All life depends on constant consumption of energy. Nothing happens without it. More energy, more stuff happens: goods, services, population, raw materials depletion, pollution, damage to soil, water and other ecosystem processes that are essential to all life, including humanity. Less energy, less of all of the above. For most of several billion years of [...]
The Crutches and the Consequences
Since the 1970s US economic growth has slowed, resulting in a declining standard of living for the majority in the lower classes. The decline in material standard in the US would be far worse but was artificially propped up in several ways.
First, we allowed foreign imports to replace our industrial production, [...]
I have just added this account of my experiences in energy-efficient housing design and construction to my Core Papers on this website. It is an attempt to fill a gap in the literature of low energy design that, in view of the long-term energy crisis that the world is entering, I see as a serious [...]
The way we do science today suffers greatly from the dominance of the reductionist paradigm. A general pattern has emerged where technologies based on purely reductive science work for a while as expected, then start to produce unexpected and often unwanted results, outcomes that at least from a reductionist perspective are a surprise and are [...]
Spreading awareness that the human population is in overshoot of the carrying capacity of the planet has led to a number of attempts to calculate what the true carrying capacity might be. My objective here is not to provide another calculation, but to explore some issues that need to be faced to address the question [...]
The energy descent from peak oil production imposes decades of contraction in the global economy. An orderly contraction, particularly in the US, is not likely for a number of reasons. This is a summary of the case for a disorderly descent, garnered from many sources, a couple of which are listed at the end of [...]
Karl North 2010
The problem and some options
Nature rules. Everything we do that violates the rules of nature will eventually fail. Nature’s rules include broad ones like the laws of thermodynamics, and more specific ones like those that govern how the soil food web feeds plants.
It follows from the laws of thermodynamics that there are limits [...]
It is said that when the ships of the Old World first approached the New World, they were sometimes invisible to the indigenous people of the Americas because the latter could not imagine such a thing as a fleet of large sailing ships, and simply did not believe their eyes.
In the same way, when a [...]
This series of articles is an exploration of designs for agriculture in Tompkins County to approach sustainability in a future of declining access to the cheap energy and other inputs on which our industrialized food system relies. In earlier parts of this series, I proposed principles of agroecosystem design, addressed the key [...]
Economics as Brain Damage*
Karl North 2004
On the first day of my first formal introduction to economics as an undergraduate, the professor defined the discipline as the scientific study of the distribution of scarce resources. But the course from then on was concerned only with such matters as market variables like supply and demand, and market [...]