The Upside of Down
The Upside of Down

The Upside of Down

The first multiplier is the rising speed and global connectivity of our activities, technologies, and societies. The second is the escalating power of small groups to destroy things and people. (Location 162)

Globalization is really a much broader and, in many ways, more recent phenomenon: an almost vertical rise in the scope, connectedness, and speed of all humankind's activities and impacts. (Location 170)

Greater connectivity and speed are especially worrisome in light of the spread of "lethal technologies" that have sharply raised the… (Location 177)

Never before has it been possible for small groups to destroy entire cities, and this one fact by itself will ensure that our future is… (Location 187)

The stresses and multipliers are a lethal mixture that sharply boosts the risk of collapse of the political, social, and economic order in individual countries and… (Location 188)

Scholars have found that bloody social revolutions occur only when many pressures simultaneously batter a society that has weak political… (Location 192)

Convergence is treacherous, too, because it could lead directly to synchronous failure, if several stresses were to climax together in a way that… (Location 200)

Such a convergence would be a body blow to global order, and might even send reeling the world's richest… (Location 203)

But we can still say confidently that we're sliding toward a planetary emergency; that the risk of major socialbreakdown in general-the result of something like… (Location 208)

a perhaps low-probability event that would nevertheless exact a colossal… (Location 210)

And the same criticism holds for us today if we deny the seriousness of our global situation: fundamentally, we're shirking our responsibility to our children and grandchildren… (Location 218)

Any management policies that really address the underlying causes of our hardest problems usually require big changes in the… (Location 222)

"has gradually built up an energy system prone tosudden, massive failures with… (Location 228)

When asked a year before the 2003 blackout if things had improved over the previous two decades, Amory Lovins said, "I'm… (Location 230)

The Kyoto climate-change negotiations kept thousands of scientists and other experts busy for years (ironically generating vast amounts of carbon dioxide as they traveled from meeting to meeting) while providing cover for politicians who… (Location 232)

We can help keep future breakdown constrained-that is, not too severe-by making our technological, economic, and social systems… (Location 240)

falls-we can make much greater use of decentralized, local energy generation and alternative energy sources (like small- and medium-scale… (Location 242)

they would profoundly alter the course of our societies. In truth, by shifting us away from a monomaniacal focus on greater economic productivity, efficiency, and growth, they would represent a… (Location 245)

I developed this idea of catagenesis after much study of how some systems adapt very well to changes in… (Location 259)

Complex systems, on the other hand, have properties and behaviors that can't be attributed to any particular part but… (Location 270)

growth, breakdown, reorganization, and renewal (the last three of these stages are what… (Location 277)

But beware. Breakdown can also usher in a period of great danger-of turmoil, confusion, frustration, and anger-a period when demagogues can rush into the breach and turn one… (Location 285)

At some point, though, the behavior of the whole system suddenly shifts to a radically new mode. This kind of behavior is often called a threshold effect, because the shift occurs when a critical… (Location 294)

The behavior of a complex system with these features is highly contingent-how it behaves at any given time, and how it evolves over time, depends on a host of factors… (Location 303)

The Roman arch is a type of structure that engineers designate a "voussoir arch" because its wedge-shaped stones are called voussoirs. (Location 374)

The Romans didn't discover this idea; they probably adopted it from the Greeks and Etruscans.' (Location 380)

I started to think about how Roman engineers and laborers had put it there, imagining the giant crane they would have needed-constructed in an A-frame, festooned with wooden… (Location 390)

The Romans began this monument to their power by draining and excavating a lake that had been… (Location 403)

Empires run on energy. A central task of any empire is to produce, transport, and focus enough energy to maintain and extend… (Location 411)

and the people and organizations responsible for generating and transporting it becomes a key job of an empire's… (Location 413)

We extract energy from our environment to create order out of disorder and… (Location 426)

to help us solve the problems we face-for instance, to shelter ourselves from our harsh environment and to… (Location 427)

There are, fundamentally, only two forms of energy: kinetic energy, which is the energy of material in motion, and potential energy, which is… (Location 436)

Inside the box, high-quality chemical energy is concentrated in the battery; it's also concentrated in you in the form of the sugars and proteins that you've… (Location 452)

All the high-quality energy in the battery and your body will be then degraded, and the box itself will wind down-just the way a mechanical clock winds down-to a black… (Location 460)

It's a "closed" system, which means it's sealed off from the outside world. Scientists use such imaginary systems to tease… (Location 464)

At first glance, open systems appear to violate the classical thermodynamic principle that disorder, randomness,… (Location 470)

Rome was a zone of low entropy within its… (Location 476)

ecosystems become more biologically diverse as new species evolve; and human embryos develop into people, with all their complex organs and… (Location 478)

They can spontaneously create order inside… (Location 479)

on the side takes a constant input of energy. Similarly, cities, ecosystems, and human bodies must have a constant input of high-quality energy to maintain their complexity and order-their position far from thermodynamic equilibrium-in the face… (Location 481)

The Romans then focused this energy-they used their food batteries, so to speak-to create a productive, resilient, and phenomenally complex system of public buildings, manufacturing facilities, housing, roads, aqueducts, and social organization. And here's the punch line: recent research (which we'll come to later) shows that the Roman empire was eventually… (Location 492)

estimated how much work-or how much energy-was required to cut, move, and place all those materials; and estimated how many people and… (Location 503)

Even then, the final tally was staggering: erecting the Colosseum required more than 44 billion kilocalories of energy.35 (Location 548)

This was an eye-opener. It reminded me that human societies expend a great deal of energy in non-obvious ways and places-for example, to excavate and build the Colosseum's foundation. (Location 557)

we compare the size of the investment with the size of the return on that investment. (Location 577)

We calculate the EROI by dividing the amount of energy a project produces by the amount it consumes. (Location 578)

are essentially parasites on those of us who grow the sources of energy-the grain, vegetables, fruit, and meat-that keep all our bodies running. (Location 586)

That's a total of 55 square kilometers of land-or almost the area of the island of Manhattan.54 (Location 600)

First, when it comes to the exigencies of energy, our rich, high-tech Western societies aren't any different from poor developing societies or, for that matter, from ancient Rome. (Location 621)

Without constant inputs of high-quality energy, complex societies aren't resilient to external shock. (Location 623)

without dramatic new technologies for finding and using energy, a society's return on its investments to produce energy-its EROI-starts to decline. (Location 627)

we're finding that we are steadily spending increasing amounts of energy to get energy. (Location 632)

they're vastly more complex and ordered, and they're much further from thermodynamic equilibrium. (Location 633)

i-stresses arising from population, energy scarcity, environmental damage, climate change, and economic inequality. (Location 654)

As cities and towns shrank, especially in the western part, economic interactions, social structures, and institutions became simpler.' Peasants became more tightly tied to local landlords in feudal relationships, taxes dropped, civil administration declined, the construction of monumental architecture ceased, and everyone traveled far less. (Location 679)

decades-it's good to start with global demographics. (Location 685)

Today, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, humankind is right in the middle of a historic population transition from the high birthrates and death rates that prevailed centuries ago-including during Roman times-to the low birthrates and death rates already typical of modern industrial society. (Location 690)

about 50 percent of future growth in the world's population will come from what experts call "demographic momentum." (Location 711)

What this all boils down to-and what we should pay good attention to-is that by 2050 the population of rich countries will be almostexactly what it is today-about 1.2 billion-while that of poor countries will have surged from about 5.3 to 7.8 billion. (Location 723)

it's almost certainly getting wider, and there are surprisingly few countries in the middle… (Location 737)

So millions in these populations, especially young men who are highly mobile, are migrating toward rich… (Location 742)

They either send them back to their home countries or hold them in squalid detention centers scattered across the… (Location 752)

They've traveled not out of a foolhardy sense of adventure but because their lives back… (Location 755)

Wealthy societies have so far experienced only a tiny fraction of the pressure they'll… (Location 769)

Their numbers keep wages for these jobs depressed, which has long helped Europe's economy grow with low inflation, and they underwrite the enviably short workweeks and long… (Location 773)

upward within Europe's mainstream… (Location 775)

But if Europe is hit by a powerful shock-like an economic crisis or a string of terrorist attacks tied to members… (Location 778)

Among other things, population growth in many poor countries is also contributing to the rapid expansion of megacities as well as a… (Location 780)

Larger populations consume more, creating scarcities of goods, services, and natural resources that spur entrepreneurs to… (Location 783)

Whether population growth is a good or bad thing depends on a country's technology, values,… (Location 785)

Today, similar escape routes are unavailable. Nowhere on the planet are large tracts of good and relatively uninhabited land still open to colonization, and anti-immigrant attitudes and… (Location 798)

they'll relieve only a tiny fraction of the demographic pressure building in… (Location 800)

So, hoping for a better life and often attracted by the "bright lights" of urban areas, people flood into the cities, usually to live in slums and squatter… (Location 807)

And as urban populations explode in poor countries, quality of… (Location 817)

In many megacities in poor countries, violence is commonplace, spurred by extreme income inequality and the weakness… (Location 824)

Urban gangs are increasingly internationalized, with their members joining streams of migrants flowing across borders between poor countries and onward to rich countries, where… (Location 827)

Their jailed leaders were incensed that authorities had taken away their air conditioning,… (Location 830)

In many countries, rapid population growth has created a "youth bulge," with young adults between fifteen and twenty-nine years old making… (Location 835)

Say two experts on the subject,"Young men-out of school, out of work and charged with hatred-are the… (Location 837)

Delhi, for instance, a significant part of the energy used by manufacturers comes from charcoal produced from the forests in northeast… (Location 848)

"Italy relies on external resources," he lamented, "and the life of the Roman people is tossed daily on the… (Location 853)

energy is the Achilles' heel of today's megacities. Without gigantic flows of high-quality energy-almost always coming from distant places-these megacities can't survive in… (Location 854)

Always resourceful, usually fond of coarse language, and often highly skilled, they were-without exception-unbelievably tough. (Location 874)

they weren't surprised by surprise; they were comfortable with extraordinary uncertainty; and they intuitively understood that resilience in the faceof constant change demands constant creativity-especially when it comes to finding new ways of using the materials and tools at hand to solve pressing problems. (Location 876)

I've realized that the growing risk of disruptions to our world energy supply combined with our societies' increased vulnerability to such disruptions are, together, a tectonic stress that threatens our future. (Location 883)

Without adequate energy in the future, humankind hasn't a hope of raising the standard of living of the planet's poorest 2 billion (Location 887)

its production and trade play a critical role in the skewed economic relations between rich and poor countries, (Location 892)

Our appetite for energy is rising very fast: most experts estimate that global consumption will more than double by 2050-a time span easily within the lives of today's children-and quadruple by 2100.' (Location 893)

Between 2000 and the beginning of 2005, China's daily oil imports soared 140 percent, and in the next fifteen years the country's total energy demand is expected to double. (Location 898)

Between 1950 and 2000, world energy consumption rose more than twice as fast as it had during the previous century, and oil powered most of this growth. (Location 912)

But as our energy needs have risen, we've turned increasingly to sources derived far less immediately from sunlight, like fossil fuels that were produced when ancient organic matter was transformed by immense heat and pressure deep underground. (Location 916)

This battery charger, though, operates not over the course of one agricultural growing season but over billions of years. (Location 920)

It has also allowed the world's population to quadruple in the past century-and for people to become, on average far healthier-in large part because we can grow so much more food on our land: food output per hectare has quadrupled as we've increase energy inputs (to run tractors, power irrigation pumps, and manufacture fertilizer) more than eighty fold." (Location 927)

through the boom in the human population, we're also probably about halfway through the world's available supply of oil. (Location 930)

they had essentially geopolitical, not physical, causes. (Location 943)

Instead, a large portion of world crude production had become concentrated in the hands of a small number of Persian Gulf states that had expropriated the operations of international oil companies within their territories. (Location 946)

It's true that higher prices stimulated exploration, but the results were meager and had little direct effect on oil supplies.'? (Location 950)

I don't mean we're going to run out of oil-at least not anytime soon. Oil will be around for a long time to come. But we are going to run out of the cheapest oil-that is, the most accessible oil-as it becomes harder to find, costlier to produce, and more concentrated in politically volatile parts of the world.'8 (Location 956)

If unrestricted oil extraction occurs, the volume of oil pulled out of the ground tends to follow a bell curve-production starts slowly at first, builds to a peak, and then falls at about the same rate it climbed. (Location 962)

So on balance, I believe, the evidence supports the claim that the world is nearing its peak output of conventional (Location 1001)

Reserve data are even more dubious for many oil-producing countries, because they have strong incentives to exaggerate. (Location 1003)

When Harry Longwell says that oil and gas are getting harder to find, he means it takes more energy to find them. In other words, exploration companies are facing a declining energy return on investment (EROI). (Location 1014)

Between the 193os and today, oil's EROI in the U.S. fell from more than ioo to i to about 17 to i, as the average depth of an oil well increased from 1,000 to 2,000 meters, and the average size of a new oil field fell from more than 20 million barrels to fewer than i million.43 (Location 1017)

These 14 fields are, on average, forty-four years old. (Location 1021)

Two of the world's most important giant oil fields are, in fact, in Saudi Arabia. These two fields-named Ghawar and Safaniya-are so big that experts have labeled them supergiants. (Location 1033)

These people say that the country can meet a good fraction of the world's rising oil demand by turning on the oil spigots whenever prices soar (Location 1035)

But the Ghawar and Safaniya fields are old, and despite heavy exploration the country hasn't seen any major oil discoveries since the 196os.49 (Location 1037)

That's between 6 and 8 percent of the world's entire conventional crude output and four to five times the output of the world's next largest field." (Location 1039)

has already peaked and is now declining at an average rate of 8 percent a year.55 (Location 1043)

If huge new discoveries aren't likely, and if many of the world's biggest fields are nearing decline or already declining, what about advanced methods for getting oil from existing fields? (Location 1044)

Yet these enhanced-recovery technologies generally take lots of energy-which means they lower the EROI of any additional oil produced. (Location 1048)

World oil production, then, is entangled with too many political, economic, technological, and geophysical uncertainties to allow us to predict exactly when global conventional output will peak. (Location 1061)

But getting coal out of the ground causes enormous damage: around the world, especially in countries like China, coal mining ruins vast landscapes, kills rivers and lakes with toxins, and destroys the health and lives of miners. (Location 1088)

But new technologies are being invented that allow plant cellulose-the tough material that gives plants their structure-to be digested and converted into ethanol. (Location 1096)

If we could capture even a tiny fraction of this radiation, our energy problems would be solved forever. (Location 1102)

We'll have to overcome significant technical hurdles-for instance, scientists haven't yet invented a truly satisfactory way to store large amounts of hydrogen in a small space, like a car's fuel tank. But these difficulties are solvable in time. (Location 1122)

would have to cover an area the size of Massachusetts with solar panels or the size of New York State with windmills." (Location 1127)

one straightforward answer to our energy problem, and to conventional oil's impending peak, is simply conservation. (Location 1129)

But some people object to such strategies because they lower our standard of living, at least as it's conventionally defined. (Location 1131)

Unfortunately, though, efficiency can't improve at such high rates forever because manufacturers and entrepreneurs exploit the easiest and cheapest ways to save energy first. (Location 1138)

it still hasn't reduced its total energy consumption, because economic output has grown faster than energy efficiency has improved. (Location 1141)

Japan, Indonesia, California, and British Columbia. They are also instances of a more general kind of system breakdown-a kind that's important to us today, as we try to understand the risk of social breakdown. (Location 1174)

they'redeep, invisible, yet immensely powerful; they're building slowly; and they can release their force suddenly without warning. (Location 1175)

mounts and is eventually released in one great burst. Similarly, at the human level, our institutions and political and economic systems can lock up or become rigid, which prevents the release of stress and keeps societies from adapting to new circumstances. (Location 1178)

Seismologists call this phenomenon "stress triggering," and we can see something similar in social systems: a disturbance in one part of an economy or society can dramatically-and often unexpectedly-increase stress in other parts, leading to cascades of economic or social change. (Location 1185)

And they were similar in another way too, because both, I realized, were examples of negative synergy. (Location 1223)

But in reality, they were just the latest chapter in a story of converging stresses that had been ignored till then and that has received little attention since. (Location 1231)

Yet everywhere I looked new telephone poles had been rigged with power lines and lots were being cleared of debris for reconstruction. (Location 1244)

now knew for sure that they were constructing their buildings in a danger zone. (Location 1245)

We also use it to refer to a sudden change in normal affairs. Here I'll use the word a bit differently-to refer to a rapid loss of complexity. (Location 1247)

Rome's-simplifies its internal organization and reduces its range of potential behaviors. 'I (Location 1249)

Their activities and goals become much simpler. Life becomes a matter of survival, of satisfying basic needs on a day-to-day basis. (Location 1249)

San Bernardino fires simplified the region's ecology-wiping out many of its plants, animals, and ecosystems-just as it simplified the human society that lived there (after all, most people left). (Location 1250)

Breakdown may be serious, but it's not catastrophic. Something can besalvaged after breakdown occurs and perhaps rebuilt better than before. (Location 1255)

the damage endures-it may even be permanent-and there's far less knowledge, wealth, or information left behind to use in a process of renewal. (Location 1256)

right now, are all getting worse at the same time. Some of them, like the demographic imbalance between rich and poor countries and environmental damage in poor countries, are already severe. (Location 1262)

Toward the end of the session, one of my fellow panelists, a gentleman who'd made a fortune in Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom, said something that especially caught my attention. (Location 1290)

In my experience, absolutist, unqualified statements like this one are almost always wrong. And when they're converted into government and corporate policy dogma-as has happened over the past couple of decades to the general idea that greater connectivity among people, technologies, economies, and societies is always better-we're in real trouble. (Location 1291)

mentioned in chapter i (the other being the escalating power of small groups to destroy things and people). (Location 1296)

The U.S. economy, for instance, is made up of nodes like corporations, factories, business associations, banks, labor unions, and urban agglomerations; it's also made up of links among these nodes in the form of fiber-optic cables, electrical grids, gas pipelines, highways, and rail lines. (Location 1301)

their networks become more complex, interconnected, and faster: they add more nodes, they increase the number of links among the nodes, and they boost the speed at which stuff moves from node to node along the links. (Location 1302)

Together, greater connectivity and speed often make economies and societies more resilient to shock because they can respond faster and draw from their larger networks a wider range of skills, resources, capital, and goods and services. (Location 1308)

My car and its surrounding cohort of vehicles-all roaring down the highway together-weren't physically linked to each other, but we were still connected through information flows (via our eyes and ears) and our mutual vulnerability and interdependence. (Location 1312)

so we had almost no room for error, accident, or mechanical failure. (Location 1313)

Together we'd become what experts call a "tightly… (Location 1314)

So the first cost of greater connectivity is that damage or a shock in one part of the system-the failure of a machine (like my car engine), the release of a computer virus, or a local financial crisis-can… (Location 1316)

As we create more links among the nodes of our technological and social networks, these networks sometimes developed unexpected patterns of… (Location 1324)

Although researchers have mainly focused on technological systems, this kind of synergistic failure is just as likely in… (Location 1336)

In recent years, scientists have discovered that there are two main types of network. Specialists call them "random networks" and "scale-free networks," for… (Location 1341)

A random network looks like the U.S. interstate highway system, in which the nodes are cities and towns,… (Location 1342)

A scale-free network, on the other hand, looks a lot like the U. S.… (Location 1345)

In a random network the loss of a small number of nodes can cause the overall network to become incoherent-that is, to… (Location 1348)

if a scale-free network loses a hub, it can be disastrous, because many other… (Location 1350)

Scale-free networks are particularly vulnerable to intentional attack: if someone wants to wreck the whole network, he simply needs to… (Location 1353)

When energy demand is at peak, as it often is in air-conditioned North America in mid-summer, the electricity grid… (Location 1372)

have to be clever to exploit the vulnerabilities of our networks. They have to attack the right hubs in the right networks at the right times, or the damage will remain… (Location 1376)

But strategies like improving tracing and redundancy aren't foolproof, and the incentives for terrorists are large: if they succeed in attacking our complex networks, they can spark… (Location 1380)

We also create extraordinarily attractive targets for attack when we concentrate high-value assets-people included-in… (Location 1383)

The World Trade Center may have been an attractive target, but it was not-as it turned out-a… (Location 1391)

Rather, by working through the psychological network we've created among ourselves-a network that extends around the planet-the attacks' biggest impact was their shock to… (Location 1399)

As stress accumulates in a system, there's a dangerous buildup of something akin to what… (Location 1413)

Perhaps these events were causally linked (the loss of the job might have precipitated the illness… (Location 1420)

Such unlucky people can end up on the street, without social support… (Location 1422)

The scholars argue that revolutions happen when inflexible societies experience multiple shocks-or body blows-at many levels… (Location 1424)

In other words, just like a stick that has dried out and become brittle, the system becomes more likely to break if exposed to too much… (Location 1428)

In history, we can find many examples of civilizations that have been pushed over the edge to collapse by the combination of multiple… (Location 1432)

People often reverted to simpler technologies: for instance, they stopped using wick lamps and returned to the open-saucer… (Location 1447)

severe-we can be sure it won't unfold at the same leisurely pace as seventeen hundred years ago. The underlying mechanisms may be the same-a combination of accumulated… (Location 1452)

If we use the contraction of an empire's total territory as a crude indicator of the empire's decline, we find that ancient and early-modern empires usually (… (Location 1454)

empires all disintegrated within decades. Sometimes, as in the case of the Soviet empire, they… (Location 1457)

In the past, cascading failures usually occurred within single systems-like electrical grids or banking systems-but now these failures are… (Location 1463)

Because today's communication technologies vastly multiply our emotional reaction to shocking events-something we saw in full force in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and anthrax letters-this kind of terrorism could easily cause a financial panic and even civil disorder, despite the fact… (Location 1465)

If our societies are already brittle because accumulating stresses have eroded their resilience over time, what starts as a local and seemingly manageable breakdown could jump boundaries and quickly spread around the globe, and might… (Location 1471)

This change is bad news for the bears. It also reveals something critical about our changing… (Location 1482)

Accumulating enough high-quality energy to survive and reproduce is no easy task, and the bears begin as soon as they emerge from their dens in early… (Location 1483)

And no matter how exceptional we think we are-no matter how much we think we can isolate ourselves from, or rise above, nature-we're still intimately entwined with nature's processes.' (Location 1504)

first, between environmental problems in rich countries and those in poor countries; and, second, between damage to the environment in a particular place-to a region's cropland, forests, or rivers, for instance-and damage to global environmental systems (Location 1535)

like Earth's climate. (Location 1536)

When markets don't work properly, when capital and expertise are scarce, governments weak, and the democratic voice limited, societies don't deal well with serious and complex challenges like a declining environment. (Location 1607)

Today, the country's few remaining trees, mostly high in the hills, are being chopped down to produce charcoal. And as forests have disappeared, erosion has followed, made worse by the land's steepness and the Caribbean's harsh storms. (Location 1713)

Combined with other stresses-like friction between ethnic groups, external economic shocks, or unmanageable megacities-it can fray a society's social fabric; (Location 1724)

We had managed to drive right into the middle of a large herd, and the animals seemed increasingly annoyed by our pipsqueak vehicle buzzing back and forth. (Location 1755)

These systems tend to have a number of stable states, or what experts call "multiple equilibriums." Think of a beach ball that has rolled into a hollow between some sand dunes. (Location 1943)

Ocean biologists have discovered something that might be even more disturbing: since the early zg8os the productivity of ocean phytoplankton has dropped 6 percent. (Location 2006)

toward equilibrium-into an unchallengeable truth. Actually, though, markets are fundamentally unstable and often grossly inefficient because objective economic reality is intimately entangled with, and influenced by, the subjective perceptions of buyers and sellers. (Location 2036)

"focus on the millions of people who have been hurt by shifting economic tides, and there are many such people, although not as many as some of the critics imagine, and they ignore the hundreds of millions of people for whom the global economy has made the difference between mere poverty and sheer desperation." (Location 2055)

Any bank faces a fundamental mismatch between the time frames of its liabilities and assets: although its customers' deposits can be withdrawn quickly, its loans are usually invested for long periods." (Location 2090)

Because of new communication technologies, any warnings of danger-of, say, weakness in a particular developing country's economy-travel through the audience in a flash. (Location 2101)

Many poor countries, on the other hand, stay locked in poverty because they suffer from chronic government failure and corruption, their workforces are poorly educated and unskilled, and the international economy and trading system is biased against them. (Location 2169)

In essence, then, the logic underpinning our economies works like this: if we're discontented with what we have, we buy stuff; if we buy enough stuff, the economy grows; (Location 2281)

New technologies create constant economic upheaval, which means that an average person in the American economy, for instance, has to change jobs every four years or (Location 2289)

These diversions further fragment our lives and our social relations. They also rob us of the periods of uninterrupted time we need for the pleasure of focused activities-for pastimes like writing, reading, dancing, gardening, playing a sport or musical instrument, or playing with our children-that bring us real happiness. (Location 2293)

the erosion of community and family, an economic culture that promotes chronic insecurity and extreme individualism, unattainable standards of beauty (especially for women), and an overwhelming proliferation of consumer options-because (Location 2303)

Our economies may have shifted to industries based more on ideas, but that's only because much of our resource-intensive manufacturing has moved beyond our horizon to countries like China and India that then export their wares back to us.'°3 (Location 2359)

We now live with an inescapable juxtaposition of winners and losers. Everyone everywhere knows who's ahead and who's behind. Every country competes with every other country in a vicious productivity race, as governments strive to make their own nations more efficient, productive, and nimble than the rest. (Location 2369)

If our global society is to be resilient and adaptable-and if it's to be peaceful-it must give its citizens roughly equal opportunities to advance their (Location 2375)

are highly conservative when it comes to our theories of reality. We don't relinquish our core assumptions until the contrary evidence-what philosophers of science call "anomalous data"-is overwhelmingly abundant and relentlessly obvious. (Location 2423)

I believe, a range of strategies to convince ourselves that the problems we face aren't terribly serious, that our future will look more or less like our past, and that the road in front of us-beyond the fog-is straight and clear. (Location 2428)

We may be great problem solvers, but unfortunately we're increasingly creating problems that we aren't effectively solving." (Location 2463)

We also have great difficulty taking novel threats seriously because we tend to imagine the future through the lens of the past. (Location 2473)

Also, our brains aren't good at identifying, tracking, and acting on slow-creep problems. (Location 2476)

problems like finding food, preparing shelter, and defending against marauding tribes could usually be separated from each other and addressed sequentially. (Location 2481)

The basic truth of this economic arrangement is crystal clear to everyone: the interests of business prevail over all others.21 (Location 2518)

Yet his theory about how societies evolve has had immense influence. His slim 1988 book, The Collapse of Complex Societies, is in its thirteenth printing in English and has been translated into multiple languages around the world, including Russian, Korean, and Kurdish.24 (Location 2545)

All societies face problems of various kinds over time, he points out. Some of the problems might come from outside the society, such as an attack by another hostile society or a change in the prevailing climate that reduces the rainfall needed to grow food. (Location 2553)

Either way, societies often respond to their problems by increasing their complexity. (Location 2555)

In the short and medium terms, this greater complexity often produces big benefits-like more food-and most people are better off. (Location 2557)

First, complexity costs, and greater complexity costs more. This cost is paid in the currency of energy: from a thermodynamic point of view, as we saw in chapter 2, it takes lots of high-quality energy to keep nature's relentless tendency toward degradation and randomness-toward higher entropy-at bay. (Location 2559)

a society's investment in complexity to solve its problems eventually produces "diminishing marginal returns." This simply means that at some point an additional investment in complexity gives us less benefit than the immediately previous investment. (Location 2563)

Why? Because societies almost always try first those solutions that are simplest and give the biggest return for the least cost, leaving for later more complex, costlier, and less effective solutions. (Location 2565)

The result: a relentlessly declining energy return on investment (EROI). (Location 2568)

When this happens, a society is in realtrouble because the population must bear complexity's ever-higher cost, even though this complexity generates no net benefit or improvement in well-being. (Location 2569)

First, I found it odd that societies would continue to increase their complexity beyond the point that it benefits them. (Location 2575)

"The answer is that the universe is perverse, and the challenges never end. But there's another reason, too, that I've expressed more clearly in my recent articles: complexity tends to be adopted as a short-term solution. (Location 2577)

So, I thought, some societies are like juggernauts. As they try to deal with their immediate problems, they develop inexorable momentum toward greater complexity, and this complexity brings with it long-term unintended costs. (Location 2581)

You're also likely to see declining living standards as an increasing proportion of the GDP is allocated to solving these problems." (Location 2588)

He noticed that healthy forests all have an adaptive cycle of growth, collapse, regeneration, and again growth. (Location 2613)

we think of the ecosystem as a network, both the number of nodes in the network and the density of links between the nodes rise. (Location 2617)

"connectedness" goes up-and as this happens it evolves more ways of regulating itself and maintaining its stability. (Location 2621)

Over time as the forest matures and passes into the late part of its growth phase, the mechanisms of self-regulation become highly diverse and finely tuned. (Location 2625)

Species and organisms are progressively more specialized and efficient in using the energy and nutrients available in their niche. (Location 2625)

implies-very much as Tainter argues in his theory-that the forest's ever-greater connectedness and efficiency eventually produce diminishing returns by reducing its capacity to cope with severe outside shocks. (Location 2629)

So in the late part of the growth phase of any living system like a forest, three things are happening simultaneously: the system's potential for novelty is increasing, its connectedness and self-regulation are also increasing, but its overall resilience is falling. (Location 2634)

The results, of course, can be dramatic-large tracts of beautiful forest canbe obliterated. (Location 2636)

The organisms that survive become much less dependent on specific, long-established relationships with each other. (Location 2639)

And because the system is suddenly far less interconnected and rigid, it's far more resilient to sudden shock. (Location 2642)

In these ways the forest ecosystem reorganizes and regenerates itself, quite possibly in a very new form. (Location 2645)

"The adaptive cycle," Holling writes, "embraces two opposites: growth and stability on one (Location 2646)

hand, change and variety on the other."" (Location 2647)

the forest's cycle is the larger and slower-moving cycle of the regional ecosystem, and above that, in turn, is the even slower cycle of global biogeochemical processes, where planetary flows of materials and elements-like carbon-can be measured in time spans of years, decades, or even millennia. (Location 2654)

So the entire hierarchy of adaptive cycles-what Holling and his colleagues call a panarchy-spans a scale in space from soil bacteria to the entire planet and a scale in time from seconds to geologic epochs. (Location 2658)