natural vs. artificial – more than semantics.

Stan later replied “Nice.” and Nick “A nice perspective”.  to my reply to both their insightful comments on how vagueness in science is replaced by precise definitions, that leave out important questions from the earlier discussions.   It’s something I’ve been trying to say in a way that avoided the usual pitfalls for many years actually.

a very special new sort of ‘fuzz’ we really must reattach to our equations Continue reading natural vs. artificial – more than semantics.

Human dominion to negotiation, control out of our heads

Kathryn McCallum had said on 6/9,

I am interested in this idea of communicating the “systematic tendency to overestimate human knowledge and control…predicated on the premise of predictability” as discussed very eloquently by my friend Kate Rigby in Dancing with disaster. “It’s more like the practice of ‘contact improvisation’…”


Coming back to this, I’d entirely agree that humanity is part of nature, and just feels alienated because our minds confuse us so much. We’ve been trying to force nature into the shape of our thinking rather than work with nature, so I think discussing it as a switch from dominion to negotiation is quite appropriate. Continue reading Human dominion to negotiation, control out of our heads

1 Acre of Bliss, for 1 sq mile of destruction

Eric Rimmerhad said on 6/11:

“Thanks Peter – I do like your second paragraph – though there is a catch. The UK and the US and many more relatively low-birth-rate countries cannot live within the food-production capacity of the land they live in!”

To Peter Salonius’s statement on 6/11:

‘That said, there certainly is sentiment suggesting that food aid — offered to populations that have overshot the food production capacity of the land they live on – should not be lavished on people until they institute well defined programs that WILL begin to decrease their numbers toward levels that can be supported/sustained by the productive capacity of their OWN LAND.’

Ashok Agrwaal responding to my comment on 6/15

I find this brief analysis by Phil Henshaw far more meaningful than reams of speculative stuff churned out by Americans in general.


I replied on 6/13:


Right, and the way to measure that “unaccountable” footprint on the land, far away from the user is the trick, that I think I figured out.

It’s using the statistical principle that most dollars can’t have way below average impact, so unless you can show it, consider your spending to have average impacts.      Continue reading 1 Acre of Bliss, for 1 sq mile of destruction

Real steering for the chicken and egg

Yesterday Eric Rimmer, on the sustainability slide show discussion, had replied to my comment about the problem with using I=PAT for the “chicken and egg” problems of overshoot relating the problem of population vs. wealth. He said:

Thank you. Phil. Interesting thoughts, though I can’t detect what you suggest we should DO?

Well, I’ve been thinking about that too… Because the way natural systems steer their development is by using their operating surplus to redirect their development.  We should get Barack to realize his mistake of saying it’s OK to spend all our effort and surpluses to get back to using up the earth’s resources ever faster again. Continue reading Real steering for the chicken and egg

Now real steering at the tipping points…!

Emily Spence had sent me a PNAS paper on the “Tipping elements in the earth’s climate system” and “Is Economic Growth a Delusion” by Steven Stoll


Thanks much again.   The PNAS paper on tipping elements, though as good as I’ve seen from established scientists, is still a bit flimsy relative to what you could say.   You could consider the evolving physical systems of the earth as developmental processes, with organization of their own that can be destabilized themselves, rather than as mathematical models.

No contest about the balance at present...

Models just don’t have many of the behaviors that natural systems do.  They use controlled variable theory to represent distributed uncontrolled systems with independently changing and reacting parts… Continue reading Now real steering at the tipping points…!

What’s wrong with Science? – glad you asked

–In a longer post to TheGreatChange Lorna had asked:

What is this list about? Attacking science or solving environmental problems? And if you do the former, how can you address the latter?

–I responded:

Lorna, There are serious problems with the design of the scientific method. The problem is not with what it has found, but what the design of the method prevents you from looking for.

One good examples are the learning processes of distributed systems, cultures, economies, weather.  That’s what we’re in trouble with.  Growth for organisms or economies, would appear to be the principle learning process of complex system organization and development.

Growth for organisms or economies etc., is a principal organizational process for complex systems Continue reading What’s wrong with Science? – glad you asked

Carrying Capacity – the big picture in the details

Regarding Russ Hopfenberg’s article on population carrying capacity Lawrence Espy and Bill Reese similarly replied to Steve Solmony that the model of population growth limited by the natural carrying capacity of the earth was too general.

Lawrence had pointed out ‘carrying capacity’ has many diverse natural system and artificial system parts, that evolve very differently and those differences need to be considered but were not. Bill similarly pointed out that many ecologists do not see “carrying capacity” as a particularly useful term as the ecosystem (the species’ environment) is constantly changing its ‘productivity’ and is never a fixed target.

All agree with the basic premise that civilization’s whole shaky house of cards will come tumbling down if we are unable to maintain the constant throughput of resources necessary.  I offered the following:

Tuesday 6/2/09
Lawrence & Bill,

I think the way to tie the two kinds of potentials, the natural and artificial “carrying capacity” limits of the earth is using the experience curves that indicate our own ability to leverage more and more of those potentials.

That ability to find and invent more cheaper stuff increased for centuries, but is now decreasing, so there was a peak somewhere.