Citizen Action Monitor

Most people don’t know that EVERY societal good and service requires an energy input – Nate Hagens (2)

Think about it — Every good/service produced, packaged, acquired, consumed, by every person on the planet, requires energy.

No 2226 Posted by fw, May 31, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

“We cannot have any good or service produced in our economy without using energy. You look at a supermarket shelf at a Walmart or a local grocery store, everything there took a little fire somewhere on the planet to either produce, package, ship or get to the stores.”Nate Hagens

And, of course, every time any good or service is produced, packaged, acquired, consumed by anyone, anywhere on earth, material and energy throughput is increased and fossil fuel emissions are released into the atmosphere. Are you listening Mr. Trudeau?

In part 1 of this series, Dr. Hagens emphasized that things in our world are not black and white, they’re gray. Moreover, people take pro and con positions on things along a continuum.  In his talk, Hagens is going to “suggest 40 of these continuums that will have  bearing on our collective future.

He will present his brief continuums in five categories: The Economy; Human Behavior; The Environment; Our Culture; and Individual.

Today’s short post, is the first of five continuums in his Economy category; it’s titled Energy vs. Everything Else. Titles of the 5 other continuums in the Economy category are: Flows vs. Stocks; Stocks vs. Abstractions; Gross vs. Net; Joules vs. Work; and Economy vs. Economics.

For those who may wonder why I am presenting each of 40 short continuums in separate posts, my experience is that Dr. Hagens’ challenging content is best taken in small doses. As well, printed text is a way to slow down his rapid-fire, spoken delivery style.

There is a brief bio-sketch about Dr. Hagens at the bottom of this post.

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 2 runs from 07:23 to 08:40 minutes. The transcript has been edited for enhanced readability.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

NOTEparts of the essay are included in my transcripts, bracketed as [Resilience Supplement].


Where are we going? by Nate Hagens,, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 07:23 to 08:40)


07:23 — Energy vs Everything else – We have the continuum of Energy vs. Everything else. Most Americans are unaware of how energy underpins our societies. Every single good and service produced in our economies has something in common — it first has an energy conversion. We cannot have any good or service produced in our economy without using energy. You look at a supermarket shelf at a Walmart or a local grocery store, everything there took a little fire somewhere on the planet to either produce, package, ship or get to the stores.

08:05 – The graph on the right shows energy consumption on the bottom axis, versus GDP or economic output on the left axis. You can see over the last 50 years it’s [GDP] incredibly correlated with energy consumption. The last few years we’ve started to diverge a little bit. There are reasons for that we can get into in the Q&A. But basically energy is a very special commodity in our economic systems.


[ Supplement] — Human wealth and productivity is commonly attributed to our own cleverness (technology/productivity), existing wealth (capital) and hard work (labor). These inputs are important but in turn are all dependent – on energy. Modern economies eat power like animals eat food – every object and service in human economies first requires an energy input to convert it into something useful. Ergo, $1 of petroleum has orders of magnitude more value than $1 worth of pencils, paperclips or pastries.  But energy, other than perhaps its dollar cost, is invisible to our society.


About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At one point, he was the lead editor of the influential online news and information resource, At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

FAIR USE NOTICE – For details click here

%d bloggers like this: