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Conservation of Living Resources in a Post-Peak Oil World

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In a world overrun with humans, what fate awaits wildlife, fisheries, and forests when the fuels run short?


Several years ago I was working as a biological consultant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helping this federal agency prepare a long-term management plan for Innoko National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Alaska. This Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) would provide overall management guidance for the refuge’s wildlife, habitat, and public use.

The huge, sprawling 3.8-million acre (5,940-square mile) Innoko NWR is one of the remotest national wildlife refuges in the United States. It is so wild that it contains not a single human inhabitant in all that vastness; its headquarters are located in the village of McGrath, on the Kuskokwim River, some 50 miles as the raven flies from the refuge itself. In 1980, the U.S. Congress officially designated 1,240,000 acres of Innoko NWR (1/3 of it) as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Given this vastness and isolation I was dismayed to find that even here the long and lethal reach of “Hydrocarbon Man” extended to impact wildlife populations. I learned that traditional villagers in tiny outposts on the outskirts of the refuge were upset because the moose populations they had always depended upon as the major or only source of meat in their diet were in decline due at least in part to intensive hunting pressure exerted by outsiders — recreational hunters flown in from elsewhere — from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Thanks to affordable fuel and the widespread availability of bush planes (often small floatplanes that can touch down on remote rivers, lakes, and bays), guided sportsmen from Anchorage — or Atlanta for that matter — could reach and kill moose virtually anywhere in the entire immense state of Alaska.

Here in a microcosm was one small example of the pervasive reach of Hydrocarbon Man. But what will happen when petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, heating oil, propane, and others run out…or simply get prohibitively expensive as accessible, conventional reserves (“cheap oil”) are exhausted? Will the moose — and by implication other critters — survive and thrive as these pressures diminish?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple or predictable. And the reason it’s not is that when times get tough — as they are likely to when the Age of Fossil Fuels begins to run on fumes — billions of human beings in an overpopulated, overexploited world will be left to fend for themselves without the fossil energy that has permeated, eased, and enriched our lives in a myriad of ways for the past century and more.

At Innoko NWR, wildlife managers began to notice that subsistence hunting pressure from local bush residents decreased when the price of fuel for their outboard motors increased in the early 2000s. These hardy and self-reliant but low-income folks could no longer afford to access the refuge’s more distant hinterlands by outboard motor powered skiff. This is an example of what may happen in a post-peak oil world: unless fossil fuels can be replaced at scale by renewable energy sources (e.g., biomass-derived ethanol or electric batteries recharged by solar or wind), human beings will simply have less exosomatic energy and power at our disposal to exploit and encroach upon the living renewable resources of our world — the forests, grasslands, fisheries, and wildlife. Those wildlife populations, fish stocks, and forests in environments of low human population density and at a safe distance from large human population centers may well experience less exploitation and be given a chance to recover…if, that is, they haven’t already been irrevocably damaged by the global plundering currently under way.

On the other hand, wherever there are fairly large numbers of people, with ample stockpiles of ammunition and arms at the ready, I would expect there to be widespread poaching — nay, uncontrolled slaughter — of anything that moves on four legs which is edible — from squirrels, woodchucks, and muskrats to deer, wild boar, and bear, all of which can be eaten.

Modern food production is highly dependent upon fossil fuels. As the late Professor Al Bartlett used to quip, modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food. Thus, in a post-peak-petroleum world, the output of industrial-scale agriculture will almost certainly contract, perhaps substantially; in turn, commercially produced and marketed food is likely to become much costlier overall and in some times and places simply unavailable altogether. When hunger stalks humans en masse and without quarter, humans will stalk wildlife without quarter. As an old hillbilly from Appalachia once told me, in describing his own pragmatic, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy towards other living things: “if it moves, shoot it; if it don’t move, chop it down.”

During my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the late 1980s, I was helping this impoverished country try to save its few remaining wild places and wildlife populations from rampant, uncontrolled pillaging. But wild places and things were literally under the gun. It was an uphill struggle because of rapid population growth, hunger, lacks of jobs and income, the availability of axes and saws, and the proliferation of cheap bullets and firearms such as .22 caliber rifles, which are durable and can last for many decades. Wild game such as iguanas and deer, both edible and tasty, had been effectively extirpated from most of the country by hungry Hondurans. I was trained as a wildlife manager, but there was little wildlife left to manage. Whatever rules and regulations there may have been on paper, on the ground there was no such thing as open or closed hunting seasons or bag limits or wildlife sanctuaries; it was open season on everything edible year-round.

A Canadian acquaintance of mine once noticed a similar phenomenon in China. He was traveling there in the late 1970s when it was still relatively closed, just before it opened up to the world, and before the historically unprecedented economic boom that skyrocketed living standards and consumption levels for hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens almost overnight and transformed the world at large in the process in countless ways. My friend was a physician, a member of British Columbia’s Pollution Control Board (which set policy vis-à-vis regulating air and water pollution in this western Canadian province), and an avid bird watcher. Now, on his travels across China, he was disappointed at the apparent paucity of bird life. Finally, near the end of his two-week journey, as the train he was on passed over a bridge crossing an estuary, he managed to catch a glimpse of a heron at water’s edge. Thrilled, he pointed it out to his interpreter/guide/minder. “Ah yes, very good eating!” was the response, and then it dawned on my acquaintance why he’d been seeing so few birds. The thought of eating the flesh of a scrawny, fish-eating heron was repulsive, unless you were half-starved and in dire need of protein.

Throughout the developing world, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries have been justified and established not just to conserve habitat and wildlife, but as a means of “sustainable” economic development and providing jobs to surrounding rural residents through ecotourism. People are given an economic incentive — bribed, a cynic might say — to protect and manage forests and wildlife they would otherwise invade, chop down, and shoot out. The national parks and wildlife reserves of Costa Rica, Africa, and the Galapagos Islands are all fine examples. Ecotourism and safaris have become a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide. But what will happen to all of those elephants, zebras, impalas, wildebeests, marine iguanas, sea turtles, and tortoises should the flow of tourists and their dollars ever dry up because air travel has become too expensive due to high jet fuel prices? The super-rich may still be able to continue their jet-setting to exotic locales, but not the millions of middle-class eco- and adventure tourists, the steady flow of which is needed to sustain a viable industry and its associated jobs, income, and tax revenues.

When and if this occurs, the situation of the very wildlife attractions that are now the draw and destination for tourists will turn precarious. The tortoises and the elephants (if any have survived the current poaching pandemic) will become very vulnerable to the very human neighbors whose economic wellbeing they once helped nurture in better times. They will be killed for food or body parts (e.g., ivory from tusks), or because they compete for food or space humans need to grow food, or perish because humans invade and destroy the habitats they need to survive once those habitats no longer serve to attract tourists and adventurers and their money.

There have already been incidents that presage this unfortunate reality — for example, in the Galapagos Islands that so inspired a young naturalist named Charles Darwin in 1831. Essentially uninhabited until relatively recently, the human population on these islands exploded once Ecuador formally designated Galapagos National Park in 1959 and tourists began arriving in droves to take in the other-worldly scenery, the marine iguanas, the tortoises, and, of course, Darwin’s finches.

The upshot is that Earth’s population of 7.3 billion vastly exceeds the sustainable carrying capacity of the planet. The population boom of the last two centuries was only made possible by the discovery and ever more intensive exploitation (through brilliant technological innovation) of rich deposits of fossil fuels and mineral lodes that took tens of millions of years to accumulate through natural processes. With the inevitable depletion of these concentrated stocks of non-renewable resources, humanity will suddenly find itself in the perilous position depicted in the “human population trajectory” curve of the carrying capacity “overshoot and collapse” schematic shown in the figure opposite. Or as others have noted wryly, in the situation of Wile E. Coyote of the classic “Coyote and Roadrunner” Looney Tunes cartoons, who pursues the elusive, enticing roadrunner so blindly and with such abandon, that he runs right off a cliff. There he lingers in the void improbably for a few moments of eternity, before plummeting into the abyss below. And a tiny exquisite puff of dust appears on the desert floor below to mark the end of his plunge.

Renewable natural resources such as wildlife, fisheries, forests, grasslands, water, and soils are forms of natural capital, and as collapse occurs, in general these resources would be depleted and degraded as shown. However, as noted above, those resources that are located in remote, inaccessible locations of low human population density — high seas pelagic fisheries stocks, boreal forests or taiga and the wildlife they furnish habitats for, Arctic tundra, steep mountain slopes — may actually fare better during collapse, as human exploitation is increasingly curtailed by energy constraints and fewer numbers of human consumers to gnaw at them.

About two centuries ago, just before the advent of, first coal, and then oil, the global human population had reached the one billion mark, after tens of thousands of years of excruciatingly slow, incremental growth, marked by periodic culling setbacks such as the bubonic plague. Almost all of the energy in use at that time was non-fossil fuel: heat energy from burning wood, chemical energy in the covalent carbon bonds of food eaten by humans and draft animals. In a number of places that lent themselves to it, hydropower was used at mill sites to produce flour from wheat, and so forth. All of this was solar “income” or flow, and it was renewable. Moreover, humans were able to tap into just an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the shockingly large flow of solar energy onto the planet.


Even so, with just 1/7th of the global population we see at present, pre-Hydrocarbon Man was not living sustainably or lightly upon the Earth. Magnificent megafauna such as the mammoths and mastodons had been obliterated by early man over vast areas even before the advent of agriculture. Overpopulation afflicted much of Europe, portions of China and India, and elsewhere. Moreover, across the centuries human beings of many cultures and places had unwittingly long since over-used, over-exploited, and degraded vast areas of the biosphere, including much of the heavily populated Central American highlands, the Mediterranean basin in southern Europe, the once-Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, and North Africa. Many areas had been deforested to provide wood for heating and cooking and to make way for crop cultivation. American diplomat and naturalist George Perkins Marsh wrote about this in his classic 1864 book Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action.

A genuine Renaissance man and polymath of astonishing vigor, Marsh practiced law, reported to the Vermont Legislature on the artificial propagation of fish, and became fluent in half a dozen European languages during his long sojourns on the Continent. In 1849, President Zachary Taylor appointed him as U.S. minister resident to the Ottoman Empire, where he promoted religious and civil tolerance in that empire’s waning decades. In 1861, President Lincoln named Marsh as the first U.S. minister to the Kingdom of Italy.

In Man and Nature, based on his study of long-inhabited lands around the Mediterranean Sea, Marsh wrote that, “the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon.”

Beginning in the 1600s and 1700s, and accelerating in the 1800s, Europe’s overpopulation, land overexploitation, and deforestation were alleviated both by the large-scale migration of tens of millions of Europeans to the Americas as well as by inventions associated with the Industrial Revolution. There were not enough remaining forests and wood in the U.K. to provide the much greater quantities of energy needed for this colossal transformation, but coal production in Wales, England, and elsewhere boomed, until it didn’t anymore. Oil took its place.

With exponential growth in North and South American human populations during the colonial era, resource exploitation and overuse in turn grew exponentially. Wildlife and biodiversity suffered terrible losses.


In essence then, we cannot assume that without any fossil fuels at our disposal, the Earth could long support even the population of one billion humans alive at the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Fossil Fuels. And the uncontrolled population decline (aka collapse) that The Limits to Growth foresaw four decades ago as the inevitable outcome of the business-as-usual scenario would not occur without unprecented damage to the Earth’s environment and remaining resources.

What can avert this tragic fate? Some fatalists would argue that nothing can, that our brittle industrial civilization is inherently unsustainable and is doomed to collapse sooner or later. Green optimists and cornucopians beg to differ, and have faith that humanity still has enough time, capital, resources, and cooperative spirit to make the difficult but doable transition to a civilization based on renewable energy resources that can effectively last for as long as the sun shines. I, for one, remain unconvinced by either side. What I do know for certain is that for the foreseeable future, all other living things on Earth will be profoundly affected for better or worse by the decisions (or indecision) and actions (or inaction) that 7.3 billion human beings take.

the social contract

41 Comments on "Conservation of Living Resources in a Post-Peak Oil World"

  1. Makati1 on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 5:56 am 

    The “better or worse” is only “the worse”. “Better” is NOT going to happen. I guess that makes me a ‘fatalist’, but I prefer the term realist.

    What American city doesn’t have thousands of feathered rats (pigeons)?

    When I first came to Manila, I sensed something was different besides the people and place names. Then I realized … there are no pigeons! At least no wild ones. Why? They taste good and are free. In fact, the only birds I see in the city are small sparrows and they are few.

    Maybe you can watch your local pigeon population for similar changes as a barometer of hunger locally? Has your squirrel population declined recently? Rabbits? Deer? Groundhog? (Yummy if young and properly prepared.)

  2. Dredd on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 6:25 am 

    The author of the piece asks: “what fate awaits wildlife, fisheries, and forests when the fuels run short?”

    The answer: The same thing that happens to anything you stop poisoning.

  3. dave thompson on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 6:58 am 

    Good summery of the predicament, humans have perpetrated, on all of creation.

  4. Davy on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:04 am 

    I like to mention something to those who want to see BAU end so we can save nature. It likely is not going to save nature it may help the climate situation some. What will likely happen is a collapse of modern industrial civilization but a beginning of a scavenging civilization. Nature will be destroyed but Nature always rebuilds. This will not happen in our lifetime.

    We have 7BIL people that will have to be reduced to 1BIL or less. This may be possible over a generation with 200MIL excess deaths a year. It could happen quicker with horrific deaths. My studies of descent of complex systems says it will likely be volatile and a jagged trip down. When you have 7BIL people lose their foundation commodity and foundational systematic support I can see nothing positive out of that. A complex global society that provides support that is quickly gone will likely give us an environmental catastrophe.

    We will have a mass of people scouring the land in a quest for survival. I hope this is the worst case I hope we can find a way to manage some kind of orderly retreat from industrial man. Industrial man’s fossil fuel poisons will likely diminish some but not completely. There is still allot that can be salvaged in a hybrid descent with old, new, and what is left of the environment. We will likely strip the land of wildlife and biomass in the process of reduction. This in itself will not be good for the climate.

    The more I dig into these issues the more pessimistic I get. I am optimistic we have a few years of stability left if WWIII doesn’t erupt. I really hope you BAUtopians and cornucopians come up with something because my doomism is scary. I hope you can laugh me under the table. Nothing would please me more to be called a loon.

  5. J-Gav on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:55 am 

    Well, Makati, I wasn’t expecting any fence-sitting from you on this subject, and you certainly didn’t indicate any.

    I confess I’m still on the fence, although, since I’m neither a ‘green optimist’ nor a cornucopian, definitely leaning to one side. Overshoot there is, and it will very likely be followed by some sort of collapse, probably major. But I think there may be a chance that the “How far down?” and “How fast down?” questions haven’t yet received their definitive answers.

  6. Cloud9 on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:24 am 

    I have witnessed a bit of reversal. During the boom here in central Florida several large swaths of scrub land were bulldozed and marked off for development. The collapse wiped out the funding and the properties have been repoed by the banks. In eight years, they have rebounded back to scrub. I think the wilderness will reclaim large swaths of our post collapse country.

    In considering all of this, the metric of three is worth considering: three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. I have no doubt that the metro inhabitants will spill out of the cities like locusts if the lights go out. I think the die off will be abrupt and swift as our well-armed society goes toe to toe over a few cans of beans. I fear the most prevalent large game will be long pig.

  7. jelly bean on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 9:13 am 

    A Parable for Humanity

  8. Rodster on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 10:08 am 

    There is NO such thing as conservation in an “infinite growth BAU world economy”. It’s a word that’s despised.

  9. gdubya on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 10:14 am 

    Cloud9 – the record of the exploration of New Zealand by Cook and Vancouver may be interesting to you. The Polynesians settled NZ and replicated the caribou of st Matthews island. The easy eating of Moa allowed a population explosion, the birds were all eaten and by the time the Brits showed up 900 years later the mauri were happly murdering their neighbouring tribes to feed their children.
    New Guinea was more of a steady state – if you killed someone you might as well not let all that good meat go to waste.

  10. yogi on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 10:42 am 

    A parable for humanity.

  11. TemplarMyst on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 10:46 am 

    Not too long ago I ran across an article on Easter Island. Generally held up as the model for a human society that lays waste to everything and leaves scant behind.

    The article was a summary of some new research indicating it was actually the Dutch who did the island in. They devastated the native Polynesian cultures and their steady-state relationship with the islands’ ecospheres. I’ll see if I can locate the article.

    In re:gdubya’s comment, it looks like humans can go both ways – sustainable or not.

    Kinda looks like current civ has chosen the not option.

  12. TemplarMyst on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 11:04 am 

    Here’s the article:

    Basically the Dutch introduced rats, who had no natural enemies. The rats ate the palm seeds, and the Dutch just generally mistreated the natives per standard European practice.

    End result: collapse. Not by the natives, but collapse none the less.

  13. TemplarMyst on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 11:06 am 

    Please ignore this response. I’m testing to see if the Comments can accept some html. Please forgive if this is well known already.

    Easter Island Reconsidered

  14. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 12:19 pm 

    But what about the opposite scenario: If we actually succede in making fusion energi that is cheap, abundant and non-polluting energi.
    If we should folow the logic of the author, that would actually mean the end of wild nature.
    So there we go : doomed if we do, doomed if we don’t.
    There is only one solution and that is fewer people in this world.

  15. yogi on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 1:19 pm 

    The Authors Keon Kolankiewicz YouTube video.

  16. paulo1 on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 2:24 pm 

    Ah the noble savage cannot get enough moose on their snowmobile!! In Watson Lake YT they take taxis out to highway 37 and shoot woodland caribou by the dozens, blazing away as the animals stumble around in the belly deep snow….legs shot off, whatever.

    I used to fly for big game hunting outfits in the north. One large outfitter had an arrangement to fly natives from Norman Wells to site where they could have any and all meat above camp needs, provided they did the work of skinning, etc. Guess what?

    You guessed it, too much work…no takers. I did not support trophy hunting and still do not in any way shape or form. I live in elk country where I totally resent outside hunters who obtain a ‘draw’ when locals cannot shoot game that ravage their orchards and gardens, year round. I agree northerners should have first dibs on moose, but this should not be based on race. Locals first, outsiders end of the line; no budging.

  17. Cloud9 on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 2:40 pm 

    GD I have read those accounts as well as what happened on Easter Island. Figured into that mix is what was described in the Death of Money where urban Germans spilled out into the countryside to pillage farms. Some people do not starve quietly. I live in the poorest city in America in a rural county with a small population. Half our population is in their sixties and living off pensions. I am in that group but have not retired yet. Many of us are on maintenance drugs and will not live beyond our drug supply. So the thinning would begin in a matter of weeks for most. What scares the crap out of me are the hordes living to the north and south of us that will spill into the hinterlands looking for something to eat. I think a goodly portion of the population will simply sit down and die. Those that make it out of the cities after the die off will be a different stripe altogether. They will be some real bad boys and girls. NASA gives us about a twelve percent chance of a Carrington Event. That would trigger the worst case scenario. My hope is for a gradual contraction like that on going in Detroit. Under those circumstances resilient types will have time to adjust.

  18. Perk Earl on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 2:58 pm 

    The oil age, modern civilization has supported a population of out of shape, overfed people that only had to walk into a store and find an electric cart to motor down the isles to get their food. Now there going to charge into the surrounding wilderness to catch prey, skin in, butcher it, rotisserate, dehydrate to make jerky etc.?

    If Katrina is any indication a large percentage were so exhausted they just plopped down in the leaky Silverdome and waited for the Fed govt. to bring emergency supplies. I doubt if the govt. had not arrived they would have headed into the bayou to hunt alligator or rowed boats into the Gulf in search of seafood. Just too spoiled to know where to start and way too out of shape to make the transition from easy calories to extremely difficult one’s.

    There may be a lot of wildlife consumed during and after collapse, but I think the majority of the one’s that won’t make it through the bottleneck will either starve or be shot for their food. Most of the people killed will be by other people. People like people if it’s to their advantage, but once it’s to their advantage to kill them, they will with reckless abandon. It’s not a bad comment about people, just a basic instinct to survive like any other animal.

  19. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 3:31 pm 

    P.O. is of course most about future lack of energi, but i still think it is deeply interesting, what would happen to nature and society, if mankind could lay its hands on cheap, abundant “green” energi(fusion energi).
    I am new to this forum, and i might have missed earlier debates about this subject.
    Please give me a hand out about this particular problem. Maybe som links or sites

  20. Apneaman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 3:47 pm 

    claman we would strip mine and toxify the rest of the planet in short order. And it would make war cheaper too.

  21. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 4:35 pm 

    so maybe we better stick to peak oil. that at least gives nature a posibility to strike back

  22. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 4:45 pm 

    but honestly, i realy would like to know what others have thought about the posibility of free, abundant energi.

  23. J-Gav on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 4:51 pm 

    Claman – Free, abundant energy? Can you say ‘pipedream?”

  24. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 5:40 pm 

    i can say ITER just as fast as you can say pipedream. The only problem is that none of them will come true- but but but maybe one day. you newer know

  25. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 6:26 pm 

    by the way, i live in sweden and we have a lot of moose, and they have recently started retrackted from the southern parts of sweden be course of (what we believe) the higher temperatures (global warming). The author mentions that the moose stock in alaska is diminishing, but alaska is realy warming upp, and i just might not be the hunting pressure but the higher temperatures that are driving them away. I just want to say that.

  26. Apneaman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 6:38 pm 

    Tic’s are not dying back in winter like they use to; same as the pine beetle.

    B.C. to investigate declining moose numbers

  27. hiruitnguyse on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:05 pm

  28. Makati1 on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:13 pm 

    Man will die off eventually, whether slow or fast. There is no place to go that is not already plundered and over populated with the exception of maybe central and northern Russia or the Andes mountain chain. Hunter-gatherers will find nothing to hunt or gather a few years into the bottleneck. We are too efficient at killing now. Not spears and knives but guns and chain saws.

    If the decline is slow, all edible creatures will be long gone by the time it gets serious. And don’t count on the fat people not coming for your supplies. By the time they get desperate, they may be slimmed down, toned up and hungry.

    Yes, those who are unfortunate and on life prolonging drugs will be the first to go. Those on the mind drugs will be coming down off their highs and desperate.(Prozac,etc., not cocaine) And those who are over 60 are also likely to not last long in a Western culture that does not respect age and experience.

    Do you think that a man will stand by and watch his family starve if he knows that his neighbor has food? If you do, you put too much faith in religion or morals. Better to plan to share then to protect. He may offer barter or labor, but if you refuse, and he has a gun…

    But then…who knows what the future will bring? Or When. I don’t know, but I can see the possibilities as can you. Buckle up!

  29. Davy on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:59 pm 

    One need only study famines in Ukraine and China to get a taste of what is ahead. There was no mad max my friends. You guys are watching too much TV. Hollywood has you captivated. Yes, there will be mad max but it will not be like you fantasize about. We have seen refugee situations elsewhere. This is a wide open event with multiple scenarios and it is going to be global. To generalize and drift into Hollywood fantasy is not constructive. A descent is unpredictable at this point and to speculate is normal but remember there are so many possibilities. There are so many locals to consider. We always want to default to mad max and cannibalism. Personally I see that as simplistic and lacking critical thinking.
    Forty years ago China was in the middle of the world’s largest famine: between the spring of 1959 and the end of 1961 some 30 million Chinese starved to death and about the same number of births were lost or postponed.

  30. justeunperdant on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:02 pm 

    I used to go hiking at about one hour by car from Montreal at a place called Chertsey in Lanaudiere. I was hiking and notice how lakes seems empty of fishes and I could only see a lot flying insect biting me. I ask someone living in this ares if there was fishes in these lakes. I have been told that these lakes were dead and they ere looking at reintroducing trouts in these lakes.

    It will be impossible to survive once this civilization has collapse. The damage that human overpopulation has caused is way bigger then most can imagine. To find some food, you will have to walk really far up north into wild cold land. There is still some lake up north with fishes in them but there are no access road and there is no infrastructure. Few people have the skill to live in these areas and prosper. The human specie is about to go extinct really soon and there is nothing we can do about it.

  31. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:05 pm 

    @apneaman. What we are seeing is the northward movement of the climate zones. While southern usa might become drylands, canadas tundras could turn into great forests.

  32. DMyers on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:23 pm 

    For a portal to the topic of free energy, I would recommend:

    These are sobering scenarios we imagine with this article, with a background theme of zombies, very similar to those recently made popular on TV. I’m loving the simplified diagram of overshoot and collapse provided in the article.

    The diagram resolves a recent dispute on this site between @plantagenet and others. Plant argued that overshoot does not occur until die-off commences. The diagram shows Plant is correct. (I did not side with him previously on this issue)

    Clearly the confusion arises from that part of the curve between breach of carrying capacity and actual overshoot.
    The best way to clarify this is to call that part of the curve, “overshooting”. A verb is fitting here because this is a phase of action and acting. Carrying capacity has been breached with upward momentum which somehow continues to the point of overshoot.

    The distinction may be technical only, because once a population is overshooting, then it is going to end up in a state of overshoot. We are now overshooting but are not yet overshot.

  33. JuanP on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:28 pm 

    Cloud, the survivalist’s rules of three are:

    You can live around three minutes without breathing air.
    You can live three hours without shelter and/or fire.
    You can last up to three days without water.
    And, finally, three weeks to three months without food.

    You need to adapt them to your location, activity level, and circumstances at the time, it is different every time. Hypothermia can kill you in a few minutes in freezing weather if you get wet. In a subtropical Florida island with no freshwater on a hot summer day, you are in deep trouble, but you will never freeze to dead down here, so water becomes more important than fire or shelter. I have to drink up to two gallons a day to stay hydrated here in summer if I am active outdoors.

    Shelter, fire, and water are normally the first survival priorities. Most americans could live without food for months. 😉

  34. Davy on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:31 pm 

    Planter gets stuck in ruts and has difficulty with admitting he is wrong. My idea of overshoot is the same one used in this excellent report on human population overshoot I recommend all of you read.
    In ecology, overshoot is said to have occurred when a population’s consumption exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment. When a population rises beyond the carrying capacity of its environment, or conversely the carrying capacity of the environment falls, the existing population cannot be supported and must decline to match the carrying capacity. A population cannot stay in overshoot for long. The rapidity, extent and other characteristics of the decline depend on the degree of overshoot and whether the carrying capacity continues to be eroded during the decline

  35. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 9:01 pm 

    @makati: MOST men will die of……
    @davy: There are so many threats to agriculture, that sooner or later the global foodsystem could collapse for a periode. Drought, too much rain, depletion of aquiferes, peak phosforus, diseases or maybe just not enough production to satisfy the need.
    It is not easy to tell, but i wish for the hungry in this world that their parents didn’t get that much children

  36. Davy on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 9:26 pm 

    Clay, our issues are related to our foundational commodity oil and our systematic foundation is the finance system. We have a global distribution system that moves monocultures and manufactured food products globally. Oil drives it from the very start (seed) to the finish (landfill). We are completely dependent on this global arrangement. The financial system is the liquidity from trust and confidence. Even if you are dealing with your local bank it is hooked into the global system. All locals have been delocalized. If there is one top down plan B mitigation plan it would be to force local food production. We could force the growing of food locally. The corporate food criminals would never allow this. In this sense they are evil. Monsanto is an evil organization. Clay, even in Sweden a country that is high on the list of organized and ready countries, you will find difficulties when BAU stubbles and become unstable.

  37. claman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 9:27 pm 

    you are a crazy bunch, but over here it’s way beyond bedtime

  38. GregT on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 9:38 pm 


    The definition of overshoot that Plant quoted, and we all agreed upon was:

    “In population dynamics and population ecology, overshoot occurs when a population exceeds the long term carrying capacity of its environment. The consequence of overshoot is called a crash or die-off”

  39. DMMZ on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 11:36 pm 

    Economists tell us that constant growth is essential to maintain our economy. How is this infinite growth possible when many of the critical resources needed for this growth are non-renewable? This is voodoo thinking in my estimation.

  40. GregT on Mon, 23rd Feb 2015 12:03 am 


    Are you saying that the eCONomists are wrong? Or merely incapable of logical and rational thought?

  41. Rita on Mon, 23rd Feb 2015 4:36 am 

    If life expectancy gets shorter, up to 45 let’s say; if we get vegetarian and insectarian; if we get lean and practice one family/1-2 children we can lower consumption of food manyfold without tragedy. Peaceful countries like Japan may acheve this, but warrier type races will choose war.

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