[Paleopsych] HBES: Evolutionary psychology and "peak oil:" A Malthus inspired "heads up" for humanity.
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Wed Oct 5 17:15:03 UTC 2005
Evolutionary psychology and "peak oil:" A Malthus inspired "heads up" for
Human Behavior and Evolution Society
Evolutionary biologists are aware of the concept of ecological "carrying
capacity," and Malthus' application of these ideas to human populations.
"It is an obvious truth, which has been taken notice of by many writers, that
population must always be kept down to the level of the means of subsistence;
but no writer that the Author recollects has inquired particularly into the
means by which this level is effected..."
-- Thomas Malthus, 1798
An Essay on the Principle of Population
And more recently, Dawkins echoed Malthus' concerns:
"If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will
automatically lead to an increase in the population
until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."
-- Richard Dawkins
This is exemplified in a well known paper by David Klein,
"The Introduction, Increase and Crash of Reindeer
on St. Matthew Island" (see: http://dieoff.org/page80.htm )
Humans on Easter Island suffered a similar fate when the
population/consumption overshot the island carrying capacity
(see Jared Diamond's recent book, "Collapse,"
as well as "Overshoot" by William Catton).
Of course, the entire earth can also be viewed as an "island" with
some resources that are finite and that are being rapidly
depleted by a human population explosion.One of the most
critical finite resources are fossil fuels, which provide a cheap
source of energy to power technological/industrial civilization.
"Peak oil" is the point when 1/2 of extractable world oil has been
A similar concept is "oil demand/production cross-over" -- when the
growing demand for oil crosses above the production capacity, causing
oil prices to increase.
We are close to, or at, these inflection points now.What most people do not
realize is that there is no energy-equivalent substitute for oil, in terms of
its energy density, transportability, safety, range, and cost. Oil is to
modern industrial/technological civilization what trees were to the Easter
When critical resources are decreasing, game theorists call this situation a
"negative sum game." Such "shrinking overall pie" situations can often lead to
conflict over critical resources, unless social structures are developed to
help to enable cooperation.
Evolutionary psychology researchers may help us to better understand the
genesis of the problem, and what potential solutions might be developed to help
to facilitate a "soft landing" for our species as oil supplies dwindle and oil
based products become progressively more scarce and expensive.
-- Dr. Michael E. Mills (HBES website editor)
For more information about Peak Oil:
Peak Oil and the Fate of Humanity, by Borbert Beriault. PowerPoint
book -- excellent.
Congressman Bartlett's Peak Oil Presentation to the US Congress (March 14,
Also see his interview on E&E TV:
Kenneth Deffeyes, author of "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak,"
explains his theories and looks at oil alternatives.
Lecture by physics professor David Goodstein, author of "Out of Gas: The End of
the Age of Oil." Lecture given at Caltech on 10/13/2004:
http://today.caltech.edu/theater/list?subset=science (search in list for
Lecture by chemistry professor Nathan Lewis: "Powering the Planet: Where in the
World Will Our Energy Come From?" Lecture given at Caltech on 5/25/2005.
(search in list for lecture)
Lecture by Robert Kaufmann "Oil and the American Way of Life: Don't Ask, Don't
Tell" Fermilab Colloquium Lectures, June 1, 2005.
Interview with 'Twilight in the Desert' author Matt Simmons. Are the Saudis
running out of oil, and are their reserve estimates accurate? What other
sources might help fill the gap? (Originally aired: 06/15/2005)
Chevron Oil -- television (and print) advertisements warning about peak oil:
http://www.eande.tv/main/?date=072705Also see their
"Issues in Brief:"
The myths, and pros and cons, of hydrogen fuel cells (PBS - Nova)
Peak Oil: Imposed by Nature (2005) -- DVD.
The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the
American Dream (2004) -- DVD
What Can Replace Cheap Oil -- and When? Richard A. Kerr and
Robert F. Service, Science,
Vol 309, Issue 5731, 101, 1 July 2005.
Brief summary of Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts,
Mitigation, & Risk Management
(study led by led by Dr. Robert Hirsch and sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Energy)
Wall Street Journal article (8/3/05): Drilling for Broke?
Experts Debate 'Peak Oil'
Experts: Petroleum May Be Nearing a Peak. Associated Press /
List of online articles:
www.willyoujoinus.com/ - Chevron Oil website on peak oil.
A few relevant books:
The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and
Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century, by James Howard
Kunstler (2005). Also see a review of this book in American Scientist.
Others (in order of publication date):
An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus (1798)
Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
by William Catton (1982)
Beyond Malthus: Nineteen Dimensions of the Population Challenge
by Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner, Brian Halweil (1999)
Hubbert's Peak : The Impending World Oil Shortage,
by Kenneth S. Deffeyes (2003)
Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil, by David Goodstein (2004)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared
Powerdown : Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World by Richard Heinberg
(2004) and The Party's Over: Oil, War and the
of Industrial Societies by Richard Heinberg (2003).
Beyond Oil : The View from Hubbert's Peak
by Kenneth S. Deffeyes (2005)
Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World
by Matthew R. Simmons (2005)
Over a Barrel: A Simple Guide to the Oil Shortage
by Tom Mast (2005)
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