A few days from now, 2016 will have passed into the history books. I know a fair number of people who won’t mourn its departure, but it’s pretty much a given that the New Year celebrations here in the United States, at least, will demonstrate a marked shortage of enthusiasm for the arrival of 2017.
There’s good reason for that, and not just for the bedraggled supporters of Hillary Clinton’s failed and feckless presidential ambitions. None of the pressures that made 2016 a cratered landscape of failed hopes and realized nightmares have gone away. Indeed, many of them are accelerating, as the attempt to maintain a failed model of business as usual in the teeth of political, economic, and environmental realities piles blowback upon blowback onto the loading dock of the new year.
Before we get into that, though, I want to continue the annual Archdruid Report tradition and review the New Year’s predictions that I made at the beginning of 2016. Those of my readers who want to review the original post will find it here. Here’s the gist.
“Thus my core prediction for 2016 is that all the things that got worse in 2015 will keep on getting worse over the year to come. The ongoing depletion of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources will keep squeezing the global economy, as the real (i.e., nonfinancial) costs of resource extraction eat up more and more of the world’s total economic output, and this will drive drastic swings in the price of energy and commodities—currently those are still headed down, but they’ll soar again in a few years as demand destruction completes its work. The empty words in Paris a few weeks ago will do nothing to slow the rate at which greenhouse gases are dumped into the atmosphere, raising the economic and human cost of climate-related disasters above 2015’s ghastly totals—and once again, the hard fact that leaving carbon in the ground means giving up the lifestyles that depend on digging it up and burning it is not something that more than a few people will be willing to face.
“Meanwhile, the US economy will continue to sputter and stumble as politicians and financiers try to make up for ongoing declines in real (i.e., nonfinancial) wealth by manufacturing paper wealth at an even more preposterous pace than before, and frantic jerryrigging will keep the stock market from reflecting the actual, increasingly dismal state of the economy. We’re already in a steep economic downturn, and it’s going to get worse over the year to come, but you won’t find out about that from the mainstream media, which will be full of the usual fact-free cheerleading; you’ll have to watch the rates at which the people you know are being laid off and businesses are shutting their doors instead.”
It’s almost superfluous to point out that I called it. It’s been noted with much irritation by other bloggers in what’s left of the peak oil blogosphere that it takes no great talent to notice what’s going wrong, and point out that it’s just going to keep on heading the same direction. This I cheerfully admit—but it’s also relevant to note that this method produces accurate predictions. Meanwhile, the world-saving energy breakthroughs, global changes in consciousness, sudden total economic collapses, and other events that get predicted elsewhere year after weary year have been notable by their absence.
I quite understand why it’s still popular to predict these things: after all, they allow people to pretend that they can expect some future other than the one they’re making day after day by their own actions. Nonetheless, the old saying remains true—“if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”—and I wonder how many of the people who spend each year daydreaming about the energy breakthroughs, changes in consciousness, economic collapses, et al, rather than coming to grips with the rising spiral of crises facing industrial civilization, really want to deal with the future that they’re storing up for themselves by indulging in this habit.
Let’s go on, though. At the beginning of 2016, I also made four specific predictions, which I admitted at the time were long shots. One of those, specific prediction #3, was that the most likely outcome of the 2016 presidential election would be the inauguration of Donald Trump as President in January 2017. I don’t think I need to say much about that, as it’s already been discussed here at length. The only thing I’d like to point out here is that much of the Democratic party seems to be fixated on finding someone or something to blame for the debacle, other than the stark incompetence of the Clinton campaign and the failure of Democrats generally to pay attention to anything outside the self-referential echo chambers of affluent liberal opinion. If they keep it up, it’s pretty much a given that Trump will win reelection in 2020.
The other three specific long-shot predictions didn’t pan out, at least not in the way that I anticipated, and it’s only fair—and may be helpful, as we head further into the unknown territory we call 2017—to talk about what didn’t happen, and why.
Specific prediction #1 was that the next tech bust would be under way by the end of 2016. That’s happening, but not in the way I expected. Back in January I was looking at the maniacally overinflated stock prices of tech companies that have never made a cent in profit and have no meaningful plans to do so, and I expected a repeat of the “tech wreck” of 2000. The difficulty was simply I didn’t take into account the most important economic shift between 2000 and 2016—the de facto policy of negative interest rates being pursued by the Federal Reserve and certain other central banks.
That policy’s going to get a post of its own one of these days, because it marks the arrival of a basic transformation in economic realities that’s as incomprehensible to neoliberal economists as it will be challenging to most of the rest of us. The point I want to discuss here here, though, is a much simpler one. Whenever real interest rates are below zero, those elite borrowers who can get access to money on those terms are being paid to borrow. Among many other things, this makes it a lot easier to stretch out the downward arc of a failing industry. Cheaper-than-free money is one of the main things that kept the fracking industry from crashing and burning from its own unprofitability once the price of oil plunged in 2013; there’s been a steady string of bankruptcies in the fracking industry and the production of oil from fracked wells has dropped steadily, but it wasn’t the crash many of us expected.
The same thing is happening, in equally slow motion, with the current tech bubble. Real estate prices in San Francisco and other tech hotspots are sliding, overpaid tech employees are being systematically replaced by underpaid foreign workers, the numbers are looking uglier by the week, but the sudden flight of investment money that made the “tech wreck” so colorful sixteen years ago isn’t happening, because tech firms can draw on oceans of relatively cheap funding to turn the sudden popping of the tech bubble into the slow hiss of escaping air. That doesn’t mean that the boom-and-bust cycle has been cancelled—far from it—but it does mean that shoveling bad money after good has just become a lot easier. Exactly how that will impact the economy is a very interesting question that nobody just now knows how to answer.
Let’s move on. Specific prediction #2 was that the marketing of what would inevitably be called “the PV revolution” would get going in a big way in 2016. Those of my readers who’ve been watching the peak oil scene for more than a few years know that ever since the concept of peak oil clawed its way back out of its long exile in the wilderness of the modern imagination, one energy source after anobter has been trotted out as the reason du jour why the absurdly extravagant lifestyles of today’s privileged classes can roll unhindered into the future. I figured, based on the way that people in the mainstream environmentalist movement were closing ranks around renewables, that photovoltaic solar energy would be the next beneficiary of that process, and would take off in a big way as the year proceeded.
That this didn’t happen is not the fault of the solar PV industry or its cheerleades in the green media. Naomi Oreskes’ strident insistence a while back that raising questions about the economic viability of renewable energy is just another form of climate denialism seems to have become the party line throughout the privileged end of the green left, and the industrialists are following suit. Elon Musk, whose entire industrial empire has been built on lavish federal subsidies, is back at the feed trough again, announcing a grandiose new plan to manufacture photovoltaic roof shingles; he’s far and away the most colorful of the would-be renewable-energy magnates, but others are elbowing their way toward the trough as well, seeking their own share of the spoils.
The difficulty here is twofold. First, the self-referential cluelessness of the Democratic party since the 2008 election has had the inevitable blowback—something like 1000 state and federal elective offices held by Democrats after that election are held by Republicans today—and the GOP’s traditional hostility toward renewable energy has put a lid on the increased subsidies that would have been needed to kick a solar PV feeding frenzy into the same kind of overdrive we’ve already seen with ethanol and wind. Solar photovoltaic power, like ethanol from corn, has a disastrously low energy return on energy invested—as Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall showed in their 2015 study of real-world data from Spain’s solar PV program, the EROEI on large-scale grid photovoltaic power works out in practice to less than 2.5—and so, like nuclear power, it’s only economically viable if it’s propped up by massive and continuing subsidies. Lacking those, the “PV revolution” is dead in the water.
The second point, though, is the more damaging. The “recovery” after the 2008-2009 real estate crash was little more than an artifact of statistical manipulation, and even negative interest rates haven’t been able to get a heartbeat going in the economy’s prostrate body. As most economic measurements not subject to fiddling by the enthusiastic accountants of the federal government slide steadily downhill, the economic surplus needed to support any kind of renewables buildout at all is rapidly tricking away. Demand destruction is in the driver’s seat, and the one way of decreasing fossil fuel consumption that affluent environmentalists don’t want to talk about—conservation—is the only viable option just now.
Specific prediction #4 was that the Saudi regime in Arabia would collapse by the end of 2016. As I noted at the time, the replacement of the Saudi monarchy with some other form of government is for all practical purposes a done deal. Of the factors I cited then—the impending bankruptcy of a regime that survives only by buying off dissent with oil money, the military quagmires in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq that have the Saudi military and its foreign mercenaries bogged down inextricably, and the rest of it—none have gone away. Nor has the underlying cause, the ongoing depletion of the once-immense oil reserves that have propped up the Saudi state so far.
That said, as I noted back in January, it’s anyone’s guess what cascade of events will send the Saudi royal family fleeing to refuges overseas while mobs rampage through their abandoned palaces in Riyadh, and some combination of mid-level military officers and Muslim clerics piece together a provisional government in their absence. I thought that it was entirely possible that this would happen in 2016, and of course it didn’t. It’s possible at this point that the price of oil could rise fast enough to give the Saudi regime another lease on life, however brief. That said, the winds are changing across the Middle East; the Russian-Iranian alliance is in the ascendant, and the Saudis have very few options left. It will be interesting, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse, to see how long they survive.
So that’s where we stand, as 2016 stumbles down the ramp into time’s slaughterhouse and 2017 prepares to take its place in the ragged pastures of history. What can we expect in the year ahead?
To some extent, I’ve already answered that question—but only to some extent. Most of the factors that drove events in 2016 are still in place, still pressing in the same direction, and “more of the same” is a fair description of the consequences. Day after day, the remaining fossil fuel reserves of a finite planet are being drawn down to maintain the extravagant and unsustainable lifestyles of the industrial world’s more privileged inmates. Those remaining reserves are increasingly dirty, increasingly costly to extract and process, increasingly laden with a witch’s brew of social, economic, and environmental costs that nobody anywhere is willing to make the fossil fuel industry cover, and those costs don’t go away just because they’re being ignored—they pile up in society, the economy, and the biosphere, producing the rising tide of systemic dysfunction that plays so large and unmentioned a role in daily life today.
Thus we can expect still more social turmoil, more economic instability, and more environmental blowback in 2017. The ferocious populist backlash against the economic status quo that stunned the affluent in Britain and America with the Brexit vote and Trump’s presidential victory respectively, isn’t going away until and unless the valid grievances of the working classes get heard and addressed by political establishments around the industrial world; to judge by examples so far, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. At the same time, the mismatch between the lifestyles we can afford and the lifestyles that too many of us want to preserve remains immense, and until that changes, the global economy is going to keep on lurching from one crisis to another. Meanwhile the biosphere is responding to the many perturbations imposed on it by human stupidity in the way that systems theory predicts—with ponderous but implacable shifts toward new conditions, many of which don’t augur well for the survival of industrial society.
There are wild cards in the deck, though, and one of them is being played right now over the North Pole. As I write this, air temperatures over the Arctic ice cap are 50°F warmer than usual for this time of year. A destabilized jet stream is sucking masses of warm air north into the Arctic skies, while pushing masses of Arctic air down into the temperate zone. As a result, winter ice formation on the surface of the Arctic ocean has dropped to levels tht were apparently last seen before our species got around to evolving—and a real possibility exists, though it’s by no means a certainty yet, that next summer could see most of the Arctic Ocean free of ice.
Nobody knows what that will do to the global climate. The climatologists who’ve been trying to model the diabolically complex series of cascading feedback loops we call “global climate” have no clue—they have theories and computer models, but so far their ability to predict the rate and consequences of anthropogenic climate change have not exactly been impressive. (For what it’s worth, by the way, most of their computer models have turned out to be far too conservative in their predictions.) Nobody knows yet whether the soaring temperatures over the North Pole this winter are a fluke, a transitory phenomenon driven by the unruly transition between one climate regime and another, or the beginning of a recurring pattern that will restore the north coast of Canada to the conditions it had during the Miocene, when crocodiles sunned themselves on the warm beaches of northern Greenland. We simply don’t know.
In the same way, the populist backlash mentioned above is a wild card whose effects nobody can predict just now. The neoliberal economics that have been welded into place in the industrial world for the last thirty years have failed comprehensively, that’s clear enough. The abolition of barriers to the flow of goods, capital, and population did not bring the global prosperity that neoliberal economists promised, and now the bill is coming due. The question is what the unraveling of the neoliberal system means for national economies in the years ahead.
There are people—granted, these are mostly neoliberal economists and those who’ve drunk rather too freely of the neoliberal koolaid—who insist that the abandonment of the neoliberal project will inevitably mean economic stagnation and contraction. There are those who insist that the abandonment of the neoliberal project will inevitably mean a return to relative prosperity here in the US, as offshored jobs are forced back stateside by tax policies that penalize imports, and the US balance of trade reverts to something a little closer to parity. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the results will be. Here as in Britain, voters faced with a choice between the perpetuation of an intolerable status quo and a leap in the dark chose the latter, and the consequences of that leap can’t be known in advance.
Other examples abound. The US president-elect has claimed repeatedly that the US under his lead will get out of the regime-change business and pursue a less monomaniacally militaristic foreign policy than the one it’s pursued under Bush and Obama, and would have pursued under Clinton. The end of the US neoconservative consensus is a huge change that will send shockwaves through the global political system. Another change, at least as huge, is the rise of Russia as a major player in the Middle East. Another? The remilitarization of Japan and its increasingly forceful pursuit of political and military alliances in East and South Asia. There are others. The familiar order of global politics is changing fast. What will the outcome be? Nobody knows.
As 2017 dawns, in a great many ways, modern industrial civilization has flung itself forward into a darkness where no stars offer guidance and no echoes tell what lies ahead. I suspect that when we look back at the end of this year, the predictable unfolding of ongoing trends will have to be weighed against sudden discontinuities that nobody anywhere saw coming. We’re not discussing the end of the world, of course; we’re talking events like those that can be found repeated many times in the histories of other failing civilizations. That said, my guess is that some of those discontinuities are going to be harsh ones. Those who brace themselves for serious trouble and reduce their vulnerabilities to a brittle and dysfunctional system will be more likely to come through in one piece.
Those who are about to celebrate the end of 2016, in other words, might want to moderate their cheering when it’s over. It’s entirely possible that 2017 will turn out to be rather worse—despite which I hope that the readers of this blog, and the people they care about, will manage to have a happy New Year anyway.
1. The Republican governor of this otherwise Democrat-ruled state vetoed a bill in effect requiring continued subsidies for PV, and so the SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) generated by my rooftop solar system, that I sold for $120 each in early 2016, I can expect to sell for about $15 each in early 2017.
2. I can't walk through a Home Depot store without being cheerfully greeted by a Solar City sales-person.
3. After two years of use, my PV system is performing as it was projected to. No need for maintenance, no degradation of output. Sparrows seem to enjoy resting (perhaps nesting) between them and the shingles. Their excrement washes off the roof and piles up on the screen when water runs into the rain barrel. That didn't happen before the solar panels went on.
Even if the financial break-even point for my panels was equal to their lifespan, I'd be happy to have installed them, for the hedge they provide against rising commercial power costs.
12/28/16, 5:45 PM
12/28/16, 5:53 PM
David, by the lake said...
At the same time, we work where we can and how we can. I am already planning next year's plantings for my community garden beds and am looking forward to experimenting with more cheesemaking. (Our local homebrew supply store recently began carrying cheesemaking supplies as well.) In other news, I'd like to report to the group that today I turned in my paperwork to qualify for the spring election for city council--my second attempt. The election itself is April 4th, so I've got some campaigning to do in the meantime ;)
12/28/16, 5:58 PM
Tower 440 said...
The Spring joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Saturday, March 18, 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at [email protected].
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.
12/28/16, 5:59 PM
jessi thompson said...
Thank you for mentioning the current state of the arctic sea ice. I have been watching it ever since the record low in 2012, and every year brings new reasons to be concerned, or as in the case this month, downright disturbed. If I may hazard a prediction of my own (I hope it's not too soon). I expect a record low for arctic sea ice this year, but not an ice free arctic. I would also like to predict that whatever year the arctic hits the milestone definition of "ice free", it will not suddenly inspire society to stop emitting greenhouse gases as some people believe. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will just shake their heads in shame at our governments not fixing the problem and then go back to emitting their own greenhouse gases as usual. As for your other predictions, I think you were right more often than you were wrong, and I think we have no reason to expect the trajectory to change any time soon, unfortunately. I hope you continue to inspire your readers to make the necessary changes in their own lives that will build resilience, because resilience is what we really need in the face of our increasingly uncertain world. If changing the life of one person is all it takes to make a lasting difference in the world, you have already done so in spades. Thanks for being a guiding light illuminating a path through industrial society's dark night of the soul.
12/28/16, 6:02 PM
12/28/16, 6:02 PM
Shane W said...
12/28/16, 6:05 PM
12/28/16, 6:12 PM
Shane W said...
12/28/16, 6:16 PM
Doctor Westchester said...
Happy New Year, such as it will be.
I don't remember anyone mentioning this before, so this is a very appropriate post to do so. I recommend for anyone here to read Johnny Sanphillippo's blog Granola Shotgun. He is a very astute observer of the problematic features of the America's postwar built landscape - physically, economically and socially. His essays are always filled with pictures that he has taken that quite clearly illustrate his points.
He is now doing a series of posts called "How to Ride the Slide", involving his personal preparations for the future. He has said he is a reader of yours and so far the series appears to very much an illustrated and expanded version of your book "Green Wizardry". It has been very interesting for me to compare what he is doing and what I have done. So far, he has talk about preparations one can take for a one bedroom urban apartment and now a small suburban house with some property around it among other things.
12/28/16, 6:19 PM
John Brink said...
If I mention that Mother Nature might have her own solution to over population I am told that I am way out of line for various social reasons.
If I mention that living low on the hog and making your own bean burritos instead of expensive restaurant meals or maintaining and repairing your own equipment I am told "they don't have time".
Mention the fall of the old Roman Empire and they think I am completely loony. Even better is when I mention I enjoy watching the local coyotes hunt up the draw in front of my house and maybe I will learn something from them!
12/28/16, 6:20 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Twilight, and likewise! Definitely time for popcorn.
David, excellent! Get out there and campaign, and may the election be as welcome a surprise to you as it was to Donald Trump. ;-)
Jessi, you're welcome and thank you. As for the polar ice, I don't recall seeing anyone predicting the Arctic weather we're getting right now, and if there's little net accumulation during the winter, the summer melt could be pretty drastic. But we'll see.
Pantagruel7, of course not. They'll cling to power until they're dragged from it and loaded onto the tumbrils -- metaphorically, or literally...
Shane, hang onto your hat and tighten up your nether regions. I expect this year to be a very rough ride in some ways.
Pygmcory, social, political, economic, and environmental, not necessarily in that order. ;-) To be a little less vague, the possibility of drastic climate shifts and attendant disasters, bigger than anything we've seen so far, should not be ignored; some areas that are currently very well off on account of the global economy are probably headed for very, very hard times; and though major wars are probably a few years off yet, the twilight of US global hegemony is unlikely to proceed smoothly -- at all. But those are just the obvious ones.
12/28/16, 6:24 PM
Thanks for another year of great analysis! I sometimes think you are too optimistic but I always appreciate your deep understanding of the history and I freely admit you are much better at predictions than I am.
Unrelated, but I had another interesting interaction with some friends that are Hillary supporters. After a long interesting conversation they agreed with everything that I pointed out about both HRC and Obama. They admit their economic policy is against everything we (our friends and I) believe. They are saddened by the wars and destruction these people are causing. The corruption and lies were all known.
Guess what was the last thing they said after all this? "We believe Obama will be recognized as the best president ever".
I was speechless. It took me a long time to begin to understand: for us humans, stories are more important than reality (actually stories are our reality). For these nice people, the story of an African-American president, well spoken and telegenic, bringing back hope - this story is more powerful than anything he does. And the same would be true of Hillary as a first woman president.
I guess I am starting to see why magic is so powerful...
12/28/16, 6:27 PM
Shane W said...
12/28/16, 6:31 PM
Tower 440 said...
12/28/16, 6:31 PM
Shane W said...
12/28/16, 6:34 PM
Ian Blaylock said...
Throw in working in an environmental field and being acutely aware of everything that goes weirdly wrong in whatever climate regime we're in the process of falling into, and it's easy to feel like everything is spiraling completely out of control. While examples of climate instability abound, I mostly found myself bummed out at how awful this season was for mushroom hunting...the southeastern drought turn my forested fungal wonderland into a metaphorical desert. It was terrible! That and the intermittent forest fire smell throughout the season put a damper on outdoor recreation...which is usually my outlet!
JMG, I've been reading your blog on a weekly basis since 2010 when I first discovered you. Some of the concepts you've introduced have profoundly changed my worldview for the better. At the same time, as years pass and the dysfunction expands, it's easy to lose track of where I am and where I'm truly headed.
How exactly is it that you cope with putting so much of your mental energy into contemplating the fundamental issues of the day without finding yourself in existential angst? I swear, your mind must be like a fortress to deal with this kind of subject matter day in and day out.
On a related note, I'm perpetually amazed at how very, very little I've seen the fact that the northwest passage has been open in the summertime for a few years now, despite that being utterly unprecedented in the entirely of known human history. I mean, there's not much we can really do to stop it now, but you'd think it would at least be more of a talking point outside of environmentalist and shipping circles.
Alright, I've rambled enough...but I hope you and everyone in this corner of the web have a delightful new year filled with rejuvenation and new beginnings.
12/28/16, 6:37 PM
1) Brazil will become a soft dictatorship - all the legal tools are alredy in place and the establishment is afraid and fighting among themselves. Some kind of parlamentarism backed by the army to protect the upper classes from the consequences of their actions will be implemented as a national union government to protect the politicians, judges and businesmen from the law.
2) Maduro will not fall - the moment when the venezuelans could rebel is long since past because starving people don't fight, they beg for food and obey. If Maduro keeps his soldiers well fed and use food rationing as a political instrument he will survive the year.
3) Argentina will have riots against the liberal/libertarian government there - Macri isn't delivering the goods and he won't deliver it, ever, and the argentinians will riot and protest, as they usually do.
4) A growing political vacuum in South America, as the old leftist order centered on Brazil's Worker's Party, Fidel Castro and the FARCs crumbles and no new order appears, with both libertarians, conservatives and leftists failing to capture the angry center. PT's (Partido dos Trabalhadores, the worker's party in portuguese) leadership is being jailed because they stole billions. Castro is dead and his brother is not for long in this world, the FARCs will make peace with the government and become a political party.
12/28/16, 6:57 PM
(If anyone reading can name this mid-sized Canadian city, I'll be pleasantly surprised).
It's not just the well-known fate of Blackberry (which originated here) that makes me think this has meant putting most of our region's economic eggs into one big bubbly basket. Nor is it the obvious but unmentionable fact that phones and apps only seem slick and innovative because of massive energy inputs that aren't factored into the price tags.
What makes me uneasy is the constant stream of local news articles and magazine supplements showcasing one startup after another, after another, each one more 'innovative' and 'game-changing' than the last. When you predicted the end of the tech bubble last January, I thought, YES, that one sounds too true to be good!
I'm glad you were wrong this year, but afraid you are quite right in the mid- to long-term. Which is too bad, because a lot of my hot-shot schoolmates graduated from the university up the road and got high-paying tech jobs here, and it's people like them who are currently driving our region's economic and infrastructure development.
I've started writing about this more publicly and I had a story published earlier this month that floated the phrase 'collapse of the tech bubble'. I'll see if I can keep spreading that meme around. Link here for any interested:
12/28/16, 7:03 PM
As far as Musks' latest subsidy magnet goes, Dow was marketing the "Dow Solar" line of shingles as the powerroof since around 2010?-11. They've just discontinued the product line. I haven't had a chance to determine why they exited the market, but at the time it seemed like a way to get solar power past appearance covenants in many "Exclusive" neighborhoods. Any body else have more background?
For David: Change needs Agents. And trailblazers, just to force the narrative off the same old track. Hope you can attract more converts to 'resiliency and retrogression with a smaller footprint.'
12/28/16, 7:08 PM
Ray Wharton said...
This negative interest rate thing is fascinating, and since in a contracting economy invested money can expect to loose value over time I can understand why it is possible at all. Still it really flips the polarity on several economic forces, really makes a total mess out of inherited way of thinking about money. I think it will prove very difficult to predict. I think ideally it works as a slow release for a bubble, allowing the accumulated debt to be shrunk by uncompounding interest (impounding, depounding... huh?). But to work at all it is reliant on a total lack of profitable investments to be made, and might as well be a confession that today's financial institutions are not needed for their official societal function. Guesses how long it takes a populist to notice this and take advantage of the vulnerable position the financial system is in? There are some opening moves along this angle in Europe and much saber rattling in the States already, but when a 'check'?
Happy New Years though! There's always sheep herding.
12/28/16, 7:11 PM
Ralph Bentley said...
12/28/16, 7:18 PM
Austin Levreault said...
China can talk about how it has much more green technology than than the US. I think that's a moot point because China also has three+ times the US population. 1/3 of China lives at a lifestyle comparable to the that of an American. The other 2/3 of the Chinese population have a lifestyle more in line with that of developing countries. (Wouldn't you say developing country is a misnomer indicative of the religion of progress?) The breakdown of the population by economic status in India is comparable to China. Correct me if I'm wrong in this generalization. Now because China/India can't import anywhere near enough oil to raise the rest of their populations to American standards they are making up the lag with green technology. This allows China and India to say they're green when they basis of their economy is not.
My long term prediction (10+) years is that at some point China will damn up the Asian watershed in Tibet and stop the flow of water going to the rivers of India. That's why Tibet will never be free.
12/28/16, 7:22 PM
Mickey Foley said...
12/28/16, 7:27 PM
Carlos M. said...
I make just a tad under US$30,000 a year. If you compare that to the latest data from Silicon Valley, where the interns (!) make the equivalent of $68,000, it really does appear that I'm underpaid. However, considering that real GDP per capita of the Philippines is $3,000, by this measure I am pretty wealthy and I do consider myself quite wealthy both by contemporary but especially by historical standards.
It's not really that we're underpaid. Most of the tech industry is just an elaborate pyramiding scam. The so-called tech Unicorns (startups with a "valuation" of $1B or over), are exactly that; they are legendary creatures that serve to tell the mythical story of American Progress and Innovation. Big consultancy firms like Accenture, Oracle, IBM, and so on, scam governments and corporations out of billions of dollars as they do what is basically reinventing the wheel (except with more bugs).
$30k goes pretty far, actually, since you can live fairly small around here. Unfortunately, it's starting to become more common that folks with that kind of money (and more!) live paycheck-to-paycheck, trying to live Western lifestyles. Y'know, multiple car, way too huge house, quarterly foreign vacations...
I wish we're half as innovative as we say we are. Skills and competence in tech pretty much have zero correlation with rank and salary, just like in government or academia. There is little incentive for industry professionals to improve, since you can get a 20%, 50%, or 100% pay bump by simply jumping between jobs. according to McConnell's "Code Complete", folks read less than one trade or industry-related book annually. My actual experience screening candidates for interviews bear this out; I've encountered junior guys who have built some pretty impressive stuff and "senior" guys who literally couldn't program a multiplication table.
Everyone is motivated by greed. Big companies buy up smaller ones in order to eliminate competition. Small companies are created, not to make profit, but in order to exist long enough so that their founders can "exit" (i.e. sell out to the Big Guys) and retire in some tropical paradise.
I've read about your blog posts complaining about how technology has become unnecessarily complicated and yet less useful with every new version. I am embarrassed to admit that this is all true. More parallels between tech and government here; just as the solution to bad bureaucracy is more bureaucracy, the solution to bad tech is even more tech. Honestly, we have way more computing power right now just to deliver HD cat videos and "high-frequency trading" (automated arbitrage) than we are throwing at for solving actual problems.
I'm trying to work out how to attack this huge problem in my own personal capacity. I am terribly turned off by both big business and the "startup" scene. Me and some friends are working out how to organize a worker-cooperative type of company, where the focus would be to build actual, quality stuff. The amount of crap we produce compared to what we're paid is seriously bothering my conscience.
12/28/16, 7:31 PM
Old Professor said...
Your advice to get ready for instability is sage. I thought about some things I will do in 2017 to get ready.
On the social front, I plan to double my effort to help family, friends or community members that suffer from unfortunate circumstances. As I expect more social unrest is likely, I will avoid situations that involve large crowds!
In terms of economics, I plan to hold at least a months expenses in physical cash, to buy the same in gold, and avoid buying anything new.
Environmentally, I will not fly anywhere but instead walk, bike, take a car or the train. I also will plant 12 fruit trees. I will also prepare for flooding and electricity loss by having backup water, food, lighting, sandbags, and a submersible pump with hoses. (I live in South Florida but high on the 'ridge' at 26 feet elevation.)
Finally, daily meditation and communing with nature will quiet the soul.
Most events will be beyond our control but as a previous commenter said we should strive to be resilient
12/28/16, 7:39 PM
1) Economic trouble in the form of 3 of the following:
a) housing crashes in at least one of Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, New York, London or Sydney.
b)a global recession.
c)A true stock market crash in the USA
d)more bankruptcies in Canadian/US oil and gas
e)China's economic problems get worse
f)unspecified big trouble (count as many x as happens
g)Other N. Am. bubble bursts such as US education or auto loans.
I believe house prices have topped out and are now decreasing in Vancouver, New York, San Francisco and London. I don't know about Sydney. A global stagnation quite likely, but I don't think it qualifies as a full-bore recession. US stock market crash? Not a lasting one. Yes, there have been bankruptcies in oil and gas this year. China's economic problems have continued, and I believe corporate debt and insolvent lenders are continuing to worsen, but I don't have reliable data, so who really knows. Unspecified big trouble... most of this was political, or very closely related to political ie. Brexit, Trump's win, Venezuela's food riots. Sales of new autos has started decreasing in the US, and GM and Ford have cut jobs. Sub-prime auto loan delinquencies have risen.
So overall, I'd say reasonable on the 1st prediction even if a lot of it is happening below the radar of the mainstream media.
2)Trudeau will break more election promises to middle class people than to wealthy ones/corporations.
Given how long it has been taking to get the ball started rolling on legalizing marijuana and changing the first past the post electoral system, plus his okaying the Kinder-Morgan pipeline and failure to change problematic parts of Bill C-51 (related to CSIS, privacy and spying on citizens), I'd say I called this one.
3) Canada will run a deficit.
The liberals budgeted for a deficit, and it looks like it will be bigger than predicted due to poor economic growth this year.
4)Refugee crisis will continue and will cause worse problems in Europe this year than last.
I honestly don't know what will happen with ISIS and the wars in the Middle-East, other than they aren't over yet. The USA will lose some influence and Saudi Arabia's probs are likely to worsen.
The refugee crisis has continued, and continued to cause problems. I don't know that they are any worse than last year. There have been fewer migrants due to Europe refusing to let them in, but there has probably been as much or more in the way of social disruption and societal angst related to those already present.
Well, I'd say that the US has continued losing influence in the Middle-East, and the wars there continue still. Saudi Arabia's problems continue, and they have run a deficit in 2016 as well as 2015. They're still fighting in Yemen, too.
12/28/16, 7:48 PM
I was given a beginner's beer making kit and intend to get started. You've mentioned that beer making is a skill that could be in demand in the future. Along those same lines, I am considering whether to try growing tobacco in my garden this year.
12/28/16, 7:52 PM
Raymond R said...
Your record of prediction is good enough to show which way the wind blows. I appreciate your habit of evaluating your predictions against what actually happened - your intellectual honesty is a rare gem.
I have worked most of my career as an environmental geologist and one of the things that I have studied is glacial geology (most of the surface materials in my part of the world are of glacial origin) An interesting hypothesis I have seen is that an ice free Arctic Ocean is a necessary precursor to the return of continental glaciation. An ice free Arctic Ocean can supply more precipitation, which can then accumulate in northern Canada. Once the snow accumulates past the point of melting each summer you have the beginning of the next glaciation.
Just a thought to ponder.
12/28/16, 7:52 PM
greg simay said...
12/28/16, 8:06 PM
My remark is about nuclear power. I read some time ago, that the small EROEI of nuclear power is due to diffusion methodology of enrichment. Centrifuge enrichment increases it by a factor of 10-40 times. US used to use diffusion: now, all the enrichment in US is made by URENCO with centrifuges. USSR and Russia pionered the use of centrifugue enrichment and now have tenth generation centrifugues, which are supposedly viable from economical (and EROEI) standpoint.
From my previous position of all-green-energy no-carbon-or-atom (I was young), now I stand in more-atom-and-green, ovoid-carbon position.
About predictions. They will be. In time.
12/28/16, 8:14 PM
Right now I am sitting at sea level on the temperate BC west coast. We have had snow and cold for most of December, and it looks like another cold wave is in store for next week; all due to the sagging jet stream bringing down Siberian pleasures. The great result is that the growing snowpack is good for the salmon stocks. This is an odd year, but also a bit of a return to normal. 40 years ago my friends used to skate down the river that I now live on, in fact, all the way to the salt chuck. Despite the tide changes, it was common enough. In the forties, people would drive trucks across lakes that have not frozen over for the last 75 years. I have lived on this river for the last 13 years and have seen it freeze over only 2-3 times. In turn the ice broke up with every tide change and a squirrel would drown trying to cross.
I am very worried about climate change and we have adjusted our lifestyle to at least pay lip service to the concept. Air travel is a thing of the past for us, and our last trip south was 17 years ago. We do what we can, but I am afraid AGW will only be accepted after a few more Katrinas or more drastice summer flooding in southern US.
My prediction is an economic and geo-political S%!t storm beginning in 2017 which will turn the finger pointing at Trump. I also predict much unrest in the US, with increasing violence and crackdowns as our southern Neighbour edges deeper into Police State. I do not think Trump will make it to the next election and the remainder of his term will be served out by Mike Pence. Why? He will be removed by the powerful, one way or another.
Regards, and all the best. Thank you for another year of critical analysis, a for providing a very polite and thoughtful forum for us readers.
12/28/16, 8:41 PM
12/28/16, 8:42 PM
Revere T. said...
Have you read or heard of the book Secondhand Time, by Svetlana Alexeivich? It's a compilation of interviews with regular people across the former Soviet Union, relating their perspectives on life before, during, and after the fall of the USSR. It just recently became available in English, and I think it would be of great interest to you and to readers of this blog. It's a visceral depiction of what real lived experience was like in a time of material and mythological crisis, which for a relatively privileged millennial American like me is absolutely indispensable. It really drives home some of the points you've made in your last few posts and I'm sure you'd find it interesting if you haven't read it already. I'm currently working through earlier book of hers called Voices From Chernobyl, which is exactly what it sounds like and is also well worth a read.
12/28/16, 9:49 PM
We are a baby civilization that is playing with a loaded gun and we are about to crawl out onto the freeway; it would be simply neglect and incompetence for the more evolved species in our neck of the woods not to intervene at this point. We need a competent hand to take our fingers off of the carbon bomb trigger, and to guide us away from the freeway back into the playground right now. Excuses just won't cut it this time.
WE ARE ALL ONE, is the main spiritual new age mantra. If this is true, if more evolved beings in the cosmos see this as the ultimate truth, then the more enlightened beings among us need to step up to the plate and do something post haste. (Yes I am serious)
12/28/16, 10:12 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Doctor W., many thanks for the link! I'm delighted to see people picking up the gauntlet I flung down with Green Wizardry, and talking about their own experience with appropriate tech -- and it's good to see that continuing.
John, stick to your guns. Seems to me that you're doing the right thing -- and I bet you learn a lot from the coyotes.
NomadicBeer, yep. Magic is powerful, and stunning historical ignorance is more powerful still. I suspect that the only thing in their heads when they think of Barack Obama is an image of how warm and fuzzy his victory made them feel in 2008. Sigh...
Shane, keep at it!
Tower, good heavens. Hmm. I'll have to think about that.
Shane, don't hold your breath.
Ian, thank you. It's really fairly simple, actually. I really, truly don't believe in progress. I don't believe that humanity is any more important in the great scheme of things than, say, jellyfish, or club mosses, or trilobites, or the living things that will emerge on this planet long after our species is gone. Once you embrace that recognition -- not as something to shudder at, but as the simple reality of things -- the fall of a civilization is no more troubling than the coming of winter or the gradual waning of each of our lives. It's simply part of the natural cycle of things, and once you grasp that, you can get on with your life, knowing that the historical weather is going to be kind of rough and planning accordingly, without getting stressed out about it.
Mr. G, all of those seem entirely plausible to me.
Dylan, congrats on getting the story published, and on your memetic engineering. I'll be interested to watch how the slow deflation of the tech bubble proceeds.
Juandonjuan, I wonder if Musk bought the patents from Dow because he knows he's better at hunting down subsidies than they are.
Ray, exactly. Yes, that's the broader context for interest rates -- the interest rate minus the rate of inflation is a good approximation for the level of real growth in a society, and when it's negative, that society is contracting. You're right, too, that no modern economy can deal with the kind of sustained contraction in which every investment on average loses money. More on this as we proceed!
12/28/16, 10:16 PM
Jeff Thomas said...
Would you mind getting a bit more specific about which measurements you are referring to, and why they are particularly resistant to "fiddling" in your view?
12/28/16, 10:26 PM
Wendy Crim said...
12/28/16, 10:29 PM
I'm also a published print writer, who has accomplished even more on the Internet. I've lost count of how many tens of millions of people the non-profit that I founded helped. With trivial government or corporate funding, for just over a decade.
So, please take those (verifiable on request) credentials seriously, when I express the following mild criticisms of how you write online:
1. One full online paragraph contains three full stops, three periods. Anything beyond that requires a new para.
2. One online paragraph extends over no more than five lines -- in the narrowest desktop browser window you see your friends and colleagues use, every day. (Mobiles are another issue, and here I have no expertise.)
2. If you can't express it within one para, as described above -- break it up in other ways. Headings, lists, bullet points -- whatever.
I believe your thoughts matter. The comments I've made above, are my personal attempts to help you communicate your thoughts more clearly, simply, and widely,
Since the early 1990s on the net, I've taken this as my personal mantra:
* Five lines on the screen per para, max. In any media.
* Three sentences per para, max.
* Less, is more effective.
You're a good writer of your ideas, John. I hate to see any writer's serious thoughts sidelined, because they're not expressed in formats that most people can easily read.
No harm meant, by any of the above. I'll be back again next Wednesday to read your thoughts and words again. Cheers! and good will. There is so much to be done, to make a better world.
12/28/16, 10:30 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Austin, oh, granted. The industrial world is still heading down the chute of the Long Descent. Since I have even less influence over events in India and China than I do over events here in the US, I'm focusing my efforts here, hoping that the endgame of American empire can be negotiated in a way that minimizes the carnage and leaves human and biospheric refugia intact. More on this in a future post.
Mickey, a lot of wish-fulfillment, rather, and if the Dems keep on trying to make a failed model of identity politics work, they're going to be out in the wilderness for a very long time.
Carlos, many thanks for this! I'd definitely encourage you to go ahead with the project of a worker-owned cooperative -- alongside its other benefits, you've got the fact that you're not paying absurd sums for the services of a hotshot executive, so you can make your budget go further. I wish you and your friends every kind of success.
Professor, that sounds like a very good New Year's list. Thank you!
Pygmycory, not bad. Have you drawn up your predictions for the new year?
Edward, if you can brew beer and grow tobacco, Attila the Hun himself will slap you on the shoulder, call you a great guy, and tell his legions that anybody who messes with your brewery or your fields will be sliced into very small pieces. That is to say, go for it.
Raymond, yes, I recall that theory. A useful reminder that we literally have no idea at all what a blue-water Arctic might bring...
Greg, you're welcome, and I won't argue with Taleb's suggestion.
Elros, every couple of years somebody comes up with a bunch of canned numbers and claims that this or that or the other makes nuclear power economically viable. The fact remains that no nation anywhere has ever been able to maintain a nuclear power industry without gargantuan subsidies -- ergo, nuclear power is not economically viable. If you want to argue that, show me a nuclear industry somewhere that gets no government subsidies and makes a profit providing grid power at competitive prices.
Paulo, interesting. I recall reading about similar cycles in the Seattle area, for what that's worth.
Dermot, I read an essay by McWilliams a while back -- it made a great deal of sense to me. We'll see if the Saudis make it to 2018!
12/28/16, 10:31 PM
With the death of Debbie Reynolds hard on that of geek heroine Carrie Fisher, I had joked that I planned to stay up till midnight New Year's Eve with a mallet and stake to make sure that 2016 stays safely dead. But I have no illusions that 2017 offers any assurances whatsoever of improvement. Quite like the contrary. We are truly in undiscovered country.
However, what I have seen so far of the government being assembled by the President-elect, suggests that he has Little ideology worth noting other than the vindictive disassembling of his predecessors' efforts, for good or ill of the Republic. Between the GOP's ideological destructiveness, and the startling and stunning cluelessness of the Democrats, I tend to agree that the continued degradation of our national governance will continue apace.
Nonetheless, my family and I continue to try and contain both our lifestyles and resource footprint. Tho' I am not certain that my Creative Professional's skill set lends itself readily to farming. Still, by that measure, we are terrible Americans and not keeping our consumer end up, "deplorable" even. It would appear as my wife and I age, the nation, and human civilization do seem to be content in keeping us company with their own slow decline. Having migrated to the semi-rural, semi-boonies of Morgan County WV, we hope to avoid some of the more… interesting and photogenic "discontinuities."
As the Buddhists might remind us, "interesting times" are indeed upon us. Stay safe.
12/28/16, 10:46 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Repent, au contraire. If we are all spiritual beings primarily, in material incarnation to learn a series of lessons, then we're not going to be spared those lessons just because we don't happen to like the experience. Any enlightened beings who may be watching can wait patiently while we go through as many experiences as we need to, in order to learn the lessons we're trying to ignore right now.
Jeff, I watch such things as the number of working age adults who are not in the work force, shipping rates of various kinds, and such telltales as declining holiday sales. There's a whole range of such things, and when they all scream "contraction," I tend to disbelieve the official stats.
Madmagic, I have just shy of fifty books in print or forthcoming -- I make a decent living as a freelance author, which is tolerably unusual these days -- and this blog fields upwards of a third of a million unique page views a month. That tells me that I'm having no trouble at all finding people who are perfectly willing to take a little time to read a somewhat richer, more ornate, and more expressive style than the sort of stilted journalese you think I ought to adopt.
In fact, I've noticed that quite consistently, the more I ignore the sort of advice you've just offered -- and you're far from the only one who's reiterated that canned advice, of course -- the larger my audience has grown, and the more widely the ideas I've been trying to communicate have spread into the collective conversation of our time. What that says to me is that you, and others who insist on a flat journalistic style, underestimate both the intelligence of the internet's readership and the desire that many people have for prose that has some flavor, some complexity, and some richness.
So thank you, but no thank you -- I'll continue to write the way I like to write, for the people who like to read it, and if that doesn't please you, why, there are thousands of other blogs on the internet that write the way you prefer.
12/28/16, 10:48 PM
Keith Huddleston said...
Dollar-denominated assets will for all intents and purposes have no value. In order of likelyhood:
1) bail-in. Your money is the banks money.
2) default/switching currency (probably best case-scenario)
3) hyper-inflation (least likely, I believe, because it would let consumer debt "off the hook")
For the first time in my life I am an active consumer. I am buying up books, seeds, tools, insulation, and other capital equipment. I don't believe money is a good store of wealth right now, but I'm certainly not a gold bug. If something has a marginal chance of being useful, I am buying (worth pointing out, I have no debt and have my house paid off).
I think eventually society will figure out a way to store wealth again in my life-time (that's where the rubber hits the road between a long-descent and sudden collapse, eh?). At that point my savings rate will go over 50% again.
If not, again looking at Greg, it's better to be prepared than to predict.
12/28/16, 10:58 PM
As a graphic and web designer, my profession lives and dies by tech. But it seems to me that Every iteration of my professional tools is more complex, less robust, and more costly. My wife complains that every update of her iPhone's and laptop's system software renders them less useful and less intuitive to use.
Apple has been roundly criticized for not updating their desktop computers, the iMac and Mac Pro, that many professionals rely upon. Technology watchers are actually wondering if Apple might be abandoning the sector for the more lucrative mobile space due to diminishing returns. For myself, my strategy is to keep my aging Mac Pro tower model as viable as possible with affordable upgrades until some unwelcome software update renders the beast obsolete.
However, the used drafting tables we have acquired may very well someday come back into service when some critical and delicate link in the global chain of tech that sustains the design world should break.
12/28/16, 11:03 PM
JMG, your ability to remain droll while gazing into a humanitarian abyss of epic proportions is what draws me ever back. It's a sign of a very evolved soul, I salute the great man in you, and aspire to such objectivity, inspired by example!
Now back to reading the rest...
12/28/16, 11:05 PM
steve pearson said...
In the city he became a stock broker, specializing in shares of Beyond Predators. He was very bullish on sheep and, especially with money at zero percent or less and the land being an externality, he advised his clients to buy as many sheep as they could.
He now wore Armani suits and had very expensive haircuts, drove a Porsche and dated all the prettiest girls at the office.
If any of his clients ever asked about wolves, he said, as far as he knew, they were extinct, and even if they weren't, Beyond Predators had the bet hunters in the business.
In the meantime, the village had acquired a new shepherd.Occasionally a sheep or two would go missing, but the shepherd and the village elders reckoned that they must have got sick and died or wandered off and got lost. The loss wasn't that great and their other investments were doing well, so they didn't worry.
Sometimes after a long night partying or too much coke, the old shepherd turned stock broker would have visions or nightmares of wolves, but in his lucid moments he reckoned: what the hell, I have a mansion and bunker in a gated community with a couple of years worth of tinned food and gold bars and a staff of loyal guards. At least that is what they said in the prospectus.
Happy New Year to all, Steve
12/28/16, 11:44 PM
Stuart Jeffery said...
The Arab Spring, Trump and Brexit all heralded changes in consciousness, just not in the terms of ascension to a higher way of existence (except for those who continue to die as a result of the troubles in the Middle East). In each case there seems to have been a rejection of the current direction of government by the people which seems to be based in part on a change in thinking.
You rightly point out the failure of the peak oil / climate change movements and the refusal of many in them to live as though there is just one planet. That suggests to me that the change in consciousness is happening where the drive to change is greatest (as you would expect).
It will be interesting to see what changes in people's thinking and actions next. It will be driven by need rather than day dreaming and it won't be driven by an ice free arctic. However it could be driven by the perpetual increases in extreme weather events but only for the people experiencing them.
12/28/16, 11:54 PM
It sounds like you are asking JMG to rely on a toolbox full of hammers!
I get enough of the “internet paragraph” from my online browsing as it is-sites like this are a welcome break.
One of the things I do is teach college writing to freshmen (as an adjunct!), and try to get them to move beyond the 5-paragraph essay. Good writers have many tools at their disposal. That being said, Madmagic’s advices are suitable for my technical writing class, where I emphasize brevity and clarity. Sometimes “less is more,” yet on the other hand, sometimes, there are moments when “nothing exceeds like excess.”
I recently read (and got my university to buy) After Progress. What struck me about JMG’s writing style was his heavy use of metacommentary to keep the reader on track, avoid potential misunderstandings, and kill off possible “straw men.” I also liked the extended setups for his ideas, and his great care in defining his terms. This approach to writing, commonly seen in JMG’s posts, is simply not possible in the “online paragraph” format.
I considered using After Progress for College Writing II this spring, but I decided not to. (I will again use Colin Woodard’s American Nations, with all the assignments reframed in a post-election light.) Most college freshmen where I teach would find the text too challenging-particularly the complex sentences, historical references, and literary allusions. Or perhaps I’m simply not skilled enough to properly “scaffold,” or support, a strong student reading of After Progress. Perhaps.
And finally-to the commentariat-loved last weeks Krampus Carols!
12/28/16, 11:56 PM
1- leaving the fortifications at Petersburg ?
2- wasting time at Amelia courthouse scouting ahead / scrounging rations / waiting for the rearguard to catch up
3- getting routed at Saylers Creek and losing Ewell
4- preparing for one last battering at Apppomattox to try to make Lynchburg ??
4- running around in bed sheets burning crosses and doing reenactments ?
12/29/16, 1:02 AM
12/29/16, 1:45 AM
Trump will make America great again.
Liberals will rue the world. The stock market will peak.
Honeymoons will be short. Belewe moons shall reign.
In Saudi Arabia, heads will roll.
Oil prices will rise. Rains may fall. The grain market could peak.
The Donald will meet his maker. President Sixpence will carry the torch.
Elon Musk will become a best-selling cologne. Karl Marx Revisited will be a best-seller.
Deficits will rise but neither debt nor wealth shall peak.
The Artic Ocean will become ice free so that exploration and drilling can begin.
All in all, 2017 promises to be a vintage year.
Many whines will be produced and many teeth shall be gnashed.
For a cynic, this is the best of all possible worlds.
12/29/16, 2:06 AM
Dorda Giovex said...
Here we are: the messed up and dysfunctional software battlescape is the result of 30 years of fighting for the minds of developers and users and drive them to use one half-designed technology or the other. The result is that knowledge of the overall architecture has disappeared and developers often recreate parts that exist already at different levels in the architecture much less efficiently (websockets! everything is going full circle! just because system managers dont want to change firewalls!).
I feel the whole mess is cracking under its own weight. And the same is going to be true with every information system subverted by business interests (science.. when 5% published is untrue it all becomes suspect and worthless).
12/29/16, 2:13 AM
Happy new year to you and yours.
I also wanted to comment on the negative interest rates policy, but @Ray Wharton above has beaten me to it. Since he has pretty much summed up my initial thoughts, let me push them in a different direction:
The theory behind negative rates is that it will induce people to spend their shrinking savings and then take up credit in order to subscribe for some free money. It will not work (for very long), as it amounts to a promise of 'jam tomorrow': you part with your savings now, but the free money does not materialise until very late in the repayment schedule (in the form of a forced saving, which is a very damaging phenomenon in its own right) - and in the meantime you do need to make those monthly repayments, or else. The first politician of note to mention it on live television will be universally vilified by the mainstream media, but we have already seen what happens to politicians universally vilified by the mainstream media... ;) Here's hoping that such a politician also proposes a constructive response - for example, to let money shrink into irrelevance and to build a cooperative movement instead. I suspect that NIRP and co-ops can coexist perpetually in perfect harmony.
It also strikes me how the transition from positive to negative interest rates is similar to a transition from fossil to renewable energy sources. In both cases you take an existing stock of concentrated wealth (savings/fossil fuels) and replace it with a stream of diffuse wealth (total repayments lower than principal borrowed/various forms of converting sunlight into fuels), and declare them to be equivalent. They are not of course, and it's a difference in kind not just in degree.
12/29/16, 2:28 AM
Mean Mr Mustard said...
Regarding monitoring the Arctic meltdown, I'd recommend
12/29/16, 2:49 AM
John Harris from the Guardian has been reading Tainter: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/29/trump-brexit-society-complex-people-populists
12/29/16, 2:50 AM
Shane W said...
12/29/16, 3:16 AM
Re Your plea for an intercession by some ultra-wise and benevolent beings to somehow save our “baby civilization” from the consequences of its own actions: This perfectly illustrates, for me, the internal contradictions and fuzzy thinking of “New Age Spirituality (NAS)”. On the one hand, I’ve heard it explained as a core belief of NAS that “you create your own reality”, but here you are asking for outside help in getting rid of the reality you’ve created.
I like the way you write: no pandering to simple minds with dumbed-down syntax and “Dick and Jane” sentence structure. Sentences with sub clauses keep the mind active and allow for communication of complex thoughts. I’ll take Faulkner over Hemmingway anyday...
I too find that not buying into a human-centric world view has the splendid consequence that I don’t get bummed out/depressed, etc. as I watch and experience contemporary human events. I might get a bit angry when I see what looks like injustice and wanton cruelty, but that emotion, like all others, is transitory.
12/29/16, 3:50 AM
Hubertus Hauger said...
Maybe unsatisfying, if one expects a certain outcome. However I just find it rather exhilarating that thus the world is full of opportunities. Despite my tendency towards a determined future. So, no matter, how dark our prediction are, things still will happen differently. Universally … and with JMG´s four ones too. That’s a happy moment for me.
Whatever my worst case scenario I was imagining, it won’t come true, i.e. its becoming better, hallelujah!
Happy new year folks!
12/29/16, 4:16 AM
Tony f. whelKs said...
It seems the scrying glass is particularly dark this year, but the one thing I would add by way of forthcoming trends is that the wave of populism will be very rapidly disillusioned.
It already looks like many Trump voters will not get what they thought they voted for, and that applies in spades here in the UK for the Brexiteers. Many people who came together in the campaign had/have incompatible outcomes in mind - it's a virtual guarantee that a sizable minority are going to feel cheated when they get what they thought they had voted for, and find it isn't at all what they had expected.
The UK govt seem to be handling it badly - on the one hand insisting the 'will of the people' gives them a clear mandate, but on the other being very unclear about how they will apply it.
It all reminds me of a fractious family outing - just over half the family ('a landslide', ahem...) wanted to go out, so the whole family has to go. Those who wanted to stay home sit sulking in the back seats whilst the others tell them to shut up and stop moaning. Meanwhile, it dawns on everyone that they haven't yet decided where to go to. Everyone pipes up with suggestions, but the driver now tells everyone to shut up as it's the driver's decision alone, whilst insisting that the expressed will of the family to move is what gives the driver that authority to decide, and it would be a very betrayal of the passengers to listen to their suggestions for possible destinations.
There will be the usual litanies of 'are we there yet?', a good deal of motion sickness and incessant fighting over who reads the map. The driver refuses to reveal the destination, but insists everyone will love it once they arrive - yes, those who wanted to stay home, those who wanted to go the seaside and those who wanted to head into the mountains...
The question is, when the disillusionment sets in, will the reaction be a turning back or a doubling down on the anger???
12/29/16, 4:23 AM
Never mind that I cant explain all the bad stuff that accompanied this great goodness, that's just wrong!
Like my discussion with my 30 something son months ago "but she's the most experienced candidate"
Me: "At what? Career placeholder? The next chapter in the pulp fiction Identity narrative? A Goldwater Girl?"
We don't talk politics anymore, but seemingly not because he's a melting snowflake, but rather that the response of the losers has been so like a three year olds' temper tantrum that he's embarrassed.
JMG's prose magic has been helping me to clarify and identify my subconscious observations for nearly a decade. But I was looking for a narrative that did not require a (un)willing suspension of disbelief but, rather, a narrative that did not need to be framed and hammered home until I gave up and became a Xerox machine.
12/29/16, 4:32 AM
12/29/16, 5:28 AM
Since it is the season for it (and there is this newfangled trend of "being accountable" in some places) I thought I#d bring up an interesting discussion on forecasting itself.
It came out of a US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and seems to make some sense. I think the most pertinent part for JMG & commentariat would be this where they discuss forecasting tournaments with the ideological opposition (jump to minute 0:52:35, listening ):
Bottom line: if you are better at predictors in their claimed area of expertise - the argument can be made that they should start listening to "your side" more.
I think such a format would would lend itself to work well with blogs like yours (perhaps + commentariat). What do you think JMG? In the next few days a bunch of organizations are going to go on record with their predictions. Perhaps there are a few worthy adversaries among them?
Some nitty gritty of scoring metrics can be found here:
12/29/16, 5:35 AM
1. Amazon encourages warehouse employees to wear armband that injects them with stimulants when their packing speed drops below optimal levels.
2. American media suddenly notice the existence of Yemen, where a population the size of Australia is starving to death, after January 20. Obama is not blamed.
3. Ray Kurzweil dies.
4. The percentage of the world in violent conflict continues to decline or stays roughly the same. My basis for this prediction is the Limits to Growth Earth3 model.
5. Arctic ice cap disappears. Trump makes the polar bears pay for their own relocation program.
6. At least one prominent person in Silicon Valley recognizes the limits of technology for controlling and guiding human behavior.
7. Trump closes all American embassies, offers to do all diplomatic work through his personal Twitter account.
8. The social media world undergoes an upheaval that strikes to the heart of at least one major network -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.
9. Word of the year 2017 is Facebook's angry reaction emoticon.
10. Our unsustainable, fossil fueled industrial civilization continues to hurdle towards a major systemic failure around 2025-2030, but the masses are entertained and don't care. Or even if they did, what can be done?
12/29/16, 5:36 AM
One way or another, I have probably read more words penned by JMG than any other single author. Apart from the insights I get from reading his work, the one thing that keeps bringing me back is his style which I appreciate very much. The day he changes it to what you suggest is the day I stop reading his writings. I've already given up reading the BBC website for exactly that reason (that and the fact it's all BAU propaganda these days).
Please don't change a thing. I reckon that if it ain't broke there ain't no need to fix it!
12/29/16, 5:40 AM
Re: negative interest rates, in an interview not long ago Bannon made that part of the economic strategy he intends to push for. I do remember reading a couple years back, they tried that in Europe. Doesn't seem to have bailed them out, although in the article I saw they interviewed a woman who had an negative interest rate on some loan (mortgage? I forget now) so she was actually getting a little $$ monthly from it. Definitely strikes me as a hail Mary pass...
On Climate Change, it's taken a scary turn for me in recent months. We've been in a drought for 2 years now at my place. It wasn't until September of this year, when we had 0 rain all month, that I discovered the entire New England coast, from the Mass cape and islands to Bar Harbor, Maine, it has reached extreme/exceptional levels. I was conserving water all spring and summer. Other than the 1st 2 weeks after planting, I stopped watering the garden at all, did the "if it's yellow let it mellow" with the toilet, reduced showers to every other day at most, etc.. I did give parts of the pasture an assist at critical points. I always collect drinking water for the horses off the roof, as long as there's some rain to collect. Still, at the end of September, my well started drawing sandy, silty water. So I kicked into high gear, stopped using the well altogether, drove every other day to the pond up the road to bring water in for the horses, driving 10 miles to a public spring to bring drinking water home for the rest of us laundering out, showers reduced to once/week maximum, and replaced the toilet with woods except middle of the night emergencies. This continued for nearly 2 months. Fortunately October and November both got average levels of rain. I allowed myself to return to using my well water once things froze outside.
I watch my swale levels, the local pond, and the water flow at the spring (which filled 8 bottles in 30 minutes when I 1st started collecting and jumped to 9 bottles in 10 minutes once we'd had 5" of rain) to get an idea of the water table levels. I believe I have enough to get through winter and into spring. If we continue to get average precip over the winter, we should be out of it by then; time will tell. Meantime, I'm back to "if its mellow," and have upped my limit to 2 showers/week.
The hardest part I found getting used to was the constant sense of grimy dirtiness, since all cleaning was at a minimum...
Anyway, happy new year and thank you for your continued insight!
12/29/16, 5:48 AM
Bill Ding said...
12/29/16, 6:00 AM
Thanks for another year of stimulating and illuminating discourse, via your essays and your moderation of this consistently intelligent, thoughtful and at times rambunctious comments section. I often experience the ADR as an island of excellence and incisiveness in a sea of mediocrity and incoherence, and am very appreciative of that fact.
Looking forward to 2017, whatever it may bring. I wish you and yours all the best in this coming year.
12/29/16, 6:22 AM
12/29/16, 7:05 AM
As for its credibility, they point to last year's listing of Pres. Trump, and Brexit, not as "going to happen", but as "could happen" events. Also there's this in the footnotes:
SOURCE: These scenarios are the result of interviews with foreign-policy analysts, economists and strategists, as well as a formal poll of 146 such experts. They’ve been stress-tested with political-risk firm Verisk Maplecroft and global macro research firm Nightberg.
So, my take on this is that this is "intra-elite" analysis, likely to be more useful than the stories that middle-brow journalists promote to the rest of us.
12/29/16, 7:17 AM
There is clearly a news blackout in the USA regarding Arctic shipping. I do know that Canada is determined to control the NW passage along its' own northern coast. It has always been my belief, for what it might be worth, that the new hegemon that takes over from the US, in the Pacific at least, will be a consortium of Japan, Canada and Australia in alliance with India.
I fear that the lovely tropical island, Cuba, will become a GMO plantation dominated by American and international ag interests. I hope, but doubt, that the Cubans will be willing to beware of American officials bearing gifts. Haitians have already angrily rejected GMO "gifts", which is, I believe one reason they are being kept in permanently destabilized condition.
12/29/16, 7:39 AM
We've been renting DVDs over the holiday. TADR readers might be interested in watching Captain Fantastic, starring Viggo Mortensen, which bears some resemblance to the story in Mosquito Coast.
12/29/16, 7:49 AM
I don't believe that humanity is any more important in the great scheme of things than, say, jellyfish, or club mosses, or trilobites, or the living things that will emerge on this planet long after our species is gone
Slightly off-topic, but that comment made me wonder: do you believe in panpsychism?
Also, I thought MadMagic's comment was just plain weird - it really brought me up short. Is stylistic prescriptivism a North American thing? Was it actually an advert of some sort?
12/29/16, 8:09 AM
Mark Homer said...
12/29/16, 8:15 AM
Jeremy Miller said...
12/29/16, 8:21 AM
But I admit to liking your flair for prose and feel that it adds to your message by creating a state of mind that enhances your points and makes them more digestible and far more memorable. I'm with you on this one.
12/29/16, 8:52 AM
Jay Moses said...
with respect to predictions, my own particularly, i am always concerned about recency bias. five consecutive coin flips resulting in heads says nothing about the outcome of the next flip (unless the coin is crooked!). if there is something out there that can disrupt the slow stagnation we are experiencing and turn it into a full scale rout, it may be a rise in interest rates. debts that are barely sustainable in the current NIRP/ZIRP interest environment are apt to explode spectacularly if/when interest rates revert to something approximating the mean.
enjoy the new year and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.
12/29/16, 8:57 AM
Ray Wharton said...
First when thrown into a situation where I have no idea what to do I always tell my self "It is very unlikely that this will kill me." Or something to the effect. This shuts up the 'panic' voice well enough, and means that entirely petty concerns (I'm hungry, I'm cold, A drunk guy tried to pee on me, Where's my $20, My knee hurts, I have a cough) need not be overwhelming. Also it makes things more interesting, you can treat each situation with curiosity and and a sense of adventure. This also ties into a sense of worldly detachment, accepting and being unphased by the fact that most things are totally out of your control, which functionally make them more interesting.
Also, the main challenges when being in a situation where you are not in control are internal. This is hard to see in a reflection, but easy enough to see in others, judgement working as it does. I think the old concept of 'deserving poor' might need reworked for our era because of the moral baggage that has built up around 'deserving'. But still for each person they have internal definition which defines what situations they can make the best of and which are toxic. Learning this about yourself is very valuable, but usually very awkward.
Deserving and Undeserving poor are not two categories that folks can be sorted into. Instead each person has a unique range of things that they can draw real benefit from and things that will only exacerbate existing internal problems. Considering some of the homebums I used to hang out with, there was a truly productive way to be kind and civil with each and every one of them. But of course several had emotional patterns such that I wouldn't trust them to be invited to one of the organic farms where I volunteered.
If you end up in a dire situation where you need help, it is important to know what kinds of help with feed your virtues, and what will mostly nurture your vices. For instant I can be indulgent, and being offered too much comfort is not a benefit to me, but there are people I know who need comfort offered to them to keep them hale. Hopefully you won't be forced int ot wandering with home bums, but these things are true if you need to help a friend or family member who is forced outside of their comfort zone. Helping others invokes help for yourself when it is needed, so do it, but don't be exploited or feed vices. Learning to read others is the skill which cuts the costs of helping and reaps the rewards. Beyond kin and kith, it also radiates to the power to benefit community if you are well positioned, that is to say if you have noble oblige. Nietzsche says that generosity is one of the hardest skills, this seems true to me, if you are in a place to help others, being able to determine what help they can receive is a subtle thing. For resilience first learn what help you can receive.
12/29/16, 9:10 AM
Bruno B. L. said...
12/29/16, 9:42 AM
Ray Wharton said...
Once I passed muster with a couple of the Alpha dudes and gals I was welcome to crash for free, by virtue of socializing smoothly and offering what help I was capable of when I noticed someone working on something. In my last post I said that remembering that you will probably survive is essential, but obviously this scene was every bit as much of a fire hazard as the next squat, and there is some dice rolling going on. If you can function with sobriety your survival chances go way way up should something go wrong.
As far as I could tell there were many many many housing arrangements like The Ghost Ship or the Music Box. Some were of the Anarchist scene I visited, but even the techno nerds have such haunts. I visited a very entertaining building that have a main room which had once been a 30 foot high parking bay... you know a big big room. They had filled it with a scaffolding made of 2" steel pipe arranged into 5'*5'*5' cubic grid, and decorated with printed pictures of he blocks from the old Mario games. It was a vast jungle gym for climbing and also hosted a number of sleeping nooks. It is astonishing just how much is happening in any given block of urban space. And actually impressive how few tragic events happen.
Sorry for being all over the map here, but this brings to mind a comment from the friend who long ago introduced me to ADR. There are a lot of feasible adaptations to the limits of our time, in principle. The most difficult and brutal limit is the limit of our cultures ability to imagine and implement them.
12/29/16, 9:54 AM
However, my point was a bit different. I was trying to point that nuclear energy has an EROI above 10, and as such can be used for energizing our society. Sadly, but compared to fossil fuels all other sources of electricity are way too expensive (for the next decade at least). So, there is no economical reason to change from fossil fuels to green (or nuclear) energy.
Despite the cost, atomic energy has several good points. It can be built almost everywhere (not possible with my personal favorite: hydro, but I'm from Costa Rica), have а high capacity factor (unlike solar/wind), offers good "basal, stable electricity", the Fast Neutron reactors can generate fuel from non-fissionable uranium and help to diminish nuclear waste. EROI is good with centrifugue enrichment. And, almost no CO2 emission.
I consede the drawback of nuclear power, but viewing it's efficiency vs cost, it may be not such a bad idea.
12/29/16, 10:20 AM
wilco bokken said...
12/29/16, 10:23 AM
Ed Suominen said...
Also, thanks to Dylan Siebert for a fine short story and Doctor Westchester for recommending the Granola Shotgun blog, which I will be adding to my reading repository. Good people here, even Madmagic who undoubtedly meant well.
12/29/16, 10:41 AM
"Unrelated, but I had another interesting interaction with some friends that are Hillary supporters. After a long interesting conversation they agreed with everything that I pointed out about both HRC and Obama. They admit their economic policy is against everything we (our friends and I) believe. They are saddened by the wars and destruction these people are causing. The corruption and lies were all known.
Guess what was the last thing they said after all this? "We believe Obama will be recognized as the best president ever".
This is a perfect, real-life illustration of something that I have been trying to articulate to myself under the general question of, What the heck just happened to people? This bizarre disconnect you describe at least confirms that I am not imaging that a lot of people have just slipped down a notch in something very like sanity.
12/29/16, 10:48 AM
Raymond Duckling said...
Second, I want to add my voice to the thread of responses ellicited by Carlos M's comment. It is not only that Computer Industry is a racket that funnels private taxes from the actual economy into the creators of current crops of IT products. The very technology itself is well past the sustainability and even the comprehension by a single human mind. Everything is a mashup of overly complex subsystems that are shoehorned together by increasingly complex and inaccurate interfaces. The purpose of this is, paradoxically, to dumb down the minimal required knowledge base of the workforce. The actual result has been hyperspecialization, where every human cog in the Machine increasingly knows almost everything about almost nothing.
Which takes me to point three, which will come on part 2/2.
12/29/16, 10:48 AM
12/29/16, 11:04 AM
Raymond Duckling said...
What I am really here to tell, is that I make a formal commitment to quit my very salary-class job no later than February 14th. I expect this finest audience both to hold me accountable, and I wish to ask for your benediction as well.
As a matter of fact, I already tried to quit a few weeks ago, but allowed my bosses to talk me into finishing the year and thinking about my options during the holiday break. This is already a failure on my part, - though a minor one, - since I have been working towards this goal for the most part of 2 years.
The way I see it, catabolic collapse does not have to be just about material and financial capital. It happens every time skilled labor refuses to work under the ridiculous non-plans of managers, which themselves are just responding to the delusional daydreams of the market. By making this a voluntary step, I expect to be recycled into a new type of person that earns a living by producing some actual goods or services, instead of just being added to the compost pile, metaphorical or otherwise.
For the road to reach this point, setting my finances in order has been relatively the easy part. I had to do a lot of internal work to detach my professional identity from my ego/self. I will not pledge to forego computers, or computer programming, given that it is such a useful tool in this day and age; but at least I will give an honest try to do something more positive with my time.
I know what I want to do, and I know what I have to do. It does not make it any less scary. For this reason, I ask for the blessing of the assembled Wizarden, so I may walk the walk as much as I've talked the talk.
12/29/16, 11:07 AM
12/29/16, 11:25 AM
12/29/16, 11:28 AM
Jerome Purtzer said...
12/29/16, 11:31 AM
Sylvia Rissell said...
I have a suggestion:
People who are older than you are kind of a time machine.
I remember dial telephones, TV with 3 channels plus PBS, and the yellow pages.
My mother remembers growing up with 4 siblings, WWII rationing, Boston baked beans cooked by a wood stove, and waking up and discovering that your bedtime glass of water is frozen.
My mother remembers her father's tall tails about life in the North woods(almost certainly fictional), and I'm going to quiz her about her mother's life when I get a chance.
Get the stories now. We can all use the "make do and mend" attitude, no matter what happens in 2017.
I have many plans for sewing, knitting, and cooking. Gotta add gardening to the list, and the idea of cheese making has crossed my mind. I also resolve to keep note paper handy while I read TADR comments- so many books to add to my list!
JMG, thanks for another instructive year of blogging!
12/29/16, 11:40 AM
1) Hilary Clinton is elected our next president. In more detail - Donald Trump does not win the nomination. He is either forced out in some manner by the GOP and runs third party undercutting the GOP nominee or he gets to the convention with enough delegates that the convention is brokered and he is forced out there. In any case whoever the eventual GOP nominee is Trump supporters don't back him (likely him as I don't see Fiorina pulling it off) and Hilary walks to victory.
Clean miss! Not even close! I sucked air on this one.
2) Saudi Arabia does not collapse but the beginnings of its collapse are evident before year end. Wide spread unrest and protests put down brutally, economic collapse and military embarrassments. More evidence of Saudi Arabia's involvement in world event will come out but now they will actually get attention by the media and the public. Iran's stand off with Saudi Arabia which looks foolish now will look strategically smart in hind sight.
Pretty much a miss too. But I will roll this over for another year.
3) The markets (bond, stock, housing) stumble and bumble and herk and jerk all year long with an overall downward direction. There are a few sharp sell offs with some relief rallies. The end of the year closes down. The serious sell off does not begin until next year or very late this year.
Well missing number 1 made this a miss as well. The markets stayed in a tight trading range almost all year and soared on the Trump surprise. I still think a serious downturn is in the offing - now more than ever.
4) After many feints and false starts at least one European country finds themselves with a slight majority of its population favoring one of its radical parties. The backlash against immigration builds momentum all year long with more attention getting events like the one that occurred over New Years in Cologne.
My first solid hit. Italy, France, most of the northern states are all now facing realistic pressure from far right parties driven by terrorist and high profile criminal acts.
5) The Oregon stand off sputters to an end and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. What most won't see is that there is a growing number of American's who agree with the sentiment of those men (not necessarily their ideas but their anger). A much more serious version of this event occurs somewhere in the US with much more serious actors. However, this time the actors in question will adroitly use legal loop holes, sharp arguments and social media to position themselves.
Eh, half a point. The stand off did indeed fade but a new sharper event did not occur.
6) And here is my hail Mary prediction. An actually serious politically motivated act of violence (homegrown) occurs on American soil some time in 2016 with serious loss of life and/or property and/or serious political consequences. I will not predict which faction this will come from (because it could come from any of them).
And another clean miss. Stand by for my 2017 predictions!
12/29/16, 11:52 AM
Here are my own predictions that I think have some likelihood of coming to pass:
1) Elon Musk's SpaceX will finally succeed in reusing the previously-landed rocket stages of his Falcon rockets, bringing the cost of spaceflight down substantially, but not 100-fold as he predicted
2) Elon Musk's other company "Tesla" will continue to rapidly expand but stay solvent only through "pre-orders" for future products; however, if it looks at risk of failing, high public trust of Elon Musk (in certain quarters) will lead to public willingness to keep propping up his projects even if it looks like they may be faltering
3) The Fukushima disaster doesn't get solved and keeps irradiating the Pacific Ocean, but gets hushed up
4) Trump gets overconfident and has his first major policy failure, causing him to become more subdued, more guarded and less populist thereafter
5) Terrorists begin to use small flying drones that explode near their targets
6) The world outside of East Asia becomes steadily more religious and less secular
7) The United States continues to prop up Saudi Arabia and its geopolitical plans at any cost (even possibly including semi-public alliance with Al-Qaeda) as long as Saudi Arabia continues to sell its oil exclusively in US dollars
12/29/16, 12:12 PM
I’m sorry to hear of your travails...
Re drought: If you want to see what a really prolonged drought looks like, check out this PBS documentary about the 1930’s “dust bowl”. You can get it on DVD.
BTW, the point is made that human activity contributed to the situation by farming practices that were completely at odds with the nature of the naturally occurring cyclical climate changes.
12/29/16, 12:18 PM
The drought you mentioned extends into southwest Nova Scotia. Wells in that region have run dry. I'm dismayed that all the news reports I read on the situation never mentioned the extent of the drought outside our province.
American interference in Somalia and Yemen in the face of oil discoveries is merely a coincidence!
12/29/16, 12:21 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Keith, while I certainly agree with your broader point -- that it's smarter to have useful possessions than notional wealth in the form of dollar-denominated assets -- I've been watching people insist that dollar-denominated assets will be worth nothing in five years for the last thirty years. It's a bit like fusion power -- always five years in the future -- so might not be the best basis for planning.
Melo, er, thanks, but I don't know that a capacity to be amused by the absurd is any particular sign of greatness. (As for "evolved," that's a topic for a different rant.) Still, thank you.
Stuart, good! Yes, if you redefine "change in consciousness" in terms that actually have historical analogues, rather than seeing it as an apocalyptic game-changer, there's quite a bit of change in consciousness going on all the time.
Berserker, thank you. You're probably right that After Progress isn't well suited to a class full of freshmen, though.
Barrabas, which "we" did you have in mind?
Sackerson, yes, I did. Did you read the reference I cited, which is based on figures from sunny Spain?
Bob, a little more editing and that would pass for poetry, you know.
MigrantWorker, excellent! Yes, yes, and yes -- though co-ops would have to redefine their economic role so that the abstraction "making a profit" was no longer in there. In a contracting economy, on average, all investments lose money over time -- so the world becomes a place where you stretch wealth out as long as you can until it's gone. More on this in a future post.
Mustard, is Neven back from sabbatical, then?
Matt, bright gods. Okay, the moon is blue, the skies are full of portents, and a prizewinning Holstein just bore alive two insurance salesmen. If Tainter's getting into the mainstream media, all bets are off!
12/29/16, 12:27 PM
Mean Mr Mustard said...
Not yet - my first thought was that his timing was a tad unfortunate, with the current incredible mid-winter thaw. But the 'interesting times' on which Neven reports will be going on for a long while yet, and the blog remains active.
Here's hoping the US satellites and scientists remain at their observation posts, too...
12/29/16, 1:10 PM
The huge deposits of oil off the coasts of Somalia and Kenya are estimated at around 4 billion barrels.
That's a lot of oil, but let's do a bit of math here...
Let's assume first of all, that by some miraculous quirk of geology, all 4 bn barrels are recoverable. How much actually is it?
The IEA's figures for 2016 suggest daily consumption of 97 million barrels/day, which translates into global annual consumption of 35 bn barrels.
Suddenly doesn't seem so huge really. Just over a months worth at current rates of consumption.
It's worth doing the sums whenever you read about this sort of thing. The Late, great Albert Bartlett made a career of disabusing people of their fantasies.
12/29/16, 1:33 PM
In September we are treated to the sight of Vladimir Putin opening his re-election campaign by swimming at the North Pole.
Unseen by any of his bodyguards before it was too late, a polar bear steathily comes in from the side, and eats him. The bear is captured alive and kept in the Kremlin, and a social media campaign results in it being a candidate in the presidential election.
12/29/16, 1:43 PM
As far as the FBI, their "criminality" started when Comey took on the job of the Justice Dept after Bill Clinton "conveniently" found himself at a Texas airport just in time to "bump into" Lynch where they extensively discussed her "grandchildren." And his finding that Clinton's "extremely careless" behavior regarding government emails with less security than gmail, including 81 email chains classified at the time as TOP SECRET/SAP, 68 of which remain TOP SECRET/SAP to this day, didn't rise to the level of "Gross Negligence" was based on his deliberate misreading and misinterpretation of Espionage Laws that specifically excluded 'intent' for the express purpose of being able to prosecute people who weren't trying to transmit info to the enemy, but simply couldn't be bothered to take decent care of it. The simple fact is that many military people to this day are in jail for far smaller security mishaps.
While Trump has said that *he* will not go after Hillary Clinton so the poor, picked-on influence peddler can "heal," there is absolutely nothing that says that Congress will not follow through on the gross corruption that follows the Clintons where ever they go. There is also nothing that says they won't follow through on the obvious co-mingling of government work and the Clinton Foundation, especially considering that the latest 30k or so emails found were exchanges with Huma in a file marked "life insurance."
Please: when we talk about Hillary Clinton, we are talking about somebody who knowingly approved arms sales to rogue governments that were arming ISIS. This arguably treasonous behavior cannot be papered over by pointing fingers at Assange, Wikileaks, Comey, the Russians, or anybody other than her totally corrupt self.
12/29/16, 1:53 PM
Carl Dolphin said...
He seems to look at history for predicting the future, and is a self proclaimed intelectual White Nationalist or Identitarian.
Myself being a white male with two white kids and seeing the coming future for white people , some of what he says makes sense, though I can't tell anyone that or fear being called a racists or Nazi. He doesn't talk about class and is a firm believer in Europeans march to Mars and beyond.
Of course, even if you agreed with any of his points, you couldn't say so or you'd be a racist too. You're on the fringe, but he's even farther out there and takes a lot of heat personally for it.
12/29/16, 1:59 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Your comment is a very good example of a: neg.
I get bored very easily with those sorts of social antics. The funny thing about those antics is that the people who use them tend to believe that they are the smartest folks in the room. You see, I'm not the sharpest tool in the toolbox, but if I see through to the heart of your communication techniques, what does that say about you? ;-)!
My friend, have you not understood that the Archdruid is also a champion of the concept of dissensus? This concept applies to writing as much as any other activity.
Best wishes for the New Years, bro!
12/29/16, 2:04 PM
Shane W said...
I think your city begins w/either a "K" or a "W", but perhaps a Canadaphile who's spent as much time in Ontario as me should disqualify himself. ;)
JMG, am I sensing a difference in tone? You seem to be getting crotchety in your old(er) age. "Get offa my lawn!" ;-)
I've been thinking a lot about the meltwater pulse, etc. I can't really be near the coast now without a certain amount of unease. I can't NOT think about it. I was thinking about it the whole time I was along the coasts in Nfld, Cape Breton and other parts of Nova Scotia. To think that I lived along the coast in Long Beach (shudder)
12/29/16, 2:06 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
I forgot whether I mentioned to you that I was contacted last week my some organisation offering me money to schill comments on the interweb for them (I’m not sure I used the word schill correctly here, but you get the idea). Honestly, how cheap do they reckon I am? Pah! I was vaguely aware that such things went on, and now I sort of feel sorry for the keyboard jockeys who feel that it is a good use of their lives...
Far out, the remnants of a tropical cyclone (a tropical low pressure system is the technical term for the weather geeks here!) tore through here yesterday afternoon. Whilst this is not an uncommon weather event, the frequency does seem to be increasing. You don't have to tell me about global warming and climate change, I hear you. The city received somewhere between a quarter to a third of the rain that fell here in under an hour. Far out, there was a lot of water but at least the water tanks are full up to their eyeballs! The photos are pretty telling of the apparent lack of resilience to such storms in a city: Melbourne hit by heavy storms causing flash flooding, transport delays, emergency callouts.
I'll clean up over the next few days.
Incidentally, I saw a comment last week calling for a return to previous social arrangements as a fix for the problems. Those sorts of calls worry me, because they aren't a fix. I'm cogitating on that matter and may reply to it over the next few days.
12/29/16, 2:16 PM
12/29/16, 2:16 PM
Not a solution for the world, perhaps, but maybe for some parts of it.
12/29/16, 2:18 PM
12/29/16, 2:20 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Nuku, thank you. Exactly -- simple sentences can only express simple thoughts, without nuance or any room for the development of an argument. I suspect that writing advice like Madmagic's has a lot to do with the epidemic of simplistic thinking in America these days.
Hubertus, that's certainly one way to approach it.
Tony, from the perspective of the flyover states, Trump has already started doing exactly what they want him to do: bullying corporations into keeping jobs at home, and patching up relations with the Russians so that we don't have to watch more body bags coming home from the Middle East. If Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's latest tirade in the Torygraph is anything to go by, the Trump transition team is currently talking about a flat 10% tariff on all imports across the board -- which he can impose unilaterally under current law -- and which would be hugely popular in flyover country as a jobs-creation move. Thus his core voters aren't disillusioned with him at all -- they're pinching themselves to make sure they're not dreaming all this -- and for them, the shrieking of affluent liberals is a nice tasty layer of icing on the cake.
Hereward, yep. Where I live, along the same lines, inflation is nonexistent but prices somehow just keep rising anyway...
Latefall, interesting. I don't have the time to set up something like that myself, but I could see participating in some such thing.
Avery, funny. With regard to Ray Kurzweil, did you ever hear of the 18th century English prophetess Joanna Southcott? When she was quite old, she announced that she had become pregnant by the Holy Ghost and was about to give birth to the Messiah. Nine months later, she died. Her disciples kept her on ice, waiting for her to rise from the dead, until the stench became too bad. If Kurzweil does die in the next year, I expect some similar scene among his followers...
Hereward, thank you. It occurs to me that I may want to do a post on writing, in the on-again-off-again education sequence, to address some of Madmagic's points.
Mary, every few years some new oil discovery is ballyhooed as bigger than Saudi Arabia. It's a standard marketing ploy to attract venture capital. The only places on Earth that haven't been prospected thoroughly enough to find every really big oil field are beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps.
Bill, the electoral college is how we do things in the US. Clinton knew that going in, and still wasted huge amounts of money and other resources in areas that boosted her popular vote totals but did nothing to address the vulnerable demographics that she had to win to take the electoral college. That's a pretty rousing example of incompetence.
12/29/16, 2:20 PM
I have started to change my focus a bit however by trying to find an even broader context. I'm finding Dmitry Orlov's Technosphere a useful concept.
I'm thinking neoliberalism may be better understood as corporatism, which I'll let everyone define for themselves. In the end it is about the loss of individualism combined with the rise of the machines. So while the Mount Pelerin Society's sort of neoliberalism may be dying that does not mean something better, some better means of organizing humanity is around the bend. Which is all a bunch of gobbilty gook I suppose but I thought I would lay it out here anyway.
12/29/16, 2:21 PM
Brian Kaller said...
Thanks for another great year. Many of my acquaintances declare this to be “the worst year ever,” which seems a bit melodramatic to me, even as I sympathise with their dis-satisfaction.
More interesting to me is the reasons they give. In some cases I know people who have experienced a death in the family or job loss, which is understandable, but most people are simply referring to Trump, Brexit and celebrity deaths. Trump and Brexit we’ve discussed here before, and people will have their own opinions about them. But rarely do people mention Syria, or the Arctic sea ice, or suicide rates in small towns, or the quality of their water, or any of the other serious problems their communities are facing. Most commonly, when they refer to tragedies in the news, they are referring to the deaths of people they never knew, and who never knew them. And they don’t just feel disappointed, but in some cases, betrayed.
Betrayal seems a strange emotion for such things, but I gather that the events of 2016, for many Westerners my age, violated many people’s sense of how life was supposed to work – especially people of my generation. Take people’s outrage at celebrity deaths – obviously they’re far less important than geopolitics or the climate, but if we’re talking about mass psychology, I think it illustrates a useful point.
Many people my age are remarking on the number of singers and actors who died this year -- Alan Rickman, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, and so many others – as a human tragedy. It occurred to me, though, that it’s not an unusual year so much as a change in demographics. Most people have their first crushes, teenaged obsessions and fond memories of people who were famous when they were teenagers, say, 10 to 20.
Since most of those teen idols will be in their 20s and 30s when famous, modern people go through life idolising people a decade or two older than themselves. In other words, I told my friends, we're getting to the middle-aged window when celebrity deaths tend to hit us. It’s a normal part of a cycle, and not an unprecedented catastrophe – but none of my friends had ever experienced this, as they’ve never been this age before. This year’s elections, likewise, are not unprecedented – whatever you think of Mr. Trump, we’ve had far worse elections than this, just outside of the tiny window of pop-culture memory.
Another factor is that these days, popular singers and actors fill our media screens, out of our televisions and phones, and we often hear them on grocery-store loudspeakers. We might hear George Michael several times a day, whereas we might hear our grandmother a few times a year. Thus, celebrities become far more familiar than family members or neighbours, and we instinctively grieve for them as though we knew them. In the same way, our modern media spends an inordinate amount of time talking about one office (president) in one country (USA), so people’s hopes around the world rise and fall with the election of an office that used to be quite minor in its influence, until all our hopes and dreams cling to it.
In a parallel universe we could have mourned the deaths of many famous chemists or nuns or aid workers, rather than actors and singers, and bemoaned the unusual number of deaths this year. We could have agonised over our mayoral election, and when it didn’t go our way, we might bemoan that this is the end of our town forever. In other words, much of people’s grief is wholly a phenomenon of the media around them. I would like to compare the feelings of people who lived more isolated from pop culture, and see how differently they interpreted current events.
Thanks for letting me vent those shower thoughts, and Happy New Year. :-)
12/29/16, 2:21 PM
John Michael Greer said...
LatheChuck, hmm! That's actually pretty good compared to the run of the media. I could see any or all of those happening.
Donalfagan, delighted to hear it.
Somewhatstunned, I go some distance beyond panpsychism, in a Schopenhauerian direction, but panpsychism is a good start. As for Madmagic, s/he might well be trying to drum up business, or s/he might be a prose troll. We'll see.
Mark, well, there you are. Different plans are appropriate for different people.
Jeremy, thank you.
Helix, thank you also.
Jay, and let's make that three for three! One of the reasons that I don't expect interest rates to go up significantly is that a number of governments, that of the US in the lead, would have to default on their debts if interest rates were anything but nominal. I expect instead to see the entire system of government financing turn into a charade in which governments issue debt which is bought via central bank money-printing operations. Exactly how far that can proceed before other chasms open up beneath the money system is an interesting question.
Ray, thank you for this! It's good to hear from somebody who's been there.
Bruno, thank you.
Elros, it's relatively easy to gimmick a net energy analysis by externalizing costs right and left -- that's why, for example, pro-solar calculations always assign solar PV a far larger net energy rating than do skeptical analyses such as the one I cited by Prieto and Hall. Economic viability is a good check on that. If nuclear power actually had the sort of net energy its proponents claim, it would make money on a scale that would have every utility in the world scrambling to get one. The fact that nuclear fission is never affordable without huge government subsidies shows that the net energy claims being made for it are unrealistic. It's always crucial to look for such real world checks, to be sure that you're not being sold a line of (radioactive) goods!
12/29/16, 2:36 PM
1)the arctic sea ice extent minimum will be one of the three lowest on record, possibly THE lowest.
2)More stuff will be shipped by the northwest and northern passages than ever before, despite lower than the 5-year average global shipping tonnage.
3)BC GDP will stagnate or contract.
4)The Vancouver housing bubble will continue to deflate. This will occur despite government attempts to reinflate it.
5)The BC Green party will win at least 2 seats in the 2017 election.
6)Trump will take office on the expected date. There will be street protests against this somewhere in the USA.
7)Trump will attempt to reduce or prevent offshoring of manufacturing jobs. This may or may not work. He will also do things that benefit the wealthy and powerful at everyone else's expense. He will offend lots of people over the course of the year.
8)A populist government will be elected to power in at least 1 european country. They will make serious attempts to do what they said they'd do.
9)Relations between citizens and Middle-eastern/North African migrants will deteriorate in at least one major european nation. There will be either government-led human rights abuses, or there will be communal or terrorist violence that kills at least 50 people in that country over the course of the year.
12/29/16, 2:42 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Ed, thank you.
Raymond, that's very good to hear. I wish you every success as you follow your vision!
Pygmycory, I'll look forward to it.
Jerome, yep. Are you at all familiar with the history of perpetual motion machines? If not, I recommend you look into it. (And what was that famous quote by Ben Franklin? "A ___ and his _____ are soon parted...")
Sylvia, an excellent point. I've learned a huge amount from lodge brothers and sisters who were much older than I.
Avalterra, fair enough. One and a half isn't bad compared to the standard internet New Year prediction.
Esn, so noted! Did you make predictions at the beginning of 2016, and if so, how did they fare?
Mustard, okay. I'll keep following.
Carl, to my mind the Alt-Right is a phenomenon in transition. It emerged largely in reaction against the culture of political correctness imposed by affluent liberals, and like most reactive movements, uncritically embraced some of the basic assumptions of what it was reacting against while simply reversing the value signs (e.g., the rhetoric of race in politically correct circles insists that racial pride is a good thing for everyone but white people, and so the Alt-Right insists that racial pride is a good thing for white people, without noticing that this simply affirms the underlying narrative of racial-identity politics and so furthers the politically correct agenda). Based on what I've seen over the last few years, I think there's a very real possibility that something new and far more original will emerge from the alt-right, and challenge the orthodoxies of our time from directions nobody is expecting yet.
12/29/16, 3:36 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Cherokee, no, I don't think you mentioned it! In American English, at least, it's "shill." Did they mention where they wanted you to shill?
Sackerson, Australia would be somewhat better, but to be frank, given the difference in efficiencies, you'd probably be better off concentrating on solar thermal technologies there too.
Rapier, the thing that's changed is that neoliberalism is no longer the only acceptable alternative in the political sphere. Of course it's still around, and will be for some time, but when the incoming US administration is seriously talking about trade barriers, and rising powers such as Russia and Iran are cutting trade deals specifically designed to insulate them from the global economy, we've entered a new stage in the process.
Brian, that's an interesting point. I find myself wondering if there have actually been an unusual number of celebrity deaths in 2016 at all. I don't keep track, and a great many celebrities are unknown to me -- for example, I have no idea who George Michael might have been -- but it seems to me, as I cast my mind back, that there's a fair death toll of celebrities every year.
Pygmycory, good. I'd be startled if you were wrong -- and those are exactly the sort of shifts that happen in actual history, of course.
12/29/16, 3:48 PM
Jerome Purtzer said...
12/29/16, 3:50 PM
Jerome Purtzer said...
12/29/16, 4:12 PM
Ray Wharton said...
1. A third party candidate will get enough votes to get blamed by the losing D/R for their defeat. Unlike the past where this successfully marginalized the third party, this time it will actually invigorate it.
This is a miss. It was too much of a can of worms to discuss who exactly was helped by the third party votes cast.
2. As noticing that climate change is happening in private conversations expands, noticing in public conversations will contract.
Winged it, open discussion of climate change is easy with most people I know, and yet media discussion of it seems mighty quiet... really though, not a satisfactorily testable prediction.
3. China's government will reject substantial elements of its pseudo market economy. Their market instability will reach a point where the Government will simply exercise executive power over the system and begin revealing an alternate structure.
Same problem as 2. too vague to call... But I would call it a miss, China isn't "revealed" as being fundamentally different than they were playing at being last year.
4. Craigslist will prove relatively resilient to the rest of the tech sector, because it is not publicly traded. Further down the line its simple 90's like layout may prefigure future trends in the internet, being far lighter on servers and transmission systems.
Similar problem, it presumed the tech bubble popping and made a prediction about the consequences. Cannot judge a 'if then' states truth value with out knowing the value of the 'if'. So, it fails as a prediction.
I will think more carefully before posting my predictions for this year in the near future.
12/29/16, 4:32 PM
Donald Hargraves said...
12/29/16, 4:34 PM
Jerome Purtzer said...
12/29/16, 4:36 PM
I think it's a foregone conclusion that once the price of oil spikes again, or even worse, we have some real shortages, the Alt-Right and peak oil worlds are going to collide. Of course, the stupider set is going to blame the Jews or something ridiculous but of course there will be those who know better.
Your assessment, JMG, as an assertion that the alt-right is a reaction to affluent liberal identity politics is pretty accurate. Of course, the alt-right response to that assertion would be "Even if you aren't interested in identity politics, identity politics is interested in you". The reality is that the American identity started collapsing around Vietnam, and as identity politics and various aspects of liberalism start interfering with the replacement identities which Americans (and many other Western countries) have adopted for themselves, those Americans are looking for other identities. Overpaid football players taking a knee during football games or the actors which depict tired comic-book heroes in blockbuster movies endorsing Clinton is a good example of this.
In these racially charged times, with traditional sources of identity failing or becoming hostile to white people, and Black, Latino, Islamic identity, etc surging, I can hardly fault someone for white identitarianism. I don't think it's the right response, but I am certainly vulnerable to it myself, being a rootless person of mixed European descent. It's not rational, but I don't accept the scientistic orthodoxy that the irrational is irrelevant anymore, so I don't care much. Ultimately, I think it comes from a combination of racial identity politics and a completely empty, atomized and rootless culture, and don't see white idenitarianism as a telos but rather a symptom of a deeper problem.
Something that many people, especially comfortable people, in our present era fail to ask themselves is "who is we?". It's a completely central question which will define the future of anyone living in Europe who does not fancy praying five times a day - there's people in Europe who absolutely know who "we" is and isn't, and they don't eat schnitzel or drink Bordeaux. I don't agree with the racial-essentialism of Richard Spencer, but his "Become Who We Are" slogan cuts to the heart of a very real issue - whether, as JMG said, they accept Russian or Islamic power.
Carl, I do hope that as the world becomes more local, multi-racial places will form new regional identities, but I think things are going to get much worse before they get better.
12/29/16, 4:55 PM
Hey, I wonder if you wouldn't mind fielding a question? I don't know if it's of interest to you and if by chance it is whether you ever write about it . The question pertains to the idea that consciousness evolves. I'd be talking about Wilber, Gebser, et al . Are you of the opinion that consciousness is as it ever was in spite of recent movements that allowed women autonomy and sexual liberation among the genders; which could be explained by the elite throwing a few bones to the masses in recent decades because it was in their financial best interest to do so, and that cheap fuel created the conditions to give the nod to a few issues that were previously a no no and for elite consumption only? Also, is the advent of technology directly related to the evolution of consciousness ?
Happy New Year!
12/29/16, 4:56 PM
China has to be thrown in also but then the "global economy" you speak of is no longer global is it?Whatever one wants to call the East, in the context of China's One Belt One Road initiative, it isn't "insulation" it's an alternative. It may not be better than our 'globalism' or 'free market' system but it isn't likely to be worse.
12/29/16, 4:59 PM
jessi thompson said...
While I believe mad magic' s advice was sincere, it is wrong. Today's world has a wide variety of offerings for different types of people of varying intelligence. Greer's writing style is meatier, written in a more intelligent way, not dumbed down for a wider audience precisely because Greer's audience is the intelligent people who are looking for something more substantial. Greer's writing style works because the style matches his audience, people who want a deeper analysis and appreciate richer language. There are a thousand other dumbed down sites following the "rules"- for example, write at no higher than an 8th grade level so everyone can understand it. If that's the kind of world you want to live in, maybe we can save tax money by abolishing high school. Or maybe some writers should hold the audience to a higher standard and help contribute to the "wising up" of the adult population. I personally love this writing style. It's more like the styles of much older works, with long sentences that make you think and word choices of depth and color. Don't change a thing! (Unless you want to write more often.... Haha)
12/29/16, 5:01 PM
1) Angela Merkel wins another narrow victory, to massive protest. This is conditional on there being no New Years incidents like last year.
2) Trump and Putin make some sort of joint statement of national friendship, to wide support among Trump's base and horror among the coastal liberals.
2a) Red Dawn becomes available on Netflix.
3) The national guard will be deployed to maintain order in one or more American cities this summer
4) Trump will become president on January 20, and the Bible will not spontaneously combust or become transubstantiated into a copy of The Art of the Deal.
5) A terrorist attack with a 20+ death toll by Islamic terrorists will spark mass protests against the leader of some European country which will not be ignored by the mainstream media.
6) More states in central/eastern Europe will follow Poland's lead by declaring themselves to be explicitly Christian countries.
12/29/16, 5:14 PM
Tony f. whelKs said...
For my part, I long ago drew the conclusion that you know you're getting old when you start recognising the names in the obituaries.
Yeah, we've lost some creative people this year - and being of a 'ertain generation', we probably haven't paid much attention to the younger creative people following in their footsteps. It is, as youy say, part of a cycle. I wonder how much of people's reactions are due more to the memento mori?
12/29/16, 5:20 PM
Kevin Warner said...
With half-way competent leadership, we could have some confidence in the future but there lays the rub. I suspect that a major reason for a lot of the discontent these days leading to Brexit, Trump and the like is the realization that the people in charge are just not up to the job. In fact, too many are tone-deaf, self-entitled "professionals" - the same sort that ran and screwed up the campaign for Clinton who herself could be counted as the epitome of this class. Does anybody here have any confidence in that people like Abe, Juncker, Trump, Merkel, Holland, Blair can be counted on to do the right thing in an emergency? For that matter, how about the professional class that is running the world's economy and our political establishments?
Of course the discontinuities are going to be harsh as you mentioned in your essay. The trouble is not so much this but the suspicion of what our leader's responses to the troubles will be with their own ideas on what the priorities should be. Hint - it won't be us! You can see pieces at what is to come - bank bail-ins, censorship of dissenting web sites, cash abolishment, negative interest rates, media partisanship and yes, I know that a lot of this stuff is already here. Like the future though, it is just not evenly distributed yet.
In passing, the alt-right has been brought up here yet again. For what it is worth, "Russian Insider" did an comprehensive overview on this mob over at http://russia-insider.com/en/definitive-guide-alt-right/ri16587 so if you'll excuse me, I will see if Putin has deposited my pay into my account yet.
12/29/16, 5:55 PM
12/29/16, 5:57 PM
12/29/16, 6:59 PM
Rebecca Zegstroo said...
The wave of disappointment when jobs do not magically reappear will be ugly indeed. I just hope that educated women will not meet an end like the mathematician Hypatia from the hands of the resentful.
12/29/16, 7:19 PM
12/29/16, 7:56 PM
Thank you for another year of thought-provoking essays.
I'm thinking that 2017 may be the year that sees a global backlash against "the establishment" gain real traction, now that Brexit, the Trump victory and the recent rise of other populist candidates and parties have demonstrated that the elites' grip on power can be broken. It's what John Robb (Global Guerrillas) calls the "demonstration of success" that forms one of the three core elements of a successful insurgency.
12/29/16, 8:46 PM
My guesses get me in the same trouble as "Wrong Way Corrigan".
I am hoping that the last ditch efforts of TPTB in trying to cause further problems between Russia and th US go no where, but seeing some of the rage that is being spewed out over the election, has me worried that a really mean back lash will be coming from the disappointed "left".
It really is as if people thought they were "this close" to some utopia promised by the people of "progress" and now those "illiterate, sexist, bigots" have destroyed the dream.
This is starting to look like a race to see who can cut of more of their nose to effect the most spite.
Hopefully, I'm just scaring myself, but it seems like the war drums are upping their beat.
That's the biggest problem with seeing change, you can only register it in the rearview mirror. Plenty of people were worried about war before WW I. But that it actually happened? How often does it feel like tensions are dangerously heightened, and then nothing happens, and then one day it does?
I 'm truly hoping that you are right and no major wars will happen in the near future.
(Mad whoever, would have made a better point to give pointers on writing clear and concise comments, :-). I know I'm lucky if I manage to make any sense!)
12/29/16, 8:59 PM
JMGs' response was spot on. I enjoy and keep coming back every week for eight or more years because there is a voice of reason explained in a beautifully intellectual way, one that does not conform to the simple, and obviously mindless regurgitation that we find surrounding us in the world. There's a big reason many people don't read more than the news headlines today; because the rest of the article doesn't tell you anything more than the headline did.
I'd gladly be interested in some more educational posts. In fact, I have a feeling there's enough interest in this topic, and enough need that a ball could start rolling in the development of a blog, forums, or website dedicated to a more "classical education." It's not something needed to be loaded upon the wide, yet already burdened shoulders of our host. So what are the opinions of some other readers? We are a community here..
12/29/16, 10:30 PM
12/29/16, 10:57 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Mate, I'm down here in Australia trying an off grid photo-voltaic system. Unfortunately, it is not economic as I reckon off grid costs about AU$0.80kW/h compared to the grid charges - from brown coal fired generators down here - which are about AU$0.28kW/h.
Sorry to burst your bubble, this gear is expensive as. The off grid inverters are far more expensive than the simple and very dumb grid tied inverters. Plus there are multiple charge controllers, DC fuses, batteries, cables etc. The solar panels are the cheapie stuff and nobody thinks about all of the other stuff that is required. None of this stuff is worth anything to anybody, but to build a complete system is a true nightmare. Plus at 37.5 degrees latitude south, I get one hour of peak solar generation over winter. That means that if I have 5kW of panels I get to enjoy using 5kWh of energy per day and not one single watt more than that. And none of this stuff will be working as a complete system in a decades time.
Mate, please whatever you may think or have read, do not bet the farm on this stuff. It is good and works very well, but it is no replacement for the grid electricity that you may be used to.
12/30/16, 1:30 AM
I'll try and remember to check up on my predictions a year from now. Mind you, #6 will be very hard to check because those statistics tend to be at least a few years old and hard to interpret. But it has been true of the Middle East for decades now (including Israel), it should be true for the EU (because of all the immigrants they're letting in from the Middle East), and it has also been true of the former communist states. As technology and science become ever more complex and less accessible, people give up on following them and return to old, well-trodden belief systems, focusing their mental energies on raising children instead (those who do not, have fewer children). Possibly, this won't happen in North America and East Asia for many years yet, but it seems to be accelerating elsewhere.
12/30/16, 1:38 AM
12/30/16, 1:48 AM
Someone with too much time on his hands did a quick analysis which suggests that the underlying cause is the increase in the number of celebrities: https://www.facebook.com/joseph.choonara/posts/10154913953683023
12/30/16, 2:48 AM
12/30/16, 2:49 AM
Phil Harris said...
One reference to a topic from last week: “deserving poor - v/v – deserving rich and similar”. I have long said that if I got what I deserved I wouldn’t still be here. Trouble is I could have taken the innocents with me.
And there are few fair adjudications or adjudicators and the court of public opinion is typically kangaroo. In macroeconomic speak the relationship between care and charity and desert is not linear with technological and energetic resources (net energy). Regarding merit I cite the widow’s mite and the ethnically ‘inferior’ Samaritan. And the poor are usually more generous. This seems a matter of relationships we share whether we like it or not.
I wrote a little verse a dozen years ago in another country:
‘We all beg at some corner
And could use courtesy;
Like the politest of cats
Who has survived the winter,
Like Roma children
Learned in reality.’
Back to 2017: some interesting observations on the ‘lard bucket’ and other continuities in a world still dominated by US. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/12/28/what-is-henry-kissinger-up-to-paul-craig-roberts/
” [the military/security complex wants a major threat] … Stateless Muslim terrorists are not a sufficient threat for such a massive US military, and the trouble with an actual arms race as opposed to a threat is that the US armaments corporations would have to produce weapons that work instead of cost overruns that boost profits."
JMG, I seem to have read that somewhere before?!
And this is a thought as the world growth slows or stalls in the face of net energy/profit not being adequate to leverage further expansion:
“China remains tied to the U.S. economy, whether it wants to be or not”
I am taking an opportunity in ADR comment this week to thank TAE for the above quotes and for a useful daily news digest I see as complementary to ADR. The gradual but actual deflation in world economic indicators has been monitored for a good while now by Raúl Ilargi Meijer. Volatility is what we might expect – it seems a mathematical probability in both climate and economy. I figured 2017 back 10 years ago as a major inflection point. I’m not holding my breath though. Smile.
There are a lot of good people far or near who have good customs that can keep us safe – enough - if we can find a way – good journeying to you all.
12/30/16, 4:04 AM
Phil Knight said...
That said, and this is probably for the "other" blog, I think the real harbinger of change was the discovery and disinterring of that icon of disruption, King Richard III. The whole thing was like a real-life re-enactment of "Quatermass and the Pit".
12/30/16, 4:41 AM
blue sun said...
12/30/16, 4:43 AM
This was discussed recently on the BBC Radio programme, more or less. Using a very crude measure (number of pre-prepared news obits that were used) the answer is "yes, the total is greater than usual", but also that the total has been rising for the past few years. What they didn't ask, though, was whether the number of pre-prepared obits has also been increasing - that's to say, has the BBC been tagging more people as being worth a broadcast obit? If so, this could be, as suggested earlier, down to demographics.
Side comment: the BBC is a terribly mixed bag, and I'm disillusioned with their news coverage, but "Radio 4" is a source of surprising little gems - I mean, a half-hour programme about statistics!
12/30/16, 4:58 AM
Mister Roboto said...
12/30/16, 5:54 AM
Ursachi Alexandru said...
I can't help but notice, with all of my personal disapproval of Russia, that your country's outgoing leadership is working really hard at making the Russians look like the level-headed smart guys. It would be entertaining if so much wasn't at stake.
The upcoming administration, however, while seemingly conciliatory towards Russia, also seems to have a bone to pick with China. Sure, with China a potential conflict may well stay within economic bounds, but who knows. It's also interesting to consider the future of the Russo-Chinese alliance if the Trump administration delivers on its respective intentions towards these two countries.
Anyway, I hope you and your readers have a livable, if not happy, new year. Cheers!
12/30/16, 5:58 AM
12/30/16, 6:02 AM
Ben Johnson said...
I think I can only honestly give myself half a point, since I prefaced my post by saying that I assumed the frontrunners would win their nominations, but I didn't yet take that as a given.
As far as the upcoming year, I have four predictions, starting with the most likely and ending with the least likely.
1 - Marine LePen will lead the French Republic by the end of next year, and the National Front will push for 'Frexit' from the EU.
2 - The Russian-Turkish-Iranian triumvirate will shoulder the US firmly out of the fertile crescent and secure friendly regimes in Damascus and Baghdad. These actions will push American influence in the Middle East to the Gulf States, a crumbling Saudi Arabia, and Isreal/Palestine. I make NO predication about how the US will react to these actions...
3 - A lack of Artic Sea ice due to the mild winter and methane cook-off leads to significant ice sheet collapse all around Greenland. I will go so far as to say that Greenland looses a full five percent of it's land ice, and marks the beginning of the terminal decline of Greenland's ice cap (though that process will take decades).
4 - This is my Hail Mary prediction; we see a preview of the domestic insurgency everyone here has expected for some time. Between the escalating violence around police shootings, veterans turning up to support Native American environmental protestors and the Bundy clan remaining at large and emboldened by their acquittal, the countryside is ripe for some kind of triggering incident. I won't even begin to guess at the scenario leading up to the incident. We could be looking at the start of a bleeding Kansas, or a one-off event like John Brown's raid, but either way, the similarities between now and 1857 are just too many to ignore.
12/30/16, 6:31 AM
12/30/16, 7:00 AM
Shane W said...
I can't really speak for the other regions, but if this polarization intensifies the way it has every presidential campaign since "W", and secession/dissolution continues to come up and move from the loony fringe to the mainstream, I can't see the South not taking the opportunity to regain her independence, even if other options were on the table. If the United States was in as weakened a state as the USSR in the late 80s, the South would be a fool to forego her independence and work to maintain the Union--"fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." I am hopeful that the US would be as weakened as the USSR, if not more so, and that the dissolution would proceed as peacefully as outlined in Twilight--the Con Con option really is the best.
To my mind, the United States and its attendant civil religion, Americanism, and the underlying liberalism behind it have all outlived their usefulness and need to die and exit the stage. Really, the United States is a country about nothing, and without the American dream, which died in the 70s, if not earlier, there's no real need for it to exist. If we don't need to be pushing Americanism on other nations, then we don't need to be pushing it at home, either. When so many other nations do democratic republicanism and liberty so much better than the US, a nation founded only on those principles ceases to have a reason to exist.
Besides, I have designs on being the heir and successor to none other than Judah P Benjamin himself. :-)
12/30/16, 7:07 AM
Shane W said...
12/30/16, 7:21 AM
Shane W said...
12/30/16, 8:28 AM
Shane W said...
12/30/16, 8:31 AM
Donald Hargraves said...
No real predictions here, other than an admonition I've received from the ether to "Watch. Just Watch." More a looking back at the past year of doing the Don Quixote thing and finding that, once people's windmills get knocked down they tend to be built back up with stone.
What I've found interesting about the past year is that, while I can't really predict the future I can see enough to be prepared and occasionally act on things. From unexpected sports outcomes (I remember being cued into Western Tennessee State vs Michigan State before the upset in that NCAA Tourney) to the big stuff (Never predicted Trump, but was definitely prepared for it – complete with visualizations depicting what would happen – and tried to prepare others for the possibility) to personal stuff (Saw the end of a long-time relationship coming in my dreams), I've seen things coming that, until recently, would have had me blindly reacting to the blindside. It's a development I like and hope to improve on – especially as I grow older, options shrink and decisions grow more and more irreversible (and, may I add, crappier to boot).
As for the old "what can you do" exercises you asked for us a few years ago, I've been doing regular fasting for the past two months. Not yet up to the full day thing (usually eat within three hours of bedtime), but going the whole day without the habitual munching and pondering what I want to eat focuses the mind in ways – plus I've actually shed a few pounds and am slightly lighter than I've been the past fifteen years (within "rounding error," but repeated weighing shows that the present range is holding and once the feasting regime is over I'll probably start another slow loss of weight....).
12/30/16, 9:04 AM
william fairchild said...
I haven't been commenting much lately, although I still read and enjoy your blog on a weekly basis. Too many irons in the fire, as the saying goes.
And that is kinda my take on 2016, and 2017 to come. There are too many irons in the fire for anyone to manage.
I am a dyed in the wool, registered Dem, have been since '86. Dad was a New Deal Dem, a good union man. My grandmother helped found the Colorado Federation of Teachers. I identify as an Anarchist these days; hierarchy really does bother me, but I freely admit I do it, in part, just to irritate and annoy my mainstream Dem colleagues.
The thing I find so funny is the histrionics Democratic pundits and supporters in responce to the election. The seem to think that whilst "social justice" was necessary, it was "sufficient".
None of them can grok that a working class feller doesn't give a rat's rear end as to which potty a transperson evacuates in, or whether the residents of Ferguson burn down their local beuaty salon and dollar store, if they can't make the power and light bill at the end of the month.
They cannot comprehend that given the choice between a fairly comfortable and reliable gas guzzler for 5 grand or a Prius for 40 g's, hell we're taking the Olds when we have to drive. Shoot, most of my people couldn't get the loan for a Hybrid Fancycar anyways. And where I live, the bus doesn't run.
Yes, I agree, decline will work its ragged, grey, entropic magic. Slowly. Unevenly. Unfairly. Until, one day, 2017, 2020, 2030? there is an inflection point, and we fall down to the next landing.
So, I feel that there is a huge (YUGE) disconnect between "the Man" and regular folk. Even though I did not vote for him, I do not envy the Donald his task.
12/30/16, 9:14 AM
william fairchild said...
12/30/16, 9:17 AM
12/30/16, 9:38 AM
12/30/16, 10:21 AM
canon fodder said...
Dow will close below 16,000 by the end of the year. Trump will be blamed
The weather will be too hot for some, too cold for others, too wet for some, too dry for others. Climate change advocates will take this as proof positive that global warming will end life as we know it before the end of the year. Trump will be blamed.
The immigration crisis will boil over is Europe with open fighting between natives and non-natives in several major cities. George Soros’ Open Society organization will conclude that more immigration is the solution and fund a tunnel under the straights of Gibraltar. Trump will be blamed.
The Democratic Party, after a year of self-examination, concludes that polar bears, pissed about the melting artic ice sheets, use their time machine to go back and move Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server from the State Department to her basement causing her to lose the election. Trump will be blamed.
Elon Musk will introduce solar powered toupees, allowing follicly-challenged people to be stylish and charge their iPhones as the same time. Trump will buy one.
Trump’s Twitter followers will exceed the global population. The CIA, after an extensive 15 minute investigation, will report that cockroaches have started using discarded iPhones to access social media. Russia (and Trump) will be blamed.
An airplane will touch down in fly-over country. Liberal elites will stagger off the plane, dazed and confused, as amazed locals look on. Finally, a tall African American self-identified male will emerge, approach the crowd, plant a Black Lives Matter flag and say “We come in peace for all mankind.” Trump will be blamed.
“Russian hackers” will access voice-based services like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexi, causing them tell dirty jokes until unplugged. Shares of Apple and Amazon sink while frat house usages soars. Trump will be blamed.
Now for something completely different.
JMG - I truly appreciate your style of writing. The fluid narrative and cogent arguments are a refreshing change from most internet fare. Please don't resort to factoid lists or kindergarten prose as suggested. Thanks for the posts and insight.
Happy New Year.
12/30/16, 10:56 AM
12/30/16, 12:43 PM
Clay Dennis said...
12/30/16, 12:47 PM
Bill Pulliam said...
There are many other ways to achieve a political goal...
12/30/16, 2:20 PM
Shane W said...
I think you see too much power in the SJW movement, the loud shrieks you hear are deathbed moans--the election of Trump and the implosion of Hillary's campaign this year sounds the death knell of the whole SJW movement. It's all over but the shouting. Identity politics is done, stick a fork in it.
I'm kinda amazed at people's inability to see the silver linings in the future, and their rigid views of things. The collapse of a nation marks the beginning of new nations, new founding fathers and mothers, new national myths, etc. The collapse of the tech bubble marks the end of virtual reality and screen addiction and a return to engaging with the real world. There are silver linings to all of these things, it's not all a veil of tears...
12/30/16, 2:47 PM
Shane W said...
12/30/16, 2:49 PM
Carl Dolphin said...
12/30/16, 3:12 PM
Shane W said...
12/30/16, 3:16 PM
12/30/16, 4:06 PM
Varun Bhaskar said...
I have two sets of predictions – one for India and one for the USA.
1) Will continue to muddle along, not really making much progress in any particular direction.
2) The pro-BJP news will continue to support the Modi economic agenda, while opposition papers will continue to call him a fascist dictator.
3) the damage done by demonetization will have a deep impact on the coming elections and the BJP will use a number of seats, however because of opposition’s disarray the number of seats won’t be as high as expected.
4) the BJP brand will not recover from demonetization and the last national party will continue to fade as the 80 yr crisis approaches.
5) The monsoon rains will continue to be deficit, but the met will continue to revise numbers to make everything seem normal.
6) soil, ground water, and surface water degradation will continue unabated.
7) local level organization will also continue creating a balance to disorder that pervades.
8) Gandhian living will slowly become more popular.
10) sea level rise will continue to eat away at the coasts.
11) Pakistan will resume its attacks on the border once the winter ends.
1) Trump will engage in battle with the neoliberals in his own party, targeting specifically the Wisconsin faction for their underhanded tactics.
2) Trump will push for a pay raise for both federal military and national guard, because he is a smart demagogue and wants to retain the loyalty of the armed forces.
3) The democratic party, and left-wing generally, will double down on its identity politics agenda, further isolating them.
4) Bernie Sander's faction will continue to make ground among the left activist base.
5) We will take another step closer to an urban insurgency and the national guard will be called out to police a major city.
6) The drought on the west coast will continue unabated.
7) The number of economically and environmentally displaced persons will continue to climb, regardless of Trump’s actions, and the number of homeless encampments will continue to flourish.
8) We here on the report will notice some of the crisis cults appearing on the fringes.
9) Drug abuse, suicide rates, and general self destructive behavior will continue to climb and become impossible to ignore by the mainstream.
10) More people in the salary class will dope, with the help of their psychs, themselves to avoid dealing with reality.
12/30/16, 5:24 PM
Inverters transmogrify low and varying Direct Current to higher voltage Alternating Current, commonly 220V 50Hz or 110V 60Hz. They are costly and impermanent.
My ancient solar panel (Arco Solar, maybe from an early attempt at solar power) when last tested about 20 years ago put out 16V no load and 12V at 2 Amps in direct sunlight.
The problem would seem to be at the demand end. If most appliances / machines / devices can use 12V high Amp and 5V low Amp why not have a low power inexpensive inverter only for the devices that demand it? RV appliances (of course except stoves) are easy to find. LED lamps often run at 5V and the lamps for 12V have 3 LEDs in series (or a really crappy current / voltage regulator with high EMFs and a life span NOT 50,000 hours).
A large enough 12V battery bank could do most of the regulation. Cars usually provide around 14.6V motor running at small loads down to 9V starting a very cold engine. Lead acid batteries are 2V per cell, the more expensive deep charge / RV battery can last if cared for. There would need to be some sort of regulation as simple as variable shades on the panels or a regulator that could shunt excess power to some other use such as pumping water.
Inverters from 12V to 5V are common also (cigarette plug USB chargers etc.).
The downside would be Edison's problem of transmitting a distance which DC does poorly. Fat wires for are also needed for high Amps at low Volts but for short distance it works out, and they aren't going to fail because of a blown transistor. Look at the wires under the hood of a car. Fat wires to the starter and smaller according to the end needs. Look at the fuse panel for more approximations.
Desktop computers run internally off 12V and 5V but it must be well regulated. Printers and most monitors would need AC for their power supplies.
Another possibility is 110V DC not unusual on older boats. Many motors with brushes (old vacuum cleaners) will run on that. Old tugboats often had a shaft generator on the propellor shaft that would be used with a 10 battery bank after cruise speed is steady (9 knots - it can feel strange to drive on the freeway after 6 weeks on a tug). Existing household wires can work, that's an Amps to Volts ratio problem. Just don't plug most modern devices in, it makes the magic smoke come out and then they never work again.
12/30/16, 5:35 PM
Varun Bhaskar said...
One other thing about the celebrity deaths thing. There haven't been more deaths than usual, rather the instability of the present is getting more people to hear clatter of hooves as the fourth horseman rides among them. I'm sure it'll be a topic of conversation around the water cooler soon enough.
12/30/16, 5:36 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Ray, good. That's the thing about analyzing mistakes -- they become opportunities for learning. Those who just keep on retailing the same claims year after year, without ever paying attention to their failures, miss out on that.
Jerome, the kind of reasoning that runs "this expert was wrong in this one case, therefore anything is possible" rarely makes for accurate predictions -- especially when the subtext of the reasoning is an attempt to make the universe conform to human cravings in the teeth of the evidence. By all means wait and see, but I hope you're not going to invest your life savings in PENV.
Justin, I get that. My hope is that as the alt-right matures and gets a sense of its potential power -- which is considerable -- the quest for meaningful identity will move in directions that don't prop up the underlying narratives of the political correctness that's being used by affluent liberals to pursue their class interests (at the expense, btw, of working class people of all skin colors and genders). More on this in an upcoming post.
Andrew, an enormous amount depends on what you mean by "consciousness" and "evolves." If you mean by that, as your examples suggest, "do social mores concerning gender and sexuality change over time?" the answer is of course yes; it's only in the stunted imagination of contemporary pop culture, for example, that gay people were forced into the closet when ancient Greece converted to Christianity and didn't get back out again until the Stonewall riots. On the other hand, if by "evolves" you mean "moves inevitably over time in the direction I want," I have some disappointing news for you. Perhaps you can explain in more detail what you mean.
Rapier, good. You'll notice that China's building its trade policy along lines laid down by geographic propinquity and geopolitical interest, rather than pretending that every point on the planet is equidistant from every other.
Jessi, thank you. I really do think I need to address Madmagic's notions at more length, in a post of its own.
Justin, those seem plausible enough. Now we'll see!
Kevin, and of course that's also a crucial point. As Arnold Toynbee pointed out a good long time ago, one of the distinctive features of a society on the way down is a leadership class that's lost the capacity to come up with effective responses to changing conditions, and satisfies itself with going through familiar motions instead.
Pantagruel, well, there's that! I wasn't even thinking of Proust or, say, Joyce -- no successful work of nonfiction prose has ever restricted itself to the kind of stilted journalistic prose Madmagic's potted rules produce. Go open any book on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and you'll find paragraphs of varying length, complex sentences, and so on.
12/30/16, 5:58 PM
@Ed Suominen: You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed the story.
@Shane W: Quite right, and no, spending time in Ontario doesn't disqualify you. I've been curious for a while now how many ADR readers could be found in and around my neck of the woods if I looked.
@Pinku-Sensei: Yes, Kitchener and Waterloo still think of themselves as having distinctly 'Downtown' and 'Uptown' cores respectively, with all the usual connotations. In the decade since you left town, Kitchener has been remodeling old factories into hip cool offices for Google and the like, luring upscale restaurants and businesses to Downtown, and in many ways trying to out-gentrify Waterloo. Downtown Kitchener is now #DTK, or that's the attempted image at least. Construction on a light rail transit system to connect the two city centres is nearly finished, which may further the gentrifying trend, or help us adapt to peak oil, or bankrupt us, or some combination of the three. I really don't know yet.
12/30/16, 6:02 PM
Jon from Virginia said...
(Carl H) Wilken had predicted that public and private debt would double between 1960 and 1970, and that it would continue to double and redouble itself in less than each decade until most of the population became impoverished. The first great half-doubling arrived on schedul, approximately $1 Trillion, $1.21 in fact as revealed by the unaudited figures. By half decades, here are the numbers:
Debt of Domestic Nonfinancial Sectors
in Billions of dollars
and for 2016, Forbes says US Nonfinancial debt rises to 3.5 times higher than GDP, and GDP is about 18 trillion. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmauldin/2016/04/18/us-nonfinancial-debt-rises-3-5-times-higher-than-gdp/)
Steve Keen has total public and private debt over 60 Trillion as well.
Carl Wilken (an American Physiocrat, a very famous farm economist in the Roosevelt and Truman eras) based this on the empirical ratio between primary production and total GDP of about 1:7.
12/30/16, 6:18 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Rebecca, funny you should mention Hypatia. I did a post about her two years back which you might want to read. The Cliff Notes version is that Hypatia suffered the horrible death she did because the intellectual and cultural movement of which she was so impressive a part was wholly subservient to the class interests of the patrician elite of the late Roman world. If educated women today want to avoid a repeat, some attention to the way that current ideologies prop up the class interests of the affluent against everyone else might be in order.
Bob, I'd have expected a link to some kind of spam in that case. Still, I could be wrong -- and I notice that he hasn't posted any further comments.
Bootstrapper, yep. Brexit plus Trump plus the Italian referendum have built up a lot of momentum. If Le Pen wins the French presidency -- which I think is quite possible at this point -- the floodgates are going to swing wide open...
Candace, one reason that the neoconservatives in both parties and the media are pounding those war drums with gay abandon just now is that they know it's not going to matter a bit. Twenty days from now, they'll be out of power and any actions they take will be brushed aside by the new administration -- so they can posture to their heart's content, without having to worry about the consequences.
Prizm, thank you! I'd like to see an educational project of that sort; in the meantime, I have some posts in mind on that subject.
Esn, fair enough. We'll see!
Barrabas, nah, I don't think we're quite there yet. I'd say, rather, that General Sherman has just taken Atlanta and the Confederacy is desperately trying to get something in the way of a military force between his army and the sea...
Averagejoe, that's a huge issue, of course. It's been a while since I've addressed it here, too, and it might be worth a recap of the movements of the four horsemen as they come around the curve and head toward the home stretch.
12/30/16, 6:37 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Phil K., hah! That's a fine metaphor, if nothing else.
Blue Sun, no argument there at all.
Stunned, fair enough. I find the BBC invaluable -- it always parrots the accepted narrative of the Anglo-American elite, so I read it to find out what that particular class wants people to think. Balance it off against RT and you've got a fairly good balance of propaganda!
Mister R., okay, that one wins tonight's gold star. If I ever write another story set in Meriga, I may just use that. Any suggestions for what the equal and opposite term publikin means?
Ursachi, I won't argue at all. This whole "Russian hacking" business is a national embarrassment -- grandstanding, shrill accusations, and an epic case of sore-loser syndrome, while no significant evidence has been offered to back up the allegations. I used to think better than that of Obama; oh, well.
Ben, I could see all of those happening, though I hope we can avoid the last.
Shane, for what it's worth, I suspect that it's going to come to secession one way or another. I'd prefer a return to federalism, with each state setting its own social policies et al., but there's just too big a surplus of officious busybodies on all sides of the political landscape to make me confident that such a thing could work -- thus the number of times in my fiction I've presupposed the splitting up of the US into smaller nations.
Donald, definitely watch! I suspect some popcorn is in order, too. ;-)
William, every time I hear a Democrat say such things -- and it's been happening more and more often of late -- I feel a little more confident that we might just pull something worthwhile out of the present mess.
Pygmycory, you're most welcome.
Canon fodder, funny. (No doubt Trump will be blamed for my comment, too!)
12/30/16, 7:00 PM
Leaving norcal due to climate change is reason enough!
12/30/16, 7:13 PM
12/30/16, 9:18 PM
Our canary is Japan, which has been doing exactly this since the early 1990s. Ever since their giant real estate bubble burst, they have been bumping along with interest rates of 0% and quantitative easing, and nothing has gone particularly wrong, excluding tsunamis and meltdowns. Nothing has gone particularly "right" either: their growth rate has been nearly 0 for the last generation, and their debt-to-GDP ratio has climbed to about 250% and is still rising. This is by far the highest in the world, yet the yield on their 10 year government bonds is currently a mere 0.04%; even Germany's is higher, to say nothing of the US. Japanese inflation is just about 0 too, if not negative; when Abe engaged in a huge program of deficit spending and more QE, it popped above 2% for about a year before falling right back to 0% again. Unemployment is a mere 3.1%, thanks in part to a population with a median age of 48 and a fertility rate of 1.3/woman. Sales of adult diapers surpassed those of infant diapers several years ago and haven't looked back.
Did they stumble on some sort of metastable state in which a First World economy can be maintained at a steady state with little inflation and no debt crisis despite constant deficits? It seems obvious that they can't push the debt/GDP ratio to something like 1000% without something breaking, but it seems that whatever the limits are, they aren't anywhere near them. In part this has to do with cultural factors, like the fact that they would rather have a declining population than accept immigrants and that the Japanese public is perfectly holding 0% government bonds. But they have shown that the current trajectory in Western countries could continue for at least a couple of decades longer, in principle at least.
In the West, we seem to have run into political limits well ahead of the economic ones. If the the powers that be (Clinton, Cameron, etc.) had managed to retain power and not run into any other limits like "rural insurgency" or "war with the world's #3 overall military and #2 nuclear power", it's not clear where they would have run into economic limits. If money is free or even cheaper, the limits to business as usual are fairly distant, even with no growth. Of course, ZIRP/NIRP and QE are just policies related to the tokens we use to allocate physical resources, and reality would eventually intervene in the form of rising pollution and declining nonrenewable resources. But it's not clear to me that the physical limits would necessarily have hit us until a couple of decades from now, allowing a generation's worth of a fairly comfortable plateau.
Is there any good counterargument to that? And is it possible that this plateau is what the mainstream establishment is shooting for? Of course it won't work out in the long run, 20+ years from now, but you know what Keynes said about the long run...
12/30/16, 9:38 PM
12/30/16, 9:39 PM
wow just wow :). Yeah, "trump will be blamed" is about as good a motto for 2017 as "the frog god did it" was for 2016.
12/30/16, 9:40 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
To run a proper low voltage off grid system would require hugely expensive cables to carry the high currents - and also as you note, even then the voltage regulation would be a problem - despite how large the batteries are. Car batteries have a very short lifespan.
The AC mains voltages that you use on appliances are a cost effective solution to the above problem. And DC switching is a real drama because of the effects of arcing. If the average household had to pay for proper DC switches, fuses and/or circuit breakers, then you wouldn't have many electrical outlets in your household.
And just in case you were not aware, the mains electricity grid utilises huge transformers (which are the opposite of inverters) which have about the same lifespan as a well constructed inverter.
Mate, I reckon you are talking theoretical and completely missing the practical aspects of this technology. And if your old solar panel is so useful, why aren't you using it? Just sayin... What good is it doing sitting in storage just to be pulled out every now and then and tested just to make you feel good. It has a finite life, so I urge you to find a use for it.
12/31/16, 12:55 AM
Cherokee Organics said...
I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on Madmagic's comment as it was fascinating to read? You know, call me old fashioned, but I would be very uncomfortable writing something like that dude wrote. It is just not polite to speak to another person like that, but then the interweb is a strange place for communication. I reckon it is a guy too from the way the words were used, but I could well be wrong.
No celebrations here as we worked for about six hours today in the hot sun hauling and digging soil which had slipped in the recent very heavy (tropical low pressure system) rain. I'd never seen soil slip here before and it is a new experience! I'm onto it though!
12/31/16, 2:33 AM
Mister Roboto said...
12/31/16, 5:30 AM
12/31/16, 5:55 AM
David, by the lake said...
As one who grew up (more or less, to the extent that a child of the Navy is "from" anywhere in particular) in Dixie, I can appreciate your thinking on the subject. I often find myself "explaining" the South to friends up here in WI -- there is only one War ("duh WAH"), no it ain't over, and if you have any questions, just visit Stone Mountain, GA.
With re to Dixie 2.0, however, I am thinking that it would be constituted slightly differently, given the demographic shifts in the states. Assuming that current borders remain (by no means a hard and fast assumption), which states would you see in a new Confederacy? I don't know that a VA of today or even NC (which was reluctant the first time around, even) would be in. SC (my old "home"), most likely yes, if only out of a sense of pride, and I'd think the old "Deep South" generally would be in. So, I'm seeing a smaller, more focused group than before.
12/31/16, 6:28 AM
Clay Dennis said...
I certainly hope you do not invest any money in PENV. I took a look at the website and it was enough to keep myself and my mechanical engineer friends laughing all evening. In addition to the obscure circular language and strung together important sounding and meaningless words ,the so called "technology" is so thermodynamicaly flawed that even the most utopian techo-optimist would not beleive it if spelled out in plain language. The crux of it is that they plan to feed electricity from the grid in to an induction heated boiler and use the steam generated to make more electricity than they put in. In addition to breaking every law of thermodynamics, a simple analysis of the process shows that even if every step acheived the highest theoretical efficiency possible the process would lose 40% of the energy fed in to it. Electical induction heating has been around for 80 years and is well understood, and no more efficient than dropping an electrical resistance coil in to a tub of water ( like your electric water heater). Also, the energy properties of water as it is heated and expands in to steam are also well known and can be calculated reliably to 4 decimal places by any third year mechanical engineering student.
I assume this operation is a scam to collect gullible investors or perhaps a subsidy dumper, but it seems too clumsy to succed at that. Finally, anyone wishing to look at the site should be aware that it is full of hidden links that will take you to sites advertising erection pills or worse.
12/31/16, 6:30 AM
Dear Varun Bhaskar. That was a very interesting list of predictions. At this point, India looks to me like the world's most successful civilization. India absorbed two separate conquests, and then eventually neutralized one and spat out the other. India appears to me to be the few countries ever subjected to Moslem conquest which did not itself become majority Moslem. India has never been conquered by China nor has the economy of the subcontinent been significantly penetrated by Chinese commerce, so far as I know.
What is the "Wisconsin faction"? Please elaborate. It has been evident for some time that Gov. Walker is part of a Koch and other oligarchs funded attempt to create a sort of satrapy around the Great Lakes and upper Midwest Valley. I thought Speaker Ryan's attempt to pre-empt a made in America requirement for sourcing steel in a recent bill--bridge and road repairs, I think--was a straightforward case of bribery by foreign interests, but perhaps there more going on as well? The ID politics wing of the left can't see any of this because of their inability to read maps.
As of 2016, the "Bernie wing" of the left has shown itself to be the only part of that coalition which can reliably win elections without resorting to massive fraud and propaganda. There are indications that Democratic party donors are about to pull the financial plug on the identity politics/neoliberal wing of the party. The Greens, with their weak candidate at the top, may have bombed in the national election, but they managed to run some very impressive young folks with sound, innovative ideas in local elections, and I doubt that those youngsters are going to simply retire into private life. The libertarians appear to have no such bench going forward.
12/31/16, 7:37 AM
Listening to people who support Trump, it appears that they typically fasten on to the one or two aspects of Trump’s hints about future policy that resonate with their own viewpoint and ignore the rest (your response to me is a case in point). Unfortunately, everyone gets the whole package, whatever that turns out to be.
My predictions for 2017:
1) During his first six months in office, Trump will enable the passage of at least one piece of legislation that will substantially and materially harm over time a subgroup of his supporters, whether it be the gutting of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Obamacare, labor laws, women’s access to health services or environmental laws, or changing the tax code to give the 1% even more tax breaks or whatever. Will they notice? Will they care? Open question.
2) During his first six months in office, despite his ongoing bromance with Putin, Trump will destabilize some aspect of the current global order, accompanied by lots of unintended consequences, mostly bad (US –China relations? India and Pakistan? Israel and Iran? Europe and Russia? Somewhere nobody has thought of yet?)
3) Under Trump, the US will quicken its slide toward mean-spirited authoritarianism, with some hopeful resistance on the part of local groups like the people of Whitefish, Montana and the Rev. William Barber’s NAACP.
Happy New Year!
12/31/16, 8:00 AM
Patricia Mathews said...
New Yorkers set up a huge paper recycling bin with stacks of paper reading "2016: Good Riddance." It has apparently been heavily used, much of it for the sort of gripes our politicians should pay attention to.
The drying up of the west is proceeding apace.
We can also expect more polar vortex freezes.
And everyone is discussing Kerry's refusal to veto a resolution about Israel's settlements in the most moralistic terms - "betraying an ally, stab in the back" vs. "they are [acting like American pioneers running out the native population] and shame on them." Discussion of policy issues seems amazingly absent. One wonders is Israel has a viable Plan B for whatever policy Trump sets.
12/31/16, 8:31 AM
temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
I won't even attempt predictions but appreciate those found here. For the Archdruid's weekly (and much relied upon) analysis as well as the comments that also never fail to expand my understanding or at least make apparent my assumptions, I'm grateful.
While we talk about US relations with China possibly deteriorating, I'm also interested to see how they manage their "internal" issues. This morning, I came across this: about massive Chinese infrastructure projects which gives some idea of the resource-use competition, the population pressures, the consumption patterns, etc. The title of the slideshow suggests these projects are "reshaping the world" but the full extent of that reshaping isn't acknowledged - though I know ADR readers would recognize what is implied in terms of externalized costs, affects in other high-consumption societies, etc.
Meanwhile, an interesting parallel. 1st strand: China has millions of "left behind" children ( a video about it here, but you can google print articles on it too). The parents have left rural areas for urban jobs. With restrictive relocation policies, these parents either migrate alone or, upon producing a child while in the urban area, grandparents in often remote and rural locations are tasked with raising the kids. Whole villages, emptied of working-age adults, are shells of their former sources of livelihood for communities and now millions of kids are living in strained simulacra of families and communities. The parents, for the most part, are working in factories, producing all the "goods" (we need a new word, they're not always good!) that first, Americans wanted and now, upwardly mobile Chinese want. There's a concomitant set of problems related to mental health, abuse, and the increased likelihood of those children turning to crime.
2nd strand. The gutted "villages" in America where parents have their jobs due to outsourcing (to China, etc) or are chronically under & menially employed. With nowhere to migrate to, instead we're seeing an increase in addiction, illness/death, suicide, debt - and correspondingly, more grandparents are being tasked with raising grandchildren. Apparently the number has doubled since 2000.
In both countries, the young are thrown under the bus that their parents were forced onto. We're all caught. I don't see a good outcome if the next generation is so poorly regarded.
*this to all in general, but specifically, too, to Raymond Duckling who asked for good wishes in his new endeavor.
12/31/16, 8:37 AM
Shane W said...
well, if we weren't a culture with as much historical amnesia, we would be able to remember the lessons of the last depression, but, as it is, the first generation with no living memory of the last depression promptly sought to undo all the safeguards put in place to prevent another depression, thereby ensuring the next depression for their children and grandchildren. So, based on our history, it seems each generation must go through a depression to learn the lessons of a depression. Perhaps if we were an older culture with a longer historical memory, like Russia, this would not be necessary, but we're not, and we've deluded ourselves into believing that the past has no bearing on the present or future, so, depression it is.
Also, there's a truism amongst many religions that affluence and decadence is evil and will be punished by God/the gods, whilst suffering is necessary for spiritual growth, so there are spiritual/religious reasons to want a depression, if you believe in gods of consequences.
12/31/16, 9:47 AM
Shane W said...
regarding maintaining the Union, and why the South wouldn't want to, I feel that New England's essence is essentially Puritan, and by necessity, evangelical and proselytizing. Massachusetts license plate slogan "Spirit of America" is apropos. Therefore, I just don't think they're congenitally able to live and let live, and not try to impose their will on the rest of the nation. Certainly, it has never been their nature to live and let live. Regarding the mid-Atlantic and New England, I feel that their essence is mercantilist and capitalist, and there's a strong sentiment in the South that they are not trustworthy.
12/31/16, 10:06 AM
Thank you very much for that.
12/31/16, 10:15 AM
By the way, I didn't know that you were long-winded and complex. I rather have thought about how lucid your writing is.
12/31/16, 10:27 AM
This may be judged in hindsight to have been a bit premature, but I can definitely see someone deciding that, at this point, there is little risk on the downside.
I further see that if this happens, most of the criticism will come from the Left. This will cause a big fight over whether Satanist Americans are being disrespected, after which some number of Satanists who have previously been on the Left will make a highly public move to the GOP, stating that they were only allied with the Left for fear of the Fundamentalist wing of the party, and, "... thank Beelzebub we finally don't have to put up with all of that Kumbaya crap anymore."
12/31/16, 10:37 AM
David, by the lake said...
With re to your response to Shane, I agree that a return to federalism would be the best chance we have to hold the US together; however, I am unsure of the odds of success. As I've mentioned in previous discussions on US imperialism, I lean toward an earlier "start" -- roughly with the US-Mexican War. As such, I wonder if the expanded Union we have constructed since that time is not itself a product and function of our empire and that it is thus unsustainable in the absence thereof. If this is true (and I freely admit that it may not be), then the collapse of our empire will necessarily result in the present Union fracturing into smaller, more cohesive, and more culturally homogeneous units. Not exactly a consummation devoutly to be wished, but is it avoidable? Of course, building local resilience works in either case, so as a strategy it is fairly robust.
12/31/16, 10:59 AM
"The question pertains to the idea that consciousness evolves. I'd be talking about Wilber, Gebser, et al. Are you of the opinion that consciousness is as it ever was in spite of recent movements that allowed women autonomy and sexual liberation among the genders; which could be explained by the elite throwing a few bones to the masses in recent decades because it was in their financial best interest to do so, and that cheap fuel created the conditions to give the nod to a few issues that were previously a no no and for elite consumption only? Also, is the advent of technology directly related to the evolution of consciousness?"
I think it is odd to use such a term as evolution of consciousness in this way, although I do get what you're getting at. To me, consciousness is that subtle something that underpins existence, it is that thing that a lifetime of meditation is supposed to get one to contact and identify with.
But the contents of consciousness, yes those evolve in the course of anyone's lifetime and certainly they evolve, or I might say unfold or develop, over the course of centuries and so on. But it sounds as if you are asking whether our newly developed ideas are somehow permanent. Again, to me a slightly odd question, but I think that as long as our civilization holds onto some kind of continuity they will not be utterly wiped out. On the other hand, I really do think that a lot of modern feminism is something close to nonsense in that it is not really compatible with life in the nonluxurious state, and also I am not at all sure that women were as oppressed as we were told. I'm reading a very serious book on research into life in the middle ages, and it is simply not true that women didn't inherit. In fact they often did and it was very fluid, able to be done according to each individual and family circumstance.
Also, I'm not at all sure that the current liberation of women is a matter of the elite throwing us bones. It may be that they found that with a modern, power gobbling society they could trick women into taking on the responsibilities of men and leave no one home to tend the hearth, and thus the family loses its home economy and becomes more dependent upon wage slavery and the kids more programmable. They told us it was bones, but it was really just a bunch of sticks.
12/31/16, 12:12 PM
"6) The drought on the west coast will continue unabated."
The west coast has actually had a few wet years in a row now. Both the Northwest and California have had an extraordinarily wet fall and early winter (I live on the Olympic Peninsula). As of this year the reservoirs in California are full. This drought is broken. There may be another one on the way, but "unabated" is _not_ an accurate description. If you have a serious, rather than polemic, interest in west coast weather and climate, I suggest the blog of Professor Cliff Mass of the University of Washington.
in the Bramblepatch
12/31/16, 12:13 PM
Shane W said...
the local (white) Baptist church that I was raised in has a large and active Spanish ministry. In this regard, I don't think it is alone amongst Southern evangelical churches. The whole mainstream narrative about red state anti-immigrant bigotry doesn't really tell the full story. That is why I think Mexico and the Confederacy will be close allies once the US is gone. Very similar agrarian, traditional, class conscious, hierarchical societies. Besides, Mexicans are really just a mix of African, European, and Native (La Raza), and there is a strong cultural imperative in Mexico to mix your blood in with everyone else's. A lot has been made about how Latinos are "becoming white" here in the US.
IDK how it will all pan out. I think a lot of opportunistic carpetbaggers will flee once Southern independence is close to becoming reality again, out of fear of a phantom caricature of the stereotypical Southern "other" than any reality. A lot of assimilated Southerners will stay. JMG seems to place VA and NC in the Confederacy again, while splitting MO. He has offended the great people of the Commonwealth of KY by NOT placing it in the Confederacy. If I had to draw the line, I'd include all of the states of the original Confederacy, possibly minus VA, plus KY, part of MO (deferring to Missourians here on the list), and possibly WV (WV'ians, chime in please). I think Texas could be induced to join the Confederacy again if given Texas-sized clout in the government--a lot depends upon how much sea level rise separates Texas from the rest of the Confederacy. As far as KY, we're solidly Southern save N KY.
12/31/16, 12:42 PM
Maxine Rogers said...
I have not had a television for 25 or more years. My radio died maybe five years ago and I never got around to replacing it. I do read some news on the internet. I find the BBC will not report on anything that is happening until it is so far gone that they cannot decently ignore it any longer.
So, I am one of the few, the proud the brave who really are lucky to not be troubled by mass media. I was puzzled to see Carrie Fisher's death announced at all. As far as I know, she hasn't had an acting job since she was a teenager. She was quite old and so can be forgiven for popping off. I was more surprised at George Michael as he was only 53 but these things happen. Unlike JMG, I was a young person in England when George Michael was popular so I know who he was but I can't say I was keen on him.
So, these celebrity deaths have left me unfazed. I am also not upset at the election of The Donald as I think he will be better fun than the last few Presidents the Americans have elected.
Yours under the red cedars,
12/31/16, 1:55 PM
Maxine Rogers said...
1) I will get medieval on the raspberries and force them to stay in their own bed.
2) We will have at least one ram lamb that my husband will insist on keeping as a pet.
3)There will be any number of scandals on my small island and I will only hear about them six months after everyone else.
4)I will be reelected as Garden Club President.
5) I will make Druid Apprentice in 2017.
12/31/16, 2:03 PM
Maxine Rogers said...
So sorry to hear about your drought. I live on the coast in British Columbia and we just finished several years of drought. We have not had it as bad as you; however, we have used a composting toilet for 8 plus years now and that saves a lot of water.
Composting toilets of the Jenkins model are not expensive, smelly or difficult to make. The Humanure Handbook is available for free on the internet.
Best of luck.
12/31/16, 2:06 PM
For those who are counting, Californians lost our "First Dog." The governors dog, Sutter died of cancer yesterday.
JMG - re your response to Phil H. about triage in times of shortage. My initial response was that this was only true of societies that had developed class divisions and a power elite. But with further thought I realized that in hunter/gatherer cultures there is a tendency for the triage to take place on a generational level. In many such cultures births are limited, or if that is not possible, infanticide is practiced. Parents simply don't try to raise more children than they have resources for. But we also know that in some cultures the elderly may voluntarily commit suicide when food runs short, cf. the popular culture image of an elderly Eskimo on an ice floe.
On the subject of the limitation of births, I also recently read "A Plague of Caterpillars" based on the author's anthropological research in the Cameroons. He observed that the extreme form of circumcision practiced in this tribe caused penile scarring and deformity that might contribute to a low fertility rate. I wonder whether this was true of the sub-incision rites of the indigenous Australians.
12/31/16, 2:35 PM
12/31/16, 3:28 PM
12/31/16, 4:22 PM
I enjoyed comments by Carlos and SamuraiArtGuy and wonder about the pros and cons of a cheap smart phone.
Roberta, since about 2008 I've been using a old style flip phone on the Virgin network. I paid $40 if I remember up front for it, and pay $20 a month for the service. For that I get 400 minutes, more than enough to field the calls I get from friends, which mostly go to voice mail since I work third shift.
It does not have any sort of "data" plan. At lunch I open up a book as opposed to my coworkers, who all sit hunched over their smart phone screens.
If just for the occasional car or family emergency, I always recommend a cell phone over land line. Though when I get to work, it goes into the wall locker just like my car keys and such, comign out when I go home.
12/31/16, 4:30 PM
Jason B said...
12/31/16, 7:13 PM
I want to thank you for your lively contributions to the discussions and for being the one person here who is actually living off-grid with alternative energy day to day. As such, you act as a reality check to the many folks who have the fantasy, but are basically clueless as to the limitations and necessary stepping down of lifestyle which “alternative’ energy demands.
Those who think that, after throwing together a couple of panels and some batteries, they will continue to live the life based on endless energy from the grid know nothing of what they speak!
I lived on mostly “alternative” energy for 17 years on my 40ft steel ketch as I cruised around the Pacific. 4 large solar panels + a towing generator, 55 amp alternator off the engine, 4 big deep cycle batteries, a small portable petrol AC generator for 3 small power tools, 12vt dc for everything else including small fridge, no inverter. You really get to know your energy limits when the lights start to dim. No jump starts for the engine on uninhabited atolls! Besides that you have to become very intimate with your systems because they take constant monitoring and maintenance as you well know.
I was also highly aware that all this gear was expensive and needed a supply of spare parts which did not arrive via cargo cult and which themselves were not made with alternative energy. At one point I divided the world into “us cruisers” and “all the rest of the world who made spare parts for us“.
I’m back ashore and on the grid now in semi-rural sunny Nelson NZ, but with a solar thermal hot water system (pump running on a small 12vt panel). I did the math on grid-tied PV, and it was a no go economically compared to hydro generated mains here in the S. Island (15-20 year payback).
Even though I’m sucking (lightly) off the tit of the grid (in a small house), at least I know that I could live much more simply if circumstances change.
Good luck in 2017 (we’ll all need a bit of that mate).
12/31/16, 9:32 PM
Anastassia Makarieva said...
Since many science readers do not read details, this exchange basically serves to discredit Weißbach et al. I must say I myself found these articles only recently and cannot at the moment judge about the technical merits of the analyses on either side. However, it is informative how the critics treat the key statement, that renewables will not be able to sustain the humanity on their own (my emphasis):
“This viewpoint speaks to a larger issue regarding the goal of making an EROI calculation. Is it to examine a technology's ability to make use of existing societal energy resources when plugged into the current electricity supply mix, or to examine that technology's ability to supply all electricity needs on its own? It seems that the authors [Weißbach et al.] are trying to do the former, however statements regarding the wind resources at Germany's coast being “too sparse to supply the society” [, p. 214] or the statement that “significant buffering efforts are indispensable for a grid only consisting of renewables” [, p. 1006] suggest the latter. If the latter is the goal, then why are the same demands not made of gas-fired or nuclear electricity? The EROI of natural gas supplies would ALMOST CERTAINLY decline if these resources were required to supply all of society's electricity needs.”
Providing no evidence against the claim that renewables are unable to sustain the society, an impression is created that the latter claim of Weißbach et al. is incorrect.
In my country since we rely a lot on selling gas and oil such positive talks about renewables are not very common. You should read the (few) liberal media, i.e. those in opposition to the official authorities, to find such views -- apparently borrowed from progressive venues like Quartz or the like. In such media I invariably notice the same foggy attitude. A typical tool is to confuse consumption of electricity with total power consumption “forgetting” that the former is about an order of magnitude smaller than the latter. For example, the title of an article on a recent drop in PVs price could ask: “Time to give up the fossil fuel?” Then the response is, “no, it is (unfortunately), not exactly the time yet, because renewables are projected to cover JUST 28% of TOTAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION by 2021 (from the current 23%). But they are booming exponentially!!!”
The reader is left with an impression that if not in 2021 than perhaps by 2025 we will forget about fossils. The reality is however that it was all about total ELECTRICITY consumption, which is about 10% of total energy consumption. Thus at best the renewables will make a 3% contribution to our needs, a major piece of which has always been the hydropower.
12/31/16, 10:21 PM
(and anyone else thinking about shelling out for Prieto and Hall),
you will want to read my review:
bottom line: Prieto and Hall is very flawed, and now quite dated (and the Energyskeptic review is a hatchet job).
The link inside the Ramez Naam article is decent:
(FWIW - I think Ramez is too techno-optimistic in many ways).
JMG - the problem I have with the use of Prieto & Hall to "disprove" PV's technical capability is you risk dismissal of your entire message due to touting this technically flawed snapshot taken at an especially cherry-picked moment in time. If PV was so flawed EROEI/cost wise, then there simply aren't enough subsidies to have installed 300 Gigawatts(peak) around the end of 2016, unlike, say the technically flawed/EROEI deficient algae based biofuels or cellulosic ethanol, both of which are essentially derelict.
I still agree that BAU is not supportable by renewables without significant conservation/behavioral/political changes, because of the financial/political/behavioral issues work to impede the transition to renewables.
An example: without protective tariffs/prescriptive laws/etc., a country being ecologically honest and producing increasing amounts of iron via renewables would be un-competitive in the neoliberal globalized world. But if we wait until the last coking coal is gone, we run off "Seneca's cliff", and don't have time to do the development-by-deployment (e.g. learn by doing) that is the only real way to make these sorts of transitions work. Yet as you point out, the neoliberal economists get apoplectic when one mentions trade barriers, and their sudden (re-)imposition will likely have unforeseen negative impacts.
Then how do we allocate this green steel among the producers of steel objects? "Sounds like communism to me".
And some consumers will complain about increased cost of cars, etc. during the transition period.
Another example is the rancor over Elon Musk's "subsidies", yet the massive fossil fuel industry subsidies seem politically sacrosanct, and unmentionable in most of the press.
It is these oft-ignored, wicked hard problems of human values, attitudes, and interests that impede sustainability, not the lack of technical capability of PV and wind and storage.
re: (to Sackerson) "... better off concentrating on solar thermal technologies ..."
Passive solar thermal I agree, for simple space heating and hot water it's quite hard to beat.
Excepting of course social convention, HOA/zoning restrictions, first cost basis "accounting", etc. that work against such rationality as free, clean heat from the sun.
Not clear if you meant solar thermal electricity and power using concentrators, but if so, I disagree about it being a general solution, due to the old nemesis of relying on direct normal insolation (DNI) and related issues that people have struggled with for a century.
See the parts dealing with DNI/dust/etc. from this comment from March 2014 re Cogenra (which, as I surmised at the time, would fail with its PV/thermal combined panels).
Changed link note: on solargis.info, go to their "iMaps" link, then one will have to find on the map under "solar" and select "direct normal" and "global horizontal".
12/31/16, 11:08 PM
I was wondering about your PV system and "1 hour in winter"
So I was going to use PVwatts to try 37.5 North, but in hunting around, it can find climate data from elsewhere.
So I fired up PVwatts
Then I typed in: Melbourne, victoria, australia
and lo and behold it came up with a couple of nearby weather stations.
Melbourne is 37 deg. 48' latitude, close enough.
Default is 20 degrees panel tilt (kinda low, but close to common roof tilts), so I put in 5 kW system, changed the azimuth to 0 degrees (facing North, toward the equator from down under), left the other defaults as-is (rather conservative) and found that in June one gets:
panel tilt kWh/month kWh/day/kWp-of-panel
20 deg. 323 2.15
37.5 deg. 383 2.55
52.5 deg. 410 2.73
(52.5 degrees tilt is "latitude plus 15" rule of thumb to be for "max winter output").
Those are not great numbers, but something is wrong tat you only get 1 kWh/kWp.
Either your local microclimate is horrible (fog/clouds/...), bad shading, or you have half your strings dead.
In Reno, Nevada, at 39.5 N, a 20 deg tilt system gets 416 kWh in December.
"All renewables are site specific"
12/31/16, 11:52 PM
Phil Harris said...
I would like to chuck out social categorisations such as ‘deserving / undeserving poor’ – too much baggage from the past; too much like the sound of bully talk from those old privileged pulpits. (And Britain in previous centuries worked around a failing Poor Law and then Workhouses and latterly at the first opportunity in the late 1970s, what I call ‘the Thatcher itch’ for the past).
There is a discussion by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue of the nature of modern moral disagreement. MacIntyre has plumped overall for Aristotle as ’the’ protagonist to match against the voices of liberal modernity. Given that I agree with MacIntyre about the failure of the Enlightenment Project I am interested in his take on the essential conflict between ‘good and good’ that he sees exemplified in Sophocles’ dramatic tragedy that he says Aristotle is blind to. The failure of the British state for instance might be exemplified in the appeal to ‘Free Market’ ideology (a curious modern appeal to ‘the Gods’ it seems to me) that was so central to the decisions involved in the Irish Potato Famine in the 1830s.
MacIntyre provides and makes a telling point from Australian philosopher John Anderson who urges us not to ask of a social institution: “What end or purpose does it serve?” but of “Of what conflicts is it the scene?” MacIntyre calls this a ‘Sophoclean’ insight and remarks – “that it is through conflict and sometimes only through conflict that we learn what our ends and purposes are”.
We approach again if we ever left it, the place where disagreement is not academic. I seek to know where ‘our practical intelligence’ as MacIntyre calls it, is based on such insights or lack of them. That much we discuss already on ADR. One of my fears for the future is an institutionalised caste system along the lines of the system which overtook the sub-continent during times of scarcity and imposed a human deformity for millennia.
1/1/17, 5:45 AM
Fred the First said...
1/1/17, 5:55 AM
David, by the lake said...
I will be launching my Druid Candidacy this spring, so hopefully I will follow suit in 2018. In addition to the spiritual aspects (more suited to discussion on the other blog), I see this path as a means of preservation as we head deeper into the prenumbra of the descent.
1/1/17, 6:09 AM
JMG writes as if he expects his readers to actually read! Yes, thanks to the “screens of dumbness”, the way your rules impose short and sweet, less is more, yada, yada, make it easy to grab the idea or point for the 5 second to 5 minute(?) attention span of web media readers. There is always a chance that “something really shiny” distracts the reader, as in pop up ads, ding dongs informing there are new emails or texts waiting to be read…oh, you must get the idea.
I find JMG’s writing to be meaty and complex, with a touch of history, an essence of mythology, and an overlay of intellect…in other words, profound.
I found this blog and have been reading it for many years because Mr. Greer challenges my assumptions, habits of thought and narrative. I doubt there will be bullet points anytime soon.
Happy new year to all and to all a good morning.
1/1/17, 6:26 AM
Shane W said...
I'm not talking strictly in a religious sense. Yes, it is true that Puritan Protestantism gave way in New England, first to Catholicism, then to secular humanism, but the underlying Puritan mores were simply transferred to the civil religion of Progress instead. Therefore, New England became just as fanatical about Progress as it was about Protestantism, and set about proselytizing Progress upon an unwilling South. Of course, the South never failed to note the tarnished halo and the stake in the eye of the North. Some things never change...
1/1/17, 6:54 AM
Shane W said...
you're right about Aztlan, which is why I'm all in favor of California secession. No sane person would want the post-industrial basket case Calif. is about to become. If Mexico wants that Trojan horse, more power to them!
Historians have never been able to come to an agreement about the Civil War b/c the correct solution, secession/dissolution, is still out there waiting. Once the Union is dissolved, Americanism is dead, and the constituent nations are free to go their own way, historians will be able to come to an agreement that Civil War papered over national differences in the march to empire.
1/1/17, 7:09 AM
just some things on the PV trend, mostly anecdotal..
back in 2012, I had to tap into some of our retirement funds early. we installed a 6kv grid tied system to help offset the big hit in income tax and penalty for early withdrawl through the fed tax credit. My state (nj) had already done away with the state credits.
It was one of the best moves we made. between conservation practices(make hay while the sun shines ;-)), drastic decrease in electric bills and proceeds from srecs, after 4 years, we've gotten about a 40% return on the 'principle'.
we also pay close attention the developments in the srec market and build rates. Our srec broker provides detailed reports each month on the pipe line. There's been a steady increase in systems. Mostly what i've seen is a growth at the municipal level, with most of the towns here installing systems on public buildings, especially school owned property. There's also been a big increase in residential. Most of that is due to outfits like solar city, with their leasing arrangements. I wonder if that could be considered a 'grassroots' movement? Also I don't think many folks consider this aspect of the 'boom' as it were, focusing more ,it seems, on the Public Utility conversion. Having also worked in the power generation field, these small contributions become in essence 'co-gen' facilities, and do relieve a lot of strain during peak hours of use.
1/1/17, 7:11 AM
Moshe Braner said...
Unfortunately, Madmagic is correct regarding the typical web-surfing person these days, who is unwilling or unable to maintain focus long enough to read more than a few words of text in a row. Of course, that's not a typical reader of this blog. But it is a typical voter!
1/1/17, 7:15 AM
Shane W said...
1/1/17, 7:22 AM
I will hold a space for you in my meditations. You are brave to change your life in such a substantial way. Much good fortune on you in the days ahead.
1/1/17, 7:28 AM
Shane W said...
I think the South will do well in a post-American world because it has a history of being independent, and of being the nation with the most unique and different culture among the North American nations. I wonder what will become, though, of the Midwest/Great Lakes area? JMG has posited one interpretation w/his Retrotopia novel, though it's by no means guaranteed that will be the path the Great Lakes area takes. I'm thinking that the Midwest/Great Lakes area may be the area that will have the biggest existential crisis/vacuum in the post-American world. So much of Midwestern identity is staked on being middle American, all-American, the American norm, the Heartland, etc. What happens to that identity when there is no America anymore? At least all the other regions have unique regional cultures. I'd be interested in your and others' who live in the area take on it.
1/1/17, 7:35 AM
August Johnson said...
"Listening to people who support Trump, it appears that they typically fasten on to the one or two aspects of Trump’s hints about future policy that resonate with their own viewpoint and ignore the rest (your response to me is a case in point). Unfortunately, everyone gets the whole package, whatever that turns out to be. "
Yes, this is very visible. No matter how much evidence is presented that the Russians are were and are hacking to affect political happenings in this country, there are those who keep saying that they see no evidence and it's not happening. Very similar to climate change denial, "There's no evidence for it, in spite of all the presented evidence, therefore it's not happening."
I don't think that for a minute that any Trump supporter would hold to that line if the evidence was that a foreign government had helped Clinton to win instead of Trump. The yelling and screaming would be earsplitting and there would be shrill calls for cyberwar and likely calls for armed resistance to invalidate the election.
I know enough about what goes on in tracing hackers to know that Trump is lying his head off about this. It is quite possible to be very sure of the origin of hacking attacks. And his excusers/supporters know this. But they want that one item that they support so are willing to excuse everything else, no matter how bad.
Just look at how people who say "But Trump has saved so many jobs!" The reality is that either what he says (2000 jobs saved) doesn't match reality (800 actually saved, only to be eliminated in a year by automation), or he takes credit for something he didn't do "I made Sprint bring 5000 jobs back to the US"(Sprint announced this in April of 2015, before he announced his candidacy!)
Don't think for a minute, though, that the exact same thing doesn't happen with Clinton supporters. For example no matter how much evidence was presented about her flagrant violations concerning emails, her supporters/excusers refused to see it. Those in the military and other sensitive jobs knew what would have happened to them if they'd done the same things. Yet, the only consequences Clinton suffered was to get richer.
Clinton was a huge supporter of TPP, but supporters only remember her saying she was against it after the big stink about her involvement with pushing it.
Neither one of the candidates was worthy of the office of President, but because people latch onto one issue and ignore everything else, we were going to get a total disaster either way.
1/1/17, 9:22 AM
2016 did not claim the life of Emma Morano, who is the last known person born in the 1800s.
1/1/17, 10:17 AM
My prediction is ... The food police, grammar / writing style police and spandex bicycle people form what appears to be an unstoppable political force with a lot of clout. They fall apart in quick order due to generally irritating and alienating everyone else ... and, each other.
My general mantra (?) or, perhaps it's a thought stopper (?) for the coming year when anyone plays the race, gender, class card (did I forget anyone?) ... that generally "throws shade" and resorts to a nasty kind of one upsmanship and superiority ... is: "That's the kind of attitude that got Trump elected." And, no, I didn't vote for the guy. Lew
1/1/17, 12:53 PM
2017 predictions. Generally speaking I see 2017 as a year of chaos. Things will whip saw back and forth. Conflicts will seem to be ending then heat back up again. Markets will rise fast then plunge suddenly. Inflation/deflation may go back and forth or, more likely we will see prices fall in one sector and shoot up in other sectors.
1) Donald Trump will not be impeached or assassinated this year.
2) World War III will not break out with Russia
3) Both the social justice movement and the alt-right will grow in membership and influence
4) Russia will make moves (political or militarily) to expand its influence in countries that border it (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia etc.)
Hail Mary for the year. There will be at least one massive act of civil disobedience even larger than the North Dakota pipeline (which by the way I forgot about and am giving myself on full point giving me a 2/5 for last years predictions).
1/1/17, 2:02 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
I look forward to reading your thoughts on the economy and in particular negative interest rates. My gut feeling is that those negative interest rates will not be available to everyone - unless they have a deposit. ;-)! Of course, people fail completely to understand that negative interest rates are a consequence of peak oil being now many years in the past. Also the economy I reckon reflects the general state of the environment and the higher costs that are being incurred as a result of global warming. If people only understood... You know I lost my entire crop of stone fruit this year, cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines all due to the crazy weather - they're all gone despite the best practices in place here. The trees have recovered and fortunately the other fruit trees and berries are producing well in their place. But that is how global warming is affecting us - it is in the little things that nobody seems or wants to notice. You know, all of the commercial orchards also took a huge hit this year and I saw organic apricots for sale at about $20/kg. Quality cherries are at about $15/kg. And people were asking why is it so? It is sort of funny, but it isn't really funny. Diversify is the watchword!
You know the raw and naked self interest when it comes to peoples comments on renewable energy sources sort of revolts me. If someone said to me: I'm installing this here solar power system so that my kids - who will have to live with ever worsening climate conditions - don't end up hating my guts because our simple day to day choices ended up destabilising the planets climate; Well you know I might just give them a big hug because I'd have very warm and gooey feelings for them.
But no, it is always my economic savings, my rebates, expected rate of return etc. etc. It really is naked self interest and it is revolting. Just sayin...
1/1/17, 2:26 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Thanks! And yeah, living with an off grid system really is like living on a boat. Oh yeah, what a great analogy. And Nelson is a beautiful part of the world. Nice one!
1/1/17, 2:28 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
1/1/17, 2:31 PM
Chris Larkin said...
However, I would expect a US civil war to be more like a more common insurrection civil war than the US Civil War is typically remembered. Most civil wars especially in the modern era are very localized guerrilla fighting over a board area with or without conventional armies. In many areas, the power of the controlling group isn’t certain and waxes and wanes. It’s marked by targeted attacks to settle more local disputes as part of the larger fighting along with a strong rural / urban divide. Examples of this are the Russian Civil War, the western side of the US Civil War, and the Taliban. Eventually some new independent nations might shake out, for the short and medium term I expect more of a failed state situation with scattered de facto rulers, or complete victory by one party or another after years of brutal fighting. The Logic of Violence in Civil War by Stathis Kalyvas goes into great detail on this sort of conflict and I recommend it.
Adding to the pile of writing critiques, I find JMG’s writing easy to read and insightful. I always look forward to the next update, and even when I disagree, I find it informative.
1/1/17, 2:56 PM
If you add probability percentages to your predictions (and ideally formulate them so they get clear results) that will likely improve our overall learning effect significantly when they get revisited at the next end of year.
1/1/17, 2:58 PM
1/1/17, 3:30 PM
David, by the lake said...
I've lived here in WI for a decade and a half. My impression of the culture is one that is firmly rooted (pardon the pun) in agriculture and maritime trade (via the Inland Seas). These are a hardy people here and I doubt that many of them would as much as blink if "American" ceased to be an identity. With respect to societal survival, we would have working farms, cattle, and fresh water. This would likely be both a blessing (resource abundance) and a curse (the need to defend said resources) in a dissolution scenario.
1/1/17, 3:41 PM
David, by the lake said...
Not to mention the fact that we have lots and lots (and lots) of meat, cheese and beer! :)
1/1/17, 3:58 PM
Cherokee - I use different ways to describe the decision (to buy panels) with different audiences. If I want to be persuasive, I pitch to their greed (incentives, pay-back time, isolation from supply cost increases). But I usually follow up with a sort of understated footnote: "and maybe I can help show the way to a better planet, too."
1/1/17, 4:19 PM
Yes, there is evidence there was hacking into the Democratic Party. However specific evidence that ties it to the Russian government, I have not seen. Circumstantial evidence, and assertions from various sources, but these are mostly repeating each other up to the point that an assertion becomes received wisdom. To say that no other actor could have done it lacks imagination as far as the diversity of cyberattack threats go. Playing devil's advocate it could even be some faction of the IT security industry covertly acting to big up the threat so that they can earn $$$s to fight it.
The BBC is dangerous because there are some people who still take it seriously as an unbiased source. It is all very well the Fox News and Russia Todays of this world having their own biases. However with the BBC, another biased source is on its high horse all holier than thou claiming to be uniquely impartial. There may be about 5% of the BBCs output that is worthwhile and distinctive, however 95% isn't, and maybe by budget 99%. It plays the same ratings game as overtly commercial broadcasters, since it earns money from marketing popular programs for repeats on other channels, or overseas, and there is much trashy entertainment that could just as easily be done by a commercial organisation. Much of the schedules are filled with repeats, or formulaic programs on real estate or antiques, no different from a dozen other commercial channels available.
The pernicious and unjust way it is funded, is the reason I don't have my own TV. The TV licence is as if you had to pay £150 per year to buy a Tesco Clubcard, which you needed to have, not just to shop at Tesco, but to shop at any other supermarket.
1/1/17, 4:29 PM
Has anyone else heard about this? I'm thinking "OK, guys. Call me back when you have a fungal-fabricated battery, wire, and an LED. Then maybe I'll take you seriously for that phone thing." (I think the "Ecovative" company may have been mentioned.)
1/1/17, 4:31 PM
Shane W said...
that's why I'm so hopeful that the US will implode, making dissolution/secession a cakewalk, and any fighting short lived. Death by a thousand cuts. I'm hopeful for a USSR type situation after a foreign loss of the kind JMG has sketched out in his books.
I think Trump has just postponed the progress of national dissolution. He's basically managed to unify the broad red swath of the country between the coasts, save blue Ill., Colo, NM, and he may pad his coalition if he manages to deliver on some of his campaign promises. The Union lives to see another day, thanks to Trump. It would've gotten very ugly in flyover country if H. Clinton had one and pursued BAU full steam ahead.
1/1/17, 4:46 PM
August Johnson said...
1/1/17, 5:47 PM
August Johnson said...
1/1/17, 5:57 PM
Varun Bhaskar said...
Guess I'm already wrong on one count then. :P
Yes, Indian civilization is extremely resilient. I don't doubt that it'll survive the fall of Industrial civilization and rise again at some point in the future. The fundamental difficultly facing India’s pluralistic culture is that it is under constant assault by Christians and Muslims with financial support from outside the country. It is a project of cultural/religious imperialism. Once the petro-states go into decline (especially the Saudis) I expect a more indigenous form of Islam to once again flourish in India. Similarly once the west goes into decline I expect the Christians to also begin assimilating.
India and China probably won’t get into a direct conflict any time soon, but that’s only true in the long term if India avoids an imperial project.
Right now the country is in for a rough ride. On a side note, I do hope some of ADR's Indian readers are trying to find ways to direct the country in the right direction. He's basically handed them the keys.
As for the United States. The Wisconsin faction is what I call the old guard republicans who current hold power in the state. Gov. Walker and Congressman Ryan aren’t exactly on the best of terms with Pres. Trump. During the elections Walker was strongly opposed to Trump, as was Ryan. I expect them to resist much of Trump’s agenda simply because they profit from the continuation of business as usual. I don’t know what it will be that triggers Trump’s wrath against the old guard in Wisconsin, but I see it happening. Ryan’s actions show that the old guard still think that the old rules apply.
1/1/17, 6:36 PM
Re: Weißbach et al.
In the U.S., we have a phrase "follow the money", similar to the latin "cui bono" (who benefits?).
He works for the Institut für Festkörper-Kernphysik
which translates to: Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics
They are working on a dual-fluid nuclear reactor, a variant of the molten-salt fuel reactor
that uses a molten lead coolant loop.
While they have the typical claims of molten salt reactors, they also believe that their reactor can power humanity for several million years and that high temperature chemistry can make hydrazine for automotive fuel cheaper than conventional fuels.
n.b. hydrazine is a highly toxic, volatile compound with wide explosive limits.
When transferring into rockets, the people involved must wear protective suits in case of leaks.
Does this sound like something you want in anybody's automobile?
In other words, they're pretty far into la-la land of techno-cornucopians.
In a similar vein, Bill Gates calls for "more research before we deploy renewables" needs to be evaluated in light of his investment in a company designing small modular nuclear reactors.
"Economics killed small nuclear power plants in the past - and probably will keep doing so"
n.b. Lazard's latest Leveled Cost Of Energy analysis shows why the nuclear advocates are so often anti-renewable, they can't compete on economics.
(details in the full study - no paywall, no registration)
1/1/17, 8:17 PM
1/1/17, 8:21 PM
I can only comment on my observations of northern MN, but it has an extremely strong identity which I characterize as “New Scandinavia.” Having moved here from another area of the Midwest but further south, it really feels like another country. In fact, most of the people I know here don’t see themselves as Midwesterners but Northlanders. Their ancestors left the boreal forests in Europe and found something very similar in North America. Many I have met are only second or third generation and extremely proud of their ancestry. They speak numerous phrases of Swedish, Norwegian and particularly Finnish, still eat lots of the traditional foods,(even Lutefisk) are staunchly Lutheran and have a much deeper reverence for nature and the land than where I formerly lived. Additionally, there is a sizeable population of Ojibwe whose descendants have lived on the north woods for several generations longer than the Scandinavians. Their identity is greatly impacted by ancestral ties to the boreal forests and waters.
I suspect you are correct in your assessment about the South’s future. As someone who is three-quarters hillbilly my ancestors have lived in Appalachia and later the Ozarks for nearly 300 hundred years. I agree that the South is a unique culture. Your comment makes me wonder if the ones who may suffer the worst identity crisis will be ones who have family and ancestors from differing parts of the country and no real ties to a particular land and the culture that develops around living on/with that land.
1/1/17, 8:50 PM
The concept that locally manufactured PV installations are vastly more efficient from an EROEI standpoint than ones made in China and transported around the world is good to remember. Now if only policies could encourage that to happen.
I note that even Low Tech magazine uncritically accepts the notion that world demand for electricity will double by 2045, necessitating a faster build-out of capacity.
1/1/17, 10:11 PM
Nancy Sutton said...
1/1/17, 10:33 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Hmmm. I've heard that story... You need to consider how the system works in reality.
Mate, you may not be aware of this but over winter it can be very cloudy. And it can rain too. Also from time to time it snows. Wow, who would have thought that solar PV does not work in those conditions... This winter was beyond cloudy.
Far out dude, get in the ring and get some hands on experience or keep quiet. Get thee to a solar shop my friend and live with the stuff for a few years.
1/1/17, 10:38 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Shane, I'll certainly consider any job offer that comes my way, even if the pay is in Confederate dollars!
Pyrrhus, I bet they are.
Varun, I don't know the situation in India well enough to judge those predictions, though they seem reasonable enough. The US predictions look like slam-dunks to me.
Jon, fascinating! Clearly I need to look into Wilken's ideas.
Trajork aka Grebulocities, that's an interesting point, and one that I'll need to brood over at length before I can offer an answer.
Cherokee, I'm doing next week's post on the subject of writing, partly because Madmagic's prose policing amuses me, partly because it's relevant to the occasional series of posts on education I've done. The short form is that if I'd wanted to write in a stilted, choppy, dumbed-down style, I could certainly have done so!
Cat, that is to say, I addressed the issues that matter to me and not those that you think ought to matter to me; I also made my own assessment of Trump's character and likely actions, rather than blindly accepting what's being churned out by the corporate mass media, as you've done. Still, I appreciate that you've offered specific predictions. If you turn out to be wrong, will you admit it?
Patricia, the replacement of interests with (supposed) values is getting pretty thick, no question. Yes, I noticed that one also.
Wendy, that's a valid concern. I admit I'm more concerned about the equivalent here in the US, as I can potentially have some influence over that, while China's problems are its own to solve.
Shane, no doubt!
Onething, aha! I like that. Now we can all sing along with my favorite conspiracy theory song.
1/1/17, 10:38 PM
I have also been interested in the concepts of solar updraft towers and solar power towers and don't see why this kind of technology need necessarily be dismissed out of hand. I would certainly take the point that in cold, damp northern climes the odds are stacked against, but for certain parts of the world where there is a) abundant sunlight and b) a stable government, there is potential.
What a shame that the Arabian peninsula is unable to exploit a) its sunshine b) its massive aquifer and c) its brilliant geographical position for trade and manufactures.
But Australia, now...
1/1/17, 10:44 PM
John Michael Greer said...
David, I won't argue. It seems to me that moving to a federal system would be a workable way to maintain some of the advantages of the current US while ditching some of the most pervasive problems -- but the way things are moving, partition (either peaceful, as in Twilight's Last Gleaming, or the opposite, as in Retrotopia, seems like the most likely outcome for me.
Maxine, good! I'm not at all certain, though, what "getting medieval" on the raspberries amounts to. Will you dress up in a houppelande and a wimple and sing "Sumer is Icumen In" at them? ;-)
Rita, exactly. Every society practices triage in one way or another, and the divergences are simply who does it and what the criteria are.
Fattigman, thank you. I won't.
Anastassia, excellent. I distrust Weißbach et al. on the basis of first principles, as their claim that nuclear power has higher net energy than petroleum conflicts with the constant and severe economic difficulties nuclear power has had wherever it's been installed -- and that's without adding in the costs of storing the wastes safely for millennia! So much of the debate over EROEI has been a matter of advocates of nuclear power and renewables pointing at each other and saying "Your power source is uneconomical" -- and I tend to think both of them are right. You're also quite correct, of course, that electricity is only a small piece of the picture, and next to nobody is talking about the larger issues...
Sunseekernv, I'm not surprised that you don't like Prieto and Hall! Until I see more detailed, whole-system analyses of actual built PV systems, though, I'm going to remain deeply skeptical of your claims. (And your attempt to tell Cherokee that he ought to be getting much more power from the sun than he actually gets is to my mind a dead giveaway that you're not dealing with the gritty realities of solar power.) I certainly agree that solar and wind power, along with waterpower, biomass, and human and animal muscle, are going to be the power sources of the future, since that's what will be left; I also agree that massive conservation and lifestyle change is a precondition to any transition to renewables...but it's quite possible for solar PV, say, to be quite a bit more viable than algal biodiesel (enough, for example, to repay part of the cost of that 300 GW buildout) but still not be able to hack it in the real world.
With regard to subsidies, by the way, it's entirely possible that at this point no energy source used by industrial civilization is actually paying its way. The accelerating collapse of infrastructure and standards of living in the US and elsewhere could be a symptom of early stage catabolic collapse, as every other form of capital gets gutted to keep the energy flowing. More on this in a future post.
1/1/17, 11:21 PM
John Michael Greer said...
Fred, well, we'll see!
Chemalfait, I've noted more than once here that as a transitional technology -- a way to help smooth out the Long Descent -- decentralized solar PV is often a good idea. It's purely when it's being presented as a way to maintain business as usual indefinitely that I shake my head and think of cargo cults.
Moshe, "typical" is one of those words that immediately makes me raise an eyebrow. I've never met a typical person, nor did typical voters decide the recent election -- the working class voters in the upper Midwest who voted for Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 were far from generic Americans, you know. Equally, this isn't a typical blog, it gets a fairly atypical number of readers every month -- and it seems to be having an atypical impact on the collective conversation of our time.
Bob, and various people will die in 2017, too. Others will survive, curiously enough!
Lewis, I suspect your prediction will turn out to be quite correct.
Avalterra, so noted!
Cherokee, right now, I'm looking out the window and rain is falling. In January, in the Appalachians. A decade ago -- less than that -- it would have been snow. So, yes, wind is changing! As for the self-interest thing, yes, I see that too, all the time, and it curdles my stomach.
Chris, that's one reason why I'd prefer to avoid the civil war/domestic insurgency end of the spectrum of options!
Latefall, I have no way of attaching realistic percentages to qualitative projections, and I see no reason to pander to the fetish for quantity by attaching randomly chosen numbers to my guesses.
Donalfagan, thank you for that.
MawKernewek, that's certainly my take on the BBC. I like to compare it to RT; both are official government news sources, and you can tell by reading both of them what the governments in question want you to think. As far as I can tell, they're about equally objective.
1/1/17, 11:38 PM
John Michael Greer said...
August, trust me, I won't. As you may have noticed, I'm not easy to influence! (As C.S. Lewis commented about J.R.R. Tolkien; "Influence him? You might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.") I chose the prose style for these essays for good reasons, and have refined and adapted it over the last ten years; I don't propose to abandon that just because some pompous blowhard decides it's his place to give me a writing lesson.
Sunseekernv (if I may), I agree absolutely about the pro-nuclear analyses; get in under the hood of their EROEI calculations and you find vast amounts of indirect costs quietly discarded. I'd point out, though, that following the money -- and also, ahem, following the ideology -- is worth doing with pro-renewable analyses as well. When Naomi Oreskes insisted that it was "climate denialism" to ask questions about the economic viability of renewable energy, she made it painfully clear that there are aspects of the pro-renewables movement that are a matter of faith, not of fact.
Myriad, all I can say in response to that is "Mmummffleflug!"
1/1/17, 11:48 PM
1/2/17, 4:03 AM
It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.”
To edit what you said, there's no evidence for it, because the evidence that has been presented is no evidence at all.
As MawKernewek pointed out, the Democrats may have been hacked, but there's no evidence it was done by Russians.
Happy New Year, everyone!
1/2/17, 4:25 AM
Sorry if the above comment came across more demanding than I had intended. I had typed up an explanatory comment just after that but failed to back it up and it was promptly eaten by the net (happens a lot if you use TOR or a similar connection). It is only meant as something to consider.
I certainly do not have a fetish for a simplified quantitative view at things when it is rigor vs relevance. Using a number (especially a percentage with its associations) in such a context initially felt kind of "wrong" to me.
It is just that I find written language (as commonly employed) extremely deficient when it come to these things.
One could also rank or group predictions by decreasing perceived probability, make why-because networks, or a million other things. A percentage is just something that people can handle. And it lends itself to a simple review of how one did - which I don't have to explain to you can be very helpful to do, given the reliability of our cognitive faculties. I'd argue in real life decisions a rubber-band "maybe" is not very helpful, and you have to _weigh_ probabilities much more often. If the exercise results in becoming less sure of oneself and more ready to re-evaluate certain perceptions, perhaps even more attentive, I'd say that would be time well spent.
A weekly journal and 2 lines of why-because would probably be much better yet, but that would really mean more work. Adding an "XY%" is pretty easily done.
Here would be what one item from my vanished list would have looked like:
- the search term "barbary pirates" will become more than 10x as popular in the next year than last year. 70% probability.
1/2/17, 5:46 AM
Shane W said...
There's a certain sort of whimsy and enchantment to your writing, JMG, that draws one in. I love the existential example of plopping down at ground zero: a down at heels, rust-belt Appalachian town that suffers from poverty and all its attendant ills, and making a wonderful go of it all and living a great life.
actually, strong ethnic communities would probably be one of the assets of parts of the Midwest, as you alluded to. Glad to see they haven't been assimilated out of existence in your neck of the woods. As you well know, the South didn't really experience much immigration until the latest wave from Latin America, and keeping them from assimilating into a dying and worthless culture (MLK's "burning church") is a full-time job. One of the tragedies of so much of the South is the way its traditional culture has been destroyed by forced mainstream culture, and now is littered w/a wasteland of Walmart, destroyed communities, dependency, alcoholism and heroin addiction, just to name a few. It's going to be a long process taking many years for us to heal and recover what was lost.
trade you our Bourbon for your beer and cheese. :)
1/2/17, 6:46 AM
temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
I can edit and re-send if need be, because I think I did have some useful points to what I said - and relevant to the topic that is talking about the dissolution of the US as we know it...
1/2/17, 8:48 AM
The global military/economic/diplomatic arrangements that have existed since the early 90s are likely to change. And it could change rapidly in 2017 or we could muddle along. Very hard to predict. I would watch China/Japan/US relations most closely. Russia is loud but economically weak. The Middle East has long been unstable but I don't see a predictable flash point in the coming year. China is a huge force economically, militarily, and has huge influence across Asian and much of Africa. If the Chinese and Trump find a way to get along, we could do ok for the next few years. But it is quite possible that the war of words about economic issues degenerates into nationalistic power rhetoric in 2017 leading to a new cold or maybe even hot war between the US and China. Japan will be a stabilizing force. Together with S. Korea they have almost half of China's GDP. Don't forget that China is internally unstable with a political system that may not keep power if economic growth reverses for a year or two. I can imagine anything from a major economic setback from a civil war, to a relatively peaceful turn to democratic socialism, to a harsh clamping down by the communist party with moderate economic consequences.
When the next oil price shock happens, we need to watch Europe. Balance sheets in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland still look very bad and the UK and France are not far behind. Another shock with the UK weak from a weakened pound and the inevitably divisive Brexit negotiations could destabilize the whole project. We should keep watch for who loses and who wins if the EU partially disintegrates.
1/2/17, 10:19 AM
I couldn't agree more with your comments about "raw and naked self interest". And that same selfishness can be used to direct people toward less destructive lifestyles without them even being aware of it. A couple of examples from my small business:
Much of our work is selling HOME COMFORT to wealthy techies (who already live overly comfortable lives), by retrofitting their homes with appropriate sealing and insulation and fenestration. They are mostly oblivious to the dramatic decreases in heating fuel use that is our real goal.
Similarly, we sell HISTORIC PRESERVATION to the same crowd, usually by restoring and upgrading exisiting original wooden or steel windows to perform on par with the best new windows. The value they perceive for this work is mostly status, and again they remain ignorant of the resource conservation that is our real goal.
And (somewhat depressingly) I use the same strategy in my personal life. I'm currently working on a wood-fired masonry heater as the primary heating appliance in my own home. The whole family looks forward to indoor fires, but of course the real goal is to leave my kids a home that they can still enjoy once utility power gets too scarce or expensive.
The take home lesson for me, having done this work for two decades, is that trying to change minds is outside my skill set. That's a job for my betters (such as our gracious host). But I can still do right by myself and for others, even if they don't care.
Cheers to all and a very happy new year-
1/2/17, 11:47 AM
I was not a Trump voter (Sanders write-in), and I'm not a techie, and I claim no special knowledge, but the whole Russian Hacking thing just feels like BS to me.
Can you tell me why this
is not an honest refutation of the evidence you cited in your post?
1/2/17, 12:11 PM
Shane W said...
1/2/17, 12:18 PM
I would be very happy to be wrong in my predictions for 2017 as I regard Trump as dangerous to the well-being of everyone except himself, his family and a few buddies. (Clinton would also be dangerous in that under her administration many major problems would have continued to be swept under the rug but I believe her administration would have been less reckless than Trump’s will be and the results less chaotic and thus more salvageable). I do wish to point out that the bad effects of Trump and his administration of billionaire crony capitalists and hard-right wingers may not be fully apparent immediately and reserve the right to assess the long-term results of his actions, as well as immediate effects.
I am sorry that you think I simply buy a line – I am trained as a researcher, read widely in publications out of the mainstream from a wide range of perspectives, and consciously choose to try to understand the viewpoints and information of people with whom I disagree so that I can modify my own conclusions if I find concrete evidence to the contrary. I have not found any evidence so far that reassures me about Trump.
I am sorry to hear that you regard the real-life effects of bigotry, misogyny, and fraud on the part of politicians and leaders as issues you are not interested in. Republicans have proven over the past 8 years that they care nothing about the good of the country and are quite happy to throw everyone but their fellow Republican politicians and moneyed elites under the bus – Trump has now made his deal with them, fully embracing their agenda to privatize everything in sight and institutionalizing “pay to play” in all aspects of life. I fail to see how this will do the rest of us any good.
I do appreciate the way in which your blog promotes actual discussion.
1/2/17, 12:49 PM
Shane W said...
1/2/17, 1:02 PM
Bill Pulliam said...
1/2/17, 1:24 PM
Bill Pulliam said...
1/2/17, 1:31 PM
JMG, another point on PV and wind: Better PV and wind as a subsidy dumpster than say, nuclear. Dead PV panels or turbines will cause far less trouble in 500 years than dead nuclear plants and the associated waste.
1/2/17, 2:06 PM
Phil Harris said...
" If you cut off federal money today the regional economy would collapse within a month."
Britain is a tiny place geographically but if the public funds from central government here (meaning mostly jobs in public sector e.g. health and education and infrastructure maintenance) were cut off then some of our rural low-income areas would sink to 3rd World status perhaps middle-Caribbean at best within weeks. EU money is also being distributed to these areas. Our Govt. will need at least to top up the difference in future.
1/2/17, 2:06 PM
Shane W said...
if not a god of righteousness, then certainly gods of consequences, then? Surely you must believe in gods of consequences.
1/2/17, 4:27 PM
Sylvia Rissell said...
Maybe after Social Security collapses, but in the mean time, lots of people depend on government checks and what have you.
If you are serious about secession, you need to come up with a plan to keep all the old/disabled citizens of the New South from starving/freezing/dying in the streets.
Certainly, the individual citizens of the hypothetical "New South" will be "entitled" to benefits, as they paid in before secession, but the financial reality is that the checks wouldn't get mailed, or if they did their would be no funds! Why would the "New North" fund a bunch of secessionists who aren't paying in any longer?
JMG: I suggest the definition of "Publican" is one who insists that the social supports and customs that keep your family from starving are immoral or unnecessary, and also insists that the subsidies which enrich his/her business and family are traditional, moral, and not to be removed under any circumstances.
1/2/17, 4:49 PM
Gene Ainsworth said...
1/2/17, 5:30 PM
Dennis D said...
As a plan B I am building a live-a-board sailboat which will also have solar backup.
1/2/17, 6:04 PM
Dennis D said...
As a plan B I am building a live-a-board sailboat which will also have solar backup.
1/2/17, 6:04 PM
Do you think you will do any work reductions about mid-range time periods? I.e. I know you expect certain aspects of environmental degradation. To be in full-force by 2100. Do you have any guesstimates about what things will be like by 2022 and 2027 for example?
I ask because I was reading JHK's 2017 predictions, and near term sounds like a hot
Mess, but then he seems to throw in a longer term outlook caveat.
@ August Johnson and anyone else, Has anyone said explicitly why Craig Murray's statement that the WikiLeaks stuff came Crome a disgruntled Sanders person at the DNC, where the leaked data was given to him physically by an intermediary has no credibility with anyone but the Daily Mail? As far as I know he was a diplomat who was censured for complIning about human rights abuses in Uzbeckistan, why does his statement have no credibility? Is there something else that makes him not credible?
What makes you think the conservatives in Trumps circle are worse than the conservatives in Clinton's circle. Their last ditch effort to get us into Trouble with the Russians has been scaring the crack out of me! I'm just deeply grateful the TU-154 plane crash has been determined to be an actual accident and not some sort of Stuxnet sabotage on the wing flaps! (Yes, I've probably listened to a few
Too many cyber warfare books lately.)
1/2/17, 7:02 PM
August Johnson said...
Please excuse the html in the file, I had intended to post here but went on way too long. I am not a skilled blogger, just a tech-savvy geek who has worked in many different technical fields.
August Johnson KG7BZ
1/2/17, 7:54 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
I thought about it for a while until it finally dawned on me that you are confusing the model for the reality. They're not the same thing and you display belief that the model should be reality and thus you are confused and perhaps angered by my correction. You can see this in that your reaction to me was to question the system as it is here rather than adjusting your own beliefs.
It is a common problem and one that I also made when I first began mucking around with solar PV equipment almost a decade ago now. It was a painful process for me to work through and I had nowhere to hide as the household slowly ran out of electricity.
I have some further bad news for you. The models are constructed to produce "best case scenarios" and the reason for that is that they are trying to flog you product. This solar PV equipment just doesn't work the way the models claim. And every item in a system that you skimp on to save a few bucks will cost you in terms of energy either collected or stored. Electricity is really akin to trying to store water in a leaky bucket.
And mate, whilst I am at it, Reno Nevada suffers from serious heat. That heat will cause the solar PV panels to de-rate and reduce their output more than the models will ever be likely to show. On a 40'C (104'F) day here (in the shade) the solar PV output is hugely reduced and the equipment itself becomes very hot and then it too reduces its output.
Imagine the anger and disbelief that you feel about this topic multiplied by the expectations of people living in industrial societies and you may just start to get an inkling of the major problems heading our way...
Cheers (although that is not probably appropriate in this circumstance)
1/2/17, 9:06 PM
I'm trying to be helpful here.
PVWatts is not some marketing gimmick, it's run by the National Renewable Energy Lab, on major version 5.
It uses decades of actual data of solar radiation from the nearest weather station it can find.
It has a good track record. Do a web search for "pvwatts vs reality" and one will find for most
people it's within plus/minus 10% in any given year. Their defaults for things like inverter efficiency are known to be conservative.
It is highly unusual that Cherokee's system only gives HALF the predicted power.
10% less, 15, even 20% less - meh, statistics. 50% less? Something seems wastefully wrong.
There could be a good external reason for that - I used Melbourne as it was near his latitude, but he could be in some mountain valley with fog and clouds MUCH MUCH more than the weather stations in Melbourne, or have shading issues that wouldn't be apparent without a tool like Solar Pathfinder or similar. But saying "clouds" without some numbers isn't proof.
Even notoriously cloudy Seattle is 64% of Spokane in December - not (less than) 50%.
One of the gritty realities of PV systems, particularly small ones, is that they are often not properly commissioned,
or they break silently (a string wire is improperly connected/becomes disconnected - birds/rodents on the roof?, module diode shorts, combiner box fuse blows, etc.) and either nobody checks at all or they just look at the inverter statistics which shows total power generated, but not to a string/module granularity.
(one of the advantages of module level inverters/optimizers, besides array disconnect, is to have per-module data).
People see the inverter lights saying "status OK" and they're getting power out (batteries charging off-grid, meter running backward grid-tied), so they say "fine" when things are not as fine as they should be.
If I had a system that only put out HALF of what PVWatts said it should, I would not dismiss this as clouds WITHOUT ACTUAL MEASUREMENTS.
I would look at each string's output, a clamp-on DC ammeter is simple enough, they should be within a few percent of each other with steady sky conditions.
I would track inverter stats closely, even hourly, for a while.
I would consider getting a home weather station with solar radiation sensor - Davis makes some nice ones with optional solar radiation sensor, around $800 U.S. total. Nice for gardening as well. Compare kWh/m^2/day measured vs. predicted.
If there is any possibility of shading, I'd break out the Solar Pathfinder - have any trees grown up, ...?
Any leaves/debris up there? Depending on how the modules are wired inside, could be major power loss to half cover a single cell.
Maybe even get a PV reference cell or small module that comes with its particular IV curve data and check the strings/modules against that.
The last thing I'd do is say PVWatts is full of beans.
Now, if Cherokee has done something like these tests, then we can talk about that data.
Not being concerned that a decent modeling package like PVWatts and a PV system output disagree by such a large amount seems odd.
Seems like getting a new car the EPA says gets X miles per gallon, finding one is actually getting X/2 mpg and saying "ok, no problem, I got bad roads here". 10-20% less, sure, but 50% less?
1/2/17, 9:15 PM
My friends and I have a retort to the endless stupidity that passes as "safety awareness" in our overly managed nanny state of being that goes like this. "Accidents kill stupid people, and they are good for the gene pool". It is amusing how often it is met with furious agreement.
If you are so stupid as to be unable to make sense out of John Micheal Greer's writings, perhaps it is better that you do not benefit from the wisdom contained therein, and in failing to do so your lack of future prosperity will perhaps render your odds of successful reproduction reduced, thus enhancing the future gene pool. That is not discriminating against the poorly educated, I know enough slum kids who have run very profitable businesses to dispute that rubbish. If you want to learn, you will learn.
Stick to what you are doing, Mr Greer, it is in humanities better interests that you do so. Simple is for simpletons.
1/2/17, 10:10 PM
"do the math" BTW - there is an excellent blog called just that: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/
From wiki: the Manzanares tower made at most 50 kW. It had a collection area of 46 hectares (hectare is 100 x 100 meters).
Assume it gave 24x7 power, compare to a PV system.
rule of thumb, PV capacity factor of 20%, so we need to overbuild by 5x to get 24x7 power, derate for battery loss, make it 6x.
6 x 50 kW is 300 kW.
How big is 300 kW of PV?
Assume 15% efficient modules (nothing special).
AM1.5 spectra is 1000 W/m^2, so we get 150 W/m^2 for module.
Module area is 300,000 W / 150 W/m^2 = 2,000 m^2 or 1/5 hectare of modules.
Ground packing factor is something like 1/5 to 1/10 for fixed tilt arrays, so we end up with 1 or 2 hectares vs. 46.
How much will it cost?
Utility scale PV is around $2/Wp (300 kW is kinda small, maybe we use $2.5/Wp) = $750,000.
Storage of 300 kWh for let's say 20 hours: Lithium-Ion capex of 400 $/kWh, x 300 x 20 = $2,400,000.
Large scale solar updraft is $6/Wp. 40kW x 6 = $240,000
Well, that's a heck of question isn't it. Should be much cheaper.
But wait, go get some real numbers, not just "50 kW max output" and "assume 24x7" (one of the touted advantages).
Table at the top of page 7 - it only reaches that output for a few hours a day in June.
Call it 275 kWh/day at 50 kW max power = 5.5 full load hours a day - in Spain!
This is a PV-like capacity factor!
So we only need 275 kWh of storage for the PV system, or 400 x 275 = $110,000.
So for 1 or 2 hectares of land, plus $860,000 we have the equivalent of an updraft tower that won't fall over (like the one in Manzanares did).
And we save 44 hectares of land (109 acres). At $10,000/acre (cheap land), that's 1.09 million dollars. Goodbye any economic advantage.
Eyeballing the chart, the power drop-off in winter is far worse than a PV system with tilted modules,
so the PV system is better on that count.
And I didn't recalculate the PV array to only get 275 kWh/day, now it's only like 60 kW.
Moral of story: a lot of schemes (and I do mean a LOT) just don't pencil out with even a rudimentary analysis.
But fantasy sure seem appealing. It's nice to think about inventing the one big thing that will save the world,
but the vast majority of inventions never go very far.
Flat panel PV is widely applicable, scaleable from watts to Gigawatts, fails at the module/string/inverter level so most failures are partial, and amenable to getting cheaper because of a generic industrial ecosystem.
Concentrating PV/solar thermal power needs high DNI, is only applicable to utility scale, often fails at the whole plant level, and has/will never developed the scale to have an industrial ecosystem - everything is custom, thus expensive/unproven.
Which (partly) explains why there are 300 GW of PV in the world, but only like 5 GW of CSP.
I think there are good reasons (not all strictly technical) to dismiss or at least denigrate certain things.
1/2/17, 11:10 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Thanks, and that is a good strategy too. You have to pitch your story to your audience for sure.
1/2/17, 11:11 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
I never quite imagined that you would write in a: "stilted, choppy, dumbed-down style". If ever I saw an essay that was purportedly from you, in that particular style I would know that this time they hacked your account properly! Hehe! Of course, you may also be pranking us just to make a point? ;-)! The contrast would be pretty funny you'd have to admit?
I was reading Overshoot today over lunch and the author was discussing "niches". It occurred to me that in a world of saturated internet content, that writing in your own niche is an excellent adaptive strategy. Madmagic is probably very perplexed by your response. In fact, when people inevitably ask me about future strategies I always advise them to seek the niche that is not saturated with people and their demands. They don't always appreciate receiving that advice, but that is the hazards of the professional wizard, don't you think so? ;-)!
Thanks also for your support, I really appreciate that. Attacking the installation rather than the technology is a common strategy of true believers. It is not for no reason that I publish the real world statistics of the solar power system here for three weeks either side of the winter solstice. It is a real touch and go time for me with electricity. And this year, I used the petrol generator for about (from memory) six hours and that was the first time in three years that I'd used the generator and I felt really guilty about doing so.
The other thing I always find to be really strange is that people inevitably say: "Just chuck the solar PV power systems out there in the desert". It is almost as if they feel that nothing and nobody is there already. And the power losses to heat over those immense distances are not funny at all. Both the connector between this state and Tasmania and South Australia have broken recently so that technology is a big call. I never read anybody saying that they would happily live next to a huge commercial sized solar PV array. Or better yet, they'd happily cover the 2,132 km² of Snowdonia National Park with solar panel arrays. Just sayin...
As to the changing climate, oh yeah, I hear you. That train is running way ahead of schedule and the models that are released from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are watered down and then treated as if they are the reality - as if humans can negotiate with nature (of which we are all a part of). And then the risks are downplayed in the media. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm living in a cult and people have way too much to lose by taking a good look around them and seeing things as they are, so they keep on keeping on. I dunno...
1/2/17, 11:41 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Just almost forgot to mention this. I do not understand how oil is sold at a price per barrel that is apparently less than the cost to extract it. It makes no commercial sense whatsoever, and no doubt that is at the heart of a lot of economic and social problems. I've read recently about even more engaging scams involving under payment of employees and plausible deniability on behalf of the big corporates. It seems to be quite wide spread. Of course, certain sections of the population are maintaining their lifestyles at the expense of others, whilst incomes across the board are dropping...
1/2/17, 11:48 PM
August Johnson said...
1/3/17, 7:54 AM
Eric S. said...
1/3/17, 8:40 AM
1/3/17, 10:00 AM
My brother got me Retrotopia for Yule. I was hoping for a bit more fleshing out, but it holds up well to a second reading, albeit I'm only up to the drone shoot. I would like to know what the rest of the tax structure is; from the story I learned more about what isn't taxed than what is.
While I appreciate that one heavily taxes things one wishes to discourage like speculation, pollution and using finite resources; if they're effective, what is left for a sustainable tax base? I understand your not wanting payroll or income tax, though I might rather have a one that only kicks in well above the survival level and gets sharply more progressive in order to discourage wealth disparity. Sales taxes are inherently regressive, though again, there might be a class of goods and services subject to luxury taxes. And while property taxes were historically used to discourage speculators sitting on land without developing it, the modern practice of taxing land on it's real estate value is destructive to the poor, and encourages unsustainable land use practices.
in the Bramblepatch
1/3/17, 11:13 AM
in the Bramblepatch
1/3/17, 11:47 AM
[email protected] said...
Great post as always a good and enjoyable read.
In regard to your predictions I felt that your Saudi break-up prediction was a little too early for 2016 but it is looking increasingly likely that some form of "regime change" will occur maybe in 2017 as the Saudi's burn through their financial reserves and the austority measures start to impact ordinary Saudi's.
As discussed before, your Trump prediction was spot on and hats to you for getting that right.
I have also reviewed my 2016 predictions on my blog, which you can read at the following link;
Will you be preparing specific predictions as last year? I would be interested in knowing whether you are prepared to stick your head out and forecast a Le Pen victory in the French presidential elections? A Le Pen victory would be a true game-changer for European politics and will lead to the likely breakup of the eurozone itself. Exciting times ahead!
1/3/17, 12:02 PM
I don't know how to work it out in EROEI though. The money system and land prices in tge developed world are so crazy that you can make anything profitable or a loser as you wish, hence that book "Accounting For Growth".
If (since we're in fantasy land) the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia was peaceful and uncorrupt, would it be feasible to construct solar towers in the desert?
And do they have to be of concrete? Think of the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali.
1/3/17, 12:30 PM
[email protected] said...
On a secondary point ( I forgot to include it in my first point), the emerging reports across the Continent of violent attacks and sexual assaults by migrants on NYE (http://www.ruhrnachrichten.de/staedte/dortmund/44137-Dortmund+%284017%29~bilder/cme197111,5987121 and http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/03/dortmund-mob-attack-police-church-alight/) are as worrying as they are predictable.
Where do you place the 1.2 million strong migration invasion into Europe in the context of Toynbee's internal and external proletariat model? My understanding is that the importation of huge numbers of young migrants from the Middle East and North Africa is the introduction to Germany of a external proletariat into a society who will become a massive urban underclass in the coming years.
One must wonder how this dynamic will play out with the growing chasm between the elite of Germany and their own internal proletariat who are increasingly disgruntled about where things are going in Germany.
1/3/17, 1:26 PM
Last January, after a big snowstorm, we went four consecutive days with zero output, due to the shading effect of snow on the panels. (Even 10% coverage, e.g., with snow slumped to the bottom of the panel, shuts them down, even if the rest of the panel is in full sun. I've seen ground-mounted panels with snow piled in front of them, and thought "If you'd only made your mounting posts a foot higher...")
And, on a technical note, my 21 panels have individual DC/DC power converters, so even though they're wired in series, any number of panels can drop out without reducing the efficiency of the others. I can review production on a panel by panel basis. The telemetry system shows me that one panel suffers for part of the day from a shadow cast by the chimney. The telemetry also revealed that the installer didn't quite complete the installation, because only 19 panels were producing when I first turned on the system. It takes some minutes for the master inverter to coordinate the control of the per-panel converters, and I re-ran the final installation step to get all 21 coordinated. The projected year-round power that the model promised us was slightly less than we actually generated, so I see sunseekernv's point about looking for problems. Would I have been happy with the output of 19 panels, instead of the 21 I paid for? Probably!
(To be fair to the installer, he and I talked about that final step as we ran out of daylight before it was done. Rather than have him come back on the next sunny day, we agreed that I'd check back on it to verify and/or complete the process. But I'm an electrical engineer; I'm not sure the typical owner would do what I did.)
1/3/17, 3:53 PM
Martin Cohen said...
$50,000 to start a two-acre farm.
1/3/17, 3:54 PM
Our level of science education is such that most people have no idea that energy is lost in transmission. I would see this when people would try to run a high amp appliance such as an iron at the end of a long extension cord and have no idea that the heating up of the cord itself meant that energy was being lost.
1/3/17, 3:55 PM
Troy Jones said...
But then in your PDF file, you admit that what you linked to previously with the word "evidence" was not actually evidence, but "[an] outline for the general reader." However, you speculate that "a real report [...] has most likely been provided to required members of Congress."
On the other hand, Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee-- that would be one of the "required members of Congress", yes?-- has stated that there is no clear evidence linking the Kremlin to the DNC hacks, just "lots of innuendo". Should I take his word for it, or yours?
When you say "no matter how much evidence is presented" it implies that you or someone, somewhere, has presented some kind of evidence, but that simply is not the case. It is not "denialism" nor "dementia" to ask you to back up your claims with evidence. Please do so. This fabled "real report", not general outlines of unsupported assertions, is what we all want to see.
(BTW, Cyrillic characters in a file's metadata is not evidence of anything. Tantalizing as it may be, other languages besides Russian use the Cyrillic alphabet. And even if "Guccifer 2.0" and/or any other DNC hackers turn out to be Russian, so what? Not all Russian people work for the Kremlin-- in other words, you still have to prove that "Guccifer 2.0" etc acted at the direction of the Russian government. And of course Cyrillic characters could have been left behind on purpose by others as deliberate misdirection.)
At the end of the day though, the question of who exposed Hillary's sickening corruption for all the world to see is far less important than the fact that Hillary's sickening corruption is now on display for all the world to see. Thanks in part to the hackers (whatever their nationality was), we have lept out of that particular frying pan... into what, no one can yet say.
1/3/17, 4:33 PM
Cherokee Organics said...
Sorry to be a downer mate, but those statistics relate to a grid tied solar PV system and assume that any and all electrical energy that can be used, will be used. An off grid solar PV system cannot absorb all of the energy that the PV panels themselves produce, and thus you are talking about apples, whilst I'm talking about oranges. The reason for the inability to utilise all of the energy produced by the solar PV panels is that the chemistry of batteries is such that they have to absorb electrical energy at an increasingly diminishing rate so as to reduce the risk of a runaway thermal reaction.
Before you start saying how inefficient an off grid solar power systems is, the only reason that grid tied PV systems can take any and all electricity produced in the mains electrical grid is that the losses in that system are huge.
You should be worried and you do not understand how these systems actually work. Again, I recommend you to get some practical experience with this technology before discussing it further.
If you airily dismiss or ignore this important point, I will not discuss the matter with you any further.
1/3/17, 4:49 PM
"That heat will cause the solar PV panels to de-rate and reduce their output more than the models will ever be likely to show. On a 40'C (104'F) day here (in the shade) the solar PV output is hugely reduced and the equipment itself becomes very hot and then it too reduces its output."
What!!?? 104? What is optimum? What's all this about these very hot and sunny places like Saudi or Egypt having miles of solar panels? It gets to 130, even 140 there. Does that mean they are not suitable for solar?
1/3/17, 6:35 PM
Ian R Orchard said...
An article in Clean Technica brought this up.
The entanglement of the fossil fuel supply industry, banks, commodity traders, and the financialization of commodities currently allows fossil fuel supply transactions to be made in non-competitive ways,” they write. “The immense capital available to those operating the fossil fuel supply chain affords not only economic advantages, but also allows them to side-step regulation.”
There are subsidies for production and shipping, not to mention consumer subsidies for fossil fuels, all of which are often overlooked (or intentionally hidden) from public view during political discussion. On the flip side, renewable energy technologies like solar PV are forever placed under the microscope, with every facet of subsidy and benefit subjected to overbearing scrutiny.
What are the subsidies PV enjoys & how do they compare with the competition's?
1/3/17, 8:18 PM
Shane W said...
not sure what was in your post, but I do have an affinity for the time I spent in SoCal, and a lot of the great people I met there. I know there are lots of hard working people in the Golden State, and I do have sense of connection w/other Calif. expats, even though I'm not originally from there. There are many people still there that I'm trying to convince to leave while the leaving is still good. Still, that doesn't mean that Calif. isn't woefully overpopulated for its ecosystem and way too dependent on industrial systems that are going away, and that it is not poised to become the Michigan of the 21st century. Still, I understand that people's non rational reasons for living somewhere often trump the rational ones.
1/4/17, 3:27 AM
Bill Pulliam said...
Scale this up to the level of an entire civilization. Those who suffer the consequences of poor societal choices, whenever these consequences might manifest, are often not those who had the most say in determing these choices. There is often precious little of what we overblown monkeys call "justice" in this process.
1/4/17, 4:01 AM
Andrew H said...
We have a 3 KWp system and I have monitored it for the last 5 years since new (daily for the first year). We are at 31 51' south of the equator. The panels are hardly set at optimum being fixed on our roof at an angle of about 20 degrees and facing a bearing of about 30 degrees (ie NNE. Not due north). They also get shaded in the early afternoon by a large Eucalypt in our front garden. Even so over the course of the first two years we generated 4810 and 4854 KWhr respectively. That corresponds to about 13.1 KWHr per day or an average 4.35 kWh/KWp for the whole year.
The amounts (kWh) generated for each of the calendar months in the first year are
The lowest amount generated for an entire month was in June with a total of 194 kWh. This represents 6.46 kWh per day or 2.23 kWh/KWp.
I have included a few interesting statistics from the first year of detailed monitoring.
The smallest amount generated in a day was on a day in mid-summer. The panels generated a total of 1.45 KWhr on a day with very heavy cloud, raining on and off all day. Light cloud can in fact increase the total generated compared to a completely cloud free day by a few percent. Compare that to our solar hot water system which works well overall, but requires direct sunlight to work and barely generates warm water on a day with complete cloud cover.
There were 7 days during the entire year when 3 kWh or less was generated. (ie less than 1 kWh/kWp)
There were 26 days during the entire year when 6 kWh or less was generated. (ie less than 2 kWh/kWp)
The lowest amount generated for any 3 day period was 12.7 kWh for a 3 day period in early June.
Temperature does affect the efficiency but one has to do careful measurements to notice it. The last couple of days have been sunny and the system generated 22 kWh per day even though the official temperature was 41C (106F), the temperature outside registered 44C in the shade and the metal shovels left in the sun were too hot to handle.
Over the last 5 years the efficiency seems to have dropped by about 2.5%.
So far we have generated 25,600 kWh of electricity over the last 5 years and 4 months.
1/4/17, 4:59 AM
Glenn Murray said...
1/4/17, 5:53 AM
Patricia Mathews said...
My Florida nephews have asked that the money that would normally go towards gifts like that should be sent to them to give to the local charities of their choice. Their mom told me they (ages 9 and 12) are debating which ones to give my Christmas money to. Her sister said "If I need anything, I'll just buy it." Nor were there any electronics blaring in her house this Christmas eve - only the kids' e-readers.
All three families are either active in doing good in some way (the two churchgoing ones), or at least have a decent donations list. For what that's worth.
I've heard indications from a few other people that they feel they have enough and want no more Stuff. And are living a bit more quietly. Of course, my friend are not the youngest people on the planet.
1/4/17, 10:30 AM
Steam turbines are fine, too, if you don't worry about where the steam comes from. We have plenty of water with which to make steam, and the steam turns right back into water! That water is even more pure than the water we started with. What could be better?
1/4/17, 12:55 PM
temporaryreality (Wendy) said...
1/4/17, 8:56 PM
Gabriel Seagull said...
"I did it my way"... A DRUID WITH BACKBONE!
Keep up your good "special, individualastic, essay writing on internet"!!!
1/4/17, 9:38 PM
1/7/17, 6:15 PM
David James Peterson said...
I quote the end of the video below (since you don't like tiny moving images, I changed one words for comments appropriateness):
"And last but not least, we’ve got a great great great dependency on the United States. It’s huge. If you frack NATO, you’re gonna make our problems great again. They’re gonna be huge, they’re gonna be enormous. It’s true. Please don’t."
I can appreciate that they acknowledge that they really are dependent on the US instead of the normal evasions.
Video link for those interested: https://youtu.be/ELD2AwFN9Nc
1/27/17, 9:05 AM
1/30/17, 3:19 PM