Tuesday, 7 September 2010
CASE 009 - The Olduvai theory
Industrial Civilization is defined in Duncan's paper as the time approximately from when energy production per capita rises from 37% of the peak value to when it falls to below 37% of its peak value (1930-2030) i.e. the peak in energy production per capita is in between these two endpoints and these two endpoints have values of 37% of the peak value.
The Olduvai theory claims that exponential growth of energy production ended in 1979, that energy use per capita will show no growth through 2008, and that after 2008 energy growth will become sharply negative, culminating, after a Malthusian catastrophe, in a world population of 2 billion circa 2050.
The Olduvai Theory divides human history into three phases. The first "pre-industrial" phase stretches over most of human history when simple tools and weak machines limited economic growth. The second "industrial" phase encompasses modern industrial civilization where machines temporarily lift all limits to growth. The final "de-industrial" phase follows where industrial economies decline to a period of equilibrium with renewable resources and the natural environment.
The decline of the industrial phase is broken into three sections:
The Olduvai slope (1979–1999) - energy per capita 'declined at 0.33%/year'
The Olduvai slide (2000–2011) - 'begins ... with the escalating warfare in the Middle East... marks the all-time peak of world oil production'.
The Olduvai cliff (2012–2030) - 'begins ... in 2012 when an epidemic of permanent blackouts spreads worldwide, i.e. first there are waves of brownouts and temporary blackouts, then finally the electric power networks themselves expire'
The Olduvai theory states that industrial civilization (as defined by per capita energy production) will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years (1930-2030). The theory provides a quantitative basis of the transient-pulse theory of modern civilization. The name is a reference to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.