Long Term Worries Are A Luxury


Long Term Worries Are A Luxury

It is impossible to think about long term problems when you are in the midst of an emergency. Who can worry about the balance of their bank account, or who should get elected, or global warming, when they are in the middle of a medical emergency, or a police nightmare, or a flood, or just the “normal” worries of a homeless person looking for food for themselves or their children, and a safe place to get some badly needed sleep? And this situation is repeated by the billions around the world.

Because so many people are struggling to deal with their basic survival and personal security needs, which are under assault from so many directions by the forces of human malevolence: political, economic and racial, they have no mental capacity nor psychological reserves left to expend on long term worries like global warming. That long term worry is a luxury enjoyed by people who are fortunate in life, secure and safe, and even prosperous. They are also likely to be the kind of people who are in the most anthropogenic greenhouse gas emitting classes on Earth.

I consider global warming to be an emergency, exactly as Greta Thunberg has so brilliantly broadcast to the world. Many professional “Green” activists, bloggers, book writers and internet “influencers” have advanced a variety of social behavioral adaptation schemes, and technical schemes, that governments are urged to mandate and manage in order to “transition” our current profits-above-life-itself economies to a “post carbon” alternative energy mode. In general I agree with such ideas, but I realize they are just fantasies of luxurious long term worries (LLTWs). I suppose my Marxist friends would call LLTWs a class interest.

It has finally dawned on me that the route to real action on global warming climate change is through a complete social revolution that meets the immediate survival and security needs of the great mass of humanity, and which spectrum of aspirations is being vibrantly voiced through the worldwide George Floyd protests. A psychologist might phrase this as the need for a climb up the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The smaller the fraction of the world’s population that is overwhelmingly taxed by scrambling for their survival and safety needs, the larger the fraction of the world’s population that can begin to enjoy the LLTW of global warming climate change.

Because meeting those many aspirations for societal renewal and social transformation are technically the easiest and quickest remedies to begin addressing the root causes of the LLTW of global warming, they should be pushed for hard by everybody who gives a damn. Thus, the George Floyd protests are really for much more than just their essential and vitally important calls for anti-racist anti-capitalist and public health actions by governments, they are also the trumpet fanfares and bugle calls for a worldwide charge up the hierarchy of popular needs, from physical survival and personal security through societal reconstruction based on indiscriminate human dignity and the wide availability of opportunity that affords achievement of personal fulfillment, and ultimately up to us “all” having the luxury to worry about global warming, and then actually act on it.

I do not think there will ever be useful action on global warming until the social needs of the masses of humanity are vigorously and effectively attended to. This is not a utopian fantasy, this is realistic hard nuts logical thinking. The first and foundation step for everything that should follow is for all of us to actually become “we.”

So, yes, I realize that implies many wished-for political, economic and social revolutions and changes, but there it is. That is what “we” need to do if we want to make “anthropogenic” a positive adjective describing our stewardship of Planet Earth, instead of leaving it with its currently negative connotation regarding our massive fouling of the most beautiful jewel known to exist in the entire Universe.


Endgame For Green Utopia


Endgame For Green Utopia

On these two opposing types of responses to the movie “Planet Of The Humans”

PRO: “The key, however, is that all these [‘greenish’] energy policies have to be carried out after capitalism has been wiped out and under conditions where production is based strictly on use.“

CON: “This documentary is trashy fake news. It’s Trumpian in its disdain for the facts…, they point away from real climate action solutions (such as renewable energy infrastructure) and peddle fascist snake oil of population growth i.e. advocate ecofascist genocide…Meanwhile, those of us who aren’t raving ecofascist lunatics will continue to fight to change society.”

Dreams of Utopias and illusions of self-importance die hard, even in the face of reality. Nature doesn’t care about how we fantasize; it just keeps on with its grand cycles, which those of global heating, environmental destruction and species extinction are now overstimulated by us, homo sapiens. The fundamental question here is: how good of an equitable world society could we energetically have, and by ‘greening it’ can we limit global warming?


The best we could possibly do would be to equalize the standard of living (Human Development Index) worldwide to HDI=0.862 (the range is from 0.28 for the poorest, to 0.97 for the richest nations), with a per capita electrical energy use of u=4000 kWh/c (kilowatt-hours-per-year/capita). The world average by nation (in 2002, and similar now) was: HDI=0.741 at u=2465 kWh/c. The U.S.A. had HDI=0.944 at u=13,456 kWh/c (a rich highly developed country). Niger had HDI=0.281 at u=40kWh/c (a poor underdeveloped country).

The recommended leveling is for nations with u>4000kWh/c to REDUCE energy use (a.k.a economic activity AND militarism), and nations with u<4000kWh/c to INCREASE energy use ENTIRELY APPLIED to raising living conditions (a.k.a. human-centered health and welfare: “socialism”).

This means world socialist government and no wars, and no nationalism.

Examples of enlightened HDI=~0.861 countries (ranked by energy efficiency) are Malta (HDI=0.867), Czech Republic (HDI=0.874), Estonia (HDI=0.853). There is no excuse for a nation to expend more than u=6560kWh/c, because that was Ireland’s usage and it had an HDI=0.946 (and a phenomenal energy efficiency as I calculate it).

All of this is to equalize the experience of whatever is going to happen to humanity because of geophysical changes (“global warming”).

My numbers for the above come from the following linked analysis (using 2002 data).

PART 2a:

From where do we source that energy powering the world-equalized “decent life”? Obviously, we use the fossil fuel and nuclear power infrastructure that we have now to power a maximum effort “full speed ahead” program of developing, building and installing greenish energy technology based on:

– solar (from light-to-heat in water, oil and brine slurry pipes; and also photovoltaics but that is materially limited for the needed exotic elements),

– wind (especially offshore),

– hydro (using existing dams-plus-reservoirs as “pumped storage” facilities, so “excess” solar energy collected during the day pumps water “uphill,” which can then be released “downhill” through the turbo-generators to produce nighttime electricity),

– wave/tidal as possible (without wrecking important inter-tidal bio-zones),

– energy conservation by building/home design (both for insulation, energy capture and greenhousing),

– energy conservation by design of appliances and the mechanical and thermal systems used industrially and for personal living,

– also a necessary transformation of our transportation sector (for bicycles, trolleys, trains, ships even with sails; and bye-bye to most planes, most cars especially big-engined SUVs and trucks, cruise ships, and all that high-waste military gear),

– also necessary is a transformation of agriculture to localized small organic multiculture farms, and away from international-aimed large oil-chemical stimulated monoculture agro-factories/feedlots/plantations.

PART 2b:

As greenish energy sources come on-line, an equivalent generating capacity of fossil and nuclear infrastructure is taken off-line AND SCRAPPED (and materially recycled/reprocessed).

The goal is to always increase the proportion of greenish technology and always decrease the proportion of old energy technology, while keeping the total energy generation such as to provide u=~4000kWh/c worldwide (to maintain HDI>0.862 worldwide).

It will never be possible to eliminate all of the old energy technology and still maintain the decent level of HDI “we” experience and is the moral right of all 7.78B (and growing) of Earth’s people to experience.

Note that fertility rates decrease (they are already negative in some rich countries) as HDI increases; so the rate of population growth will diminish as higher standards of living are widely experienced; with greater physical, heath, child, and economic survival and security, as well as education, provided socialistically worldwide.


Global warming would most likely still continue, but at a slower pace, if given all the above. So the endgame is to equalize the experience of “the geophysical inevitable” (whatever it actually ends up being), while always striving to increase energy efficiency so as to maximize HDI given the energy used.

It seems PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE to have a very high standard of living worldwide (HDI~0.9) with a per capita energy use that is at least 3x less (or, at 1/3 current US-level usage) to 7x less (or, at 1/7 current usage by the most profligate) of ‘rich, energy-wasting nation’ usage.

But global warming (the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) may be too far advanced to ever stop by throttling back or even eliminating human (economic) activity; though undoubtedly it could be noticeably slowed by such cutbacks, as has been vividly demonstrated in a very short time by the COVID-19 economic slowdown that has visibly reduced pollution, and afforded greater freedom to wildlife (seen roaming in emptied city streets around the world!).

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it. And if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

Now to all who would say that this “all in” paradigm is so psychologically and politically improbable that it will never happen, I say fine, I won’t argue it, but realize that in order to accurately and realistically gage the actual (really potential) value of whatever your scheme or dream for Utopia is, it is essential to know how to calculate what is POSSIBLE within the limits imposed by geophysics (the laws of physics and the workings of Nature) given the natural resources sustainably available from Planet Earth (this is to say without the degradation of its environments and biodiversity).

One small example. Today it is possible to use an ‘app’ on your smart-phone to alert your local coffee shop to prepare your preferred caffeinated concoction, and pay for it electronically over the vast internet-banking computer network (humming and exhausting heat 24/7), then drive to your Java pit-stop and pick up your to-go order, discarding the container after consuming the contents, which container may end up as soiled waxed paper in a municipal organic compost pile, or as plastic in a solid waste landfill, or at worst as litter.

Imagine that modality of coffee consumption is gone in the “all in” world, and instead you have to appear in person at your coffee shop — perhaps on one of your walks into town, or on the walk home from the trolley stop after work — place your order to a human being manning the Java-preparing technology, pay cash (to eliminate all the internet energy-to-heat waste), and drink your coffee from a washable mug you carry or they provide; or, extravagantly, from a paper cup that easily composts. Even more efficiently, you could buy a bag of coffee beans, take them home and grind them with a handcrank grinder, and make delicious coffee at home.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically, or by relaxing its pace. More likely these increase it.

4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World:

The 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World (HDI>0.862) would need 18% more electrical generation than in 2017 (for a world total of 30,189TWh), and applied with 62% greater efficiency for producing social value than we currently do.

In our current World Paradigm, we only get an average of 62% of the potential social value inherent in the world electrical energy generated, and which social value is also very inequitably distributed. The average 38% of annual socially wasted (SW) electrical energy (9,730TWh total at 1,289kWh/c in 2017) goes into all the Social Negativity (SN) of: capitalist-economic, nationalist-political and prejudicial-societal inequities; militarism and wars; and to a lesser degree some technical inefficiencies of electrical generation and of appliances.

The potential (or Primary) energy (PE) contained in the natural resources (all raw fuels and sources) used to generate the World Energy in 2017 was 162,494TWh; and 25,606TWh of electrical energy was generated that year, which was 15.8% of the Primary Energy. That percentage can be taken as a lower bound on the efficiency of our current conversion of raw energy resources into socially applicable energy, because some quantity of fuel (PE, with some refined) is converted by combustion directly to heat, both to drive heat engines and for industrial and personal uses (e.g., smelting, cooking, heating).


For a 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World “today” we would need 18% MORE usable (electrical and available heat) energy than consumed in 2017, applied with 62% GREATER EFFICIENCY for producing social value than we do currently. Eliminating today’s Social Negativity (SN) would be the energetic equivalent of gaining 38% more energy (in our current paradigm).

But global warming will continue because it is impossible to eliminate all CO2 and greenhouse gases producing processes of energy generation and use. The rate of increase of global warming (the upward trend of temperature) can be reduced as the purely Green (non-CO2 and non-greenhouse gases producing) methods of energy production and use provide a larger portion of the total World Energy production and consumption.

EXCERPTS FROM: World Energy Consumption

According to IEA (in 2012) the goal of limiting warming to 2°C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes. If action is not taken before 2017 [sic!], CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing in 2017 [so, now they are]. Fossil fuels are dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies totaling $523B in 2011 (up almost 30% from 2010), which is six times more than subsidies to renewables. So, limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius is now doubtful.

To limit global temperature to a hypothetical 2 degrees Celsius rise would demand a 75% decline in carbon emissions in industrial countries by 2050, if the population is 10 billion in 2050. Across 40 years [from 2010 to 2050], this averages to a 2% decrease every year.

But, since 2011 the emissions from energy production and use have continued rising despite the consensus on the basic Global Warming problem. Hypothetically, according to Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute [in 2009], in order to prevent the collapse of human civilization we would have to stop increasing emissions within a decade [by 2019!] regardless of the economy or population.

Carbon dioxide, methane and other volatile organic compounds are not the only greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and consumption. Large amounts of pollutants such as sulfurous oxides (SOx), nitrous oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (like soot) are produced from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. The World Health Organization estimates that 7 million premature deaths are caused each year by air pollution, and biomass combustion is a major contributor to that pollution. In addition to producing air pollution like fossil fuel combustion, most biomass has high CO2 emissions.


Even with the 4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World, global warming would continue at a rate faster or slower depending on how low or high, respectively, a proportion of World Energy is generated and used by purely Green methods. To repeat:

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it; and if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically and by relaxing its pace. More likely it would be increased even in today’s paradigm; and most decidedly so with the elimination of Social Negativity in all its forms, which are so wasteful of energy.

Our potential civilizational collapse and subsequent extinction is up to Nature; but whether that occurs sooner or later, and with what level of shared quality of life we experience our species’ remaining lifetime, as well as its degree of equitable uniformity, is entirely up to us.



Can COVID-19 Save Lifeboat Earth?


Can COVID-19 Save Lifeboat Earth?

Harbhajan Singh asks [6 April 2020]: “Could COVID-19 save Lifeboat Earth?”

Many realize that eliminating humanity would make Earth healthier for Nature, plants and animals.

Many also realize that without profound changes to human behavior — by everybody, everywhere; including limiting population growth and ending greenhouse gas emissions — that humanity can not exist in balance with Nature, and both will increasingly suffer, eventually — in a few lifetimes? — fatally.

It is well documented that as human encroachment and destruction of Nature (e.g., environments and biodiversity) advances, that habitability decreases.

That decrease is due to a combination of:

— pollution (bad air, ocean plastic, dead seas, lost topsoil, lost forests, toxic land);

— climate change (and more violent weather, floods, droughts, wildfires);

— food source degradation (inorganic industrial farming, loss of natural varietals, loss of seafood), and

— greater hazards of releasing viruses (epidemics and pandemics) fatal to people.

The scientific reports get very specific on ‘this particular negative effect has this particular [human stupidity] cause’, but in aggregate they show what I’ve just outlined.

More people are realizing that humanity’s accelerating encroachment and destruction of Nature can only cause more deadly virus pandemics to plague us. Hotter environmental temperatures from global warming, and greater particulate and noxious gases pollution from human activity (industrialization, capitalism, militarism) aggravate the severity and lethality of all respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

I prefer that humanity became vastly more intelligent, and cooperative, and altruistic, and balances its existence (both individual and collective) with Nature’s timeless rhythms and geophysical limits.

The most important aspect of that wished-for cooperativeness is that we cease viewing each other as deadly rivals in a grim zero-sum game of making-money one-upmanship and competing narcissistic schemes of enslaving others.

Miraculously, the Earth is the most wonderful Paradise we know of in the entire Universe. If we treated it as such, instead of treating it like a garbage dump and sewer, it would return that appreciation, and we would knowingly experience life in this actual Paradise, for ourselves and for endless future generations.

This is not just poetry, it is fact.


Climate Change and Voting 2020


Climate Change and Voting 2020

Today, humanity faces a situation unique in the 200,000 year existence of our species Homo sapiens sapiens, and unique in the 2 million year existence of our genus, Homo: the unprecedented steady linear advance of global warming since 1970, which is making our planet irreversibly less habitable as time progresses, and which is driven entirely by the emission of greenhouse gases as waste products of human activity, particularly the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. If this human-caused global warming remains unchecked it could ultimately lead to our extinction.

Global warming is intimately coupled with population growth (see Note). The universal desire for a better life leads people everywhere to try to acquire and use more energy to reduce the drudgery of daily survival, and beyond that to increase their security, comfort and enjoyment. Food is the source of our internal energy, that which powers our metabolism. The most popular source of our external energy today is fossil fuels: the burning of refined petroleum fuels, natural gas, and coal. From these we derive most of the heat and electricity we generate and use both industrially and personally, as well as for propelling our transportation. It is the increasing energy demand per person of a growing world population that drives the unprecedented rate of global warming we are experiencing.

Motivating people everywhere to see global warming as the fundamental cause of their local disasters of severe weather, drought, failed agriculture and fishing, habitat loss and resource scarcity wars, and then motivating them to cooperate internationally to immediately reduce the rate of global warming as much as geophysical conditions will allow, is the singular political problem of our time for our species.

The trends of population (in billions) and global warming (in degrees °C increase relative to the average global temperature during 1880-1920, the datum) are given in the table shown. The quantities listed up to the years 2019-2020 are based on data. The populations listed after 2019 are extrapolations based on an assumed linear population increase of +87.5 million per year (M/y), which was the average rate of increase from the years 2011 to 2019. The temperature increase above datum (delta-T) for years after 2020 are linear extrapolations based on the temperature ramp observed between years 1970 and 2020 (a +1.4°C increase over 50 years).

What is not yet known is if and when global warming will accelerate beyond the linear trend assumed after the year 2020, in the table. Such acceleration would be caused by the appearance of new physical conditions such as:

the transition of tropical forests from being carbon absorbers and sinks to becoming carbon emitters because of their severe degradation brought about by logging, drought and wildfires;

a massive methane release from the thawing Arctic;

sudden and massive glacial calving and melt in Greenland and Antarctica baring more ground for the absorption of solar radiation and the release of formerly trapped methane and carbon dioxide;

methane released from warmed oceans because of the breakdown by heat of methane clathrates (solid methane hydrate “ices” formed under cold high pressure at ocean depths).

Because of the unprecedented pace of our current global warming, we do not have the luxury of unlimited time — as was true in prior millennia — to physically evolve adaptively or escape by migration in response to climate change. (Migrate to where?, a billionaire’s habitat bubble on Mars? We already have a worldwide climate change and environmental collapse refugee crisis, and it will only get worse without a civilization-transforming response to climate change.)

To slow global warming to the minimum rate now limited by geophysics (the carbon load of the atmosphere) will require a species-wide change of human behavior as regards how energy is generated, conserved and used; how we steward the environment; and how the growth of human population is to be limited and people cared for everywhere. It takes Nature 200,000 years to clear a massive excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (such as we have injected over the previous century), and this occurs through a sequence of increasingly longer term processes: CO2 uptake by the oceans (years to decades), dissolution of seafloor sediments (the dissolving of chalk acidifying the oceans over decades to centuries), the weathering of carbonate rocks (centuries to millennia), and silicate weathering (tens to hundreds of millennia). CO2 uptake by photosynthesis is blunted by the ‘torrential rain-flooding plant-growth punctuated drought-wildfire’ cycle.

We can only attenuate global warming by species-wide willpower, and the sooner we develop and apply that willpower the greater will be the degree of that attenuation, and the further the likelihood of our causing our own extinction.

Without an internationally coordinated climate change response effort within the next dozen years that is 70% larger than the combined war efforts of World War II (to account for the +5.5B population increase between 1939 and 2020), global warming will reach and then exceed 2°C above the 1880-1920 datum. Warming beyond that point will likely be impossible to counteract by any human actions, and the climatic and weather-disaster consequences will be dire and unrelenting.

We have lost the luxury of unlimited time to dawdle in our many egocentric obsessions and illusions — waiting for the ideologically “perfect” revolution; seeking the most ethnically pure nationalism; the ideal theocracy; the maximization of our wealth; the complete destruction and disappearance of those “other types” of people whose savings, lands, resources and lives we want to steal; mindless absorption in superficial consumerism and ‘electronic comic book video game TV internet social media entertainment’ — before collectively reforming ourselves into better futures. Nature has made our old awareness-blunting time-wasting games obsolete by becoming feverish over its infection from our greenhouse gas toxicity. Our last chance for civilizational transformation that can alter the course of climate change is now, this next decade.

Clearly, the single best strategy to slow global warming is to replace fossil fuel energy with solar and “green” energy, whose production and use does not emit CO2, CH4 (methane), and other organic greenhouse gases and vapors.

Everything I have described up to this point has been said before by many people in many ways over many years. Now, about voting.

The only way we can achieve the civilizational transformation required to have any ameliorating effect on the course of global warming, and tackle the singular political problem of our time for our species, is to wrest control of governments from oligarchic, neoliberal, capitalism-obsessed, theocratic, nativist, and climate change ignoring elites — especially in countries having disproportionate political-economic-military power, expelling disproportionate quantities of greenhouse gases, and causing disproportionate environmental destruction — and then establishing regimes committed to real and immediate climate change response. Such real climate change response naturally subsumes all narrowly defined issues of economic equity and social justice.

In countries that offer some degree of democracy to their people, it is necessary to vote for politicians — now — whose prior history indicates they would be most reliable at vigorously pursuing a maximal climate change response, locally, nationally and internationally. For U.S. voters in 2020 that means electing Bernie Sanders to lead the Democratic Party ticket for the presidency, and then voting to ensure he wins the November general election. It is also necessary to elect people who would be Congressional representatives and Senators allied with Bernie Sanders. It does not matter whether sweeping the Sanders socialist-populist groundswell youth-quake “revolution” into power fits in with your ideal of an American government regime, however intellectually refined, or crudely simplistic, or myopically and corruptly partisan, or vainly and egocentrically identity political your ideal regime would be. We no longer have time to put off making partial gains in the direction of our goal, in order to wait for anyone’s variety of personally tailored political perfection.

The burden of responsibility on the citizens of the politically powerful, economically rich, profligate greenhouse gas emitting countries is to agitate and vote for, and vigorously implement, the real type of climate change response that is being described here. The burden of responsibility on the older citizens and older non-citizens is to put their time, money and energy into creating and protecting a good world with a decent future for the young. That has always been the responsibility on adults, and in our time — now — that responsibility must be discharged by implementing a real climate change response which is intrinsically a revolution of: economic equity, social justice, energy conservation and efficiency, rapid transition of energy sources and infrastructure from fossil fuels to green energy, and demilitarization.

In countries whose governing elites do not offer the people an effective political voice, it is necessary that those people find ways to change the nature of their governments. Risky, I know, but essential in order to respond to the looming threats of climate change.

I know that everybody can easily rationalize continuing to drift along with the mindsets they have now. But that will only keep us as distracted, delusional and disunited as we are now, and convey us all haplessly into the implacable civilization-chewing grinder of runaway climate change. We do not have the luxury of preferences anymore if we are to prevent the worst, especially for our children and grandchildren.

As I write this during a warm rainless mid-February spring in Northern California, with whitish pink-tinged apple, cherry and plum blossoms; magnolias flowering; purple florets of vinca; yellow tufts of eucalyptus; small purplish rosy globular flowers of polygonum, light blue florets of rosemary, bright orange California poppies, yellow flowers of oxalis and daffodils; and many other varieties of flowers blooming two months early, I wonder if the dry season October wildfires will now flare up in August, or even July. There has been no rain this February, “normally” the wettest month of the year for California; it appears we are entering a new drought.

And I wonder if the slow, tentative awakening in the public mind to the reality of increasingly inhospitable climate change, which awakening I observed during the course of 2017, 2018 and 2019, will accelerate and coalesce into the national and world “cosmic consciousness” that I know is essential if we Homo sapiens sapiens are to have any chance of actually protecting ourselves (all of us everywhere), within the next decade, from the worst possibilities of runaway climate change.


The purpose of social welfare societies — socialism — is to provide their individuals with sufficient quantities of water, food, shelter and energy to carry on fulfilling lives, without subjecting those individuals to lonely struggles for precarious survival. This is why mortality rates are lowest in highly socialized prosperous societies, and why the consensus of individuals living in them is for low rates of reproduction, even to the point of birth rates below 2.1 per woman, the replacement rate necessary to maintain the existing size of a society’s population.

Clearly, the single best strategy to slow, and perhaps even reverse global population growth, is to provide a global system of reliable socialized security to completely support individual healthcare for life, obviously including: maternity care; safe birthing; safe abortion; child survival, healthcare, education and launching into “independent” living; elder care; and humane natural and self-willed dying. There is simply less incentive to have more children if more of them are guaranteed to survive and experience full and decent lives, and if the individual has a socially guaranteed protection of their own survival.

The above Note is from:

Oil, Population, Temperature, What Causes What?
9 June 2019


Manuel García, Jr.’s Worldview, 2020


Manuel García, Jr.’s Worldview, 2020

I am just over one-eighth of a billionth of humanity, and I think that the impact and value of my thoughts and ideas are about as significant. This year, 2020, I will be 70 years old, and I think that I have probably said everything original that I was capable of saying. I am sure that I will write more of my little essays, and put them out there, but they are more than likely to be repetitions and rehashes of what I have previously written. Right now I cannot imagine squeezing any new insights out of all the reading and studying (and living) I have done in physics, science, history, psychology, Buddhism, and literary fiction.

So, I have compiled a list of 20 of my essays (of recent years), which as a group I offer as representative of my “worldview,” as of 20 January 2020. I post that list here, “for the record,” and for the ‘benefit’ of people new to my web-pages. All of this represents my annual (in January) “state of the world” message.

I have no ego regarding my Internet publications; if they are useful and encouraging to you then great, if not then I think at least they have done no harm.

My plans are to continue absorbing things that interest me, learning as I can, and expressing myself as feels right and enjoyable. I am satisfied that at the very minimum I have improved just over one-eighth of a billionth of humanity.


Eight Categories, and Numbers of Articles in Each:



Article titles are within their respective web-links






























A Measure of Societal Vitality

Figure 1, HDI vs. kWh/c, data points and statistical average,
linear plot, from 10 kWh/c to 29,247 kWh/c, (2002 data)

Figure 2, HDI vs. kWh/c, data points and statistical average,
logarithmic plot, from 10 kWh/c to 29,247 kWh/c, (2002 data)


A Measure of Societal Vitality

Following is my response to Robert Hunziker’s article “Kill GDP to Help Save the Planet,” published in Counterpunch on 2 January 2020. [1]

Robert Hunziker describes why the economic statistical measure known as GDP — Gross Domestic Product — is a deeply flawed indicator of the actual economic health and societal wellbeing of the United States, and really of any nation. As Hunziker notes, it is based purely on “the monetary value of all finished goods and services,” and as Joseph Stiglitz has shown (as pointed out by Hunziker): “The world is facing three existential crises: (1) a climate crisis, (2) an inequality crisis and (3) a crisis in democracy… Yet the accepted ways by which we measure economic performance gives absolutely no hint that we might be facing a problem.” I agree.

Is there a statistical measure that overcomes these objections? Yes: the Energy-HDI Efficiency Number. Explanation follows.

The United Nations uses an economic parameter called the Human Development Index (HDI) to characterize the typical standard of living of every nation. [2]

It is observed that affluent nations have high HDI scores (they range from 0 to 1) and a high use of electrical energy per year per capita (in kilowatt-hours/year/person the range is from 0 to 30,000), while poor nations have relatively low values for both quantities. In 2006, I made a study of the correlation of national HDI to the electrical energy use per capita, for 177 nations. [3]

The Human Development Index

The UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, childbirth, and other factors for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare.

The index was developed in 1990 by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, and has been used since 1993 by the United Nations Development Programme in its annual report.

The HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:

1. A long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth.

2. Knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weight) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (with one-third weight).

3. A decent standard of living, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) in USD.

Each year, UN member states are listed and ranked according to these measures. Those high on the list often advertise it, as a means of attracting talented immigrants (economically, individual capital) or discouraging emigration.

The Human Development Index is the average of three indices: the Life Expectancy Index (LEI), the Education Index (EI) and the GDP Index (GDPI).

The Education Index is itself a weighted sum of: the Adult Literacy Index (ALI, weight = 2/3) and the Gross Enrollment Index (GEI, weight = 1/3).

All of these measures have minimum and maximum values, which appear in the differences and normalizations used to construct the three major indices. The formulas are as follows:

LEI = (LE – 25)/(85 -25),
LE = life expectancy in years;

EI = (2/3)*ALI + (1/3)*GEI;

ALI = (ALR – 0)/(100 – 0),
ALR = adult literacy rate;

GEI = (CGER – 0)/(100 – 0),
CGER = combined gross enrolment ratio;

GDPI = [log(GDPpc) – log(100)]/[log(40000) – log(100)],
GDPpc = GDP per capita at PPP in USD;

HDI = [LEI + EI + GDPI]/3.

The Human Development Index is a measure that helps to capture the overall socio-economic health of a country, and a measure that allows for useful comparisons whether by international bodies like the UN or concerned individuals.

Linking Energy Use And Human Development

It is evident that a higher standard of living, as indicated by HDI, will obtain when a greater quantity of electrical energy per capita (kWh/c/yr) is available. Yet, in 2002 Ireland expended 6560 kWh/c/yr to provide its people with an HDI of 0.946, ranking 8th in the world; while Saudi Arabia expended 6620 kWh/c/yr (essentially the same as Ireland) to only provide its people — on average — with an HDI of 0.772, ranking 77th in the world.

It is obvious that Ireland made much more efficient use of the energy it expended in order to support the wellbeing of its people. That wellbeing must necessarily include caring for the natural environment within which the national population lives. The statistical measure that I propose for indicating the degree to which a nation’s energy consumption provides for a healthy society is the Energy-HDI Efficiency Number. In 2002, Ireland’s Energy-HDI Efficiency Number was +21 (the world leader), while Saudi Arabia’s was -50, ranking at best 38th in the world (in 2002, the year of the HDI data available for my 2006 study).

In 2002, the U.S.A. expended 13,456 kWh/c/yr to provide its people with an HDI of 0.944, ranking 10th in the world, with an Energy-HDI efficiency number of -1, a level of overall performance behind 21 other nations despite having the 9th highest per capita energy expenditure.

What makes for Energy-HDI efficiency?: low GDP waste on a military establishment, an arms industry, and unproductive government subsidies as with underwriting Wall Street bankster gambling losses; wide use of energy efficient equipment, methods and attitudes; minimal income and wealth inequality; robust national social welfare programs; and diligent stewardship of a healthy natural environment, which naturally contributes to healthy human longevity. [4]

Some nations do a great deal with very little, like Cuba, with an HDI of 0.817 and an HDI rank of 52 out of 177 with an expenditure of only 1395 kWh/c/yr (in 2002). In my study I found that, statistically, a nation would have had to use 2425 kWh/c/yr in order to provide an HDI of 0.817. It is as if Cuba had generated its social benefits with only 57.5% of the electrical energy one would expect. [3]

Societal Vitality

Regardless of what anyone says, all national economies are exercises in intentional social engineering, and as such their features and their degrees of success at providing popular wellbeing can be characterized numerically. GDP alone is a poor indicator of societal health and vigor, but HDI and the Energy-HDI Efficiency Number are much better indicators of societal vitality.

The value of any such indicator, like the temperature shown on an air thermometer outside your window, and the speedometer in your automobile, is to apprise you quantitatively of your current reality so that you can then go and do something intelligent and useful in dealing with it. That is what we have to do about the societal vitality of our national economies and the natural environments they reside within: characterize their overall performances truthfully, and then fix them.


[1] Kill GDP to Help Save the Planet
Robert Hunziker

[2] Human Development Index

[3] An Introduction Linking Energy Use And Human Development
28 April 2006

[4] TABLE: Country Ranking by Energy-HDI Efficiency Number
9 June 2019


From Caesar’s Last Breath To Ours

After the career: books donated in 2019.


From Caesar’s Last Breath To Ours

Human Life is a sexually transmitted planetary disease, Climate Change is the disinfectant that will cure it. (I’ll explain myself on this later.)

Sam Kean’s concluding 5 paragraphs, on CO2 in the atmosphere, from his book Caesar’s Last Breath (And Other True Tales of History, Science, and the Sextillions of Molecules in the Air Around Us, 2017, Back Bay Books, Little Brown & Co) are interesting, being a series of statements of long-known physical quantities. Since I studied “gas physics” for my graduate studies (in the 1970s), and I developed an interest in climate change at least by 2004 (when I published my first article on climate change), I’ve known the basic facts Kean commented on for quite some time.

In one of my technical books on gas physics (Introduction to Physical Gas Dynamics, by Walter G. Vincenti and Charles H. Kruger, 1965, John Wiley & Sons, NY) an example is given in which the authors illustrate the physical phenomena of gaseous diffusion by showing that the last breath expelled by Julius Caeser will have taken years to fully disperse in a homogenous manner throughout the earth’s atmosphere, and so each person ‘today’ would likely breath in, on average, 5 molecules of that last breath. One amazing feature of the example is that it shows just how many molecules there are in each cubic meter of air (at sea level and ‘normal’ temperature), 2.69×10^25 per meter^3 = 2.69×10^19 per cm^3. Vincenti and Kruger quote the following from James Jeans’ 1940 book An Introduction to the Kinetic Theory of Gases (Cambridge University Press):

“…, a man is known to breath out about 400 c.c. of air at each breath, so that a single breath of air must contain about 10^22 molecules. The whole atmosphere of the earth consists of about 10^44 molecules. Thus one molecule bears the same relation to a breath of air as the latter does to the whole atmosphere of the earth. If we assume that the last breath of, say, Julius Caesar has by now become thoroughly scattered through the atmosphere, then the chances are that each of us inhales one molecule of it with every breath we take. A man’s lungs hold about 2000 c.c. of air, so that the chances are that in the lungs of each of us there are about five molecules from the last breath of Julius Caesar.”

The average spacing between air molecules (at sea level, or “standard temperature and pressure” = STP) is about 3.3×10^-7 centimeters. Since air molecules travel at an average speed of 5×10^4 centimeters/second (at STP), and each such molecule travels an average distance of 6×10^-6 centimeters before colliding into another molecule (obviously whizzing by many others between collisions), the frequency of collisions per molecule is about 10^10 collisions/second, or about 10 collisions per nanosecond.

Each such collision will deflect the colliding molecules into new directions of travel, so it can take them a very long time to actually transport from Point A to Point B separated by global distances. One number bandied about by commentators on climate change (who at least halfway know what they’re talking about) is that it takes “30 years” for local CO2 emissions to begin having a “global effect” as part of global warming. This is basically the timescale of atmospheric homogenization by diffusion of the locally emitted plumes, because of course the individual CO2 molecules of such plumes are quite ready to absorb infrared radiation, and lose it as heat released to other air molecules during collisions (the actual mechanics of global warming) from the instant those CO2 molecules are formed.

A different indicator of atmospheric trace gas homogenization is that a uniform (independent of geographical location) quantity per unit mass of radioactive fallout absorption/take-up by trees was first measured (recently, from tree corings) to have occurred in late 1965. Radioactive fallout was first created in 1945, and the greatest number of atmospheric (and any) nuclear explosions, by far, occurred in 1962. Some geologists have now proposed labeling the beginning of the Anthropocene from late 1965, and calling that year the end of the Holocene (which is/was the current geological epoch, which began with the last glacial period/retreat approximately 11,650 years ago). “Anthropocene” because it is the first epoch in which human activity (anthropo) has a global geophysical impact; such impacts being worldwide nuclear fallout (as in the 1957 book and 1959 movie On The Beach), and anthropogenic CO2/greenhouse gas-driven global warming.

When I first wrote about global warming/climate change, it was out of this perspective as a gas physicist trying to explain the technical details to a lay audience. I soon learned that the audience was not only laying, but snoring. I was trying to prod “people” into action to forestall climate change by “greening” energy technology, since I was also an engineer focused on “energy” and “efficiency.” Plus I was hoping a huge public shift in this direction would open up some nice ($$$) job opportunities for me. But the snoozing audience just wants consumerism at the lowest common denominator level, and the Big Bosses just want bombs (and money for themselves). So no sweet high-tech green-physics job for me, but more firepower for the ‘criminalated’ psychopaths who are our guiding self-worshipping self-imagined Olympians, more gargantuan Black Friday tsunamis of electro-plastic garbage consumerism for the ‘amnesiatariat,’ and as a result giga-tons more carbonation of the atmosphere and acidification of the seas, and less viability for our planet with its growing human population.

Since “the human element” (mental inertia, ego, tribalism) always controls and limits the actualization of any technical enterprise by a group of people — like greening away from fossil fuels — it was quickly obvious to me that though most “solar energy” technologies were ancient and well-understood “we” were not going to give up fossil fuel convenience, wealth-generation and enablement-of-political-power in favor of green energy, and so consequently global warming could only increase. And it has, and will. So I write about climate change “for the art of it” and for personal satisfaction, in particular to put my views “on the record” for my children. But I can only fantasize, without belief, that such writing will have any practical political effect — of course I’d like it to, but I’m a realist. Happily, it’s always nice to hear every now and then from someone who already agrees with my views, that something I’ve written has given them some encouragement.

And that is where the arc of my climate change consciousness — from the science to our society — has brought me to today: human connection. Given that fossil fueled humanity is intransigent, and now the advance of climate change is implacable (“tipping points”), I see the best focus for most people’s limited energies beyond their immediate survival and family needs to be the developing of a consciousness of climate change and political reality, and a commitment to acting toward others at a minimum with benign neutrality and better yet with compassion, honesty and solidarity, so human society is generally improved and economically more leveled, regardless of the geophysical conditions under which it exists at any given time. For a society that is as deeply humane as I’ve suggested (and vastly different than today’s) then if and when we really do enter a rapidly accelerating “end time” our individual exits would be as decently humane as possible because they would be occurring within a societal death-with-dignity of a society of broad solidarity. I suppose this is kind of glum thinking, but maybe that’s an inevitable result of my growing ‘old’ in these times.

All this has been a rather prolix introduction to a video about climate change I thought you might enjoy. The Age Of Stupid is a 90 minute British documentary from 2009 (five years in the making) that remains brilliantly cogent about the “human element” driving the climate change geophysics, and is also refreshingly accurate about the physical details of that geophysics. [1] The Age Of Stupid Revisited is a 15 minute look back on the original documentary, from today. [2] Nothing has changed for the better; for the worse yes. Reflecting on this documentary, on the arc of my climate change consciousness, and on my belief (which I wish future reality would contradict) that there will never be any significant collective action to stop anthropo-exacerbation of climate change, and to also end poverty and to economically level national and world societies, I arrived at the rather tart characterization that: human life is a sexually transmitted planetary disease, and climate change is the disinfectant that will cure it.


[1] The Age of Stupid

[2] The Age of Stupid revisited: what’s changed on climate change?
15 March 2019


Life in the Ashes of Lotusland Dreams

The Kincade Wildfire, currently burning in Sonoma County, California erupted at 9:24 PM on October 23 during an extreme wind event, east of Geyserville (77 miles or 124 km north of San Francisco). An area of 400 acres (2 square kilometers, 2 km^2) burned that evening. By October 30 the fire had burned an area of 76,825 acres (311 km^2), and was only 30% contained. The daily progress of the Kincade Fire is charted in the following figure.

“The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed by a formal investigation, but a compulsory report shows that the fire started when a 230,000 volt transmission line failed near the point of origin, just before power was about to be shut off in the area” [1] as a precaution against anticipated high winds causing electrical lines and tree branches swinging into each other and sparking a wildfire in the parched hilly landscape.

During October 23 and 24, PG&E [Pacific Gas & Electric Company] carried out a massive power shut-off to nearly 940,000 customers in Northern California, this included a swathe of territory at the higher elevations of the Berkeley Hills (the low mountains behind the cities on the east side of San Francisco Bay). My home, in Oakland, was in this blackout. The winds died down on October 25, and my power was restored for a day; but this was not so in the blacked-out areas of Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties (and possibly also Marin County, and numerous counties further north). Another extreme wind event was anticipated for October 26 and 27, so PG&E began shutting off power in an attempt to prevent additional fires, leaving an estimated three million people (2.5 to 2.8 million) without power.

A 102 mph (164 kph) wind gust was recorded at Pine Flat at 3,300 feet (1000 meters) elevation, at 8 AM on October 27. A National Weather Service forecaster noted the wind speed on Twitter and shared that sustained winds had also “officially broke Hurricane Force (78 mph, or 126 kph).” [2] From the chart above, you can see how the area covered by the Kincade Fire expanded during these gusty conditions, between October 26 and October 28.

There were and are many severe wildfires raging in California north and south during this time (the Getty Fire in Los Angeles being one); the Kincade Fire is merely the largest current wildfire in the state. The Kincade Fire threatened over 90,000 structures (by October 30, 189 have been destroyed) and has caused widespread evacuations throughout Sonoma County, including the communities of Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Windsor. The majority of Sonoma County and parts of Lake County are under evacuation warnings.

There are 4,900 firefighters trying to contain and extinguish the Kincade Fire alone. Some of these firefighters are prisoners. “These are the people we write off, don’t allow to vote, don’t allow to become firemen once released” [3]; “people who are paid unconscionably low wages” for helping to keep so many of us safe. [4]

By October 28, power had been restored in my section of Oakland; it still remains off in most of the blacked-out territory in the northern counties (October 30), but I believe it is now slowly being restored in areas released from evacuation warnings.

Cal Fire (the state agency dealing with wildfires) put out 300 fires between the 28th and 29th, and more than 650 fires since the 27th. Smoke will linger in the San Francisco Bay Area atmosphere for days, no rain is forecast and temperatures are predicted to drop to near freezing in some areas; and the winds are expected to die down after October 30. The Kincade Fire is expected to be 100% contained by November 7, 2019. Most Sonoma County school districts will remain closed through November 1, and many schools in Marin County were closed as of the 30th. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs in California demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom find a way to restore power to the numerous VA clinics that do not have backup power equipment. [5]

A Sonoma County man who used an oxygen ventilator to assist his breathing was reported to have died shortly after the electric power was cut to his home. [6] The power cuts and evacuations were very hard on people who are frail, infirmed or who require powered medical devices to assist and sustain them. The authorities had established evacuation centers to include the medically needy, but it seems not all of them made it to safety.

PG&E reported that 1.2 million people, in 28 California counties, have been without power since October 26. The process of restoring power can take 48 hours, and PG&E expressed the hope of beginning that process early on the 30th. [5]

There have been many calls now — as newspaper editorials, letters-to-the-editor, comments on social media, angry voices in the streets, and conversations through sporadic telephone connections between cold blacked-out homes — for the State of California to take over PG&E and run it as a publicly owned electric and gas utility.

Besides losing lights, reliable refrigeration (for food and medicine storage), the use of: electrically powered medical devices, electric cooking devices, wall-plugged electronics, recharging capability for battery-powered electronics and cellular telephones; many homes in more rural areas lost water because their local water company (or their own well) relies entirely on PG&E electricity to run the water pumps. It is no fun to not be able to flush in a blacked-out house for a week, unless you can find a way to haul in water. Running a gasoline-powered generator helps (if you have one, along with safe heavy-duty extension cords to run into the house), but this must be carefully done so as to avoid introducing carbon-monoxide fumes into the home (you’re stuck with the motor noise), and not cause a fire during your handling of the gasoline (which you must repeatedly travel to purchase) when replenishing the tank of the generator unit.

The losses of lives, property and homes to fire were the greatest tragedies that people suffered, and the large-scale evacuations and blacked-out sheltering-in-place were the most widespread hardships. But economic damage spread further in the form of lost wages by many lower-income workers in small businesses that were closed due to lack of power, and for restaurants the added impact of foodstuffs lost to spoilage with the loss of refrigeration. Large food supermarkets near me brought in self-contained refrigeration tractor-trailers to store perishable foods, or motor-generators to power the refrigerators in the stores. Either way, gasoline or diesel fuel was being burned (and exhaust gases emitted) locally to replace the missing PG&E electricity needed for refrigeration.

Nearby restaurants that were not in black-out zones were crowded through the week with us hungry refugees from the black-out; and our rate of expenditure for eating necessarily increased. Many of us refugees would also seek out electrical outlets at these restaurants and coffee houses, to recharge our cell phones and portable computers. I like to read books at night, and this became impossible without the use of some battery-powered light (and battery depletion would be a problem), or, more risky, with the use of candles.

The anxiety about lack of electrical power, and the uncertainty about when it would be restored was for so many otherwise prosperous and bountifully endowed Californians the visceral experience of a very noticeable decay of “the American way of life.” This was a sensible punch-in-the-gut by climate change (global warming, drought, wildfire) and not just climate change as an insubstantial verbal construct, an abstraction, a slogan. This was also an unpleasant visceral hint of what a descent into Third World living might be like, for a significant population of Americans (in California) who would otherwise unthinkingly continue with perhaps the most privileged lifestyles experienced by any mass population on Earth.

Some appreciation of the scope of the Kincade Fire can be gained by viewing the photo taken of it from by space by US astronaut Andrew Morgan. [7]

The Kincade Fire is the plume on the right, wafting toward the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco Bay occupies the left half of the image just below the coastline. The view from bottom to top is from east to west.

Another view of the Kincade Fire burn area is given by a 6 minute video recorded during a fly-over on October 29 by the Henry 1 helicopter of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. It looks like a film clip of a US chopper flying over the burnt and blasted jungle hills of Vietnam 50 years ago (with a touch more suburban development) but without the sight and sound of explosions. (https://www.facebook.com/sonoma.sheriff/videos/1163763990678292/) [8]

“The wildfire season in the American West is now two and half months longer than 40 years ago. Wildfires are now four times more common and burn six times as much forest area. Some of today’s fires are so big and hot they burn the soil itself, and when that happens it can take up to a thousand years for the trees to grow back. By 2050 wildfires in the United States will be twice as destructive as they are now and each year will burn 20 million acres. An estimated 339,000 people die each year from smoke from wildfires. By 2050 we are expected to lose half of all the forests in the American West.” [9]

It seems that by November 1 the Kincade Fire and other smaller blazes in Northern California will be nearing full containment and total extinction, most evacuees will have returned to their homes — if they still have them — and those homes will regain electrical power, and the many workers temporarily put out of their wage-earning jobs because of the black-outs will once again be employed. But it could all happen again with the onset of another period of extreme wind during this dry season (please rain soon! but then we will have flooding and landslides because of the loss of soil-holding vegetation). And what of the dry seasons in the years to come?

Undoubtedly there will be swift recriminations, lawsuits, fights with insurance companies (and rate increases), political posturing and even perhaps useful actions in the California legislature and by the Governor’s office. With luck the political system of the State of California will swiftly develop new plans that are immediately put into action to devise strategies and infrastructure to better prevent the outbreak of such rapidly expanding wildfires, and reduce (ideally eliminate) the necessity of having widespread electrical power shut-offs during the highly windy days of our (global warming lengthening) fire season.

For an increasing number of Californians, the 20th century illusions about “the American way of life” have been lost in the dark of de-electrified homes with shut-off water, and gone up in the smoke of raging wildfires that extend to the horizons.


[1] Kincade Fire (30 October 2019)

[2] SFGATE (a Facebook web-page of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper)

[3] David Menschel, @davidminpdx

[4] Bay Area For Bernie (Facebook group)

[5] The San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, October 30, 2019

[6] Santa Rosa Press Democrat, October 24-27, 2019

[7] Kincade Fire from space, photo by Andrew Morgan

[8] Kincade Fire, Henry 1 Fly Over (10/29 1:00pm)
Sonoma Sheriff

[9] Climate Facts: Wildfire Season
11 October 2017


Kincade Fire, FINAL, 6 November 2019, 7:00 PM

Sonoma County
active 14 days:
start -> 23 October 2019, 9:27 PM
cause: under investigation
77,758 Acres, vegetation
100% contained
374 structures destroyed
60 structures damaged
4 injuries (first responders only)


Black Gold, Maximum Entropy (Redux)

The following article is about fossil fueled (‘fracking’ fueled) global warming climate change. It was written in 2013 and remains completely up to date because nobody has done anything to change the situation — except perhaps to make it worse. This article contains a little bit of science, a little bit of Marxism from John Bellamy Foster, some criticisms of Mr. Foster’s views from me, and one of my better rants on society’s negligence regarding climate change (or, some pointed suggestions for social change). By 2013, I had reached pessimistic conclusions about humanity’s willingness to seriously address global warming, and also about the value of my continuing to write about it. That I do and continue to make positive and “utopian” suggestions for socio-political change is entirely to express my solidarity with today’s youth (I have children), because otherwise I have no faith whatsoever in “the adults.”


Black Gold, Maximum Entropy (Redux)
20 June 2019 (21 October 2013)

In his extensive article “The Fossil Fuels War” in Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster writes about the new expansion of oil exploration and production — the demise of Peak Oil — made possible by the development of technology to extract oil from “unconventional” sources, known variously as “shale oil” and “tar sands oil,” and he points to the inevitable consequences on climate. (1)

Those scheduled climatic effects are vividly presented in a new scientific report in which:

Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa calculated that by 2047, plus or minus five years, the average temperatures in each year will be hotter across most parts of the planet than they had been at those locations in any year between 1860 and 2005. To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature. (2)

John Bellamy Foster also notes that there have been recent improvements in renewable energy technologies, whose use could be expanded to replace a portion of the power generation infrastructures based on fossil fuels. However, he is pessimistic that such replacements could form a prompt and complete transformation of national and global power generation systems.

No less remarkable technological developments, however, have arisen at the same time in relation to renewable energies, such as wind and solar, opening up the possibility of a more ecological path of development. Since 2009 solar (photovoltaic) module “prices have fallen off a cliff.” Although still accounting for a tiny percentage of electric-generating capacity in the United States, wind and solar have grown to about 13 percent of total German electricity production in 2012, with total renewables (including hydroelectric and biomass) accounting for about 20 percent. As the energy return on energy investment (EROEI) of fossil fuels has declined due to the depletion of cheap crude-oil supplies, wind and solar have become more competitive – with EROEIs above that of tar-sands oil, and in the case of wind even above conventional oil. Wind and solar, however, represent intermittent, location-specific sources of power that cannot easily cover baseload-power needs. Worse still, a massive conversion of the world’s energy infrastructure to renewables would take decades to accomplish when time is short.

I disagree with this pessimism and believe a massive conversion to renewable energy technologies can be accomplished much more quickly than started in mass media and John Bellamy Foster’s article. I made my case with numerous suggestions, estimates and examples in an article, “The Economic Function Of Energy,” intended to spur positive, creative and practical thinking about such a near-future conversion of energy infrastructure on a national scale. For example, I described a solar-powered system for generating the total electrical power consumed in the United States, which would be publicly owned and thus provide “free” electricity. (3)

Foster notes the foundational motivation of the fossil energy industry as stated by one of its leading CEOs, “my philosophy is to make money.” Concerns over possible environmental damage (from exploration or spills) and climate change (from carbon dioxide and methane emissions) are seen as unfortunate collateral inevitabilities to be minimized as possible, but without delaying extractive operations or seriously diminishing profitability.

Foster gives a good general summary of what is required to make a complete conversion nationally (say for electrical power) from fossil fuels to renewables (solar, wind, hydro), but he sees such a conversion as too monumental a project for our time, while I see it as an exciting and feasible technical challenge, an inspiring project for technophiles that would be liberating for society. Foster writes:

It follows that building an alternative energy infrastructure — without breaking the carbon budget — would require a tectonic shift in the direction of energy conservation and energy efficiency. However, stopping climate change and the destruction of the environment in general requires not just a new, more sustainable technology, greater efficiency, and the opening of channels for green investment and green jobs; it requires an ecological revolution that will alter our entire system of production and consumption, and create new systems geared to substantive equality, and ecological sustainability — a “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large.”

Yes, developing a mass consciousness of energy conservation and energy efficiency in an American society of unthinking wastefulness may indeed seem like a “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large.” But the real revolution here would be in the awakening of greater thought among the masses, to displace the unthinking aspects of behavior that enable wastefulness. That apparent barrier to the energy revolution would dissolve if confronted with forthright and consistent effort by the political leadership. The unappealing aspects of continuing climate change will undoubtedly increase the popularity of the idea of making such a revolutionary transition. As Foster says: “In today’s world, the undermining of the lifeworld of the great majority of the population is occurring in relation to both economy and environment.”

John Bellamy Foster sees the conversion of most power generation infrastructure from a reliance on fossil fuels to renewables as too daunting a technical challenge for the near term, and he believes that worsening climate change will spur the rise of popular movements that could revolutionize society so that it meets the energy conversion challenge in the long term.

We can therefore expect the most radical movements to emerge precisely where economic and ecological crises converge on the lives of the underlying population. Given the nature of capitalism and imperialism and the exigencies of the global environmental crisis, a new, revolutionary environmental proletariat is likely to arise most powerfully and most decisively in the global South.

I believe just the opposite, that the technical challenge is well within present capabilities and has been for many years, but that the conversion to renewables will never occur because most people operate from mental inertia that is programmed to keep them on the rails of the capitalist economics and environmental exploitation we see today.

People everywhere want to replicate and experience the advantages of the colonial powers of the 19th century (e.g., Britain) and the industrial-consumerist powers of the 20th century (e.g., the U.S.A.). This is why China builds huge dams and burns enormous quantities of coal, fatally fouling its air; and why southern Europe and the southern U.S. are flooded with economic refugees from the “global South.”

James Hansen is quoted in Foster’s article saying “It is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on the best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free.”

And this is precisely what will happen, because “my philosophy is to make money” is the end-all-and-be-all everywhere, whether in rich northern capitalist states or the impoverished global south seeking “to develop.”

Foster concludes his article with lyrically wishful Marxist romanticism.

Under these conditions what is needed is a decades-long ecological revolution, in which an emergent humanity will once again, as it has innumerable times before, reinvent itself, transforming its existing relations of production and the entire realm of social existence, in order to generate a restored metabolism with nature and a whole new world of substantive equality as the key to sustainable human development. This is the peculiar “challenge and burden of our historical time.”

There is no objective evidence to suggest this is anything other than a fantasy. Instead, it seems realistic to conclude that humanity’s conceptual and social limitations will lead to its premature extinction sooner than need be the case because of the onset of hostile environmental conditions due to the sun expanding into a red giant. Such a premature extinction would not be a “bad thing” for Planet Earth, which would continue unperturbed without another of the millions of species that have appeared and disappeared during the course of life on Earth. Other forms of life will continue; why should we imagine that humanity is so special that it deserves particular concern as regards continuing to be one of the carriers of life on this planet?

Many people besides archeological scholars have wondered why the Maya people in the southern lowlands of Central America abandoned their splendid stone ceremonial cities and pyramids about 1000 years ago, and which now lie in ruins under jungle vegetation. (4) The basic reason was that the ancient Mayan public dumped the excessive overhead of a top-heavy oppressive and burdensome culture during a time of environmental stress (droughts) so as to better attend to personal survival. Manning wars of rivalry between royal elites did not ultimately satisfy the basic needs of the “proletariate.” They did not so much revolt to establish a new social order as simply walk away into the jungle to disappear from the existing order, letting it collapse from lack of support. If a similar disorganized mass movement of abandonment of the organized economy and socio-political class structure were to take hold for most of the “proletariate” today then one could begin to speculate about the possibilities for the emergence of alternative types of post-capitalist societies, and following that to speculate on a new relation of humanity to the environment and the prospects for an extended period of highly developed human culture on Planet Earth.

Humanity is terminally delirious with fossil fuel fever. “Climate change will proceed unhindered, as will the uninterrupted rush by humanity to exploit all sources of fossil fuels. The moral choice between restraint for the good of all life versus gaining an immediate boost to private power will always be won by the latter.” My conclusion is not what I want, but what I see as the inevitable consequence of what is. (5)

Matthew Auzanneau has written about one example of humanity’s fossil fuel delirium, the necessarily short-lived shale oil boom in North Dakota and the avid involvement of the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs in it, putting their philosophy into practice “to make money.” I see Auzanneau’s article as support for my gloomy conclusion, and it was the launching point for my concluding rant. (6)

I think that people will overwhelmingly do nothing in the form of restraint on CO2 emissions and yet be frantic about gouging out every ounce of oil and coal they can get to ASAP (e.g., China, North Dakota), to burn it up and drive whatever power and money schemes they are pushing. As a result, I no longer have any enthusiasm for writing about alternative energy systems. Most people simply want to maintain the inertia of their current thinking and economic activity, to maintain their present forms of exploitation (businesses). They do not want any changes to their existing modes of energy waste and financial accumulation (e.g., fracking for domestic-use oil, mining shale oil and coal for export, big engines in oversized truck-like cars for mindless driving, suburbia, capitalism commodifying and discounting the environment), just more of the same so they can “get their share,” especially “before it runs out.” Hurricanes, tornadoes, rising seas, droughts, months-long wildfires, the spread of tropical diseases and parasites to temperate latitudes, none of that matters in comparison to keeping on with getting “more.” We have a quarterly profits expectation, long-term attention-deficit syndrome, infantile hyperactive, selfish spoiled-brat economic mentality. Nobody but nobody wants to be the first person, or in the first class or generation to “make the sacrifice” to “give up the advantages” of our eco-catastrophic ways in order to shift a nation, and humanity, to a sustainable alternative. Planet Earth could care less, it will shrug us off as just one more ephemeral slime mold, and our dust will be ground into the grains of future rocks over which advanced cockroaches will stride, perhaps as rulers of Planet Earth.

Actually, the disintegration we see and can anticipate fits in well with the trend to be expected from the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the relentless increase of entropy — disorder — with the widest dispersal of energy and structure (into lack of structure) as the ultimate end.

Any physical system that can absorb and emit energy, and perform work on other physical systems external to it, is a thermodynamic system (e.g., the combustible gas mixture within a piston engine cylinder). The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that any isolated thermodynamic system must ultimately degrade; such degradation is quantified as an increase in the thermodynamic property of the system called its entropy. Consequently, all real engines convert energy (e.g., heat) to work (e.g., torque) with less than 100% efficiency, perpetual motion machines are impossible, and the entropy of the entire universe relentlessly increases.

The great physicist Ludwig Boltzmann committed suicide (in 1906) while in a state of clinical depression it is said after contemplating the implacable increase of universal entropy, his most penetrating discovery about statistical (many particle) thermodynamic systems. Clearly, he had a strong belief that humanity mattered. Perhaps if he had been able to overcome that misconception he would not have fatally despaired. His gravestone in the Central Cemetery in Vienna is inscribed with his famous formula for the entropy of a statistical thermodynamic system, S = k·Ln(W), where S is the entropy of a thermodynamic system, k is Boltzmann’s constant (1.38065 x 10^-23 joules/degree-Kelvin), Ln is the mathematical function called the natural logarithm, and W is Wahrscheinlichkeit, a German word meaning the number of (unobservable) “ways” in which the (observable) thermodynamic state of a system can be realized by assigning different positions and momenta to the many molecules of that system. (7)

W can be thought of as the number of ways the system can arrange itself microscopically (its multitude of molecular positions and velocities) so as to exhibit a specific set of values of observable macroscopic properties (a thermodynamic state), like: temperature at 70 degrees Celsius, pressure at 101,325 Pascals or equivalently 14.696 pounds per square inch (psi). A thermodynamic state that can only be achieved by any of a small number of possible microscopic arrangements is one of high order and has low entropy. A thermodynamic state that can be achieved with any of a large number of possible microscopic arrangements is one of low order, that is to say of disorder, and has a high entropy. At the inception of the Big Bang, the universe was a point of energy and its entropy was very low. Today, 13.8 billion years later, the universe is an expanse of perhaps 1.3 x 10^23 km that is largely void with a sparse scattering of matter and radiation, and historically maximum entropy.

Here on Earth the black gold rush will eventually burn itself out and bequeath us a state of increased disorder that devoured opportunities for transformation.

Acknowledgment: Gilles d’Aymery brought my attention to Notes 1 and 6, which spurred me to write this article.

[except for more recent re-postings in 3 and 5, websites were active on 21 October 2013]

1.  John Bellamy Foster, “The Fossil Fuels War,” Monthly Review, 2013, Volume 65, Issue 04 (September), http://monthlyreview.org/2013/09/01/fossil-fuels-war

2.  Justin Gillis, “By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past, Scientists Say,” The New York Times, October 9, 2013,

3.  Manuel García, Jr., “The Economic Function Of Energy,”
Swans, 27 February 2012,
updated re-posting:
Energy For Society In Balance With Nature
8 June 2015

4.  “Classic Maya Collapse”

5.  Manuel García, Jr., “Winter Reflections, 2012,” Swans, 17 December 2012,
updated re-posting:
Winter Reflections (recycled)
31 December 2016

6.  Matthew Auzanneau, “The short future of oil shale boom seen by Goldman Sachs,” October 8, 2013,
[A Google translation of Matthew Auzanneau’s blog in French, which focuses on oil. This post is about the Goldman Sachs involvement with the shale oil boom in North Dakota.]

7.  “Ludwig Boltzmann”


Originally published as:

Black Gold, Maximum Entropy
21 October 2013


Linking Energy Use And Human Development

This is a re-posting of my report An Introduction Linking Energy Use And Human Development, from 28 April 2006 — unchanged. This is another of my personal favorites. A PDF copy of the report is available through the web-link given below.

An Introduction Linking Energy Use And Human Development
28 April 2006




Of related interest and more recent:

Energy for Human Development
9 November 2011

Energy for Society in Balance with Nature
8 June 2015 (27 February 2012)

Our Globally Warming Civilization
2 June 2019

Oil, Population, Temperature, What Causes What?
9 June 2019