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Richard Heinberg’s museletter

If you don’t subscribe to Richard Heinberg’s , allow me to recommend it to you. It deals in peak oil, climate change, economics, and culture, and is always fascinating.

A quote from sums up much of what we’re about at Make Wealth History:

At its core, the dilemma is this: We humans have overshot Earth’s carrying capacity through overpopulation and over-consumption, and have created all sorts of other problems in doing so (such as climate change). But nature will take care of all these difficulties. Overpopulation will eventually be solved by starvation and disease. Over-consumption will be reined in by resource depletion and scarcity. Climate change will take longer to fix, maybe thousands or millions of years — assuming we don’t turn Earth into Venus.

But nature’s ways of solving our problems are not going to be pleasant. And so the enormous, overriding question confronting our species during the remainder of this century will be, Are we humans capable of getting out ahead of nature’s checks so as to proactively rein in our population and consumption in ways we can live with?

That, I would agree, is the fundamental question. The changes we face are inevitable. The only thing I would add is that our current globalized, individualistic, competitive culture is no way to live, and a slower, saner world would also be a fairer and happier one.

  • In the latest edition, Richard also points out that use of fossil fuels, and thus carbon emissions, have fallen 3.5% in the last year in the US, China and the UK. And more bicycles have been sold than cars in the US so far this year… .


  1. I beg to differ from Mr Heinberg. He presumes to speak for the whole of the human race when he declares that we have ‘overshot Earth’s carrying capacity through overpopulation and over-consumption’. A more honest and accurate appraisal of the situation would recognise that the majority of the world’s population is by no means guilty of over-consumption – quite the reverse, in fact. That distinction remains the preserve of the wealthy West and those who seek to imitate its over-indulgence. No, the problem is not too many people and not enough to go round, but too many GREEDY people who want the lion’s share for themselves. We live in a good and bountiful world, amazingly forgiving of the ravages we perpetrate on it; but some of us are pushing too far in what we demand of it and in consequence a huge proportion of our fellow human beings do not get their fare share. If this quotation represents Heinberg’s thought then he can offer little but despair. I hope MWH does not unreservedly espouse his opinions…

  2. Unfortunately Heinberg is right that we, as a species, have overshot the earth’s capacity, although the blame for that is obviously not equally shared. Personally, I believe overconsumption has a much bigger role in that than overpopulation.

    Heinberg is not a hopeless prophet of doom, however. The key is in the last sentence – can we see what’s coming and head it off at the pass? That’s what Make Wealth History is all about – we’re heading over a cliff, and we need to change direction. That direction is to put an end to gross over-consumption and learn to share better.

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