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February 05, 2008


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zach wilson

oil, man. It was oil. Or at least that was a major part of it. The labor value of petroleum is unbelievable. What does each of those dots represent? Like 10 years?

Matt P

Well, coal first. The takeoff in Britain was 17th century, and oil didn't play much of a role until the late 19th. But what were the factors which led Britain to be the place where the intensive utilization of coal could take place first? The basic properties of coal weren't broadly understood for a long time prior. The late cultural anthropoligist Marvin Harris suggests that it was the lack of social institutions committed to the maintenance of irrigation that allowed northern Europe to go where southern Europe, India, and China had not gone, though it was technologically possible.

The new question is what happens when the cost of the fossil fuel input (both extraction and environmental) begin to close on the value add? Can we continue to grow economically? And if not, do we have a model for how we don't collapse back?


Putting population on a log scale would great;y improve the readability of this graph.

Ms Jackson

oil, baby, oil.

This is why Obama has energy policy as one of his top 3 policies. We will eventually run out of oil. Unless we've used that time wisely--to go beyond nuclear and find other sources of energy and construct the things necessary to harness that energy--we're totally, totally fucked.


In Historical Demography this point of view is definitely confuted! There was never a "Malthusian trap" in the human history! See, for example:
David Levine: Reproducing families - The Political Economy of English Population History, p. 68 ff.

The demographic homeostatis which aimed at balancing the hands of producers with the mouths of consumers can be explained much better with the "niche model" from Johann Peter Süßmilch (1741!). And with transition from patrimoniat to dominion the homeostatic system was dissolved!


If anybody likes to inform about another "homoestatic model" that works much better than the Malthusian system, I guess to read this English introduction into the "niche model" from Johann Peter Süßmilch:

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