“Bacteria, like all living organisms, grow. The time it takes for a population of bacteria to double in number is called the “growth rate.” The doubling time is a fixed characteristic of each type of bacteria, and it can be used for identification.

Below is a diagram of the bacterial growth curve. When a culture of microorganisms is transferred into a new container for counting, there is an initial “lag phase.” During this period, the bacteria are adjusting to their new surroundings, new food source, and new temperature. They are not yet multiplying in numbers. Then, the “exponential” or “log” phase begins. During this phase of growth, the bacteria are multiplying like mad! They have abundant food and not enough toxins are around to harm them. They make as many new bacterial cells as they can. Eventually, the bacteria run out of room, space, or they have produced toxins that are limiting their growth. This begins the “stationary phase,” during which the bacterial numbers are not really changing. The bacteria are still making new cells, but the same amount are dying as are being made, so the curve is flat. Finally, the number of bacteria dying becomes greater than those being created, and the numbers decline in the “death phase.”



Typically we will compare the growth of human populations to bacterial growth. They show similar exponential or hockey stick patterns. The the more correct comparison is between bacterial growth and the growth of industrial infrastructure whose main source of energy is fossil fuels. They are however all related in that growth of technological cells accommodates the growth in numbers of human RNA.

In comparison to bacterial growth, the lag phase may be considered a time of “tooling-up” to take advantage of the new energy source. The exponential phase is when all ducks are in a row for utilizing the resources, tools are being made and deployed and exponential growth commences. The stationary phase (about now in the history of human civilization) is when the net energy coming from the resources is inadequate to propel further net growth as forces of entropy in the form of pollution externalities and social/political entropy begin to take a toll. Likewise we will see climate weighing more heavily upon the mass of cells as time goes on. When net energy is no longer obtainable and the forces of entropy are increasing, then the death phase begins. Cellular metabolism stops, repair of damages from the forces of entropy cease and the walls of “order” are breached. For instance, when strong typhoons or hurricanes brought about by climate change devastate a city that, for “financial” reasons, is never rebuilt. Will Syria or Venezuela ever be rebuilt? Probably not.

I was reading Dr. Arnoux’s article on www.cassandralegacy.blogspot.com and found his explanation of a thermodynamic trap very interesting. But it seems that most organisms, supplied with a surfeit of resources would enter the same type of trap, rapidly utilizing stored energy, entering into overshoot and then collapse. Eventually the amount of net energy obtainable would only suffice to make the tools for obtaining the energy and other metabolic necessities and structures like cells walls and active transport would begin to fail, especially with the increased externalities of pollution bearing upon them.

Bacteria behave similarly to humans, using the high Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) energy sources first, because it allows the most rapid reproductive success in a specified time period. After the rich deposits are mined, the bacteria and humans will turn to the next most energy rich resource until either the energy is exhausted or it costs more to make the enzymes than the return from the metabolized energy source. They may not even have a tool in the DNA kit to use. It is reassuring that the human brain has evolved to embody the resource using behaviors found in common bacteria. Note that our cells must remain well-behaved (non-cancerous) so that in totality we may be successful energy/resource gatherers. Human civilizations show similar order and control (morality/cooperation) to enable full utilization of external energy sources. Even within cancer cells there is cooperation that is inherent to the structures of the molecules. They all work together to gain nourishment.

And in light of our impending demise, what are all of the bright and brilliant statesmen and politicians trying to do? Increase growth of course, right there on the stationary part of the curve where there is an overburden of technological cells and human RNA that can probably be counted in the hundreds of millions of cells and billions of human RNA. We may have wonderful libraries of tool schematics (DNA) and we work hard making tools to use in the environment (our petri dish), but we’re not “sapient”, we’re just an agglomeration of cells with a brain that is meant to simulate bacterial growth behavior on a different scale until, like the bacteria, we hit the wall.