1. There are organisms living in the ocean depths that derive energy not from sunlight, but from Earth’s internal heat as it is released from seafloor vents. But these are rare exceptions to the rule.
2. For more about the maximum power principle, see Charles Hall, Maximum Power: The Ideas and Applications of H. T. Odum. Boulder, CO, University Press of Colorado, 1995.
3. Pallab Ghosh, “Earliest Evidence of Life on Earth ‘Found’,” BBC News, March 1, 2017. www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39117523, accessed September 4, 2020.
4. See Nick Lane, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 140 ff.
5. For more on proton pumping, Ibid.,pp. 150-153.
6. Ibid., pp. 99-100.
7. Kat McAlpine, “Bacteria ‘Factories’ Churn Out Valuable Chemicals,” The Harvard Gazette, December 24, 2014. news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/12/bacteria-churn-out-valuable-chemicals/ accessed September 4, 2020.
8. It’s actually problematic to speak of “species” when discussing archaea or bacteria, because they continually adapt to changing environments by altering their genetic material.
9. Sarah Zhang, “The ‘Dark Matter’ of the Microbial World,” The Atlantic, March 7, 2017. www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/archaea-sequencing-challenges/518535/ accessed September 4, 2020.
10. A very few types of eukaryote cells do not currently have mitochondria, but evidence suggests they once did.
11. Plants and fungi do have cell walls, but they’re very different from those of bacteria.
12. Power, Sex, Suicide, p. 161.
13. In a popular figure of speech, anything quickly gaining popularity is said to be “going viral.” “Going bacterial” is impressive enough.
14. Most ocean ecosystems are characterized by an inverted food pyramid, in which consumers outweigh producers; this happens because aquatic producers have a very rapid turnover of biomass, on the order of days, while consumer biomass turns over much more slowly—a few years in the case of many fish species.
15. Power, Sex, Suicide, p. 234.
16. John Stoughton, “The Human Brain vs. Supercomputers . . . Which One Wins?” Science ABC, October 14, 2019. www.scienceabc.com/humans/the-human-brain-vs-supercomputers-which-one-wins, accessed October 9, 2020.
17. Some creatures do clone themselves: for example, segmented worms and many echinoderms such as sea stars reproduce asexually by fragmentation, developing new, genetically identical individuals from each segment.
18. The reason for this difference has to do with the elimination of possible malfunctions of the mitochondria if their genes were derived from two different populations. For a more detailed explanation, see Power, Sex, Suicide, pp. 337 ff.
19. Some animals (such as the sea anemone) that live in the flux of ocean currents can let their food come to them and therefore become, in effect, rooted like plants.
20. Kat McGowan, “How Plants Secretly Talk to Each Other,” Wired, December 20, 2013. www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-language-of-plants/, accessed September 4, 2020.
22. See Frans de Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.
23. Anthony Trewavas, “Green Plants as Intelligent Organisms,” Trends in Plant Science, Vol 10, No. 9, September 1, 2005. www.cell.com/trends/plant-science/comments/S1360-1385(05)00171-8, accessed September 4, 2020.
24. See Derrick Jensen, The Myth of Human Supremacy, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2016, pp. 78-9. And then there’s the fascinating possibility that plants can use sound to communicate: see www.livescience.com/27802-plants-trees-talk-with-sound.html, accessed September 4, 2020.
25. The competitive exclusion principle, sometimes referred to as Gause’s Law, states that two species competing for the same resource cannot coexist at constant population values, if other ecological factors remain constant. When one species has any advantage over another, then the one with the advantage will dominate in the long term, leading to either the extinction of its competitor or an evolutionary or behavioral shift toward a different ecological niche. The principle has been paraphrased in the maxim, “complete competitors cannot coexist.”
26. National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on Laboratory Animal Nutrition, Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals: Fourth Revised Edition, (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1995. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231918/, accessed September 4, 2020.
27. “Feed Requirements of Horses,” http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/horses/feed-requirements-of-horses, accessed December 11, 2019. “Nutrient Requirements for Horses,” July 31, 2019 https://horses.extension.org/nutrient-requirements-for-horses/.
28. “Energy Expenditure,” February 25, 2015. https://asianelephantnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/big-body-lots-of-energy-maintenance/, accessed September 4, 2020.
29. Staverie Boundouris, “Power of a Space Shuttle,” The Physics Factbook, 2001. https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/StaverieBoundouris.shtml, accessed September 4, 2020.
30. “Utility-Scale Wind Energy,” https://windexchange.energy.gov/markets/utility-scale, accessed December 11, 2019.
31. Ben Zientara, “How Much Electricity Does a Solar Panel Produce?” Solar Power Rocks (blog), November 6, 2019. www.solarpowerrocks.com/solar-basics/how-much-electricity-does-a-solar-panel-produce/, accessed September 4, 2020.
32. Andrew Armstrong, “New Orleans and the Mississippi River,” Hydro International, January 1, 2008, www.hydro-international.com/content/article/new-orleans-and-the-mississippi-river. U.S. National Park Service, “Mississippi River Facts,” www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm, accessed December 11, 2019.
33. 2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files,” United States Census Bureau. (www2.census.gov/geo/docs/mapsdata/data/gazetteer/2016_Gazetteer/2016_gaz_place_06.txt, , retrieved December 11, 2019. NOAA, “Storm Events Database – Event Details,” NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/eventdetails.jsp?id=675433, accessed December 11, 2019.
34. Chris Landsea, “Frequently Asked Questions,” NOAA Hurricane Research Division, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/D7.html, accessed December 11, 2019.
35. Herman Pontzer et al., “Energy Expenditure and Activity among Hadza Hunter-Gatherers: Hazda Energetics and Activity,” American Journal of Human Biology 27, no. 5 (September 10, 2015): 628–37 (https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.22711).
36. GS 361 Energy and Resources in Perspective, Western Oregon University, “Historical Perspectives of Energy Consumption.” https://people.wou.edu/~courtna/GS361/electricity%20generation/HistoricalPerspectives.htm, accessed December 11, 2019. Paolo Malanima, “Energy in History,” in The Basic Environmental History, edited by Mauro Agnoletti and Simone Neri Serneri, 4:1–29, Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2014, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09180-8_1. Mid-Atlantic Masonry Heat, “Amount of Energy in Firewood,” November 9, 2019. http://midatlanticmasonryheat.com/blog-entry/amount-energy-firewood. “Energy Expenditure and Activity,” 628–37. Mike Schira, “How Much Heat Energy Is in Firewood?” MSU Extension, March 3, 2014. www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_much_heat_energy_is_in_firewood accessed December 11, 2019.
37. “Historical Perspectives of Energy Consumption.” Kees Klein Goldewijk, “Cattle per Capita,” Clio Infra. https://clio-infra.eu/Indicators/CattleperCapita.html, accessed December 11, 2019. Malanima, “Energy in History.” Mid-Atlantic Masonry Heat, “Amount of Energy in Firewood.” David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, Food, Energy, and Society, third edition, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008. Pontzer et al., “Energy Expenditure and Activity.” Schira, “How Much Heat Energy Is in Firewood?”
38. Joyce Tyldesley, “The Private Lives of the Pyramid-Builders,” BBC, Ancient History in depth, February 17, 2011. www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/pyramid_builders_01.shtml, accessed September 4, 2020.
39. World Bank, “GDP per Capita (Current US$) | Data,” accessed December 11, 2019. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?most_recent_value_desc=false. World Bank, “Energy Intensity Level of Primary Energy (MJ/$2011 PPP GDP) | Data,” accessed December 11, 2019, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.EGY.PRIM.PP.KD?view=chart. World Bank, “Energy Use (Kg of Oil Equivalent per Capita) | Data,” accessed December 11, 2019, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.PCAP.KG.OE.
40. World Bank, “GDP per Capita (Current US$) | Data.” World Bank, “Energy Intensity Level of Primary Energy” World Bank. “Energy Use.”
41. BP. “Statistical Review of World Energy,” 2019, accessed December 11, 2019. www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/energy-economics/statistical-review/bp-stats-review-2019-full-report.pdf
42. Richard Prum, The Evolution of Beauty, New York, Anchor Books, 2017, page 27.
43. Even a single species of bird may be more specialized or generalized in what it eats depending upon where it happens to live and the diversity of other birds in the community. This has been studied among island groups, and is a classic set of research on niche partitioning based on community interactions.
44. In his book Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace (2020), ecologist Carl Safina explores cultural evolution among non-human animals in fascinating detail.
1. See William Calvin, The Ascent of Mind: Ice Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
2. A recent study suggests that climate change may also have been a significant factor. Pasquale Raia, et al., “Past Extinctions of Homo Species Coincided with Increased Vulnerability to Climate Change,” One Earth, Vol. 3 No. 4, October 23, 2020. www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(20)30476-0, accessed November 14, 2020.
3. Richard Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, New York: Basic Books, 2009, p. 57.
4. Ibid., p. 81.
5. Ibid., p 87.
6. Ibid., p 121.
7. Kris De Decker, “Too Much Combustion, Too Little Fire,” Resilience, January 23, 2020. www.resilience.org/stories/2020-01-23/too-much-combustion-too-little-fire/, accessed September 4, 2020.
8. Becky Little, “Neanderthals Knew How to Start a Fire,” History, August 31, 2018. www.history.com/news/neanderthals-fire-evidence-archaeology, accessed September 4, 2020.
9. William Catton, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1982.
10. Jen Viegas, “Humans First Wore Clothing 170,000 Years Ago,” Seeker, January 6, 2011. www.seeker.com/humans-first-wore-clothing-170000-years-ago-1765156178.html, accessed September 4, 2020.
11. Reed; et al. (2004). “Genetic Analysis of Lice Supports Direct Contact between Modern and Archaic Humans,” PLoS Biology, Vol. 2, Number 11. November, 2004.
12. Wrangham is far from being alone in this view. Many other evolutionary scientists, reaching back to Darwin himself, have come to similar conclusions regarding human self-domestication. I’m focusing on Wrangham here because his writings are recent and he expresses his ideas clearly and forcefully; if the reader wishes to explore this subject further, Wrangham’s book is the best place to start.
13. Our least aggressive primate relative, the bonobo, also shows signs of self-domestication, at least in Wrangham’s view.
14. Ben James, “A Sneaky Theory of Where Language Came From.” The Atlantic, June 10, 2018. https://getpocket.com/explore/item/a-sneaky-theory-of-where-language-came-from?utm_source=pocket-newtab, accessed September 4, 2020. See also Oren Kolodny and Shimon Edelman, “The Evolution of the Capacity for Language: The Ecological Context and Adaptive Value of Cognitive Hijacking,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, February 12, 2018. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2017.0052, accessed September 4, 2020. Noam Chomsky and a few other linguists resist this evolutionary view of the development of language.
15. John Shea, Stone Tools in Human Evolution. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 84-101.
16. Paleontologists have searched for evidence of the evolution of the physical apparatus of human speech—the descended larynx and the hyoid bone—but such evidence is hard to find in ancient skeletal remains and is so far inconclusive. Cultural anthropologist Quentin Atkinson, in a 2011 paper, proposed treating phonemes (basic vocal sounds) like genes in order to trace language origins. African languages have more phonemes than other languages, and the further away from Africa you go, the fewer one encounters. This suggests the basic elements of language existed in sapiens before its exit from Africa 70,000 years ago. But Atkinson’s conclusions were later criticized. Why focus on phonemes, but not other elements of language like the passive voice or subordinate clauses? If you choose either of the latter, you arrive at a different site for the origin of language, and a different date as well.
17. Cultural evolution is observable outside human society in about half of bird species, in which individual birds learn their songs from their parents, leading to varying local song “dialects.”
18. For more on this subject, see, for example, Richard Lippa, Gender, Nature and Nurture, London, Routledge, 2005.
19. See Susan Carol Rogers, “Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance,” American Ethnologist Vol. 2 No. 3, “Sex Roles in Cross-Cultural Perspective” (Nov., 1975), pp. 727-756.
20. Tia Ghose, “Male Aggression: What Chimps can Reveal about People,” Live Science, November 13, 2014. www.livescience.com/48743-aggressive-chimps-reproduce-more.html, accessed September 4, 2020.
21. Frans De Waal, “Bonobo Sex and Society,” Scientific American, June 1, 2006. www.scientificamerican.com/article/bonobo-sex-and-society-2006-06/, accessed September 4, 2020.
22. “Sex Differences in Crime.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_crime, accessed September 4, 2020.
23. Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1996, p. 113.
24. “List of Countries by Intentional Homicide Rate.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#By_country,_region_or_dependant_territory, accessed September 4, 2020.
25. Alice Dreger, “Where Masturbation and Homosexuality Do Not Exist,” The Atlantic, December 4, 2012. www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/where-masturbation-and-homosexuality-do-not-exist/265849/, accessed September 4, 2020.
1. New evidence suggests humans may have reached the Americas as early as 33,000 years ago. See Lorena Becerra-Valdivia and Thomas Higham, “The Timing and Effect of the Earliest Human Arrivals in North America,” Nature, July 22, 2020. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2491-6, accessed September 4, 2020.
2. See Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism: The Search for a Science of Culture, 2nd edition,New York, Viking, 1980; and Marvin Harris and Orna Johnson, Cultural Anthropology, 7th edition, Boston, Pearson, 2007.
3. Vaclav Smil, Energy in World History, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2017, p. 21. For an up-to-date and highly readable account of early plant domestication and state formation, see James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2017.
4. Harris and Johnson, Ibid., p. 172; see also Peter Turchin, Ultra Society: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, Chaplin, CT, Beresta Books, 2016, p. 11.
5. Historian Ian Morris agrees that war has been a significant factor in cultural evolution. In his book War! What is it Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots (2014), he argues that the history of violence across many thousands of years shows that war has made the world safer and richer by creating larger and more internally pacified societies. The lesson of the last 10,000 years of military history, he argues, is that we can learn to manage war, but cannot realistically wish it away.
6. Quoted in Turchin, Ultra Society, p. 149.
7. It’s tempting, but misleading, to see the ancient shifts from hunting and gathering to simple horticulture, to complex horticulture, to agrarian statehood as an inevitable progression. However, as noted in the text, many societies stopped off at one or another of these levels of food production and social organization and simply stayed there. For example, pre-Columbian California had complex cultures that never adopted agriculture, pottery, architecture, or writing—as other Native American groups had done—because there was no environmental requirement to do so. The land was so abundantly productive that tribelets found it more to their advantage to develop advanced horticultural practices. Instead of making pottery, they concentrated on basketry, and made some of the finest baskets in the world. Benign environmental conditions were spread over large areas, so there was relatively little organized violent competition for control of specific resources. Had they wished to develop chiefdoms, the Californians certainly could have done so, but evidently the need never arose.
8. “Indians 101: Disease and Indians in the 16th Century,” Daily Kos, February 19, 2019. www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/2/19/1835704/-Indians-101-Disease-and-Indians-in-the-16th-Century, accessed September 4, 2020.
9. It’s only a metaphor, and metaphors can mislead us if we adhere to them too strongly (I’ll use quotation marks to highlight metaphoric uses of the terms predation, predator, prey, and predatory). But metaphors can also sometimes aid understanding. The idea of human-on-human “predation” is hardly original: we’re all accustomed to speaking of “predatory” lending practices and sexual behavior. The fact that literal human-on-human predation, in the form of cannibalism, was surprisingly common among both pre-state and archaic state societies lends validity to an exploration of metaphoric human-on-human “predation” in its many forms.
10. I wrote this section of the book before encountering James C. Scott’s Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, which propounds essentially the same ideas regarding human-on-human “domestication.”It’s reassuring to see a more eminent scholar reaching similar conclusions when confronting the same collection of evidence. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2017.
11. See, for example, Andrew Lawler and Jerry Adler, “How the Chicken Conquered the World,” Smithsonian Magazine, June 2012. www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-the-chicken-conquered-the-world-87583657/, accessed October 22, 2020.
12. Cattle were domesticated about 10,500 years ago, goats 10,000 years ago, sheep between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago. The first unmistakable signs of slavery only appear in the archaeological record about 5,500 years ago. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that human slavery served as a model or inspiration for animal domestication; however, the reverse seems likely.
13. Today, the genetic bifurcation of humanity into “improved” and “unimproved” species through the engineering of designer babies by the wealthy is a realistic possibility.
14. Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment, New York, Routledge, 2011.
15. Jacob Mikanowski, “Wild Thing: How and Why did Humans Domesticate Animals—and What Might This Tell Us about the Future of Our Own Species?” Aeon, November 28, 2016. https://aeon.co/essays/how-domestication-changes-species-including-the-human, accessed September 4, 2020.
16. “Atlantic Slave Trade.” Wikipedia, accessed September 2, 2020.
17. See Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, New York, Basic Books, 2016.
18. Quoted in Andrew Nikiforuk, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, Vancouver, Greystone, 2012, p.15. See also, James Oakes, The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders, New York, W. W. Norton, 1998.
19. Quoted in Nikiforuk, Ibid., p. 17.
20. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Howard University Press, 1981 (reprint),p. 137.
21. See Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York, Plume, 2006.
22. See Burton Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth, San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995, pp. 20-21.
23. Ultra Society, pp. 193 ff. For an alternative view, see Eric Cline, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2014.
24. See Ara Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2013.
25. Joe Hill, “The Preacher and the Slave.”
26. Big Gods, p. 133.
27. Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History (1949),New York, Routledge Revivals, 2011. In their recent book Seshat History of the Axial Age (2019), Daniel Hoyer, Jenny Reddish, and co-authors use an extensive historical database to explore evidence for the Axial Age; they conclude that there was actually no single “Axial Age” in human history. Instead, egalitarian ideals and constraints on political authority co-evolved together with greater sociopolitical complexity (i.e., the development of empires) in several places and times.
28. Ultra Society, p. 181.
29. These advantages are discussed in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.
30. “The Doctrine of Discovery, 1493,” History Resources, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/spotlight-primary-source/doctrine-discovery-1493, accessed September 4, 2020.
31. This section owes an enormous debt to the work of communication theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980). I was fortunate to meet McLuhan in his office at the University of Toronto in 1978. Here I have sought to apply his way of thinking to communication technologies that have emerged since his passing.
32. Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (1990),New York, Counterpoint, 2010 (reprint).
33. A parenthetical note: over all, chapters 2, 3, and 4 of this book present a chronology of power. However, in this chapter on the origins of social power, it seemed best to discuss the evolution of communication technologies and money all the way up to the present, rather than saving recent developments in these subject areas for the next chapter, which focuses especially on the influence of fossil fuels on events of the last couple of centuries.
34. The Chinese had actually invented printing much earlier, perhaps around the year 650, employing carved wood blocks. Moveable metal type was adopted in the 12th century, still long before Gutenberg.
35. David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Brooklyn, Melville House, 2011.
36. Ibid., p. 400, note 47.
37. Seshat Global History Databank, http://seshatdatabank.info/, accessed September 4, 2020.
38. Niall Ferguson, The House of Rothschild. New York: Penguin, 1999.
39. See Nitzan and Bichler, Capital as Power, London, Routledge, 2009.
40. William D. Nordhaus and James Tobin, “Is Economic Growth Obsolete?” in William Moss, ed., The Measurement of Economic and Social Performance, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1973.
41. Robert M. Solow, “The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics,” The American Economic Review, Vol. 64, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Eighty-sixth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association, May 1974, pp. 1-14.
42. Nordhaus, “Reflections on the Economics of Climate Change,” Journal of Economic Perspectives — Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1993, pp. 11–25.
43. This sidebar is loosely based on Blair Fix’s essay, “Can the World Get Along Without Natural Resources?” Economics from the Top Down, June 18, 2020, https://economicsfromthetopdown.com/2020/06/18/can-the-world-get-along-without-natural-resources/, accessed September 4, 2020.
44. For a good overview, see Ana Guinote and Theresa Vescio, eds., The Social Psychology of Power, New York, Guilford Press, 2010.
45. Social Psychology of Power, p. 5.
46. Jennifer Overbeck, “Concepts and Historical Perspectives on Power,” in Social Psychology, p. 33.
47. S. E. Asch, “Effects of Group Pressure on the Modification and Distortion of Judgments,” in H. Guetzkow, ed., Groups, Leadership, and Men, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Press, 1953, pp. 177-190.
48. Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, New York, Harper & Row, 1969.
49. Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House, 2007.
50. Kali Trzesniewski et al., “Low Self-Esteem During Adolescence Predicts Poor Health, Criminal Behavior, and Limited Economic Prospects During Adulthood,” Developmental Psychology, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 381-390.
51. Jerry Unseem, “Power Causes Brian Damage.” The Atlantic, June 18, 2017. https://getpocket.com/explore/item/power-causes-brain-damage?utm_source=pocket-newtab, accessed September 4, 2020.
52. Dacher Keltner, The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, New York, Penguin, 2016. See also, Dacher Keltner, “Don’t Let Power Corrupt You,” Harvard Business Review, October 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/10/dont-let-power-corrupt-you, accessed September 4, 2020.
53. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World, New York, Penguin, 2008.
54. For a more complete list with extensive discussion, see Dirk Moses and Donald Bloxam, Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.
55. Jacob M. Rabbie, “The Effects of Intragroup Cooperation and Intergroup Competition on In-Group Cohesion and Out-Group Hostility,” in Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other Animals, Alexander Harcourt and Frans de Waal, eds., Oxford, Oxford University Press (1992), pp. 175-205.
56. See Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males, pp. 197-8.
57. Jared Diamond unpacks the reasons for European world dominance in his book, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York, W. W. Norton, 1998.
58. Daphne Blunt Bugental, “Paradoxical Power Manifestations: Power Assertion by the Subjectively Powerless,” in Social Psychology, pp. 209-229.
59. Though he rarely uses the word “power,” a good overview of status in human relations is presented in Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst, pp. 425-477.
1. I borrow the phrase “Great Acceleration” from J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, who coined it in their 2016 book, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene Since 1945, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2014.
2. Vaclav Smil, Energy and Civilization, Cambridge MA, MIT Press, 2017, p. 37.
3. Richard Lee, “Kung Bushmen Subsistence: An Input–Output Analysis,” inA. Vayda, ed., Environment and Cultural Behavior: Ecological Studies in Cultural Anthropology, Garden City, NY, Natural History Press, Published for American Museum of Natural History, 1969, pp. 47-79.
4. E. Galan et al., “Widening the Analysis of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) in Agro-Ecosystems: Socio-Ecological Transitions to Industrialized Farm Systems (the Vallès County, Catalonia, c.1860 and 1999),” Ecological Modeling 2016 v. 336, pp. 13-25.
5. Energy and Civilization, p. 79.
6. Ibid., p. 81.
7. Zia Haq, “Biomass for Electricity Generation,” BioCycle, Vol. 43 number 11, October 2011.
8. “Historical Perspectives of Energy Consumption,” www.wou.edu/las/physci/GS361/electricity%20generation/HistoricalPerspectives.htm, accessed September 4, 2020.
9. Quoted in Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History, London, Arrow Books, 2006, pp. 203-4.
10. John Long, “Coal’s Formation Is a Window on an Ancient World,” The Conversation, June 2016, http://theconversation.com/coals-formation-is-a-window-on-an-ancient-world-54333, accessed September 4, 2020.
11. David Stradling and Peter Thorsheim, “The Smoke of Great Cities: British and American Efforts to Control Air Pollution, 1860-1914,” Environmental History Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1999, pp. 6-31.
12. Historian Ian Morris, in Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels, argues that technological innovation was a response to high labor costs. See p. 100.
13. Joseph Needham’s masterwork, Science and Civilization in China (seven volumes, the first published in 1954), details the many innovations in science and technology that occurred in China long before their appearance in Europe and North America.
14. For a more extended discussion of China’s early industrial revolution, see William McNeill, The Pursuit of Power, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1982,pp. 24-62.
15. Andrew Nikiforuk, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, Vancouver, Greystone Books, 2012, p. 28.
16. Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, Vol. II: The Pentagon of Power, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, p. 147. On smaller scales, wage labor can be traced back to Mesopotamia in the third millennium BCE; see Ian Morris, Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2015,p. 63.
17. Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, London, Verso, 2011, p. 12.
18. Carbon Democracy.
19. See Richard Heinberg, Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis, Gabriola Island, BC, New Society, 2009.
20. “Air Traffic by the Numbers,” Federal Aviation Administration, www.faa.gov/air_traffic/by_the_numbers/, accessed September 4, 2020.
21. Darrin Qualman, “Another Trillion Tonnes: 250 Years of Global Material Use Data,” April 9, 2019. www.darrinqualman.com/global-material-use/, accessed September 4, 2020.
22. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, “Urbanization,” Our World in Data, November, 2019. https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization, accessed September 4, 2020.
23. www.careerplanner.com/DOTindex.cfm, accessed September 4, 2020.
24. A good summary of the process can be found in John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, New York, Penguin, 2004.
25. Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power. Volume 3: Global Empires and Revolution, 1890-1945, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 153.
26. Sources of Social Power, p. 160.
27. Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2017.
28. “World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019.” www.worldnuclearreport.org/, accessed September 4, 2020.
29. I’m grateful to Nate Hagens for alerting me to the concept of the human Superorganism; see his “Economics for the Future: Beyond the Superorganism,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 169, March 2020.
30. Kevin Kelly: Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, New York, Basic Books, 1995 (reprint).
31. Roger LeBaron Hooke, “Humans May Surpass Other Natural Forces as Earth Movers,” Science Daily, July 9, 2004, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040709083319.htm, accessed September 2, 2020.
The study cited here suggests humans moved 40 billion tons of rock and soil in 1994. Since world consumption of most resources has more than doubled in the intervening quarter-century, a doubling of that figure seems likely.
1. Adapted from Onno de Jong, For a Future, Apple Books, 2018. www.forafuture.com, accessed September 3, 2020.
2. Next 10, “California’s Green Innovation Index.” www.next10.org/publications/2019-gii, accessed September 2, 2020.
3. Richard Heinberg and David Fridley, Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for 100 Percent Clean Energy, Washington DC, Island Press, 2016. Full text available at www.ourrenewablefuture.org, accessed September 2, 2020.
4. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. For example, Tim Morgan (former head of research at Tullett Prebon) argues that it is surplus energy—the energy left over once energy required for energy-producing activities has been subtracted—that has driven economic expansion, and that a transition to renewables will necessarily result in declining surplus energy (see Tim Morgan, Surplus Energy Economics website https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com, accessed September 2, 2020). In a recent paper, Carey King of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, shows the inadequacy of current growth-based economic modeling of the renewable energy transition and proposes a new model that incorporates data-derived relationships between energy use, resource extraction, and economic growth. His conclusion is that the renewable energy transition will entail trade-offs with consumption, population, and wages; these trade-offs will depend on the path taken (whether high or low rate of investment). Carey King, “An Integrated Biophysical and Economic Modeling Framework for Long-Term Sustainability Analysis: The HARMONY Model,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 169, March 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106464, accessed September 2, 2020.
5. Our Renewable Future, p. 140.
6. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin, “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change Demands De-Growth Strategies from Wealthier Nations,” KevinAnderson.Info, November 2013. https://kevinanderson.info/blog/avoiding-dangerous-climate-change-demands-de-growth-strategies-from-wealthier-nations, accessed September 2, 2020. See also Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery, “Can Renewable Energy Power the Future?” Energy Policy Vol. 93, June 2016, pp. 3-7. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151630088X, accessed September 2, 2020.
7. Rachel Kaufman, “The Risks, Rewards and Possible Ramifications of Geoengineering Earth’s Climate,” Smithsonian, March 11, 2019. www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/risks-rewards-possible-ramifications-geoengineering-earths-climate-180971666, accessed September 3, 2020.
8. Christopher Flavelle, “Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns,” New York Times, August 8, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/climate/climate-change-food-supply.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
9. Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs. “A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy,” New York Times (April 6, 2019). https://forhumanliberation.blogspot.com/2019/04/3217-mysterious-infection-spanning.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
10. “Living Planet Report 2020,” WorldWildlife.org. https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-us, accessed September 3, 2020.
11. NatureNeedsHalf.org, Accessed September 3, 2020.
12. Douglas J. McCauley et al., “A Mammoth Undertaking: Harnessing Insight from Functional Ecology to Shape De-Extinction Priority Setting,” Functional Ecology 31, no. 5, 2017.
13. See Sergey Zimov, “Chapter Fourteen,” in Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures, ed. Ben Mezrich, New York, Atria Books, 2017.
14. See David Shultz, “Should We Bring Extinct Species Back from the Dead?” Science Magazine, September 2016. www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/should-we-bring-extinct-species-back-dead, accessed September 2, 2020.
15. Author Eileen Crist argues that terms like “resources” and “natural capital” frame nature from the perspective of human exploitation and finance, and that healing our relationship with nature requires us to rethink our choice and usage of words. While I agree in principle, in instances like this it is a challenge to find alternative terms that aren’t awkward. Since we’re on the topic of word choice, I should also mention that some people find the terms “produce” and “production” objectionable when used in connection with the activities of the fossil fuel industry. Of course, oil companies do not make or manufacture crude oil, as the word “produce” implies; they merely extract it from the Earth’s crust. While I agree with this objection, I occasionally use the familiar terms anyway so as to avoid overuse of the few available alternatives.
16. The degree to which resource depletion contributed to the collapse of past societies is debated. For example, in the case of Easter Island, Jared Diamond has argued that deforestation played a significant role in population decline during the period immediately prior to European contact (see Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, New York, Viking, 2005, pp. 79-118). Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo have disputed this interpretation of the evidence (see Robert DiNapoli et al., “A Model-Based Approach to the Tempo of ‘Collapse’: The Case of Rapa Nui [Easter Island],” Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 116, April 2020).
17. It is possible, in principle, to make nitrogen fertilizers by using electricity from renewable sources to produce hydrogen from water, then using the hydrogen to make ammonia via the Fischer-Tropsch process. However, see the previous discussion regarding practical near-term limits to the deployment of renewable energy technologies.
18. Calculations based on data in “Overconsumption?: Our Use of the World’s Natural Resources.” Friends of the Earth.UK, September 14, 2012. https://cdn.friendsoftheearth.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/overconsumption.pdf, accessed September 3, 2020.
19. See Ugo Bardi, Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2013. Christopher Clugston, Blip: Humanity’s 300 Year Self-Terminating Experiment with Industrialism, St. Petersburg, FL, Book Locker, 2019.
20. Peter Turchin, Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History, Chaplin CT, Beresta Books, 2016.
21. Ages of Discord, p. 204.
22. See “Democracy Index,” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index, accessed September 3, 2020.
23. Chuck Collins, Dedrick Asante-Muhammed, Josh Hoxie, and Sabrina Terry, “Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1% Widens the Racial Wealth Divide.” Institute for Policy Studies. https://ips-dc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IPS_RWD-Report_FINAL-1.15.19.pdf, accessed November 5, 2020.
24. See charts here: “US Economic and Social Inequality,” New York Times, July 2, 2020.
www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/02/opinion/politics/us-economic-social-inequality.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
25. Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 12, Issue 3, September 2014, pp. 564-581. www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B, accessed September 2, 2020.
26. “An Economy for the 99%: It’s Time to Build a Human Economy that Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Privileged Few.” Oxfam, January 16, 2017. https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/an-economy-for-the-99-its-time-to-build-a-human-economy-that-benefits-everyone-620170, accessed October 28, 2020. See also Greg Sargent, “The Massive Triumph of the Rich, Illustrated by Stunning New Data,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019.
27. Douglas Main, “How the World’s Most Widely Used Insecticide Causes Fish Declines,” National Geographic, November 2019. www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/11/neonicotinoid-insecticides-cause-fish-declines-japan/#close, accessed September 3, 2020.
28. “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Are Slowly Killing Bees.” PBS Newshour, June 29, 2017. www.pbs.org/newshour/science/neonicotinoid-pesticides-slowly-killing-bees, accessed September 3, 2020.
29. See Rebecca Harrington, “By 2050, The Oceans Could Have More Plastic than Fish,” Business Insider, January 26, 2017. www.businessinsider.com/plastic-in-ocean-outweighs-fish-evidence-report-2017-1, accessed September 3, 2020.
30. “PFAS Chemicals and You,” Science Friday, November 1, 2019. www.sciencefriday.com/segments/pfas-dupont-lawsuit-robert-bilott, accessed September 3, 2020.
31. Julian Cribb, Poisoned Planet: How Constant Exposure to Man-Made Chemicals is Putting Your Life at Risk, New York, Allen and Unwin, 2015, p. 149.
32. Aya Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2013, p. 152.
33. Ibid., p. 153.
34. Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population. London,1798. www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4239, accessed September 3, 2020.
35. Allen Good and Perrin Beatty, “Fertilizing Nature: A Tragedy of Excess in the Commons,” PLoS Biology, August 16, 2011. https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001124, accessed September 3, 2020.
36. David Wuepper et al., “Countries and the Global Rate of Soil Erosion,” Nature Sustainability, Vol. 3, December 2, 2020. www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0438-4, accessed September 3, 2020.
37. George Monbiot, “Lab-Grown Food Will Soon Destroy Farming—and Save the Planet,” The Guardian, January 8, 2020. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/08/lab-grown-food-destroy-farming-save-planet, accessed September 3, 2020.
38. Elizabeth Dunbar, “Climate Curious: How Much Does Population Growth Contribute to Climate Change?” MPR News, December 11, 2019. www.mprnews.org/story/2019/12/11/climate-curious-how-much-does-population-growth-contribute-to-climate-change; and http://churchandstate.org.uk/2019/06/e-o-wilson-runaway-population-growth-at-epicenter-of-environmental-problems, accessed September 3, 2020.
39. “Democracy Index 2019,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, March 2020. www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index, accessed September 3, 2020.
40. T. Parrique et al.,“Decoupling Debunked: Evidence and Arguments Against Green Growth as a Sole Strategy for Sustainability,” European Environmental Bureau, 2019. https://mk0eeborgicuypctuf7e.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Decoupling-Debunked.pdf, accessed September 2, 2020.
41. See Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2009.
42. See This Time Is Different; and Steve Keen, Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences, New York, Palgrave, 2001.
43. This Time is Different.
44. Enda Curran, “The Way Out for a World Economy Hooked on Debt? More Debt,” Bloomberg, Dec. 1, 2019. www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-01/the-way-out-for-a-world-economy-hooked-on-debt-yet-more-debt, accessed September 2, 2020. See also Geopolitical Futures staff, “Rising Global Debt.” Geopolitical Futures, January 3, 2020. https://geopoliticalfutures.com//pdfs/rising-global-debt-geopoliticalfutures-com.pdf?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=https%3A%2F%2Fgeopoliticalfutures.com%2F%2Fpdfs%2Frising-global-debt-geopoliticalfutures-com.pdf&utm_content&utm_campaign=PAID+-+Everything+as+it%27s+published, accessed September 2, 2020.
45. Peter Cook, “Is the U.S. Economy Really Growing? (Spoiler Alert: No!)” Zerohedge, March 16, 2018. www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-16/us-economy-really-growing, accessed September 2, 2020.
46. Ben King, “What Is Quantitative Easing and How Will It Affect You?” BBC News, June 18, 2020. www.bbc.com/news/business-15198789, accessed September 3, 2020.
47. Stephen Williams and Samuel Alexander, “MMT, Post-Growth Economics, and Avoiding Collapse,” in Haydn Washington, ed., Ecological Economics: Solutions for the Future, Chapter 7. In press.
48. Will Bedingfield, “Universal Basic Income, Explained,” Wired UK, August 25, 2019. www.wired.co.uk/article/universal-basic-income-explained, accessed September 3, 2020.
49. See “MMT, Post-Growth Economics.”
50. “List of Incidents Involving Ricin.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_involving_ricin, accessed September 3, 2020.
51. See: https://airwars.org, accessed September 3, 2020.
52. Letta Taylor, “The Truth about the United States Drone Program,” Human Rights Watch, March 24, 2014. www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/24/truth-about-united-states-drone-program, accessed September 3, 2020.
53. See “Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What,” Arms Control Association. www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat, accessed September 3, 2020.
54. “Nuclear Weapon Yield,” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon_yield, accessed September 3, 2020.
55. Seth Baum, “The Risk of Nuclear Winter,” Federation of American Scientists, May 29, 2015. https://fas.org/pir-pubs/risk-nuclear-winter, accessed September 3, 2020.
56. Andrew Osborn, “Russia Says It Has Deployed First Hypersonic Nuclear-Capable Missiles,” Reuters, December 27, 2019. www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-nuclear-missiles/russia-says-it-has-deployed-first-hypersonic-nuclear-capable-missiles-idUSKBN1YV1M1, accessed September 3, 2020.
1. Michio Kaku, The Future of Humanity: Our Destiny in the Universe, New York, Anchor, 2019.
2. Decades of UFO reports notwithstanding, there are other possible explanations for these. See, for example, John Michael Greer, The UFO Chronicles: How Science Fiction, Shamanic Experiences, and Secret Air Force Projects Created the UFO Myth, Aeon Books, 2021.
3. Scientists have deliberately sent out such signals in the unmanned Voyager spacecraft, and via the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. Theoretically, ordinary Earth-based radio and television broadcasts could be detected by a sufficiently advanced society located at a distance of several light years.
4. There are two more solutions to the Fermi Paradox that I consider credible. It is possible that, while the evolution of bacteria and other prokaryotes can get started relatively easily, the evolution of eukaryotes, and therefore of all multicelled organisms, is really hard to ignite. Nick Lane makes this argument in his book Power, Sex, Suicide. Even if that’s not the case, it may be that, as Ajit Varki and Danny Brower argue in Denial, the evolution of high intelligence—and therefore the awareness of mortality—must lead to a pervasive state of anxiety and cautiousness, and therefore a decisive reduction in evolutionary fitness, unless it is accompanied by the highly unlikely simultaneous evolution of the ability to consciously deny reality. These are not mutually exclusive arguments; both could be true. The upshot is that either high intelligence, or multicelled life in general, or both, are likely to be extremely rare in the universe.
5. The actual mechanics of ageing and death are a topic of ongoing research. The leakage of free radicals from mitochondria appears to be a key to the ageing process. For a discussion of this research, see Nick Lane, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 405-446.
6. See, for example, Lindsey Harvell and Gwendelyn Nisbett, eds., Denying Death: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Terror Management Theory, New York, Routledge, 2016.
7. For information on antibiotic immunity, see “Antimicrobial Resistance,” World Health Organization, July 31, 2020. www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance, accessed September 4, 2020.
8. This conclusion is also supported by the work of Earth system and environmental scientists, led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Will Steffen from the Australian National University, who have identified nine “planetary boundaries” that circumscribe a safe space within which humanity can continue to thrive for many generations to come. Transgressing even one boundary could lead to catastrophic risk; as of 2009, two boundaries had already been crossed, while others were in imminent danger of being crossed. See “The Nine Planetary Boundaries,” Stockholm Resilience Centre, www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/planetary-boundaries/about-the-research/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html, accessed November 3, 2020.
9. For more on the adaptive cycle, see “Adaptive Cycle,” Resilience Alliance, n.d., www.resalliance.org/adaptive-cycle, accessed September 4, 2020.
10. Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
11. Peter Turchin, Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2003.
12. I use the term “balancing” in this context with some trepidation. It’s useful, in that it points our thinking in the right general direction; but it can also mislead: in nature, there is rarely if ever a condition of stable “balance”—only dynamic imbalance.
13. See “2000-Watt Society.” www.2000watt.swiss/english.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
14. Glenda Yenni, “Self-Limitation as an Explanation for Species’ Relative Abundances and the Long-Term Persistence of Rare Species,” Dissertation, Utah State University, 2013. See also: G. Yenni et al., “Strong Self-Limitation Promotes the Persistence of Rare Species,” Ecology, Vol. 93 number 3, 212, pp. 456-461; and G. Yenni et al., “Do Persistent Rare Species Experience Stronger Negative Frequency Dependence than Common Species?” Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 26 (2017), pp. 513-523.
15. G. Yenni, Dissertation.
16. G. Yenni, personal communication.
17. G. Yenni, personal communication. Unfortunately, the pika’s habitat is becoming even rarer as a result of climate change, which could threaten its ability to persist at low abundance. See Lucas Moyer-Horner, et al., “Predictors of Current and Longer-Term Patterns of Abundance of American Pikas (Ochotona Princeps) across a Leading-Edge Protected Area,” PLoS One, November 30, 2016. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167051, accessed September 3, 2020.
18. Lee, R. B.. “Reflections on Primitive Communism,” in T. Ingold, D. Riches, and J. Woodburn (eds.), Hunters and Gatherers Vol. 1, Oxford, Berg, 1988, pp. 252-268.
19. “Tribal Conservationists in the Congo Basin,” Survival, n.d. www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3473-conservationistscongobasin, accessed September 3, 2020.
20. Colding, J. and C. Folke, “Social taboos: ‘Invisible’ systems of local resource management and biological conservation,” Ecosystems 4, 2001, pp. 85-104.
21. See also Jim Robbins, “Native Knowledge: What Ecologists Are Learning from Indigenous People,” Yale 360, April 26, 2018. https://e360.yale.edu/features/native-knowledge-what-ecologists-are-learning-from-indigenous-people, accessed September 3, 2020.
22. Clark Monson, “Indigenous Resource Taboos: A Practical Approach Towards the Conservation of Commercialized Species,” Dissertation, University of Hawaii, August 2004. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/handle/10125/11606/uhm_phd_4488_r.pdf?sequence=2, accessed September 3, 2020.
23. Science, 13 Dec 1968: Vol. 162, Issue 3859, pp. 1243-124. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243, accessed September 3, 2020.
24. “Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing a Commons,” Commons Magazine, October 2, 2011. www.onthecommons.org/magazine/elinor-ostroms-8-principles-managing-commmons, accessed September 3, 2020.
25. All quotes are from the anthology Less Is More, by Goldian Vandenbroeck. Rochester, VT, Inner Traditions, 1991.
26. My concern here is not with the question of whether God or gods really exist, but solely with the social and psychological impacts of religious belief and practice.
27. Today, religious principles guide many people toward activism on behalf of climate change mitigation and other environmental issues. Pope Francis has even proposed adding “ecological sin” to church teachings. Jon Queally, “While Warning of Nazi-Like Fascism and Corporate Crimes, Pope Francis Proposes Adding ‘Ecological Sin’ to Church Teachings,” Common Dreams, November 16, 2019, www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/16/while-warning-nazi-fascism-and-corporate-crimes-pope-francis-proposes-adding, accessed September 3, 2020.
28. For Marx and Engels, working-class democracy was essential for any “dictatorship” over the former ruling class. Lenin and his successors subverted this revolutionary doctrine by making the vanguard party a political substitute for actual working-class democracy.
29. See Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge MA, Belknap, 2017.
30. Jason Hickel, “The Dark Side of the Nordic Model,” Al Jazeera, Dec. 6, 2019. www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/dark-side-nordic-model-191205102101208.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
31. See Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2005.See also Andrew Nikiforuk, The Energy of Slaves, Vancouver, Greystone, 2012, pp. 22-26.
32. This is the founding principle of the Breakthrough Institute. See also David Roberts, “John Kerry and the Climate Kids: A Tale of 2 New Strategies to Fight Climate Change,” Vox, December 10, 2019. www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/12/10/20996651/climate-change-john-kerry-world-war-zero-sunrise-movement, accessed September 3, 2020.
33. This latter view is propounded, for example, by Tim Jackson in Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, London, Earthscan, 2009.
34. See Roger Hallam, Common Sense for the 21st Century, White River Junction, VT, Chelsea Green, 2019.
35. It is important to note, however, that some environmentalists now advocate the expansion of nuclear power as a way of cutting carbon emissions.
36. Stan Cox, Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing, New York, The New Press, 2013, p. 24.
37. Ibid., p. 25.
38. Ara Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2013,pp. 170-190.
39. Don Ross, “Game Theory,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1997 (revised 2019). https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-theory, accessed September 3, 2020.
See also Max Willner Giwerc, “Game Theory and Disarmament: Thinking Beyond the Table.” E-International Relations. www.e-ir.info/2018/12/18/game-theory-and-disarmament-thinking-beyond-the-table, accessed September 3, 2020.
40. Deng and Conitzer, “Disarmament Games,” https://users.cs.duke.edu/~conitzer/disarmament_full_version.pdf, accessed September 3, 2020.
41. Peter John Wood, “Climate Change and Game Theory,” https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1883944, accessed September 3, 2020.
42. Prosperity without Growth, pp. 143-157.
43. Coalition theory, a subset of game theory, is generally better at accounting for the real-world prospects for cooperation. Coalitions arise where at least three actors (individuals, groups, or countries) are in contention, and no single actor acting unilaterally can achieve an optimal outcome. Coalition theories attempt to explain why alliances emerge, why they take the forms they do, how they persist, and why they terminate.
44. Varki and Brower, Denial, New York, Twelve Books, 2013, pp. 110-134.
45. See Thomas Moynihan, X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered Its Own Extinction, Boston, MIT Press, 2020.
46. Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain, New York, Vintage Reprint, 2012.
47. Yuval Noah Hariri, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, New York, Harper, 2015, p. 32.
48. See, for example, Herman Daly, Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, Boston, Beacon, 1996; and Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, San Francisco, Barrett-Koehler, 2011.
49. See Martin LaMonica, “Greta Thunberg’s Radical Climate Change Fairy Tale Is Exactly the Story We Need,” The Conversation, September 27, 2019. http://theconversation.com/greta-thunbergs-radical-climate-change-fairy-tale-is-exactly-the-story-we-need-124252, accessed September 3, 2020. See also Varki and Brower, Denial, p. 161.
50. Studies show that the satisfaction associated with status signals is related not to the absolute size of the signal (i.e., the size of one’s car or house), but its size relative to others in the vicinity.
51. See Melissa Dahl, “A Classic Psychology Study on Why Winning the Lottery Won’t Make You Happier,” The Cut, January 13, 2016. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/01/classic-study-on-happiness-and-the-lottery.html, accessed September 3, 2020.
1. Most prominent futurists forecast exactly this outcome. They do so, again in my view, by ignoring or arbitrarily minimizing the trends discussed in Chapter 5, or by proposing solutions that are unworkable, unscalable, or unaffordable.
2. See Thomas Carothers and Andrew O’Donahue, eds., Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution Press, 2019.
3. I’m grateful to Craig Collins for this framing of the three phases of capitalism’s adaptation to the evolution of industrial societies’ energy base. See “Catabolism: Capitalism’s Frightening Future,” Counterpunch, December 3, 2019. www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/01/catabolism-capitalisms-frightening-future, accessed September 6, 2020.
4. See R. R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West, Washington, DC, Gateway Editions, 2019.
5. The story is told by Matthieu Auzanneau in Oil, Power and War, White River Junction, VT, Chelsea Green, 2018, pp. 389-412.
6. See, for example, Edward Lucas, The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West, London, Bloomsbury, 2008.
7. Evan Osnos, “Fight Fight, Talk Talk,” The New Yorker, Jan. 13, 2020.
8. Russian military analyst Andrei Martyanov offers an overview of military capability in the 21st century.
www.claritypress.com/product/the-real-revolution-in-military-affairs, accessed September 4, 2020.
9. See Mark Fischetti, “Climate Change Hastened Syria’s Civil War,” Scientific American, March 2, 1915.
10. See John Michael Greer, The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, Gabriola Island, BC, New Society, 2008.
11. John Gowdy, “Our Hunter-Gatherer Future: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Uncivilization,” Futures Vol. 115, January 2020.
12. See Christopher Tucker, A Planet of 3 Billion: Mapping Humanity’s Long History of Ecological Destruction and Finding Our Way to a Resilient Future, A Global Citizen’s Guide to Saving the Planet, Atlas Observatory Press, 2019.
13. See Albert Bates and Kathleen Draper, Burn: Igniting a New Carbon Drawdown Economy to End the Climate Crisis, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2019. Bates and Draper discuss captured carbon as a performance booster in products.
14. See www.footprintnetwork.org, accessed September 4, 2020.
15. Thomas Wiedmann, et al., “The Material Footprint of Nations.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, May 19, 2015 112 (20) 6271-6276; first published September 3, 2013 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1220362110, accessed September 4, 2020.
16. T. Vaden, et al., “Raising the Bar: On the Type, Size and Timeline of a ‘Successful’ Decoupling,” Environmental Politics, 24 June, 2020. See also T. Vaden, et al., “Decoupling for Ecological Sustainability: A Categorization and Review of Research Literature,” Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 112, October 2020, pp. 236-244.
17. Adapted from Ed Simon, “What Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy can offer in the Anthropocene,” Aeon, February 11, 2020. https://aeon.co/ideas/what-viktor-frankls-logotherapy-can-offer-in-the-anthropocene, accessed September 4, 2020.
18. See Alice Friedemann, When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, New York, Springer, 2016.
19. Jason Bradford, “The Future is Rural: Food System Adaptations to the Great Simplification,” Post Carbon Institute, 2019. www.postcarbon.org/publications/the-future-is-rural, accessed September 4, 2020.
20. For a compelling recent restatement of the “small is beautiful” argument, see Helena Norberg-Hodge, Local Is Our Future: Steps to an Economics of Happiness, Local Futures, 2019.
21. See David Korowicz, “Brexit: Systemic Risk and a Warning,” Geneva Global Initiative, Sept. 25, 2019. www.genevaglobalinitiative.org/brexit-systemic-risk-and-a-warning, accessed September 4, 2020.
22. See, for example, David Pilling, “5 Ways GDP Gets It Totally Wrong as a Measure of Our Success,” January 17, 2018, World Economic Forum. www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/gdp-frog-matchbox-david-pilling-growth-delusion, accessed November 11, 2020.
23. For more discussion about GDP, see Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth, Gabriola Island BC, New Society, 2011,pp.231-259.
24. Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture, New York, Vintage Books, 1980.
25. Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels, p 204.
26. See Mats Larsson, The Limits of Business Development and Economic Growth, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
27. See Environmental Health Network, https://ehtrust.org, accessed September 4, 2020.
28. See D. Kriebel, et al., “The Precautionary Principle in Environmental Science,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Sept, 2001; Vol. 109, number 9, pp. 871–876.
29. The Wikipedia entry on the Office of Technology Assessment tells its story fairly and succinctly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Technology_Assessment, accessed September 4, 2020.
30. See Dmitry Orlov, Shrinking the Technosphere: Getting a Grip on Technologies that Limit Our Autonomy, Self-Sufficiency and Freedom, Gabriola Island, BC, New Society, 2016.
31. “World Happiness Report,” https://worldhappiness.report, accessed September 4, 2020.
32. An excellent example is the organization Farm Hack, https://farmhack.org, accessed November 12, 2020. The people engaged in this community rely on modern communication technology to share ideas about how to improve farm equipment, with a focus on low-energy, easy-to-repair designs.
33. Susan Krumdieck, Transition Engineering: Building a Sustainable Future, Boca Raton, CRC Press, 2020.
34. Low Tech Magazine, www.lowtechmagazine.com, accessed September 4, 2020.
35. Ted Trainer, The Simpler Way:Ccollected Writings of Ted Trainer, edited by Samuel Alexander and Jonathan Rutherford, Australia, Simplicity Institute, 2020.
36. Philippe Bihouix, The Age of Low Tech: Towards a Technologically Sustainable Civilisation, Bristol, Bristol University Press, 2020.
37. Many books and courses on permaculture are available. Start with “What Is Permaculture?” Permaculture Principles www.Permacultureprinciples.com, accessed September 4, 2020.
38. Eric Toensmeier, The Carbon Farming Solution, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2016.
39. For information on Henry George’s writings and “Georgist” economic ideas, see the Henry George Institute, www.henrygeorge.org, accessed September 2, 2020.
40. Others disagree. See Sheelah Kolhatkar, “The Ultra-Wealthy Who Argue that They Should Be Paying Higher Taxes,” The New Yorker, December 30, 2019. www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/06/the-ultra-wealthy-who-argue-that-they-should-be-paying-higher-taxes, accessed September 3, 2020.
41. “Ecuador Constitution in English.” Political Database of the Americas, January 31, 2011. https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Ecuador/english08.html, accessed September 4, 2020.
42. Debbie Bookchin, “How My Father’s Ideas Helped the Kurds Create a New Democracy,” New York Review of Books, June 15, 2018.www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/06/15/how-my-fathers-ideas-helped-the-kurds-create-a-new-democracy, accessed September 4, 2020.
43. See Hannah Salwen and Kevin Salwen, The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, New York, Mariner, 2011.
44. Karin Kuhlemann, “The Elephant in the Room: The Role of Interest Groups in Creating and Sustaining the Population Taboo,” in Climate Change Denial and Public Relations, Almiron and Xifra, eds., London, Routledge, 2019.
45. Joel Cohen, How Many People Can the Earth Support? New York, W. W. Norton, 1996.
46. See, for example, calculations by Chris Rhodes (Chris Rhodes, “How Many People Can the Earth Support…Really?” Energy Balance, December 29, 2008. http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-many-people-can-earth-support.html Accessed September 4, 2020) and Folke Gunther (“The Carrying Capacity for Humans Without Fossil Fuels.” Holon, n.d. www.holon.se/folke/kurs/logexp/carrying.shtml, accessed September 4, 2020).
47. Christopher Tucker, A Planet of 3 Billion. Alexandria VA, Atlas Observatory Press, 2019. Website: http://planet3billion.com/index.html, accessed September 4, 2020.
48. Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook, “Human Population Reduction Is Not a Quick Fix for Environmental Problems,” PNAS, Vol. 111, No. 46, November 18, 2014. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4246304, accessed September 4, 2020.
49. James Gallagher, “’Remarkable’ Decline in Fertility Rates.” BBC News, November 9, 2018. www.bbc.com/news/health-46118103, accessed September 4, 2020.
50. Jeremy Grantham, “Chemical Toxicity and the Baby Bust,” GMO, February 6, 2020. www.gmo.com/americas/research-library/chemical-toxicity-and-the-baby-bust, accessed September 4, 2020.
51. Alex Martin, “The Gray Wave: Japan Attempts to Deal with Its Increasingly Elderly Population,” Japan Times, November 16, 2019. www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/11/16/national/social-issues/gray-wave-japan-attempts-deal-increasingly-elderly-population/#.XiiR8heIYlI, accessed September 4, 2020.
52. Bill McKibben, Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families, New York, Plume, 1999.
53. Collins’ framing of the coming power struggle against catabolic capitalism (including the four constituencies of the horizontal power coalition) is also set forth in two articles, “Meet Cannibalistic Capitalism: Globalization’s Evil Twin,” Truthout July 30, 2012https://truthout.org/articles/meet-catabolic-capitalism-globalizations-evil-twin, accessed September 11, 2020; and “Cannibalistic Capitalism and Green Resistance,” Truthout August 31, 2012https://truthout.org/articles/cannibalistic-capitalism-and-green-resistance, accessed September 11, 2020. These articles and others related to the subject are archived at Collins’ site, https://www.catabolic-capitalism.com/.
54. See “Youth Activist Toolkit,” Advocates for Youth, from which this sidebar has been adapted. https://advocatesforyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Youth-Activist-Toolkit.pdf, accessed November 11, 2020. Other resources include: “Power Mapping,” Beautiful Rising, https://beautifulrising.org/tool/power-mapping, accessed November 11, 2020. “Power Analysis,” Racial Equity Tools. www.racialequitytools.org/module/power-analysis, accessed November 11, 2020.
55. Peter Buffett, “The Charitable-Industrial Complex,” New York Times, July 26, 2013. www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html, accessed November 13, 2020.
56. George Monbiot makes this point well in his essay, “If Defending Life on Earth Is Extremist, We Must Own That Label,” The Guardian, January 22, 2020. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/22/defending-life-earth-extremist-police-extinction-rebellion, accessed September 4, 2020.
57. See Eitan Hersh, Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change, New York, Scribner, 2020.
58. Margaret Klein Salamon with Molly Gage, Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, Gabriola Island BC, New Society, 2020.
59. See “Revolutionary Black Nationalism for the Twenty-First Century: Interview with Kali Akuno,” LeftRoots, https://leftroots.net/revolutionary-black-nationalism-for-the-twenty-first-century-interview-with-kali-akuno, accessed November 13, 2020.
60. See Roger Hallam, Common Sense for the 21st Century, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2019.
61. Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, Cambridge, UIT Cambridge, 2014. Website: https://transitionnetwork.org, accessed September 4, 2020.
62. Website: www.sunrisemovement.org, accessed September 4, 2020.
63. Website: https://worldwarzero.com, accessed September 4, 2020.
64. Rob Hopkins, From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, White River Junction, VT, Chelsea Green, 2020.
65. A perennial classic guide for activism is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, New York, Vintage, 1989.
66. The British economist John Maynard Keynes came to a similar conclusion. He thought that when economic science was finally perfected, everyone would be able to enjoy a high enough standard of living that they could devote themselves largely to the arts, either as producers or consumers.
67. Chris Jordan discusses beauty as a motivator for change in his TEDx talk. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwGCtMQFQFhmwKjHHxvCgRhTbbh?projector=1, accessed September 4, 2020.
68. Psychedelic drugs, used in many traditional religious or spiritual settings, can likewise take the mind beyond the realm of words; they are also being used in clinical settings to reduce hospice patients’ fear of death. See Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, New York, Penguin, 2018.
69. See James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, New York, Riverhead Books, 2020.
70. David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2016,P. 53.
71. See Chuck Collins, Born on First Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good, White River Junction VT, Chelsea Green, 2016.