Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ecosystem Modeling | Energy Bulletin

Ecosystem Modeling | Energy Bulletin

Energy Bulletin has posted an article by Albert Bates on Ecosystem Modeling. This segment looks at carrying capacity and responses to energy declines. The five types of ecosystem modeling featured are:

1. no discontinuity: the population and carrying capacity increase together; temporary shortages are quickly resolved by resource substitution;
2. sigmoid response: the ecosystem has a clear signal that a limit has been reached, curbs its consumption of resources, and population growth goes down;
3. oscillating overshoot: signals are unclear or confused; the population continues to grow and over-consume, overshooting multiple limits over a relatively short period; each period of overshoot leads to a crash, then a resumption of growth and overshoot;
4. hard crash (for lack of a better term): there are no clear signals of limits, the population continues to overshoot until a crash happens and there is no avenue for recovery;
5. catabolic collapse: This is John Michael Greer's scenario of a long period of decline, a stepwise descent into a lower-energy system. The authors confirm that this is a very likely scenario and has been predicted by other energy experts:
After reading John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent, we added a fifth type to the CAT scenarios — catabolic collapse. Once more, the signals are not recognized because the reality of the problem challenges the core beliefs of the dependent organization, such as a classical economics that admits of no limit in supply as long as there is demand. Greer postulates that overshoot may not follow a straight linear decline but rather may vacillate between plunges and temporary states of repose, using up “banked” resources that are retasked and recycled. The descent curve resembles a stair-step, arguably the experience of the global economy since peak production of liquid fossil fuels and their substitutes was reached in the 2006 to 2008 period.

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