Nate Hagens & The Great Simplification

Navigating a Path Between Fantasy and Doom


The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) believes that we face accelerating economic and environmental risks. ISEOF is committed to helping society both steer away from fantasy and avoid catastrophe. We’ve built a map across domains and timeframes highlighting likely futures and locations for possible interventions. We aren’t prescriptive with ‘one answer’ for upcoming socioeconomic and environmental hurdles but seek to influence a portfolio of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ initiatives.

Rather than ‘own’ projects, ISEOF prefers to identify a need, plant the seed to germinate, and then allow development and implementation via partners and alliances. With insight, integrity, and kindness, we strive to inform and inspire the thinking and actions of early adopters relating to the ongoing transition to post-growth human societies, institutions, and values.


HOW ARE WE is a joint initiative of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future (ISEOF) and the Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER). We are currently building a much larger coalition of partners to support this effort.  The project aims at changing this notion by introducing a simple question back into the conversation: HOW ARE WE DOING?

Contrary to many other well-being metrics that have been tried, we are not using a top-down or outside-in perspective, but base almost everything on people’s perceptions about their own lives. By asking real people, getting their honest views about their lives, we aim at providing input to politics, advocacy groups, and NGOs – and to everyone interested in making life better for people in today’s difficult times. How Are We is currently preparing a first trial in a U.S. state to be rolled out in late 2021 and are in the process of finding a European country for a pilot.


Carbon emissions keep rising year after year, and carbon concentration in the earth’s atmosphere are ticking up like clockwork. Nothing suggests that this will change in the near future, despite all the renewed promises by governments worldwide. Yet the reason for this inertia is simple: the price we pay for fossil fuels, and most other non-renewable resources, is far too low, because we don’t pay for their creation which took hundreds of millions of years, but only for their extraction. To make matters worse, more than 90% of all taxes are paid on labor in most countries, which discourages employment and forces automation into every part of the economy. This mix-up, a by-product of the industrial revolution, leads to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste production and the unnecessary use of automation, which damages our ecosystems and at the same time deprives future generations of their right to access those scarce resources. By going back to taxes on the use of non-renewable resources, the UnTax project wants to set this right, fixing almost everything that is broken about our way we deal with natural resources.



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 status, addiction, and our aversion to acting about the future and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the coming decades.  Ultimately, Nate’s talks attempt to provide a framework for people who would like to participate in shaping the future.

Nate has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC and NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers.