Category Archives: Limits to Growth

Limitations on economic output due to resource constraints.

Talk on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture”

Keith AkersIn case you’re in Denver this Tuesday (September 29), I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Denver on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture,” sponsored by the DU Environmental Team. It will be at 8 p. m. in room 253 of Sturm Hall (2000 E. Asbury Ave, Denver, Colorado). There will be a quick overview of basic environmental issues relating to the livestock industry, such as climate change, resource depletion, and mass extinctions. It’s free and there will be vegan goodies served. For more details, check out the Denver Vegans Meetup site.

Megafauna Extinctions and Overpopulation

Extinction is a hot topic these days. Megafauna — those “big animals” whose average size is 100 pounds or more — are going extinct at an alarming rate. There is huge popular sympathy for elephants, whales, tigers, giraffes, apes, and other animals endangered by human activities. At the same time, we face a huge paradox: there is more megafauna biomass now than there ever has been for past 100,000 years or so. How can megafauna become more prolific and yet so many species be faced with extinction?

There’s a simple explanation. The cause of megafauna extinctions is one particular megafauna species, namely us, and a number of other species that we have brought into existence, namely our livestock. Continue reading

Earth Day Veganism

Environmentalism requires veganism. Livestock agriculture is hugely wasteful of natural resources, and is the leading cause of climate change. And this is not to mention the California drought, species extinction, and deforestation — all exacerbated by livestock agriculture, and all threatening the basis of human life on earth.

But this works the other way as well. Veganism implies radical environmentalism. That’s because consumers who drive gas-guzzling cars, live in huge houses, and buy lots of toys really are doing more than just depleting the earth’s resources; they are endangering all animals on earth. Continue reading

Degrowth and Veganism

"Degrowth" is something natural and beautiful

“Degrowth” is something natural and beautiful

How can we deal with climate change, let alone peak oil, water shortages, deforestation, and everything else — given that truly effective environmental action would probably stop the economy from growing and totally change everyone’s lifestyle?

Our whole economy depends on fossil fuels, and our livestock-centered agricultural system is pillaging the earth’s biosphere. Veganism is surely part of the needed approach here. Continue reading

The Drought in California

The California drought is not going away anytime soon. And guess what uses more water than anything else in California? Livestock agriculture.

The environmental reasons for veganism suddenly are getting more credibility and attention. The recent film Cowspiracy, and the San Diego based group Truth or Drought, have drawn needed attention to the environmental destructiveness of livestock agriculture.

The solution seems to be obvious. Some people get it, while others don’t. Still other people almost get it, but not quite. Continue reading

This Changes Everything — Review

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

For Naomi Klein, the climate change issue changes everything: the only way to deal with climate change is to change capitalism. We need fundamentally to alter our economic system if we hope to save the planet. Her analysis is spot on and I hope that climate change activists and vegans will study and benefit from this book. The only criticism I would have is not that it is too radical, but that it isn’t radical enough. Continue reading

God is not going to put more oil in the ground

There has been a huge drop in oil prices since last July. Many environmentalists don’t know what to make of this. Some are saying that the fall of prices should get us to rethink the “flawed” argument for peak oil, or that it will “destroy the green revolution,” or that it reflects the “existential crisis” of the environmentalists. Earth First! has chimed in as well. How can there be a shortage of oil, if prices are falling? Continue reading

Soil Erosion — is anyone paying attention?

Over a month ago, Reuters issued a widely-mentioned (but not widely discussed) press release on soils.“Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues,” reads the release. It quotes some United Nations officials, warning of the problems of soil erosion.

Is anyone paying attention? In an ideal world, the public would be outraged by this. Congressional committees would study the problem. Students would demand courses on soil preservation. But back in the real world, farmland just isn’t that big of a deal. After all, agriculture is just a very small part of the U. S. economy. We could also debate whether this is an exaggeration. Perhaps we have 100, or even 200 years of farming left! Continue reading

Peak oil may be almost here

“Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” This aphorism is nowhere more applicable than when predicting the date of “peak oil” — the maximum point of world oil production. In case you hadn’t noticed, oil prices are falling dramatically. Until about six months ago, oil (“West Texas Intermediate”) had hovered for several years in the region of $100 a barrel, reaching $107 on July 23. But by last Friday (December 12), it was below $60. If we’re close to peak oil, and oil is getting scarce, shouldn’t the price be going up? What happened, and why?

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Are the Economists Hopeless on Environmental Issues?

The world has serious problems, such as climate change, peak oil, and resource depletion generally. Economists should be leading the charge on these types of issues, but except for the very few “ecological economists,” like Herman Daly, they say increasingly strange things about a parallel world which seems to have only a tangential relationship to the one in which we actually live.

A case in point is the recent book The Climate Casino (2013) by William Nordhaus. His book is quite insightful on several levels. The Climate Casino is a disturbing book, but unfortunately some of what makes it disturbing is not intentional on the part of the author.

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Ignoring Food Choices — Once Again

Richard Heinberg, a prominent member of the Post-Carbon Institute, has issued a 10-point plan on “How to Shrink the Economy Without Crashing It.” He makes plenty of excellent points, but it contains a glaring omission: it (once again!) leaves out any discussion of food choices.

It’s distressing to see that advocates of reducing the human impact on the planet ignore the significance of our food choices. This was exactly the theme pursued by the recent documentary “Cowspiracy,” with which the Post-Carbon Institute (PCI) is perhaps unfamiliar. Without a change in food choices, how much shrinkage in the economy’s effects on the planet will we actually see? Continue reading

Extracted (review)

Extracted. How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet.
Ugo Bardi. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

Many people have heard of “peak oil,” and are concerned that finite fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas cannot support our economy indefinitely. But what about metals, like copper, gold, platinum, aluminum, and others? Isn’t there a finite supply of those in the earth’s crust as well? Do we have to worry about “running out” of metals?

Well, actually we do, although it’s more complicated than the phrase “running out” implies. This is the topic of Ugo Bardi’s clearly written and quite interesting book on minerals and how humans extract them. Continue reading

Drilling Down (review)

Drilling Down. The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma.
Joseph A. Tainter and Tadeusz W. Patzek. Springer, 2011.

Remember the Gulf oil spill in 2011? This catastrophic and deadly failure has now begun to fade from the public memory, but oil continues to be an increasingly complex issue in our society and the world.

To get oil, we now have to contend with “terrorists” abroad (ISIL), chaotic countries (Libya, Nigeria), and autocratic regimes with culture straight out of the Middle Ages (Saudi Arabia). The price of oil is permanently too expensive, unless the economy collapses (as in 2008–2009), and as may be happening now. Environmental damage is rife. Besides the Gulf oil spill, we have fracking (earthquakes, water contamination), the Alberta tar sands (which have done immense damage) and climate change. It’s not just that the situation is bad, but that the depth and complexity of our situation is breathtaking. Continue reading

“Limits to Growth” and the Shutdown

The BP oil spill

Drama! Don’t you love it! The debt ceiling and government shutdown debates illustrate that what the government lacks in problem-solving ability, it makes up for in entertainment value. The government is running again, the debt limit has been raised, and once again things are back to “normal,” whatever that is.  But the problem has not been solved, because the real problem has no solution. This is a “limits to growth” issue which no political leader has acknowledged even exists. Continue reading

Interview with John Howe

John Howe, with a solar tractor and solar car

John Howe is a vegetarian who “walks the walk” concerning sustainability and simple living on his farm in Maine. He is the author of The End of Fossil Energy. His book is excellent and deserves more attention, especially from vegetarians. For further information and/or to obtain the complete nine-chapter manuscript, contact My questions are in bold, with his responses following.

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