Richard Heinberg


American Journalist and Educator writing on Energy, Economic, and Ecological Issues including Oil Depletion

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One of the ideas that I grapple with constantly is the idea that if that leadership doesn

Only 30 years later (in 1960) it had doubled again to four billion; currently we are on track to achieve a third doubling, to eight billion humans, around 2025. No one seriously expects human population to continue growing for centuries into the future. But imagine if it did

Obama is a real political animal. He

One key factor was the severance of money from its moorings in precious metals, a process that started over a century ago. Once money came to be based on debt (so that it was created primarily when banks made loans), growth in total outstanding debt became a precondition for growth of the money supply and therefore for economic expansion. With virtually everyone

Modern industrial technology has certainly accomplished miracles, but we tend to ignore the fact that it is, for the most part, merely a clever set of means for using a temporary abundance of cheap fossil energy to speed up and economize things we had already been doing for a very long time.

Money, if invested or loaned, has the

Meanwhile, the unwinding of decades of buildup in debt has created the conditions for a once-in-a-century financial crash

Mesopotamia, the green and lush center of the Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, was largely turned to desert as a result of soil erosion.

Leading active members of today

Increasing self-reliance means decreasing GDP. If you eat at home more, you are failing to do your part to grow the GDP; if you grow your own food, you

It is also possible for wastes to accumulate to the point that the biological systems that underpin economic activity (such as forests, crops, and human bodies) are smothered and poisoned.

It was only with the application of fossil fuels (and other strategies of intensification) to agriculture that we achieved a situation where, as in the US today, a mere two percent of the population grows nearly all the domestically produced food, freeing the other 98 percent to work at a dizzying variety of other jobs.

In 1970 the top 100 CEOs earned about $45 for every dollar earned by the average worker; by 2008 the ratio was over 1,000 to one.

In economies, growth seems tied to the availability of resources, chiefly energy (

if we do not find new goals for ourselves and plan our transition from a growth-based economy to a healthy equilibrium economy, we will end up with a much less desirable

Importantly, these early philosophers had some inkling of natural limits and anticipated an eventual end to economic growth. The essential ingredients of the economy were understood to consist of land, labor, and capital. There was on Earth only so much land (which in these theorists

If economists often underestimate the contribution of energy to economic growth, it would be just as wrong to disregard the role of specialization. Adam Smith, who was writing when Britain was still burning relatively trivial amounts of coal, believed that economic expansion would come about

I think we should keep a generally pessimistic attitude. Anybody who isn

Humankind has been seduced by a temporary abundance of cheap fossil energy into ignoring limits to Earth

I am certainly not saying that we humans won

Given the evident fact that bubbles tend to burst, resulting in a destruction of wealth sometimes on an enormous and catastrophic scale, one might expect that governments would seek to restrain the riskier versions of speculative investing through regulation. This has indeed been the case in historic periods immediately following spectacular crashes. For example, after the 1929 stock market crash regular commercial banks (which accept deposits and make loans) were prohibited from acting as investment banks (which deal in stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments). But as the memory of a crash...

Governments have worked hard to get growth started again. But, to the very limited degree that this effort temporarily succeeded in late 2009 and 2010, it did so by ignoring the underlying contradiction at the heart of our entire economic system

From 1986 to today, in just 25 years, the typical consumer-grade personal computer has increased in performance thousands of times over while dropping in price

From an ecosystem point of view, an economy that does not heavily tax the extraction of non-renewable resources is like a jobless person rapidly spending an inheritance.

Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field

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American Journalist and Educator writing on Energy, Economic, and Ecological Issues including Oil Depletion