[ExI] Energy and Henson's forecast

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Sat Nov 28 18:09:09 UTC 2009

On Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 9:41 AM,  BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 11/28/09, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>> That is one of the problems we face: we failed to start a number of critical
>>  innovations around 1970s, when  money and talent was plentiful. By now
>>  we would have little to none issues if critical infrastructure and
>>  R&D work (nuclear, aerospace, synfuel, electrochemistry, photovoltaics)
>>  would have been started back then. Well, we blew it.

I am not sure the technology was available to do it in those days, but
for sure we didn't try.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the people with the influence
in those days to help get it done were right.  The crisis didn't come
in their lifetime, so why should they bother?

>>  *The* most critical areas right now are energy and food, with mineral
>>  resources trailing close behind. To address this now requires a world
>>  war scale effort. No, I'm not exaggerating. We need to move to crisis
>>  mode yesterday. As far as I can see awareness for this is close to zero.

Mostly correct.  With enough energy you can get by on minerals we are
not even close to running low on.  Food is mostly a function of water,
and with really low cost energy, fresh water is not a problem if you
are within a thousand miles of an ocean.

>>  Obviously the gap will appear to be sudden and painful, and wars for
>>  resources won't be far behind. By the time you're in nuclear/bioweapon
>>  conflict territory you're no longer trying to solve problems, but
>>  trying to stay alive. Recovering from that will be extremely difficult.

It's difficult to imagine even this kind of war that will knock
everyone flat.  Some places, Japan for example, are too isolated and
have too little for attacking them to make much sense.  Of course
"sense," rational thinking is one of the first to go when humans go
into war mode.

>>  The longer we wait, the more people will die. I have no idea how to
>>  address it. Politics is more than useless, and very little is happening
>>  at the grassroots.
>>  Assuming we here can do something, what should we do? Forget personal
>>  attacks at climate science or dangers of tobacco. This is too important.

Yeah, but try to get people to analyze or even talk about the hard
physics and chemistry you need to solve the problems.  You know I have
tried and you also know how unsuccessful I have been.  I think no more
than a handful of people have read the paper I wrote on the economics
of SBSP.    I think only one person on this mailing list has even seen


> Running out of resources, like food, water, energy means a large
> reduction in the human population. By various unpalatable means. I
> think Keith Henson is also forecasting a large human population
> reduction.

It's a conditional forecast.  If we don't do *something* about the
energy problem that is going to kill billions.  Look up how much the
food supply depends on high energy synthetic fertilizers.

> The trick is to try to be in an area where the population dieback is
> not too high.

That's going to be very hard to analyze, perhaps impossible.

> Becoming self-sufficient helps as well. But that is better done where
> a whole town or nation becomes self-sufficient.

That's going to be nearly impossible.

>Otherwise the bigger,
> violent gangs will take your resources. Even at the level of the
> government sending troops to requisition your stuff.  A national
> movement towards self-sufficiency would be good at this point in time.

I am not qualified to judge the merits of such a proposal.  But I can
tell you that unless you have a deep understanding of industrial
inputs and outputs, you are not qualified either.

> As the crisis develops, protectionism will become fashionable
> worldwide and the military will be recalled to protect countries
> borders. Starving nations don't usually sit quiet and die.
> Also, of course, everybody should support any political organisation
> that shows some glimmerings of, first, even realising that there is
> problem and then starting to stumble towards some solutions.

It's not actually hard to solve the energy problem and that's the big one.


> BillK

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