[ExI] Wash post comment

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Mon May 21 09:35:53 UTC 2012

On Sun, May 20, 2012 at 01:38:36PM -0700, Jeff Davis wrote:

> We've been acquainted for goin' on fifteen years now.  I've admired --
> and still do -- your talent and your accomplishments, even to the
> point of concluding that you're smarter than I am, which is saying
> something considering the size of my ego.  But I think you've fallen
> off the cliff on this one.

Well, flattery will get you everywhere ;)
> I read the two links, and it looks to me like the "We're doomed!
> We're doomed!" energy catastrophe echo chamber. (That's been my

It describes simple concept: EROEI and what happens when
EROEI approaches unity. As you haven't gone broke yet (you've
been spending less than you've earned, hopefully, with a
sufficient safety margin to weather some hard times) nor have you starved
(you have been matching your caloric intake to your metabolism)
the concept of EROEI is a complete no-brainer. 

And you can easily feel what it means to be a hunter-gatherer,
who must spend energy and time to hunt and gather food. As the
quality declines, she must spend more and more time and energy
to gather a larger volume of lower-quality grub until eventually
she spends all her waking hours looking for food (no time for
making plans, or repairing tools or housing, or art) and eventually
wastes away as the quality and quantity declines beyond where
she spends more than she gets back. (In reality,
the starving tribe will begin war on its neighbors, either
annexing enough resources and/or reducing the number of eaters
via war casualties). 

We as a society are used to 100:1 EROEI and growth, energy much cheaper
and more plentiful, and of higher quality than we must live
with now (25:1 and falling fast). I hate to sound monocausal, but
some of that diffuse malaise we've been feeling is due to very
boring, ordinary problems: we're out of easy and cheap energy,
and other resources, and now we're stretching outselves thin
to make demand meet supply. That's the diagnosis.

So in order to continue to enjoy the good life we must use
whatever energy and resources we still have to rebuild our
society into sustainability. The doom and gloom will only happen
if we further engange into the convenient "What, me, worry?"
policy we've been into collectively. Because, if you've read
Collapse and the Limits to Growth (the "standard run" scenario)
you know how that one will play out. 

So there's still time for the therapy. But, the longer you
wait, the bitter the medicine will be. And if you wait too long,
then no amount of therapy will save the patient.

> impression of The Oil Drum for some time now.)   It's a version of
> that human weirdness that gives us the "Truthers" and the "Birthers".
> When enough people get together and reinforce each other's belief in
> something, it becomes like received truth.  It's religious, it's
> tribal, it's weird, and it can sometimes be scary.  And I'm not saying
> I'm above it all, under the right circumstances any of us can fall
> victim to this kind of "stuff".  Just the right kind of
> misinterpretable "evidence" is all it takes. (For the Truthers it was
> the striking visual similarity between the collapse of the WTC towers
> and the collapse of buildings in fact brought down by controlled
> demolition.)  At which point otherwise level-headed people just go all
> "whacko".
> So, on this one issue, let's just agree to disagree.

What are your thoughts on evolution? How about gravity? Can
we agree to disagree on that? 

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