Recent Additions

What is Sustainable?

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Answers to this question that are rooted in the relevant scientific disciplines – primarily systems ecology, the physics and economics of natural resource science and the world-system method of the history of civilizations – are so unsettling to most people in their implications for the future of modern civilization that they are met with denial. [...]

Humans Have Energetically Overpowered the Earth

Monday, September 7th, 2015

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 [...]

Forces Driving the US Political Economy

Monday, May 4th, 2015

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, [...]

Three Farmhouses: A Study in Passive Solar Design

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

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 [...]

What systems thinking reveals: from biology to political economy

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

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 [...]

How Many People Can the World Really Hold?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

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 Case for a Disorderly Energy Descent

Friday, May 20th, 2011

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 [...]

What Every Marxist Needs to Know about Ecology

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

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 [...]

Invisible Ships and Boiling Frogs: The End of Industrial Affluence

Monday, June 7th, 2010

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 [...]

Visioning County Food Production – Part Four

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Urban Agriculture

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 [...]

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