Author Topic: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation  (Read 53320 times)

hoping2retire35

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #100 on: February 01, 2017, 03:10:30 PM »
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Most civilizations decline because they have a trade deficit for too long that is too big, which the US also has. Rome for example sent 10s of thousands of lbs of gold every year to the East in exchange for silk. They gradually inflated their gold by making it less pure.

Scholarship source for this extremely general statement? Poor monetary policy is only one of many reasons why the Western Empire collapsed.
Ha, no way! Yes, I agree, only one contributing factor, still a factor, though to be fair to my previous statement it was mainly(of those two) the trade deficit.


hoping2retire35

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #101 on: February 01, 2017, 03:14:41 PM »
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

You just do the fun stuff. build a solar powered, independent grid; grow your own food, learn to fix your tools, etc. What else do you do in retirement anyways? Can't just ride bikes, read, and have the occasional travel during retirement.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #102 on: February 01, 2017, 03:23:28 PM »
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

Why can't one enjoy being reasonably self sufficient as an end, regardless of the situation of the nation around one?

Quite honestly, I intend this stuff to be ongoing, as both a way of gathering useful skills, a way of reaching out into my community (fresh fish fries?), and a way of keeping myself busy and having an endless supply of interesting projects.  If things go downhill, I adjust and adapt.  If things keep going the way they are, maybe I spend a bit less time on the property and a bit more time flying.

If things continue going very well, it's unlikely that I'll be feeding my family entirely from our property.  It's not worth the effort (though, if I understand properly, aquaponics fish are pretty low effort, and tilapia are tasty).

If things head downhill, that's likely to expand, and I'll probably have quite a bit of our hillside growing food for ourselves/the neighborhood/etc.  And then there's opportunity to help other people set their own properties up to be more self sufficient.

And that sounds like fun.

You're essentially asking the Dave Ramsey question, "Ok, how long do you have to live like nobody else before you can live like nobody else?" - whereas the MMM answer is closer to, "Learn to love the frugal lifestyle."

I don't really intend to separate decline preparedness from other things - it's all woven together, as opposed to, "Ugh, ok, garden is planted, now I can go do something I want to do."  I'm really, really looking forward to things melting enough to start working on the gardens.  Same for solar.

And there's always something new to try, research, or test. :)

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #103 on: February 01, 2017, 04:00:21 PM »
So if I had to sum up the discussion so far I would say people fall into one of nine categories based on the answers to two different questions.

First Question: Will America decline in coming years?

1. Nope, life will be better here in the future.
2. Maybe? Predicting the fate of nations is like trying to predict the stock market.
3. Yes. The signs are all there, it's just a question of when.

Second Question: How do you prepare for life in a declining nation?

A. Nothing you can realistically do, so why worry about it.
B. Leave when/if things get bad (so having money and not needing to worry about a job is quite helpful)
C. Be self sufficient (so not having to worry about grid electricity or buying food is quite helpful).

I'm pretty sure most of the nine possible combinations answers to these questions are represented among comments to this thread (except perhaps for 1C).

Gondolin

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #104 on: February 01, 2017, 04:15:43 PM »
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Why can't one enjoy being reasonably self sufficient as an end, regardless of the situation of the nation around one?

I don't think anyone's arguing against this. It's just the title of the thread and the tenor of the original post pointed the thread down the road of arguing the likelihood of various geopolitical situations.

In general, sure, you're absolutely right. You may never need the ability to grow corn but, you'll never say, "Oh, how I wish I didn't know how to grow corn!".

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #105 on: February 01, 2017, 04:19:38 PM »
I don't think anyone's arguing against this. It's just the title of the thread and the tenor of the original post pointed the thread down the road of arguing the likelihood of various geopolitical situations.

Sure, I just think that in the next 40 years, something nasty this way comes. :)  Obviously quite a few people have different opinions, and that's fine.

Quote
In general, sure, you're absolutely right. You may never need the ability to grow corn but, you'll never say, "Oh, how I wish I didn't know how to grow corn!".

So true, of so many things...

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #106 on: February 01, 2017, 04:28:15 PM »
At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?

45 years ago, when I was born.

Preparing and diversifying are not one and the same as worrying :)   

Outside of my kid's health, I worry about very little.

I prepare and diversify cheerfully, happily, positively, delightedly.

aceyou

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #107 on: February 01, 2017, 04:54:29 PM »
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.  It's just that preparing for a decline or a catastrophe is 0% of my motivation.  I just think it's fun to be self-sufficient, and I want to live with a small carbon footprint, and I want my children to see how things are made and how they work.  What a better way to learn than to be part of a family that just makes stuff them selves right from the get go, right!

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #108 on: February 01, 2017, 06:46:17 PM »
So if I had to sum up the discussion so far I would say people fall into one of nine categories based on the answers to two different questions.

First Question: Will America decline in coming years?

1. Nope, life will be better here in the future.
2. Maybe? Predicting the fate of nations is like trying to predict the stock market.
3. Yes. The signs are all there, it's just a question of when.

Second Question: How do you prepare for life in a declining nation?

A. Nothing you can realistically do, so why worry about it.
B. Leave when/if things get bad (so having money and not needing to worry about a job is quite helpful)
C. Be self sufficient (so not having to worry about grid electricity or buying food is quite helpful).

I'm pretty sure most of the nine possible combinations answers to these questions are represented among comments to this thread (except perhaps for 1C).
This is great. Simple, but accurate. Bravo.

FireLane

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #109 on: February 01, 2017, 08:13:54 PM »
Great thread! I've been thinking about this lately too.

In the long run, I think the U.S. is definitely going to decline, just because we've been the world's only superpower for a long time and there's nowhere to go from there but down.

As was pointed out earlier in the thread, population size is also a factor. China and India have so many more people than us that, if their per-capita income ends up being anywhere close to ours, they'll be much bigger economies and correspondingly more influential on the world stage. Ultimately, demographics are destiny (although, ahem, recent political events may accelerate the decline).

That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.

That's especially true for us FIRE folk, since we're better equipped than most people to ride out a collapse of the health-care system or a long depression. We can always adjust by cutting our spending, moving somewhere cheaper, or practicing self-sufficiency. It's the average-joe consumerists I feel bad for, since they have less of a safety margin built into their lives.

To get back to what Syonyk said, I'm fascinated by the idea of self-sufficiency. Even if you're not a doomsday prepper, growing your own food or powering your house with solar panels has obvious benefits. It's probably just a romantic dream for me, since I know nothing about this kind of stuff, and a small city apartment would be ill-suited for it anyway. But when I retire and have more time on my hands, who knows? Maybe I'll buy some land somewhere cheaper and see if I can't get back to the earth at least a little.

Telecaster

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #110 on: February 01, 2017, 09:05:10 PM »

Now?  I put the peak in the 70s.  Plenty of interesting things happen post-peak, but the general trend is down.


Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #111 on: February 01, 2017, 09:11:57 PM »
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #112 on: February 01, 2017, 10:08:55 PM »
Our plan looks kind of like this... Job security ("real" undergrad degrees + graduate degrees) --> Physical security (alarm system, security cameras, firearms and training, body armor) --> Financial security (investments > 25x annual spending) --> Food/Water/Energy security

I really liked this :)

It got me thinking... It seems bizarre to me that we do $ security before FWE security, because the latter is what's needed above all else.

But, a lot of us who aimed to put FWE security first, soon found ourselves hungry, tired, and landless. Some of us then shifted focus to FI, but have continued holding FWS as the ideal.

My soul can't quite reconcile that this is so. But, my experience says that for me it is.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #113 on: February 01, 2017, 10:30:54 PM »
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.
Lead paint/leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, stagflation, oil embargo, violent crime (rate tripled from 1960-1980), Nixon/Watergate?

The US's relative peak in global power, prestige, and prosperity was post-Soviet breakup; my personal opinion is this moment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #114 on: February 01, 2017, 11:05:23 PM »
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.
Lead paint/leaded gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, stagflation, oil embargo, violent crime (rate tripled from 1960-1980), Nixon/Watergate?

The US's relative peak in global power, prestige, and prosperity was post-Soviet breakup; my personal opinion is this moment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzrJwzYBUkU

I just read your post to this beat: We didn't start the fire.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #115 on: February 01, 2017, 11:41:37 PM »
^Ha, I would have moved the words around to make it even more fitting had I thought of that

Drifterrider

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #116 on: February 02, 2017, 06:25:04 AM »
Follow the Boy Scout motto.

BTDretire

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #117 on: February 02, 2017, 07:10:42 AM »
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.
  Be sure to mitigate any problems caused by humidity in your home.
This could cause huge problems. Not from personal experience but
someone who kept a large pool for fish in their basement.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2017, 04:51:03 PM by BTDretire »

aceyou

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #118 on: February 02, 2017, 08:10:11 AM »
Syonyk, I definitely agree that being self sufficient is perfect as an end in and of it self. 

I'm also trying to get to the point where I can install solar in the next decade, and I am gathering supplies to do hydroponics in my basement, just to name a couple examples.
  Be sure to mitigate any problems caused by humidity in you home.
This could cause huge problems. Not from personal experience but
someone who kept a large pool for fish in their basement.


Thanks.  I'm not doing aquaponics, so the setup won't be that big.  But yes, it certainly can't hurt to make sure there's no chance for mold growth or anything like that.  Good call. 

golden1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #119 on: February 02, 2017, 11:18:42 AM »
While I think a lot of this discussion might be hyperbolic, my anxious nature has always made me more conservative than MMM dictates in terms of investments.  We have a decent amount of money not in the market currently, enough to live on for awhile assuming we can access it.  We are focusing more on paying down our mortgage than is "optimal" according to MMM standards.  We have substantial investments in other countries. 

I am not really to the point of going off grid or self-sufficient. 

I also think that things are better in most respects than they were in the 1970's.  To think otherwise is very myopic, but very typically human.  That is not to say some aspects of our lives aren't worse, but in general, if I had to pick now vs. the year I was born, I'd pick now. 

Relevant podcast:  http://www.cracked.com/podcast/the-enormous-lie-about-modern-life-you-likely-believe/


As for being in a declining nation, as long as our military stays close to the size that it is, we will likely stay near the top of the food chain in terms of global power.  Unless we become the next third reich and the rest of the world bands together to kill us.   

golden1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #120 on: February 02, 2017, 11:22:39 AM »
Another good source to make you feel less pessimistic about the world: 

Hans Rosling

https://www.gapminder.org/

The US might be "declining" (and thats a maybe) but the rest of the world is rising.  Fast. 

Cranky

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #121 on: February 02, 2017, 11:59:43 AM »
I"m just curious - for the people that are preparing for a decline.  Lets say you do your prep work and you hedge against the things you feel will be problematic in the future.  At that point do you stop worrying and start enjoying your life?  Or do you keep worrying and/or think up new stuff to worry about?  That's not snark, its a serious question, I really would like to know.

I've always enjoyed worrying!

But... the future might be great, or then again, it might not. I like being ready for either version, and I am happy with my life in the meantime.

Telecaster

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #122 on: February 02, 2017, 04:43:44 PM »
Really?  I think things are waaaaaaaaaay better now than in the 1970s.

Environment?  Living within our means as a nation?  Income equality?  Political discourse?

Yes.  We've got iPhones now.  Woohoo.

Actually, environment is a great example.  By virtually every metric, the environment in this county is vastly better off now than it was in the 1970s.   Huge improvements in almost every area. 

Current budget deficit is about 3.2% of GDP.   That's roughly the post-WWII average. 

Life expectancy has increased about six years or so over that period (too lazy to look up the exact number but close).   

Median (not mean) household income has increased by about a third.  GDP has tripled

Civil rights for blacks and women were pretty much still in their infancy back then.  Gays essentially didn't have civil rights.

I could go on and on.  Sure, you can find some things that are worse now than they were back then, but for each of those I bet I can name five things that are better.   




Telecaster

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #123 on: February 02, 2017, 05:29:21 PM »
That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.


Just because the empire is declining it doesn't follow that things will be getting worse for the citizens.   By the end of World War II, the Britain had almost entirely lost its empire.  But in the subsequent decades the standard of living of the average Englishman grew by leaps and bounds.   

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #124 on: February 02, 2017, 07:39:54 PM »
Another good source to make you feel less pessimistic about the world: 

Hans Rosling

https://www.gapminder.org/

The US might be "declining" (and thats a maybe) but the rest of the world is rising.  Fast.
I love Hans Rosling! Thank you for sharing.

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #125 on: February 02, 2017, 07:44:26 PM »
That doesn't mean the U.S. is going to collapse into anarchy or become a Mad Max-style dystopia. Most people will continue to lead decent, comfortable lives. You can warm yourself for a long time by the embers of a declining empire.


Just because the empire is declining it doesn't follow that things will be getting worse for the citizens.   By the end of World War II, the Britain had almost entirely lost its empire.  But in the subsequent decades the standard of living of the average Englishman grew by leaps and bounds.
And, largely, things have gotten better for most of their previous colonies as well... Not as good as other places, but generally much better than they were.

Linda_Norway

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #126 on: February 03, 2017, 12:28:15 AM »
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #127 on: February 03, 2017, 12:36:55 AM »
^also growing meat in a lab without the animal bits is increasingly becoming viable

Linda_Norway

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #128 on: February 03, 2017, 12:39:08 AM »
^also growing meat without the animal bits is increasingly becoming viable

Yes, that was an interesting subject, too. It is just too expensive now, but they company producing this thought it would become cheaper than food in the future (20 years from now).

The Japanese in the documentary were growing salads without soil, in a factory the they could harvest 7 times a year.

Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #129 on: February 03, 2017, 12:44:41 AM »
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.

What is stopping people from growing food now? I mean, obviously some people in cities don't have space for much more than a tomato plant in their window, but by and large most suburban and exburban and even residential city areas have enough yard space for some garden. It's not as if people are generally 'not allowed' to grow their own food.

Obviously using public green space would open up some land - but how much food would it offset versus the number of people that use that land for other enjoyable activites each day?  I ran the numbers on central park, and if the entire area was arable (843 Acres) and divided by the number of visitors that use the park each year (25 million)*  that would leave an areas the size of two sheets of paper per person, per year. I'm not sure that's worth taking away all of the great things green spaces in cities offer residents.

* source - http://centralpark.org/faq/

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #130 on: February 03, 2017, 05:02:22 AM »
Yesterday I watched a documentary "feeding the world" on TV. I was mentioned that a part of the world is still hungry and that it is expected that world population will grow to 10 bil. I we in the western world continue to eat like we do, with large meat consumption, and some of the rest of the world will follow, we won't have enough agriculture area to feed the the world. We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.
One of the solutions by the way was the thing that has been discussed in this thread: let people grow their own food on small scale, even use public parks and gardens to grow food. Aquaponics was also named as a future smart solution.

With the exception of India and some of the smaller countries which border it (lots of religious vegetarians), meat consumption shows a reasonable correlation with per capita income. Basically if people can afford to buy meat, they do. But yes, both the increase in demand for meat in countries with growing economies and the growth of population itself is going to put growing strain on the food supply in the next few decades.

So what do we do? The amount of land currently in public parks and lawns isn't enough to make a substantial difference in overall world food production although for lawns at least there certainly isn't a reason NOT to replace them with vegetable gardens (or permaculture food forests if you're feeling more ambitious).

The low hanging fruit is actually African agriculture. Looking at crop yields in most of Africa are often 1/3 or lower than the yields seen in the rest of the world, largely because of a lack of access to inputs, and secondarily because there has been far less investment in developing locally adapted varieties for Africa than most other parts of the world. So could potentially double or triple production from Africa which helps.*

In other parts of the world yield gains are slowing or have stopped completely (ie wheat in europe since the mid-90s, rice in Korea and California). There is debate whether this means we've hit the ultimate maximum potential yield for some crops in some environments, or whether this is a result of decrease investments in agricultural research by both governments and private companies. What is clear, is that the result of the slow down has meant that after twenty years of relative stability, since 2002 the amount of land used for agriculture is growing at a rate of close to 25 million acres (equivalent to all the farmland in California) each year. This "new" agricultural land is largely coming at the expense of rainforests and grasslands in South America, Asia, and Africa.

Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.

*If you bring African productivity per acre up to the global average (tripling it) that's about a 10% bump in world food production, so enough food for another 700M people or so. Which is a big thing. But not enough to get us from 7B to 10B, even before taking into account growing demand for meat.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #131 on: February 03, 2017, 05:17:27 AM »
I was thinking more about the lawn issue.

Here in the USA we have about 40M acres of lawns.* So converting all of that to agricultural production would be enough to mean the growing need for agricultural land around the world (~25M acres a year**) for about a year and a half. Which is certainly not nothing, and I hope my first post didn't sound too dismissive. But it also doesn't solve the long term problem.

*Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_us_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d

**http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3918

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #132 on: February 03, 2017, 08:40:56 AM »
The Japanese in the documentary were growing salads without soil, in a factory the they could harvest 7 times a year.

Growing calorie-light leafy greens and such in hydroponic/aeroculture bays is pretty easy, but they are mostly decoration, in terms of calories produced.  It's of less use for actually getting calories.

What is stopping people from growing food now?

HOAs.  In quite a few areas, you are contractually obligated to have lawns meeting a certain specification.

The low hanging fruit is actually African agriculture. Looking at crop yields in most of Africa are often 1/3 or lower than the yields seen in the rest of the world, largely because of a lack of access to inputs, and secondarily because there has been far less investment in developing locally adapted varieties for Africa than most other parts of the world.

"Inputs" being a term for non-renewable resources going into fertilizers?  If your increased production relies on rock phosphate and fertilizers from natural gas and such, it's not sustainable.

Quote
In other parts of the world yield gains are slowing or have stopped completely (ie wheat in europe since the mid-90s, rice in Korea and California). There is debate whether this means we've hit the ultimate maximum potential yield for some crops in some environments, or whether this is a result of decrease investments in agricultural research by both governments and private companies.

Why would you expect constant growth in crop yields?  And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

Quote
Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.

Figuring it out before we hit the important walls seems a useful thing.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #133 on: February 03, 2017, 09:21:15 AM »
@Synonyk. I agree with you on growing salads. It make save money/carbon footprint, but it's really not a significant contribution to not starving to death.

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"Inputs" being a term for non-renewable resources going into fertilizers?  If your increased production relies on rock phosphate and fertilizers from natural gas and such, it's not sustainable.

No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

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Why would you expect constant growth in crop yields?  And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

I don't expect them. I'm pointing out if we don't have increasing yields, and we do have increasing demand for food, people starve.

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And, what of that increase is related to cramming fertilizers from non-renewable resources into the soil?

Most estimates put it at about 50%

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Is a big problem. I'm not sure what the answer is.
Figuring it out before we hit the important walls seems a useful thing.

Agreed. Any suggestions?

undercover

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #134 on: February 03, 2017, 09:36:35 AM »
"Buffett after Trump win: '100%' optimistic about America"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auukuYuizq4

My closing thoughts on this matter is that despite empires rising and falling, humanity has continuously trudged forward and will continue to do so with the exception of a catastrophic event that can't be prevented (natural events, whether it be locally or from space). Also, things are incredibly different today than they were doing the Roman era. America, nor any other well-connected country, will not just "fall". There will always be ups and downs, but the overall trend has and will continue to always be up (again, sans a catastrophic, unpreventable event).  Information is instant and tensions are overall lower since more and more people have access to a better life. The world is just too interrelated now that communication is instant and we are all operating as cyborgs rather than the "antiquated" ways of our ancestors.

Personally, I don't believe in a "survive at all costs" mentality. Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not. Survival should never be the objective, thriving should. The only way forward is the future, going backwards is not an option for me, therefore I don't plan in the slightest for it. I mean I may be inadvertently doing so by learning about DIY things or other things that I'm just genuinely interested in - but it's never with the intent of "survival" in case of emergency, it's always just to be a happier and more well rounded person.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 11:34:56 AM by undercover »

Prairie Stash

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #135 on: February 03, 2017, 09:40:07 AM »
I was thinking more about the lawn issue.

Here in the USA we have about 40M acres of lawns.* So converting all of that to agricultural production would be enough to mean the growing need for agricultural land around the world (~25M acres a year**) for about a year and a half. Which is certainly not nothing, and I hope my first post didn't sound too dismissive. But it also doesn't solve the long term problem.

*Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_us_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d

**http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3918
I agree but who wants to take care of all the gardens? The math checks out but I've been harvesting from other peoples yards for a few years as they don't want to harvest their own stuff. Predominately I harvest Raspberries, apples, rhubarb, sour cherries and plums. Its labour intensive and then I'm spending a long time processing, the work doesn't stop. I enjoy it, so I keep doing it, but the average person doesn't seem to share my enthusiasm.

That said there's a pilot program in one of my city neighborhoods turning boulevards into garden space for supplying restaurants. The trick is to figure out ways of doing it cheap enough that you can pay someone to do the work (minimum wage), even farmers want to get paid. Maybe one day soon they'll figure out the economics and it'll spread.

Liberty Stache

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #136 on: February 03, 2017, 09:47:46 AM »
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #137 on: February 03, 2017, 10:44:55 AM »
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.

Guses

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #138 on: February 03, 2017, 11:25:52 AM »
I disagree with the premises of the OP. But I do think that the suggestions (consuming less, being self sufficient) are good ones.

My personal hope is that nations will gradually decline and give way to the Imperium of Man.


No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

What is your opinion of vertical farming?


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Metric Mouse

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #139 on: February 03, 2017, 11:36:34 AM »
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.
Isn't this happening currently?

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #140 on: February 03, 2017, 12:24:25 PM »


No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

What is your opinion of vertical farming?


Link to PDF on Vertical Farming


With current innovations in LED growth lights, I think vertical farming -- or more generally growing food indoors with grow lights instead of outdoors in a field -- is starting to make a lot of economic sense for things like fresh produce. The lowest hanging fruit (pun intended) are things like leafy greens because their life cycles are fast and they don't ship well (so a lot of the cost right now is the shipping which is reduced if you can produce locally throughout the year). High value things like strawberries and tomatoes which still have reasonably short life cycles are likely the next frontier, and there is some exciting work suggesting you can actually alter the flavor of strawberries by modulating which wavelengths of light you provide them with.

But as Syonyk pointed out upthread, economic viability is not the same as saying vertical farming is ready to take over the task of generating a big chunk of the total calories consumed by humans around the world. More than half of all the calories we eat come directly indirectly (feed the grains to animals and eat the animals) from three grain crops: corn, wheat, and rice. Throw in sugar cane, potatoes, cassava and a couple of oilseed crops like soybeans, canola, and we're talking about most of total world calorie production, and we're a long way from growing any of these calorie dense, easily storable, easily shippable foods with indoor agriculture being able to compete with production out in the fields.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #141 on: February 03, 2017, 12:33:05 PM »
@Metric Mouse

You're right. It can get an awful lot worse (and did in both 2008 and 2011) but even right now there are people who cannot afford enough food to live.

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #142 on: February 03, 2017, 01:10:32 PM »
No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

So, coal fired plants for fertilizers? :)  We're building out solar and wind rapidly, but they are a tiny fraction of the total power production of the world.  However, nitrogen fixing can be done with excess power, so that is an advantage, potentially - handle some of it off peak production days.  Assuming the process can be ramped up and down quickly - I'm not that familiar with it.

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But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

So, keep going on the un-sustainable path of exponential growth on a finite planet and hope they'll figure something out.  Doesn't... inspire hope, really.

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I don't expect them. I'm pointing out if we don't have increasing yields, and we do have increasing demand for food, people starve.

Certainly.  And that's part of why I'm interested in working on very dense, hyper-local food production - because, well, if you can produce food locally, at least you can eat.

My closing thoughts on this matter is that despite empires rising and falling, humanity has continuously trudged forward and will continue to do so with the exception of a catastrophic event that can't be prevented (natural events, whether it be locally or from space).

[citation needed]  History has been cylical, and even if you stand back far enough and squint hard enough to distort the arcs of history into a "continuous forward trudge," that's worthless to people living on the downside of a particular civilization.

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Also, things are incredibly different today than they were doing the Roman era. America, nor any other well-connected country, will not just "fall". There will always be ups and downs, but the overall trend has and will continue to always be up (again, sans a catastrophic, unpreventable event).  Information is instant and tensions are overall lower since more and more people have access to a better life. The world is just too interrelated now that communication is instant and we are all operating as cyborgs rather than the "antiquated" ways of our ancestors.

Thousands of years of recorded history show that human nature doesn't change over time.  How fast you communicate doesn't change humans.

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Personally, I don't believe in a "survive at all costs" mentality. Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not. Survival should never be the objective, thriving should. The only way forward is the future, going backwards is not an option for me, therefore I don't plan in the slightest for it. I mean I may be inadvertently doing so by learning about DIY things or other things that I'm just genuinely interested in - but it's never with the intent of "survival" in case of emergency, it's always just to be a happier and more well rounded person.

May I suggest that you read some writings on the "Religion of Progress"?  You've stated it, wonderfully clearly, and it's not a particularly useful model for predicting the future.

With regards to "Realistically, would I want to continue to live in a world that doesn't look like the one today? Probably not." - does that mean you will willingly die off if the world stops looking like it does today, or are you likely to change your mind and join those demanding that people "do something" instead of having done something for themselves?

marty998

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #143 on: February 03, 2017, 01:20:01 PM »
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.

Wouldn't the poor, destitute African farmer simply ask the very expensive lawyers hired by the very large, very powerful multinational to renegotiate his prices so he can charge them more for his beef?

Oh.

marty998

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #144 on: February 03, 2017, 01:23:53 PM »
We need to think new in many ways, otherwise we would risk a world war about food.

World war seems quite extreme. Why wouldn't the global market adjust to increase the price of meat / whatever food type was at a shortage making it unavailable to most people on the planet? Supply and demand / econ 101.

The problem kicks in in the case where a person in the USA, China, or Brazil may be willing and able to pay more for a hamburger than a person in Sub Saharan Africa can afford to pay for the grain that would end up being fed to the cow to make the hamburger.

So the Econ 101 solution can end up with some people unable to afford enough calories to live.

Wouldn't the poor, destitute African farmer simply ask the very expensive lawyers hired by the very large, very powerful multinational to renegotiate his prices so he can charge them more for his beef?

Oh.

Ah... sorry for the double post, I've missed something here.

Your point is that the cows end up being fed not the people right?

Dicey

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #145 on: February 03, 2017, 01:27:11 PM »
I don't know what a granola or a Johnny is, but THANK YOU for wanting to (and taking action to) help me out! And lovely that you had that happy outcome, too :)

She must be talking about www.granolashotgun.com, Johnny's been writing a lot about practical disaster prep and what kinds of places are going to decline in the future.
Right and wrong. I mentioned his tiny house in Hawaii to Joon, and someone else (apparently not Joon) said that he has a blog, as you kindly linked to. I've read some of it so far. I am much more interested in his urban development perspectives and experiences, especially in Cincinnati.  I skipped over all the prepper stuff, because it just doesn't speak to me. I guess I'm too much of an optimist. Or too lazy to prep. Or something.

Johnny is a very good writer and has a wide variety of interests, so I look forward this reading through his site. I may even get to the prepper sections, but only in an "It's nice to learn about other people's beautifully articulated points of view" kind of way.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #146 on: February 03, 2017, 02:01:10 PM »
Yeah. Or most specifically, the rich person can afford to pay more for meat that feeds one person than ten poor people can afford to pay for the grain that gets fed to the cow.

Did I just completely miss implied sarcasm in your original post? If so, apologies, always hard to tell in online forums.

tyort1

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #147 on: February 03, 2017, 02:16:31 PM »
The general arc of all human history is toward a future that is better than the past.  There have been bumps along the way but the overall trend is up.  By almost every measure, life is better today than in the past. 

If you are going to say that things are going to get much worse, you'd need a pretty compelling reason that would counteract this entire arc of history.  To my mind, you have't presented anything compelling.  Maybe something will go wrong in the future.  Sure, whatever.  But then again, maybe you will have a car accident and die in it today.  The only way to hedge against that is to not drive.  You might get hit on your ebike too, so best to not ride that either. 

Re: population - I remember when people were saying that 3B was unsustainable.  What are we at now, 7B?  Haha, that's some funny stuff.  There will ALWAYS be chicken littles proclaiming the sky is falling.  By all predictions from the 70's and 80's, we ought to be in a post-apocalyptic world right now, but things are better than ever.  You could interpret that in one of 2 ways:

1. Hey, those chicken little types were wrong, maybe I shouldn't give credence to them, life is actually pretty good and likely to stay this way
2. Oh man, they were right, but they only got the timing wrong.  And now things are going to be even worse!

I was a sucker and fell for #2 for a while, but none of the crap that ever was predicted ever came true.  And it's the same dynamic that you see in religion ("hey, the Apocalypse is here this year!  Oops, I mean Next Year!) and you see it with the Stock Market ("Red Dow is here this summer!  Oops, I mean this winter.  Oh, I mean sometime in the future!)  It's all the same mentality and it's all useless. 

I am amazed how you can even get out of the bed in the morning and function at all.  Have you considered that you might be clinically depressed?  Because you have a pretty bleak outlook on the world and that's maybe something that can be fixed with professional help. I'm not saying that to be snarky.  I've been through a pretty bleak period of that myself and its insidious, because overall you feel fine more or less, but it seeps in and makes the world seem hostile and dangerous, much more so than it really is.  I got help and I feel much better and more optimistic now.  And happier.  I don't see how anyone can be happy if they aren't reasonably optimistic....

Syonyk

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #148 on: February 03, 2017, 02:36:59 PM »
The general arc of all human history is toward a future that is better than the past.  There have been bumps along the way but the overall trend is up.  By almost every measure, life is better today than in the past. 

Sure.  But those "bumps" of failing civilizations are pretty rough times to live, and as periods measured in hundreds of years, aren't something we live through to see the end of.  Unless you're planning to live for 1000 years or something.

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If you are going to say that things are going to get much worse, you'd need a pretty compelling reason that would counteract this entire arc of history.

Do you think the people living at the end of Rome's time of dominance were excited by the future of the US?  Babylon?  Pick your empire?  We don't live on the "entire arc of history" - we have to eat on at least a weekly basis.

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To my mind, you have't presented anything compelling.  Maybe something will go wrong in the future.  Sure, whatever.

Then feel free to ignore me entirely. :)

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But then again, maybe you will have a car accident and die in it today.  The only way to hedge against that is to not drive.  You might get hit on your ebike too, so best to not ride that either.

Yup.  Shit happens.  I can, however, optimize towards less shit happening by, say, driving less.  And not drinking and riding.

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Re: population - I remember when people were saying that 3B was unsustainable.  What are we at now, 7B?  Haha, that's some funny stuff.

A field of mice living there when a grain truck overturns on icy roads will have many generations of food for growth.  It doesn't mean that it's sustainable, it just means that they found something that lets them exceed the natural limitations for a while.  Fossil fuels, in the past few hundred years, have done that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Overshoot_Day

We are living well, well beyond what the entire earth is capable of regenerating in a year.  So, yes, I do think 7B is unsustainable.  As long as we can continue extracting oil and natural gas, that can go on for a while, but it cannot go on indefinitely.  Well, I suppose, unless you're sucking down the "but asteroid mining!" kool-aid I hear a lot of, as the US currently has no man-rated lift systems.

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I am amazed how you can even get out of the bed in the morning and function at all.  Have you considered that you might be clinically depressed?  Because you have a pretty bleak outlook on the world and that's maybe something that can be fixed with professional help. I'm not saying that to be snarky.  I've been through a pretty bleak period of that myself and its insidious, because overall you feel fine more or less, but it seeps in and makes the world seem hostile and dangerous, much more so than it really is.  I got help and I feel much better and more optimistic now.  And happier.  I don't see how anyone can be happy if they aren't reasonably optimistic....

I'm reasonably certain I'm quite far from clinically depressed.  The world is far from bleak (though this past winter with the fog and ice, it's certainly looked it where I live), but I don't feel that the claim, "Exponential growth cannot continue for ever on a finite planet" is particularly pessimistic.

I quite enjoy life, designing for sustainability included, and I see a lot of opportunities going forward.  They're just less down the "But all the technology internet cloud VR WOO!" path.

And I'm a paid pessimist, by career.  I recognize my bias.  It's been serving me well so far.

maizeman

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Re: Thoughts on FIRE in a declining nation
« Reply #149 on: February 03, 2017, 02:54:57 PM »
But our options are A) Stop and let a lot of the world starve now (though people tend not to starve quietly, so expect to see governments toppled, the remaining tropic forests clear-cut for farmland, and a whole new wave of extinctions in the remaining african megafauna). B) Keep everyone alive for now, try to hold it together, and hope we manage to come up with solutions to each non-sustainable hurdle as it presents itself. Personally I choose option B, since the the worst case scenario with B is it ends up being just as bad as option A.

So, keep going on the un-sustainable path of exponential growth on a finite planet and hope they'll figure something out.  Doesn't... inspire hope, really.

*shrug* Like I said, what is the alternative? The people are already here. Either we try to feed them and maybe we fail, or we don't try to feed them and certainly do. Nothing is lost in the attempt that wouldn't be lost anyway in the failure.

Also, it's not a question of exponential growth forever. Population growth is slowing and looks likely to continue to do so.

No, it's not. Nitrogen fertilizer can be made without natural gas if we have plentiful sources of cheap electricity. Phosphorous is a harder wall. See also irrigation water, salification of crop land, loss of topsoil (although no-till is helping a lot with that last one).

So, coal fired plants for fertilizers? :)  We're building out solar and wind rapidly, but they are a tiny fraction of the total power production of the world.  However, nitrogen fixing can be done with excess power, so that is an advantage, potentially - handle some of it off peak production days.  Assuming the process can be ramped up and down quickly - I'm not that familiar with it.

Yeah, it's not like we have a super abundance of cheap renewable electricity now. But by 2050, who knows? And I've definitely already encountered semi-serious proposals to build nitrogen fixing plants out in areas with lots of stranded wind energy as a way to put the surplus energy to use. Here's on example: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.iecr.5b04909 (though not yet economically viable).