Our debt-based money supply is also dependent on high EROI. Without cheap energy there is not the surplus necessary to pay debt. The transition to a no growth economy will increase the rate of decline of the availability of high EROI fossil fuels since the financing will not be available to extract those increasingly expensive (compared to the public’s ability to pay) deposits. The disruption caused plus general environmental degradation will lead to a population die off. If we are lucky it will be gradual enough to allow most people to continue to live reasonably enjoyable lives.
Maybe as a species we’ll get lucky and not even notice a relatively quick die-off.
Continued resource scarcity and unwinding of complexity could easily bring a tipping point towards significant population reduction over a relatively short period of time; while ironically, at the same time, allowing most people a somewhat normal life not characterized by constant war or famine; but instead simply defined by higher general mortality rates which are perceived as a new normal.
How many people in your wide circle of acquaintances died this year? Most people answer 1 or rarely 2 to that question. If you answered 2, would your sense of a “normal” life changed dramatically if that number was 16 instead of 2? Probably not, especially if those who died were considered, under the new circumstances brought about by social/economic collapse, elderly or diseased beyond the capabilities of the now impoverished medical system.
In the pre-industrial past mortality rates were much higher and everyone took that fact in stride and continued to live a “normal” life. Some level of normalcy could continue through a collapse related die-off, and over time more frequent deaths due to disease and conditions of old age that no longer would be medically treated, would become the new normal.
If annual worldwide deaths increased 8 fold, most people would eventually take that increase in stride. Even people living in higher than “normal” death rate areas who would feel a more significant impact would adapt and over a 4–6 year time horizon stop seeing things as catastrophic since sharp increases in death rates don’t last very long. After a spike of deaths, the survivors adapt and death rates stabilize again. Of course, compared to today’s standards everyone who dies “pre-maturely” and their immediate families faced a catastrophe; but overall, for most people for most of their lives the die-off death rates would seem pretty normal just as they were by 17th or 18th century standards.
An 8 fold increase in the number of people dying every year would create a net population decreasing of about 3% per year even if current birthrates continued unabated. At a 3% rate of decrease, world population would shrink from 7.4 billion to 1 billion in about 65 years. Birthrates, though, would also likely decrease during this time due to a shrinking population base. Therefore, with fairly small increases in net mortality, the current population can drop significantly in a relatively short time.
Within 2–3 short generations society could be back to living a pre-industrial circa 1800 life style with a world population similar to that era of 1 billion.