Peak Oil Hypothesis Discography at Discogs

The rise and fall of Rome is an iconic example of the trajectories of preindustrial civilizations. Only so much surplus can be skimmed from economic systems based on the energy of wood, food, and muscle power. I wanted to cover some civilizations in detail to make the pattern clear, and will largely only survey other preindustrial civilizations, as the dynamics were similar, but with some important variations.

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Below are examples of the only three kinds of dinosaurs known. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Some further examples of the complexity and debate follow. About when is supposed to have appeared, a fossil formed in a similar location, which was at least contemporary with . Where it fits in the human family tree is unknown at this time, but today it is called . This is perhaps a descendant of , which (who led the team that discovered it) argued is a member of a new genus. Because there is in the modern human genome, under the , have been placed within by some anthropologists. Some small fossils in , but are now designated as a subspecies. The have been widely considered as , but they have features that suggest that they may have been habilines or even australopithecines, which would dramatically change the current view on the first migrations past Africa. They may well have been Oldowan culture australopiths that migrated from Africa about when did, and they also controlled fire. Similarly, a relative of that precedes is called , but may also be a subspecies. The confusion and debate is partly because the differences between those “species” are minor and more on the order of regional variation than any radical change. They perhaps could have all interbred with each other. Other than the “hobbits,” there are no great anatomical changes and few noticeable cultural ones among the various specimens for more than a million years of evolution, so I refer to them all as , as do many anthropologists, particularly when writing for the lay audience. For those who want to explore the relatively fine distinctions, the material is readily available for study and can be another useful example of the process of science, if one of the more heated illustrations.

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Monkeys, apes, and humans have many traits in common, and one is that members of "out-groups" are fair game. Chimpanzees are the only non-human animals today that form ranked hunting parties, and they are also the only ones that form hunting parties to . Distinct from the killer ape hypothesis, which posits that humans are instinctually violent, the chimpanzee violence hypothesis proposes that chimps only engage in warfare when it makes economic sense: when the benefits of eliminating rivals outweigh the risks/costs. Macaque wars and revolutions appear spontaneously, but chimp wars have calculation behind them, which befits a chimp’s advanced cognitive abilities; they plan murderous raids and carry them out. It is quite probable that the advancing toolset of protohumans was used for coalitionary killing when perceived benefits exceeded assessed risks/costs. Just as with , these traits probably also existed in our last common ancestor. Other animals also engage in intra-species violence, which includes spiders when key resources are scarce and contested, and when ant colonies have power imbalances, they can trigger invasion and extermination by the larger colony. But human and chimpanzee warfare is uniquely organized and calculating.

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The idea that the American mastodon was killed off by hunting was first proposed by in 1799, and , an early evolutionist, thought that humans exterminated the extinct ice age mammals. By 1860, wondered whether anything humans could have caused that mass extinction. Therefore, when first proposed his Overkill Hypothesis in 1966, it was by no means novel, but he started the modern debate and the controversy quickly focused on North America, beginning about 15 kya.

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The culture’s killing implements abruptly appeared in the archeological record and disappeared just as fast, after the easily killable megafauna went extinct. Today’s North American megafauna are , not North American megafauna that learned to avoid humans. Bison are the only significant exception, although they came from Asia, too, and explaining their survival remains a minor curiosity, but is about the only circumstance not neatly aligned with the overkill scenario. The “” paper concluded that although the South American extinction was the greatest of all, it is the most poorly investigated and that the overkill hypothesis cannot yet be attached to South American extinctions. That may be a prudent position for a specialist who pronounces judgment only when all the evidence is in, but I will be among the most surprised people on Earth if the pattern of 50 thousand years did not continue there, especially since it had no ice sheets. There can be no more pertinent example than comparing Africa to South America. They inhabited the same latitudes and have similar climates, separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Africa was the home of humanity, where its animals had millions of years to adapt to the human presence, and Africa only lost about 10% of its megafauna (probably to human hunters with their advanced weaponry) while South America lost nearly all of its megafauna, and quickly. Climate change did it? How could it have even contributed?

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From about 32 kya to 22 kya, prevailed in Europe. That culture produced the and art such as the . By 20 kya, . But as far as human expansion is concerned, the Gravettian (and related cultures) are most notorious as mammoth hunters extraordinaire for those that lived on the near the ice sheets. To , they could not swim to Sahul, but flourished everywhere else they could get to. At , they were the ultimate hunter-gatherer kill. Also, near the ice sheets, meat could be stored in the ground. Cro-Magnons did just that, and that “freezer” full of meat led to the first seasonally sedentary humans. It long predated the Domestication Revolution when people could be sedentary year-round, but while the megafauna lasted, the first signs of what came later appeared as Cro-Magnons created villages around frozen mammoth meat. Gravettians hunted along migration routes and set traps and ambushes for mammoths. For thousands of years, mammoths were the primary focus of Gravettian hunters, and many scientists believe that humans at least . Gravettians probably used the bow and arrow, and using poisoned arrows on mammoths would have been child’s play, not a hazardous undertaking. They also tended to focus on the easy meat: the young, relatively defenseless, tender mammoths. Killing the offspring alone would have driven the slowly reproducing mammoths to extinction, and as the interglacial period began around 15 kya, there would have been new pressures on mammoths. One of them was that fewer mammoths meant that they were not terraforming their environments like they used to, and the warming climate probably reduced their range. For a mammoth facing humans, there was literally no place to hide (except maybe in the living room), and there is little reason to think that hunters would have eased up when mammoth numbers dwindled. If anything, their efforts would have to get the last ones, as they competed and fought over the final mammoths. In one lifetime or even several, the changes would have been barely noticeable, if at all. There was simply no way out for mammoths, and they went extinct south of the European ice sheets under the ministrations of Cro-Magnon hunters. More evidence of their fate is some mammoths surviving in refugia: islands where humans did not arrive until thousands of years later. mammoths survived on in the chain off of Alaska until less than six kya, and went extinct when humans arrived. Several hundred apparently full-sized mammoths survived on near Siberia and went extinct less than five kya, when humans arrived. In today's France and Spain, Gravettians also semi-settled along the migration routes of reindeer and red deer. From Spain across Europe, into today's Russia, Gravettians hunted migrating herds, and not only the mammoth was driven to extinction, but also the wooly rhino, the Irish elk, the musk ox, and steppe bison were driven to extinction as the ice sheets retreated. Neanderthals had been ambush hunting in similar fashion, and those animals, like the African megafauna, grew wary of humans, and killing those animals probably took planning and guile.