Category Archives: Natural systems

scientific methods & principles for natural systems research

Ever multiplying obligations – the “Gold” rule

Responding to Steve Kurtz 2/14/09

Phil, What evidence do you have to claim that my well-being is dependent upon
me “multiplying other peoples obligations” to me? Steve

It’s mainly a kind of “generosity” and show of “trust” that becomes an onerous multiplying obligartion.

We typically all act to multiply the obligations others have to us for performing financial and resource exploitation around the world in two ways.    You and I and everyone else buys products that are made by businesses that are given financing only if they return a profit.

It has to be a level of profit that assures their investors a rate of compounding returns, too, better than or equal to what is generally available.     Secondly You and I and nearly everyone else, have money in the bank or in the markets earning compound interest, acting in to be the enforcer of the first process from the investor side of it.

It has no limit but for those so obligated breaking their trust and failing to be able to do so, as when the economy as a whole ceases to provide net returns.

We choose to receive compounding returns better than or equal to what is generally available, or we move our money elsewhere to get a better compounding return.     With each choice we opt for using the surpluses of business to create real multiplying obligations for others to fulfill.   Continue reading Ever multiplying obligations – the “Gold” rule

In the Spirit of Reason, A coded message

CCG post 2/11/2009 – responding to Malcolm and RML

Malcolm – “How can we express the climate risk in way the public can understand?”
RML – That is probably the entire point right now. An infinite supply af “facts,” expecting people’s reasoning ability to take over, doesn’t seem to work.

In that spirit, we might show our own ability to reason with simple arithmetic.    If you consider a growth system as always starting with a non-renewable seed resource, that is finite, then as the system grows what can you say about the rate of % changes in the balance of the seed resources available?

(meht gnissorc erofeb sdlohserht ees ot elba eb ot doog eb ti dluow .e.i)

Assuming you get the first part of that right, it’s not so hard, how valuable would it then be to have a way to tell?

Phil Henshaw


Getting peeks at the the coming peaks

CCGroup post 2/12/09

responding to Alex:
Phil, I liked your coded message. You mean a threshold like ‘peak oil’? Or the peak carrying capacity of the earth in terms of population? The question is, how do you propose to reduce demand? Right now, governments are doing their damnedest to stimulate demand to save the global economy from implosion. You’re saying let’s reduce demand. How? How is this going to work? Asking a question for which there’s no answer is probably a good way to get no answer. :)

Thanks very much.  My usual worry is not leaving people with questions, but getting none in return. Whether any answer about the future is more than half an answer, after all, depends on what question you ask.   The best available answer to what “people want to know” is often only speculation.

Yes, “being able to see thresholds before crossing them” would apply to “peak oil” and to the carrying capacities of things.    For example, the rate at which a scalar peak like “peak oil” is approaching is visible in the derivative rate long before.    Continue reading Getting peeks at the the coming peaks

Missing from the scientific message

Dot Earth comment 2/12/09 regarding misreading short term trends:

Too Much Hot and Cool Hype? – A leading British climate expert berates climate campaigners of all stripes for overstatements.”

There’s an interesting add-on to how people are often confused by statistics and trends being interepreted without any actual causal mechanism identified. I’ve seen that in lots of “whacko conspiracy theory” kind of science discussion that is all over the blogs these days.

The confusion seems to be between scientific answers and questions.

How often the error is clearly visible in the work of rather distiniguished scientists too, points to how we are all rather inept at “public science” discussion.   If science is to lead the world it can’t be done in a closet where sloppy reasoning gets sorted out in private. Continue reading Missing from the scientific message

So fortunate the economy collapsed!

To GreenLeap 2/10/09, edited response to Glenn Albrecht saying “I am genuinely surprised that the global financial system has failed before ecological systems.” in his blog post:

Yes indeed.   If surprising, yes, but it’s also quite fortunate that the global financial system failed BEFORE the ecological systems…  That gives us a little time to think, before the calmity occurs that we couldn’t recover from.

Now, let me think…  What happens if we restore the global financial growth system to its former glory…?     Hmmm…. Continue reading So fortunate the economy collapsed!

The big contradiction in our Climate values.

response to Carbon Equity newsletter 1/20/09


Your list of current climate change media sources is amazing, thanks, but troubling too, showing our deep confusion.

It’s amazing what an outpouring of warnings and commitments to act on solutions there is… The trouble is that all the warnings are responding to impacts caused by the profit making solutions of the past, and the present solutions are all intended to work by stimulating multiplying profit too. For a very simple reason that is bound to have the same sort of multiplying impacts. Multiplying money is not “inherently” bad, just inherently bad when the earth is already suffering from our multiplying impacts. Continue reading The big contradiction in our Climate values.

The Anatomy of Entropy


You asked:
> Actually is entropy the right word for you? In a way you are asking
> about anti entropy, about the ability to construct structure, how that
> increases, plateaus then decreases. THat might make it clearer ??
> Charlie

I think the energy consumed by an energy flow process (entropy) can generally be divided into three main parts. Because it takes a system serving as the channel to do it, there’s the part of the energy used in collecting the resource from the environment, the part used in changing and channeling it into an output, and then the part used in distributing the products. Continue reading The Anatomy of Entropy

Wishful solutions that multiply problems later

Re: Climate change media 6 January 2009 CarbonEquity, Climate Action Centre, Melbourne To subscribe (one email per week) send blank email

David, reply 1/10/09

Interesting list of studies and alternatives!   In the same way that “clean coal” seems to never have existed except as wishful thinking, “good growth” never has either, and most of the solutions on the list depend on it.

There are a lot of other ways that some of our “solutions” multiply problems too.    It’s a major theme of what we’re dealing with.  All our increasingly insolvable problems were created by widely supported solutions of the past. Continue reading Wishful solutions that multiply problems later

Why “new rules” apply? – Nature changed them

Steve Salmony’s 1/12/09  Post Embrace change
My reply: Why the rules changed, below

Embrace change for planet’s sake – Steve Salmony

In calling for change in our time, scientists are speaking about what could somehow be true, speaking out loudly and clearly to wealthy and powerful people who adamantly insist that the “business as usual” status quo be relentlessly promoted and ruthlessly maintained.

Industrial/big business powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians want to keep over-consuming, overproducing and overpopulating in our planetary home as they are doing now, come what may for children, life as we know it, and the integrity of Earth and its environs. Many of our voices are needed to support these great “voices of science,” these exemplars who are courageously speaking truth to those leaders who possess the power to authorize change. The provision of a good enough future for our children is an achievable goal, but only if we elders choose requisite behavior change now.

If changes in behavior are not initiated in a timely fashion, then a sustainable world for our children may not be achievable. By doing precisely what we are doing now, the limited resources of Earth could be permanently dissipated, its biodiversity massively extirpated, its environment irreversibly degraded and life as we know it recklessly endangered. The current scale and anticipated growth of per-capita over-consumption, global production capabilities, and human population numbers worldwide could be simply, clearly and patently unsustainable, even to the year 2050. Given Earth’s limitations as a relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet, the projected increases in unchecked consumption, unbridled production and unregulated propagation activities of the human species could soon lead the human family to come face to face with some sort of colossal ecological wreckage.

Now is the time to speak loudly, clearly and often about what is true for you. Forget about political correctness and convenience. Resist economic expediency and greediness. Embrace necessary change rather than waste another day perniciously defending an unsustainable, same old “business as usual” status quo.

Steven Earl Salmony
Chapel Hill

Why the rules changed – Jessie Henshaw

Very nice letter, clear and solid.   I think one more thing that people will need to understand in some way is “why the rules changed”, and then address what rules changed and what new rules apply.

The basic public support for “sustainability” has been achieved, we just seem clueless as to what it really means or what we’d need to do to achieve it.

The big dilemma is that everyone’s favorite solution, self-restraints and technology efficiencies, don’t have the intended effect on the whole system, *especially* if they work.    Continue reading Why “new rules” apply? – Nature changed them

“Producer side” & “Consumer side” as one circle

1/9/09 post to ClimateConcernGroup

re: Consumer-side v. Producer-side Environmentalism

No doubt it does help to look around at all the contradictions, and try to connect them, but from a scientific view each side of a circle still represents the same object. The difference between the “production” and “consumption” side, from a systems view of the economic issues, is that they’re two sides of the same circle.

The actual control available for natural system circles is usually not in which side of the circle you favor, but the economic multiplier that adds or subtracts an increment to both sides of the circle every time a dollar goes all the way around it. Continue reading “Producer side” & “Consumer side” as one circle