free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 336. CUBA: SUCKLING THE TIT OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE

Thursday, February 21, 2008

336. CUBA: SUCKLING THE TIT OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE

For a lot of peak oilers, communist Cuba is the "poster boy" for post-peak agriculture. And I do mean "poster boy". The Community SolutionTM actually sells a $30.00 poster, described as: "A detailed presentation of Cuba's transition from an industrial, energy-intensive society to a low-energy, sustainable one. Great for classrooms and presentations at exhibitions."

They also sell a DVD film called "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil". Here's the blurb:
When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil in the early 1990s, the country faced an immediate crisis -- feeding the population -- and an ongoing challenge: how to create a new low-energy society. This film tells the story of the Cuban people's hardship, ingenuity, and triumpth over sudden adversity -- through cooperation, conservation, and community.

"Everyone concerned about Peak Oil should see this film." Richard Heinberg
Of course, we all know that Richard Heinberg loves the Cuba model, and has even proposed implementing it in the U.S. In a piece called 50 Million Farmers, he tells the inspirational story of how Cuba saved itself by returning to low-tech agriculture:
Early on, it was realized that more farmers were needed, and that this would require education. All of the nation's colleges and universities quickly added courses on agronomy. At the same time, wages for farmers were raised to be at parity with those for engineers and doctors. Many people moved from the cities to the country; in some cases there were incentives, in others the move was forced.

The result was survival. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds of body weight, but in the long run the overall health of the nation's people actually improved as a consequence. Today, Cuba has a stable, slowly growing economy. There are few if any luxuries, but everyone has enough to eat. Having seen the benefit of smaller-scale organic production, Cuba's leaders have decided that even if they find another source of cheap oil, they will maintain a commitment to their new, decentralized, low-energy methods.
Now, you can imagine my surprise when I'm reading the news today on Google, and run across this little nugget:
Cuba expected to turn over new leaf in farming
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 21, 2008

MIAMI -- Without Fidel Castro as president, Cuba is more likely to launch reforms to boost food production, create oil industry jobs and put more pesos in citizens' pockets, analysts said Wednesday.

Some changes, probably starting with efforts to help farmers, are likely to occur during the next year, some analysts said.

[...]

With food production pitifully low for a country with fertile land and a year-round growing climate, farmers need more land and more autonomy in tilling it to boost output. Cuba imports at least 70% of its food, including a record $437-million worth from the United States last year.Source
Cuba has been on the U.S. tit for years, as attested by this vintage news item from 2004:
Cash purchases of US food have grown exponentially since November 2001, when hurricane-ravaged Cuba began taking advantage of the first breach of a trade embargo imposed in 1960 and maintained through 10 successive US presidencies. Cuban purchases from what is now its biggest food supplier, already nearing the $300-million mark by the end of July, are set to exceed $440 million this year, Alvarez said in an interview.
Source
So... all this time, Heinberg & Co have been talking up the amazing benefits of relocalized Cuban agriculture. And all this time, Cuba has been suckling on the tit of industrial agriculture -- to the tune of 70% OF ITS FOOD SUPPLY. Geez... talk about being asleep at the switch.

*****
2/24/08

A couple of further notes...

The Community SolutionTM's blurb about Cuba "A detailed presentation of Cuba's transition from an industrial, energy-intensive society to a low-energy, sustainable one" is complete bollocks. Cuba didn't transition to a low-energy, sustainable society, and it didn't lose 50% of its oil, as shown by the EIA chart of Cuba's oil consumption below. In 2006, Cuba is using just as much oil as it ever did:


Cuba did suffer a 20% drop in oil consumption with the collapse of the USSR, but that oil was not the decisive factor in Cuba's implosion. So Cuba is a very poor model of peak oil. The primary reasons for Cuba's troubles were: a) the implosion of the USSR and its trading block, and b) Cuba's communist economy. This passage from an Oxfam America report(pdf) gives a clearer picture:
The breakup of socialism first in Eastern Europe in 1989 and then in the Soviet Union in 1990 created a major crisis in Cuba known as the "special period." Cuba lost 80% of its export market and its imports fell by 80% -- from $8 billion to $1.7 billion -- practically overnight.

The country went into shock as employment, production, and standards of living went into a tailspin. In the cities, buses stopped running, generators stopped producing electricity, factories became as silent as graveyards. Obtaining enough food for the day became the primary activity for many, if not most, Cubans. At the Cuban Communist Party's fouth Congress, President Castro painfully listed the commitments unfulfilled by Cuba's former allies:

"As of September 30 [1992], we had received none of the rice, 50% of the split peas, 16% of the vegetable oil, 7% of the lard, 11% of the condensed milk, 47% of the butter, 18% of the canned meat, 22% of the powdered milk, 11% of the fresh and canned fish, 16% of the fertilizers, none of the sulphur..."
As you can see, Cuba's crisis was not caused by a shortage of oil, but by a shortage of everything.
by JD

92 Comments:

At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 5:09:00 AM PST, Blogger odograph said...

The start of US imports, in 2001, sounds late for the "special period."

Didn't the crunch come in the mid-80's, after the fall of communism and the withdrawal of soviet subsidies?

(I'd prefer that Cuba be a success, because examples of success are of course more reassuring than example of failure.)

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 6:02:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

I'd prefer that Cuba be a success

I agree. In fact, I was genuinely surprised by that 70% statistic.

But the truth is the truth. Heinberg & Co haven't been giving us the whole truth on the Cuban situation.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 6:04:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

And all this time, Cuba has been suckling on the tit of industrial agriculture -- to the tune of 70% OF ITS FOOD SUPPLY.

JD, you are a doomer! This post is about as horrendous a message that any person could ever read.

What you have done, JD, is guarantee a massive die-off in the post-oil future!

And I thought you were an optimist ...

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 6:51:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD,

You are right that cuba started to import a whopping 70% of it's food since 2001, but much as I enjoy you bashing the doomers it turns out that the cubans were in fact, mainly self-sufficient during the special period.

The special period was during the 90s.

Here it is from wikipedia (inasmuch as you can trust that rag):

"The Special Period in Peacetime (Spanish: Período especial en tiempo de paz) in Cuba was an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and, by extension, the Comecon. The economic depression of the Special Period was at its most severe in the early-to-mid 1990s before slightly declining in severity towards the end of the decade"

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 7:52:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So correct me if I'm wrong, but adding the news JD posted and the wikipedia article about the special period this is what I see as the history of Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Union:

1. Soviet Union fails, oil imports stop.
2. Cuba does the whole local/organic everyman farmer thing and gets by but still needs to ration food.
3. As soon as the US lifts a little bit of the embargo Cuba starts buying as much food as it can, until now when it appears to be purchasing up to 70% of its food.

So basically they grew their own until they were able to import again. Am I wrong here?

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 8:28:00 AM PST, Blogger odograph said...

That sounds right Anonymous. One tidbit that I've heard but haven't been able to chase down is that the incidence of heart disease fell during the special period, as everyone lost weight ...

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 8:44:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool. This is my whole problem with the 'back to the way it was' response to Peak Oil. If people actually liked the way it was they wouldn't have left for a oil driven modern society in the first place. The only people who want to live that way are the people who never HAD to live that way. I'm sure people lost some weight, but even driving and working a desk I've never had a problem staying in shape. I'm sure if you asked, honestly most of the Cuban would have prefered if the oil had just kept coming.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 9:26:00 AM PST, Blogger odograph said...

I really don't expect anyone to give up (all) oil voluntarily.

Of course, folks like the Apollo Alliance would like us to take one step away from the gas pump, so to speak.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 9:51:00 AM PST, Blogger Leif said...

The thing to remember is that most Cuban farmland (since colonization) has been used for non-food export crops like sugarcane and tobacco. When the price for those crops is decent, then it makes more sense for them (financially at least) to export those and import food in return, so that's what's going on.

The community solution stuff is very real, and despite being a small, blockaded 3rd world country Cuban science added a lot to the world's knowledge of scientific (semi)organic agriculture... the are also making some gains on the pharmaceutical front, which again no other small 3rd world country anywhere is attempting.

But the sad truth is if people have a choice I think they do probably prefer to get out of the countryside and do something else if possible... so the benefits of the Cuban example are mixed.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 11:14:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But the sad truth is if people have a choice I think they do probably prefer to get out of the countryside and do something else if possible... so the benefits of the Cuban example are mixed."

Why exactly is this sad? OMG people want to do more with thier lives than grow food, eat it and then grow more until they eventually die anyway! Stop the presses. People actually want to do things with thier short time on earth other than struggle to subsit with agriculture. Oh no. There is nothing 'sad' about wanting to do something with your life.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 1:38:00 PM PST, Anonymous Starvid said...

Cuba is a really sad place. You migt recall that during the Cold war they exported huge amounts of sugar at above world market prices to the Soviet Union? When the Soviet subsidies disappeared, the suga industry collapsed.

Cuba has marvelous potential for growing sugar cane, and the efficient ethanol this results in.

But communism has so wrecked the country that they have to import all their liquid fuels - much if not all at friendship prices from Venezuela. Furthermore, the Cuban power grid is almost exclusively oil fired.

If I would chose one country that would really suffer in an age of expensive oil, it's communist Cuba.

Just look at tha 90's. While the rest of the developing world lifted hundreds of millions out of povery, Cuba literally starved.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 1:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous Starvid said...

And oil wasn't even expensive during the 90's. They couldn't even afford a liquid cheaper than bottled water.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 7:50:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

A recent Age article, taken wholesale from the UK Daily Telegraph, claimed Cuba imported 85% of its food.

It's not clear where these figures come from, or why they differ.

The FAO tells us (pdf) that in 2004 the Cubans exported $620.5 million of agricultural products and imported $927.5 million of them. Thus, they import more in dollar terms than they export; from that it does not automatically follow that they are not self-sufficient in food.

About 2000 they had a trade balance in food imports/exports, and in Soviet days they had a large surplus, though only because of Soviet subsidies, discounted oil, etc.

Looking further into that little report, we can see that wheat makes up 13% of their calories, and is mostly imported; from other sources we see that this is from the US. Rice makes up 22%, and is mostly imported from Asia. The maize, soybeans and so on they import from the US mostly go to their livestock.

Essentially they focus on producing sugar, fruit and tobacco for export, and import grains. Their vegetables and a good part of their sugar they keep for domestic use. And so we see that about 65% of their calories and protein come from domestic sources, though some of the meat and dairy consumed we can partially credit to the imported livestock feed.

Thus on balance it seems fair to say that Cuba produces more than half its own food, in nutrition terms. Presumably the "imports 70%/85%!" figures come from looking at the dollar value of the food on world markets; which would be like saying that Gippsland in Australia can't feed itself, because the grain it exports is cheaper than the camembert and brie it imports.

Looking in more detail at exactly what the Cubans produce, we see that they ought to be able to feed themselves without imports. It'd just change their diet, they'd have to have more root vegetables and less grains.

I realise that's not as exciting as what JD posted, but the detailed facts taken in context usually aren't.

It's quite possible to feed ourselves without crude oil. It's more labour-intensive, but when I look at the blokes around me at shops, frankly they need the exercise.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 7:53:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

Forgot to say: so really it looks as though the Cubans are more dependent on Chinese peasants in rice paddies than they are on Iowans in combine harvesters.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 8:42:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you "Green with a Gun" for thinking critically and researching before posting. It's reassuring to see all people don't take the news at face value.

JD you seem to be quite biased in your reporting, aren't you essentially doing what you accuse others of?

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 10:43:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

fugeguy,
That screed you posted was waaay too long, and waaay too off-topic, so I nuked it. We're talking about Cuba in the context of peak oil. Please try to keep your eye on the ball.
Thanks,
JD

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 11:13:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

green, thanks for the great input. That clears things up a lot.

Looking in more detail at exactly what the Cubans produce, we see that they ought to be able to feed themselves without imports.

I agree. However, it's still important to get an accurate picture of Cuban agriculture, as it is truly practiced today, since Cuba is being touted by Heinberg & Community SolutionTM etc., as a model. There is a definite mismatch between the hype and the reality.

Reading the Heinberg essay I cited, you get the impression that Cuba is totally self-sufficient and organic, feeding itself with small relocalized farms. That is a complete misrepresentation. Most of Cuban agriculture is (as leif points out) devoted to cash crops: sugar, coffee, tobacco etc. In 1997, Cuba had about 2 million hectares devoted to those crops, versus about 18,000 hectares devoted to urban and peri-urban cropping, of which only 681 hectares were the vaunted organoponico (Source: FAO).
The same source shows that Cuban agriculture still relies on massive synthetic fertilizer inputs.

For sure, there are things to learn from the Cuban situation, but Cuba is clearly not a poster boy for self-sufficiency, relocalization and non-fossil agriculture. It's a poster boy for international trade, and Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage.

 
At Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 11:30:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Another interesting point is the EIA stats for Cuba's petroleum consumption:

89: 225 kbd
90: 220
91: 204
92: 180
93: 179
94: 182 (after '94, consumption rises and levels off at about 200kbd, where it is today)

The fuel shortage which Cuba experienced in the early 90s was quite moderate (at least compared to the hype). At the worst point, they had only lost 20%. That 20% isn't much more than the 14% drop in oil consumption which the world as whole experienced in 1979-83. And yet the world dealt with losing 14% much more smoothly than Cuba dealt with losing 20%. And that makes me wonder: When the USSR collapsed, did Cuba suffer because of a pinch in oil, or because it has a shitty communist economy? After all, people in the USSR were waiting in line for crappy sausages and bread even when the USSR was pumping oil like a champion.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 1:22:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another important point to add that nobody seems to be considering up till now.

If we take it that during the "special period" the cubans were feeding themselves 65% and exporting the rest then we have to say two things:
1. This proves that agriculture without oil is doable.
2. It proves that an oil-poor country can STILL conduct some form of trade even after it's passed peak oil.

So I don't see this as bad at all.
It STILL debunks the idea that the doomers have that we're all going to die and that long distance trade will collapse.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 3:26:00 AM PST, Anonymous Starvid said...

I think what Cuba proves is that no matter if you have oil or not, being communist is a sure way to make sure you will have a shitty economy.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 11:30:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think JD's point is that cuba has been held up an a post peak example. the post peak model is some kind of semi-utopia where without oil we'll all be one big community because of south facing homes and a world made by hand.

the fact is cuba lived a "host of other benefits" and they went back to oil.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 11:42:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". And that makes me wonder: When the USSR collapsed, did Cuba suffer because of a pinch in oil, or because it has a shitty communist economy? After all, people in the USSR were waiting in line for crappy sausages and bread even when the USSR was pumping oil like a champion."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This calls into question the new darling author of peak oil Orlov and his collapse gap theory.

JD- I was reading through your old posts and noted that in PHX the new solar plant has been on line for awhile. in spite of higher oil prices and metal prices they got a new solar plant up in PHX. the favored doomer line is that these projects won't get built because we won't have the money or resources to build them in a post peak world.

doomers denied.

KUNSTLER IS WRONG ABOUT PHOENIX AND LAS VEGAS
http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2006/03/270-kunstler-is-wrong-about-phoenix.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 4:44:00 PM PST, Anonymous fugeguy said...

It is very clear that Castro and his cronies have been robbing Cuba for years.

Under those circumstances it is natural for people to grow their own food and enter into direct barter and other exchange arrangements.

I would agree that people who see this as some example of a post peak oil utopia most likely also think the US faked the moon landing.

Here is an article about Russia after communism fell that is written by someone who lived it and offers a more proper perspective- IMHO.

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/147683-Survival-in-Times-of-Uncertainty-Growing-Up-in-Russia-in-the-1990s

I only posted the link since it is long (See JD).

But here are some good excerpts:


"Major changes to our lifestyle are inevitable; yet the time frame and the exact way the changes will occur are uncertain, which only adds to our stress. I grew up in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the accompanying economic upheaval, i.e., during the time of high uncertainty. I was 10 when the Perestroika started in 1985. The economic situation got progressively worse, with the very worst hitting in the early 90-s."


"The crisis in Russia was as much ideological as it was economical. People had to let go of everything they believed in, in an unconsciously religious sense."


"To survive people resorted to subsistence farming. Everybody had a "dacha" - a small plot of land, sometimes with a summer house, sometimes not; whoever didn't have one rushed to get it. A plot of land just over an acre, planted compactly with all kinds of things, plus a smaller plot of potatoes, fed the family of four through the year."


"Those who before the default had put their money into tangible media, were able to do better financially."


This article goes on to state the Russian equivalent of the 'burbs did best- this is real world experience and contradicts Kunstler.


Also, the second comment applies equally well to the doomers and the cornucopians.


BTW, What is doomer porn anyway?

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 5:43:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A plot of land just over an acre, planted compactly with all kinds of things, plus a smaller plot of potatoes, fed the family of four through the year."

I seriously doubt that.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 5:49:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

jd wrote, "However, it's still important to get an accurate picture of Cuban agriculture, as it is truly practiced today, since Cuba is being touted by Heinberg & Community SolutionTM etc., as a model. There is a definite mismatch between the hype and the reality."

Yep, I was trying to present an accurate picture of Cuban agriculture.

You comment that they have large fossil fuel inputs - but that pretty much all goes to their cash crops. And what's remarkable is that even with so little of their land devoted to food production for domestic consumption, they manage to produce a bit over half their nutrition. And that's largely without fossil fuel inputs.

So while Heinberg has certainly overstated his point, the fact remains that Cuba is able to feed itself without fossil fuel inputs. It is not able to earn foreign currency without fossil fuel inputs.

Thus, what Cuba demonstrates is that you don't need fossil fuels to feed yourself, but you do need them if you want to make lots of money.

The oil import figures, what you have to realise is that about two-thirds of Cuba's oil use is for electricity generation. Only one-third goes to cars, trucks and tractors. So a 20% decline hit them hard - you can't lower the power plant's consumption, you have to take the fuel from vehicles. Thus, they lost 20 out of every 33 litres going to vehicles.

In practice they tried to spread the burden out a bit, so that power supply became unreliable. But the fact remains that they took most of it out of transport and machinery.

That's why they've got these "camels" - basically trucks whose trailers are turned into buses - and other unwieldy half-arsed shit like that.

JD wrote, "And that makes me wonder: When the USSR collapsed, did Cuba suffer because of a pinch in oil, or because it has a shitty communist economy?"

Both, and other stuff, too. Basically they went hungry because the USSR had gone all Ricardo's "comparative advantage" on them. That was how the USSR tied its empire together - so Poland would produce coal and the Czechs mine iron and the Hungarians produce steel, and none of them would do much of the other.

Basically the commies believed in the ultimate goal of free market globalisation, that each country would specialise in a few products and import everything else.

So the Cubans were told, "look comrade, you can make sugar very well, don't waste land making grain, make more sugar, sell it to us and we'll give you grain."

Cuba replied, "but if we only grow one thing, that only works if we have massive fossil fuel inputs."

The Soviets said, "we got plenty of oil, too, comrade."

Which all worked fine until the Soviet Union fell on its arse, and the US tried to stop anyone else trading with Cuba. I mean, if your major trading partner stops trading with you, and hardly anyone else will trade with you, you're fucked, whether you're a commie or a capitalist.

Countries need to be able to trade. Ideology hasn't much to do with it.

Now the Cubans found a friend in Venezuela, so they're alright - they get oil in exchange for Cuban doctors. They're trading.

Where the Cubans had trouble was with communism, yes. What's rarely mentioned by all those praising Cuba's self-sufficient efforts is that at first Castro was against it. The people were going hungry, "the collectivised farms will save us!" he said. Of course, if the land belongs to the state and however hard you work and however much you produce you get the same pay, well, "I just work here, fuck it". So people abandoned the collectivised farms and started feeding themselves from their backyards.

The government went around tearing up the gardens and sending people back to the collectivised farms. But people were going hungry.

Now, old Castro may be a commie bastard, but he ain't stupid. He's seen what happens to dictators in other countries. If you want to have a dictatorship, you've got to do two things: pay the army, and feed the people. Fail in one or both of those and you're gone.

So he stopped getting in the way of the people feeding themselves, then saw that it was a smashing success, and decided to get behind it and claim credit for it. "Oh yes, I supported this idea all along Mr Heinberg." And the government was able to help a lot, years of biology research in medicine made a big difference to the localised agriculture.

They also broke up the collectivised farms, allowed private trade and ownership of foreign currency, and so on. Basically Cuban communism survived the death of Soviet communism by becoming less communist. It was that or revolution from the hungry masses.

Heinberg and his mates won't tell you that, of course.

The real lesson of the Cuban experience is simply that to feed yourselves, and feed yourselves very well, you don't need fossil fuel inputs at all. But if you want heaps of cash from trade, then you certainly need fossil fuels.

A second lesson is that the common people will be able to save themselves in times of trouble so long as the government stays the fuck out of the way. But Americans should already know that from Hurricane Katrina, where the government impeded rather than helped rescue and aid.

So long as we have our shit together, we won't starve from peak oil. But we will have less cash.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 6:50:00 PM PST, Anonymous fugeguy said...

Anonymous said:

"A plot of land just over an acre, planted compactly with all kinds of things, plus a smaller plot of potatoes, fed the family of four through the year."

I seriously doubt that."

I agree. That plot was most likely enough to supplement the paltry government rations.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Drew said...

fugeguy said:

"BTW, What is doomer porn anyway?"

Doomer porn can be described as anything doomers like to watch/read/hear to get them all excited in fear. TV series on natural disasters, news articles on potential doom, and the like all count as doomer porn. The worse it is, the more "doomer porn" it is. But basically, it has to give them a good dose of fear.

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:17:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You comment that they have large fossil fuel inputs - but that pretty much all goes to their cash crops."

where is your proof. cash crops are important to.

sugar anyone? is that not important?

 
At Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:44:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kunstler's area adds another bus to meet demand...boy does he look bad.

Northway Express adds buses

By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer
Last updated: 12:48 p.m., Friday, February 22, 2008

ALBANY -- The Capital District Transportation Authority has added buses on its Northway Express commuter runs during peak hours to ease overcrowding due to increased ridership.

An extra morning bus travels with the regularly scheduled 6:10 a.m. leaving Saratoga Springs.

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=665935

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 4:29:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

the fact is cuba lived a "host of other benefits" and they went back to oil.

The hype on the poster...

"A detailed presentation of Cuba's transition from an industrial, energy-intensive society to a low-energy, sustainable one."

... is complete BS. Cuba is basically burning the same amount of oil in 2008 as it was in 1989.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 5:34:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

green: "So long as we have our shit together, we won't starve from peak oil."

Totally agree. We have all the tools necessary to feed ourselves.

green: "But we will have less cash."

Not so sure about this one. I think it depends on who you are. Today I was thinking that, for much of the 20th century, the U.S. was the manufacturing power and oil exporter. So it was rich. But now the manufacturing power is China, and the oil source is OPEC, Russia, Brazil etc.

To the Americans, it seems like they are bleeding money. But if you visualize the situation in global terms, no money is actually lost. The money that gets vacuumed out of an American's wallet, goes into the wallet of a Saudi or a Chinese. It's basically a wealth transfer, where the new rich are starting to overtake the old rich. Not so much that the world is getting poorer, but that the world's financial center of gravity is shifting.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 5:56:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kunstler's area adds another bus to meet demand...boy does he look bad.

Northway Express adds buses"

Exactly. I've been saying that all along.

Peak Oil = non-event.
Peak Oil = everybody has to take the bus instead of wasting six gallons of gas to get to work and then to walmart/HEB/Safeway/7-11 etc on the way home.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 10:04:00 AM PST, Blogger odograph said...

JD, isn't there a difference between burning oil because you can, and demonstrating adaption when you cannot?

FWIW, I think peak oil is (as I sometimes say) fuzzily true and fuzzily here. The thing is, that could mean a decline, or a bumpy plateau, or even another production gain.

Whenever we do get production declines, only then will we see what adaptations we western, market, democracies are really willing to take.

The problem with the cornucopians is that they think it's in the bag. The problem with the doomers is that they think the fat lady has sung.

... the ballgame hasn't even begun.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 12:54:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

odograph, you are far too sensible to be posting on the 'net ;)

I wasn't the first to predict a plateau, but I argued for a "bumpy plateau" a few years ago, as opposed to the doomers falling off a cliff. Historical examples of resource peaks in history are hard to find, so I have little better to go on than whale oil prices.

So I would agree we are just entering a "peak phase". Bakhtari has formally identified a number of phases but I don't find these very convincing. In peak terms, we are entering the foot hills.

One of the reasons I propose against collapse, is that modern information processing is unprecedented. People are already analysing and discussing the possibility of events 10,20 and more years in advance. That shows pretty good foresight. Nate Hagens posted a totally misleading chart at theoildrum which appeared to show humans have a similar discount rate (roughly speaking, "attention span") to animals such as rats and pigeons. In fact, humans differ by a vast ratio of over 1 million to 1. A large part of our brain deals with analysis of the past and constructing models of the future.

Nate concludes we are doomed because we are dumb animals addicted to a quick hit of dopamine. In fact the evidence shows quite the opposite. Despite being dumb animals at our core, we are still many orders of magnitude more capable and have been incredibly successful.

That is not to say our future is guaranteed, but as a betting proposition it's way premature to rule us out of the race.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 3:55:00 PM PST, Blogger odograph said...

Thanks bc, but I'm must a comment critter. I hope I get some of them right.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 7:08:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The money that gets vacuumed out of an American's wallet, goes into the wallet of a Saudi or a Chinese."

YEP. unless you are invested in oil(and commodities) or have a lot of silver, gold or foreign currencies your US dollar wealth isn't keeping up with the rest of the world.

I am happy to see that the farmers are finally starting to make some money Americans in some depressed areas who work for an exporter are finally seeing some relief.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 11:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous Omnitir said...

JD wrote:
To the Americans, it seems like they are bleeding money. But if you visualize the situation in global terms, no money is actually lost. [ ..]Not so much that the world is getting poorer, but that the world's financial center of gravity is shifting.

-Which to an overweight car dependent American participating in online PO discussions, surely looks like the end of industrial civilization.

 
At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 11:39:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there a stereptypical doomer? middle aged male, married with two kids and slightly to moderately overweight. probably a bit more educated than the average folk but not as happy as he could be. he projects his frustrations onto society via peak oil.

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 9:05:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone see this report? It suggests energy effieciency inititives could cut daily use of oil by 64 million barrels, by 2020, and create billions in profits: http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/Investing_Energy_Productivity/index.asp

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 3:09:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the doomers can't get Cuba right or correctly analyze what effect a rise in fuel prices will have on Wal-mart's earnings or shipping goods from China, how can they comment on how something as complex as our global economy will react to peak oil?

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 5:54:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello JD,

I would appreciate it a whole bunch if you can provide an optimistic prediction about the future conditions of humankind over the next decade, fifty years, century and millenium.

How will humans live circa 2017? 2050? 2100? 3000?

If you have some special insight into the future you can demonstrate it easily enough with these predictions. Then we can all wait and see what happens.

Perhaps you are right. Or you are wrong. There's only one way of knowing: You must tell us the future as you see it.

Thanks.

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 7:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello JD,

I'm just a little curious, too, about your interpretation of America's current economic condition and future prospects. Is America in a recession headed for a depression?

Or do you see a bright, glorious future for the American economy in the short & long term (however your define it)?

The news appears rather bleak:

the automatic earth

So you might want to devote a little attention to economic matters, if that is at all possible. I want to hear a happy message, JD, since I know that you are quite capable of providing the silver lining.

Thanks.

 
At Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 7:46:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are headed for or are in stagdelfation.

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 4:43:00 AM PST, Anonymous Fergie said...

I see that David Mathews is another one who thinks that the USA is the whole world. Just because the US might be entering a recession isn't of all that much interest to the vast majority of people who don't live there and have no real interest in that country.

As far as I can see JD has posted extensively on the future - why not try actually reading the posts on this site?

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 5:04:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello Fergie,

As far as I can see JD has posted extensively on the future - why not try actually reading the posts on this site?

Have I asked a difficult question? JD ought to already know the answer to these questions. If he has no happy vision for America's future yet is optimistic about the world's future, he should say so.

Otherwise a more dismal message is heard:

"Your wound is incurable and your injury is serious. There is no one to plead your cause; no healing for your sore, no recovery for you." (Jeremiah 30:12-13)

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 9:02:00 AM PST, Anonymous Fergie said...

Oh oh - I hadn't realised you were one of the bible bashing lot (I've clicked through to your website as well, nuff said).
I figured out a long time ago that there is absolutely no point in discussing anything of importance with religious types (especially the uber-doomer religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam).
Bye.

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 9:13:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello fergie,

Oh oh - I hadn't realised you were one of the bible bashing lot (I've clicked through to your website as well, nuff said).

Would you prefer that I quote from some other book? I can quote from any book which meets your approval.

I enjoy quoting the Bible, though, because it is amusing to observe the absurd overreactions of the uneducated and the prejudiced against hearing any message contained in an ancient book.

But the ancient people were people very much like you and I and their conclusions about human nature were established upon thousands of years of observation and direct experience. So I respect the message of the ancient books and especially the Scriptures.

For those of a more positive and optimistic disposition (such as our esteemed JD), there is even such a message contained in the Bible:

"Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
and instead of iron I will bring silver,
and instead of wood, bronze,
and instead of stones, iron.
I will make peace your administrators and righteousness your overseers. Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction but you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.
" (Isaiah 60:17-18)

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 10:59:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

Does the Bible have any wisdom on how to deal with stupid trolls?

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 2:26:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

Real Climate does doomer porn
Check it out!

While the PO doomers are telling us we are doomed because of an imminent shortage of FF, the GW doomers are telling us there is so much FF we are bound to cook ourselves. Obviously both can't be right.

I believe in the science of GW, but a lot of the predictions have flipped into science-fiction.

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 4:26:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

"While the PO doomers are telling us we are doomed because of an imminent shortage of FF, the GW doomers are telling us there is so much FF we are bound to cook ourselves."

There could be enough fossil fuels to burn and fuck up our climate even more, while there not being enough for our rather rapacious appetites for the stuff.

It's quite possible for the bar to be running out of booze at the same time as I'm drinking myself to death.

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 6:46:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello BC,

Obviously both can't be right.

One of the most basic principles of controversy is that whenever someone says "obviously" whatever follows is never obvious and seldom right.

 
At Monday, February 25, 2008 at 8:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Perhaps JD can lend a positive spin to the following story:

Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admitsHuge budget deficit means millions more face starvation

That story is very doom & gloom. Hard to imagine that the human population will grow to 9 billion within fifty years ...

Well, JD, where's the silver lining?

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 3:29:00 AM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

Sorry, Dave, JD never admits defeat or changes his mind.

"Black is white!"
"Um, actually..."
"Hmmm, interesting. Now for my next post: red is blue!"

That's the internet method of discourse: never change your mind, never admit defeat, never correct yourself, never ask questions, only make statements, if faced with an irresistable argument, divert into pedantic or semantic quibbling.

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 3:59:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

green with a gun, should he concede defeat because Dave is right and we're in for a big dieoff?

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 5:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello anonymous,

... should he concede defeat because Dave is right and we're in for a big dieoff?

Did you read the article? Do you understand the implications?

Humankind is encountering serious food problems at 6,600,000,000 humans.

Imagine for a moment what food prices and availability will become when there are 9,000,000,000 humans.

You add 2+2 together and tell me what you see ...

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 6:01:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Dave,
According to the article, the UN's World Food Program (WFP) currently feeds 73 million people worldwide, on an annual budget of $3 billion. For comparison, consumers in the U.S. alone spend about $12 billion a year on dog and cat food.

$3 billion is fucking peanuts. The world could easily afford ten times that figure. We have more than enough money and foodstuffs to ensure that everyone eats, and that's exactly what heros like Josette Sheeran (head of the WFP) are trying to achieve. She deserves a ton of support and then some.

If there is a die-off, it will not be due to lack of oil, fertilizer, money or food. Mass starvation is not an inevitability; it's a choice. The important thing is support the right choice, and marginalize first-world pieces of shit like yourself who are hoping for a die-off.

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 6:43:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello JD,

Thanks for providing the silver lining to the story above. It is comforting to know that all of our problems are merely illusions and that everything is going to be ok:

If there is a die-off, it will not be due to lack of oil, fertilizer, money or food.

It is especially comforting to know:

Mass starvation is not an inevitability; it's a choice.

Tell that to the starving! Everything's gonna be ok. 6.6 billion, 9 billion, 12 billion ... the Earth can feed an infinite number of humans under all circumstances!

JD, you've made my day. If I knew things were going to be this good, I'd have called the present era "Utopia" rather than "the Apocalypse."

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 10:40:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

There could be enough fossil fuels to burn and fuck up our climate even more, while there not being enough for our rather rapacious appetites for the stuff.

According to a paper co-authored by James Hansen, if you use a realistic assessment of FF reserves most of the scenarios of the IPCC are impossible to achieve.

It's interesting though to confront Real Climate with claims of Peak Oil, they dismiss it out of hand. They just say "there is enough coal". If there was "enough coal" we could convert it to liquids and replace oil, which directly contradicts the doomer argument.

It's quite possible for the bar to be running out of booze at the same time as I'm drinking myself to death.

No, it is a logical, semantic and mathematical impossibility. If there is enough booze to drink yourself to death, then by definition the bar has not run out. "Running out" means insufficient to do what you wanted with it.

Your analogy is also faulty because you conflate individual and collective.

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 10:45:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

One of the most basic principles of controversy is that whenever someone says "obviously" whatever follows is never obvious and seldom right.

Obviously you are correct, and are not a gibbering idiot.

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 12:15:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello bc,

It's interesting though to confront Real Climate with claims of Peak Oil, they dismiss it out of hand. They just say "there is enough coal". If there was "enough coal" we could convert it to liquids and replace oil, which directly contradicts the doomer argument.

So you reveal yourself a true doomer because you acknowledge that humankind will run out of fossil fuels this century. I wonder how technological civilization will survive in the post-fossil fuels era?

I wonder how food will get from the farms to the cities when there is no more diesel for the trucks? I wonder how much food the farms will produce when the trucks no longer deliver fertilizer to the farms?

Peak Oil will save us from climate change at the expense of eradicating technological civilization and provoking a massive human die-off.

Too bad for humankind!

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 5:57:00 PM PST, Blogger FR said...

bc,

I'm going to respectfully disagree with you here. With regards to the anology that the bar can be running out of alcohol while one person drinks himself to death, you said,

"No, it is a logical, semantic and mathematical impossibility. If there is enough booze to drink yourself to death, then by definition the bar has not run out. "Running out" means insufficient to do what you wanted with it."

Sure it's possible. The bar can be running out of alcohol for every person in the bar, yet one particular individual who consumed more than his share can still kill himself with what's remaining.

Apart from analogies -- we can suffer economic consequences of peak oil while, simultaneously, the lower coast of Florida finds itself under water. This is because liquifying coal, and scraping for every drop of oil in the Canadian tar sands and the rocky mountain oil shale all release far more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

While I can't stand defeatists like David Mathews, I'm also nowhere near as optimistic as JD and others on this board. There is a major problem. There certainly are solutions, but here's the main thing: They require a major mobilization of concerned citizens.

It's raising the political will that is the problem. I was talking to people at work last night about peak oil -- they had no idea what I was talking about and think I'm a quack now. (This was over lunch, as I saw them eat their meat-filled sandwiches and throw away the disposable plastic bags.)

Very few people in this country even consider the fact that resources and pollution sinks are finite. If we can raise the will to change our lifestyles, human can prosper, even with 9 billion of us in 2050. However, that's a big if, isn't it?

 
At Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 7:22:00 PM PST, Anonymous what really said...

It's quite possible for the bar to be running out of booze at the same time as I'm drinking myself to death.

No, it is a logical, semantic and mathematical impossibility. “

No, it is not a logical, semantic and mathematical impossibility unless “running out” can only legitimately refer to the individual rather than the collective. Which you assert, but without any grounds for doing so.

“Your analogy is also faulty because you conflate individual and collective.”

An analogy seeks to persuade rather than prove. Any analogy will break down if pushed far enough. If green with a gun realised you would be so determined to avoid the rather simple point, perhaps he would have tightened up the analogy a little. How about… ‘It is quite possible for the vending machine to run out of cigarettes after everyone in the building has smoked enough to give themselves lung cancer, thoughts of their impending death distracting them from their painful, enforced withdrawal symptoms.’

But no analogy will satisfy someone who, as green with a gun puts it, “divert[s] into pedantic or semantic quibbling”. (Next up: ‘It is a statistical impossibility for even one person to get lung cancer from the contents of a single vending machine’?)

 
At Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 11:27:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

I'll just reiterate that James Hansen himself co-wrote a paper showing that the catastrophic scenarios of the IPCC are impossible. If you don't believe Hansen, you wont believe me.

Coal to liquids and tar sands are pretty irrelevant.

I am not saying that PO or GW will not be a cause of hardship for some sections of the globe, just that they won't be global catastrophes that the doomers envisage.

If you prefer analogy, some of the heavy drinkers will get a really bad hangover, but light drinkers will be put off by the high prices and go home early.

I am willing to consider ONE catastrophe, but claiming there are multiple alternate catastrophes is just shotgun doomerism.

It's raising the political will that is the problem.

Why is it a political problem though? Surely it is an industrial and private enterprise problem. I think that is why it does not attract much attention from politicians or academics.

The demand for government action is a common refrain in PO circles, but I think it is misplaced. Governments are generally lousy at day to day stuff, which is better left to the markets, imperfect as they are. The best role for government is probably to keep out of the way. Look at the mess with ethanol.

 
At Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 12:24:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello bc,

I'll just reiterate that James Hansen himself co-wrote a paper showing that the catastrophic scenarios of the IPCC are impossible. If you don't believe Hansen, you wont believe me.

A catastrophe has already occurred on the Earth, it is called "Civilization" and it has nearly destroyed the planet as it has treated the Earth like humankind's own special sewer.

After the unnatural catastrophe has run its course, a human catastrophe is certain to follow.

What is the human catastrophe? When you load a planet down with 9,000,000,000 humans and suddenly deprive such a large number of the resources essential to life (food, water, a hospitable climate) and also those necessary for commerce (oil, natural gas, coal and the other commodities).

While future generations will be deprived of all these things they will possess in abundance a very terrible thing -- namely all of the tools of modern, genocidal warfare.

What happens on a planet of nine billion desperate humans when these begin their last gasp struggle for survival against each other while humankind still possesses the technological tools of mass murder (the weapons of mass destruction including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons).

Things could go really bad on the Earth really quickly. Remember the 20th century?

But if humankind has the wisdom and self-restraint necessary to avoid a global war, the pollution which humankind has already pumped into the atmosphere is sufficient to radically modify the climate to such an extent as to render the planet inhospitable first to the survival of civilization and finally to Homo sapiens altogether.

Extinction happens.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 2:50:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well guys, it looks like the uber-doomers over at the oildrum have concluded that the road back to olduvai may in fact lead to an electric infrastructure led super efficient high tech world after all.

So congratulations JD: You have been a welcome voice in the wilderness among all the doomers but looks like your point of view finally has some well needed traction elsewhere.

Oh and David: Do us all a favor and take your ranting over to LATOC.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 4:46:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello anonymous,

Well guys, it looks like the uber-doomers over at the oildrum have concluded that the road back to olduvai may in fact lead to an electric infrastructure led super efficient high tech world after all.

I read that post about the four billion cars and found the story quite amusing. Needless to say, dreams of a hyper-efficient high tech world are going to evaporate away.

I remember the many utopians which were promised in the past, all of which have failed to materialize. If the people at The Oil Drum are promising some sort of technological utopia in the future, you can be quite certain that it will fail to materialize.

Unfortunately, those who pursue dreams of technological utopia are destroying, polluting and depleting the world today in such a fashion which guarantees a hellish future for our species ultimately leading to extinction.

We've destroyed enough of this world already. It is time for humankind to stop. Should humankind refuse to stop, Nature will stop us altogether.

Technology is passing away. Extinction is forever.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 5:13:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave:

Here's a suggestion for you.
Take 2 of a two by four feet piece of carboard.
Join together with cord.
Write in large black letters:
"The End of the World is Nigh"
and
"Humans will go extinct soon"

Next step:
Grow long beard, buy clothes from goodwill, wear for a week. Don't shower.

Last and final step:
Go downtown and preach your doom to the masses.

Oh yeah, I forgot: you need a cloth cap to lay at your feet to collect for alms.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 5:23:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello Anonymous,

Here's a suggestion for you.

Those are some great ideas, anonymous, but I have essentially given up on the idea that Homo sapiens would respond to any sort of message -- either of doom or of hope or of judgment -- and concluded that it is a far better use of my time to spend it outside in fellowship with Nature and in appreciation of the blue sky and addressing my sermons exclusively to the manatees, the dolphins, the alligators, the butterflies and the birds.

These are the things which shall endure after humankind is gone. They will hear my message even if humankind cannot.

Look at the sun, the sky, and the waves! After four and a half billion years the Universe is still alive!

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 5:49:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[I gave up on humans] and concluded that it is a far better use of my time to spend it outside in fellowship with Nature and in appreciation of the blue sky and addressing my sermons exclusively to the manatees, the dolphins, the alligators, the butterflies and the birds."

That's great D.
What are you wasting your time on here for then? Do we seem to be manatees, dolphins etc to you or are we evil uncaring humans?

I think you know the answer to that.

Nice knowing ya.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 6:17:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello Anonymous,

What are you wasting your time on here for then? Do we seem to be manatees, dolphins etc to you or are we evil uncaring humans?

Why are you wasting your time here, anonymous?

The message is important and it is addressed to those who think about such things. Holding up a sign along the road doesn't constitute either an effective or a reasonable use of my time.

Disputing with those who promise "peace, prosperity and eternity" is a much better use of my time. The public might hear the message of someone such as JD and conclude that business-as-usual can continue forever without any consideration whatsoever of the consequences (either within the realm of resource depletion or pollution).

But at the end of the day, power still remains with the powerful and they will decide to do whatever they wish ... at the expense of the environment and humankind.

And ultimately Nature will decide to do whatever it wishes ... including dispossessing humankind of the Earth and driving our species extinct (like all of our predecessors).

And ultimately the Universe will grow old and dim and sterile.

But the sky is blue, the air is cool, and today is a beautiful day. I am not isolated from the Universe even when I am here talking to you.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 7:41:00 AM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

Some anonymous fuckstick asked,

"green with a gun, should he concede defeat because Dave is right and we're in for a big dieoff?"

No. He should concede defeat and change what he says when what he says turns out to be wrong. For example, "Cuba: suckling the tit of industrial agriculture." As I showed, Cubans produce over half their nutrition domestically, and of imported nutrition, they get almost twice as many calories from Chinese imported rice as they do from US imported wheat, and most Chinese rice is produced with manual labour.

So JD ought to change the title to, "Cuba: mostly looking after itself, but also suckling the tit of manual agriculture."

Likewise, with many other articles he's written. When you turn out to be wrong you ought to go back and try again.

There's not going to be a dieoff, that's a fantasy of a bunch of loons stroking their guns.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 7:50:00 AM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

david matthews said, without a hint of irony as he typed away into a computer made by civilisation into the internet made by civilisation using electricity made by civilisation,

"A catastrophe has already occurred on the Earth, it is called "Civilization" and it has nearly destroyed the planet as it has treated the Earth like humankind's own special sewer."

If you believe that civilisation is a catastrophe in and of itself, I suggest you ought to prove to us your convictions by going to live in the jungle, or perhaps a desert.

Civilisation is overall a very fine thing. If nothing else, it allows overweight middle-classed idle males with few practical skills to survive, where in a rougher sort of world they'd perish horribly. So don't be too quick to dismiss civilisation as a bad lot.

Likewise, those who tell me that population is a problem I invite to prove to us the strength of their convictions and shoot themselves. Or else shut up.

Peak oil will be a very significant problem, as will global warming. But Western civilisation will not collapse into cannibalistic madness, not without a deliberate effort along the lines of global thermonuclear war - and probably not even then.

Doomers can fuck right off.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 8:01:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The public might hear the message of someone such as JD and conclude that business-as-usual can continue forever without any consideration whatsoever of the consequences (either within the realm of resource depletion or pollution)."

I don't think JD is even saying that. This site's take-home message is quite clear: We need to tighten our belts because winter is coming.

Your message is different and it's this: Tightening our belts won't work because winter is coming, there's too many of us and there's no way we can do anything.

So other than feeding some psychological need you have I don't get why you're here.

Why am *I* here?
Personally speaking I get quite the kick out of mocking the doomers and I am also sick to the back teeth of the hand wringing and the "woe is me" despair.
While I accept that we *could* all be screwed if we collectively make wrong choices I agree with JD that we don't have to all be screwed if we make the right choices and there I part ways with the doomers who say there are no choices because no matter what we're all doomed.

So from that perspective you're just wasting your time here because none of us are buying your doomer preaching.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 4:25:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

green:
As I showed, Cubans produce over half their nutrition domestically, and of imported nutrition, they get almost twice as many calories from Chinese imported rice as they do from US imported wheat, and most Chinese rice is produced with manual labour.

So JD ought to change the title to, "Cuba: mostly looking after itself, but also suckling the tit of manual agriculture."


Actually, you gave no evidence whatsoever that Cuba imports rice from China. Here's the word from the USDA:

"The United States now [2006] is Cuba's largest supplier of agricultural products, supplying approximately 96 percent of Cuba's rice imports and 70 percent of their poultry meat imports." Source

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed in you, green. You seem to have a tendency to bluster and make things up.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 5:12:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello Green with a Gun,

If you believe that civilisation is a catastrophe in and of itself, I suggest you ought to prove to us your convictions by going to live in the jungle, or perhaps a desert.

Eh ... Green, have you noticed that civilization has eradicated all of the jungles and destroyed all of the functioning ecosystems in such an absolute fashion that life itself has become next-to-impossible without civilization?

Green also says:

david matthews said, without a hint of irony as he typed away into a computer made by civilisation into the internet made by civilisation using electricity made by civilisation,

Yes, Green, I do have a computer, a television, a car, an air conditioner, a fridge. Life would be nearly impossible in the United States without these.

But I have spent a sufficient amount of time outside to know that Life is a hell of lot more impressive, technology-wise, than anything that humans have ever invented.

So isn't it a tragedy that humankind has destroyed entire ecosystems and driven thousands of species extinct for computers, televisions, automobiles and air conditioners?

Green opines,

Likewise, those who tell me that population is a problem I invite to prove to us the strength of their convictions and shoot themselves. Or else shut up.

Eh ... Green ... any person who demands suicide as a form of argument from his adversaries is a person who cannot handle reality.

Nature is going to take care of the human overpopulation problem. You can be quite certain of that, Green.

Green is optimistic:

Peak oil will be a very significant problem, as will global warming. But Western civilisation will not collapse into cannibalistic madness, not without a deliberate effort along the lines of global thermonuclear war - and probably not even then.

But he is also mistaken. Western civilization is collapsing right now. You may not realize it yet, Green, but you will ...

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 5:18:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello anonymous,

I don't think JD is even saying that. This site's take-home message is quite clear: We need to tighten our belts because winter is coming.

If this is the substance of JD's message, that is very good.

I'm not involved in any sort of personal vendetta against JD. The Peak Oil community and Doomers often deserve criticism. I have criticized both groups myself many times.

But I am quite certain that our civilization will collapse and I suspect that the collapse is happening right now. The end of civilization is never a peaceful, pretty process.

Given human nature and the extreme abuse that humankind has inflicted upon the Earth, I can assure you that the end of civilization will bring about an Apocalypse.

Those who object to the above conclusion should also realize that there is a horrendous amount of suffering, oppression, bloodshed and starvation occurring on the Earth right now ... in places that we don't care about and would rather not think about.

So the conclusion that civilization will end in a horrible way is perfectly consistent with the history of human behavior and the present degree of suffering already exhibited throughout the Earth.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 6:34:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe in Peak Oil and I also believe that Cuba is the furthest thing from a model that anyone should be following.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 6:38:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

JD, I certainly bluster, but I don't make things up, except about my love life. My sources told me Cuba got its rice from China - I shall research it further.

However, my first point remains - Cuba produces most of its nutrition domestically, and it does so with considerably less fossil fuel inputs than what we call "industrialised agriculture". That is not in dispute.

Where Cuba uses fossil fuel inputs is in its cash crops for export.

So it's not true to say that Cuba is "suckling on the tit of industrialised agriculture." It's true to say, "they mostly look after themselves".

Dave Matthews, I prefer to forecast the future without the Book of Revelations. Your certainty of doom can come from nothing else, since what you're suggesting doesn't match the patterns of the past, where in fact people do manage surprisingly well.

Nothing is inevitable for humanity as a whole. What happens comes about from our decisions.

It's quite rational to say that if a person believes that the human population is too great, they ought to shoot themselves. I would not say, "people drink too much" and then take another sip of my beer.

Have courage in your convinctions. If you feel civilisation is a bad thing, go live in a forest by yourself. No, they haven't all been chopped down. And anyway even if the forests were all chopped down you could still live in the desert, also away from civilisation.

I expect to see you on a bush walk some day, living in your own filth.

You remind me a bit of old Robert E Howard, creator of the Conan series. He liked to talk about how awful civilisation was... he lived with his mother as a thirty year old. Sheltered white boys who've only ever known comfort do sometimes speak romantically of not having civilisation and its benefits. Yet they're universally reluctant to give them up.

If you express a conviction but don't follow it, either you don't really feel the conviction or you're just scared. So you're a liar or a coward, and I've nothing to say to such people.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 6:47:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

I'd add that Cuba is not a model I'd follow, either.

However, it is a demonstration that a country can be industrialised and have advanced technology and healthcare while using relatively little fossil fuels (2/3 of their oil goes to power generation, which could come from other sources), and feed itself also with relatively little fossil fuel inputs.

Thus, Cuba shows us that when the fossil fuels run short, that doesn't mean we'll have mass famine.

You need to try pretty hard to have mass famine, you need brutal governments exporting food even at the height of the famine (eg Ireland in the potato famine, Ethopia under Mengistu).

Cuba is in this respect nothing more nor less than that, a demonstration that we can feed ourselves with very little or even no fossil fuels.

JD can argue it's impossible, but then he'd have to become a "doomer". Which would be fucking funny, but also a pity.

 
At Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 7:56:00 PM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello Green With a Gun,

If you express a conviction but don't follow it, either you don't really feel the conviction or you're just scared. So you're a liar or a coward, and I've nothing to say to such people.

Now that's a remarkably uninformed statement, Green with a Gun.

My objection to civilization and technology are not motivated by any innate hatred of these things. No, I'm just observing what civilization and technology have done to the Earth, to Nature, the the Climate, and to humankind itself.

What I know for certain and can predict without any fear whatsoever of failure is that:

1. Technology will end.
2. Civilization will end.
3. Homo sapiens will go extinct.
4. Nature will recover quite well without us.

This is the future whether you like it or not. End of story.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 at 3:32:00 AM PST, Anonymous The_Setite said...

David Matthews is neither a coward or a liar.
He is a mental case.
Pity him. His world is dark and full of horror. His loving god did this to him and he cant escape.He wants everyone to feel his pain so that he wont be so alone. Seriously, the man preaches to the trees. Nuff said.
If this were not the case he would see that pessimism is an indefensible and lazy position to take. Confusing pessimism with "realism" is even worse...
When you realise that, its hard to get angry at him or take him seriously.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 at 4:57:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello the_setite,

His world is dark and full of horror.

It is remarkable how you can look through my eyes ...

Is it at all possible that you don't know what you are talking about?

You are suffering a horizon problem, the_setite. How can the world be round when the world looks flat?

If it makes you feel any better, the_setite, you can go ahead and believe in eternity and immortality. But what I have said above is the Truth and all of these things are coming to an end.

I did not reach these conclusions in a dark place (although the Universe is dark), but instead in a beautiful, living place. The conclusions might sounds like a horror story to you, but they are as inevitable as death.

Everything which has a beginning must also have an end.

That's reality for everyone except the flat-earthers.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 at 5:18:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Everything which has a beginning must also have an end.

Lots of things have no end.
Here's the beginning: 1, 2, 3...
Where's the end?

There's no logical reason why something with a beginning must have an end.

Does space have an end? Does time have an end?

Theology and eschatology are fascinating subjects. But they don't have anything to do with peak oil.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 at 7:33:00 AM PST, Anonymous david mathews said...

Hello jd,

There's no logical reason why something with a beginning must have an end.

Now this is more of a theoretical philosophical question rather than a defensible argument regarding the fate of civilization, technology and the Homo sapiens on the Earth.

But you are correct in pointing out:

Here's the beginning: 1, 2, 3...

Infinite things have no end. Eternal things never die.
God lives forever.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 at 9:16:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

JD, a little further research has showed that you're correct - of Cuban food imports, most come from the USA. I was wrong, and you were right - about that particular item.

However, there are a couple of things which make it less clear than "suckling the tit of industrial agriculture."

Firstly, as I noted already, over half the nutrition of Cubans is produced domestically and with relatively few fossil fuel inputs. The fossil fuel inputs go mostly to cash crops, and they use that revenue to buy the US food and other things.

Secondly, rising US imports have to do with declining Cuban production; but that declining production comes not from a lack of fossil fuel inputs, but from droughts followed by floods, for example as reported in 2004. Whatever your agricultural system, if you have no water or if your crops and soil are washed away, you have to import to make up for it.

Lastly, the food Cubans have is rationed, as discussed here. This stands as a condemnation either of their low fossil fuel input agriculture, or of their socialist system, or both. Given that other socialist countries with ample fossil fuel inputs also had rationing, I'd say at first glance it seems most likely it's the socialism that does it, rather than the lack of DDT or ammonia.

Lastly, I would note that simply looking at the oil imports doesn't tell the whole story. Nobody pours crude oil onto farm soil and expects it to do any good; we use ammonia fertiliser made from natural gas, pesticides and herbicides made from crude oil, and so on and so forth. A country can have low crude oil use and high fossil fuel derivatives use, and vice versa. "Industrial agriculture" is when all those fossil fuel inputs are high.

It remains untrue to say that Cuba's crude oil supply halved. It may or may not be true to say that its fertiliser imports dried up. This is what various Cuban public statements have been, but it needs further research.

We don't need large fossil fuel inputs to feed ourselves, but we certainly need them to make lots of cash.

An appreciation of the complexities of the situation, and a willingness to publicly correct ourselves when wrong, would help both cornucopians and doomers.

 
At Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 7:49:00 AM PST, Anonymous The_Setite said...

But what I have said above is the Truth and all of these things are coming to an end.


Of course. You know "the Truth" (note the capitals people) and no one else does.
"The end" is simply a point of view not an absolute. The fact that you cant tell the difference is what is disturibng. Im not surprised that you are deeply religious. The delusion of god is extremely comforting to one who believes in something as absurd as an absolute. I suppose you are going to heaven while the rest of us burn??
Of course that doesnt make you sound like a paranoid delusional. The fact that you appear to thrive in an emvironment of conflict does nothing to help your case.

Just for the record, i am a clinical psychiatrist. Im not seeing through your eyes. I am just accounting for your symptoms.

 
At Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 9:04:00 PM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

"Just for the record, i am a clinical psychiatrist. Im not seeing through your eyes. I am just accounting for your symptoms."

A clinical psychiatrist would actually have better spelling and grammar, and would not attempt diagnoses through internet posts.

Probably you're just a fuckhead.

You don't need to claim imaginary qualifications to be able to tell someone they're full of shit.

 
At Sunday, March 2, 2008 at 12:14:00 AM PST, Blogger green with a gun said...

And here I've written a more balanced article on the subject of Cuba. (Includes hot communist chicks and midgets.)

 
At Sunday, March 2, 2008 at 4:06:00 AM PST, Blogger jt said...

Beginnings and endings

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 end

I chose to end at nine just as i chose to begin at 1. I could have started at -567484.

The point is - beginnings and endings are a construct of consciousness. Does space and time have a beginning - big bang?

Could end with a big suck.

Mr Green

Prediction of doom doesn't have to come from the bible, though a lot of doomers would use it as a reference, for my opinion one only has to look at past civilisations and their resource issues and existing ecosystems to see that a collapse is very possible - not definite but very possible.

Can we get through this OK? One just doesn't get too optimistic when the most powerful country in the world votes in JW two times to run the show. we problably deserve to go extinct.

 
At Monday, March 3, 2008 at 4:09:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD,

When are you going to update your starvation diary? I'm sitting here worrying about the effects of peak oil, and if you're losing as much weight as I suspect, I will need to expand my garden this spring.

Let us all know how you're doing.

 
At Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 11:34:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In 2006, Cuba is using just as much oil as it ever did"

If we take a look at your own chart you can see that it's 10% less oil. And 10% is a huge difference. 5% production drop caused over 300% price increase inte the US in the 70's. And you have to take in count that Cubas population has propably increased by 20% since the mid 80's.

 
At Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 4:26:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD,

If you are right then Cuba avoided mass starvation by importing 70% of their food to compensate for losing access to 20% of their oil.

Correct?

This begs the question of what happens when you lose access to 50% of your oil and petroculture imports?

How about 100%?

Wally

 

Post a Comment

<< Home