The Simple Story of Civilization with Tom Murphy

January 9, 2023


This week, Nate invites colleague Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego and writer of famed blog ‘Do the Math’, to unpack his recent essay The Simple Story of Civilization. Tom condenses the vast timescale of human life on Earth to an average human lifespan to give us a sense of the anomalous period we’re living through. What is civilization and how quickly did it come about?  Can technology redirect civilization from its current perilous course? Is optimism näive or is it necessary in order to make the hard decisions within us? A 30 minute overview with Nate and Professor Tom Murphy.

Show Notes

00:45 – Thomas Murphy’s Do The Math Essay

05:13 – We’ve lost 85% of our primary forests

05:32 – 70% decline in wild populations since 1970

5:40 – Wild animals are only 4% of global biomass

07:35 – Agricultural revolution and surplus

08:02 – Origin of property rights and connection to patriarchal hierarchies and monotheism

08:35 – Destruction of soil fertility

20:34 – Daniel Schmachtenberger + TGS Series

21:35 – Malthus

26:05 – The human mind is extremely plastic

26:10 – Shifting Baselines

Recommended Reading:

Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

An Inconvenient Apocalypse, by Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen


Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: building resilient societies, civilization