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Mitch SMith


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What are our true global economics?

I recently saw an estimate that human population is currently consuming 1.5 times the carrying capacity of the Earth.

This suggests that the resources we use - the plants and animals and energy required to keep us alive are generated by the planet ecology.
It suggests that the system, if left to itself, has a capital represented by sunshine, air, water, plants and animals.

It suggests that the carrying capacity for humans is like the "interest" on the global "capital"
The inference is that we are harvesting more than the interest and are well into the capital - harvesting at an exponential growth rate.
In other words, having eaten everything on the farm, we are now eating the farm. And there will be no more "interest" becasue there will be no more capital.
Like our global bank account is in free-fall.
One dimension of the assertion is that, by mass, the nitrogen in human beings is 1.5 the available nitrogen in the at-rest ecology.

Firstly, is this a valid assertion?
Are Earth resources truly finite as assumed?
Are the available resources measurable? If so - who has a good set of data we can use for modelling?

Secondly, if resources are finite and measured - and we are consuming capital exponentially - what are our options?
What lattitude do we have for increasing carrying capacity?
How far can carrying capacity be pushed?
Can we survive in a no-growth, or contracting economic model?
What are the options for population modification?
How long do we have?

These questions are not formulated to "troll" world views. I am asking questions that a lot of people should have rational answers for.
Please reply in the spirit of the questions. Data would be good, as well as well considered models that can be tested.
Also welcome are weblinks that have rational foundations - no ratbag theory please.


Closing Statement from Mitch SMith


I have digested available metrics and known models.

Like everyone else, I am finding that the non-linear factors render the numbers functionally useless. The modeling methods themselves seem to yield more information - but all models admit to not representing any comprehensive claim.

However, one thing is clear - the window of opportunity for business-as-usual closed sometime mid 1900's, the balance of carrying capacity against draw-down of fossil energy is well under way - capital is definitely being exponentially consumed and has a terminal point at around 2050 - at which point all life on planet earth will cease.

But this assumes business as usual based on what we think we know - as it turns out, we know very little.

So .. in this scenario - ignorance is bliss.

I the analogy of our common understanding, we are screwing the planet and the value it represents. So .. to stay within the things we understand - are we rape/murdering the panet - Or are we mating with it?
This distincion is the critical facto determining if a single human will occupy the universe past 2050.

2050 is a conservative estimate - I would recommend you start answering it now.
It might be too late for you, but you might have children.
If you value hope ..
Remember - hope is not required in the universe outside of your own skull.
What you do is important - to you.
I couldn't care less. _ I've made my choice.

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  • Nov 19 2012: The world still has a tremendous amount of resources.
    They can be measured and they are measured by those who purport to own, control and mine them.
    Therein lies a large part of the problem we perceive.
    Ownership of resources (which is ludicrous, ridiculous and flat-out wrong), needs to be done away with.
    The real ownership, so to speak, has to be (because it is) all life forms on the planet, including humans.
    As it is right now, ownership involves money and money needs profit and profit breeds waste.
    Economy is not money. It is economizing and not wasting. Still, far too many still hold on to a world view in which they will not have to (in their minds), lower their standard of living an inch. This means that there will have to be what I call collateral starvation, slavery, poverty, inequality, greed, crime and resource wars and death.
    This, to me, indicates the management of the earth's resources are of utmost importance and cannot be allowed to be in the hands of a few. It is these current owners in fact, who allow rapid, wanton use, which produces waste, pollution, and scarcity, and drives prices up. Profit is more important than the planet and its inhabitants.
    A free-for-all is not the only thing, we humans could dissolve into if we face the truth and begin taking management away from those who only want to keep the status quo - which is a catastrophe on the way. How we manage is of extreme importance.
    If the ice caps melt, Denmark could jump to great power on resources alone, as they own Greenland.
    Russia, about 1/6th of the earths land surface could finally access the enormous amount of resources they have had for years but couldn't get.
    Antarctica has 200 mountain ranges and lots of resources once the ice caps are gone. What does this leave if we continue to allow ownership and money to rule?
    Resource wars which are just those at the top engaging in their idea of a free-for-all, an idea they use to scare the public with, to keep believing we need them.
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      Nov 19 2012: Hi RC,

      I'm not all that sold on the tremendous amount of resources thing.
      This is why I couched the converstationin terms of capital and interest.
      The resources thing is exactly what the problem is - we regard it as tremendous - it is not.
      So .. say for instance I have $100 in the bank at 10% interest (where's that bank you might ask! ;)
      If I am spending 2 dollars per year, I Will be out of "resources" in 10 years - because I am eating the capital.
      However if I spend only a doallar a year, I can do it forever - because I'm only eating the interest.
      Now there is good data to show that we (humans) are not only eating the capital, but we are eating the capital at an exponential rate.
      I will observe that this "bank of the Earth" is brilliantly special - and unlike a money-bank,
      Lets, for a moment, imagine all teh species on the planet as customers of the Earth-bank.
      All these customers thrive on the interest of the resource-capital. We each withdraw our dollar per year - from the SAME $10 capital pool! And the resource capital does not diminish - because the species are the capital. So how can this be? Well, it can be - becasue each species has an increase - which is the interest from which the others withdraw. We are both capital and interest - and the really macical part is that no species withdraws the entire interest pool - and this allows the capital to grow.
      Then, one fine day, one of the coins in the bank (humans) decides that it is not in the bank any more. Bit it continues to make the withdrawals.
      This is not so bad at first it just reduces the growth of the capital.
      But then, having forgotten to contribute to the interest - and keeping it all to himsef, the human starts growing at a faster pace. And as he grows bigger, he withdraws more.
      At a certain point, he is withdrawing all the interest. At that point, all the other customers stop getting the interest required to sustain them and start joining the human in withdrawing the capital, (continued)
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      Nov 19 2012: (cont.)
      But the other customers ARE the capital. So what happens?
      They start dieing.
      This is what we call a "mass-extinction".
      Once the threshold of interest is breached, everything begins to die at an exponential rate.
      As we are seeing now.
      So .. "tremendous resources" is a myth.
      When you add to that the notion of "exponential doubling" you will see that the final doubling happens at the point where it "looks like" we still have half the whole world to consume - but that whole half goes in a flash.
      It has been suggested that we are currently consuming 1.5 Earths of "interest" in "carrying capacity" .. which means that we are well into the final doubling. 3.5% growth has a doubling time of 20 years. The suggestion is that we have 10 years left before all humans - and possibly all life on planet earth will cease. But it will be less - because exponents accellerate - which means that we have only about 3-4 years.
      It is true that we have mittigated the date of reconing through the use of fosilized capital, maybe got ourselves another 20 years.
      As you observe, people don't like to give up their affluence. My father in law says "it's hard to get fome a horse to a donkey". You are not going to get them to do it by force.
      It will take a cataclysm of biblical proportions - which is booked and on its way.
      We need to return to being coins in the bank.
      If the cataclysm does that for us, well, it's only a matter of time before the boom builds up and busts again.
      If we can avert the coming bust - great, but if we can't, then any survivors will need to know that they cannot leave the bank.
      So firstly, how long till the fall?
      Seondly, what does it mean to be a coin in the bank? - and how do we get that meaning to propogate through the ages?

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