Here's part of my note to Lewis that he asked me to post to the discussion forum. When I talk about preferring to build websites, I'm mostly referencing http://www.nutritionequation.org/
, which I set up to help people think about healthy nutrition.
I wanted to challenge you with the idea that the civilization we know is about to change, hugely, but not for the reasons most people think about. Your book could be relevant to thinking about those changes. People often have trouble distinguishing symptoms from underlying causation. Right now there’s a tendency to focus on the environmental degradation symptom instead of asking “why" at a fundamental level. That relates to the typical limits of the mental modeling facility we evolved which let us second guess the large herbivores we chased for 1.8 million years until their extinction. The extinction may have been due in part to our being the most effective predator this planet has ever known, eating a high fat diet which results in a metabolic shift to ketone metabolism. Loss of the good food forced us to find new food sources; scratching the ground and eating more carbohydrates. Our cousins the Neanderthals and remnant Homo erectus may have gone extinct because they weren’t as adaptable to alternate foods.
The anthropological record shows when agriculture began we got smaller, less healthy, but way more numerous. Staying in one spot and growing lots of low quality calories did allow the development of civilization as we conceive it. The actual pathology I describe in Nutrition Equation didn’t appear until we started to use technology to refine sugars into an easily consumed toxic substance. Once agrarian societies started, there’s been a pattern of population cycles, what Turchin and Nefedov call Secular Cycles (http://cliodynamics.info/SEC.htm
Societies learn the technologies to exploit a resource or set of resources, grow lots of food, then grow lots of people. The carrying capacity of the region is reached, often tied to environmental degradation or change. There’s a greater or lesser phase of reformation, typically associated with population collapse. One way to look at this is as a repeated pattern of harnessing energy sources that fuel the expansion until those energy sources are exhausted. People aren’t well wired to extend their mental models to envision resource exhaustion, not even well-educated academics. Notice that conventional economists have great difficulty discussing energy intelligently. There’s an odd paradigm dominating economics, the demand driven models. This seems to date to the 1940s when energy, specifically petroleum, became so inexpensive that they could start using and teaching mathematical models that ignored the cost of energy. There’s a great, emperor-has-no clothes lecture by deceased physicist Al Bartlett discussing the absurdity of endless growth paradigms— http://www.albartlett.org/presentations ... nergy.html
We are at the zenith of the greatest cycle in humanity’s history, fueled by hydrocarbons, in particular oil. Unfortunately, conventional petroleum production peaked in 2005. Not all economists are embedded in the demand paradigm. Jeff Rubin and Steven Kopits are clued-in economists who talk about the implications—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_-uomh0iY0
-- Jeff’s overview of his latest book, The Big Flatline in this country.http://tv.peak-oil.org/steven-kopits-oi ... e-economy/
-Steven talking about the same topics with a bit more rigorhttp://energypolicy.columbia.edu/events ... ey-drivers
— Steven debunking the demand-driven models.
James Hamilton at UC San Diego has noticed that when oil gets expensive, the U.S. has recessions— http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~jhamilton/oil_history.pdf
Gai Tverberg is an actuary who takes a more pessimistic view— http://ourfiniteworld.com
Very soon, perhaps 2-3 years, the large oil producers, in particular Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, will start to have difficulty sustaining production. Economies will begin to contract I suspect. We’re headed into the Crisis Phase of the current Secular Cycle, according to Gail. I’m reasonably confident humans will adapt, assuming we don’t make the world uninhabitable. A good nuclear exchange might do that trick. But the adaptation won’t be pleasant, and is likely to involve a serious population crash.
Your book may be a useful tool in thinking about how to preserve some semblance of a civilization. I’ll look at it when it appears. I do think you should think a bit more about the energy that powers civilizations. Perhaps another book, although I prefer building websites.