söndag 15 oktober 2017

Future of Media 2017 line-up

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The first part of the project course I'm teaching, DM2571 "Future of Media", came to an end this past week and we are now moving from the start-up phase (with lots of guest lectures) to the project phase. We change the theme in the course every year and this year's theme - the 15th - is "The Future of Work/Work of the Future". Last year's theme was "The Future of Computer Games/Computer Games of the Future". I wrote a blog post about the course when it started seven weeks ago.

Since the theme is changed every year, it's basically a brand new course every year. More specifically, there are only a few changes in the format - but all the content is replaced. That means there's a lot of work to do every year.

This year is special for a specific reason - this is the very last year the course will be given. We started up a new master's program in "interactive media technologies" last year and this course isn't part of that program. There have usually been 50-70 students taking this course, but this year the brunt of the (only) 23 course participants instead study our "media management" master's program. With much fewer participants than ever before (with the exception of the very first time the course was given back in 2003), the course has had to change and it is much more "intimate" this time around. It's easy for everyone who takes the course to get to know each other and it also becomes hard for students to "hide" in the crowd.

The first part (half) of the course has now come to an end and it's a relief for me. Particularly because I had to teach the course by myself this year instead of having an assistant teacher to help me out (e.g. Malin Picha during the last three years). While there is still much work left to do, the rest of the course will demand less from me time-wise and that's really good as my next course on Sustainability and Media Technology will start two weeks from now.

Anyway, here are the 16 great guest lectures we have had pass our course by since the beginning of September!


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1. D. Pargman, Associate professor in Media Technology, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, "Theory and method of Design Fiction – what this course is really about".

Talk: We are doing "Design Fiction" in this course. Design fiction is the use of narrative elements and scenarios to envision, explain and raise questions about possible futures. I will discuss the term and the practice of envisioning the future through narrative scenarios (i.e. envisioning the future through convincing and compelling stories).

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2. D. Pargman, Associate professor in Media Technology, KTH. "Technology gone bad".

Talk: Digital technologies can do wonderful things. But sometimes they are implemented in ways that instead makes things go haywire [e.g. break down]. We will discuss the potentially negative effects new technologies that are mis-utilized. The lecture will a 20-year old case study as a point of departure (see below)

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3. J. Andersson Schwarts, senior lecturer, Södertörn University, "Platform Logic: Digital intermediaries as infrastructural arrangements for work and play".

Talk: We are now living in what could be called a "platform society," where numerous sectors of the economy and areas of everyday life are dominated by so-called digital platforms; carefully designed, proprietary services that mediate human action. I will discuss some of the technocultural and economic implications of this, especially noting what the consequences seem to be for human labor in particular.

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4. G. Karlsson, professor; head of the Department of Network and Systems Engineering, School of Electrical Engineering, KTH, "On digitalization and work"

Talk: It is clear that many tasks and much work can be automated, even to the degree that many professions are becoming obsolete. There is a debate on whether new jobs will be created to compensate for jobs lost, or whether there will have technology-induced unemployment. The outcome might not be predestined and continuous life-long education and training is often suggested as a possible remedy for avoiding unemployment. However,  total unemployment might be what humankind always wanted, given that our needs will be provided for. This lecture will propose a number issues to be discussed, but no definite answers will be given!

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5. H. Artman, Professor in Human-Computer Interaction, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, "Acquiring usable systems"

Talk: Usability and user experience are key concepts within Human-Computer Interaction. But how is it possible to lead, organize, build and evaluate future systems designs? This lecture will present my experiences as an usability consultant and as a team leader with responsibility for usability at a Software consultancy firm. My experiences later led to a research program about how to procure usability and the role of the organization that acquires computer systems in systems development process.

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6. C. Sanne: Associate professor emeritus (KTH), "The spurious need to work"

Talk: The increasing labour productivity – ever since the Industrial Revolution – means growing output and rising living standard but also growing resource exploitation. Technological advances threaten the ecological balance and requires a rethinking of the work/life balance.

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7. J. Gulliksen, professor in human computer interaction and dean of the school of computer science and communication, KTH Royal Institute of technology. Jan Gulliksen has been the chairman of the Swedish Digitalization Commission since 2012, "Digitalization, digital transformation and the future of Work"

Talk: How are we influenced by the digital transformation that is happening, and how does it affect work? Will we still have the same view of work in the future society? How will different institutions have to change due to digitalization in order to meet the future challenges?

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8. D. Berg, Dept of economic history, Stockholm University, "Limits to Work".

Talk: This lecture is an elaboration on the future of work as seen from two distinctly differing positions. The economic thesis of under consumption is presented in its take on the present day precarious labor market and constant threat of recessions. The basic tenets of ecological economics is thereafter laid out with its contradicting view of an economy of constant over consumption. Between these two perspectives we some how have to imagine the future of work as also a narrative of specific limits to work.

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9. P. Fuehrer, Associate professor in Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University, "Work-life balance in a sustainable future. Four scenarios of how work could be organized in a de-growth context"

Talk: How can we envision the work-life balance in a sustainable society, taking into consideration individual, social as well as ecological needs and limits? I am going to present and discuss four distinct scenarios outlining the future of work and its position in everyday life. The talk is based on an ongoing research project (at KTH and also at Södertörn university) called "Beyond growth, scenarios for sustainable planning” ("Bortom tillväxt, scenarier för ett hållbart samhällsbyggande").

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10. L. Ingelstam, PhD mathematics (KTH), professor emeritus Technology and Social Change (Linköping), "The post-industrial society and the forgotten role of services".

Talk: As a a proportion of (paid) labor, industrial work (physical production) has declined steadily from around 1965. Services have increased, but have a different rate of productivity, which creates a dilemma. In order to understand how quality of life and the welfare state develop over time one must take this into account. Work outside the market and ”self-service” play crucial roles.

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11. C. Garbis, PhD, Principal UX manager at Amazon.com, "Hiring top talents at Amazon.com"

Talk: Amazon competes with the other four tech giants (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook) in their attempts to hire global top talents. While mainly working with usability/UX, Christer is also deeply involved in Amazon's hiring processes and have made the ultimate decision in several hundreds of cases. Christer will describe how Amazon thinks, what Amazon looks for, how Amazon works with recruiting and why they put so much effort into that process.

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12. P. Johansson, PhD in Human Ecology, BA in History of Science and Ideas, "Job, employment, work, occupation - what are we doing, really?"

Talk: Is it actually possible to be 'out of work'? Usually we take concepts like work and jobs for granted. We think we know what they mean, but the question is if we have reflected deeply enough. When someone says: robots are taking our jobs, or: immigrants are taking our jobs - what does that mean in reality? Which human or other values are expressed in the concept of 'job'? Is it really jobs we live for?

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13. C. Gradin Franzén, Licensed psychologist, Co-founder of the Hoffice network, "Co-navigating the space between Awesome and Awful - A psychological response to complexity and an uncertain future".

Talk: Increasing complexity, change unfolding simultaneously in different directions and oh yes a lot of uncertainty about the future. What does that mean for us from a psychological perspective, how can we respond adaptively and what does this mean for the future of work.

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14. Å. Walldius, Associate professor (Docent) in Human Computer Interaction, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, "Digital media, The Rewarding Work Organization and the UsersAward"

Talk: The goal of the Digital Agenda of Sweden is that we shall become the most successful nation to apply the possibilities of digitalization. I will sum up some recent surveys that point out successes and problems from the users’ point of view. And I will conclude with some challenging questions and propositions regarding how we from Media Tech and Human Computer Interaction can make a difference.

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15. A. Felländer. Digitalization economist. Affiliated with KTH (focus on AI) and SSE (focus on Fintech), senior advisor Boston Consulting Group, advisor to the minster of digitalization, "Diginomics - transformations at accelerating speed".

Talk: New business models and value chains due to digitalisation are rapedely changing the need for new skills, talents and labour market structures.

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16. S. Silberman, Crowdsourcing Project, IG Metall, Germany, "Digital labor platforms and 'the future of work'"

Talk: There is both great excitement and great anxiety among European and US policy makers and trade unionists about digitalization and 'the future of work'. One part of 'digitalization' is the emergence of digital labor platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, Upwork, Uber, and 99designs. These platforms match customers and workers in a huge diversity of sectors, including 'blue collar work' such as cleaning, taxi driving, and food delivery; low-status 'white collar work' such as data entry and data processing; highly paid and qualified work such as design, management, legal work, accounting, engineering, and programming; and work such as sex work whose legality, pay, and social status differs dramatically across jurisdictions. These platforms offer opportunities as well as risks for workers, customers, 'traditional' companies in the affected sectors, and other labor market actors such as trade unions and the cooperative sector. They also raise deep questions about the purpose and structure of our political-economic systems; new and controversial answers to these questions are behind initiatives such as the 'basic income' and 'degrowth' movements. In this informal talk we will explore together the practical realities of digital labor platforms; existing initiatives to improve working conditions in these platforms; and, time permitting, some broader political-economic questions.
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söndag 8 oktober 2017

Swedish Energy Agency's final "Energy, IT and Design" conference

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I attended the Energy Agency's (final) conference in the program "Energy, IT and Design" (EID) this past week and the theme for this year's conference was "Design for an energy efficient everyday life". I will cover the program shortly and will write more in depth about a few things that I found notable and/or interesting. I wrote a blog post about last year's conference and you can find it here.


The day started with a talk by Mari Broman who is an industry representative and a member of the program's steering committee. She is also someone who has followed the whole 10-year long program from start to finish. Mari framed the program, discussed its development over time and then described the three phases of the program (2005-2008, 2009-2013 and 2014-2017) in terms of moving from a focus on technology to a bigger emphasis on consumers, on design, on visualization, on everyday use of products and services and on lifestyles. The third and last phase saw the funding of 18 projects of which I have worked in one together with my colleague Björn Hedin. Several other colleagues of mine at KTH have worked in other EID research projects and KTH was in general well represented at the conference (and in the Q-and-A sessions).


The second speaker, Anita Aspengen, works at the Energy Agency where she is the head of the department for energy efficiency. She gave a talk about "The new energy" and described the energy landscape and the shift to a more sustainable energy system. Her message mirrored Mari's about moving away from a focus on the technology and on energy production to a focus on users and on energy usage (consumption) as a way to reach various energy and climate targets for 2030, 2040, 2045 and 2050. She received a number of specific and sometimes pointed questions (including from colleagues of mine) about the absence of air transportation in these calculations, about the absence of indirect energy use (food, vacations etc.) and the absence of embodied energy of stuff manufactured outside of Sweden.


The most entertaining and enthusiastic speaker, but also perhaps the most confusing talk of the day was professor of informatics Bo Dahlbom's talk about the future. So many clusters of ideas were connected and so many one-liners were hurled at the audience that I'm pretty sure there's quite a lot I don't agree with or that I at least would like to discuss, but the tempo of the delivery makes it hard to untangle and analyze it all. Here are some thoughts though:

- 20th century = oil, cars and systems. 20st century = data is the oil of the 20th century and power emanates from platforms (think Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple).

- Since I teach a course where this year's theme is "The future of work/work of the future", I saw many more implications of Dahlbom's talk for the future of work than for the future of energy. I itched to ask work-related questions, but this event wasn't the time or the place. Something I do wonder about though is this: if increased effectiveness in production (robots, computers) led to fewer industrial jobs in the 20th century, are there any particular reasons to believe that increased effectiveness in services (robots, computers) will lead to more rather than to fewer service jobs in the 21st century?

- Dahlbom contrasted abundance with scarcity and said he "preferred" abundance. He thus affiliated himself with a view of sustainability that eschewed "austerity", "saving" and "making do without", and instead argued for sustainability in terms of increased energy efficiency through digitalization. I found this opinion (I can't really call it an argument) lacking for several reasons. The first is that while the opposite of scarcity is abundance, the opposite of saving is not energy efficiency. Both saving and energy efficiency are instead two different examples of how to handle scarcity. In a state of abundance, there is on the other hand no need to save (or make things more efficient). With true abundance there is no reason not to squander, so while saving and (increasing the) energy effectivity are two sides of the same coin, their opposite is instead waste.

- The other reason for why I found Dahlbom's argument lacking is because increased energy effectiveness can have the same effects as lowering the price on energy and this can result in increased rather than decreased energy use. The first steam engines (early 18th century) squandered coal. Only a few generations later, steam engine technology had made progress in leaps and bounds and a ton of coal could now make a ton of difference. And... the demand for coal shot through the roof. This particular second-order/rebound effect is called Jeevons paradox.

- Dahlbom at one point said that "we painted ourselves into a corner" (in the 20th century). I don't remember exactly what he referred to - it might have had something to do with oil, with systems and with our infrastructure. Which, he argued, should be replaced with data, with platforms and with increased resource efficiency. But I do distinctly remember that I couldn't really figure out how we - following his or anyone else's recommendations - could be sure that we are currently not painting ourselves into another corner...

- I don't remember if it was Dahlbom or perhaps Aspegren who referred to a report about nudging that said that "it should be easy to do the right thing" (which rhymes in Swedish - "det ska vara lätt att göra rätt"). But if The Right Thing is always easy, then nothing is ever difficult. But what we don't talk about though is what to do when The Right Thing is difficult or painful or even detestable. Which would seem to be the case quite often when it comes to reducing our energy consumption.


My colleagues from KTH, Josefin Wangel and Loove Broms gave a great talk about how design can (re)shape the future. I didn't take any notes but it was terrific.


The last activity I will write about was a brainstorming exercise followed by a discussion about what focus (we participants wanted) the next research program to have. We were randomly divided into groups and I believe opinions can differ significantly between, say, future- and design-oriented researchers like my colleagues (above) and the man who represented a company that sells lamps. I however thought it was really hard to formulate concrete suggestions. My thinking then went like this: this is a program about saving energy/electricity and it has been made abundantly clear that we (nowadays) should put the (energy) user at the center. But taking a step back, I had to ask why - officially - we want to save electricity. Do we (Sweden/The Energy Agency) want to save energy so as to decrease carbon emissions? Or do we expect the price of energy to rise in the future, so why not explore/test today what will become necessary tomorrow? Or do we want to save energy because we can then export the savings? Or because the energy system is bursting at the seams? I felt that I would want an answer to that question before I can figure out what the next research program should contain and what it should emphasize.

As for me, I believe that our electricity bill at home corresponds to less than 2% of our household expenditures. So is there really a rational reason for me to try to decrease the electricity bill by 10% when many other types of expenditures weigh so much heavier in our household economy? But that means it might in fact become rational for me not to care about my electricity bill and my electricity consumption. This creates a huge problem in a research program that on the one hand wants to focus on the user and her usage but where that user might in fact (for good reasons) not care about saving energy! So how do you convince a person who doesn't really care? Or, should we sneak in savings by automatizing and/or exchanging existing technology? But honestly, wouldn't an alternative be to steamroll the user and force new behaviors on her? If coercion is too harsh to be a winning strategy, why then not settle for manipulation - which might be ok if we instead call it "nudging"? If the goal is to husband electricity and sell the savings to other countries, the perhaps we should instead put the nation - Sweden - at the center rather than the user?

There was also a discussion about how research results from the project could reach further and make a difference. It felt like two suggestions popped up recurrently. The first and most popular was an emphasis on commercializing results. Make stuff (prototypes) into real products and start up companies! The other suggestion was to reach out to the citizens through the municipal climate- and energy advisors. Which happens to be the organization we have worked together with in our research project. Which is nice - for us. I do have to complain about the sloppy use of terms at times though. It is not clear if we should put the "user" at the center of our activities or perhaps rather aim for "the consumer", "the citizen" or "the individual"? Different words have different connotations and my favorite would be to put the citizen at the center.

One goofy idea I had was to follow up the much appreciated research project that some colleagues of mine have conducted, "a car-free year", with a project called "an electricity-free year". It could be hard to recruit informants (understatement). While that project is far to hard, I did in fact formulate another idea for a research project that could be suitable for the next phase of the EID program. I'm not going to say anything more about it here except that it would involve the KTH Live-in lab.
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söndag 1 oktober 2017

21st century sports (paper)

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This past week I submitted a paper about e-sports to a special issue on "The emergence of e-sports: Challenges and Opportunities" in the journal "Sport, Ethics, and Philosophy". The article is written by me and Daniel Svensson (Chalmers University of Technology).

The origins of the paper is an unpublished paper we presented at a cultural studies conference no less than four years ago. I actually published a blog post with the exact same title back then. The draft paper has languished for quite some time since the right opportunity has never presented itself. Also, I have not pursued research on e-sports and my co-author was busy with his ph.d. thesis which he defended in December 2016 ("Scientizing performance in endurance sports: The emergence of ‘rational training’ in cross-country skiing, 1930-1980"). The fact that he is now finished, together with increasing academic interest in e-sports, has made us a bit more alert about publishing opportunities for our text, despite the fact that this has always been a side project with some relevance to Daniel's current research but, by now, little relevance to mine. I do have to say that we really like the paper we have written together though. We would wouldn't have pursued this issue (e.g. getting it published) if that hadn't been the case.

We actually did an attempt to write up the paper already in February this year when we came across a call for papers for a special issue on "eSports and professional game play" in a computer games journal I had never heard of. Perhaps due to a misunderstanding and/or unclear instructions from the editor in chief, our contribution was "disqualified" for, let's say, technical reasons.

Then we came across this call for papers back in May (see further below) and deemed it to be highly interesting for us. An email to the special issue editors before the summer resulted in them encouraging us to submit a paper to their special issue. We didn't even have to submit an extended abstract and get it pre-accepted first.

While we for some reason have held on to the title (which perhaps should be changed?), we have reworked the paper some and also switched the order of authorship so that Daniel Svensson is the first author and I'm the second. The article as well as the journal is closer to his research interests and it's more useful for him than for me to be the first author of an article about sports/e-sports.


From the call for papers:

An article in TIME Magazine regarded the emergence of e-Sports as one of the most profound and challenging advances in contemporary sport culture. E-sports constitute a social phenomenon that brings together millions of players and has become a business of enormous proportions. As a consequence of the increasing relevance and success of e-sports, a debate has been raised within international sport organizations on the recognition of e-sports not only as real sports but also as Olympic sports. This raises important questions within the philosophy of sport, especially related to the ontological nature of both e-sports and sports. However, the debate on the ontology of e-sports does not exhaust the possibilities of the philosophical debate on e-sports. Issues related to the governance of e-sports competitions, the organization of e-sports institutions, and the relationship between e-sports and human nature, among others, are relevant as well.

This special issue of Sport, Ethics, and Philosophy is dedicated to the main conceptual, philosophical, moral and legal questions that are being raised by the development of e-sports in the context of sport and physical education.


And here is our abstract:

Abstract
Modern sports have gone through a process of sportification (e.g. Guttman 1978, Yttergren 1996), moving from loosely regulated games and play towards becoming progressively more managed and regulated. Computer games have correspondingly gone from being a leisure activity for kids and teenagers to becoming a competitive activity, electronic sport or “e-sports”, with international competitions and professional players. We argue that there is a tight connection between the sportification of traditional (physical) sports and modernity and that it is also possible to see the emergence of “21st century sports” such as various e-sports as portending a post-modern society. There are naturally many differences, but also significant similarities between traditional sports and 21st century sports as both move towards standardized, rationalized, medialized and commercialized competitive arenas. In this article we explore the similarities and the differences through the lens of sportification theory. One such difference is the fact that while some traditional sports (athletics) can use technical equipment sparsely and other traditional sports (cross-country skiing, bicycling) more extensively, e-sports do not just rely on top notch equipment, but are totally dependent on, and mediated by the most modern of machines - the computer.

Keywords:
Sports, games, e-sports, sportification, training, cross-country skiing, modernity
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söndag 24 september 2017

My CHI paper on design (paper)

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This past week I submitted a paper to the largest conference in my area, CHI ("The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction"). Since the conference is peer reviewed (double-blind), I can not divulge the title of the paper nor indeed anything about the contents, but, I can say that the paper (for once) has little to do with "sustainability" and all the more to do with "design".

Even though I can't say anything about the contents of the paper, I can say a few things about my co-authors and how the paper came about. It all started when I invited Staffan Björk (professor of interaction design at Chalmers University of Technology and Gothenburg University) to give a guest lecture in my course last year. I thought the lecture was fantastically interesting and we decided to meet up and discuss/evaluate the possibility of writing a spin-off paper together during the NordiCHI conference at the end of October. At some point we also decided to invite Maria Håkansson (assistant professor at the department of Applied IT at Chalmers University of Technology) into the process, not the least because we at that point thought the paper would be more about sustainability than what it later turned out to be.

We all met up at NordiCHI and outlined the main ideas of the paper and have later met (conference call over Skype) every or every second month between November and June, hashing out and discussing the main ideas as well as reading articles and relevant books in-between our meetings.

The work went smoothly during the spring, but we hit a snag at the beginning of September, when it was time to convert all the conversations we had had into running text and into a paper. It turned out we were all very busy and there was a distinct chance the paper would not be written. So I stepped up and accepted the responsibility of being the first author and make sure it got done.

We originally aimed for writing a full (10-page) paper. We wrote a few pages and then ran into a wall, so we decided to instead aim for a minimal (4-page) paper. That short paper started to swell in the process of writing it and the paper in the end became something in-between a short paper and a full paper. I'm quite happy about the result, but haven't so much as glanced at the paper since it was submitted earlier this week. For now have high hopes about the chances of getting the paper accepted. I would prefer not to travel to a North American CHI conference for the second time in a row (the conference is held in Montréal during the second half of April) and my co-author Staffan has already made a preliminary promise to go there and present the paper should it get accepted. But for now we just lean back and wait, we will get to know whether the paper is accepted or rejected on December 11.
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söndag 17 september 2017

What if there had only been half the oil? (article)

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My first-ever article that is not about computing has just been published (it's about peak oil and sustainability). The publisher (Elsevier) informs me that the article is publicly available for free for for everyone for 50 days (until November 7) if you follow this link. The article will unfortunately not be available under open access after that since there is no research project that backs it up (and that could pay the fees for setting the article free). I should at some point also closely read Elsevier's sharing policy.

The article, "What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil" is an exercise in contrafactual history ("what if...?") and it is written by Daniel Pargman, Elina Eriksson, Mikael Höök, Joshua Tanenbaum, Marcel Pufal and Josefin Wangel. Since this is a strange bird - it's not every day you get an article about contrafactual history published in a reputable academic journal - we were indeed very lucky to have it published in the exact right venue; in a special issue of the journal Energy Research & Social Science about "Narratives and storytelling in energy and climate change research" (edited by Mithra Moezzi, Kathryn Janda and Sea Rotmann). 

Here's the table of contents for the special issue. It has an introduction by the special issue editors, four articles on "Stories as companions to quantitative assessments", seven articles on "Government, media, and popular narratives on large system transitions", five articles on "From local to personal and professional stories", four articles on "Reimagining past and future" (this is where our article is!), two articles on "Stories without words", seven articles on "Identities, makings, and re-makings" and finally four articles on "Participation, workshops, and engagements". That's more than 30 article altogether in this special issue!

A pre-print version of our article has been available online for the better part of two months (so I could feasibly have published this blog post at the end of July), but it was behind a paywall and only half available. Also, now it's official and it's now also possible to refer to the article correctly (with information about volume, issue, pages etc.).

This is the first in a planned series of articles about "Coalworld" - a world where there ever only was half the oil that has existed in our world, "Oilworld". Spolier: that means peak oil happened in the 1970's and that we by now would have lived for more than 40 years with the consequences of constantly decreasing oil production. I have written about this project on the blog a couple of times before and expect to do so again (and again) in the future:

These are the lead time for publishing an article in a scientific journal:
- I saw the call for papers for the special issue in the beginning of May 2016 and started to work on "assembling the team" (16 months ago).
- A one-page abstract ("pitch") for the article was submitted at the end of June 2016 (15 months ago).
- A full draft of the article was submitted in mid-October 2016 (11 months ago).
- We received reviews of the article in mid-December (9 months ago).
- We submitted a reworked and much-improved version of the paper in mid-February (7 months ago).
- We submitted the final version of the paper at the end of May (4 months ago).
- A pre-print version of the article was available online at the end of July (2 months ago).


Here's the abstract of the article:


What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil

Daniel Pargman, Elina Eriksson, Mikael Höök, Joshua Tanenbaum, Marcel Pufal and Josefin Wangel


There is unequivocal evidence that we are facing the greatest energy transition since the dawn of the industrial age. We need to urgently shift from a global fossil fuel and CO2-emitting energy system to 1) decrease our CO2 emissions and combat the effects of climate change and 2) face a future of depleting fossil fuel resources.

Yet there is still a lack of collective action to start taking effective measures to meet these challenges. We argue that there is a need for narratives in general and for a special type of narrative in particular, allohistorical scenarios, that act as thought experiments whose main function is to defamiliarize us with what is taken for granted. Such scenarios invite us to explore plausible parallel paths, thereby making it possible to imagine futures that are essentially different from the path-dependence of an unyielding historical past. Such futures enable us to grapple with a present that is saturated by the inertia of past decisions and the sunken costs of existing infrastructure.

We here present the design rationale for the Coalworld scenario: an alternative world where only half the oil ever existed. We also describe the methodology and the assumptions that underlie the Coalworld scenario.


Keywords: Peak oil, Contrafactual history, Allohistory, Thought experiment
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söndag 10 september 2017

Books I've read (April-May last year)

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I read the four books below more than a year ago, in April and May 2016 so I'm 15+ months behind in writing about books at the moment. All four books deal with energy and the first two are jam-packed with really interesting information. There are a lot of quotes from these books further below (more than 100 for the first three books together!) and the quotes are represented by the number of asterisks right below. Here's the previous blog post about books I have read.




********************************** In the Servitude of Power: Energy and Civilization through the Ages was a very hard book to get hold of. It can't quite remember, but it might have been quite pricey too when I finally found it. The book was published in French in 1986 and in English in 1991 and is written by two historians and a physicist, Jean-Claude Debeir, Jean-Paul Deléage and Daniel Hémery. The book has two distinct parts where the first part is timeless and fascinating and the second is less so. The first part has chapter names like "Energy and Society", "From Prehistory to Antiquity" and "The [pre-modern] Chinese Energy Model", while the second part is very much rooted in the discussions about energy in the 1970's and the 1980's and for the most part concerns nuclear power - a big thing in France then as well as now. From the back cover:

"The authors look in detail at how different forms of energy use have shaped society in the earlier civilizations - Egypt, Mesopotamia and India - as well as in Ancient Greece and Rome, Imperial China, Medieval Europe, and during the industrial revolution. ... They show how all societies are dependent on fragile and unstable energy systems that combine particular technical knowledge, conceptions of nature, and relations of power. When this system reaches its limits, a major crisis is inevitable."

Despite having read quite some about energy, I learned many new things from this book. I for example had no idea that out of the calories we eat, most is used to keep our bodies going and no more than 20 percent can be converted into mechanical energy (working on the fields etc.). And still, humans are much more efficient as energy converters than many other animals; horses are at 10% and oxes even lower. Who would have thought? This is for sure not something I had thought of before and even had I had an interest, I would still have been hard pressed to know where to go to get hold of such (and many other) esoteric but interesting energy-related facts.

This is, all in all, a wonderful, detail-oriented and big-picture book about energy in society. I loved it, but can only really recommend the first half of the book. The second half of the book could be interesting, but mostly for historical reasons, e.g. this is the way some people thought about "contemporary" issues concerning energy 25-30 years ago.





********************************** Professor of history Rolf Peter Sieferle's "The Subterranean Forest: Energy Systems and the Industrial Revolution" was published 1982 in German and was later revised and updated for the 2001 English-language edition. This is yet another wonderful, detail-oriented and big-picture book about energy in society. The "subterranean forest" refers to early conceptions of coal as being another energy source (like forests) - but below-ground. The topic of the book is more narrow than the previous book as it only studies the transition from a solar energy regime to a fossil fuel energy regime that fueled the industrial revolution:

"The Subterranean Forest studies the historical transition from the agrarian solar energy regime to the use of fossil energy, which has fuelled the industrial transformation of the last 200 years. The author argues that the analysis of historical energy systems provides an explanation for the basic patterns of different social formation [and] explains why the industrial revolution started in Britain, where coal was readily available and firewood already depleted or difficult to transport, whereas Germany, which its hug forests next to rivers, was much later."

As with the previous book, this too has a lot of detailed information about energy. Sieferle for example compares different ways of using land in terms of how much net energy different methods yield. While hunter-gatherer societies can "extract" 0.6-6 megajoules per hectare (per year), swidden agriculture (slash-and-burn agriculture, or fire–fallow cultivation) can deliver 850 megajoules per hectare and premodern Chinese intensive agriculture can deliver more than 280 000 megajoules per hectare. That means 50 000 times more people can live in an area that is intensively cultivated compared to hunting and gathering.

Another fascinating line of thinking is Sieferle's thoughts about what-might-have-been. He doesn't really go all out on this speculative line of thinking, but still gently wonders:

"If one wishes to speculate what course European development might have taken if the transition to a fossil energy system had not taken place - perhaps because there was no coal or because it only occurred in inaccessible locations - then it can be said with some certainty that the tendency would rather have run towards decentralisation, deceleration of development and finally a stationary state. ... even without coal a series of technological and economic innovations could be anticipated. Instead of an Industrial Revolution with its characteristic acceleration of several technical, economic and finally political and cultural processes there might have been an industrial evolution" (p.121 - see further below for longer quotes).

I find that both these books are intensely interesting since they unveil the political economy of pre-modern (pre-fossil fuel) energy regimes. If we choose to curtain our use of fossil fuels, or if we eventually "run out", we will have no alternative but to make a living based on renewable sources of energy (sun, wind, water etc.). These books describe different factors that limited pre-modern societies in various way and they thus contain clues to the direction our society must move in when we eventually phase out fossil fuels. Sieferle is of course aware of this and writes:

"The limit set by the exhaustibility of fossil deposits has a completely different character than the growth limit of the solar energy system: no stationary state is possible based on fossil energy; when this system has reached its limits, a new contraction must set in. ... Therefore, the fossil energy regime is a transitional regime and the society built upon it is a transitional society" (p.197  - see further below for a longer quote).





***************************************** Andreas Malm is a Swedish historian/human ecologist and his book "Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming" (2016) builds on his ph.d. thesis. I also understand that there is a planned second part that is supposed to be called "Fossil Empire". I was very impressed by the book, especially taking into account that it for the most part must have been written in parallell with his ph.d. thesis. But Andreas was a journalist before he started his ph.d. studies, so writing is something he has had a lot of practice doing in his "previous (non-academic) life".  

His book starts with a seemingly simple question: when and why did industrialists in Britain switch from water power to coal and steam power in the middle of the 19th century? We might think that coal was just "better" than water power, but water had many things going for it, not the least the fact that water flows for free while coal cost has to be dug up from the ground and is expensive in comparison. So how did the build-up and the switch from water to coal come about? Detailed historical research turns up a fact-filled story I haven't really heard or understood before I read this book. From the back cover:

"it all began in Britain with the rise of steam power. But why did manufacturers turn from traditional sources of power, notably water mills, to an engine fired by coal? Contrary to established views, steam offered neither cheaper nor more abundant energy - but rather superior control of subordinate labor. Animated by fossil fuels, capital could concentrated production at the most profitable sites and during the most convenient hours, as it continues to do today [think of outsourcing production to places where labour is cheap]. Sweeping from nineteenth-century Manchester to the emissions explosion in China ... this study hones in on the burning heart of capital and demonstrates, in unprecedented depth, that turning down the heat will mean a radical overthrow of the current economic order."

Malm uncovers that it wasn't really anything in the energy source per se as much as issues having to do with power and labour relations that made industrialists turn to coal. With coal, factories could be placed in cities instead of near bodies of flowing water, on the countryside. This in turn made it possible to exert downward pressure on salaries and on keeping the wheels turning 24/7 - instead of having to adapt to the whims of flowing water (not being able to fulfill deliveries if the river ran low etc.) as well as the increased bargaining power of dispersed workers who by threatening to leave exerted pressure on the mill owners. This is again an impressive, fact-filled and detail-oriented book about energy. 




** David Jonstad's "Jordad: Enklar liv i kollapsens skugga" [Grounded: Simpler life in the shadow of the collapse] (2016) is a very different book compared to the three books above. It is half fact and half David's personal narrative of coming to terms with the fact that industrialization is going to end and his subsequent decision to buy a small farm and move with his family from the city to the countryside. It's a really nice book to read, written with a personal and very sympathetic voice. It weaves in some academic references but it is for the most part a travelogue - the story of a personal journey both within (perspectives, thoughts) as well as in time and space (moving from the big city to the countryside.



--------------------------------------





Quote of the day #1: On the effects of the 1970's first and the second oil shock:

"Thinking on energy problems ... has failed to free itself from one-dimensional modes of analysis, whether technical, economic or ecological. ... none of the 'ways ut of the crisis' sought by the ruling circles of the major powers can escape the dire effects of the energy crisis. One indication is that most industrial countries have been showing a deficit in the current balance of payments over the last decade - the most fragile countries since 1973, the others since 1979 that is, since the second oil shock. ... Now, under the impact of the higher costs of energy imports, they are forced to resort to drastic measures to re-establish their balance of trade at the expense of domestic consumption."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1986/1991). In the servitude of power, p.xi.



Quote of the day #2: On the thinking of energy as inexhaustible:

"what we are dealing with is not so much a crisis as a long-range deterioration of the very energy foundations of the world economy, to which the 1970s oil crisis was only a prelude. ....History ... has a blind spot for energy. ... Since the emergence of scientific thought ... the idea has progressively gained currency that energy is a purely physical phenomenon that can be controlled through technical processes according to a purely economic logic. ... energy has ... ben considered implicitly as neutral, unlimited, inexhaustible, like water and oxygen"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1986/1991). In the servitude of power, p.xii.



Quote of the day #1: On us and all other animals being smoochers:

"Seen through the second principle of thermodynamics, living organisms appear as very particular 'machines', converters of one form of energy into another. These living converters are classified in two great sub-sets: autotrophs, which are able to store the energy of sun rays in their own vegetal structure (basically green plants); and heterotrophs, which do not 'know how' to store solar energy directly and which feed on already elaborated products (green plants or other heterotrophs)."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.3.



Quote of the day #2: On humans as machines for converting energy into mechanical work:

"From the endosomatic standpoint, a human being consumes between 2,500 and 3,000 kilocalories daily in the form of food. All this energy comes from the sun, through plants and animals. Below 1,500 kilocalories per day, the human machine saps its own substance. Under normal conditions, the efficiency of the human converter is about 20 per cent meaning that no more than 500 to 600 kilocalories will be available for reinvestment in social activities in the form of useful mechanical energy. ... Nevertheless ... the human machine is the highest of the animal kingdom. ... the horse ... scarcely rises above ten per cent and that of the ox is still lower. From the standpoint of energy, the use of draught animals is therefore a luxury. It will now be understood why, for centuries, the human converter was the most desirable. In historical circumstance where exosomatic organs [tools, machines etc.] are underdeveloped, slavery is a more rational energy system."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.4.



Quote of the day #1: On energy systems:

"energy needs must abide by certain time constraints; for example, food is needed continuously, although harvests are concentrated in a short span of the year; heating needs are greater in cold seasons. Achieving this compatibility requires the establishment of storage and distribution systems which, in turn, absorb energy and are therefore also characterized by an efficiency rate ... Most thinking on the status of energy in our societies has addressed only fragmented issues. To avoid this pitfall, we believe a new concept should be introduced: that of *energy systems*, which includes, on the one hand, the ecological and technological characteristics of the chains (evolution of sources, converters and their efficiency) and, on the other hand, the social structures for the appropriation and management of these sources and converters."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.5.



Quote of the day #2: On the original organizations/civilizations:

"Returning to the example of the human converter, we note the beginning of a profound change in its use by the first civilizations of Sumer and Egypt in the third millennium BC. Their main source of energy was still agriculture ... but underlying all the technical improvements achieved around the time of the birth of these kingdoms stands a central motive force, 'the power of a new type of organisation,' to use Lewis Mumford's expression. ... It was an invisible structure, composed of living human beings, each assigned to his place, his role, his particular task, in order to achieve the immense labour efficiency and grandiose projects of this large collective organization. Whatever its subsequent transformations, Pharaonic Egypt remains the prototype of a system in which the co-ordination and 'mechanization' of human energy derive essentially from the strength of a centralized political-religious state."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.6.



Quote of the day #1: On perfection in converting wind to power:

"the windmill ... saw its efficiency grow tremendously between the twelfth century, when it appeared in Europe, and the late nineteenth century, when it reached perfection with the general use of metal in its various mechanisms. ... The Frisian mill of northern Germany in the 1900s [was] capable of reaching 30 horse-power. Similarly, the sailboat reached its apex from the 1840s to the 1870s with the famous American clippers built for the tea trade between Boston and China by way of Cape Horn; with favourable winds, these ships could reach speeds higher than those of steamships of equal tonnage, that is 12 to 14 knots (22 to 26 km/h)."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.10.



Quote of the day #2: On slaves as the energy converters of last resort:

"three types of converters - plants, animals and humans - probably supplied 80 to 85 per cent of the energy produced before industrialization ... energy technologies which have fallen into disuse are soetimes recycled or revived in different guises. ... The case of slavery is a good example: after having almost fallen into disuse in medieval Christian Europe, it experienced an new golden age as European capitalism surged across the Atlantic and, between 1666 and 1800, transferred at least eight million African slaves to its American colonies. These virgin lands ... were almost empty of humans and work animals and therefore lacking in energy equipment when they were opened up; a tremendous clamour for energy arose. The human engine was the ultimate solution to the Americas' prolonged energy shortage .... The resurgence of a slave proletariat in German Europe between 1939 and 1945 as a consequence, among others, of the disintegration of the continental energy system, is yet another illustration of how the human slave converter has operated in history as the energy of last resort. ... the Soviet *gulag* ... was a vast pool of energy for the large-scale project of Stalinism ... with perhaps 15 million *zeks* at one time in the peak years of 1947-1948"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.11.



Quote of the day #1: On energy determinism vs energy determination:

"While there is no energy determinism, there is a powerful energy determination at work in all societies. ... it is the result of the interplay of economic, demographic, psychological, intellectual, social and political parameters operating in the various human societies. ... When a society finds that the energy resources tapped ... have become saturated, a crisis occurs, generally a lasting and repeated crisis. For decades, a solution will be sought in broadening the potential of the existing energy system but, periodically, the scarcity of energy will reappear and cause demographic catastrophes which are ultimately only the historical means by which humans' immediate food needs are brought into line with the use of natural resources for other energy purposes."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, pp.13-14.



Quote of the day #2: On population density in the hunting-gathering economy:

"[in] the hunting-gathering economy ... As long as population density was sufficiently low - around one person per ten square kilometers, depending on the ecosystem tapped - food was abundant and activities other than strictly productive ones quite feasible. But the counterpart of this arrangement was a severe limit on population growth, and organization in restricted groups of a few dozen people at the most.
...
André Leroi-Gourhan [asserted] that 'human groups living exclusively from hunting and fishing can include only small numbers. On one square kilometre of tundra, five reindeers at most can survive for one year. To feed one man, about ten reindeers are needed every year. One can estimate that roughly 20 kilometers was the maximum distance that the animals could be killed and transported to the living quarters; and that, at most, the hunters could kill one of every ten animals ... Under the best circumstances, an area of 1,500 square kilometers ... could not support a human group of over 50 individuals thrugh the year, in the reindeer age"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.16-17.



Quote of the day #1: On draught animals and river transports in historical times:

"The use of animal converters made it possible to replace human energy in everyday chores ... But their share remained limited ... the energy costs of draught animals were too high to allow for their use to transport heavy materials beyond the local area. For long-distance trade, only luxury items (silk, precious metal, even salt) could sustain the cost, or 'perhaps is it more accurate to say that any item transported over a long distance became a luxury item.' ... the Egyptian language barely had a word for "travelling"; it simply said "to go upriver or downriver". As a source of energy for transport, the river current differs in several ways from biological converters; in the first place, it is a source that is always - or almost always - available, but in in a well-defined area limited to a rather narrow strip along its banks. Additionally ... the current is available only for transport downstream: this implies an imbalance in the exchange flows, with heavy material circulating towards the mouth of the river"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.26-27.



Quote of the day #2: On wind power as a major breakthrough in the history of energy:

"From the energy standpoint, harnessing the wind for maritime transport ... represented a great innovation. Neither the use of river currents nor the harnessing of wind power to propel boats reduced the energy potential available to humans as food ... for the first time in history, humans gained control over a power, practically independent of plants, that was not a simple multiplication of their own efforts or of their animals'. ... greek maritime expansion ... opened the way to an international economy no longer based on the transport of a few specialized products ... but, for the first time in human history, of a wider range of goods centered on the import of energy products, from Lebanese lumber to specific food items such as cereals."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.28-29.



Quote of the day #1: On the original Chinese population explosion:

"By the end of the thirteenth century, the new dominant energy system of the Chinese empire displayed an incomparably greater capacity to produce food than anything that came before it ... It made possible a massive demographic growth. It was the geographical expansion of irrigated rice paddies from the Lower Yangzi plains that was the main driving force of the parallel advance of crops and human numbers. ... Until the eighth century AD, the Chinese population probably hovered around ... 60 million people. ... Around 1750, the Chinese population (perhaps 240 to 250 million people) was already about twice as numerous as that of Europe (144 million people), and remained so until 1800. All in all it increased five- or six-fold between the late fourteenth century and the early nineteenth century."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.45-46.



Quote of the day #2: Was Malthus right before the arrival of fossil fertilizers?:

"it should be emphasized that there is no linear causal relation between demographic growth and the agro-energy intensification. Their movements cross, but are not parallel; crises appear repeatedly between them ... But seen over a long duration, each of these two great historical pulses constitutes the most determinant factor of the other, a sort of limit-factor beyond which it is impossible to go. Until the twentieth century, there was no escape from this historic pair."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.50.



Quote of the day #1: On the European explosion of water-mills:

"the overall progression of [water-mill] use in western Europe was startling: 'From the end of the fifth century until 800 AD, a few dozen for the entire West; from 800 to 1000 AD, hundreds; in the eleventh century, over ten thousand for the kingdom of France alone.' ... In 1086, the administrators of William the Conqueror recorded in their census the existence of 5,624 mill in the 34 counties of England. Calculating on the basis of five members to a family, this makes an average ratio of about one mill for 250 people.
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.75.



Quote of the day #2: On the power and the significance of the medieval water mill:

"The importance of the mill in the medieval energy system can be better understood in terms of a single person replacing the labour of ten to 20 people. To be even clearer: if it is cautiously assumed that each mill had an average of two to three horsepower ... those operating in France in the eleventh century would have had an operational power of 40,000 to 60,000 horsepower. It it is also assumed that a human being at work can deploy 0.1 horsepower for, at most, half the time that the mill can operate, this hydraulic energy was equivalent to that which could be deployed by one-quarter of the adult population on the kingdom ... During the centuries of expansion, the provision of water-mills to favourable sites went hand in hand with demographic expansion"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.75-76.



Quote of the day #1: Who financed and owned the water-mills that dotted the European landscape a thousand years ago?:

"Who finance, who controlled, and who appropriated these new converters? It all depended on the relationship of forces within the dominant social groups and its subsequent evolution; indeed, the initial investment had to be made by those who were already wealthy: the mill itself ... accounted only for a fraction of the ... installation, and therefore of the investment. ... Clearly, then, this was a matter for the rich and the construction of the water-maill ... was, as a general rule, the monopoly of a lord, whether secular or ecclesiastical."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.76.



Quote of the day #2: On the medieval water mills' (comparative) winners and losers:

"The fact is that, for the poorest tenants, to turn over a share of their harvest - one-sixteenth of the grain brought to the lord's mill was the usual amount required - was an insupportable loss. For while the mill raised the productivity of labour ... it was also indisputably a tool of the lords' exploitation of the peasants. ... the lords monopoly rights over milling was a new and timely levy which could compensate for the declining value of their landownership rights. The rate of this levy was constant and did not suffer the effects of depreciation of currency; its value usually followed the evolution of cereal output; thus it rose parallel to that output during the happy period of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. ... Mills were not only a good deal for some, but also tended to bolster an oppressive social structure."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.77.



Quote of the day #1: On the exorbitant price for transportation in medieval times:

"One of the keys to the fragmentation of feudal societies lies in high transportation costs ... 'It has been calculated that a city of ten thousand inhabitants had to seek its necessary food up to 20 kilometers from its walls.' Twenty kilometers was the distance a cart could travel in a day. ... beyond that distance, transport itself threatened to absorb the energy surplus produced by agriculture or forests and represented an exorbitant share of the cost of commodities, even of luxury items. One example should suffice: 'The breakdown of the cost price of Burgundy wines imported in 1414-1415 by the mansion of the counts of Hainaut was 28 per cent for the purchase price, 61 per cent for transport and 11 per cent for taxes and miscellaneous expenses.' The only opportunity for even partially overcoming the obstacles of distance was proximity to a riverway for inland transport, or to the sea, with the possibility of using sailships"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.81.



Quote of the day #2: When forests were perceived as inexhaustible:

"in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, industries began to open up and spread in the forests and near rivers, in areas considered until then 'out of the way,' uninhabited and unproductive. ... often the harvesting of wood led to deforestation: in the eighteenth century, a glass-works operated like a forest clearing enterprise. Indeed proto-industrailization appeared as a vast enterprise concerned with 'de-stocking' forest reserves; for the fist time, forests played the role that coal mines and oil wells would play later, that of a stock of energy perceived as inexhaustible, apparently so limitless that it could be wasted without restraint."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.90.



Quote of the day #1: On the 19th century costs of transportation by sea:

"With the advent of the sailship converter, trade, before the industrial revolution, became the activity which used the largest available powers derived from the variable, but inexhaustible source of energy: wind. ... inhabitants of the cities of the east coast of the United States heated their homes with 'coal from England, brought from a distance of over a thousand leagues, rather than with the wood of their forests located ten leagues away. Transporting the goods ten leagues overland was more expensive than transporting them a thousand leagues overseas. ... Unlike the use of animals as a source of mechanical energy, the use of sailships did not reduce the amount of energy available for food. ... To evaluate the power available through seafaring ships, one can start with their tonnage ... to calculate the power of the engines that would be needed today to achieve the same propulsion at an identical speed. Another method ... consist in choosing as the equivalent the draught animal energy that would have been necessary had the journey been overland. ... But the point concerns not not so much the quantities of this form of energy as understanding its quality. For there was no limitation, whether institutional or physical, on the supply of wind-power, at least as long as the supply of lumber lasted.
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.92-93.



Quote of the day #2: On why industrialization took of in England but not in continental Europe:

"with steam and coal, a new energy system was born. For the first time, the converter [steam] and its energy source [coal] were dissociated in space. ... Yet this system was neither universal, nor even European in the early nineteenth century: it was a British energy system. ... The British energy system in the early nineteenth century could not be immediately exported because only in Britain were the necessary economic, social and natural factors brought together which, elsewhere in Europe, were dispersed. Europe did have coal resources, but nowhere as easily transportable as in Britain. ... it was not enough to have access to cheap and abundant energy, equally important was cheap transport for the commodities produced if they were to be sold. Prior to the development of railways which would fulfil both conditions, wood remained in many cases in continental Europe one of the most easily transported forms of energy because unlike coal, it could be floated. Thus in France ... the last batch of wood was floated from Morvan to Paris in 1923."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.102-103.



Quote of the day #1: On the strong correlation between industrialization and coal reserves:

"Frank has shown that the correlation ration between energy consumption and immobilization of industrial capital was close to one, that is, particularly high. In the final analysis, the only countries that were really able 'to catch up' with Britain before 1914, from both the standpoint of industrial output and technology, were Germany and the United states, and both these countries possessed major coal reserves. ...'the geological factor' (the quantity and quality of coal resources) was decisive in differentiating the industrial growth of various countries between 1850 and 1914. France in particular, was able to compensate to some extent by importing British coal, but at a high cost and heavy dependency. ... For French industry, this amounted to paying an energy rent to Britain, but this was not unique to France: the British coal network collected this energy rent on a world scale."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.106.



Quote of the day #2: On energy companies also being transportation companies:

"The essential link between coal-energy and transport was revealed as new uses for coal were found, locally, regionally then nationally. Energy production was in response to the almost insatiable demand created by European industrialization, a demand so great that energy supplies had to be shifted from the extraction sites to the many new consumption sites. Newer energy forms had to meet the same criterion of transportability. As a result, most gas, electricity and oil production companies were also energy transport companies. They created vast centralized distribution networks whose broad expanse tended to free the energy supply from local constraints and make it available worldwide."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.108.



Quote of the day #1: On the capitalist's dreams of man machines:

"Energy applied to production made it possible to improve labour productivity and intensity, but the working day was still limited by the natural alternation of days and nights; energy forms suitable for artificial lighting were therefore developed so that labour and the new machines could be used more extensively. Baron Dupin stressed the point in a report to the Chamber of Commerce of Paris in 1847: 'It is therefore extremely advantageous to have these mechanisms operate indefatigably by reducing rest breaks to the shortest duration possible: perfection in this respect would be *to work all the time*, and for workers 'following the mechanical engine, to extend their work towards *day and night* work, advancing ever nearer to perpetual motion.'"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.112.



Quote of the day #2: On when petrol was considered to be a bothersome by-product:

"While gas remained the energy used for lighting in the cities of industrial countries, lamp-oil was used in the countryside and in non-industrailized countries. Outlets for the other products of refining such as tar were hard to find: and petrol was considered bothersome waste matter. A Cleveland refiner told the story of how, around 1870, he used to take advantage of the night to empty his petrol into the river, as he could find no market for it. ... In 1859 ... the contemporary history of [oil] began in earnest, marked from the start by a tendency to overproduction. Indeed, as more wells were drilled, the market was soon glutted and prices dropped: a barrel of oil which sold for two dollars in 1859 went for only ten cents in 1862."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.112-113.



Quote of the day #1: On the relation between our (energy) wealth and their poverty:

"in the nineteenth century ... European imperialism placed entire continents in a state of political, financial, commercial and technical dependency ... This then became an obstacle, which made the transition to industrial energy systems very difficult for non-European societies. ... In the two decades following World War I, the international oil companies appropriated almost all the main oil reserves of the world, ... The whole process brought the field of industrial energy under the sway of large, omnipotent private and state firms which remain the largest companies in the world to this day. Thus, the fundamental reason why humans have unequal access to energy today lies in the imperialist relations which ... remain the major fact of world society, determining the operations of all energy systems on the planet. ... indeed, the condition for energy abundance in a small number of countries was energy scarcity for the majority of humanity."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.134-135.



Quote of the day #2: On the long and sordid history of the very largest oil companies:

"The 1973-74 oil crisis had it roots in the long period of cheap energy in the preceding quarter of a century. ... By the end of World War II, [oil] companies held a near monopoly over deliveries in the capitalist world, outside the United States, since they controlled 92 per cent of reserves and 88 per cent of output. For over 20 years, the oil monopolies succeeded in reducing the royalties collected by exporting countries. ... During that period, oil prices dropped as compared to other sources of energy, particularly coal; this was a powerful argument for extending the use of oil throughout the economy ... The share of oil in world primary energy consumption rose from one-quarter in 1949 to close to one-half in 1973. The slow advance of US independents and state companies barely affected the might Seven Sisters' cartel which still controlled over 70 per cent of the Western world's output in 1970. ... they first scaled down prices to encourage industrial or individual consumers to buy equipment driven by oil; then, pushed prices up, knowing the captive clients would be forced to accept them."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.136-137.



Quote of the day #1: On the impossibility of exporting western lifestyles worldwide:

"The prospect of the exhaustion of fossil energy reserves in the long term highlights the narrowness and fragility of industrial capitalism's energy base. ... for the first time in its history, capitalism finds itself unable to extend its own energy model to the rest of the world. The industrialization of the capitalist center has generated a lifestyle based on such intensive use of energy that it cannot be duplicated for the rest of humanity."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.142-143.



Quote of the day #2: On transports and efficiency:

"Barry Commoner has classified means of passenger transport in decreasing order of energy efficiency: inter-urban electric railways, tramways, diesel railways, buses, trucks, individual cars. He notes that 'with uncanny precision, the American system has favoured the means of transport with the lowest thermodynamic efficiency and capital productivity,' pointing to the decline of railways and tramways while road transport, trucks and individual cars, increased. 'The lack of efficiency of the American transport system - that is, its inability to transport people and goods at the least cost in physical and economic resources - is due to the fact that concern with profit has overtaken concern with efficiency.'"
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.153.



Quote of the day #1: On transportation and speed by one of the deepest thinkers of the 20th century :

"In his pamphlet against the industrialization of transport, Ivan Illich wrote with good reason: 'Speed is far too expensive to be really shared: every increase in the speed of a vehicle will lead to a corresponding increase of the energy consumption necessary to propel the vehicle over each mile travelled, to which should be added also a proportional consumption of the space needed by each user in movement."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.158.



Quote of the day #2: On the euphoric mood around nuclear energy from the mid-50's to the mid-70's:

"the famous 'Atoms for Peace' speech delivered by President Eisenhower ... on 8 December 1953 ... was followed by a meeting ... in Geneva, 8 to 20 August 1955, during which 1,400 delegates representing 75 nations, including East bloc countries, exchanged, for the first time, their knowledge and the results of their research and, more importantly, unified their perception of the future of nuclear energy. ... The Geneva assembly founded the nuclear energy project in a euphoric mood. the project ... would produce unlimited energy at a low cost. For two decades, everywhere, nuclear power became the new 'frontier' of the future, the necessary horizon of all human societies. This was the optimistic phase. Nuclear power was seen ... as the miracle-energy, the long-term solution to all immediate energy problems ... For the leaders of the large US and European nuclear institutions and the big corporations who were their partners, the point was to make nuclear power stations commonplace, to turn them into factories with stable technical structures, producible serially, marketable through catalogues and turnkey contracts."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.171-172.



Quote of the day #1: On nuclear energy as the great hope of the post-WW II period :

"That 'Atoms for Peace' was launched barely one year (1952) after the United States became a net importer of oil products was perhaps not a mere coincidence. In the face of inescapable energy problems - scarcity in the long term, Third World industrialization blocked because of energy in the medium term, and the oil crisis in Europe in the short term - nuclear energy was conceived as the key element of a multidimensional response by the industrialized societies. The idea that nuclear energy was the shortest energy path to the elimination of underdevelopment was one of the justifications for the appallingly expensive nuclear programmes launched by India (in 1948) and People's China."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.175.



Quote of the day #2: On the long conflict between France and Germany as a struggle for control over coal:

"France constitutes a sort of textbook example of capitalist development on the basis of energy scarcity. ... In 1938, French coal production (47 million tonnes) barely covered two-thirds of national requirements; it represented less than one-quarter of German production and one-fifth of British production. French domestic consumption of electricity (57 kWh per head) was less than one-third of British consumption, and 15 times less than that of the United States. ... French capitalism has never been in a position to overcome this serious constraint, nor to rival the 'coal beds' on which its British and German rivals thrived. The centuries-long history of conflict between France and Germany is more easily understood if it is also seen as a bitter struggle for control of the continent's main energy base."
Debeir, J. C., Deléage, J. P., & Hémery, D. (1991). In the servitude of power, p.192-193.







Quote of the day #1: On the history of environmental history:

"Environmental history has been in existence for about 25 years, but as yet there is no agreement on its subject matter or methodological foundations. It originated as an historical subdiscipline in an attempt to identify forerunners of present environmental problems, search for causal agents and find mental or structural alternatives to a destructive relationship to nature. To that extent environmental history is an intellectual offspring of the conservation movement, which sprang into being in the late 1960s in most Western countries. ... it deals with the dynamics of natural and social processes. It touches upon historical geography, human ecology, historical anthropology and sciences such as zoology, botany, geology etc."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.vii.



Quote of the day #2: On all of us being parasites:

"Living organisms are islands of order in a chaotic world. ... Green plants use solar energy directly by building up their biomass using a highly complex photosynthetic process in which they transform radiation energy into chemical energy. In turn, they form the energy base of herbivores, which use the chemical energy of plant biomass to construct and maintain themselves. Therefore, all animals are parasites of the vegetable kingdom and in the end their sole energy source is the sun. ... In essence, every process of life is basically an energy process."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.1.



Quote of the day #1: On energy, diets and population density:

"If the availability of water and minerals is unlimited, plants are an unparalleled energy store. ... About 1-5% [of the solar radiation] can actually be fixed and stored photosynthetically by plants. ... Plant eater (herbivores) can only use about 10-20% of the energy stored by their food [e.g. by plants] and carnivores 10-20% of the energy in herbivores. That is to say, the available energy in food declines by a factor of ten on every trophic level, which means that the need for space increases by an order of magnitude. Of the radiation energy of c. 4.2 million kJ, which falls in the course of a year on a square metre in Europe, a mere 800 kJ remain for a carnivore such as a meat-eating human. It is evident that ... the potential population density depends on ... whether it is a herbivore, carnivore or a higher level carnivore, which in turns feeds on meat eaters. With each step up on the food pyramid, the possible population density per unit area declines by a factor of five to ten.
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.2.



Quote of the day #2: On humans' ability to eat both plants and meat as an evolutionary advantage:

"Like most primates living today, the ... precursors of humans were omnivores eating a large proportion of plant foods. Omnivores not only eat a varied diet, but it is actually essential that they do so to avoid deficiencies. Their population density is of necessity lower than that of pure herbivores because they cannot digest the most commonly available plant food, cellulose, which occurs in grasses. It is assumed that in the course of hominid evolution, nutritional preferences shifted towards more meat. Most likely in response to climatic and ecological changes in their environment, they were dependent on increasing their territory and, therefore, decreasing population density. Increasing meat eating brought significant advantages. Since hominids, unlike other predators, did not lose the ability to digest plant foods, they always had the ability to return to them if prey animals became scarce."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.3.



Quote of the day #1: On taming fire and settling in colder climates:
"Fire permitted the settlement of northern territories to which humans were not adapted by nature. ... Fire created a microclimate in artificial spaces that resembled the one to which humans had adapted organically. It permitted them to live in areas into which they could only evolve after very long-term evolutionary processes resulting in the reacquisition of fur, and increase in body volume to reduce the relative size of surface or the development of fat deposits under the skin. Furthermore, humans could expand their range of food: roasting, grilling and cooking of meals enabled them to eat foods that were hard to digest uncooked.
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.7.



Quote of the day #2: On agriculture not as progress but as decline:

"In Greece and Turkey average heights of 1.78 m (men) and 1.68 m (women) were found among postglacial hunters. In agricultural societies that settled the same area around 4,000 BC the heights were only 1.60 m and 1.54. ... there should be no doubt that the transition to agriculture was not simply an 'improvement of the human condition', but was linked to a worsening for the majority of the population. The only real evolutionary advantage of agriculture was that more people could live in a given area with this mode of production. Agriculture is not easier, nutrition is not better and supply is not more secure than in hunting and gathering. Its main effect lies in bundling the energy flow with a dramatic consequence: it makes the food energy available per unit of soil and time, and this means that the population density can rise dramatically."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.14.



Quote of the day #1: On agriculture as a solar energy system controlled by humans:

"Agriculture is ... a solar energy system controlled by humans: solar energy is stored photosynthetically by plants that are selected, bred and cultivated in such a way by humans that a large part of their biomass can be monopolised for their purposes. This occurs in a multiplicity of ways, depending on local circumstances and technical skills. In principle agriculture means nothing more than selecting particular plants as crops from the diverse range of species that inhabit a natural habitat ... For this purpose their competitors for light, water and soil nutrients will be combated and removed as 'weeds'; also, they are protected against food competitors of humans, 'pests' and 'vermin' of all sorts."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.14.



Quote of the day #2: On agriculture as a protection racket:

"Another fundamental agricultural strategy consists of enlarging through breeding those parts of the plant that are supposed to serve human purposes at the expense of 'superfluous' and less desirable parts. The crops that were created in this way were symbiotically linked to their parasites - humans. These plants would be as little capable of surviving without humans as the other way around. [This] applies to the size of seed kernels, as in maize or other grain types of which the stalks were bred down so that as much of their biomass as possible would be concentrated in the kernels. In a natural plant society their competitors would overshadow them and they would dwindle. In an environment characterised by agriculture these characteristics provide an enormous advantage in selection because humans protect them with great expenditure of labour and look after their dissemination."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.15.



Quote of the day #1: On energy return on energy investment in agriculture:

"The purpose of agriculture in terms of energy is to gain more chemical energy as biomass than the amount of chemical energy that must be transformed into mechanical energy (labour) and expended in this process. For this to happen, the ratio of energy expenditure to yield must be at least 1:5, because as energy converters humans only have an efficiency of 20%, i.e. they need a daily diet with a combustion value of 12,000 kJ to perform mechanical work equivalent to 2,400 kJ on average for an area that produces 12,000 kJ within the growth period, including preparation, transport and processing. With this ration of effort to yield the farmer can barely feed himself."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.15.



Quote of the day #2: On life as a hunter-gatherer as the Garden of Eden:

"There is much that points to the fact that agriculture owes its existence to need rather than to a wish for improvements. ... From the Neolithic revolution on, the life of peasants consisted of long workdays and much toil and labour. Many agricultural myths tell of a long golden age, a Garden of Eden, from which people were driven to wrest their bread from a field overgrown with thistles and thorns. This sounds like a reminiscence of life an hunter-gatherers before the neolithic revolution.
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.16.



Quote of the day #1: On the utility of domesticating animals:

"An important element [in the agricultural countryside] was husbandry of livestock. Its first effect was the stabilisation of food supply. Success was not guaranteed in hunting and humans were competing with predators. Keeping and breeding livestock made it possible to eliminate these competitors for food, so that a certain amount of animal produce was always available. This is particularly true if by-products were used, such as eggs, milk and wool. Animals could be bred to improve these products: cows that give more and more milk; pigs that put on much fat; hens that lay eggs almost daily; sheep that possess more and longer wool. Domestic animals would often not be capable of surviving without human protection. They must be tended and supplied with sufficient food. An attempt would be made to feed them refuse that is indigestible for humans (grass, acorns, leaves etc.) Thus by using the detour through animals humans could consume biomass that was otherwise unusable."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.17.



Quote of the day #2: On eating meat vs growing wheat:

"animal husbandry becomes problematic if a certain part of the land must be made available for their feed. During the transformation of plant into animal biomass the energy efficiency is about 10-20%. This means that in an area that grows food for enough livestock to feed one person, grain could be grown that would feed eight persons. Extensive consumption of livestock is only possible if either sufficient land is available to pasture animals, or the land is such that crops useful to humans, which are usually quite demanding, cannot grow on it."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.17-18.



Quote of the day #1: On the emergence on nomadic lifestyles:

"Livestock-raising nomads ... are formally positioned between hunters and farmers. ... Hunters permanently followed a large animal herd; the herd became used to them; they drove away other predators and took care not to kill and gestating or mother animals; they encouraged selection of certain characteristics, for example by preferentially killing aggressive male animals; in this way the herd was eventually domesticated. ... nomads controlled their herd but not its nutritional basis. Grass grows without their intervention. If livestock-raising societies live exclusively on their herds ... they must be nomadic. A herd that is large enough to feed a nomadic society requires huge pastures. Therefore, by their way of life and as far as the flow of energy is concerned, nomads are closer to hunters than to farmers. ... They live in steppes and savannahs, where agriculture is barely possible"
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.18.



Quote of the day #2: On why there are so many people in China:

"Within agricultural societies, there is a broad spectrum of cultivation types that are conducted with varying degrees of efficiency as reflected by yields. ... Based on Chinese intensive agriculture, about 50,000 times as many persons can live in a given area than with hunting and gathering. This explains both why a return from an agricultural society to the life of hunter-gatherer societies is impossible, and why agricultural societies tend towards displacing competing primitive societies that have so much higher a demand for territory. From the perspective of agricultural pioneers the land of hunter-gatherer societies is massively underpopulated and unused. To European farmers, who conquered territories like North America or Australia in the modern period, these were 'empty'; to the original inhabitants, who lived as game hunters, they were actually fully settled."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.19.



Quote of the day #1: On humans and horses as biological biocoverters (of energy):

"Biological energy conversion involves the transformation of chemical energy fixed in the food biomass into mechanical energy or work with a human or an animal functioning as a bioconverter. The energy efficiency of this transformation is 15-20% ... The average output of a horse lies around 600-700 Watt, but that of a human around 50-100 Watt. The output of a horse is about eight fold that of a human and the relationship of the nutritional energy requirements are about the same. It is about 100 MJ a day for a horse while a physically working human needs about 12 MJ. These figures illustrate that an area capable of feeding eight humans, who would in principel be free to perform the same work, became free if the horse was given up. However ... it cannot be overlooked that the horse can only be utilised for very simple mechanical work, such as transporting loads, which on the farm is not required all the time. If the down times of the horse are considered, the estimate that the energy efficiency of a human is two and a half times as high over longer periods does not seem far fetched."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.21.



Quote of the day #2: On premodern transportation costs:

"A human can carry a maximum of 40 kg of grain over a distance of 25 km in one day and he consumes in this time period about a kilogram of grain. If the return trip and a day sojourn at the point of origin and the goal are counted in, he will use 16% of the carried load for a distance of 50 km, 25% for 100 km. If he were supposed to travel a distance of 500 km, he would not be able to feed himself with the grain carried along. ... If the wheel and wagon ... are to be used rationally, fairly smooth and level roads must be made. It is desirable to make the wheel as narrow as possible because this reduces friction. However, this places heavy demands on the road surface. if it is too soft, a narrow wheel digs deep furrows, especially in wet conditions. Therefore, a much-travelled road must be paved with wood and/or stones, which requires heavy input of labour ... If no draught animals are available, road construction is often not worthwhile. In the agrarian civilisations of South and Central America ... no draught animals were available, therefore no broad overland roads were made, no wagon was developed and not even the wheel was known."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.22.



Quote of the day #1: On towns as parasites on the countryside:

"The town belonged inseparably to agrarian civilisation. ... Town dwellers could rarely make up more than 20% of the total population of a given area. From the rural perspective, the town is a parasitic appendage where surpluses are consumed as luxuries which have been extracted from the rural population as rent.
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.30.



Quote of the day #2: On innovation and its attendant risks:

"In the industrial system there is a ... discrepancy between innovation and awareness of its consequences. Far-reaching actions are initiated without even the remotest knowledge of what the aggregate long-term results may be. From the perspective of world history, the industrial transformation is a tremendously risky enterprise. If it ends in a dead end, there is a danger, because of its tendency towards globalisation and universalisation, that for the first time in history not only a single society but in principle all of humanity will be affected."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.39.



Quote of the day #1: On the Industrial Revolution as a singular event in world history:

"An important characteristic of the fossil energy system was and is energy superabundance. Many characteristics of hunter-gatherer and agrarian societies are attributable to energy being in short supply and the need to be very economical with it. ... The enormous abundance of energy in the industrial system led to the formation of behaviour that appears absurd from an energy point of view. While settlement structures and forms of space utilisation in solar energy societies were arranged according to the principle of a minimisation of transport, transport became almost free once the mineral oil economy prevailed. ... any attempt to establish a technically improved solar energy system faces the enormous problem that the result of energy superabundance has literally been poured in concrete in the meantime. ... The Industrial Revolution is a singular phenomenon in world history because of the nature of its energy base."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.45.



Quote of the day #2: On premodern transportation costs:

"Transport conditions and transport costs were a major problem in the context of the agrarian solar energy regime. Bairoch estimates preindustrial transport costs in terms of grain: it cost 3.9 kg cereals to transport 1 ton of goods over 1 km by cart, 0.9 kg by river or canal and only 0.3-0.4 kg over sea. This exemplifies the energy limit of overland transport, especially for bulky goods as wood which would be felt in the economic sector as prohibitively high costs. When we assume the price of 1 ton of wood to be about 1% of that of grain, wood prices double every 2-4 km of overland transport, or, to put in a different way, for each kilometer the price of wood will increase by 40% if transported over land, 10% over water and 3% over sea."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.59.



Quote of the day #1: On premodern transportation costs II:

"In general, it can be assumed that overland transport of quality wood was not worthwhile if the ride took more than six to seven hours, while the limit was already reached with firewood after three to four hours. This represents a distance of 15-30 km, but only if the state of the roads ... was good. A settlement that was not on a raftable river was only able to draw wood from within a radius of 15 km. If it was located on a raftable watercourse the supply area was extended by a strip of 30 km width along this water. All wood outside this area was inaccessible. ... It mattered not if there was still untouched forest somewhere in the interior. Only what could be obtained through a justifiable outlay in energy terms counted." 
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.59.



Quote of the day #2: On the tight pre-modern ties between location and the availability of energy:

"Until the 18th century transforming different energy forms into one another was only possible to a limited extent - a reason why no uniform energy concept could exist. Thus, it was not possible before the invention of the steam engine to transform the chemical energy of wood into kinetic energy; its use was bound to the release of thermal energy. ... the key characteristic of the solar energy system [was that] the amount of energy available depended on the area on which the sun's rays fell and where they are photosynthetically fixed. ... the legendary demand of glass works for wood must be mentioned. For the production of 1 kg of glass, no less than 2,400 kg of wood were needed. ... relocation 'according to the wood' was common in the preindustrial period."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.60-61.



Quote of the day #1: On misconceptions about how the medieval forests were (un)regulated:

"Today there is a widespread notion that the medieval forest was considered a wilderness and that wood was a free good like water and air for all to use as they pleased. From this perspective, it is reasonable to expect that the varied uses of the forest would soon lead to overexploitation. The forest without rules and laws would inevitably enter a fundamental crisis at some point, from which only the regulating intervention of the state could save it. However, the example of the forest can show that historical development was not a move from lawlessness to lawfulness, but merely from older local forms of regulation to newer territorial forms in the modern period."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.67.



Quote of the day #2: On energy scarcity as an effect of prohibitive transportation costs:

"Even in England wood remained the only fuel worth mentioning during the Middle Ages. Coal played no role in quantitative terms. England, like other parts of Europe, was densely forested and ... had sufficient stands of wood to secure the provision of the rural population with fuel. Here, as on the continent, the usual scarcity of wood in densely populated centers existed but it was not caused by a real lack of wood. The problem was rather the great difficulty of transporting wood."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.79.



Quote of the day #1: On the creation of British "ghost acreage" in the 18th century:

"Great Britain annually consumed about 10,000 tons of sugar around 1700, but about 150,000 tons around 1800. The ... per capita consumption of sugar rose in the course of the 18th century from 1 kg to 10 kg. ... the role of suger in the nutrition of the British population can still be ignored in the early 18th century. However, around 1800 sugar imports contributed 4% of the caloric needs of the British population or, in other words, the grain acreage of the British Isles would have had to be increased by 4% to produce the same quantity of food calories domestically.
...
In England ... land was imported as grain and knowledge was exported as cloth, thus increasing the ecological carrying capacity of the British Isles: with the help of foreign grain a larger population was supported than would have been possible restricted to the domestic territory under the given agricultural technology.
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.97, 99.



Quote of the day #2: What if Britain had not had coal?:

"The availability of fossil energy catapulted Great Britain into a novel economic energy regime. ... Let us consider what it would have meant if Great Britain had not possessed coal reserves because of an accident of geology. Today the example of Japan demonstrates that successful industrialisation is possible without a domestic energy base. Is it conceivable that the missing amount of energy could have been imported in the form of firewood or of goods that were produced with a relatively large amount of wood? Were such quantities of wood actually available and where would they have come from? 
...
The preliminary finding of our considerations is that the wood yield of northeastern Europe was quite large, but that it would hardly have been possible to supply England with imported firewood on a grand scale. ... Much speaks for the notion that without coal a more decentralised development of trade would have occurred, equivalent to the systemic conditions of agricultural production."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.104-105, 109-110.



Quote of the day #1: What if there had been no coal in Europe?:

"If one wishes to speculate what course European development might have taken if the transition to a fossil energy system had not taken place - perhaps because there was no coal or because it only occurred in inaccessible locations - then it can be said with some certainty that the tendency would rather have run towards decentralisation, deceleration of development and finally a stationary state. This tendency towards deceleration would have been effective not only on a local scale but even more so in larger economic regions. Without doubt three would have been no Ruhr district and no Black Country, but iron industries in Sweden, the Urals, Asturia, the Siegerland, Carinthia and similar decentralised locations would have retained their old importance."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.121.



Quote of the day #2: On the industrial evolution that would have happened in a world without coal:

"even without coal a series of technological and economic innovations could be anticipated. Instead of an Industrial Revolution with its characteristic acceleration of several technical, economic and finally political and cultural processes there might have been an industrial evolution. European societies would have remained more decentralised in economic and settlement structure and developments would have occurred significantly more slowly. One may speculate whether European economies would have quickly entered into a stationary state or, alternatively, whether improvements ... would have resulted in long-term, unnoticeable growth. If population development had taken its familiar course without the industrial leaps in growth of the 19th century, that society would have faced the problem of increased struggles over the distribution of scarce resources that will only arise in the 21st century."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.121.



Quote of the day #1: On the energy return of energy invested in coal mining:

"Around 1700, coal production per miner in Britain was about 120-200 tons per year, and around 1900 it had risen to just 250-300 tons per year. However, the energy yield of coal was considerable despite this low productivity. If a worker produced 250 tons of coal in a year, that was about 1,000 kg coal per day over 250 work days. The combustion value of coal is 30 MJ/kg, so a miner produced 30,000 MJ daily while consuming food with an energy content of 12 MJ. The output factor is no less than 2500"
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.136.



Quote of the day #2: On the secret history of industrialization:

"The history of energy is the secret history of industrialisation. ... With the utilisation of coal the bottleneck that had until then slowed down all technical economic innovations was overcome. Only then was the direction set for a process that economists today call 'economic growth', which rests upon natural conditions that cannot be reproduced historically and must necessarily be transitory."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.137.



Quote of the day #1: On meat, bread and poverty:

"When population density grows in a solar energy system, it can be expected that meat consumption will decline in favour of vegetarian food. Precisely this process can be observed in Europe during the early modern period. In Germany annual meat consumption in the 14th and 15th centuries was about 100 kg per head. ... In the 18th and early 19th century, the final phase of the agrarian system, meat consumption was 14 kg per person, i.e. it had dropped to an eighth. This sensational downturn saw the number of butchers in towns decline despite population growth. ... the general decline in meat consumption meant that the lower classes ate virtually no meat. Rising consumption of bread ... tended in the same general direction. Almhouses in Paris supplied their clientele with 1.5 kg bread a day in the 17th and 18th century, which may be taken as an indication that bread had become the sole food of the poor. The quality of bread also declined for the mass of the population. The preferred grain, wheat (white bread), was reserved for the upper class, the middle class ate grey bread (rye) and the urban lower class and peasants ate black bread (barley, oats, legumes, acorns, chestnuts).
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.179.



Quote of the day #2: On the fossil age as by necessity being transitory:

"With the finiteness and exhaustibility of fossil fuels, a factor with completely novel features entered the economic game. ... The limit set by the exhaustibility of fossil deposits has a completely different character than the growth limit of the solar energy system: no stationary state is possible based on fossil energy; when this system has reached its limits, a new contraction must set in. The only escape could be a shift to novel energy carriers. Therefore, the fossil energy regime is a transitional regime and the society built upon it is a transitional society."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.197.



Quote of the day #1: On accelerating until we hit the wall:

"The principle of self regulation does not function optimally with resources that are not only finite but of which consumption is irreversible. Since economic subjects only think in limited time frames, significant savings only become important when scarcity is acutely felt. A predicted scarcity in the far distance is not sufficiently signalled by price mechanisms when current supplies are large. Therefore, a level of human population and material flows of goods can arise that cannot be maintained without fossil energy. When the market finally enforces adaptation, it may be far too late. 
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.201-202.



Quote of the day #2: On the achilles heel of all renewable energy sources:
"the technical utilisation of solar energy ... has disadvantages of a basic nature compared to fossil energy: solar energy essentially has low energy density. This applies so much to the sun's radiation as it does to the motion of wind and running water, If this energy is to be used, it must first be concentrated, which always involves a great effort in area, material and work.. ... The basic problem of the solar energy system is simply unavoidable: if energy of a low density is converted into a useful form, the inputs of area and material are enormous and fundamentally reduce the energy yield."
Sieferle, R. P. (2001). The subterranean forest: energy systems and the industrial revolution.
White Horse Press, p.205.






Quote of the day #1: On cars and lock-in effects:
"The choice to travel in [cars] rather than in trams or buses or on bicycles is conditioned by a vast infrastructure of oil terminals, petroleum refineries, asphalt plants, road networks, gasoline stations ... which did not fall from the sky in this moment but was built up *over time*, eventually amassing such weight and inertia that other modes of transportation are now excluded, or at least prevented from rising to predominance. This is what some refer to as 'carbon lock-in': a cementation of fossil fuel-based technologies, deflecting alternatives and obstructing policies of climate change mitigation: a poisoned fruit of history."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.7.


Quote of the day #2: On the "slow violence" of carbon emissions:
"If one tonne [of CO2] is emitted in this second, a fourth of it will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. If we wait ... demolish the fossil economy in one giant blow, it would still cast a shadow far into the future: emissions slashed to zero, the sea might continue to rise for many hundreds of years, the waters slowly expanding as the heat makes its way deeper and deeper into the oceans. A rising and warming sea could [trigger] feedback mechanisms centuries after a complete cessation of emissions ... . At its core, then, climate change is messy mix-up of time scales. ... The person who harms others by burning fossil fuels cannot ... encounter his victims, because they do not yet exist. Living in the here and now, he reaps all the benefits from the combustion but few of the injuries, which will be suffered by people who are not around and cannot voice their opposition."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.8.


Quote of the day #1: On the origins of CO2 emissions:

"While several countries could lay claim to being the cradle of modernity, capitalism, enlightenment or liberal democracy, the fossil economy has one incontestable birthplace: Britain accounted for 80 percent of global emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion in 1825 and 62 percent in 1850. There is a margin of error in these figures, but they give us an idea of the proportions and trends, suggestion that Britain ... continued to generate *more than half* of the world's emissions far into the nineteenth century. The origins of our predicament must be located on British soil."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.13.


Quote of the day #2: On the drivers of climate change:

"Neither environmental nor labour history has ... been very keen on connecting the dots of workers and the wider environment, class and climate. The same silence reigns in research on energy in the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, climate change as such remains primarily and object of natural science, recent spurts of interest in the social sciences notwithstanding. We are awash in data on the disastrous effects but comparatively poor on insights into the drivers."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.19.


Quote of the day #1: On where coal comes from:

"Ninety percent of the world's reserves [of coal] stem from the namesake Carboniferous, some 360 to 286 million years ago, when the rate of coal burial reached a level 600 times higher than the average for the other 98 percent of the history of the Earth, thanks to some exceptionally favourable conditions: wet climate, vast flood plains, large woody plants colonising upland areas as well as swamps and seashores, leaving an abundance of material for coalification."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.41.


Quote of the day #2: On the victims of the early industrialization:

"In the second quarter of the [19th] century, life expectancy in industrial parishes [in England] fell to a level unheard of since the Black Death; mortality rates spiked while average height dropped sharply. Stunted and deformed, the bodies of the poor were a source of fear in themselves, the crisis reflected in bourgeois horror over the filthy, sick, infected masses, whose revolutionary inclinations appeared as contagious as their smallpox and cholers."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.62-63.


Quote of the day #1: On when steam overtook water as the most important source of power in industry:

"Before we proceed any further, we need to pause and try to specify exactly when the transition to steam power in the cotton industry occurred. [A] yardstick might be 50 percent: when steam had passed the first threshold of *half* of all horsepower, it would have become predominant. But one could also think of ... more qualitative, less arithmetically precise definitions. If an old prime mover remained a viable and attractive option for *fresh investment* at point X in time, but no longer at point Y, when practically all investment was directed to the rising contender, the transition had demonstrably occurred."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.77.


Quote of the day #2: On the mystery of why coal overtook water as the prime mover/energy source back in the days:

"In the years 1830-1860, 51 percent of total costs in British coal mining consisted of wages ... When proprietors of steam mills purchased coal to feed their engines, they paid primarily *for the living labour* required to bring the coal ut of the ground. ... water was 'preferable to steam *even in 1870 if cost factors alone were under consideration*' ... *The transition to steam in the British cotton industry occurred in spite of the persistently superior cheapness of water*. ... Embedded in the landscape, the flow required no human labour to call forth its powers; a lease of ownership title secured legal access to the land, and then the water came, as it were, gushing for free."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.91.


Quote of the day #1: On the "collective tyranny" of water power :

"Manufacturers who rented waterpower from central providers 'found their independence of action variously restrained by the system of power supply of which they were a part. Steam power', on the other hand, 'provides the means *of escape and of independence* ... With engine and boiler the millowner could do as he pleased, virtually without let or hindrance'. The straightjacket of water from collective reservoirs - however powerful, however cheap - could be doffed in one stroke of the piston."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.117.


Quote of the day #2: On the incompatibility of renewable energy and private property:

"running water, light, and air, were considered ... 'things the property of which belong to no person, but the use to all'. ...So was there indeed something in the *nature* of water, light and air that made their energy incongruous with the principles of private property? It seems so"
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.117-118.


Quote of the day #1: On undisciplined factory workers:

The traditional culture of relatively free work, cherished not as a distant utopia but as the only known way of life, made even the destitute hesitate at entering the factory, whose architecture and regimentation resembled those of a workhouse. Even if hands did show up at the gates, there were no assurances that they would continue to turn up the next day, keep up the rhythm of work or execute the orders in due order: recruitment of workers acquiescing to the discipline soon proved to be a persistent headache for the first industrial capitalists."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.128.


Quote of the day #2: On slave labour in England 200 years ago:

"When water mills cried out for operatives in the 1780s ... poorhouses happened to be bursting at the seams with children; overseers were eager to jettison their urchins and bastards by sending them as indentured 'apprentices' to cotton manufacturers ... The boys and girls themselves had no say in the agreements, of course ... and once the transfer had been sealed, she would be the de facto possession of her new master. ... apprentices had the great merits of being available, denied their free will, accustomed to conditions of strict hierarchy from early childhood in poorhouses and not in a legal position to object ... Unlike families of wage labourers, they required no private cottages and could be lodged in the hundreds in far more cheaply constructed dormitories or 'apprentice houses'. ... An average apprentice ... between the 1760s and the 1830s commenced her service at the age of twelve and finished at twenty-one, meaning that she laboured for nine years - potentially half of her working life - without any remuneration whatsoever."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.131.


Quote of the day #1: On the English indentured workers of the industrial revolution:

"Over the 1810s and 1820s, apprentices came to be widely regarded as the most inattentive, listless and obstreperous of all workers. Under physical coercion, they possessed no desire to perform labour. Although appropriate objects for many an experiment, some crucial disciplinary techniques had zero effect: no fines could be slapped on them, their parents could not be warned and - by far most important - they were insulated from the threat of dismissal. The only stick that could be applied with some efficiency was physical. As for carrots, there were few if any positive inducements to dangle in front of apprentices: no wages, piece rates, bonuses or overtime pay."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.134.


Quote of the day #2: On steam power turning workers into a commodity:

"By dint of its spatial fixity, waterpower obliged the manufacturer to form *personal relations* to his hands, whether they were bound apprentices whose needs he must provide for or the free labuorers for whom he spun a cocoon encompassing all aspects of life, from religious instruction to basic health care. ... steam power, on the other hand, allowed the capitalist to treat his workers as 'so many old shuttles'. They could now be discarded at will, replaced with ease, left to fend for themselves on the housing market, unknown and immaterial in any other respect than as a temporarily hired capacity for labour. If the management of workers in rural water mills oscillated between the poses of slavery and seduction, in urban steam mills there was need for neither: the the factory operative more closely approximated an impersonal, objectified *commodity*."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.152.


Quote of the day #1: On the coal breakthrough in energy transportability:

The entry of coal into the world of humans [was] *centralised in space*, at points from whence it could be *transported* to consumers and *stored* in warehouses, without the need for further attention, passively awaiting combustion. For the first time in history, the converter and the energy source - the engine and the mine - were dissociated in space, allowing factories to stay closely together [in cities].
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.164.


Quote of the day #2: On the infuriating intermittency of water power:

"The weather had written the rules of the game of waterpower since time immemorial. Traditionally, weak streams during dry summers were [not] aberrant or maddening ... As long as the ... hydropowered activity served neighbouring customers, a stoppage 'was a source of inconvenience but nothing more serious; there were alway other tasks to be carried out, few people were employed in any one mill, and most mills had adequate surplus capacity to enable them to complete their quota of work once water levels returned to normal' ... Such indulgence towards erratic rivers persisted even in eighteenth-century Britain, but the production of commodities for export soon made it impermissible: no longer catering to local needs, but aiming at the maximisation of profits through sale on markets detached from the British calendar, manufacturers could ill afford slowdowns or stoppages. They had to squeeze as much output out of their rivers as possible."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.166.


Quote of the day #1: On workers' working hours in 19th century England:

"Exclusive of meal breaks, the standard in the central cotton districts ... was twelve hours per weekday and nine hours on Saturday - a sixty-nine-hour week - although even longer days were still common; at Thom's mill in Rothersay, production commenced at five-thirty in the morning and went on for thirteen and a half hours straight. ... In the year 1200, an adult male peasant would have worked an estimated 1,620 hours per year; in 1300, a casual labourer some 1,440 hours; in 1600, a farmer or miner 1,980. In 1840, the figure for all British workers stood at 3,105 hours under the assumption of a forty-five-week year and 3,588 under a fifty-two-week year - roughly *double* the amount of labour performed half a millennium earlier, or an additional 1,000 hours over 1750."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.166-167.


Quote of the day #2: On using 'steam' figuratively:

"*The Oxford Dictionary* gives 1826 as the first year that 'steam' began to be used figuratively to imply 'go', 'energy', 'speed' as in still-used idioms such as 'full steam ahead', 'picking up steam', 'blowing off steam', 'under your own steam'. First constructed in the mid-1820s, the ideology of steam was powerful enough to fossilise in the English language."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.205.


Quote of the day #1: On steam-powered energy slaves replacing human workers:

"Calculations of how many acres of woodland the engines replaced were rare in the literature ... but those of how many *workers* they equalled were all the more common. ... A hagiography of James Watt published in *The Times* in 1859 revised the number ... reporting that total steam power of Britain was now *'equivalent to the manual labour of 400,000,000 of men, or more than double the number of males supposed to inhabit the globe*. Such *power* did Watt confer upon this nation.' Accurate or not, the figures conveyed a certain perception of steam: not as a terrain of ghost acreages, but ... as a kind of *ghost population*, first replacing human labourers and then outgrowing them, marching onwards in the factories, ever growing in numbers."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.214-215.


Quote of the day #2: On killing people to protect machiners:

"Following the Luddite revolt and, more particularly, the rising of the Lancashire handloom weavers in 1826, when more than one thousand power looms were smashed, the British state promulgated a new law to protect machinery. ... In other words, the critical years of the transition to steam were enclosed behind a law that made wilful damage to a coal mine or an engine *punishable by death*. These were not mere words. In November 1831 ... a mob rushed into a mill ... set the building on fire and smashed the steam engine with a sledgehammer. Three men were sentenced to death by hanging for the crime."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.223-224.


Quote of the day #1: On steam demonology:

"Frederich Marryat ... editor of *The Metropolitan Magazine* - wrote a piece on steam as seen by Belgian and British workers ...

"I never can divest myself of the idea that it is possessed of *vitality* - that it is a living as well as a moving being - and that idea, joined with its immense power, conjures up in my mind that it is some spitting, fizzling, terrific demon, ready and happy to drag us by thousands to destruction. And will this powerful invention prove to mankind a *blessing* or a *curse*? - like the fire which Prometheus stole from Heaven to vivify his statue, may it not be followed by the evils of Pandora's fatal casket?"

Here fetischism was inverted into *steam demonology*: the engine as a force of its own, not for good but for evil. Moving its limbs with inherent vigour, a formidable current of energy hidden within its body, the engine appeared to be possessed with an uncanny, almost diabolic power."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso.


Quote of the day #2: On the first general strike in history:

"In terms of number involved, geographical extension, duration, sheer insurrectionary fervour and near-revolutionary dynamics, the general strike of 1842 was the greatest revolt of the British working class in the nineteenth century. It was also the first general strike in the history of any capitalist country. Around half a millon workers turned out in the manufacturing districts and strikes hit no fewer than thirty-two counties, albeit with Lancashire, Cheshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lanarkshire as the unmistakable centres: here, the bulk of production was suspended for between one week and two months, beginning in mid-July and ending in mid-September."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.226.


Quote of the day #1: On pollution as prosperity:

"All the smoke, the acid rain, the sulphurous fog literally killed off flora and fauna, sights of trees and birds and even the sun itself denied those forced to live within the town. But 'the merchants and manufacturers have detached villas, situated in the midst of gardens and parks in the country' ... The bourgeoisie adopted an apologetic attitude to the problem. From the 1840s, when the level of smoke in Manchester had become positively poisonous, mill-owners and their political representatives unremittingly and successfully opposed any idea of government interference: 'Suppression [of smoke] might materially injure important branches of our national industry,' the House of Commons concluded in 1846. manufacturers argued that the quantity of smoke was rather a barometer of prosperity - and besides, any negative effects on the health of the population were unproven."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.246.


Quote of the day #2: On historical CO2 emissions from the global North and the global South:

"As of 2000, the advanced capitalist countries of the 'North' composed 16.6 percent of the world population, but were responsible for 77.1 percent of the CO2 emitted since 1850 ... The US alone accounted for 27.6, while Nigeria stood at 0.2 percent, Turkey at 0.5 percent, Indonesia 0.6 percent, Brazil 0.9 percent ... Counting differently, the OECD countries were behind 86 of the 107 parts per million by which the CO2 concentration rose from 1850 to 2006. What about the homeland of it all? In one list of national contributions to global warming from fossil fuel combustion up to the year 2005, the United Kingdom ranks number five, having caused a rise in temperature three times larger than India, fifteen times Thailand and Argentina, thirty times Nigeria and Colombia, and so on. In the early twenty-first century, the poorest 45 percent of humanity generated 7 percent of current CO2 emissions, while the richest 7 percent produced 50 percent" 
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.268.


Quote of the day #1: On the connection between dense cities and employer power:

"the rule is general: industrial capital hinges upon a popular exodus from the countryside. ... The threat of dismissal is 'perhaps the most effective means yet discovered to impose labour discipline in class-divided society' ... feudal lords could not make use of it against their serfs, but capitalists must be able to wave it as a credible option before their operatives. ... a large, dense, concentrated supply [of workers] allows for 'flexible labour turnover policies', whereas a small, thin, spatially dispersed labour market forces firms to treat their employees as precious minerals."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.298-299.


Quote of the day #2: On the arrival of steam in the US:

"Steam engines set food on American soil at an early date, but were extremely slow in conquering the economy. Waterwheels provided the bulk of mechanical energy until after the Civil War; in terms of total industrial horsepower, steam edged them out only in the census of 1870, with 52 percent as against 48 percent - a national shift occurring some four decades later than in Britain."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.316.


Quote of the day #1: On the carbon footprint of consumption:

"the carbon footprint of a smart, tech-savvy ... art director is ... a function of what he ... *consumes*, much of which will be imported from other nations still doing the dirty work of manufacturing. ... the ecological burden ... is being off-loaded to distant producers, to which it then *seems* to belong. The lightness of the MacBook Air crowd is an illusion grounded in myopia. In the case of CO2, most emissions associated with a commodity originate in the process of production, not final consumption: a Swede does not emit CO2 by wearing a T-shirt from Bangladesh. It has already been emitted from the factory where the T-shirt was sewn and the power plant providing the electricity by the builder and machine-makers and those further back in the supply chain, forming a sequence of emission - an invisible legacy of the burnt accessories - *embodied* in the commodity."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.330-331.


Quote of the day #2: On the mobility of capital in a global age: 

"When capital has secured its liberty to prowl the globe with portable productivity, it chooses between potential host countries on the basis of *their* specific assets. One profoundly nation-specific endowment is precisely labour power: as capital moves around, it will attach great weight to the national characteristics of the labour supply. It will look for cheap labour: places where labourers are easily procured. It will look for workers amenable to discipline, accustomed to high labour intensity and long working days: a population trained to industrious habits. A favourable combination of these factors will ... entice TNCs [Trans National Corporations] to invest; conversely, if labourers become dearer and more rebellious, TNCs will *move out* of such places. The simplest indicators [are] translated into low incomes, and hence it follows that industrial production will *tend* to move from nations with higher average incomes to those with lower ones ... a country offering both moneyed consumers and inexpensive workers is a particularly good choice for production"
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.335.


Quote of the day #1: On the connection between industrialization and the expansion of the fossil energy regime:

"A necessary condition for labour power to be cheap and disciplined is, to begin with, the presence of a reserve army of labour: full employment dilutes both qualities. From the classic case of Britain, we may surmise that the best place to find a sizable reserve army is an economy in the throes of the passage from agriculture to industry; a whole new labouring population will be released for procurement, as ex-farmers leave the villages en masse and congregate in towns. But a country experiencing this passage also, in all likelihood, undergoes the transition to a *fossil* economy. To the extent that inflowing capital expedites this process ... an *expansion* of the fossil economy accompanies the relocation of production."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.335-336.


Quote of the day #2: On industrial production always ending up in the countries with the dirtiest energy mix:

"when a turning point in income levels [in a country] has been reached, capital will move *back to countries near the peak of carbon intensity*. It will not move to the poorest countries, for there the infrastructure will be inadequate. Neither will it stay in the richest, most carbon-efficient countries ... instead, it will *[increase] carbon intensity through relocation*. If high incomes and low carbon intensity form a single package, as they seem to do, and if low incomes and high carbon intensity are their mirror compound, then a rise in incomes ... will ... cause a shift of industrial production to more carbon-instensive countries - not because capital desires such intensity for its own sake, but because it is thrown into the bargain when it scours the globe for maximum [profits]. 
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.337-338.


Quote of the day #1: On production moving to China and becoming dirtier:

"approximately 18 percent of growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration between 2000 and 2006 stemmed from the 'increasing carbon intensity of the global economy' ... The homeland of the trend was, of course, China, its already high carbon intensity rising further and hosting a constantly swelling portion of the world's manufacturing. ... a power plant running on coal emits roughly twice as much per Watt as one fuelled by gas - and in 2003, coal accounted for 97 percent of all fossil-fired power inte the People's Republic."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.344-345.


Quote of the day #2: On the globalisation of production and labour disempowerment:

"The globalisation of production, unfolding since the 1970s and speeding up in the 1990s, caused a tectonic shift in the balance of forces between capital and labour. Endowed with a new ability to remove commodity production to distant countries and *export* from there, capital could twist the arms of unions, their place-bound members now thoroughly substitutable on a global scale. A car assembled in Ghent or Turin for sale on the European market could just as well be manufactured somewhere in Guangdong. China ... seemed to form a black hole sucking in production, the sound of disappearing factories reverberating across the rest of the globe, echoing in remaining plants from Sweden to Mexico and pushing workers to the wall. ... Chinese workers were themselves harmed by the logic. In late 2010 *Chinese Labour Bulletin* worried that ... 'Many low-cost, labour intensive enterprises are currently more likely to respond to workers' wage demands by simply closing down and relocating to a lower cost area, than by actually bothering to negotiate with their workers'."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.352.


Quote of the day #1: On the immense inertia of the fossil energy system:

"Capital ... 'has a vested interest in the endurance of the fossil fuel landscape' ... once a power plant has paid back, the owning firm will be wise not to knock it down, but rather to keep it in operation for as long as possible. Already paid for ... Two-thirds of American power plants build since the 1890s still remain in use. ... companies will resist the retirement of such assets for as long as these can be maintained and repaired too a reasonable cost"
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.358.


Quote of the day #2: On business as usual of the forces of evil dooming the planet and our grandchildren:

"We might want to dismantle the fossil fuel landscape as quickly as science tells us we should. For the involved capital, that would be tantamount to an asteroid impact obliterating a whole planet of value ... 'If global warming is to be limited to 2C in 2100' one study concludes, 'huge quantities of installed coal capacity will need to be prematurely retired between 2030 and 2050. *Such a vast global write-off of capital would be unprecedented in scale*' ... For every moment emissions cuts are postponed, the fixed capital operating as a bloc against them amasses more weight. Since investments in new and expanded facilities continue right up to the moment when mitigation begins ... more astronomic amounts of capital will have to be liquidated on that day than if the work had begun a decade or two earlier: inertia builds inertia, each generation in the fossil economy passing on a heavier nightmare to the next. ... Exactly the opposite [of what needs to be done] is happening. In the first decade of the millennium, more coal-fired power plants were constructed than in any previous decade. The acceleration is quite breathtaking: in the three years from 2010 to 2012, upwards to 2.5 times more coal capacity was added than in the entire decade of the 1990s."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.359.


Quote of the day #1: Introducing Rex Tillerson, Trump's new Secretary of State:

"A plain demand - a minimum of rationality in the current situation - would be to impose an open-ended moratorium on the development of *new* coal mines, oil wells and gas fields. Against it stands an interest expressed with exemplary clarity by Rex Tillerson, president and CEO of ExxonMobil, in March 2013: 'My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that's what I want to do.'
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming. 
Verso, p.361.


Quote of the day #2: On consumerism and resistance to behavioral change:

"'In current consumerist societies we are *actively encouraged* to express our sense of identity through our material possessions, and losing these can therefore mean losing our sense of identity,' in the words of psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe, who proposes this as a critical factor behind popular inaction on climate change. ... It follows ... that *the subjects most ... resistant to climate change mitigation are the richest consumers.* Some poor, who might pay her utility bill but never flies to the sea, would have far less ... to lose from a transition."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.364-365.


Quote of the day #1: On Herman Scheer's vision for a local renewable energy regime:

"Some enthusiasts see only virtues in [energy] localism. Herman Scheer, probably the most influential European ideologist of renewable energy, the architect of the German transition project known as *Energiewende*, has constructed an entire vision of the rejuvenation of modern civilisation around it. In *The Solar Economy*, he sings the praises of the short or non-existent 'supply chains' of renewables: finally energy can - nay, must - be generated, harnessed and used in the very same place. Source and consumer will be hand in glove, their local bond unbreakable. The emblem ... of this novel era is precisely the solar panel, fixed on a rooftop and sending the current straight down into the bathroom, kitchen and garage. ... Transportation of renewables is neither necessary nor possible, and this is all for the better: Scheer envisions closed loops of energy, goods and services inside local communities, with no trucks or high-voltage cables crisscrossing the earth."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.373-374.


Quote of the day #1: On too little, too late becoming a need for drastic change:

"If the temporarily of climate change compels revolutionaries to be a little pragmatic, it obliges others to start pondering revolutionary measures. Had the dismantling of the fossil economy begun, say, after the UNFCCC was signed in 1992, when the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 355 parts per million rather than the current 400, the trick might have at least hypothetically been made with some gentle nudging of the market - a little tax here, a little tariff there, some discounts for electric vehicles - but the longer the postponement, the more dramatic the demotion must be when it starts."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.383.


Quote of the day #2: On climate change mitigation as a war against capital:

"If global emissions are to contract by 3 percent a year, those of rich nations might have to shrink by 5 or 10 percent or even more to give developing countries some space. ... Kevin Anderson, distinguished expert on mitigation scenarios ... states the obvious: the market cannot do it. 'Conventional market economics is premised on understanding and making small (marginal) changes. But with climate change, we are not talking about small changes; we are dealing with a world of very large changes, outside the realm of standard market theory.' The alternative? 'Planned economic recession', claim Anderson and his colleague Alice Bows. They do not say it loud, but a planned economic recession would of course objectively constitute a war against capital"
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.384.


Quote of the day #1: On wartime mobilisation as a template for draconian/necessary climate change measures:

"Laurence L. Delina and Mark Diesendorf lay out the case for wartime mobilisation as a model for rapid abatement of climate change: conjuring up an enormous defence budget after Pearl Harbor, the American state planned and enforced the production of everything from airplanes to ammunition. The executive branch of the government directed the resources of the nation, summoned labour, requisitioned properties, forced manufacturers to accept contracts, terminated the production of certain goods - notably private cars - and, in short, mobilised the economy in toto for the sole aim of of defeating he enemy. When the task is to cut emissions by some 10 percent per year, nothing less is required than a similar centralisation of power under 'a special Ministry for Transition to a Low-Carbon Future'. Given exceptional prerogatives, that ministry would raise funds, redirect labour, speed up R&D, sequester fixed capital based on [fossil fuels], organise mass production of everything from buses to CSP mirrors and roll out the full powers of [renewable energy sources]. ... Delina and Diesendorf estimate that such regimes could bring the transition to its zero-carbon conclusion within twenty-five to thirty years in developed countries and perhaps forty in the world as a whole."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.385.


Quote of the day #2: On mucking with geoengineering as more likely than mucking with capitalism :

"Planning the economy is the ultimate taboo; planning the climate is worthy of close consideration, an idea cognate with genetic engineering, GPS systems, smart devices, in vitro meat, drone warfare and other natural elements of late capitalist hypermodernity. ... There is that nagging feeling that a fleet of airplanes packed with sulphur [to alter the climate] are far more likely to show up than a special Ministry for a Transition to a Low-Carbon Future. It has become easier to imagine deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system than in capitalism."
Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming.
Verso, p.388.






Quote of the day #1: On peasants as natural born anarchists:
(First in English, then the original Swedish)

"Anthropologist Eric Wolf noted ... that the peasants of the villages have rarely become great revolutionaries as they rather are natural anarchists. The universal peasant ideal is a village free from bureaucrats, tax collectors, police officers, army recruiters and all other representatives of city-based governments. Which probably is part of the explanation for why small-scale farmers in the end always have had to fight for themselves. They have not fit into capitalism nor socialism - ideologies which, despite their differences, have more in common with each other than they do with the anarchist peasants."
Jonstad, D. (2016). Jordad: Enklare liv i kollapsens skugga
[Grounded: Simpler life in the shadow of the collapse]. Ordfront, p.84.


Quote of the day #2: On salaried work as a great misfortune:
(First in English, then the original Swedish.)

"We can hardly believe it today, but salaried work was rarely something to be proud of before industrialization. On the contrary, it was usually a sign of poverty. To sell oneself to someone who bought labour was a horrible thing. It was even taboo in many cultures. What gave prestige and status in these societies was instead the ability to support oneself and one's family by farming the land or through a craft, or often both."
Jonstad, D. (2016). Jordad: Enklare liv i kollapsens skugga
[Grounded: Simpler life in the shadow of the collapse]. Ordfront, p.85.
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