Ecosystem Modeling and the New Normal

Despite knowing at least some of the reasons for our blindness, I still keep wondering when more people will look around and recognize that frugality, austerity, and quite possibly worse are the New Normal. For most of us, life in the United States will never get back to the self-indulgent, wasteful spree most of us still consider normal.

Right now most of us recognize glimmers, shards, pieces or the problems–for example, unemployment, stressed resources, higher prices, bureaucratic stagnation–but most of us still miss the interconnectedness of our situation. It’s not just politics. It’s not just overuse/misuse of the environment. It’s not just overpopulation. It’s not just this or that. Pretty much everything is closing in on us. Sooner or later, circumstances will force something closer to awareness upon us, but by then that will most likely come with actions far beyond the bitter blame and anger that one sees at Tea Parties and such.

For better or worse, I still hold that knowing is better than blaming, acting better than reacting. With that in mind, I planned a post on how populations respond when they exceed the carrying capacity of their surroundings.

Then I found a March 15, 2010 post on The Great Change. This blog entry offers excellent definitions and models of four types of reactions to overshoot, a condition now surrounding human organisms whether we want to recognize it or not.

Here’s the link:

Unlike the bacteria in a wine vat, people are clever, so I’m currently pointing to John Michael Greer’s catabolic collapse as our fate.



4 Responses to “Ecosystem Modeling and the New Normal”

  1. Babz Says:

    That was a great article. We are doomed.

  2. Jesse Says:

    Here is the text of Newsweek’s 1975 story on the trend toward global cooling. It may look foolish today, but in fact world temperatures had been falling since about 1940. It was around 1979 that they reversed direction and resumed the general rise that had begun in the 1880s, bringing us today back to around 1940 levels. A PDF of the original is available here. A fine short history of warming and cooling scares has recently been produced. It is available here.

    We invite readers interested in finding out about both sides of the debate over global warming to visit our website: Climate Debate Daily — Denis Dutton

    There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

    The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

    To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

    A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

    To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth’s average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras – and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average. Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the “little ice age” conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 – years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

    Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. “Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data,” concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. “Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions.”

    Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term results of the return to the norm of the last century. They begin by noting the slight drop in overall temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases – all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

    “The world’s food-producing system,” warns Dr. James D. McQuigg of NOAA’s Center for Climatic and Environmental Assessment, “is much more sensitive to the weather variable than it was even five years ago.” Furthermore, the growth of world population and creation of new national boundaries make it impossible for starving peoples to migrate from their devastated fields, as they did during past famines.

    Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.

    —PETER GWYNNE with bureau reports

    Gary North was a big Y2K guy.

    I think most alarmists pray for the suffering of the Great Unwashed to prove their superiority for an “I told you so”, if not just for personal profit.

  3. uncommonscolds Says:


    Interesting material. Both the 1970s media-inspired (rather than science-inspired) hype about a new Ice Age and the whole Y2L flap fire the current deniers of science. They were, in my mind, always inconsequential.

    Other things of interest appear in your post. For example, this: “both sides of the debate over global warming” Denis Dutton

    Didn’t I just post something about either/or thinking? It’s everywhere, everywhere.

    “I think most alarmists pray for the suffering of the Great Unwashed to prove their superiority for an “I told you so”, if not just for personal profit.”

    Luckily, I don’t know any alarmists. The folks I know look at facts. Alas. these days being realistic means being pretty doom oriented. But that doesn’t equal alarmism. Frankly, I think we’re past a time for alarmism. I’m shaking my head and battening down as best I can.


  4. uncommonscolds Says:

    Here’s an article from _Christian Science Monitor_ on the 1970s outlook on climate:

    It’s worth a read.


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