Thursday, November 18, 2010


This week on Radio Ecoshock - we give it all.

There are two hot interviews.

Julian Cribb tell us about his new book "The Coming Famine. The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It."

I had a major realization myself, during this interview, and we'll talk about that shortly.

Then, Dr. Tim Garrett from the University of Utah blew my mind (again). I interviewed Tim back in February 2010 - after he published a peer-reviewed article suggesting that utter economic collapse, world-wide, might be the only way to avoid punishing climate change.

He applied physics to develop a formula which accurately modeled the relationship between energy use and wealth, as well as emissions of greenhouse gases. The model works backwards on historical figures, and makes sense. If it's true, we're in big trouble.

Garrett has a new paper out in the journal "Climatic Change". During our interview, he suggests one of my questions stimulated the new work. Namely, what would it take to keep emissions to the relatively safe 450 part per million CO2 level?

The new paper not only suggests that isn't going to happen, not with all the good will dreams and schemes in the world. It goes further. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, Tim explains why the on-going pounding of our civilization by a disturbed climate will lead to horrible inflation. How does climate change lead to inflation? I asked, he answered. You must read the whole transcript here.

We wrap up with a French flavor of climate denial/doubt. I went out to record the latest climate news from the Arctic, and there is lots of it - but got a boatload of doubts and long-disproved theories from Marie Francois Andre. She's a Geomorphologist, not a climate scientist.

I speculate on why this gaggle of doubters develop spontaneously out of other disciplines, as the climate threat grows. Read it all here (with some links to real science of the Arctic, and other helpful stuff).


But let's get back to Julian Cribb. I just ran out of time to transcribe this important interview. If any of you can do it, please send an email to radio [at] Especially those who email me about missing out on the importance of population! Cribb's book is all about population (though he accounts for strong climate change, and Peak Oil, as well).

Here was my own discovery. I had already listened to an online lecture by Julian Cribb, given at the University of Melbourne. Highly recommended. It is 85 minutes, where he punches you with facts you vaguely knew, or never knew, that should rock our world.

If you have any trouble understanding the lecture link above, check out this page.

As I listened to Cribb's lecture, a little voice inside me rebelled. "The world will never reach 9 billion people, or 11 billion people! A plague, a war, some energy die-off will trim us back first...."

It wasn't until our interview, that I realized: I suffer from a form of Population Denial. There is Climate Denial (beliefs contrary to established facts) - but I had Population Denial (belief contrary to observable reality.)

Yes there may be a smaller chance that some disaster will stall world population growth. But for this century at least, it is much more possible that we will reproduce ourselves to death - going for 12 billion, maybe 15 billion humans on Earth.

I used Pessimism to protect me from that horrible prospect.

Julian Cribb does not. With his long-time agricultural experience (he won awards for his agricultural journalism) - Julian figures out our chances of actually feeding the coming generations. Where are the bottlenecks. What happens?

Until we get a volunteer transcript, you'll have to listen to the powerful interview, at the opening of this weeks' Radio Ecoshock Show, to here the awful truth from Julian Cribb.

Top that up with a synopsis of his arguments, found here.

Julian Cribb also has a blog (intended for food wonks, but all welcome) here.

Julian also asked me to point out this little detail in the great machine that feeds you and I.

I've got more coming up on food, plus a new interview with James Howard Kunstler. Tune in next week, as we travel beyond the oil Apocalypse.

I included two tidbits of songs this week. "1999" by Prince, and "The Dream Before" a 1989 tune from Laurie Anderson's "Strange Angels" album. Plus two quick clips from the CBC and BBC.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock


mjosef said...

Holy Jesus H. Christ.
There goes - nonsense.
There goes the word "sustainable."
There goes the charlatanism of Amory Lovins and his greenwashing pro-business "efficiency" mantra.
There goes the "peak oil" crowd -
There goes geo-engineering.
There goes Robert Bryce and his N2N crusade.

There goes the green "movement."

Great radio from both Mr. Garret and Mr. Cribb - absolutely brilliant.

I thought I might be hearing things that Mr. Garrett did not say, but his last conclusion "Why worry so much if it is all goign to end so badly so soon" had me telling myself I was, indeed, still sane.

Alex Smith said...

Yes, we are in serious trouble. I have more on that in coming shows.

But I disagree the green "movement" is pointless. What we have to do now is avoid absolute calamity.

Climate change is a certainty. But runaway disaster (leading to mass extinction) is not yet fixed. Our efforts to change emissions, as lame as they may be, can help, I believe.


Martin said...

Of course I"ll be avidly following the shows that you brings so well to bear on this topic. Your last line is not exactly the most optimistic I've ever heard ("may help," "lame as they are"), though.
The "green" movement has been rendered irrelevant by its persistent unrealistic sociology. We need to deal with the existing socio-political structure, the supersystem, and see the existing forces as they are. We are making no concerted worldwide efforts for emissions mitigation, and cannot do so without condemning billions of people to enforced misery and early death.
We cannot farm without fossil fuels. We cannot deny transportation of goods to ever-increasing multitude even if we wanted to, because we have no working political mechanisms that even begin to counter the forces of global corporations. Our financial, legal, academic, and media systems are shot through with fraud and corruption, making "green" talk fantasy at best, criminal fraud itself at worst. I don't believe that Tim Garrett sees a way to correctly curb "emissions," though he would be best to respond.
Again, thanks for such important work.

John Russell said...

Brilliant interviewees, and I compliment you on your interviewing skills.

Having filmed agriculture all around the world over the last ten years I was heartened to find that someone else has actually come to the same conclusion that I have.

I will certainly be listening again. By the way, will the podcast be appearing on iTunes?

Alex Smith said...

Thanks for the compliments.

You can definitely get the Radio Ecoshock Show every week by podcast from Itunes.

Find it on this page:

(Copy that, and paste it in your browser).

You can also subscribe by clicking on the Podcast symbol right on our main page, at