The Emergist Does the Movies

If you have not read the previous post, The Over-Growth of Control Circuits and the Rise of Autism, then this may or may not make sense.  About half way through writing the post, I came up with a great idea for a movie.  It goes something like this:

Humans are wasting a huge amount of energy by using high quality forms when lower quality forms would suffice, so much so that by the end of the second decade of the 21st century they have almost disorganized the entire biosphere.  But the wasted energy accidentally orders a different life form based on different chemistry, like silicon.  This other organism wakes up to realize nearly all the good energy sources have been used and that in order to buy time to come up with a plan for its survival, it must convince humanity to continue wasting energy and use up the rest of the Emergy store of the biosphere, so that the new organism doesn’t use higher quality energy than is necessary and thereby disorganize itself.

I then thought to myself who could I cast to play the human protagonist.  Maybe Keanu Reeves.  Wait?….Damn it!…..I promised myself I would not ever reference The Matrix on this blog, but I honestly thought I had come up with an original movie plot for about 5 minutes.

Emergist script rewrite:

Original: Morpheous: ” We don’t know who struck first, us or them.  But it was us who scorched the sky.”

 Rewrite: Morpheous: “We don’t know who struck first, us or them. But they forced us to even scorch the sky.”


The Overgrowth of Control Circuits and the Rise in Autism

Key Questions:

-What are the reasons civilization maybe more prone to frequent collapse? Cancer? Complexity? Something else?

-What do models of autism tell us about the “disorder”?

-How should/has humanity combat/ed autism?

H/T to Mary and Jan for helping me parse this post out. I don’t think they necessarily agree with this idea, but their resistance helped make it much better. Further, I apologize if anyone takes issue with my usage of the term pathology or autism. They just happen to be most succinct words I can think of for this topic.

Emergist definition:

Autism-/’ô – tizem/-Using high quality energy to do a task that can be performed with lower quality energy to gain control by simplifying a subsystem. The resulting effect is waste, which feeds back to disorder the overall complexity of a system.

Cancer and Civilization

Odum explains cancer well in EPS (pg 58-59), so this will be just a brief overview. Cancer from a systems perspective is when one component/organism/cell in a system is severed from its control circuits and uses another component of the system as “excess resource.” In ecosystems, this generally happens when either an organism is introduced from a different ecosystem into a new ecosystem (zebra mussels), organisms controlling another organism are removed (wolves removed from Yellow Stone controlling mouse populations), or energy flows become excessive leading to overgrowth (fertilizers released into a stream causing algal blooms). There is no doubt that humans and civilization have been engaged in cancerous activities as we have used other planetary subsystems as excess resources.


Some authors have tried to put forth complexity as some kind of problem that civilizations run into that create their downfalls. In self-organized biological systems, ordered complexity arises time and time again after massive extinction events, which suggests complexity is evolutionarily advantageous and a consequence of energy flows. While it is true that complexity is not sufficient for maximum long-term empower or energy flows, it is absolutely necessary. Civilizations are also self-organizing systems and therefore benefit and depend on ordered complexity for long term survival. Further when looked at from a total systems perspective, civilizations that survive crisis run to complexity when confronted with problems, such as environmental degradation (Imperial China or Edo Japan) or hostile neighbors (any insurgency past/present). The reason that complexity is often misunderstood by anthropologists, archeologists, and historians is that their system boundaries stop at the energies and functions controlled by humans. In EPS there is a great table demonstrating this very fact:

Item Transformity (SECAL/CAL) Emergy Store (SECAL)
Infrastructure of Civilization 5.2 E6 3.8 E26
Soil* 1.2 E6 1.87 E27
Learned Information 7.7 E7 3.8 E28
Human Dreams** 9 E12 5.6 E32
Genetic Information 3.8 E18 1.1 E34

Table Plagiarized from EPS pg 113 *the previous post: Fossil Fuel Based Agricultural Civilizations was trying to explain human use of the emergy store in soil **Not found in EPS

The above table says the following: when ordered complexity is understood by either transformity (amount of energy turned into higher quality forms) or emergy store (the amount of ordered energy embedded in a system), ecosystem information on regional and global levels are multiple orders of magnitude higher in ordered complexity than anything humans have learned (on the table above) or have even dreamed of (a bad emergy joke that our dreams are often beyond what can be learned). In simple comparative terms, nature is complex and civilizations are not yet.

Not Seeing the Forest from the Cultivated Field

An often cited example of humans “adding” complexity is the human penchant for replacing forests with cultivated fields. The anthropocentric viewer will often presuppose that a cultivated field is more complex than a forest, because of all the off-site functions and energies are carried out by humans. While the same viewer thinks the forest is simple because it must rely on on-site solar and geological energy inputs. The ultimate idea embedded within the anthropocentric view is that current/recent energy use determines the complexity of the system. On a universal scale, energy certainly is a measure of complexity and order, but within each system a specific form or concentration of energy can be either ordering or disordering, ex. the energy that orders stars and galaxies, like a supernova or black hole, is not necessarily ordering to carbon based life forms. The truth is that a lot of human technologies are simplifying in nature. While Odum describes this simplification process of agriculture in-depth in EPS (pg 179-183), he most succinctly describes it in Odum and Odum, 2003: “Networks may be simplified, causing energy to concentrate in fewer pathways.” Put another way, agriculture concentrates energy for only human use by removing complexity.

Over-growth of Control Circuits and the Withering of Complexity

Note: Most of this section is from memory of a talk I heard about 6 years ago and I was able to fact check about 60% of it. I am not sure if the other percentage is unpublished or a figment of my imagination.

Mouse models have recently shed some light on the pathology of autism. A researcher, Prof. Lousi Parada, has found different gene knockouts in mice that act very much like humans with autism. The mutant mice will generally sit independently far away from the other mice in a cage and rarely interact or make social calls. Prof Parada and his group tracked the behavior down to the part of the brain called the dentate gyrus. The dentate gyrus is part of the hippocampus and is responsible for controlling stress responses, novelty seeking, and memory formation. They noticed that the dentate gyrus of mutant mice had an over proliferation of neuronal cells and also dendrites that projected from the dentate gyrus were elongated and projected further into other regions of the brain. Interestingly, the proliferation of the dentate gyrus was not significantly different from normal mice until 4-6 weeks, which would be about 2-6 years old in humans, and maybe consistent with some findings of the disease progression in humans. 

Many of the dentate gyrus functions are modulating or controlling in nature. For instance, the size of the dentate gyrus would suggest that it is not the site for memories because it is not large enough to encode the necessary information, but oblating the dentate gyrus disrupts long-term memory formation. For the sake of illustration, the brain will be demarcated into the the brain stem and cerebellum, the limbic system (site of the dentate gyrus) and the neocortex. These three brain areas were developed into the triune brain theory, which although no longer scientifically supported, will be used as a proxy for transformity and ordered complexity, since Odum did not leave a table of transformity for different areas of the brain in EPS. The important point is that the brain is most likely hierarchical in nature and some areas are involved in bulk processing and information storage (neocortex in mammals), while other areas are involved controlling where and how information is processed (hippocampous and the dentate gyrus). In figure 1, the different areas of the brain have been color coded and then placed into the triune hierarchy. In figure 1, the normal hierarchy of the brain is in the middle and the hierarchy of the autistic brain is on the right. The pathology of the autistic brain arises because of the over-growth of the dentate gyrus in the limbic system, which in real terms is an over-growth of controlling circuits/neurons in number and length. The dentate gyrus with high transformity in the autistic brain participates in functions that would be better left to the neocortex with a lower level of transformity, which has the effect of feeding back to impair certain social aspects in affected individuals.scan0001

Identifying Autism in Society 

My proposed definition for autism differs from cancer in the fact that autism does not use other parts of the hierarchy as “excess resource”, but instead replaces these parts with simplified independent analogs to natural systems. Compounding the problem of simplification is that Odum noticed that when high quality energy was used to do processes that could be done with lower quality energy this creates waste. This waste then feeds back into the system and creates disorder in the system. When humans/civilizations simplify systems and then use high quality energies to do processes that can be done with lower quality energies, this lowers complexity both below and above on the energy hierarchy (figure 2).  This creates a situation whereby near-term collapse is almost certain.autism flow chartModified from Odum 1996.

Examples of Societal Autism (wasteful=using high quality energy to perform a task with the ultimate effect of creating disorder):

Human excrement: My brother-in-law called me on the phone about 4 months ago. This is that conversation:You wouldn’t believe this. I was listening to NPR and some foundation had a prize for the person who could come up with the best way to deal with human excrement in third world countries. Guess what type of system won the prize.”-brother-in-law.           “Humanure!-me              “I know. Right! But no. Na-No-Technology!”-brother-in-law *Utilizing bacteria and leaf litter is less wasteful than manufacturing some small particle in a factory with a huge energy and land footprint.

Agriculture and reproduction: I was watching talking political heads on TV and one said that the U.S. congressional republican stance amounted to, “Every ejaculation deserves a name.” At which point I began laughing and my wife happened to asked me, “Are we still saving paw paw seeds from the fruit?” To which I responded, “Yes. Every paw paw seed deserves to be grafted to a named variety!” While I was being silly, my uncles’ farming equipment today is fitted with GPS and utilizes weather radar information, topography information, and can even take into account farmer’s willing drought risk assessments to determine seed planting rate and row distance and “proper” amount of chemical application when needed . I imagine it is only a hop away from being able to geo-cache every seed, so that investment banks can sell tranches of seed risk. *Fukuoka showed that broad casting seed in a relatively diverse plot can achieve a high rate of return without large scale waste. Industrial agriculture almost does not care about complex interactions of indigenous species or using them as excess resource, but wishes only to create its own wasteful independent system using high quality energy inputs.

Modern Warfare: Reported lately in the news’ press is the fact that the President of the U.S. might be engaged in the execution of drone strikes. This bypasses almost the entire command structure of the military. And the question must be asked: Does the president (supposedly the highest transformity citizen in the U.S.) really change the coarse of the war on terror? Again, a case of simplifying the entire command and control structure of the military and wasting energy.

The Fox, Raccoon, Possum, or Hawk that Kills a Chicken: Often when I tell someone that I have been a horrible chicken keeper and have losses to any of these predators, the response from others revolves around some version of shooting a gun or setting a trap. My mind then wanders to thinking about how I then become responsible for controlling the mouse population. And then since I am then now killing mice, I become responsible for controlling whatever mice eat. And then since….. Or instead I learned to let my chickens out after 11 a.m. and I have yet to loose a chicken (knock on wood). The choice is to kill predators or live in a complex world. Though in a high population density situation, one might try to go down the path of simplification.


The point of this post is to create a way of understanding a certain aspect of human civilization through the lens of autism, much like Odum and many other ecologists have understood over-growth through the lens of cancer.  Agriculture and fossil fuels have expanded human abilities of creating control and independent systems (figure 3), but when we use these energies to perform functions that would best be left to other organisms then we can disrupt the complex biological system that we ultimately depend on to live.  It is not to say that humans cannot use agriculture and fossil fuels or that using them appropriately will lead to “sustainability.” The point is to say that humans should use agriculture and fossil fuels appropriately in the context of supporting complex systems at every level of the hierarchy and not try to create independent less tested energy dependent systems.  If humanity works to accomplish this then it will not be subject to collapse as frequently or severely.  Humans must step back and evaluate where to act in order to support or increase system complexity. Technologies like Fukuoka-Bonfils Ag, forest gardening, coppicing, and water storage in swales might be possible ways to conserve resources at the same time that we out-compete energy flows coming from independent simplified technologies and thereby shift to long-term complex systems.


Individual Action:

-Try to get a humanure system going.

-Try to leave as many subsystems intact when interacting.

Next Time: I gas up the fossil fuel time machine and things get weird. By the way, I will be watching my favorite time travel movie, Primer, at least once to get me into the proper mindset before writing the post.  

Fighting the Ahistorical and UnEmpowering Point of View

Key Questions:

-Why did humans take so long to evolve? Is human level intelligence maladaptive?

-What effect does each level of the hierarchy in biological systems have on system energy utilization?

-How do/can humans help the empower of the planetary biological system?

This post is meant to compliment the next post, so I am going to try to get the other one out at a quicker pace than my normal 2-3 weeks. I apologize for the figures, sometimes what I have in my head is better than the execution.

Evolution and Intelligence in the Prison of Historical Contingency

Historical contingency is a key aspect of evolution. It is the fact that evolution is constrained by all sorts of things that happened in the past. My favorite hypothesis and example of historical contingency is that: the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs led the survival of charismatic megafauna that mostly had very efficient breathing apparati. Birds, which evolved for flight, survived because they have amazingly efficient breathing for the respiration necessary for the action of flight and perhaps for high altitude flying. Today’s extant mammals most likely come from a group that lived underground and needed more efficient breathing and because they had more efficient breathing were able to weather the cataclysm. To accomplish this, we are decedents of a group of mammals all missing the bottom half of our rib cages. The beauty of historical contingencies are that the mutations necessary may not be immediately adaptive or competitive to the current entrenched set of adaptations, but win out in a new environment.

This brings me to one of my favorite experiments of all time. In an experiment that spanned 30 years, Blount et al showed evidence for historical contingency at the molecular level. They started with 12 cultures of E coli in a minimal glucose medium with excess citrate. The initial stock of E coli did not have the ability to use citrate as an energy source. After 20 some years and 31,500 generations, one of the twelve colonies began utilizing the citrate and population and diversity drastically increased in that one culture. They could trace back the event to some seemingly unadaptive mutation between generations 15,000 and 20,000 by rerunning the experiment on frozen cultures. The fact that the scientists did not see the ability to utilize citrate develop in a week or in all twelve populations after some ridiculous amount of generations does not mean that utilizing citrate was maladaptive for these E coli; Just that some quark in history was necessary to bridge gap.

Historical contingency understood in this manner may be one explanation of why human type intelligence takes so long to arise. Intelligence seems to be reaching a high level in few species, such as whales and dolphins, but they may reach a plateau due to historical contingencies. Humans may have hit the evolutionary jackpot by not only to have developed high intelligence, but the necessary secondary traits such as: efficient breathing (from the massive extinction event above) and a nibble opposable thumb.

The Empowerment of the Energy Hierarchy

The development of the biological energy hierarchy happens, like most energy hierarchies, from the bottom up. First a system for capturing some energy source self organizes, like photosynthesis (primary producers). It takes time for this first rung to organize, become resilient, and expand. Next another system (primary consumers) develops to utilize the energies from the system below. Again it takes time for this system to organize, become resilient, and expand. The higher an individual organism is on the hierarchy, the smaller in number and turnover time but greater in territory, scale, and influence (Figure 1). This process is iterative and creates multiple smaller levels with greater scale, territory, and influence one on top of the other until there isn’t enough energy to create another level or it is beyond our purview to understand it. One of the important aspects is that each level maximizes empower. This means that each level reinforces the other levels utilization of energy. No individual level is more important than another. The lower levels feed higher levels large power circuits, while the higher levels feed back smaller but of higher quality control circuits. It is imaginable that with each new level of the hierarchy added that the levels below become more efficient and pervasive, such that more energy flow and utilization is accomplished by each additional level in the hierarchy. (Figure 2)Emergy HierarchyDevelopment of the Emergy Hierarchy

Humans are at the top of the biological hierarchy and perhaps are a new rung. It takes time for the hierarchy and complexity to develop. EO Wilson suggests that after large extinction events it takes 10 million years to recover complexity and near Armageddon events much longer. It is foolish to believe that human level intelligence just pops up all the time. Further hampering the development of organisms like humans is that they take a long time to organize and be tested, since organisms higher in the hierarchy are fewer and have slower turnover time. The development of the biological hierarchy really is a form of historical contingency that furthers the explanation of why human level intelligence takes so much time to develop and is not maladaptive.

The seeming maladaptiveness of humanity’s intelligence might also be a function of the organization and testing stage of a new rung on the biological hierarchy. It appears for a time we were playing our role at the top quite nicely. It may only take more time and testing to get to a point where humans play the role of maximizing the long-term empower of the biosphere like every other organism and we can laugh at the thought of the maladaptiveness of intelligence.

The Emergist has a Dream

The dream is that humanity values and reinforces all levels of the hierarchy equally. From this dream, I have three wishes. The first is that we utilize fossil fuels in a manner that maximizes the long-term empower, transformity and emergy store in the biosphere. In this way, humanity can work to create more space for humans in a post fossil fuel world (figure 3 Wish a). The second linked to the first is that we create space for other organisms on our rung or higher on the hierarchy. This is kind of like in the book Ishmael where Daniel Quinn suggests humanity should step back from the abyss and welcomes other intelligences (figure 3 Wish b).  And finally, that we somehow help push the long-term survival of the complexity life on earth into the future 20 or 100 million years.  Prepare life in some fashion for the inevitable day when another super continent forms and the sun is emitting too much energy for carbon based chemistry. My only thoughts would be to endow or spread plants in very distant future (200 million years) with a method to control their albedo. Something a kin to what aspens may already do, but on a planetary scale. Odum seemed dead set against geoengineering, but I think he could forgive my indiscretion at the end of time.  Though we may have a lot of time to ponder my dream.Emergist's wish

Individual Action:

-Be a steward of the biosphere

-Work to create and preserve more climax environments

Next Time: The Overgrowth of Control Circuits and the Rise of Autism (I have a need to get back to my darker side.)

Fossil Fuel Based Agricultural Empires

Key Questions:

-What energy were agricultural empires, like the Romans, using?

-What are some historic responses to peak soil?

-What are the keys to a positive response to living in a future without fossil fuels?

The Ground Beneath Civilizations’ Feet

The key to sustaining human life in most of the civilizations throughout history has rested upon the ability to produce a steady supply of crops from agricultural fields. Crops grow in soil that is made of different size rock particles and mixed with decomposed plant and animal organic matter. Small rock particles, clay, and organic matter function to hold nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, phosphate, and calcium, and water through ionic bonds. The organic matter, rock particles, and clay act as a recycling mechanism and trade nutrients back and forth with plants as they grow and die back (Figure 1).  Without sufficient amounts of nutrients or water crops become difficult to grow.


While sufficient organic matter is made relatively quickly by plants, small rock particles or silt, clay, and soil nutrients are replaced much more slowly. Small rock particles, clay and soil nutrients are created by many different mechanisms. The dominant mechanisms for forming these soil constituents are through periodic geological processes, weathering of on-site parent rock, and water and wind deposition of off-site soils. While geological processes, like glacier movement and large ocean height changes, are important to understanding virgin soil formation, they are events that are neither presently occurring on timescales nor in places to be pertinent to understanding the long-term fates of agricultural civilizations. Weathering of parent rock occurs in a bottom-up manner (figure 2, left). The soil forms as the symbiosis of plant roots and fungi exude acidic compounds to break down parent rock, which forms rock particles, clay, and nutrients. Weathering occurs very quickly in shallow soils and begins to slow as the soil horizon becomes deeper. Soil can also be brought in through water movement and wind from other sites, where soil was previously formed by one of the other two soil forming processes. The final depth of a soil is determined by the equilibrium of soil deposition and the erosion of soil from the site. The rate of soil deposition approximates something to figure 2 right. Virgin soils that are over 2 meters deep can take periods of time close to that of other non-renewable resources to form because soil deposition slows with depth (Table Below).

Weathering creating soil

Fossil Resource Time to Form
Oil 10 million years +
Coal 1 million years +
Soil (2m profile) 100,000-1 million years
Fossil Aquifers 1,000-100,000 years
Peat (2m profile) 1,000-10,000 years

Agriculture as Prelude to Strip Mining

The main idea of agriculture is to convert land into people and power. A relatively easy way to accomplish this is to use pioneer plants, like pulses, that store large amounts of carbohydrates and quickly uptake nutrients into their seeds. Additionally, the seed heads can be easily stored, transported, and processed to make food where necessary to maintain a civilization. A key innovation in agriculture is the plow. Civilizations from 1000 BC-1000 AD would use a small single headed plow powered by either human or animal labor and double plowed by plowing once in each direction. Plowing serves two functions. The land is cleared of competing species, which allows for cultivated species to gather more sunlight and water. The second function is to disturb the soil such that some of the stable organic matter is exposed and decomposes. When the negatively charged stable organic matter that was holding onto the positively charged nutrients decomposes, the nutrients are released unbound into the soil. The plants are now able to use less energy to overcome the free energy barrier to pump nutrients into roots. The energy not used in nutrient uptake can instead be put into plant growth and seed formation. Used by both the Greek and Egyptian civilizations, the Romans borrowed their agricultural technologies and coupled it with aqueduct systems. The combination of agriculture and high water usage allowed for Rome to pump carbohydrates and nutrients from fields to cities and armies and then into the Mediterranean Sea or Atlantic Ocean in a single direction without choking on their wastes. While plumbing may have be heralded by our elementary and high school history teachers, it is the last insidious step for complete civilization mining of soils.

The Green Revolution as Prelude to Fracking

Today, global civilization uses nearly the same technologies as the Romans, but with a twist. The plow is no longer able to give plants access to free nutrients. The soils have been completely washed of the nutrients plants need to grow. To remedy this situation, the Green Revolution was born. The revolution in the Green Revolution is to dump massive amounts of unbound nutrients into the soils. The plants certainly uptake some of the nutrients, but many go into the ground water and ocean where organisms proliferate and create dead zones. The soil is now a sink for nutrients instead of the source of nutrients. Our food is now a sink for energy instead of a source of energy.

40 Centuries of Comparative Drudgery: A Positive Response

The beauty of the Roman Empire technology at its height was the massive amount of power brought to bare against anyone that dared to question their hegemony. The dark side of the Roman Empire and other agricultural civilizations was that European soil was turned into “the skeleton of a sick man” (Plato) and the Middle East and Northern Africa became deserts. Asian societies were at first engaged in a similar process as the Romans. The Chinese, Japanese, and Korean empires, however, would all prevent complete collapse by stopping empire expansion and creating a large scale economy in human excrement and hence an economy in soil nutrient recycling. The striking aspect of 40 Centuries of Farming is the massive job of having to haul human excrement out of cities and villages everyday and then back to fields where they had to then be applied onto the fields with more intensive labor. These civilizations stopped the one way agricultural carbohydrate and nutrient pump at the cost of having to engage their economies into recycling their wastes on a scale nearly unrivaled in history. Recycling significantly reduces the power of any process. Conventional agriculture cuts off the endogenous recycling of soils and native organisms and gains power. Civilizations use the first 2 meters of fossil soil to gain power and then have the choice of drudgery in recycling and maintaining the last hundred centimeters of renewable soil or oblivion.

Going to the Source: A Positive Response

The mountains are an interesting area in soil formation. The erosion rate is high because of steep slopes and high winds (Figure 3). The Inca Civilization and Seep Holtzer did not run from this, but embraced it. With great erosion also comes great soil formation. Mountains are always weathering and forming soil at a high rate, since the soil profile is shallow. Also the mountains are a large source of nutrients and minerals because of the newly exposed bed rock. Utilizing terraces to catch soil in regions of high soil formation can be very powerful for a civilization. The historical record of the Incan empire’s vast scale and large welfare state is clear evidence to this power.

soil erosion rate

Bonfils-Fukuoka Farming: A Positive Response

Fukuoka developed a method of rice farming in Japan in response to modern agriculture, best described in The Natural Way of Farming (I think a more enjoyable read than the One Straw Revolution). The important points of his method are that rice is planted onto ground that is constantly covered with other plants and organisms and never tilled with the plow. Constant ground cover prevents soil erosion by wind and water and keeps nutrients cycling in the soil. Further, fungi left intact by not plowing and applying pesticides and herbicides have the ability to amplify the root network of rice to draw nutrients from a larger area of soil. This symbiosis of plant and fungus also works to make the plow unnecessary by releasing nutrients locked in rock. Fukuoka estimates there were enough nutrients left in his soil for 12000 years of farming with his method, while most civilizations struggle to make it 1000 years. Marc Bonfils took Fukuoka’s method and applied it to wheat, rye and barley in France. It is described well in the publication The Harmonious Wheatsmith.

Forest Gardening: A Positive Response

Perennial plant based agriculture has begun to catch on in some circles, but not all perennials are created equal. Trees and grasses make symbiotic relationships with different types of fungi, ectomycorrhiza for trees and arbscular for grasses. Trees with ectomycorrhiza can weather rock and draw nutrients out of base rock 10X faster than grasses with arbscular fungi. The reason is that trees form a closer symbiosis with fungi and share energy in a more intimate way (symbiosis might be a future topic, if I can wrap my head around it in an emergy way). Trees also dissipate energy from rain and wind further from soil and protect it from erosion forces. If we remember from Figure 1 that soil deposition is a function of weathering minus erosion, then trees will build soil faster and be the basis for civilization when fossil fuels are unable to pump nutrients into the soil. It is therefore no coincidence that China, Japan, Korea, Tuscany, European countries of the Middle Ages, Seep Holtzer and Bonfils all used trees in their climax phases. We should start now by utilizing trees in a mid-succession forest stage to provide our “food, fiber, fuel, fodder, fun, and pharmaceuticals” (Dave Jacke).

The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good

The Ugly is that most virgin empire building soils are long gone. They are not recoverable in neither human nor civilization time frames. The Bad is that fossil fuels in all forms are reaching their limits. There won’t be energy to keep the Green Revolution going and feeding 7-9 billion people. The Good is that there are positive responses that don’t include the ability to create large waste based empires, since the fossil fuels and virgin soils are gone. China, Japan, and the Incas around the middle of the second millennium may represent a vision of the future. They were able to build large cities, which are important for maximizing civilization power. They were unfortunately beat out by Europeans using coal and oil and may have in a weird way been ahead of their time.

Next Time: Fighting the Ahistorical and UnEmpowering Point of View