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 is a well-known speaker on the big picture issues facing human society and currently teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota ‘Reality 101 – A Survey of the Human Predicament’   Nate is on the Boards of Post Carbon Institute, Bottleneck Foundation, IIER and Institute for the Study of Energy and the Future.  Previously, he was lead editor of The Oil Drum, one of the most popular and respected websites for analysis and discussion of global energy supplies and the future implications of the upcoming energy transition. Nate’s presentations address the opportunities and constraints we face after the coming peak of global economic growth. On the supply side, Nate focuses on the interrelationship between debt-based financial markets and natural resources, particularly energy with and the unique (and so far unplanned for) risks from the coming ‘Great Simplification’.  On the demand side, Nate addresses the evolutionarily-derived underpinnings to

Tags: building resilient societies, civilization