[ExI] Wash post comment

Jeff Davis jrd1415 at gmail.com
Mon May 21 21:56:05 UTC 2012

On Mon, May 21, 2012 at 2:35 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> 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.

Sorry, Gene, but I find the EROEI business to be mathematical smoke
and mirrors.  Math intended to impress people who are intimidated by
math.  Intimidated into thinking that the provider of said math is
smart, smarter than them, and probably right.

A better argument would have been "We have plenty of energy -- coal,
for instance EROEI 80:1-- but we'll choke to death on pollution if we
use it."

> 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.

I reject the hunter gather food analogy for precisely the reason you state:

                                        > (In reality,

Yes, ***REALITY***.

Thank you.

> (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).

In reality, as current sources of energy ***gradually*** becomes more
expensive -- or excessively polluting, which is another kind of
expense -- alternative sources will be developed and structural
adjustments made so as to permit a similar standard of living with
lower energy usage.  (One such adjustment -- per your "realistic"
scenario above -- would be making war on those whose competing demand
is pushing up the price of energy for others.  But I do not favor that

> 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.

>> 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?

As a courtesy, and to maintain our cordial relations, if you prove to
have similar misguided notions regarding evolution or gravity, notions
similarly resistant to correction, I would be honored to give you
another free pass.

Best, Jeff

"We call someone insane who does not believe as we do
   to an outrageous extent."
              Charles McCabe

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