Redditor Erinaceous on Malthusian Doom

Without energy surpluses, they won’t be able to control us. They will probably try to enslave us and/or plunder us, but that’s a fight we can handle. Firepower at Eradica thinks they’ll easily control us. I don’t see it. Their mercenaries will revolt against them; we’ll be able to bribe and honeytrap or otherwise flip their mercs to our side.

However bad the ruling oligarchs make it for us, it has the potential to be very very bad for them. Sack of Troy bad.

Erinaceous, considered one of the smartest Redditors

[–]Erinaceous 3 points 2 days ago
I could probably take the neo-Malthusian position if we wanted to structure this as a debate. Outside of economics the sustainability of population dynamics and urbanism is very much an open question and much of the literature in complexity science, ecology and biophysical economics has a very different approach to the issues.

First off I can’t help but notice you didn’t cite one of the Limits To Growth study which is tracking very well against 40 years of data. It was a better constructed model than Elrich’s and has proven rather robust in spite of the very simplistic computing that was available at the time. I’ve used the same logistic map equations as Elrich and it’s easy to see why he was freaking out but it’s also easy to see how such simplistic equations don’t really capture population dynamics. The take away though is that these dynamics are highly sensitive to initial conditions and the stable attractors are in very specific regions of the logistic map. If the region shifts say from 2.3 to 3.1 population is no longer stabilizing but back into exponential growth. The most recent UN projections were revised upwards so we are not quite tracking on the medium run scenario.
In ecology population is usually seen to be limited by forcing factors. The most important of these is net energy flows or the ability of organisms to maximize their energy inputs at specific gradients in a thermodynamically open, far from equilibrium system. From an energy standpoint the green revolution meant shifting agriculture from a net positive energy system (preindustrial agriculture had net energy ratios of between 2-8:1 depending on a number of factors) to a net negative energy system (Pimentel, 1975). As such much of the green revolution was farming two things fossil fuels and top soil.

Most importantly however is all future productivity increases are predicated on expanding intensive agriculture. This is however highly dependent on cheap and high flow rate sources of liquid fuel. As we are past peak oil sources of conventional crude will begin declining by 2015 at the earliest. Alternatives such as tight oil, bitumen, kerogen and biofuel are poor in terms of both flow rates and net energy meaning the net flow through of energy into agriculture will be constrained. Whether this results in extremely high prices or price collapse is still an open question but even a moderate decline scenario is too nonlinear for even cutting edge econometric techniques to predict. As such it would be prudent to anticipate scenarios where energy intensive farming cannot be expanded either for economic reasons (poor farmers shouldn’t take on debt for farming systems that will only get more expensive before the debt is discharged) or for energetic reasons (energy constraints should push us towards more energy efficient solutions such as earth works, perennial polycropping, and integrated horticulture).

Economic theories of population and sustainability tend to be problematic since the economics field is not very energy literate. As such it is typical in economics to treat energy as substitutable for any other commodity and make no distinction between energy sources and energy sinks. For example a barrel of oil and a pair of blue jeans both cost about $100 but one requires energy to produce and the other is a source of the equivalent of about 11 1/3 years of continuous human labour. From an energy perspective we cannot say that an energy source and a sink have the same value however in the paper you cited above biofuels such as corn ethanol, which are net energy neutral or sinks (EROI is given at -0.3 to 1.1) are treated as substitutable for energy sources such as petroleum (currently ranging from EROI 4.3 to 20 depending on the source). For agriculture to continue to innovate it needs to either have a new source of concentrated fuel energy to replace the diminishing net energy from oil or the use of more sustainable techniques such as polyculture perennial farming or food forestry. Neither of these exist at scales that would be significant or allow for transition before we are in a crisis.

Soil is also an important limiting factor. Since modern agriculture top soil losses have lead to the degradation of 2 million of hectacres and desertification has increased from 11% of the planet to 23% planet. Desertification is a significant issue in the fragile tropical and subtropical soil systems. Its significant that the most degraded landscapes on earth are also the oldest known agricultural societies (ie. the Fertile Crescent in Turkey and Iran). Humus degradation is endemic to modern agriculture since high nitrogen soil is a poor environment for mycellium which plays an important role in sequestering carbon, bringing up nutrients and binding soil structures. Since the 90’s no till farming has increased but with it so has the use of herbicides which are highly damaging to the microbial ecology of the soil. As well excess phosphorus use can poison the landscape as we see in some regions of New Zealand where phosphates doped with cadmium have renders soils toxic and non-arable. Intensive agriculture also compacts soil removing important oxygen pockets which in turn kills much of the important soil ecology.

Lastly there is the issue of fresh water loss and depletion of ancient fossil aquifers that have sustained farming and settlements. In North American this is most significant in the depletion of the Ogallala. Irrigation is also a significant factor in soil degradation, particularly in dry land biomes. The use of prophylactic fertilizer use, particularly potassium in conjunction with heavy irrigation and bare earth cropping leads to soil salting and raising of the salt table which ultimately leads to desertification and loss of arable land as well as eutrophication in the downstream hydrology. Increasing fertilizer use and irrigation as proposed in the Hertel paper could result in increasing desertification particularly in fragile tropical soils. As well land use transitions, particularly the conversion of forest to broad acre farm has significant effects on patterns of rainfall and soil water sequestration. Tree sequester and transpire massive amounts of water and have profound relationships with soil mycellium that contribute significantly to to climate stability and rainfall. Large scale conversion of these forest biomes have non-linear effects on the surrounding areas and rainfall patterns in downwind areas.

There is also the question of whether equilibrium modelling techniques are appropriate for systems such as population and city growth which are clearly non-linear, non-equilbrium systems that have network structures better defined by power laws. Using allometric growth theory we can formalize the metabolic requirements of cities in a non-equilibrium framework and have a framework for growth that is dependent on energy (see also more standard approaches from Charles Hall, Robert Ayres, Cleveland, etc). Cities also have significantly higher ecological footprints in spite of their direct land impact. An [urban Canadian has an an average ecological footprint of 7.25 ha with areas of higher urban sprawl such as Calgary increasing to 9.86 ha/person. By contrast rural areas designed in lower energy periods such as ireland have average ecological footprints of 4.59 ha/pp. While this is still above the available biocapacity of world of 1.50 ha/pp it is half of what intensive urban sprawl elicits. Cities are more efficient in terms of space filling infrastructure such as road area, plumbing, electrical grids etc but they require higher energy inputs. Metabolic energy for a city follows a super linear power law of population1.15. Since the key question is how we will deal with an energy constrained future it remains very much open to debate if massive scale cities will remain viable. If we take Bill Mollison’s definition of sustainability as “A system that over its lifetime, it produces more energy than it consumes.” then clearly cities are not sustainable, nor is intensive agriculture. The question Geoffrey West poses on this issue is will we continue to innovate fast enough to avert the ‘finite time singularity’ that will happen as our economic system runs up against it’s energy limits.

Lastly it’s is not at all a given that price will cause shifts to more sustainable systems. So far price increases in oil have mostly resulted in increased investment in dirtier, higher carbon and more environmentally degrading sources of oil (ie. bitumen, tight oil). While there has been some increase in alternatives they are a tiny fraction of investment in terms of the total energy system. Price does not include foresight. Price is a short term information system, not a system for long term planning or sustainability.


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20 Responses to Redditor Erinaceous on Malthusian Doom

  1. Peak Finance says:

    Math, science, it’s nice and all, but the growth problems are all ->Political<- in nature. Politics is trying to cheat math and science.

    Food is subsidized, and the places where the population growth is worse, are the most subsidized! If they paid the true cost of food and fuel the populations would naturally adjust into the proper ecological balance. You could not afford to raise 8 Mohammed's if you were paying the real prices for food, or not receiving generous welfare. Education drops birth rate, this is not controversial and I think there are so many studies to support this I don't need to search for a link. If money went to education instead of food subsidies and welfare in the places where population growth is most troublesome, then the numbers would decline, like they are currently doing in Japan, Korea, and the Non-Welfare population of the United States, and the Non-Welfare population of Europe.

    About energy, my family has, almost effortlessly, cut our energy usage (Yes I am a crunchy con and wish I could do more, like my own farming, but I do raise a vast amount of food via chickens) by 200% Yes 200%!!!! We Americans waste VAST AMOUNTS of energy, and when push comes to shove we can cut our usage without much pain.

    I have lived in the Northeast in the past, where people live in huge drafty Wooden houses and just crank-up the heat in the winter, then bitch about energy prices, without fixing the core problem. Same thing here in the south, huge ceiling McMansions with 2 central AC units blasting cold air. (Newsflash stupid McMansion people, the ENTIRE POINT of the high roofs, vaulted spaces, and stone construction is to keep the place cool naturally! DUH!) Another example, Why doesn’t EVERYONE in the south use solar hot water, it works year round down here!

    I don’t understand why more people don’t focus on this.

    • Peak Finance says:

      I hate responding to my own post, it looks dumb, but here is the money quote from the article:

      Price does not include foresight. Price is a short term information system, not a system for long term planning or sustainability.

      This is the core of the problem – THERE ARE NO REAL PRICE SIGNALS – it’s all manipulated politically. It is a centrally-planned world.

    • mindweapon says:

      Peak Finance,

      Do you know about the guy at He’s into all sun technology like Fresnel lenses and parabola reflectors.

      You can go meet Dan Rojas and learn his stuff. He installs sun powered water on hotels in Florida.

      There’s a funny video where he sun distills swamp water and then drinks it.

  2. Adit says:

    I have found ecology to be a double edged sword. I will give an example. I live in the high desert, where obviously water is a concern. So, the City and the Water Dept. went on a conservation kick and it worked since desert dwellers are very conscious of water. As a matter of fact, the Water Dep’t start crying because people conserved so much that their revenue stream was drying up. What to do? Well they raised the price of water. So we were actually punished for conserving. Oh, it gets even better. So now we have a ‘surplus’ of water so they can build more homes, and ‘ll give you one guess who a large percentage of these new residents were. Holy Frijoles! So not only do I get to pay more for water, but I get enriched at the same time. I have mixed feelings on this. Its important to take proper care of the land, but if by doing so it means they can cram in more 3rd world refuse I’m no so sure. I have this sudden urge to turn on all the lights in the house, leave the car idling in the driveway and take up rice paddy farming in the backyard.

    • mindweapon says:


      What you ran into was Jeavon’s Paradox.

      Look into airwells.

      • Adit says:

        I looked at airwells once (I even think it was from an article on your site) however the problem here is that the relative humidity normally is so low (teens to single digit) here that it would take a fairly cool temperature to reach the dew point. Obviously it couldn’t be a passive system, so you’d need an active system, which would be cost prohibitive (at least at the consumer level.) In the right climate, this might work very well and I find the idea quite intriguing.

  3. RobRoySimmons says:

    Conservation is a mooks game they play on whites. All these econuts are spread thruout the left’s websites, the same ones where open borders are the first moral imperative. So the whole left is a stupid racket of dueling paychecks, that we slave for and ironically use up resources to fund. (gotta have fully funded pensions you know)

    • Llew says:

      Econuts take civilization and “human evolution” (they are so fond of that imaginary concept) for granted. They are lunatics. Their ecological dreams are only possible in and advanced industrial age and place, where there´s also a rule of law and people with guns mantaining a resemblance of order, and where they can buy whatever they lack in a convenience store two blocks away.

  4. Llew says:

    The true “ecological damage” is third world´s population explosion. Just a data to consider: in the 80´s the population of Egypt was 40 million. Today it´s 80 million. In the same period, white vegetative population growth has been almost stable or even declining.
    Pick any country in Africa, and the numbers are evident: foreign (white liberal morons) aid is growing the wars for resources of the future. We´re not feeding ourselves with our crops; we´re feeding ourselves, our cattle, and the other half of the world, and all thanks to the cheap oil industrial and transport boom, a situation unprecedented in history.

    • mindweapon says:

      You are arguing past Erinaceous. He never disputed that third world population numbers are a problem.

      But I don’t think you even read deeply what Erinaceous is writing. He’s not squawking about “save the whales.” He’s talking about physics and net energy. Ignore those concepts at your peril.

      • RobRoySimmons says:

        The left practices “Doublethink” and calls it intellectual sophistication, I call it a joke.

      • Llew says:

        I didn´t argue with him on the ROI of energy sources or with the ecological damage of overexploitation of soil. I was trying to make the point that the population explosion accelerates the process of ecological damage and fuel depletion (i don´t know if they´ve considered those factors in their models).

        I´m well familiariced with soil science, desertification and washing up of fertile layers. So I wasn´t trolling or arguing against that, i´m sorry if it sounded like if I haven´t read the post.

    • conchobar14 says:

      good point, i agree with this as well, the non whites now emit more carbon emissions than we do. but essentially a traditionalist wants a more traditional relationship with nature, and this leads to ecology and environmentalism. we should not push away ideologies, we should co-opt them under our banner. this is not an issue like feminism which is more defined, the modern society literally exterminates the natural world by the rate of millions of lives of animals for the maintenance of an order that is ignorant and uncomprehending of that fact. essentially life force is not sacred to the modern man, these are things we need to deal with, and we can as non-liberals actually observe the issues outside of the social cues that prevent change in liberal circles. the homesteading/farming approach is both a good survival activity for the probable disasters ahead as well as more healthy in relation to our biological connection to the universe (and also i have noted recently that it is also in accord with the wishes of the elites who want to remove the untermenschen consumers and become the lords of the few remaining farmer types).

  5. Ryu says:

    I agree with the energy work. In time, I think these effects will take over. I’m unwilling to help Mother Earth by screwing the white race.

    The USG’s mercenaries won’t rebel. But as the US becomes more tyrannical, it will be harder to lie to themselves. Right now, every soldier, cop, and firefighter is a hero. The MSM does its very best to promote this myth. Mercenaries care only about money, not nations or people.

    Everyone wants to be a hero, to do the right thing. No one trusts the cops in third world countries, as they are all on the take. When cops can no longer lie about who they are and what they do, then I think we’ll see some change.

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