3 percent a decade since 1978. New research suggests a lot of this melting can be attributed to wind shifts rather than directly to global warming, and the Arctic sea ice recovered last March to almost normal levels. But McKibben is right that global temperatures have been rising. One set of satellite data shows global average temperatures increasing at a rate of 0.13 degree Celsius per decade since 1979. Overall, surface records suggest that average temperature has increased by about 0.7 degree Celsius during the last 100 years.

McKibben is so eager to make his case for doom, though, that he can't resist pushing the data farther than they go. Consider his comments about hurricanes. McKibben asserts that "one hundred eleven hurricanes formed in the tropical Atlantic between 1995 and 2008, a rise of 75 percent over the previous thirteen years." Fair enough. But according to hurricane researchers at Florida State University, the global number of major tropical cyclones was 149 in the 1980s, 179 in the 1990s, and 165 in the 2000s. The overall trend is not significant during the last 30 years. The overall numbers for tropical storms are 324 in the 1980s, 367 in the 1990s, and 317 in the 2000s. Moreover, the total energy of tropical cyclones has been declining for the last 30 years. In McKibben's favor, new research by climate modelers suggests global warming will result in fewer but stronger hurricanes.

To prove that things are getting worse, McKibben cites a 2008 New York Times op-ed that claims the last 30 years have yielded as many weather-related disasters as the first three-quarters of the 20th century. The article also notes that the U.S. has suffered the most. Sounds bad, but a closer look reveals that annual global mortality from weather disasters has declined from nearly 500,000 per year in the 1920s to 22,000 annually in the early 21st century. The annual mortality rate has dropped from 242 per million in the 1920s to 3 per million today. In the U.S., the amount of property damaged by weather events is indeed up, but that's almost entirely because there is more property to damage and because more people live in coastal areas subject to hurricanes.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that sea levels will rise between seven and 23 inches by 2100. In general, the sea level has been rising by about eight inches per century. How might humanity cope with that? Well, consider the case of Boston. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the sea has been rising at Boston at a rate of about 10 inches per century. Yet the city has not been inundated. In fact, since 1775 the city has dramatically expanded into areas that were once covered by the ocean. In other words, people don't just stand there and drown as the rising waves break over their heads. They adapt and thrive.

McKibben dives into resource depletion as well, looking back nostalgically at The Limits to Growth, a 1972 report from the Club of Rome that describes just what the name suggests. To show the limits we've reached, McKibben cites declining fish catches since the 1990s and peaking per capita grain production in the 1980s.

McKibben is right that per capita grain supplies peaked in the 1980s, but he neglects to mention that overall global grain production has been steadily increasing since the 1970s. Consequently, per capita production has been steady. Even, as even the alarmists at the Worldwatch Institute acknowledge: "In recent decades, as growth in grain production has matched population growth, per capita production has hovered around 350 kilograms per person." And while wild-caught fish production has been falling, aquaculture has been boosting overall supplies. According to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, per capita fish consumption, about 11 kilograms per person in 1970, had risen to about 17 kilograms per person by 2006, almost entirely due to aquaculture. The more important point to be made here is one that McKibben misses: Wild-caught fisheries are declining not because their limits were reached but because they have been plundered as open-access commons.

So what should we do in the face of all this doom and gloom? "We'll need, chief among all things, to get smaller and less centralized, to focus not on growth but on maintenance, on a controlled decline from the perilous heights to which we've climbed," McKibben writes. Why? Because climate change will make it more difficult to raise food using modern agriculture and, more important, because we're about to run out of oil to drive our tractors and supply our fertilizers. Thus McKibben concludes that we will have to retreat to small towns and begin to raise food using more labor. He envisions the future on Eaarth as a kind of communitarian back-to-the-land agrarian utopia.

For the sake of argument, let's assume McKibben is right about peak oil. Does that mean the era of expansive global civilization and economic growth is over? Not necessarily. Transportation might become increasingly electrified, perhaps using new-fangled traveling wave nuclear reactors. This would reduce the demand for oil, keeping its price relatively lower for farming uses. In addition, biotechnologists have developed crop varieties that use two-thirds less nitrogen fertilizer than conventional varieties do, which also would reduce the demand for oil in farming. Civilization could well save itself by means of technological fixes and economic growth.

McKibben sees a retreat from modernity as our only option because he believes humans have reached the limits of our creativity. But there's every sign that our capacity to innovate around problems remains limitless. 

Ronald Bailey (rbailey@reason.com) is reason's science correspondent.

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265 responses to “On Being a 21st-Century Peasant

  1. To show the limits we’ve reached, McKibben cites declining fish catches since the 1990s

    I am a fan of Deadliest Catch and I seem to recall the government having something to do with limiting the catch.

    Did he mention the plummeting whaling industry too?

    Good afternoon reason!

    1. Suki: First, the Alaskan fisheries are recovering because of the creation of individually tradeable quotas which essentially privatizes them. This means that they are no longer open-access commons which brings me to my second observation which I published in the review:
      Wild-caught fisheries are declining not because their limits were reached but because they have been plundered as open-access commons. Applies to whales too.

      1. The government isn’t imposing a quota? Something else I am just not understanding right away I guess. Are the “individually tradeable quotas” like carbon credits or something?

        1. Are you actually an idiot, or do you just think it is cute?

          1. why thank you so much! I did not think it was “cute” I admitted ignorance to learn more. Thank you so much for helping out!

            1. Chad (below) is right, tradeable quotas are a cap-and-trade policy.

              Cap-and-trade is partly market-based so it’s better than just having a commons, and it’s also better than arbitrary regulations like “best practices” or “cut everything by 20% by the end of the year”; but it’s not as good as a *really* market-based solution.

              However, I’m old enough to remember back twenty, thirty years ago when the average environmentalist thought that even cap-and-trade was too free-market! (Read Alan Blinder’s _Hard Heads, Soft Hearts_ for some nice perspective.)

              1. That only goes to show how far right the American right has gone. Many of the orginal ideas behind cap-and-trade were developed by conservatives, and they represent a market-friendly compromise by the left. However, even the center is now far too far to the left for the tea-bag crowd.

                The same thing could be seen in the health care debate, when the baggers screamed that the health care bills were “left wing”, despite the obvious fact that they would only move us from the ultra-right-wing to a “still ultra-ring wing, but slightly less so” state. We still have, by a wide margin, the most right-wing health care system of any industrialized nation. Socialism indeed.

                1. If you shift from the ‘right’ to the ‘center’, does that not require a movement to the ‘left’? Describing a movement to the left as such is hardly inaccurate.

        2. Actually, the individual tradeable quotas ARE a cap-and-trade policy. Kinda funny how libertarians can grasp how this process works for fish, but not carbon.

          1. Because carbon dioxide as pollution is bullshit. Now go the fuck away, dipshit.

            1. Good advice. You should take it, Chad.

            2. Fish aren’t pollution either, dipshit.

              1. The production of CO2 at current and for that matter at anticipated levels has no environment downside. Quotas/cap and trade have no benefit. Catching too many fish means we run out of fish, so quotas make sense.

                1. Wow! Chad just admitted CO2 isn’t pollution! FINALLY, we get some truth out of the fucker.

                  1. No, I did not “admit” that, but anyway, you are just playing semantics. Whether it is pollution or not is a matter of definition. It has no bearing whatsoever on the harm that it does.

                    1. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, Chad. Of course, that unravels your entire “teh earth is doom’d” scenario/masturbatory fantasy, but hey… them’s the breaks.

                2. If you honestly believe that AGW has no downsides, you only serve as an example of how thick ideological blinders can be.

                  Please tell those whose homes will be flooded or blown off the face of the earth, or those who will face weeks on end with temperatures that are deadly, or the thousands of species that will disappear from the earth that their losses don’t represent a downside.

                  1. Lots of “will”s in there, Chad. Love your Nostradamus schtick, but it’s wearing thin.

                    IF you can actually predict the future, tell us the numbers for the next lottery.

                    1. I am perfectly willing to use the word “will” for something that is 99.9% certain to happen to some degree, and 95% certain to happen to a very significant degree.

                    2. Whatever, Nostradamus.

                    3. Huh – show me a weather forecaster who can accurately predict the weather 1 week from now 95% of the time and then we can start discussing the ability of climate models to determine what is going to happen over the next 50 years.

                      Or are you one of those people who thinks it is far easier to model global weather patterns over a period of years as opposed to local weather patterns over a period of days. If you are, then either you are utterly blinded by your ideological presuppositions and/or you are an idiot. Either way, it is pointless to discuss this subject with you any further.

    2. I am a fan of Deadliest Catch and I seem to recall the government having something to do with limiting the catch.

      And if the declines were caused by the limit, then I guess you’d be right.

      Seems the limits tend to come AFTER the declines are already caused TragicCommons treatment.

      Anyway, i’ve got this idea to genetically engineer a seaweed that grows into the digestive tract of blue crabs, so they can be aquacultured without eating each other. Then we just pick them off the “vine” when theyre ripe, Yum.

      “OMGZ, teh aquaculture PLUS teh egentic mekgineering, WHY DO YOU HATE GAIA?!?!”

      “Because Gaia doesn’t ‘put out’.”

      1. Do you consider ripe soft shell or hard?

          1. Ok, I’m on board…

        1. She said “hard”….huhhuh….huhhuh….huhhuh….huhhuh…..huhhuh….huhhuh…

        2. soft for convience

        3. soft for convience

  2. Why don’t you offer McKibben a “Simon” bet?

    1. He probably has enough money from his ZZ Top career.

      1. Rumor spreadin round,
        in that Texas town……
        But I might be mistaken.

  3. The part that amuses me most about that kind of environmental tract is that the author always implies that he/she could be trusted with the power to decide how the superscarce resource should be allocated.

    1. The other thing that amuses me is that we end up in some kind of subsistence peasant lifestyle either way. If we ignored these clowns, all of their gloom and doom predictions turned out to be true, we would end up in the same place that we would be in if we had followed their advice, except of course that they wouldn’t be in charge.

      1. We’ll why don’t you put her in charge?!?

        1. they mostly come out at night… mostly

          1. Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don’t we try that?

            1. That’s game over man!

            2. *about to smack a muthafucker with a placard*

              What the fuck ya’ll doin?

              1. ..and take the underwear off your head – enough is enough.

                1. Holy crap! A Kelly’s Heroes reference?

                  Nice!

                  1. Thanks – loved the homage in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ – (musically, anyways) assume you caught that too.

                    Big Joe as the everyman – you still bump into “him” in the Army. Thank God.

            3. Hey maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked pal!

      2. Holy Shit! I’ve only had one H&R comment linked to by Instapundit and it was under a “troll persona”. John has two IN ONE DAY. Hats off to you my friend, I am suitably impressed

      3. We’re already there in California. Drought over, but restrictions stay in place.

    2. The part that amuses me most about that kind of environmental tract is that the author always implies that he/she could be trusted with the power to decide how the superscarce resource should be allocated.

      If he’s smart enough to understand that we are all DOOMED, then he is obviously smart enough to know what we should all be forced to do to alleviate the problems.

  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_McKibben

    The guy is only a journalist who earns a living writing about “green” subjects. His wiki page, probably written by himself, lists no scientific training at all. Why should I care what so ever what he writes?

    1. You are right, GoNavy, this guy will not disappear, and every time an article is written by or about him he is propped up as some kind of authority. Well, except for the article above which points out some of his data fudging ways.

      A few months back Scientific American gave this guy pages to peddle his bad ideas. Then followed that with a q&a to “challenge” his proposals, which read more like a knee scuffing infomercial for luddite stupidity. Needless to say sci-am is suffering under a new editor, eager to politicize science.

      1. McKibben may be a hack, but dismissing him simply based on his CV is shortsighted. Amateur scientists have a long record of success, and “trained” researchers are very capable of poor work.

        1. To even mention McKibben alongside scientists, amateur and otherwise, does a great disservice to said scientist, trained and otherwise.

        2. Well, citing an op-ed as authoritative on science fact is a disqualifier. If he can’t be arsed to dig up, read, and cite the studies they were taken from, he isn’t credible.

        3. Have any of his predictions from his previous work been accurate? If no, did he explain his mistakes and how his process has improved since then? If no, then I don’t care if he’s a scientist or a shoeshine. I don’t care to hear his predictions about the future.

      2. I wondered why i stopped checking Sci-Am’s page.

        1. OH, but PNU from AIP is dead. “AIP doesn’t have the funds to post 3 summaries about the coolest new science-fun, 3 times a month. So we killed the project.”

          FUCK SCIENCE JOURNALISM.

        2. I have been a long time subscriber to sci-am, and believe that the magazine will outlive its pernicious caretakers. No matter how much harm they may do.

          1. Ok, can you tell me when its fun to read their site again?

            1. I actually loved their article on “A Grand Solar Plan”. At least they are proposing possible solutions.

              1. But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.

                “Cost-competitive”, they keep using that term, but it does not mean what they think it means, I think.

                1. (also applies to your understanding of “possible solutions”.)

                2. Inconcheivable!

                  1. I mean “incontheivable”

                    1. “You’re no match for my brain”

            2. @wylie

              I have only been to their website a couple of times. Mainly I read the print edition, and right now the cover exclaims “The Universe Is Leaking”, can’t beat that.

              The leaking universe article is very interesting, in stark contrast to the recent editorial calling for bans on advertising “unhealthy” to children, or the McKibben article.

              I think it is great when scientists see problems in the world and offer scientific solutions, but oftentimes they offer policy solutions.

              1. “unhealthy” food to children

                1. “advertising “unhealthy” food to children” Vs “cool ass Physics”

                  Yeah, fair enough.

                  1. Umm, your handle is showing, wylie.

                    Though, it is about time someone brought some boondocks up in here.

          2. 20+ year subscriber here. My current issue has a bright red cover proclaiming that it is my second-to-last, along with a renewal form. It will not be filled out.

            The McKibben piece really hammered home the abject decline of sciam, but it is all too typical of recent years. Hope you’re right about their longer-term future.

    2. Damn you “GoNavy”…because he cares…because he cares!

    3. Careful. Bailey is another journalist who earns a living writing about “green” subjects, but who has no scientific training (except, I presume, the high school classes that all of us took, and maybe a course or two in college).

      1. Mr. Bailey has no desire to run our lives.

        1. Apparently, that’s what is troubling Seamus.

      2. Give him a break! He had all that Exxon training 😉

    4. Not that I agree with this guy but do we only have to listen to people with degrees? Haven’t we had enough “authorities” with strings of degrees that don’t know their head from their ass?
      I reject the idea that only people with degrees can be authorities and that a degree gives you the knowledge to be an authority.

      1. Are there still colleges that AREN’T diploma mills? Only people who want to learn get anything out of higher education. And those people keep getting less and less for their dollar….not that my uneducated-ass would know.

        1. There are still some departments that aren’t diploma mills. And there are some colleges that I would guess are mostly composed of such departments.

          Would that count?

          I mean, the graduates might be a bit shy on the breadth thing, but they should still be well set up on the depth bit, anyway.

          1. More depth in a shithole doesn’t help.

            1. FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU JOKE HANDLES

              1. Shoulda scrolled down before posting, see: my 2:31pm comment.

      2. See above. Science involves math or at least cataloguing. Just like Mr. Bailey citing the FSU stats on numbers and intensities of hurricanes. By contrast, using an opinion piece from a newspaper, regardless of who authored it, as fact is not science. It is rhetoric — appeal to authority. If there is science behind the opinion piece, go get the science and use that.

      3. Greer, only people with *certain* degrees get to opine about global climate change. Everyone else should be thrown in prison if they disagree with the findings.

        1. That’s what I said recently! Throw ’em in prison of they say “drill, baby, drill”!

          Oh, but I am still on-board with freedom. Just not so much of it.

          1. The science is settled… but the divorce is not.

  5. In McKibben’s favor, new research by climate modelers suggests global warming will result in fewer but stronger hurricanes.

    You mean since the predictions didn’t come true they changed the predictions?!

    I predict that global temperatures are going to decrease 10 degrees in the next few years. Pay me a pile of money and if my predictions do not come to pass I will alter them. What could be more scientific?

    1. Um, total cyclonic energy has been declining for a decade- that means fewer *and* weaker.

      But of course the warm-mongers are still trying to milk Katrina for all it’s worth.

  6. Overall, surface records suggest that average temperature has increased by about 0.7 degree Celsius during the last 100 years.

    Well, that’s enough for me to say we should completely dismantle our entire economic system through onerous taxation and carbon burning restrictions.

    I mean, that’s almost a whole degree!!!.

    In a CENTURY!!

    FLOE NOES!!!

    1. FLOE NOES!!!

      *applause*

    2. What is the error band of the temp from 100 years ago. +/- of the ave temp has to be larger than the 0.7 degree increase. Any increase less that the +/- make’s it meaningless.

      1. Can’t we just go ahead and say a 0.7 degree increase in the last CENTURY is essentially meaningless from a geologically historical standpoint? How could anyone somehow correlate a REASON for the 0.7 change over 100 years when the planet has been doing this to itself in a variety of ways for hundreds of millions of years?

        1. Agree with you 100%. But people like McKibben think that the much larger temp variations in the past magically stopped ~150 years ago and now everything is our fault.

          1. …and now everything is our fault.

            Cuz that’s how they want it to be.

            1. It’s hard to believe that 0.7 could even be a statistically significant number

  7. “The earth that we knew?the only earth we ever knew?is gone.” The climate is about to get really freaky due to man-made global warming, and we’re also about to run out of oil: peak temperature and peak oil combined.

    Interesting. Do the chicken entrials tell you anything else?

    1. Also, if oil is about to run out, then why worry about global warming. No fossil fuels, no CO?

      1. COAL, OMGZ, IF OIL RUNS OUT PEOPLE WILL BE EATING COAL TO MAINTAIN THE ATMOSPHERES CO2 LEVELS!!!!!

        (Doing it right, am I?)

  8. Unlike many prior doomsters, such as Paul Ehrlich and Stephen Schneider . . .

    Schneider just co-authored a piece by the National Academy of Sciences that’s more or less a ranking of true believers and skeptics–possibly a blacklist. Maybe his good reputation is “prior,” but he isn’t.

  9. Eaarth

    I thihn I would rather watch the entire run of Earth 2 than read this hyper-Mathusian drivel.

    1. You actually made it to the end?

      1. Not sure. I kinda blocked it all out.

        The horror…the horror.

        1. *slaps JW, from the right, then from the left*

          “He’s completely non responsive, check his net history…OH GOD, get him on a respirator, STAT!.”

  10. Now we see the violence inherent in the system.

    1. Who’s that then?

      I dunno, must be a king.

      Why?

      He hasn’t got shit all over him.

  11. “I thihn..” Geez.

    Tattoo! The plane!

  12. These guys are sure in love with the idea of us all living as dirt-busting peasants. Have any of them actually lived that way? They do understand, I hope, that the lifestyle they romanticize so much is round-the-clock backbreaking work with nary a Starbucks or hipster fusion restaurant in sight?

    1. THEY won’t have to live that way, because us peasants will be so grateful for Their Guidance, we’ll give them a share of our crops on a regular basis.

      Or string them up for fucking us over, same/diff.

      1. pitchforks don’t kill nobles, peasants do.

        1. I just got done forking-up two beds in my yard too….

        2. Of course their revolting. Are they rebelling?

          1. Based on one of my favorite Johnny Hart lines:

            Sir Rodney: “Sire, the peasants are revolting.”
            King: “You can say that again.”

            1. Count DeMoney: “Sire, the peasants are revolting!”
              King Louis: “Yeah, they stink on ice.”

    2. Although Wylie beat me to it, I’d point out that medeival society also had a clerical class. Only this time, instead of Christianity, they’ll peddle us Gaia-worship. And Gaia demands BLOOD, dammmit!!!

      1. Jesus is going to be so pissed if he ever manages to find his way back to earth.

        1. I think you meant Eaarth Wylie

    3. Think, North Korea.

      1. is “think” the right word there?

        1. Life in North Korea isn’t so bad. When we eventually have their lifestyle, I’ll tell you to suck it up and deal with it. It’ll be for your own good, after all.

    4. I hate the people who try and tell you “money is the root of all that kills” – they have never been poor, they have never known the joy of a welfare christmas…

  13. Sure, the peasants won’t like it, but the kings will get to have 20-30 babes. With no TV, f*cking will be the only entertainment (except the pig dung wrestling tournements).

    1. ….and the public floggings of The Non-Believers.

    2. ….and the spankings!

      1. Can’t I stay for just a bit of peril?

        1. No, the peril is…too perilous…

      2. wicked, evil Zoot

    3. Hail to the King, baby. Hail to the King.

      1. It’s GOOD to be the King

      2. Are all Brett L’s from the internet foul-mouthed braggarts?

  14. RB, even though this is totally obvious but I think it’s important to emphasize that while the numbers for weather-related mortality have been plummeting, the population has also been rising, so the rate of weather-related deaths have gone down hugely.

    1. STOP TRYING TO USE LOGIC!!! ITS NOT FAIR/EQUAL/Commune-Based!!!!!

  15. McKibben sees a retreat from modernity as our only option because he believes humans have reached the limits of our creativity. But there’s every sign that our capacity to innovate around problems remains limitless.

    I should have skipped to the end…this is it in a nutshell. “Ohhh, noes!! Teh wethur and climemates ur changin an its teh end of teh Wurld as we no it!” Or not – adapt, innovate, modify, survive. Like human being type things have done for millenia. Yaaaaaawn…

    But in case the oceans do continue to rise, I’m getting a bigger boat, just in case (YES!).

    1. Admit it: you just wanted an excuse to save up for the bigger boat. Can i get a ride? I can swab decks with the best of em!

    2. I love the “humanity will adapt” excuse. So your greedy, unsustainable lifestyle will cause major changes in the environment–the worst effects of which will be felt by those NOT living your pampered lifestyle.

      Your advice–adapt–means, to them, please die off. The species adapting means just that–most people dying off.

      Of all the excuses for doing nothing the natural selection argument is the least morally justifiable.

      1. “Excuse”? Just reality, Chone. Join it sometime.

        But you’re not invited on my boat till you can be more civil….

        1. And Wylie, yes

          1. BUT REALITY IS HARD!!!!

        2. So we do nothing now. Then what? I suppose we implement a massive command-and-control outfit to redress the harm done to innocent people for our crimes against nature? Thought not. “Let them die,” is your attitude. How is that any different from “let’s kill them, they are unfit?” Fucking eugenicist libertarians.

          1. In laboratories all over the world people are working on scientific solutions to ecological problems. The most successful of these thinkers will profit handsomely when they solve problems related to pollution, global warming, limited resources…etc.

            But you, in your myopic view of the world, and pessimistic opinion of human nature only allow for coercion and legislation to solve these problems.

            Problems, in your world, aren’t solved by scientists and engineers, but rather politicians.

            I would feel sorry for you, if you didn’t feel the need to lash out like a child…calling people eugenicists.

            1. Well, the scientists probably won’t profit handsomely. The soulless corporate entities run by semi-retarded MBAs that exploit their knowledge and talent will be doing that.

              The only reason I include politicians in the mix is because the problems are on the scale necessary for governments to act. So it’s best we have decent politicians working in the people’s interest, isn’t it?

              1. So it’s best we have decent politicians working in the people’s interest, isn’t it?<?i>

                Good luck with that.

              2. “So it’s best we have decent politicians working in the people’s interest, isn’t it?”

                That WOULD be a nice change of pace, Tony. It’s just too bad that a) there is no such thing as a “decent politician” and b) your idea of one is “someone who believes the planet is doomed because politicians don’t force the peasants to ride bicycles while the ruling class gets to keep their limos, planes, and multiple homes”.

              3. …best we have decent politicians…

                Sounds good. Where can we find some?

            2. capital l: I suggest you play Russian Roulette tonight. Don’t worry, I am sure someone will invent a solution to your “bullet hurling towards brain” problem if the wrong chamber comes up.

            3. Troll alert. Don’t fall for troll.

          2. For crimes against electrons I sentence you to live like the “innocent people” you are so enthralled with.

          3. “we implement a massive command-and-control outfit”

            IOW… dictatorship. Police state.

            Fifty-fifty chance it happens under R or D leadership, but we are headed there. Are ya happy now, Tony?

      2. Funny, your arguments apply much better to the permanent deficits run by most governments. Except the major changes are not on the environment but on the economic structure. Screw your grandkids, I want my entitlements now!

      3. So your greedy, unsustainable lifestyle…

        Tony, do tell us about your sustainable lifestyle.

        Enquiring minds want to know.

        1. Mine’s at least as greedy and unsustainable as anyone’s. I’m not indicting you for that, we don’t have much of a choice in our society. I’m just wondering if in addition to adopting a piggish lifestyle you guys feel that poor people on the other side of the world should have to pay for it.

          1. You lie. You do have a choice. You can be intellectually honest and go live the type of sustainable lifestyle you want. The only difference between you and the unabomber was that he was intellectually honest. You are a class A hypocrite.

      4. So you’re saying that you support the industrialization of poor countries because it would increase their ability to survive catastrophic events? They would need protection of their individual property rights and to remain free to engage in industry and trade. There might even be some CO2 and inequality involved. Are you sure you’re okay with that or would you rather they stayed poor because it makes such a good bargaining chip for green-activists?

        1. at tony

        2. Developing countries don’t have the option of rapidly growing with the help of fossil fuel energy as we did. SO it behooves all of us to come up with alternatives. The first thing I want to avoid is making people who didn’t have anything to do with our prosperity pay for the consequences of it.

          1. So China and India aren’t developing rapidly using “fossil fuels”? I get it, they are exceptions to your rule. The rest of underdeveloped world can’t do that.

      5. Tony, you live a pampered, privileged, greedy life too (I can tell because you spend lots of time posting stupid comments on the internet; you could have bought some food for starving people with the money you spent on your computer). And everyone who doesn’t have such a life wants one. The problem is not the rich using too much, it is human nature and desires taken as a whole. You had damn well better hope that humanity will adapt, because this is what is happening.

        1. I not only hope humanity adapts, I demand much more than that nihilistic lowball. And I expect libertarians and conservatives to obstruct each step of the way in the name of “freedom.”

          1. Then please lead by example. Quit posting here until you live a subsistence lifestyle where you grow your own food and make your own clean energy. Otherwise you are just another hypocrite that sucks on the teat of big energy and then feels bad about. Find yourself a 12-step group to help you end your addiction to big energy/big business.

      6. Assuming, Tony, that the future will be as grim as you say it will be

      7. Oh yes you need a pampered lifestyle to construct technology that is thousands of years old in order to stave off rising seas over a timeframe of many decades or centuries.

    3. Living at 5800 ft I for one would enjoy some beach front property. Alas to reach me the ocean would have to rise high enough to flow over 8 – 10 k peaks and I’d need a houseboat then.

  16. How does McKibben’s book differ from “the time-honored structure of [Austrian economists’] tracts, opening with a quick rehearsal of the science that allegedly seals our terrible fate, followed by a much longer disquisition outlining the author’s elaborate plan for salvation”?

    In other words, why do libertarians give Austrian economists a pass on their repeatedly falsified predictions of doom for the American economy?

    1. Really excellent point.

      IMO, in both cases things have gone on longer than exepected because we’ve went further into debt than many thought we could.

      But eventually things always catch up with us. Debts must be paid down.

      Scientific progress is good but it doesn’t completely alleivate natural resource constraints. For example, a power saw will help you build a house, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need building materials as well.

      I don’t think doom and gloom is inevitable, but I don’t think we should ignore real world problems either. And I do think that our current society is based on the unsustainable use of a number of resources. Cheap oil being the biggest of course.

    2. Ummm…Markie…in case you haven’t been following the news, we just went through a financial crisis that fits the Austrian model to a T. I mean R-squared of 99% kind of fits the model.

      1. “Ummm…Markie…in case you haven’t been following the news, we just went through a financial crisis that fits the Austrian model to a T. I mean R-squared of 99% kind of fits the model.”

        Yes, but it took much longer than most of them thought.

        1. Keep predicting a catastrophe, and eventually you will be proven right.

          1. Maybe, maybe not.

            I think you still need to look at the reasons for the predictions and ask “does this make sense”.

            The arguments about being over indebted leading to crises have been proved over and over (see the book “this time it’s different”).

            1. hmmm… Malthus
              hahahahahah

            2. I agree. Debt is the core of our problems, and has been many time in our past. The question is how to successfully unwind this debt without sending the country (or the world) into an economic death spiral, which would only worsen the problem. That’s exactly what happens when everyone tries to de-leverage at once.

              Btw, Bill D is full of shit. Austrians don’t make any numerical predictions. Otherwise they could be proven wrong.

              1. If debt is bad, then Obama making it worse by increasing the debt with his uncontrollable, useless spending programs SHOULD be something you would not defend, Chad.

                1. Wrong. Government SHOULD be deficit spending during recessions. That is not the problem.

                  The problem is that Republicans deficit spend during the good times.

                  And don’t claim “But we’re libertarians…”. That’s just a lame attempt to escape responsibility for the goons whom you little piggies get elected.

                  1. Wrong. Government SHOULD be deficit spending during recessions. That is not the problem.

                    Perhaps. The problem is the pols can’t bring themselves to stop when we’re *out* of the recessions. It just goes on and on and on…., so it just makes things worse in the long run. Maybe we in fact never get out of recession, so we must continue to deficit spend in perpetuity.

              2. Choad,

                I was using a figure of speech. No one claimed a mathematical prediction (hence the ‘kind of’). Merely that events with the financial crisis have the followed Austrian model precisely.
                I note that your comments on this topic seem to curiously omit any assessment of the nature and causes of the current crisis. Why is that?

    3. Um, cause they’re all secret Hitler Youth with ties to Austria?

      That’s just a guess…

    4. Just as no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects the doom…til it arrives.

  17. “Wild-caught fisheries are declining not because their limits were reached but because they have been plundered as open-access commons.

    Same difference. The sustainable limit of how many fish that can be withdrawn each year has been exceeded.

    Advocating a solution doesn’t dismiss the problem. Over fishing.

  18. This Eaarth place sounds like a bummer!
    I’m movin to Maars!

    This fuckin idiot.

  19. Didn’t I read just yesterday that the peak oil time line had been pushed back yet again? And if it’s true that oil is not only fossil fuel but also of abiotic origins and continues to be manufactured deep in earth’s crust, why should we run out at all?

    “…McKibben cites a 2008 New York Times op-ed that claims the last 30 years have yielded as many weather-related disasters as the first three-quarters of the 20th century.”

    Some 40 years ago, a meteorologist told me that wild and wacky weather was the norm for planet earth. He said the 20th century had been a period of relative calm, but that we were poised to return to normal weather patterns (wild and wacky) within, he estimated, the next ten years. I’ve never forgotten him because what he said was going to happen is exactly what did happen and right on schedule. Welcome to normal.

    1. I dunno. I kinda like wacky weather. Lived in San Diego too long, I guess. Here in the mountains, it’s more interesting to look out of the window in the morning.

      1. Wacky weather is great. I don’t have to feel feel bad about liking it either, because unlike human caused disasters, natural disaster is morally neutral and it’s nobody’s fault. And what I think about it makes no difference to the weather.

    2. Didn’t I read just yesterday that the peak oil time line had been pushed back yet again?

      Congress should just keep pushing it back, just like they keep raising the debt limit. We’ll never haver to worry about it.

  20. It has always seemed to me that prophesying doom coming simultaneously from CO2 causing out-of-control global warming, and our running out of fossil fuels, makes little sense.

    Let’s say this douche is 100% right about one — if that’s the case, he can’t be right about the other, right?

  21. “And I do think that our current society is based on the unsustainable use of a number of resources. Cheap oil being the biggest of course.”

    Escalating taxes and onerous regulations haven’t impacted the cost of oil, correct?

    1. Not enough they haven’t. Our society does ok when oil is below $80-100 or so. Once it starts to hit $120-140 a lot of business/transportation decisions don’t make sense anymore.

    2. Those things are largely balanced by government subsidies for oil extraction. It is hard to say how oil prices are affected by the combination of market distorting factors.

  22. I dunno about the environment, but I feel more like a peasant every day.

    1. You can thank Me for that, cynical.

  23. Doesn’t global warming have just a little bit to do with sun flares and shit?
    Didn’t we survive a 2nd ice age?
    I bet global warming doesn’t bother anyone living in greenland. Then they can actually farm up for a good portion of the year. Maybe even go swimming once in a while.
    If the ocean starts rising and reaches austin…what the hell! i’ve always wanted to live on a beach.
    also, hasn’t the earth gone through something like 12 different extinctions? if mother nature wants us out…i don’t think driving a prius is going to stop her.

    1. Mabee, you should stop being a deluded fool, and just believe what We tell you.

  24. This guy sounds just like James Howard Kuntler

  25. These guys need to come up with a new metaphor.

    A greenhouse is a building designed to maintain a constant temperature inside so that the plants inside it can flourish and grow while seasonal temperatures and rainfall varies outside. The way you do it is you build a structural frame, cover it with plastic or glass, then finally you put a humidifier in it.

    The purpose of the humidifier is to introduce Earth’s primary greenhouse gas, WATER VAPOR, into the system. The presence of water vapor, high humidity, is what produces a stable temperature, inside the greenhouse and in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases absorb and diffuse heat, they do not generate heat, radiant energy from the sun does that. They do not make the air inside the greenhouse unstable, they do not contribute to instability in the atmosphere, the uneven distribution of radiant energy over the surface of the Earth drives atmospheric dynamics, which by the way is nonlinear.

    The idea that industrially produced carbon dioxide could increase atmospheric temperature to something unlivable was speculated about in Science Fiction stories by Larry Niven about forty years ago. It has been transformed from a Science Fiction fantasy into propaganda by scientific elites who believe the public is too stupid to understand the value of research for its own sake, and by politicians who gain power by scaring the public with a nonsensical threat, then saving us with a solution which means ever increasing levels of government power over our lives.

    The “Threat of Global Warming” is even less real than the threat of terrorism, or drugs, or Mexicans, or anything else the TV tries to frighten us about.

    Just ask one of these clowns what the weather will be two weeks from today. No one can answer that one wtih the most advanced computer analysis in the world.

    1. Just ask one of these clowns what the weather will be two weeks from today. No one can answer that one wtih the most advanced computer analysis in the world.

      Yeah but then it would only take 2 weeks for them to prove themselves wrong and get defunded. This way they’re on the gravy train ’til 2150, minimum

      1. Overall climate I think is a bit easier to predict than the exact weather.

        For example, I can’t tell you what the exact weather forecast is for any one day in Vegas, but I can tell you that it will be hot in the summer.

        1. Overall climate is based on averages of past data.

          “Past performance is no prediction of future results.” Is the standard disclaimer in the financial industry.

          To predict the future atmosphere you have to develop a linear approximation to a nonlinear system, but the error in the calculations grows exponentially, so after a week your predictions are “overwhelmed” by error.

          1. But “past performance is often an indicator of future performance” is the basis of all science and all knowledge about cause and effect.

            1. Look up Markov Chains on wikipedia.
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markov_chain

              You assume the world is deterministic and knowable and Scientists are Gods.

          2. Van, where do you get the idea that climate models are “linear”? They most definitely are not. The basic equations fit various power laws and are not remotely linear.

            1. Can you cite an example? I was speaking to the fact that numerical Weather prediction models are large complex Matrices of first order linear equations. I should have said future Weather. Weather prediction not Climate prediction.

              The type of climate data Kroneborge was referring to, that gives you the ability to predict it will be hot in Las Vegas in the Summer, is based on seasonally averaged temperatures in the past.

              1. I agree, weather prediction is not climate prediction.

          3. Overall climate is based on averages of past data.

            That’s basically how the insurance industry works, isn’t it? They look at past data, figure the probability of future recurrences, and translate that into pricing?

            1. I believe the type of mathematics used for arbitrage by the actuaries and statisticians at insurance companies is actually more complex than that used for a practical climate model like GRAM 99.

              Arbitrage is where a “really smart” kid would go if he were good at mathematics. The math prodigies I knew are employed in that industry now.

              I had the opportunity to study “Global Warming” about fifteen years ago. I instantly recognized it as a pork barrel program and got the hell away from it and anyone who was studying it or believed in it. I was lucky enough as an undergrad to take classes from a talented Assistant Prof who taught me what the phrase “Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions” means.

              http://gcmd.nasa.gov/records/GRAM-99.html

        2. “Overall climate I think is a bit easier to predict than the exact weather.”

          1. You’re not predicting climate change in this case; you’re predicting climate same.

          2. Call me when anyone has made significant predictions of world temperatures/weather/anything more than fifty years out to within a degree. I’m not convinced that computer models can accurately predict future outcomes until they establish some track record.

          1. You don’t have to be accurate to a degree. You just need to get the overall trend right.

            We have to make decisions every day based on uncertain data and an uncertain future. This is no different.

            The argument for taking action about climate change is about reducing risks, not certainities.

            1. Post Normal Science has showed up at Reason. The problem is that we have a planet that is 5 billion years old and has gone through heating and cooling cycles multiple times. The trend you speak of is only an issue if it is significantly different than past trends. That is what the debate is about.

              1. When, in the past, did any force on earth decide to throw petatons of carbon into the atmosphere in the blink of an eye? What happened?

                1. More “it’s all mankind’s fault” bullshit.

                  Still using energy from carbon-based sources, Chad? If so, you need to shut the fuck up and stop being a hypocrite.

                  You, AND Al Gore.

                  1. I offset 50% more than I spew, just in case.

                    Most of the carbon I know emit is baked into the system, which is why I am working to change it.

                    1. Bullshit, Chad. Even if you could pull that off, by your standards you’re STILL killing Mother Earth.

                      Die by your own hand, that’s the only way you can help.

                    2. No, by my standards, offsets are just fine. Pollution is fungible for the most part, especially CO2.

                    3. Cheater. Offsets should not be kosher to you, if you actually gave a shit about the environment.

                    4. Why? If I remove pollution here and add it there, it generally doesn’t matter. It’s a wash.

                      I find it odd how the fringe left and fringe right both hate offsets for the same reason: they are easy.

                      The left doesn’t want it to be easy, because they have been doing it the hard way for so long and they don’t want to look dumb. The right doesn’t want it to be easy, because then their excuses grow thin in a hurry.

                      Either way, offsets can and do work, as long as you have a solid verification system.

          2. The first predictions about global warming are nearly 120 years old, and given the utterly crude information and calculators they had at the time, pretty darned accurate.

    2. The idea that industrially produced carbon dioxide could increase atmospheric temperature to something unlivable was speculated about in Science Fiction stories by Larry Niven about forty years ago.

      That’s probably because Niven read some of the scientific reports that had been written 80 years prior on the same topic.

      1. And since then Physics and Chemistry have made additional strides in their maturity. Plenty of science papers exist today that rebut the myth of runaway global warming.

        1. “Plenty” as in, what, 1% of the relevant papers?

      2. So you do not contend the following statement?

        It has been transformed from a Science Fiction fantasy into propaganda by scientific elites who believe the public is too stupid to understand the value of research for its own sake, and by politicians who gain power by scaring the public with a nonsensical threat, then saving us with a solution which means ever increasing levels of government power over our lives.

        1. The science-fiction is settled!

        2. You have it backwards, Van. It was transformed from science to science fiction, not the reverse.

          1. But you agree with me that “Global Warming” is propaganda?

            1. Of course not. “global warming” is one of many names given to a well-established scientific phenomenon. Those two words are about as accurate two-word distillation of the idea as you can come up with.

              1. You are a true believer, not a Scientist. But you are quite right when you describe global warming as an idea. It is only an idea. It has no basis in fact. Someone could write a really cool science fiction story based on this idea, but basing public policy on it is insane. It is well-established in the sense that money is being spent, or in the sense that the Ptolemaic model of the Universe was well established.

                1. No, in fact, I am a scientist. It’s a decent enough job if you can get it.

                  As a scientist, I understand that

                  A: Scientists take their work seriously

                  B: Scientists are pretty damned smart

                  C: A journal paper represents lots of work by lots of smart people, that has been scrutinized time and time again by even more smart people who have every incentive to ask hard questions and poke holes in whatever the paper is claiming

                  D: Scientists rarely, if ever, have a financial incentive to fake or mis-represent data. Any possible gains are small, and the consequences of getting caught are career-ending. Neverless, even our minor, second-order conflicts of interest are taken very seriously, and we object strongly to any pressure from above to alter our opinions or findings.

                  E: The crackpot crap that is spewed by the deniers around here wouldn’t even pass for a B grade in a sophomore-level class, let alone anything that would get published.

                  1. Ok, so you are a true believer and a Scientist.

                    “D: Scientists rarely, if ever, have a financial incentive to fake or mis-represent data.”

                    You are living in a alternate reality. Here on Earth scientists, managers, accountants, and lawyers fake data routinely. Scientists are not the Boy Scouts you portray them to be.

                    Consensus is not proof. It is a classic example of Argumentum ad Populum. Here’s a link in case you don’t’ know what that is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..popularity

                    Maybe if you get enough “smart people” together, your ideas will start having sex, and you can figure this one out.

                    1. I forgot to add argumentum ad verecundiam and argumentum ad antiquitatem. Look ’em up, learn ’em live ’em.

                      Scientists and Engineers are normally not taught logic these days. Logic has been relegated to Philosophy departments.

                    2. You do realize that I *am* a scientist and spend most of the days of my life surrounded by them, right?

                      It is almost inconceivable to come up with scenarios where it is a good idea for a scientist to lie, and in those cases, the conflicts of interest are so obvious and direct that they are accounted for by everyone. I have never personally heard of any of my colleagues, any time, anyhow, anywhere, being pushed by a lawyer, manager, etc to lie, and I can assure you, if such ever happened, all hell would break loose.

                      The odds of thousands of climate scientists doing this simultaneously for no apparent reason are less than zero.

                    3. You’re assuming a conspiracy. is it a conspiracy that 99% of academia are political liberals? No. Is is a conspiracy that most public employees are politically liberal? No. Don’t be so obtuse: it doesn’t require a conspiracy to end up at a place where massive self interest drives a bias that may even be quite subliminal. Scientists, like all humans tend to protect their rice bowls.

                      And by the way: all hell HAS broken loose with ClimateGate. The trail of perfidious behavior by many key individuals in the ‘climate science’ community is now unfortunately quite well documented.

                    4. A conspiracy? Go back and reread my posts, the word does not appear there.

                      But wait a minute, are you pulling my leg with a satirical post?

                    5. 99%? Citation, please. Specific to scientists would be nice.

                      You have it backwards anyway. Scientists are generally moving left because the facts are, not vice versa. The right no longer gives a shit about limiting itself to valid arguments.

                      As I have said repeatedly, there is no connection to the “rice bowls”. Getting the CORRECT answer advances your career. Getting wrong answers hurts it. Deliberately getting wrong answers ends it. The incentives lie overwhelming with the truth in virtually every case imaginable.

                    6. A Scientist is someone who follows the scientific method, not someone with University degrees.

                      I have no way of knowing whether you are a scientist or not, but it is evident from your posts that you are a mediocrity in whatever field you are employed.

                      You have presented no evidence in favor of Global Warming, instead you have argued in favor of Scientists’ infallible credibility by utilizing the following fallacious arguments; the argument from consensus, the argument from authority, and the argument from tradition.

                      You are ignorant and pretentious. You have no idea who you are addressing. I hold a BS Physics and an MS Mathematics and have studied Chaos, Nonlinear Ordinary Differential Equations, Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations, and Numerical Analysis. My specialization is Six Degrees of Freedom Flight simulations.

                      In the course of a thirty year career as a Systems Analyst and Scientific Programmer I have worked with recognized Physicists in the following areas of specialization; Particle Physics, Underwater Acoustics, Astrophysics, Gamma Ray Astronomy, Radar, Optics, and yes Atmospheric Physics.

                      I have met Dr. John R. Christy, since we live in the same town, and I have discussed his global temperature studies with him informally.

                      Your posts are quite tiresome. Exactly what is it you are trying to convince me of?

                      That’s a rhetorical question, please don’t answer this post, you will only continue to make an ass of yourself.

                    7. It is impossible to force an ass to drink, even if you drag him across a hundred miles of desert to the only lake on the continent.

                      The facts are out there. Any monkey can find them, even you I suppose. You can start with the obvious websites that summarize them, and then move into the literature for more details than you could read in a hundred lifetimes. Surely you know this.

                      I argue based on the DATA, of which you have none. All the deniers lumped together have but a speck of fly shit’s worth, which is utterly dwarfed by both the quality and quantity of opposing data. You have no alternative theory for the observed warming that holds up to even the barest scrutiny, nor do you have an explanation of how greenhouse gases could possibly NOT cause warming. You just scream about “uncertainty” and “natural variation”, as if you don’t ever act in the face of the former, and the latter is some sort of voodoo that happens without cause. You repeat the same old arguments no matter how thin the data supporting them and how many times they are debunked. You are completely anti-skeptical of sources from an obviously-biased ultra-minority, but express extreme skeptism of data that conflicts with your beliefs (I’ll take Confirmation Bias for $500, please, Alex).

                      Btw, except for age, my creditials trump yours, too. So sorry….

                    8. I’ll repeat myself. Exactly what is it you are trying to convince me of?

                      You seem to have developed a masochistic attachment to me. You should stop. You are making a horse’s ass out of yourself.

                    9. Ok, so you are a true believer and a Scientist.

                      And “pretty damned smart”, don’t forget.

    3. The “Threat of Global Warming” is even less real than the threat of terrorism, or drugs, or Mexicans, or anything else the TV tries to frighten us about.

      To get a better idea of what I’m going on about in my post, check out this BBC documentary which was suppressed in the U.S.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T…..Nightmares

      Both the political right and left, democrats and republicans, use these techniques to frighten people and pursue their agendas. The solutions offered are always Authoritarian.

  26. Every time I hear one of these doomsday prophets wank, I run a do-it-myself oil change into the backyard sod, whether it needs it or not.

    Every time I hear Tony wank, I flush antifreeze down the septic.

    1. Another fun thing to do is make a “time capsule” out of one of those plastic bottles that is supposed to last for a thousand years in a landfill.

      You can help or hopelessly confuse future archeologists with the messages you place in those bottles, then bury them where they can be dug up later, toss them into bogs, etc.

    2. Well that is just stupid. Whatever you think of environmental alarmism, dumping toxic substances into the environment is a needlessly destructive and harmful thing to do.

      Van’s idea I like though.

      1. It could mean hours or a lifetime of fun and be instructional for kids.

        A multilingual set of instructions from, say, a camera, preserved in a plastic bottle could provide our ancestors with a kind of Rosetta stone.

        On the prankster side, you could leave them some sort of confusing note describing Barbie as a fertility Goddess, or a brief biographical sketch describing Paris Hilton as our greatest intellectual.

        In the post apocalyptic world that is sure to come, these plastic bottles will be priceless links with the past.

        1. Or Joe Biden as a Vice President. I like this!

  27. “Civilization could well save itself by means of technological fixes and economic growth.”

    Since that’s all civilization ever does, and always has done, it’s funny to see the qualifier “could”.

  28. “We’ll need, chief among all things, to get smaller and less centralized, to focus not on growth but on maintenance, on a controlled decline from the perilous heights to which we’ve climbed,” McKibben writes. Why? Because climate change will make it more difficult to raise food using modern agriculture and, more important, because we’re about to run out of oil to drive our tractors and supply our fertilizers. Thus McKibben concludes that we will have to retreat to small towns and begin to raise food using more labor.

    Why would a shift from petroleum cause populations to become decentralized? Before the United States achieved mass motorization, population density was much higher in more centralized cities and towns along highly efficient private transportation routes. And modern agricultural engineering is always increasing the output of crops on smaller areas, while reducing the amount of energy required to harvest. What a dumbass.

  29. Worried about the effects of a .7 degree C temperature rise in a hundred years? Rub the palms of your hands together, brisky, for about 20 to 30 seconds. Result? That temperature rise, give or take .15 degree. Are you scared now??

    1. But… but… the externalities…

  30. Urm…wasn’t this originally posted back in April?

    https://reason.com/archives/201…..ury-peasan

  31. “Peak Oil” is irrelevant. If a long-term decline in the supply of petroleum happens, the result will be the manufacture of gasoline/diesel/kerosene/etc. from coal and water for far less than $100/bbl-equivalent. Both coal and water are in abundant supply, and this doesn’t require any “innovation”, just further application of already-existing technology.

    Anybody who tries to get you to take Peak Oil seriously is either profoundly ignorant of energy technology or deliberately deceiving you.

    1. Exactly- peak oil is moot because other technologies become cost competetive as their price decreases while the price of petroleum increases.

    2. Yes, the production of hydrocarbon compounds capable of use for storage and release of energy is not dependent upon dead dinosaurs alone (nice for making a snappy cartoon advertisement, a la Dino the Dinosaur, but that’s about it). Seems that some clever folks have discovered organisms that eat CO2 and water, and shit diesel. Nice. Which somewhat tracks with the hypothesis a couple of Russian guys came up with the Crude Oil is actually the result of a naturally occurring biological process other than the decay of paleo bio mass. Put that together with evidence coming out of various marine research that there are hydrocarbon-dependent life cycles at very deep, very cold depths (not dependent upon photo-synthesis), and it’s starting to look like Petroleum actually may be the ULTIMATE renewable resource. Oh, the irony. And the schadenfruede. Well, of course, if all that chains together in an actual cycle, which is not altogether an implausible idea. . .

      1. The Russian guys you are referring to were also lionized by the late Thomas Gold at Cornell. Known as the abiogenic petroleum origin theory, it has never found so much as a dram of oil.

    3. Well, except….

      1: Coal isn’t nearly abundant as you think it is. Neither is water.

      2: The process is utterly filthy and polluting every which way to Sunday. If these costs were internalized, as they should be, this process would never be competitive.

  32. “McKibben sees a retreat from modernity as our only option because he believes humans have reached the limits of our creativity.”

    Hmmm…. that seems familiar. Where have I heard that idea before?

    Oh yeah… back around 1895, when they wanted to shut down the patent office, ’cause everthing’s been invented already.

    Well, how’d that work out?

  33. back around 1895, when they wanted
    to shut down the patent office.

    A Roman bureaucrat had the idea 1st.

    Niven and Pournelle later co-authored
    ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’ which had
    an alien species structure society
    to survive, or at least recover from,
    socioeconomic collapse; They did have
    more motivation: Their population
    increase was uncontrollable.

    1. I found out recently that Niven and Pournelle developed many of the concepts behind SDI. One wonders at the implications posed by that fact.

      I’ll never forgive Niven for starting to collaborate with other writers instead of pursuing his own individual vision. His own stories were so much better than the collaborations.

  34. You’ve got to sympathize with McKibbon. To do all that work on a book only to learn after it’s too late that your sources for data were hopelessly compromised (melting ice caps? melting glaciers? Not). So, do you do a primal “Never mind” or do you go to presses? I think we know the answer to that. Poor schmuck.

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