Tuesday, July 30, 2019


By what WICO claims is coincidence, the number of regions and subregions now totals exactly one thousand. Maura suspects that such a round number is more likely an error correction based on the remote and direct observations accumulated over the past month, similar to the earlier increase in regions from around 120 to 300.

Maura and I went to the mountains for a break from work and the summer heat, but I knew it would be more than that when I found a Personal Environmental Assessment Kit in the trunk. We ended up at the site of the local test community (TC-013). “For fun” she demonstrated the full set of citizen observations, which includes a dozen added after I resigned from the GAP team. Several of the original residents were still there, and brought out their remaining instruments to verify our results. Maura and the others cheered when the observations matched to within ten percent, and teased me for not joining in.

Lei Kaleo and Maura’s cousin Ciera Johnson insisted that we all go to the nearest hot springs, which reminds the two best friends of one of their favorite activities when growing up. They lamented that the impending curtailment of air travel means they likely won’t get to return to their childhood home in Hawaii, whose rainforests are a large part of what led them to their present careers, but neither regrets moving to Colorado. During the trip, they all told stories of their time together, especially on the mountain; generally happy, some intriguing, and all providing context for current and future projects of both a personal and professional nature. 

ABOVE (L-R): Me, Maura, and Ciera.

Reality Check

I derived a mathematical formula for the cumulative population as a function of phase, and used it to derive total consumption as a function of phase. A key factor in the population function is dependent on sample size used in the calculation, which equals 1,000 when tweaked to get accurate values for global variables such as total resources and resources used by nature (as determined from historical analysis). 

The results for Hikeyay are shown below for 2019 year and 2040, the end of the transition. Basic functions of phase for life expectancy, happiness, fertility, and normalized population/nature are displayed along with the historical years that the world crossed, or is projected to cross, from one phase to another. Cumulative population is shown the given year. Cumulative consumption is also shown for the given year, as the fraction of maximum resources ever available (a total ecological footprint of approximately 3 Earths/year), while the total resources actually available due to reduction by self-sustained impacts is indicated by a dotted black line.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Limits of Knowledge

Maura returned home last night with a guest who will be helping us on our current project. Meanwhile, WICO reacted to widespread skepticism over the value of using subregions, similar what I shared in yesterday’s post about yesterday with Al.

In a written statement, Ambassador Lazlo emphasized that all of WICO’s education efforts include guidance for a variety of ecosystem types (biomes), specifically in the general introduction to guidance for each region. She added, “People moving to a new subregion will be furnished with the specific guidance they need from local extinction response units, which also have training available. Real-time observation of conditions is being used to update all guidance where appropriate, and can be shared with anyone in the world.”

Maura had her own reaction. “For now. That will be a luxury half-way through the transition, maybe sooner.” I asked her if she thought Al had a point. “Al always has a point,” she said approvingly. “He also has the benefit of lots more training and experience than most people, which is a big source of bias.”

“Do you think it’s sufficient?” She’d seen most of the training, and directly tested a lot more than me.

“They did a thorough job,” she said, not quite answering the question. “Though Al’s right to worry that changes can happen too fast for useful updates, even now. It will be even more problematic as technology quality and access degrades, even with significant improvement to conditions.”

“People will be learning in the process, though,” I suggested, “especially those who move a lot. They can share what they learn more effectively anyway, right?”

She thought about it. “That will work locally, more so over time, and any necessary global coordination will suffer. I’m sure Sally’s already factored that into her models. I’ve seen hints of it in the strategy.”

“What about Sally?” I asked. “She’ll be degrading too.” I wondered if she had taken any action on her plan to inhabit a mobile shell, which I imagined would look and act human.

“You’ll have to ask her,” Maura replied, “not that it’s anyone’s business but hers.” I had to agree. 

“So, one lesson is to make print books wherever we can.”

“Without killing too many trees,” she added.

Reality Check

The issues discussed are basic ones that would affect any strategy like that adopted here. “Will” knows that they were built into the strategy, but is revisiting them anyway just in case he missed something - or someone else did.

For background on Maura’s project, see today’s entry in Will Jackson’s Personal Log.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


More than three weeks into execution of the global strategy, the signs of the transition are more organizational than physical, though we expect that to change rapidly soon. The local division of the Extinction Response Unit just released a set of “subregion” maps for our region that are aligned with the latest projections of climate and ecosystem adaptations. Not surprisingly, their boundaries roughly coincide with the distribution of biomes WICO anticipated for the transition midpoint.

Maura has been back at work, sort of, performing a survey of our closest former test community, TC-013, from a historical perspective, while I do related research in our office. We’ll be in a new subregion when we move close to the university, which is shared by most of the mountains and subject to a different set of conditions for land management and basic survival that TC-013 was instrumental in identifying. This brought up a new direction of research, which I discussed with Maura last night: tracking cultural evolution as a function of subregion definition and mandated resettlement. She initially considered it too large a change in scope, but agreed to think more about it.

“That’s just bureaucratic BS,” Al said when he heard the news. “Nothin’s gonna change except what people call it. Adaptation’s the way of the world now, and everyone’s gotta be ready for anythin’.” He pointed to a weather map on the cafeteria television as we ate lunch. A stationary high-pressure system was baking the Midwest, with a long hot finger reaching as far west as the Rocky Mountain foothills. “That thing don’t care ‘bout ecosystems, and neither will the tornados that swing through next week. We’re just gonna have to ride ‘em out wherever we are until our itty-bitty changes amount to somethin’ big enough.”

“Are you kidding me, Al?” Significant changes between the plains and the mountains were a given for as long as I’d lived here. 

He sniffed, then snorted. “Smell that smoke, Will? This place is on its way to becomin’ a desert thanks to the oven we made, and the best way to shut off an oven is to cut the power. We’re doin’ it in a lot of little ways; and ‘til it works we’re all gonna be just hunkerin’ down wherever we are, which is a great way to cut some more power.”

“But isn’t where you are going to affect how you do it?” I asked the obvious question.

“How many ways do I gotta say it? A forest can become a desert in a week, and it may not have enough time to grow back. If you can live in both, then you got a chance at survivin’.”

“So, you’re saying the subregion rules are meaningless, along with what was learned in the test communities?”

“No. I’m saying we all gotta learn all of it, rules and the reasons behind ‘em.” He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “I thought you had this all figgered out already.”

“The ERU’s doing that coordination thing you always like, setting expectations and rules to match.”

“Point taken,” he said, leaning back. “We swapped places, didn’t we?”

“Looks that way, and it feels weird. What changed?”

He paused. “Perspective, I’d say. You got into history and how people organize life. I got into physics, the why of it all.”

It wasn’t just our new jobs. “Tell me about it,” I suggested.

Reality Check

Al’s new point of view is based on my own concept that rapid changes require flexible thinking and abilities that match the range of changes. The discussion of climate and ecosystems is based on my own observations and knowledge, not a rigorous scientific analysis.

See today’s entry in Will Jackson’s Personal Log for more about the project being worked on by Will and Maura.

Monday, July 22, 2019


Maura came out of her coma early this morning. A week of tests by her doctors hadn’t determined any physical cause, a set of new tests couldn’t identify any problems. Oddly she knew the date, and was more cheerful than I have ever seen. She will be visiting her parents for a couple of days while I catch up on work and pursue a new project we came up with during the drive to their house.

Hours of watching television in the hospital room and frequent visits from Al and Maura’s parents have prepared me for the new world that took shape during the past week. WICO’s raids on striking companies were followed by an ultimatum to the companies’ management: either follow the global strategy or be charged with attempted omnicide. An agreement was reached with all parties over the weekend, and today work restarted on the environment-assisting technology.

Reality Check

I took a vacation last week, limiting exposure to news and social media in a near-disconnect from the issues that have consumed me for more than a year. I experienced a kind of joy I’ve missed while visiting the natural environment around Colorado’s Gunnison River with my wife.

For backstory related to Maura’s experience, see today’s entry in Will Jackson’s Personal Log.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Maura woke up screaming at 3:45 this morning, and then fell into a deep coma. Doctors have not (so far) found any measurable damage or determined a cause. Al joined me by her side after she was brought by ambulance to a local hospital, and I intend to stay as long as it takes.

While we waited for a set of tests to be run, the emergency room television displayed breaking news of raids by national extinction response units that apparently targeted companies involved in the global strike on environment-assisting technology (EAT) development and deployment. As of this writing, there has been no official statement or explanation for the raids.

I intend to focus on the here-and-now, and plan to suspend this blog until at least Maura wakes up.

Reality Check

The onset of Maura’s coma coincides with a (purely fictional) trigger in the backstory that Will is currently unaware of. It is expected to last a week, preoccupying him along with ongoing events that he can’t reveal publicly, and keeping him from writing his blog until after she recovers.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Targets of Revolt

After nearly a week of experience executing the global strategy, WICO released the first of what it’s calling a Global Targets Update this morning. The update incorporates a minor change to the calculation of expected population during the transition into annual rates of change, globally and by region, for population, consumption components, and Gross World Product (with and without inflation).

In a statement about the update, Secretary General Decatur emphasized that it should be interpreted as “guidance in support of our main focus, to maximize natural habitat and use no more than half what healthy ecosystems can provide on a renewable basis.” It was the most succinct summary of the strategy that I’ve ever heard. He finished on an uncharacteristically rousing note: “Collapse is intolerable, in every place, for all people, and for all life!”

When it was over, Maura browsed social media for reactions while I scanned the television networks. A familiar voice stopped me after the third one. Mark Luke was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, giving what sounded like a rebuttal speech, flanked by leaders of business and conservative lawmakers from the House and Senate. It soon became clear that it more than a rebuttal; it was a statement of revolt.

“Innovation depends on a robust economy, but that is no longer possible.” Holding up a printed copy of a graph from the update, Luke continued, “Those of us tasked with the bulk of the work in saving the world are being robbed of the rewards that make it possible and worthwhile. Until now, we held out hope that governments would come to their senses, giving them every opportunity to do so, given what’s at stake, but this so-called update has confirmed our worst fear: that their delusions are beyond the power of reason to dispel. A six percent drop in the real economy in this coming year alone! It’s beyond insanity, and we won’t tolerate it. We can’t tolerate it. Starting today we will only supply what we are paid for, and we are filing lawsuits to get what we are owed for services rendered. Any attempts to nationalize our companies will be met with the utmost resistance, backed by a coalition in Congress that still values the rights of liberty and happiness.”

The speech was followed by high-profile politicians fleshing out the last talking point. The highest- ranking senator in the group, Lawrence Bilford, gave what I thought was the best summary: “Even in the darkest days of our republic, all rights were treated as equal, inseparable, and non-negotiable. One cannot trump the others without diminishing them all. Life can stand alone, but without the others it is intolerable. Without liberty, each man’s happiness is enslaved by one man’s definition, which in the end allows only that man a few like him to be happy. With less happiness to achieve, there is no incentive to put in the effort, and the whole society suffers from its lack. That is the wisdom of our founding fathers, the authors of the constitution that guides its application in the world, the document we are sworn to protect above all else because it defines who we the people are.”

“I didn’t fully understand until now,” Maura gasped, tightly gripping my hand as Bilford finished his speech. “It’s all or nothing with them.”

I recalled Decatur’s value statement. “Collapse is tolerable as a cost of letting them grow, as long as someone else is experiencing it.” 

“They don’t accept the concept of collapse, Will,” she said. “My father used to joke about some people driving as if they were looking through the rear-view mirror. Except it wasn’t really a joke, it was an observation. If there are peaks behind you then there must be another peak ahead of you. This time, there’s just one big drop, and if they succeed, then everyone’s going to experience it.”

Reality Check

The new calculation better reflects expected changes in age during the transition, with fairly minor alteration to the details. Global rates of change through the transition are shown below:

A simulation of the number of people in each of the seven phases of development is displayed for 2015-2040 in the following animation, with the corresponding stages labeled and color-coded:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Andy’s Riddick’s skepticism last week rattled me enough to look for historical evidence that supported or refuted it. Recalling that a depression and a world war coincided with the built environment (what Maura calls “wants”) exceeded what people consumed for basic needs, I decided to study how people reacted to the growth of waste over the last decade. Maura suggested that I focus on the economy, even though the most obvious similarity was a prolonged war in a region with the means of creating the most waste.

What I found was stunning. It looked like a few rich people were getting a lot richer by essentially peddling dead zones.

“What you’re seeing is an artifact of averages in an economic feedback loop,” Maura said after reviewing my results. She explained, “We’ve been creating waste for decades, but natural systems were able to turn it back into useful resources over a reasonable period of time such as a year. Then they couldn’t keep up, and the difference started making regions uninhabitable, like trash piling up in your house when it can’t be hauled away to the dump. 

“Instead of taking it out of the economy, people kept trading it as if it was usable like everything else. Because we’re converting resources, it still counts as consumption, on average, even though no one’s using it. Because we’re trading it, it counts as part of the economy; and because people are making money off it, there’s no incentive to stop creating it.”

I saw her point, adding, “And the people who enable the trading are making the most money, because all they have to move is paper and data instead of paying for something physical to be processed and moved.”

“Right,” she said approvingly. “Frankly, I’m surprised people haven’t revolted, causing something like a recession that would trigger massive regulation and stop the production of waste. Unfortunately, that economic feedback has created natural feedbacks that our present intervention may not be able to slow or stop.”

“The causes of the self-sustained impacts,” I guessed.

She nodded sadly. “The impacts are similar to waste, and are accelerating on their own.”

“Does your father understand all this?” I asked her.

“I’m sure of it. Dad’s the smartest person I know, with my uncle David being a close second.” That was a huge compliment. “He already expects the people who profited from the waste to try profiting from the self-sustained impacts, along with others who hope to get rich too.”

“That’s not going to happen, now that everyone knows what’s happening,” I said half-heartedly as the plausibility what she said began to sink in. “We’ve also got some pretty powerful government intervention in progress.”

“I’m with you,” she said, “but he’s worked in government most of his life and knows its limitations as well as anyone, along with the people he’s served and fought. He’s also got an excellent record of being right.” She paused for a few seconds, staring into space as I’d seen her father do a couple of times when he was thinking hard. “There’s something else to consider. This year, for the first time in history, the amount of waste will exceed what we consume for basic needs.”

I suddenly felt light-headed, seeing her point. “Like in the 1930s.”

She nodded. “When wants exceeded needs for the first time in history. And that was followed by the largest war in history.”

Tonight, Al will join Mara and me at her parents’ house for a dinner in celebration of Transition Day, which is the official start of the global strategy execution. I don’t feel like celebrating in light of what I learned over the past two days; instead, I’m inclined to brace for a long fight.

Reality Check

Explanations are my own hypotheses based on simulation.

The distribution over time of per-capita needs, wants, and waste for the simulated world Hikeyay is shown below. Note that in the 1970s, all renewable resources were being consumed by humanity, corresponding to the peak in wants, suggesting that a maximum rate of recycling was reached. It took another three decades for significant accumulation of waste.

A similar pattern emerges in projections of reality, represented by the simulated world Green, which did experience a recession following the appearance of waste (2007-2009):