Murray Grimwood serves up his best shots at the media on the way they report 'growth' - does he convince you?

By Murray Grimwood*

After years of cajoling, attempting to educate, and of being ignored, I'm inclined to give the New Zealand media a 'Fail'.

Here's why.

To merely regurgitate outpourings of a verbal kind is not – journalistically-speaking – enough. Why? What if the assertion you report is incorrect, yet your audience/readership - reasonably - assume it to have been vetted by you as 'true'.

Report it often enough, and maybe you even believe it too. 

He-said/she-said doesn't cut it either – not if one is wrong, and very not if both are. 

What is required – and what is missing – is investigation.

Take News on National (no need to please sponsors there) Radio, reporting the Finance Minister assuring us we're on the path to “sustainable economic growth”, or ... but we don't have to look far; reporting of apparently unlimited growth happens daily.

We can start with a simple truth: no growth lasts forever. Let me repeat that, in capitals:

NO GROWTH CONTINUES FOREVER.

Remember the Plunket graphs for baby? Tracking their growth? If we kept on at that rate, King Kong would be perched on our middle-aged shoulders, as we stooped to lean on the Empire State building. Doesn't happen. Can't happen. So if economic growth is linked to the physical world, economic growth will at some point cease.

A quick check – well within the cranial capacity of the average journo – tells us that linked it is; housing, mining, irrigation, aquaculture, all physical. If we could all get infinitely wealthy without the physical planet underwriting the process, none of those proposals would be needed.

No New Zealand journalist – I stand to be corrected – has pointed out, for instance, that 'greenfields housing' has to displace something; farming, regeneration, recreation, habitat. None have queried how many hectares are required to feed/support each new inhabitant, and what will be triaged (exported milk powder, say) to supply them, from an unaltered-since-Cook-mapped-it acreage. Yet they unquestioningly print projections of Auckland – indeed any - 'growth'.

Of course, you can pile up 'money' almost indefinitely, and maybe therein lies the clue to this across-the-board journocranial failure – I can write several trillion 'dollars' on a data stick, then chuck it in the fire. What I lost was a few cent's worth of plastic.

Money is merely a proxy; an expectation that sometime in the future you can exchange it for something.

You can play paper games with it forever, grow it numerically (being paid for journalism being an example, as is upping the 'value' of existing items like houses), document it's storage – but at the end of the day, if there's nothing to buy, it's worth ... nothing. 

If there's a finite amount to buy, there will be a bidding-war.

The poorest will drop out first, of course, probably inconveniencing the rich with their bidding. Don't blame them too much – if food or water or energy are the lot-numbers up for auction, they are bidding with their lives.

Growth, expressed in % terms, is exponential. We may be looking at another cranial incapacity here; there seem to be a majority of brains which see something like '3%' as innocuous, maybe even as linear. It isn't. 3% growth (p.a.) doubles in 24 years, doubles that in the next 24, and that in the next. If you start with expecting one of something at year one, you expect two at year 24, four at year 48, eight at year 72, and sixteen just short of the century. The physical world cannot support that kind of across-the-board demand increase, and therefore will default at some stage.

The only valid investigative journalistic questions, are: When? And: What then?

The 'When' is easy.

Find the linchpin resource (bit of the physical planet) and track it's rate-of-extraction. It's a blunt tool, but it'll do.

We haven't the space here to look at that in depth, but the linchpin is energy. Nothing – NOTHING – happens in a physical sense without it, and it's not 'when it runs out' that's the problem; it's when it's supply-rate can't grow any more. Yes, you can get more efficient – technology doesn't make energy, merely uses it more efficiently - no, that won't make up for the increasing depletion-rate.

Fossil fuels are the energy source in question, nothing comes close (and we'll look at that in another article). You don't need to be an expert; fracking and tar-sands and deep-water tell us that days of the Beverly Hillbillies gushers are over – we're scraping the second half of the Gaussian barrel.

From a standing start, any trading-tracking system (money is ours, thus far) had to be a growth-fitting one.

While the planet underwrote the growth, the fitting was able to continue (Hint: ask a maths-savvy person to demonstrate of an exponential J-curve laid over the left-hand part of a Gaussian). At the point where the planet couldn't underwrite the growth, it wouldn't. Worse, if every next-money-round was expected to be bigger – exponentially bigger – then the combined bets on the future (think: years of mortgage-repayments) would overshoot at the point where the underwrite began to flat-line. Welcome to Peak Oil (more accurately: peak energy-flow per day) followed by something called - and I contend it's named after an effect, not a cause - the Global Financial Crisis.Is it so hard to understand?

Perhaps it is. Perhaps those brains which aren't wired for understanding of the exponential function,also don't scope relativity in any meaningful way.

I heard an 'economics reporter' this week, stating that we should be “getting back on track for (I think he said 3%) growth”. Look, the planet is 4.5 billion years old. Fossil fuels took hundreds of millions of years to form. Our species has been around a mere 200,000 years at the outside. Fiat-financed, fossil-fuelled economic growth has really only been around for the 200 years and don't forget those doubling-times; it started small). “Back on track”? Relative to the last decade or two? Spare me. Who said that was the cosmic constant?

Here's another: RNZ's World Watch is about as staid and sober as they come, right? Recently they offered a BBC/DeutscheWella (again, scandals aside, staid/sober sources) piece bemoaning the European population decline.

If only there were one or two more offspring per couple, it went, so we can cope with our ageing folk. Remember this is all about energy – it's the only thing that gets the housework done - so lets compare human output with fossil-fuel use. An average care-worker 'works' one-third of a day. Currently, an average European uses fossil energy as if they had 300 workers apiece, working all-day every-day, no food, no sleep, no rest. The comparison – a nonsense of course – is nearing 1000:1. Even if it were 100:1, that's not even 'noise'. Ostensibly looking two or three decades ahead, the piece was - in terms of relativity - a total nonsense. An unchallenged total nonsense. Do these folk not get it?

Yes, there will be relative winners and relative losers, in the global mix from now on. That's nations, corporates, maybe individuals (hint: staple food is not a discretionary spend, centred conferences are). Yes, the descent is likely to be a saw-tooth journey. No, global growth (in real consumption) cannot continue. Yes, by adding in things like 'ideas' to an already-artificial thing thing like 'GDP', you can extend the pretend, and do the Pandora's Box thing to placate the masses. Yes, if you are lazy, scared, in denial, or cranially incapable, you can continue to report that. Don't call it journalism to be proud of, though. Actually, don't call it journalism at all.

A key question is whether the current fiscal system can deal with pollution, depletion and degradation of the physical habitat we need – despite our conceit, we're still born, grow, eat, mate, sleep, breathe, excrete – and what has to be done if it can't?

You journos – those left not spinning for politicians or lobby-groups - just remember the Titanic; the reality-hit of all reality-hits. Rich, poor, optimistic, pessimistic, altruistic, selfish, and no doubt reporters; none avoided the main event. 

Surveys of 'passenger optimism' could do nothing to halt the foundering – so why are they reported? Why do you repeat, unchallenged, the folk (economists) who can chart what happened since we left port, but wouldn't know a plunging Plimsoll-line if it hit them in the propeller?

Kim Hill, partly Chris Laidlaw and Bryan Crump, and once or twice Bernard Hickey, are the only mainstream journo's I know of who even get close to investigating this biggest issue our species has ever faced. I'll humbly acknowledge others on the production of evidence. For the rest – I give you an F. Couldn't help but do better if you tried.

Essential reading for real investigative reporters ...

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Looking-Back-on-the-Limits-of-Growth.html 
(that programme was run with 'double resources' - two planets' worth - with virtually no change to the result)

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-05-14/governance-in-the-long-emergency

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-05-16/apocalyptic-journalism-and-why-we-need-reporters-to-face-the-reality-of-our-crumbling-society

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/

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Murray Grimwood says he is "a Columnist, and a Generalist specialising in energy efficiencies". He comments on this website as Powerdownkiwi. You can find out more about him here ».

He publishes his views here » 

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49 Comments

Murray wants an educated bunch of peasants...fat chance Murray...you're up against the freaks who control the media and ensure that we are fed rubbish. The last thing 'govt' wants is for peasants to understand is how the farce operates.
 

Is this Powerdownkiwi?
Human creativity and ingenuity within wise stewardship means there can always be abundance. e.g. European Enlightenment   
Plenty of resources globally. Not enough justice & stewardship....

Creative and ingeneous when it comes to utilising free energy but fatally deficient in creating energy. The enlightenment didn't create it and if you do your homework you will find there isn't actually plenty of resources, a quick look at a reputable organistion such as the United States Geological Survey will reveal that.

Creating energy, scarfie? The amount  energy in the universe is constant. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Basic phyisics. Capturing, storing, utilising, transfering, transforming -yes. Creating - no.

Well I will put in the form that I have done before, people seem to think that the same inventive process that utilises energy can also be used to invent the energy source. There also seems to be a lack of comprehension of energy density, but that is a separte issue. You do get the underlying principle I am talking about though right?
  There is another interesting point about what Mortgage Belt says, which is a common statement not exclusive to MB. It is the assumption from non inventors what inventors can or will do,  There is a basic misunderstanding of the creative processes involved. Mind you as an inventor I didn't understand the process myself until about 5 years ago, I was just doing it and assumed everyone could do it. The real flaw in thinking is that no one bothers to ask the inventors their opinion of what might or might not be possible. Same assumptions as the reporters, Bill English says there will be growth and so it will be.

Actually Energy gets created all the time(E=mc2). The Sun creates light energy from Hydrogen and it takes 8 minutes for it to arrive on the Earth.
Eventually the Sun will run out of Hydrogen but we should be fine for about the next 3 billion years.
 

Energy isn't being created by the sun kiwi, just transformed and released. The energy was stored there as the sun was being formed. For this particular universe, all the energy that ever is, was or could possibly be existed as the singularity from which an astonishing( to our still primitive cognisance) event began about 13.4 billion (what we call) years ago.
Although I can offer no proof that this is the case I'll for now, accept it as my hero Carl Sagan messaged me from the other side via that skilled medium Madam YouTube. Besides being a bit of a dish, Carl was a mighty smart fellow.

Hydrogen is not energy, its called matter. Hydrogen is converted into light energy through the equation e=mc^2.
One little bit of matter releases a huge amount of energy, thats why scientists are spending a lot of time and effort trying to create fusion power.
We wont be running out of matter any time soon. Its free energy for everyone who wants it for as long as they want it.
 

Matter is just condensed energy. Energy is all there is. Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster can't make energy. His emminent noodliness' cosmic carbohydrates already existed at the time of the Whopper Whammo, (or Big Bang to non Pastafarians)

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function" - Frofessor Albert Bartlett.
http://www.albartlett.org/
 
His you tube series of lectures on the exponential function is essential viewing.  Unfortunately in order to be elected into Government you have to keep propogating the growth myth otherwise the masses will not vote for you.  This is the reason that I believe that instead of a gradual decline there will be a sudden collapse as everyone fights for the last bit of energy.
 
  "Can you think of
any problem in any area of 
human endeavor on any scale,
from microscopic to global,
whose long-term solution
is in any demonstrable way
aided, assisted, or advanced by
further increases in population,
locally, nationally, or globally?"

                  - Prof. Al Bartlett
 

Personally I think Bernard and most other New Zealand journalists do an excellent job for the most part. Their editors (not David) sometimes choose sensationalist stories over more important ones. Most kiwis, including those who work for government institutions, are generally hard working and well meaning. This petulant piece sounds like the sort of drivel I thought I'd left behind in benighted England.

Oh so carry on living in la la land then....order more prozac...I think you are going to need it.
regards

The world has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the last two centuries. Look at life expectancy for instance http://www.gapminder.org. All this doomy depressiveness is just not justified.

I am sure that Murray would totally agree with you Roger, about the transformation of the last two centuries, which has been made possible with our one-off global inheritance of fossil fuels.  But Murray is looking forward rather than back, and is challenging some basic MSM assumptions about continued growth, which must surely collide with finiteness of those fuels and other resources - in fact, there are signs that it is happening now.
Which specific points in Murray's 'petulant' piece do you disagree with?    

Sure look at the 1850s and earlier and then later...pre 1850s or so before the industrial revolution population growth and life expectancy was pretty low.  Follow that expotential energy growth for the next 150 years...track life expentancy and population growth..
Just try lookimng at Bartlett's work, its simple math....justified it is on the maths alone.
Now we are at Peak crude oil give or take 5 years (2006 ~ 2018). That means as the output declines so to does life expectancy and population...
Its simple math.
Stop looking behind you and projecting the last 100 years forward a 100 you have no justification for that, nthing supports you, no maths, no science, no geology, no enginnering, just prayer.
regards

Let me come at it from another tack. The Italian physicist Marchetti did a lot of work which seemed relevant to me. He found the production function best described a number of phenonemon. The production function starts off looking like a straight line relationship, then it looks like an exponential function, then it rolls over and begins a gradual decline. Marchetti found that many physical and social phenonema exhibited this character. His work covered use of wood, coal, oil, kilometres of telephone cabling, the spread of a virus through a population and the spread of an idea through a population. His work is quite remarkable. So where others see an exponential function that cannot continue indefinitely, I expect to find a production function that has not yet revealed itself.
 

I notice that three of your physical phenomena, the use of wood, coal and oil are "production functions" which look like "an exponential function, then it rolls over and begins a gradual decline".  This looks to me like you tacitly admit the reality of peaking and decline of all of these carbon resources.
So you are betting, for our energy future, on a new "production function that has not revealed itself"?  Well, if we are at or near the roll over and gradual decline of the above resources, then I think that we had better find the so-far unrevealed energy "production function" pronto, because 7 billion people will be needing it.  You appear to be very confident that human ingenuity will come up with a new energy source ("production function") to exceed fossil fuels.  But suppose we don't?  Well, the implications are enormous if we don't, and if we can't manage it, then this really is the biggest story of our time - and as Murray's piece argues, it is to our cost that the media doesn't pay attention to it. 

I must applaud interest.co.nz for having the guts to air a piece like this as it's not what most pundits want to hear. I completely agree with you that our financial system has become decoupled from the physical world (as have most peoples thinking).
 
As a scientist (biochemist), the energy situation interests me immensely. I've crunched the numbers and am well aware that our way of life will have to change in the not too distant future. I think people will be in for a bit of a wake-up call over the coming decades.
 
Anyway, keep on banging the drum PDK! Science is on your side. Unfortunately (or fortunately for you!) I think you're ahead of the game, most people probably won't start to cotton on for years (if at all - as they begin to wonder why their standard of living is dropping and 'growth' has not restarted).
 
We live in interesting times!

I can't help but notice that the mainsteam journalists who Murray mentions, who burrow at least a little into this issue, are not dependent on corporate advertising (OK, I know, Bernard does to some extent - so hats off to him when he does venture onto the topic).  

Interesting shot powerdown
Some years ago I was fortunate to attend a week-long live-in seminar presented by Professor Dr Graeme Fogelberg on the future of the news media. The print media, morning newspapers versus afternoon newspapers versus radio versus television news. Social media wasn't around at the time so wasn't discussed.

His view at the time was that afternoon print media would not survive. The immediacy of Radio and TV would provide the attention grabbing headlines, while the remaining print media that survived would provide in-depth backgrounders to the electronic headlines in the form of investigative journalism. Unfortunately it hasn't happened.
 
He is just down the road from you at Otago University. In your quest you should try and catch up with him for an insigthful view on where it went wrong. Assuming of course you haven't already done so. A good resource for you. He has researched the news media a lot.

Professor Dr Graeme Fogelberg
Completed his MBA and Ph.D. in business administration at Western Ontario in Canada

Professor Dr Graeme Fogelberg
http://www.presscouncil.org.nz/display_ruling.php?case_number=830

Ever notice how those puppet (muppet) newsreaders (flexible faces) use language.  When the number on the NZ dollar changes they say "Up" and look happy and nod.  if they say the word "down" they look concerned.  Or they say "weaken".  Heavens  - lets look concerned and sympathetic.
It's nothing to do with the content of that news.  That change in the exchange rate, labeled as 'Strengthed' on this occasion might mean something quite disasterous for some exporter.  - indeed for our whole economy.
I propose an experiment. (not going to happen - but here's the suggestion)  When the New Zealand dollar moves against the US dollar from 84c to say 85c.  Newsreaders say 'deteriorates'  and if it moves 84c to 83c they say 'improves'.
Just as valid I reckon.  But quite a different spin.

I do have a problem with interest.co.nz spin.  They keep reporting clips about demographic change - Japan - Germany - as some sort of problem.  It's just an assumption that it's bad.  Never seen the justification for it yet.
Yes I do see the graphs showing the number of oldies needing care.  yadda yadda.  Assumptions.    But no thinking it through.
I see population decrease as desirable.  What about some analysis of the costs of growth.  Seems to me I have spent my life hearing about the troubles of paying for all the extra required infrastructure.
I think I first saw the drawing of the Auckland rail loop some 50 years ago.  Aucklanders couldn't afford it then.  Actually seem less able to afford it now.

The oldies demographics is indeed tought through quite well by some IMHO......plenty of stats done that have proven quite accurate for predicting future needs/trends, so Im unsure what you mean?
Population decrease will happen its as simple as, we convert fossil fuels to food, when the fossil fuels are scarce and expensive then crop output will fall...and for GE stuff it could collapse....
Roads of insignificance are a bad joke, not sure on the rail loop is if servers a lot of ppl who otherwise might have a lot of problems commuting/moving. This is of course the problem no one as far as I know is looking seriously at decline and how to manage it....
regards

Steven.  Yes I agree there is quite accurate predicting for things like the numbers of 90 year olds compared to a cohort of 20 - 60 year olds.  And over some decades that will double etc.  Clearly more expensive etc
We see that point made about Japan all the time.   All the time especially recently on "Interest".  Sends me to sleep.
Never do we see the discussion about the savings of not having to provide infrastructure for an exponentially increasing population.  Japan has just about paved the place.  It's been expensive.  But no longer a big expense.
In New Zealand we spent miiions (billions) paying for new schools and more teachers in the 40s 50s 60s and 70s.  Now we largely don't need to.  Not discussed.
Auckland is providing our population growth.  Aucklander's are not wealthy enough to pay for the necessary infrastructure support themselves - the place is going backwards.  But it is rarely discussed as an problem caused by demographics.
PDK talks about the problem of journalism.  I agree they need some more investigation in their scribblings.
That said.  I think Bernard and team at times do generate a different analysis.  And propose some thinking.  Don't have to agree with them but pleased they do it.
 

Growth Antonyms
deterioration, degeneration, regression, retrogression, decay
 
The opposite of growth doesnt sell - not sexy
Imagine your leaders standing on the podium and advocating decay
Used to describe Detroit, Motown, Motor City
Imagine the barbs, the vitriol, the criticism

Yes, interesting point, we vote pollies into as they all promise things will be better.  I'd hazard a guess somone trying to get elected to "manage the descent" would get the vote of his mum and not much else....Hence I wonder on the Green's strategy...and if it will backfire.
regards

Yes politics is about lying effectively and the Greens haven't mastered that yet. So who has mastered it? Look to those in power and those seriously challenging for it.

I don't think you can really blame the media - it's there to make a profit. The scientific fraternity, on the other hand, has a greater debt in my opinion to society at large. Particularly here in NZ where funding of it, through universities and CRIs is largely by State/taxpayer.
 
Have NZ ecologist/biologist/soil scientists done any modeling of how various land/regions across the country would fare prodiction wise without any added nitrogen etc., for example? I'd like to know just how dependent we are on oil-based fertilisers and what's being done about that from a planning perspective. 
 
Then for example Gareth Morgan has recently written the Big Kahuna - what do the universities think of his proposal, I wonder?  For too long academia has presented itself as neutral on so many important issues that it should be standing up on and expressing opinion.  One academic to do this recently, of course is Mike Joy.  Clearly we need lots more Mike Joys. 
 
 
 

 Good comment, Kate.
 
I'm on it. Watch this space. There are a few - who should know better, they're smart enough to - who have the info available, either in the Universities/Faculties they head/belong to, or in the contacts they have due to their position. They say things like "we need to have a discussion about these trade-offs" (what 's to trade, I'd ask?) then get back to advocating economic growth. They all use 'vibrant' too - I guess frequency and amplitude are scientific terms, but it's a rather vague societal measurement.
 
The knowledge is there, though. I go to lectures within blocks of my newspaper, which if correct, render parts of it's offerings, Editorial, Opinion and reported, wrong. There's no rebuttal, no investigation, just continued 'wrong'.
 
Yes, Mike Joy is a cracker - tells it like it is - but I bet there's pressure brought to bear. I requires personal bravery - and it shouldn't.

Haha - what's to trade?  What a good question!  Argh to tradeoffs - in my opinion, this idea that we can somehow do a "balancing act" is rooted in the ethics of consequentialism - largely developed philosophically during the Enlightenment. I prefer looking at questions of action (i.e. what to do - right and wrong) through the lens of virtue ethics (Aristotle).  I often think what different choices leaders and decision-makers might have made had they understood that conceptual method for determining what is morally good.  Just think if this was the way our Environment Court worked (as opposed to their focus on balance and tradeoffs).
 
Granted Aristotle was very anthropocentric - but then who would care about any of this if not to sustain our species over time? 
 
Ah well, back to essay marking :-).

PS Here's a media guy doin' it right :-) ;
 
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10850911
 
Time Fran O' was retired - make room for the young ones, I say!!!!!

Kate, both the writer of your link and Mike Joy refer to the PoLS ONE report.  Here's another viewpoint of that report
http://www.giantflightlessbirds.com/2012/12/can-we-rank-nz/
 

Thanks, CO, interesting critique - not surprised however that it too is largely guesstimate type analysis. The reason for this is we do not as a nation reliably measure our environmental performance on a coordinated national basis.  The last State of the Environment report was 2007 - before that 1997.  The data/methods used between the two reports differed - hence making it impossible to make reliable comparisons regarding improvement or decline.
 
The Nats promised us better reporting. The requirement for such was to be mandated through legislation and we were to have another report within 5 years. Neither have happened.
 
Meantime they have set about forcing tradeoffs - as we have seen in Canterbury. Dump the elected council in order to force through irrigation of the plains.  Their appointed cronies were unable to make it happen inside one term - so they recently cancelled a further round of elections. The parallels with Muldoon and the Clyde Dam, for example, are astounding.  The difference being Muldoon used national legislation to force such local decisions - Key's crowd just decided to can local democracy altogether.

Media, interesting thing "make a profit" yes these days, but my impression was some decades ago that there was investigation and un-covering of dodgy goings on. Think watergate, would such an event be exposed today? i suspect not, more from no one looking than being told not to print though.  For instance a journalist said a while back the only money for reporting was in sport, everything else was bare bones.  Not much money in it either so the brighter ones do something else that earns them a decent wage, result I think most news papers are the walking dead and about as much use.

Such a good article powerdownkiwi.  Please write more.

"The poorest will drop out first, of course, probably inconveniencing the rich with their bidding"
 
A working example here is Egypt, and a coldly magisterial survey by Spengler (David P Goldman) is one of the clearer explanations of the processes at work.
 
The wider issue is that forcings which had massive consequences (such as sudden coolings (LIA), a decision to mothball a successful blue-sea navy (China C1400),  the denudation of forest to build fleets (Britain C1600) and so on) are essentially random.  Afterwards, once generations of historians pore over the victor's accounts, there may be some realisation of what was going on.
 
But at the time, no-one had the foggiest idea of any of these outcomes.  A more usual attitude seems to have been an altogether human denial that anything had or could change.  And human adapatability muddled through the actual consequences.
 
I understand what Murray is on about.  But my own appreciation of human nature (that's, actually, what History is all about) tells me that no amount of rational argument, in times when forcings of various sorts are in play, actually affects outcomes.
 
Or is it Different This Time?
 
 

Murray this one popped up via facebook for me over the weekend, a comment attributed to Keynes. I have not been able to determine its authenticity though.
 
“Perhaps the most outstanding example of a case where we have a considerable power of seeing into the future is the prospective trend of population. We know much more securely than we know almost any other social or economic factor relating to the future that, in the place of steady and indeed steeply rising level of population we have experienced for a great number of decades,we shall be faced in a very short time with a stationary or declining level. The rate of decline is doubtful but it is virtually certain that the changeover, compared to what we have been used to, will be substantial. We have this unusual degree of knowledge concerning the future because of the long but definite time-lag in the effects of vital statistics. Nevertheless the idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behaviour that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice”.

I hate to nit pick Murray but when I went to school a "D" was a fail :-P

My main issue with financial journalists is the reporting of estimates and projections without digging into the story enough to find out error ranges (so treating them as hard numbers). In theory business reporters should be the second most numerate reporters, behind science reporters, but we have no science reporters in this country so that leaves business reporters as the ones who should be asking the "how accurate are your numbers" questions.
 

HI PDK- well said
 
The media is very interested in CANCER. My mum died of cancer and I am sure that every NZ adult has lost one or many people, that they love, to this awful disease. It is just when normal cell become mutant and divide (grow) without any control or regulation. If it is caught and stopped in time- there can be a cure. 
 
If the the person with early stage cancer says "Don't worry, I feel great, it is just a meaningless little lump, bleed, mole, cough, pain- let go out and have a good time!", then the results usually are a nightmare and then death. 
 
Cancer is not an obscur disease. It is not that complicated. It is even called just "A growth". "I am sorry but you have a growth and it is malignant", "It is a growth", "This lump is a growth and we will have to do a biopsy". "We have found a growth in your mother's lung, I am sorry"- "The thyroid cancer has metasticized and we have now found a growth in the bones",   
 
When economists talk to us about "The growth in NZ", or "economic growth" we should all get chills up our spines and start thinking about the  "end game"- Will we struggle to regain our lands good health? Or will we load up on antidepressants, denial, positive thinking, TV, alcohol and checking off all of our bucket lists before the end (we must surpass Aussie incomes before the end).
 
I think PDK is fighting for NZ/world good health- and the media is mostly passing us all a cigarette, a beer and telling us to enjoy the ride, don't worry about it.
 

Defining Cancer
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer.
 
 

Origins of Cancer
All cancers begin in cells, the body's basic unit of life. To understand cancer, it's helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancer cells.
The body is made up of many types of cells. These cells grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.
However, sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The genetic material (DNA) of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
 

PDK - an interesting read. :-)  I understand what you have written but believe that there is no factoring human nature in to what you say. 

Hi,
3 things,
1) Human nature can be negative as well as positive. If we look at past failed civilisationsas any indicator can be bad, ie vested interests do nothing so collapse seems to be the dominant theme.
2) You obviously dont get simple arthimetic eg expotential function.  youtube and bartlett is a great watch.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY
3) and you cant be scientific in any way either eg the laws of the universe, in this case the biggee is the laws of thermodynamics.
4) Stepping outside of these, Project management  to do something on the scale required is a 20 year time frame and a cost like WW2 on steriods, we have 5years, no money and in fact huge debt and dont have something to deploy yet, or the will to do so.
So its going to do badly....
regards

Brilliant piece Muzz!
Two questions though, if I may.
Where did you get the notion that humanity has been arround for 200,000 years? The Summarians existed as a culture 6,000 years ago, and I believe Lucy, the oldest human remains found, is 10,000 years old. 
What do you think will happen when we run out of oil? If we have been around for 200,000 years, then we have enjoyed fossil fuel energy for 0.05% of our existance... A miniscule proportion by any standards. If our presence on Earth only encompases the last 10,000 years, then we have enjoyed abundant energy for only 0.1% of our time on this planet... Hardly significant!
As a sailor you know we only use diesel to dock the boat, or perhaps avoid an impending storm if we are lucky enough to have this information. I, for one, would be very happy not to have my neighbours blow leaves with their gasoline powered super-dupper-leave-blower, or mow their lawn, or drive a few blocks to get milk and bread, whilst their pants keep super-sizing YoY! 
When we run out of oil, or it becomes to expensive to use inconsequentially, humanity will find a new balance and global warming will become history!
Even if humanity fails to survive, which I seriously doubt, Life Will Prevail.
Keep up the good work PDK.
HGW

http://www.universetoday.com/38125/how-long-have-humans-been-on-earth/
 
Cheers - I agree we will most likely continue to shit in our own nest, until we become a minority species. The proactive way to address the issue(s), though, is not to hide from reality. That's the debate I'm urging. It's probably a losing strategy, but the only valid one.
 
We'll never 'run out of oil' (Ghawar will still be pumping in 100 years, but it will never revisit it's 1980 peak) but we've passed net-real-flow, and well past flow-per-head-of-population. I suggest we are seeing an empire in existence (USA) with it's tentacles hoovering-up other's resources, and a pretender in the wings. There ain't enough for both - so sooner or later it's a major war over resources.
 
We can't do much about that, so it's not worth dewlling on, except diplomatically. Our best moves are about NZ sustainablilty. Had a good sail yesterday - line honours, but handicapped off the planet.........

HGW:  A good summary is Nicholas Wade's 'Before the Dawn':  a few key points (IIRC, which is not to say that the little chap who runs the WayMad Memory Cube is infallible):

  • Clothing has been around 50K years (louse variants)
  • Language has been around 20K+ years (much more indefinite)
  • Modern humanity (as shown by e.g. gracilization of bones/skulls) has been around 200K give or take years
  • France's cave paintings are dated around 30-35K BCE

Another great read (especially if you tend to pessimism over our future with regards to Human Nature) is Steven Pinker's 'Better Angels'  :  core message - we've become kinder, much, much less violent, and more empathetic.  We must be doing some things well.  Let's find out what they are.

Well done Murray for stirring up such an excellent thread. Bernard should keep our energy future as a sticky thread. 

ht to Waymad - his link (comments on Mondays top 10).
"For King, the fervent belief that the UK will somehow return to 2pc to 2.3pc annual growth is “an inappropriate extrapolation of past trends”. He goes so far as to question whether official statistics for the past decade told the real story":
 
That's what I was questioning with: “Back on track”? Relative to the last decade or two? Spare me. Who said that was the cosmic constant?
 
Thx Waymad - good link

What if we are heading for a major energy use change not a disaster of biblical proportions? Something like this author is suggesting http://au.businessinsider.com/the-world-is-not-headed-for-disaster-2013-4. A transition from oil to renewable energy.
 
In the last three centuries we have had two major changes in energy use. Maybe we are heading to a third? The first was based around coal and the industrial revolution. It created new urban forms based around ports, railway stations and steam powered factories. Highly centralised countries that guaranteed a lot of individual freedom were able to make this transition. Britain was the big winner.
 
The second was when oil replaced coal. New urban forms evolved based around the automobile and the aeroplane. The most successful countries to cope with this change had more decentralised political systems. The Federal governments of the US and Germany doing particularly well.
 
I believe New Zealand could change from oil dependency to renewable sourced electricity. We can increase production of hydro, wind and geothermal and if there is a solar revolution then New Zealand receives more solar hours then say Northern Europe. But I worry about the politics of New Zealand not the physics of energy supply.
 
Look what is happening in Auckland. We created this new Super city, a huge process. Aucklander's voted for politicians who promised better transport systems, rail loops etc. A reasonable idea given oil prices, congestion and a possible future energy use change. But our government has spent years ignoring Auckland's collective wisdom and now proposes bypassing the Super city to allow the private sector to keep building car centric suburbs.
 
In particular Central government and politicians from both the left and the right ignore Auckland's request for taxation power so it can make needed changes.
 
Meanwhile the left are not much better. They either think we are doomed and do not even give the chance for change. Or they impose a central government mandate of state building of small houses/apartments within tight metropolitan limits. That cause unintended consequences of unaffordable housing, population loss to be replace by third world migrants and leap frog sprawling past the urban limit.
 
Our system of government is so rigid it does not allow our cities and regions to find their own solutions. This does not bode well for periods of change like what is coming. 

Brendon - one - there is no way renewables replace oil. Maybe in this country, for electricity,but globally it doesn't happen, and we have the wee issues of plastic feedstock, bitumen feedstock, fertiliser feedstock, packaging, heavy transport, big Ag. .
 
The problem is that the growth-based fiscal system can't outlast such a descent, so your 'affordable' appraisal is sort of irrelevant. Sustainable is the better yardstick.
 
By the 'sustainable' measure, most urban sprawl, most McMansions and most of the old city stock. simply aren't.
 
Oh - and it's never the system of Government that is the problem. Bad systems can be run by good folk, good systems will be derailed by bad folk. We simply have - both sides of the house - 'pollies schooled in the realities of yesterday. Journalists ditto.