Citizen Action Monitor

Humans are part of the animal kingdom, of the mammal and ape lineage – Nate Hagens (8)

Our behavioral repertoire is amazing, yet still constrained and informed by our animal heritage.

No 2291 Posted by fw, June 6, 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. 

I am in the process of publishing transcripts of Dr. Hagens’ video-recorded talk at Kansas Wesleyan University on April 23, 2018, titled Where Are We Going.

Yesterday’s post completed an initial group of seven posts of Hagens’ talk. The very first post was an Introduction to his address. The following six were continuum posts categorized under the heading, THE ECONOMY.

Today’s post, Pt 8, will lead off the continuums in his second category, HUMAN BEHAVIOR.

But first, here’s a recap of the initial 7 posts of Hagens’ talk – (Skip if this is familiar ground)

In Pt 1, the Introduction, Dr. Hagens declares he’s going to tell a story that “is almost the perfect storm for the human brain to ignore and reject, because it is complex, it is threatening, a little bit scary, it’s in the future, not today, it is abstract. And there’s no immediate thing that we can go do to solve it.” More to the point, it’s for those reasons that “everything’s going kind of wild in our society,” so wild it’s almost impossible to get people to agree on what’s wrong and to act. This story will be presented in 40 key continuums that will have bearing on our collective future. The continuums are grouped in five categories: The Economy; Human Behavior; The Environment; Our Culture; and Individual.

THE ECONOMY category, just completed, has six continuum posts, as follows –

Pt 2, Continuum 1: Energy vs Everything Else — Hagens stressed that most people don’t know that EVERY societal good and service requires an energy input. Think about that: each and every good/service produced, packaged, acquired, consumed, by every person on the planet, requires energy.

Pt 3, Continuum 2: Stocks vs Flows – professor Hagens that depletable fossil fuel energy stocks are NOT renewable on a human time scale. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. And humans are rapidly consuming earth’s geological stocks as it they were renewable energy flows such as sunlight, wind, hydro, and nuclear.

Pt 4, Continuum 3: Stocks vs Abstractions — Hagens points out that what underpins modern economies is not money, but depletable fossil fuel energy stocks. Money serves solely as an abstraction created by commercial banks out of thin air with no connection at all to fossil fuels, which sustains economies.

Pt 5, Continuum 4: Gross vs Net – Recent trends show increasing amounts of net energy supplies being used for the search, extraction, shipping, refining of new sources of gross energy stocks. As a result, there will be less net energy available for the rest of society, driving up per capita GDP spending.

Pt 6, Continuum 5: Joules vs Work – “We can’t go to 100% renewable energy and live like we do now,” declares Dr. Hagens. The ability of a technology to provide ‘joules’ is different than its ability to contribute to ‘work’ for society. Energy can only be substituted by other energy. But all joules are not created equally. There is a large difference between potential [fossil stocks] and kinetic [renewable flows] energy. Energy properties such as: intermittence, variability, energy density, power density, spatial distribution, energy return on energy invested, scalability, transportability, etc. make energy substitution a complex prospect.

Pt 7, Continuum 6: Economy vs Economics – Fossil fuels, NOT economic theories, caused the past 150-years of rapid economic growth. We’re just beginning to realize that the theories don’t offer much predictive reliability for the coming global economy. We behave like squirrels living in a forest where a truck full of hazelnuts crashed, living off the freight and thinking it will last forever.


Turning to today’s post, we begin a new category – HUMAN BEHAVIOR – with a very short continuum 7, of just 25-seconds. Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 8, continuum 7, runs from 16:31 to 16:56 minutes.

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.

NOTE — Selected parts of the essay are included in my transcripts, bracketed as [ Supplement].


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

TRANSCRIPT (from 16:31 to 16:56)


16:31[Continuum 7: Human vs Animal] — Human behavior, I think, is very important. First of all, there’s a distinction between how unbelievably special we are – we’re clever, we’re capable, we’re flexible – and, yet, we are animals. We are mammals and we are apes. We’re very special but we are still subject to the laws of nature in the way that other animals are.

[ Supplement] Human vs Animal – Humans are clever, unique and very capable. Yes, we are special, but we are part of the animal kingdom – part of the mammal and ape lineage.  Our behavioral repertoire is amazing, yet still constrained and informed by our heritage.


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 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.

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