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OPEC+ Considering Additional 1 Million Barrel Oil Production Cut Amid Outrage Over Gaza War

OPEC+ Considering Additional 1 Million Barrel Oil Production Cut Amid Outrage Over Gaza War

Two days ago, JPMorgan’s head of energy strategy Christyan Malek warned that amid the recent plunge in oil prices, driven as much by shorting CTAs (who today are in full-blown short squeeze panic mode) as the BIden admin, the oil market was underestimating the chances of deeper supply cuts during this month’s Nov 26 OPEC+ meeting.

“The market’s probably assuming very little chance of that happening, I’d say it’s much higher than that – not as a base case but as a scenario” Malek told Bloomberg in an interview, adding that deeper curbs would be in order to get ahead of potential weakness in the first half of next year.”

“We may need to see” a cut “given where the balances are, particularly given the demand trending.” And while “there’s a view that Saudi is tapped out”, Malek said that he doesn’t believe that: “I think there’s more flex if they wish to cut. We could see them do sizable cuts from here; having said that, I think it’s more likely they’ll want to socialize them among their OPEC peers – a collective cut rather than one on their own.”

And so, from JPM’s strategist to OPEC+’s ears because moments ago the FT reported that what until recently was unthinkable, is suddenly all too possible and largely thanks to the (mostly) Arabic resentment at what Israel is doing in Palestine: according to the FT, not only is Saudi Arabia prepared to prolong oil production cuts well into next year but Opec+ is weighing further reductions in response to falling prices and rising anger over the Israel-Hamas war.

…click on the above link to read the rest…


Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIV–Growth and Denial: A Bad Combination

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIV

Knossos, Greece (1993). Photo by author.

Growth and Denial: A Bad Combination

Today’s Contemplation is a glimpse into some conversation between myself and another around growth, denial, and differences in what can/should be advocated for.

Post by GW:
Just saw the sign coming in to town which reads “Country close to the city” it should read “Condos close to the city”

RB: …we need to make sure we are seeing the most responsible planning surrounding that development as we can. I have a growing feeling that some of our areas of intensification are both deviating from our growth strategies and will not be receiving needed services in a timely fashion to ensure complete communities, maximal livability, and minimal consequences.

I have long held a belief that spending time, energy, and breath just opposing growth and development is a waste. Understand the need (and legal requirements) to grow, understand the planning processes and facets of private ownership, and spend your time advocating for the best possible planning to ensure the best possible community living experience as that growth gets underway.

Me: RB, may I suggest some homework to help expand your perspective on the issue of growth and the negative consequences we tend to ignore/deny (and has led us into ecological overshoot):

1) This presentation, entitled Exponential Growth Arithmetic, Population and Energy, by the late Dr. Albert Bartlett that explains our blindness to how exponential growth works and how it has led us into overshoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZA9Hnp3aV4.

2) This 30-year update to the 1972 Limits to Growth study by MIT researchers; pay particular attention to the Business-As-Usual scenario that we seem to be tracking almost exactly and the negative consequences of this: https://www.amazon.ca/Limits-Growth-30-Year-Donella-Meadows/dp/193149858X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=82KI5K3MPE34&keywords=30+year+update+limits+to+growth&qid=1700239657&s=books&sprefix=30+year+update+limits+to+growth%2Cstripbooks%2C97&sr=1-1. You can find a synopsis of this text here: https://donellameadows.org/archives/a-synopsis-limits-to-growth-the-30-year-update/.

3) This 1988 academic research text, The Collapse of Complex Societies, by archaeologist Joseph Tainter that highlights the recurrent/cyclical decline that has occurred to every complex society to date due to the diminishing returns that invariably arises as a population attempts to continue growing beyond the resources (mostly energy) that can support it: https://www.amazon.ca/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Joseph-Tainter/dp/052138673X. Summary notes can be found here: https://olduvai.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Collapse-of-Complex-Societies.pdf.

4) This 1980 text, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, by William Catton Jr. that outlines the biological principles that invariably impact species that grow beyond their environment’s ability to support them. https://www.amazon.ca/Overshoot-Ecological-Basis-Revolutionary-Change-ebook/dp/B00VVH4UGG/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3UNABBTCM5RCJ&keywords=overshoot&qid=1700239867&sprefix=overshoot%2Caps%2C500&sr=8-1. Summary notes can be found here: https://olduvai.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Overshoot_-The-Ecological-Basis-of-Revolutionary-Change.pdf

NG: Steve Bull, a more than likely nuclear war should damper population growth.

Me: RB, I would also advise digging deeper and looking behind the curtain with respect to what has ‘supported’ our extraordinary growth the past couple of decades (mostly financialisation of our economic systems; i.e., ginormous amounts of debt that has turned into nothing more than Ponzi financing to keep growth afloat to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars currently — a perfect example of what Tainter refers to as diminishing returns and is being felt increasingly by the masses due to the inevitable weight of price inflation/currency devaluation) and centuries (mostly the leveraging and expeditious drawdown of a one-time cache of hydrocarbon energy that has provided a surplus of energy that has allowed us to continue to pursue exponential growth beyond our natural carrying capacity, but that is declining/disappearing at an alarming rate (dive into the issue of Peak Oil) — it’s no surprise that nations rich in these resources are the focus of so much geopolitical chaos.

Then there’s the symptom predicaments of overshoot and the various planetary boundaries we’ve blow past in extraordinary expansion throughout the globe. See this: https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html

That most believe such growth can continue without dire consequences is not surprising given the amount of conditioning and propaganda we are exposed to about growth (particularly by those that profit from it). That we cannot even challenge such orthodoxy speaks volumes as to our mass denial.

RB: Steve Bull, you and I have had this conversation in past.

If our society suddenly shifts to establishing and enforcing population controls and an economic system that isn’t dependant on infinite growth, I will change my tune.

Until then, I am going to focus my advocacy based on existing realities for best possible outcomes.

Me: RB, we will have to agree to disagree, once again, regarding what is ‘best’ to advocate for. While I would contend that we (especially in so-called ‘advanced’ and ‘emerging’ economies) are unlikely to willingly pursue ‘degrowth’, or even halting growth (for a variety of reasons, but perhaps mostly because we all want the Ponzi to continue), I would also argue that accepting it and trying to work with it is akin to being complicit in mass suicide…which is what the increasing amount of evidence regarding our overshoot is suggesting.

RB: To each their own, of course. And I am most certainly not disregarding your concerns, which are absolutely reasonable. I just have to pick my battles, so to speak. If that makes me complicit, so be.

Me: RB, fair enough. Me, I prefer not to be overly complicit in this tragedy we are embarked upon as a species. While we can ignore/deny the laws of physics, biological principles, and pre/historic evidence, they are ever-present, unforgiving, and will eventually catch up with us.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVIII–The Predicament of Ecological Overshoot Cannot Be ‘Solved’, Especially Via ‘Renewables’

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVIII

August 10, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

The Predicament of Ecological Overshoot Cannot Be ‘Solved’, Especially Via ‘Renewables’

Today’s very brief ‘contemplation’ is a comment I penned on an article that discusses the limits to growth we have probably surpassed, Kuber-Ross’s stages of grief (especially denial and bargaining) that the world seems to be experiencing in the wake of increasing awareness of our existential dilemmas/predicaments, and a call for cooperation amongst the world’s people to address our plight.

I have repeatedly experienced the denial and anger that tends to arise when one challenges another’s personal beliefs. I should know better than to present countervailing evidence/narratives, especially given the defensive psychological mechanisms that arise to preserve such beliefs. We tend to look for confirmation of our strongly-held views by surrounding ourselves with like-minded voices, not disruptive narratives that can lead to cognitive dissonance. Such stories are denigrated and attacked (as the author of the article points out for the Limits to Growth authors).

I do believe, however, that the acceptance of our limits in many aspects leads to a conclusion that degrowth needs to be not only considered and discussed, but widely pursued if humanity is to have any hope of at least some of us transitioning through the self-made bottleneck that is directly ahead of us. Pursing the ‘wrong’ path will only make our predicament far, far more challenging and greatly reduce any opportunities for at least some of humanity to survive.

As I have come to understand our predicaments better (not perfectly of course, but better), I have reached the conclusion that the best way to mitigate our situation (or at least preserve some semblance of human society) is to pursue degrowth strategies. What I have encountered along the way is a very well-meaning but somewhat problematic counterproposal (that is very narrowly focused in my view) that the best way to confront our situation is to throw everything we have at transitioning us from fossil fuels to ‘renewables’ (I put this in quotes since their dependence on non-renewable, finite resources — including fossil fuels — suggests they are not truly ‘renewable’).

This approach appears to be the mainstream one and the one that seems to be getting the most support at this time probably because it is comforting in the sense that ‘others’ are responsible for seeing its funding, development, distribution, etc. and it offers a means of maintaining our complexities without much disruption; at least that is the narrative/perception (but also likely because there is much profit to be made in the attempts to completely replace the fossil fuel-dependent technologies currently employed).

Increasingly, however, this storyline is showing many plot holes: energy-return-on-energy-invested close to zero or even negative; non-renewable, finite resource limits; environmental/ecological destruction to procure needed resources; dependency upon the fossil fuel platform for the procurement and processing of necessary materials as well as the distribution, maintenance, and afterlife disposal/reclamation processes. As I attempt to point these roadblocks out to the advocates of ‘renewables’ and suggest degrowth is a more realistic path given the biophysical limits of living on a finite planet, I am quite chagrined with the variety of personal attacks I am subjected to. From being a climate change ‘denier’ to a shill for the fossil fuel industry, the anger/denial that is displayed is quite something.

So, if we are hoping for cooperation and discussion to help us confront our existential dilemmas, there is much, much work that has to be done. What I am experiencing is not unique to those who have accepted our limitations and predicaments. The ‘clean/green’ energy crowd seems unwilling to accept that their ‘solution’ and convictions may in fact expedite, or at least contribute to, the further degradation of the planet and result in the exact opposite of what they believe. I fail to see how this can be resolved in a timely manner when so much of the propaganda we are exposed to by our world ‘leaders’ cheerlead it as a means to continue expanding our growth and ensuring prosperity for all.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII–Ecological Overshoot, Hydrocarbon Energy, and Biophysical Reality

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII

July 24, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Ecological Overshoot, Hydrocarbon Energy, and Biophysical Reality

Discussing ‘renewable’ energy and its shortcomings with those who hold on to the belief that they offer us a ‘solution’ to the predicaments humanity faces is always ‘challenging’. Today’s contemplation is based on a recent dialogue I have had with a few people who seek to hold on to the belief that we can completely abandon fossil fuels and simply shift support for society’s complexities over to ‘renewables, and my response to someone who complimented my viewpoint (an unusual occurrence on the pages of the online media site (The Tyee) I frequent, whose writers/editors/commenters mostly support ‘renewables’ and the promises the proponents of them make). The story is not so straightforward and most don’t want to hear that. You can check out the conversation here.

Thank you. The root cause of our problem appears to be ecological overshoot brought on, primarily, by our exploitation of a one-time energy cache (fossil fuels) that has helped to ‘power’ amazing technological tools and processes that, in turn, have allowed us to exploit the planet and its resources substantially. This has led to a number of positive feedback loops, particularly exponential increases in population, waste (including greenhouse gases), and the speed at which we use these finite resources.

The crowd that insists ‘renewable’ energy (and it’s not truly ‘renewable’ given its dependency on finite resources, and certainly not ‘green/clean’ based on the processes necessary to produce them) can ‘sustain’ our energy-intensive complexities tend to be willfully ignorant of their negative consequences and deficiencies. In fact, my guess is that many have little experience with or knowledge of them (see Alice Friedemann’s work at Energy Skeptic and especially her most recent Springer Energy Series publication, Life After Fossil Fuels) and are grasping for solutions to our predicaments.

The cost, components, capacity, and energy-return-on-energy-invested for ‘renewables’ is nowhere near what most imagine; and I’m thinking most hold on to the belief that governments will ‘pay’ for the massive systems that would be needed to support our complex societies (and there simply aren’t enough finite resources on this planet to do this; to say little about the massive debts already existing within our Ponzi-like financial/economic/monetary systems that themselves are on the verge of collapse and the struggles many people have in just affording day-to-day living expenses). I personally have installed a photovoltaic system as an emergency backup system for our home. I have spent well in excess of $10,000 putting up about 2.2 KwH of panels, connecting charge controllers, deep cycle batteries, and inverters. I am under no delusion that such a system can sustain our household, particularly in our Canadian winters. The power is intermittent. The batteries drain relatively quickly. And charging can take days/weeks when its cloudy and cold, and/or snow builds up on them.

The religious-like adherence to the belief that ‘renewables’ are part-and-parcel of a ‘solution’ to the negative consequences of fossil fuels leads many to ‘attack’ anyone who questions their ‘faith’ (see Mike Stasse’s Damn the Matrix). I have been accused numerous times of being a shill for the fossil fuel industry and even threatened because of this allegation; one person recently wished me the worst possible end I can imagine and then multiply it by 1000 because I questioned the entire ‘renewable’ mantra and didn’t by into his ‘solution’ for addressing the climate crisis.

I usually attribute this to the first few stages — denial, anger, bargaining — of Kubler-Ross’s model of grief, which people who come to realise our predicaments tend to travel through. It is also a result of believing that what we face is a problem that can be solved when in actuality it appears to be a predicament that we are going to have to face and attempt to ‘weather’ (see Erik Michaels’ Problems, Predicaments, and Technology). In fact, I would argue attempts to replace fossil fuel inputs with alternatives is a very misguided and potentially catastrophic path to take. The fossil fuel platform is significantly required for almost all the processes necessary to shift to alternatives. From steel and concrete manufacturing to the heavy machinery necessary in mining and transportation, large fossil fuel inputs are required.

Then there’s the fossil fuel inputs into modern industrial agriculture: the pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, heavy machinery, irrigation, and transportation that sustain food production in sufficient quantities and keep the just-in-time, long distance, supply chains functioning — to say little about the finiteness of the chemicals required for fertilizers or the drawing down of water aquifers. Food shortages would be guaranteed to be massive should fossil fuel inputs suddenly disappear without local, regenerative permaculture being ready to replace it; something we are woefully blind to. ‘Electrifying’ everything does little to address many of the negative consequences of our overshoot.

There are so many negative consequences to our overshoot that we are ignoring — in our zeal to sustain our complexities via ‘renewables’ — that would continue or expand by chasing such ‘solutions’ as widespread adoption of electric vehicles and solar/wind energy. In our rush to justify all the modern ‘conveniences’/‘energy slaves’ we have (especially in so-called ‘advanced’ economies) we are taking the world even further into overshoot which will lead to an even more catastrophic ‘collapse’ when it finally occurs.

We can accept that ‘collapse’ is imminent (and pre/history shows this occurs for every complex society that we have experimented with for the past 10,000+ years — see archaeologist Joseph Tainters’ text The Collapse of Complex Societies) and attempt to prepare for it, or continue the wishful thinking path that ‘this time is different’ and chase actions that will make the situation even more dire. I would prefer the former but my guess is we will attempt the latter for two main reasons.

First, we have been propagandised by what should be called ‘snake oil salesmen’ and their marketers who have taken advantage of our energy crisis. They have created a massive marketing campaign to sell their products and done so on our emotions, particularly fear and the need to have some ‘certainty’ about the future (refer to Dan Gardner’s Future Babble). The marketers have set fossil fuels up as the ‘problem’ and offered a ‘solution’ that just happens to enrich them. As with all such marketing, the negative consequences of their products have been left out of the narrative.

Second, having bought into the sales pitch, most people have created a set of beliefs that serve to help justify their living arrangements and avoid the difficulties that very likely lay ahead. Core beliefs are difficult to challenge. Questioning them creates cognitive dissonance in the adherent which can only be dissipated by clinging more strongly to the belief (usually by ignoring or attacking those challenging them) or reflecting on the beliefs and shifting them towards a more neutral or different stance. Most people tend to protect their core belief systems, regardless of the evidence/facts/data that would suggest they are misguided/misinformed; thus the ire/anger by some when the idea of ‘renewables’ being able to replace fossil fuels is confronted.

For the most part, the future is unwritten. We can accept the challenges of a world without all the energy slaves we have created with our ingenuity and tool-making acumen, and prepare for life with less, far less. Or, we can continue down the ‘business-as-usual’ path and attempt to sustain the unsustainable (see Meadows et al.’s Limits to Growth and its various updates), and that will likely result in far more chaos and difficulty as the bottleneck we have created closes around us (see William Catton Jr.’s book, Overshoot).

I’m increasingly chagrined to see us continue to chase the infinite growth chalice with a belief that this will all work out just fine, thank you, as long as we abandon fossil fuels and shift to ‘renewables’ with a religious-like fervour that completely ignores some harsh, biophysical realities. I am reminded of author Robert Heinlein’s observation that we are rationalising creatures, not rational ones, and we are leading ourselves into a very, very precarious and dangerous place.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIII–Keep Calm and Carry On

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIII

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Today’s Contemplation is my comment on a recent post by Allan Urban that speaks to his experiences attempting to share his learnings on ‘collapse’. For those that have read it, you can likely recognise similar reactions from others; I certainly did.

After years of experiencing the same ‘frustrations’ in attempting to share my ‘insights’ regarding our predicament, I’ve come to understand that we all believe what we want to believe and that regardless of the evidence/facts that point to our inevitable collision with ‘collapse’ most will reject the idea and carry on in the belief that tomorrow (and the future) will be much like yesterday and today. For the most part, that’s a good belief system and one that has been proven correct again and again for people, and how others respond to challenges to this system are fairly typical.

The list of psychological mechanisms to avoid anxiety-provoking thoughts is almost endless. And the idea of ‘collapse’ is most certainly anxiety-provoking. Fight or flight. Groupthink. Going along to get along. Deference to authority/expertise (especially the ruling caste of our societies — e.g., government, legacy media). Cognitive dissonance reduction. Stages of grieving (particularly denial of reality and bargaining). These are next to impossible to overcome.

So, while I write about the situation (see https://olduvai.ca) and my perspective on it, I don’t engage too many others — especially in my personal, social circles — with my views. The exception being those who respond to my writings and are interested in the topics involved.

I have also completely abandoned any ‘hope’ that our political systems (or even most (all?) non-governmental ones) are the place to look for ‘salvation’. These systems are designed for the most part (and motivated by) self-preservation and the status quo. There are few if any that truly aim to ‘deconstruct’ our extractive/exploitive systems that have led us to where we our. That’s not their role; in fact, quite the opposite.

Our governing systems in particular are pre/historic institutions in place to maintain/expand the control of wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide revenue streams for a select few. Their current iterations weave comforting narratives about ‘representation’ and beneficent policies/actions for the masses, but these are propaganda meant to appease and mollify — nothing more. Their aims are primarily oriented towards growing these systems of extraction and exploitation, regardless of the social and/or ecological systems costs.

We have not only cyclical complex society ‘collapse’ processes to contend with in our modern-day experiment of a globalised (and financialised) system, but the various symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot as well — especially depletion of probably the most fundament of resources to our modern complexities: hydrocarbons.

If pre/history is any indication of how things will unfold (and I would contend it very much is), then most of us will deny/ignore the signals long after our decline is well and truly underway — as many argue it already is. We will carry on in our ignorance and complicity, believing things will improve and someone, somewhere will ‘solve’ all this. Keep calm and carry on.

Keeping the ruling caste’s feet to the fire is commendable (if the pressure directs them in a way to degrow our existence, not grow it via even more ‘green/clean’ technology) but ultimately will not result in system changes. It will be Nature that corrects our Overshoot, as it always does with species that blow past its natural carrying capacity.

Perhaps our energies are best focused upon attempts to mitigate the consequences as best we can for our local communities. Relocalise and simplify, or as John Michael Greer has suggested: Collapse now and avoid the rush.

Europe Is Burning

Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris

The only lessons the Old World offers to America these days are cautionary.

Ever since the earliest days of the Republic, American intellectuals, artists, and statesmen looked to Europe for models. Conservatives felt attracted to the continent’s sense of continuity and tradition, and as the base for Christianity. More recently, progressives saw in European social democracy and globalist pacifism a role model to be embraced.

Yet today Europe seems not much of a model for much of anything outside of museums, charming cathedral towns, and terrific food. The notion that Europe represents the future, nurtured by the likes of Mitterrand advisor Jacques Attali, Jeremy Rifkind’s utopian European Dream, and the American journalist T.R. Reid’s 2005 The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacyseem utterly delusional.

A common theme in the early years of the millennium was that Europe was on the verge of global resurgence while America was in decline. Europe’s eventual stagnation, as many conservatives point out, can be in part traced to an ever expanding high-tax welfare state that generally absorbs roughly ten more percentage points of GDP than in the U.S. But this is not the only explanation. Some of the moderately better off European economies, like Denmark and Sweden, are welfare states but manage to outperform the rest.

The real problem is civilizational. Europeans are unwilling to preserve their industrial base and control their borders, leaving the continent increasingly weak and largely defenseless. The leaderless American empire may be creaking, but Europe is in worse shape, hemmed in by dismal demographics, high taxes, suffocating regulation, and an entrenched bureaucracy that makes California seem like a libertarian paradise.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXII–Reality is an Inconvenience to Beliefs

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXII

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Reality is an Inconvenience to Beliefs

Today’s brief Contemplation was prompted by The Honest Sorcerer’s latest article that looks at the latest energy ‘breakthrough’ (seems there is one every other week) and how it’s going to save modern civilisation, our species, and the planet.

In this globalised world where virtually every economic transaction has become finacialised, and one cannot for long survive without some type of revenue stream (because we have lost the skills/knowledge to live apart from our complex and monetised energy-averaging systems), it seems to me that everything has become a racket — in terms of a fraudulent scheme.

And ‘energy’, being the most fundamental of ‘resources’ for life, has been fully captured by the multitude of racketeers — as has all the revenue-generating/-extracting aspects of our sociocultural existence.

War. Politics. Food. Health. Education. Resources. You name it.

These are all being leveraged by our society’s ruling caste, grifters, and wannabes to generate revenue. And attracting investment capital with some technological/innovative ‘breakthrough’ works because of our ongoing (if very misguided, primarily due to recency bias) belief that human ingenuity and technological prowess can solve all ‘problems’ — predicaments without ‘solutions’ don’t exist.

As I more deeply explore the story-telling nature of our species and the psychological mechanisms at play during this communication process, it is becoming clear that it matters little — if at all — that the narrative being shared aligns with physical reality or not. We believe what we want to believe and all it takes is that the tale we are being told needs to be ‘plausible’, provide us with a sense of agency (especially self-efficacy), reinforces our self-esteem, reduces our cognitive dissonance, is believed by many in our social circle, and is being told by a ‘trusted/authoritative’ source.

Dave Pollard, who writes here, has put forward a ‘Law of Human Beliefs’ (see his latest here) that is quite relevant to this observation:

Pollard’s Law of Human Beliefs: We believe what we want to believe, not what is actually true. We want to believe in happy endings, simple answers, the inevitability of progress, self-control, karma, responsibility, destiny, miracles, a proper order of things, the power of love, and infinite human capacity and agency. Most of us want to believe in a higher power that can step in when we falter. We want to believe what those in our circles of trust believe (even if it’s crazy, gaslighting or propaganda). So we tend to seek sources that reinforce those beliefs and ignore those that undermine or unsettle them. Our hopes and expectations are determined by those beliefs. Our worldview is the sum of those beliefs, hopes and expectations, and bears no necessary resemblance to truth or reality. This invented reality is the only way we can make sense of a world that is impossible to grasp, to understand, or to ever really make sense of.”

Our denial of reality is strong and often, if not always, cannot be overcome. We go to all sorts of lengths to rationalise and justify our belief systems, regardless of evidence/facts that challenge them.

And as Ajit Varki has postulated in his and Danny Brower’s theory on the origins of the human mind,

“The human ability to understand and consider our own mortality without being consumed by fear seems natural to us. In fact, it appears to be just one manifestation of a peculiar human ability to ignore, rationalize, or outright deny obvious realities, and even to believe in multiple or alternate realities at the same time…

Even when we do acknowledge such realities, we tend to indulge in magical thinking, behaving as if these statistics apply to everyone else, but not to ourselves. Many humans also ignore or even deny scientific and societal realities such as biological evolution, anthropogenic climate change, human “overshoot” with nonrenewable resource depletion, gross degradation of our environment, massive expansion of national debt, ballooning healthcare costs, covert or overt racism, and so on.”

(See Rob Mielcarski’s site, un-Denial, for a lot more on this subject.)

Biogeophysical limits — meh, it’s not reality; it’s just another conspiracy theory by those tinfoil hat-wearing ecofascists. Please disregard all that ‘collapse/overshoot’ nonsense and carry on with your consumption and dreams of perpetual growth on a finite planet…oh, and please send us any investment money while you’re at it (and/or encourage your government to) so we can solve those predicaments the nutcases keep yammering on about.

The Polycrisis

The Polycrisis

Back in 2017 when I composed this graphic of overlapping crises, the word polycrisis was not yet in common use. Polycrisis has various definitions, for example: “the simultaneous occurrence of several catastrophic events.”


image 1

But this doesn’t explain the truly dangerous dynamic in polycrisis, which is the nonlinear, mutually reinforcing potential of disparate crises to generate effects much larger than the initial causes. This definition is closer to the mark: “Many different problems happening at the same time so that they together have a very big effect.”

Put another way: 1 + 1 + 1 doesn’t generate an effect of 3, it generates an effect of 9.

You’ll notice the crises on my graphic are internal socioeconomic dynamics: state-cartel centralization, demographics, soaring debts, Imperial overreach, technological disruption, disunity in elites and diminishing returns on financial predation.

Many don’t see these as crises; they’re seen as factors, not as potentially catastrophic dynamics. This is the linear analysis: None of these dynamics is actually threatening to the stability of the U.S.

The nonlinear analysis is: Considering each one as a discrete dynamic, that’s true. But these are mutually reinforcing crises because the status quo “solutions” to each one become mutually reinforcing problems which generate much larger effects than most believe possible.

Note that external factors such as war and climate change are not shown. These conditions are not entirely controllable by U.S. policy decisions. They affect the entire world, not just one nation-state. That said, external crises add additional nonlinear influences to the polycrisis.

Polycrisis and Supply and Demand

The human mind is not particularly well-adapted to polycrisis: We struggle to adapt to the drought, then the earthquake knocks down the village walls, then the tsunami pounds what was left, followed by the epic flooding, then the hurricane batters the survivors, who witness the volcano erupting and wonder what they did to anger the gods and goddesses so mightily.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CII–That Uncertain Road, Part 1.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CII

February 20, 2023

Monte Alban, Mexico. (1988) Photo by author.

That Uncertain Road, Part 1

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
― Albert Einstein

There are many words that could be used to describe the future and humanity’s ability to know how it will unfold. Unknowable. Unpredictable. Uncertain. Unwritten. Undetermined. Unforeseeable.

These tool-making, story-telling apes we have termed homo sapiens just happen to abhor this aspect of existence. Uncertainty has been found to result in negative affect for most people in most situations[1]. In fact, it has been suggested that “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”[2] and that “…fear of the unknown may be a, or possibly the, fundamental fear, representing an Archimedean lever for human psychology”[3].

As Dan Gardner reminds the reader in Future Babble[4] humans want and need control, especially of their environment/surroundings. Not having control, or at least the sense of it, can lead to stress, disease, and early death. Having some ‘certainty’ about what the future holds is a type of control, even if we know what happens is out of our personal control.

We have developed a host of psychological mechanisms to defend against our fear of uncertainty (e.g., illusion of control). In fact, psychologists have found an increased dependence upon magical thinking when control is lost or uncertainty increases[5]. In addition, people will cling more fiercely to their belief system in the face of counterfactual evidence in order to increase their sense of certainty. They will ignore or deny those things that increase their cognitive dissonance and the uncertainty it creates.

We also more often tend to see patterns where none exist as we search for certainty[6]. Reassurance about the future motivates people to seek it somewhere. Anywhere.

Cognitive psychologists suggest prospection, the term used to describe the generation of possible future scenarios, is a central tenet of both cognition and emotion[7]. But it is also a fundamental aspect of learning for any animal that is driven by their avoidance of pain and seeking of pleasure since being able to sense patterns of environmental changes or actions of other animals can alter their behaviour to seek a reward or avoid a punishment — perhaps the most basic one being falling prey to a potential predator.

As tool makers, we leverage this rather unique ability in attempts to help us control our environment, thus providing a sense of security against this uncertain future. And it seems we often fall back on this skill to help us believe some as-yet-to-be-hatched ‘tool’ will be created to help us achieve what we have yet to achieve — certainty about the future by solving our various problems, such as a lack of ‘clean’ energy.

As story tellers, we craft all variety of narratives to help us understand our world — the past, the present, and especially the future. Religion. Biology. Politics. Physics. Economics. History. Mathematics. Psychology. Astrology. Ecology. Chemistry. Philosophy.

Are any of the tales we tell and share accurate reflections of our world and its functioning? Can we predict the future? Can we, using all of our cognitive abilities, understandings of the world, and technologies reduce the uncertainty that lays before us?

The answer may actually be irrelevant since we all tend to believe what we believe — be it learned or conditioned, accurate or misinformed. And we use what we believe to reduce our anxiety about an uncertain future.

Despite all of the above, and knowing full well that predictions about the future are just stories we tell to reduce our uncertainty, the following is one perspective on what the future may hold based upon two beliefs that seem certain to me, although I know they don’t to everyone:
1) We exist upon a planet with finite resources;
2) Biological and historical precedents exist from which we can learn and help us map a likely future.

First, we live upon a planet with a finite amount of resources available to us. Despite the story that infinite substitutability can overcome or mitigate this reality, I firmly believe we cannot create more of our most important resources from thin air. This is especially true for life’s primary resource, energy. As the First Law of thermodynamics states: energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another. This limits what is available to all species upon our planet.

Second, there exist biological and historical ‘experiments’ concerning ecological overshoot and complex society ‘collapse’ that we can use to help us understand important processes and how they are likely to unfold.

To paraphrase the saying about events rhyming with the past, there should be no assumptions that the future will unfold exactly as it has in the past. While there will no doubt be similarities because humans are animals with strong genetic predispositions that act and react in somewhat constrained ways, we are also a species with strong sociocultural influences upon our behaviour that vary in both time and place. And the contextual environment within which we are behaving is never precisely the same; particularly given the complexities that accumulate and impact us — especially technological in nature.

There is so much that has already been written and could be said about ecological overshoot and humanity’s prospects as we travel further into it. It is important to my thinking here that I note that humans are a biological species similar to every other one on our planet and there exist many behavioural responses that we cannot avoid because of this. Perhaps the most fundamental biologically-based one is that of reproduction and a species tendency to reproduce to a level that can be sustained by their immediate habitat. Overshooting this sustainable carrying capacity invariably results in moving to an uninhabited and unexploited area or ‘reversion to the mean’ of a species’ population size[8].

Humans however, as an apex predator and with their tool-making abilities, have been able to exceed significantly the natural, environmental carrying capacity allowing us to go well beyond the limits imposed by nature. Population biology demonstrates that such a situation cannot and will not go on indefinitely. And the resulting ‘correction’ may as a result of this being even more dramatic in nature.

As William Catton Jr. argues, our ability to employ technological tools to expand our carrying capacity has resulted in a trap that now threatens the environment and ecological systems we require for our survival. Blind to what we are doing, we have embraced and increased the speed with which we are drawing down the finite resources we rely upon. There will be, based upon other species that have overshot their environmental carrying capacity, a reversion to the mean of population size that can be ‘sustained’ — and it will be much, much lower than may have been reached in an uncontaminated and undamaged environment[9].

Further, Catton observes that “[o]vershoot will occur, if it hasn’t already. We may come to feel guilty about stealing from the future, but we will continue to do it. Overshoot will further aggravate the reduction of carrying capacity. Crash must follow. The greater the overshoot, the greater the crash.” (p. 253)

The following graph from Catton’s text provides four possible growth scenarios, with Panel D being the most likely for humanity. As he explains “’carrying capacity’ has been represented by two different curves. A major fraction of the recent, apparently high carrying capacity for human high-energy living must be attributed to temporary resources — i.e., non-renewable fossil acreage, the earth’s savings deposits. In Panel D, it is optimistically assumed that the component of carrying capacity based on renewable resources has remained stable so far. But it is recognized that serious overshoot, induced by temporarily high composite carrying capacity, will at least temporarily undermine even the sustainable component.” (p. 253)

That’s overshoot in a nutshell: an epic crash in population as our fundamental resources can no longer support our numbers. The writing seems on the wall that human population numbers are likely to fall precipitously from their current and relatively high numbers.

How that unfolds is yet to be determined, but it seems the most likely scenario some time down the road as the resources, especially energy, become more scarce to support our inflated numbers…

In Part 2, I will elaborate on what I believe our pre/historical precedents suggest about what we might expect down that uncertain road…

[1] See this, this, and/or this.

[2] See this.

[3] See this.

[4] See this.

[5] See this, this, and/or this.

[6] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[7] See this.

[8] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[9] See this.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXI–A Self-Sufficient Community — Better Than Precious Metals or Fiat/Digital Currencies

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXI

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

A Self-Sufficient Community — Better Than Precious Metals or Fiat/Digital Currencies

Today I’m sharing a conversation with others via the Comments section for a post on the website Zerohedge — as well as a preamble to the conversation to set the context for my part in the conversation. The article is focused upon the future of fiat currency but comes via the website Schiffgold that for all intents and purposes markets precious metals, warning of the perils of fiat currency.

For anyone who follows such sites, you will be cognizant of the ongoing debates regarding precious metals and fiat/electronic currencies. Essentially, the disagreements are founded upon differences of opinion regarding the best avenue for storing one’s ‘wealth’, particularly surplus wealth, to help avoid the inevitable collapse of current fiat currencies.

I have written a bit about such topics, particularly as they pertain to growth and collapse, in these posts:
Feeding the Growth Monster: Fiat Currency and Technology Blog Medium
Fiat Currency: Debasement and Infinite Growth Blog Medium
Fiat Currency, Infinite Growth, Finite Resources: A Recipe For Collapse Blog Medium
Greenwashing, Fiat Currency, Narrative Management: More On Climate Change and Elite Confabs Medium
Ruling Caste Responses To Societal Breakdown/Collapse Medium

When I first fell down the rabbit’s hole that is Peak Oil and began to explore all the issues related to this most fundamental of predicaments for our societal complexities, storing surplus wealth was a concern for me[1]. My wife and I were still both working full-time in relatively secure and well-paying careers (we’re both since retired), our house was paid off, and our two children were still in high school. We had always been relatively frugal in our consumption and were privileged enough to be in a situation where our income almost always exceeded our expenditures — early in our marriage, when we were both still students, was the exception. But, once we paid off our mortgage (which we did as expediently as possible after our student loans were paid off, that carried 14+% interest on them when we graduated) we were spending far less than we were earning.

As I dug deeper into the complexities of energy and its implications for our globe, I worried more and more about the future and how to best insulate my family from what may come. I was drawn towards precious metals given my educational background in archaeology and the presence of it as a means of exchange throughout recorded history. But as I delved deeper and deeper into the cyclical recurrence of societal ‘collapse’ it became clear that without local self-sufficiency/-resiliency having a hoard of precious metals (many of which have been found by archaeologists, and thus unused/abandoned) or an electronic wallet holding digital currency was probably moot and not a secure means of ‘preserving wealth’.

I have come to understand/believe that community resiliency and a focus on our fundamental needs may be the most appropriate response to the coming storm that is a loss of surplus energy and the consequential breakdown of energy-averaging systems (i.e., long-distance trade). This is why I now suggest that relocalising food production, potable water procurement, and regional shelter needs may be one’s best approach to help insulate one’s community and thus family.

I have spent the better part of a decade exploring and practising how to produce as much food as possible on our relatively small, suburban piece of land north of Toronto and initiated a food gardening guild in my community. These are by no means a ‘solution’ to our predicaments and I could currently feed our household of five adults for about two weeks on our garden harvest — if we’re lucky. I take solace, however, in the fact that each year the gardens produce a bit more and my ongoing experiments meet with success more often than failure (from which I try to learn from).

My fledgling attempts are far, far behind others I communicate with or read about online, but I am far, far ahead of almost my entire social circle. Apart from my blood siblings, none are pursuing any form of self-sufficiency but are hip-deep in ignorance, denial, and bargaining — carrying on with their ‘modern’, relatively affluent lifestyles.

My much younger sister (who has put her career as a gynaecological oncologist on hold as she is home with three young children) has been experimenting with food production and chicken raising the past couple of years. And my younger brother — who is months away from retiring as a fire station captain — has recently purchased a remote property (relative to the densely populated southern Ontario where he and I reside) in northern Ontario where I spent a week this summer helping him get some neglected raised beds cleaned up — there were surprisingly a plethora of well-established perennial food plants present.

Anyways, without further ado, here is the conversation that reflects some different perspectives…

Me: While precious metals or crypto may be a store of wealth as argued by many, I think I’d sooner ‘invest’ what little surplus I have in physical tools/supplies to help my family/community become more self-sufficient and resilient. As the saying goes, you can’t eat gold. Physical materials that will help in food production, procurement of potable water, and regional shelter needs may be a much better focus for folks than either fiat, electronic wallets, or metals at this point in the fourth turning…oh, and a means to protect what you have may be wise as well — from community cohesiveness to armaments of some kind.

Weirdly: Saving money is for excess value. You have it right. Tools, businesses, friends, community until you are limited, then save in bitcoin.

Me: I think I’d sooner save excess in silver/gold than bitcoin. Chances are high that grid-down scenarios are likely to increase in frequency and size as the center loses control making electronic-based ‘wealth’ about as useful as our politicians…but as price inflation is quickly eating away any excess for me, this may be a moot point.

JudgeSmails984: Grid down scenarios? Are you high? I live in Northern California where they shut the power off when it’s windy and ask you not to charge your EVs in the summer when everybody is using their AC, and still, the power never goes out for more than a few hours, anywhere.

your “increasing frequency of grid down occurrences” statement is idiotic and not based on real world reliability data. Outside of natural disasters and yahoos shooting up transformers here and there, the electrical grid is a highly distributed architecture of critical infrastructure, and there are almost no significant outages, anywhere that matters in the US.

Also-almost all critical facilities like hospitals and law enforcement all have backup diesel generators-our electrical system is very robust and resilient.

how so many people plan their investments around something that never happens, has never happened but might happen, is beyond me. It’s like taking a parka into the desert at noon because it might snow while you are there…it could happen, the next ice age could begin today.

JudgeSmails984: I have a 3 month instability limit. You shut the lights off and leave the humans without food to fend for themselves, I have one bullet for myself in that unlikely scenario.

Given that my current GF is diabetic, she’d probably check out a month after the CVS stores ran outta insulin.

I have freeze dried food, some gold, silver, cash to get through a short period of disorder, but I have no interest in living rough, like indefinitely, for years without security, food, comfort etc. through a new, post apocalyptic dark age.

I’ve had 50 good years, rather go out with a bang than suffer slowly and watch those I love perish.

Good luck with your long term ambitions though. Hope nobody you love gets a tooth abscess or bacterial infection…once cured at the clinic on the corner, now likely fatal.

Me: Living ‘rough’ is completely subjective in nature and our species has done so for many, many millennia in the past; and by all accounts (despite the misconceptions of many due to a focus upon what befell the ruling elite upon previous societal collapses) lived fulfilling lives.

Yes, some of our complex conveniences will be absent but a lot of what befalls a complex society during its ‘collapse’ will actually be an improvement for many; that’s why and how collapses happen, it’s an economic/political choice by people who abandon the systems imposed by the ruling caste of a society for what they perceive as an improved situation — read archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies.

If your local community is self-sufficient and can get through the initial chaos of faltering/declining complexities, there’s no reason a ‘dark age’ cannot be avoided.

HardKnoxKid: Totally agree…… My yard is full of estate sale tools….. lots of hoes, shovels, metal rods, rolls of electrical wire….. great buys at some of these sales……. one day, all those nice electronics folks have will not do them poop….. watched a 30 year old black woman in my country meat market….. had 3 kids under 10…. she walked in right before me…. got out of an old Corolla, but clean….. kids very well mannered. She was looking at the meat, and telling the kids maybe they would have beef for dinner…. and picked up a couple packages of stew beef…… As I shopped, I saw her being very wise. After I paid for my small cart, I found her adding up her few items….. I gave her a $50……. told her to buy steak or whatever she wanted….. she was very reserved and cried lightly…… I could tell that “she” had a rough upbringing….. and if I could help her just for an evening, then that is my pleasure…… And yet, we send trillions over seas for all the crooks………Don’t have any vehicle or mortgage or credit card payments….. don’t give to big charities…… this is my way of giving…… It feels good.

Surreality: That’s good in the community. I think do both. We and our communities also need to preserve our wealth as well as have resources to be resilient.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website or the link below — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers).

Attempting a new payment system as I am contemplating shutting down my site in the future (given the ever-increasing costs to keep it running).

If you are interested in purchasing any of the 3 books individually or the trilogy, please try the link below indicating which book(s) you are purchasing.

Costs (Canadian dollars):
Book 1: $2.99
Book 2: $3.89
Book 3: $3.89
Trilogy: $9.99

Feel free to throw in a ‘tip’ on top of the base cost if you wish; perhaps by paying in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. Every few cents/dollars helps…


If you do not hear from me within 48 hours or you are having trouble with the system, please email me: olduvaitrilogy@gmail.com.

You can also find a variety of resources, particularly my summary notes for a handful of texts, especially Catton’s Overshoot and Tainter’s Collapse: see here.

Today’s Contemplation: CLX–Solace Will Not Be Found Within Our Sociopolitical Systems — Biogeophysical Limitations Cannot Be Overcome By Way Of Policy

Today’s Contemplation: CLX

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Solace Will Not Be Found Within Our Sociopolitical Systems — Biogeophysical Limitations Cannot Be Overcome By Way Of Policy

The following Contemplation is composed of some thoughts I had as I read through and reflected upon an article that was posted on the website Zerohedge. It argues that the policies being pursued by our political systems to address climate change are likely to result in greater human suffering and what is needed is better policy by governments.

While there are some pertinent points made (such as highlighting the abuses imposed upon some local populations where resources for non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies are being extracted from), my very first thought when I finished the article was “Why, that’s so cute that you still believe we live in a ‘democracy’ that ‘serves’ the citizens it purports to and is responsive to and cares about those citizens.”

This, however, is the default believe system for a very significant portion of a nation’s population and particularly those of the West that claim to live in ‘representative democracies’. It is one of the overarching narratives that people are exposed to from a very young age and it’s hard for any to see behind the curtain that has been erected by our socialisation/enculturation and the massive propaganda that is a part of that. The denial/bargaining/rationalising others engage in when this particular core belief is challenged is breathtaking to behold at times. Very, very few wish to view critically the notion that our political systems are ‘representative’ or ‘responsive’. They accept it as a given and do not wish their illusions to be destroyed lest cognitive dissonance overwhelm them.

I have written numerous times about this and won’t dwell on these points except to share links to a handful of those Contemplations:
Collapse Cometh X (Who Do ‘Representative’ Governments Truly Represent)
Collapse Cometh CXII (Our Banking System: Government vs. Private Control, Part 1)
Collapse Cometh CXIX (Local Community Resiliency and Political Systems)
Collapse Cometh CXXX (Only Local Leadership Can Help Communities Now)
Collapse Cometh CXXXVII (Local Self-Resilience Is Imperative to Pursue In Light Of Ecological Overshoot)

In addition, just as problematic (perhaps more so) in the rhetoric of the authors is their blindness to the limitations of what is being proposed and the bargaining and magical thinking that this entails. Yes, the policies being pursued by our governments are going to increase human suffering; but ultimately not in the way that the authors believe — they are going to exacerbate our ecological overshoot predicament and cause Nature’s reversion to the mean all the more chaotic and widespread.

While the sociopaths in our world leverage each and every worry/risk (e.g., climate change/global warming, war, economy, the ‘other’, etc.) to meet their primary goal of control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus power/influence/prestige, such analyses as presented here are as guilty of leveraging magical thinking to argue for something as profoundly misguided: the continuation of perpetual growth/progress on a finite planet through improved political policies. For example, they suggest implementing ‘responsible mining’ and ‘domestic production of complex technologies’ to avoid human suffering.

Such an approach appears blind to the energy/resource limits on a planet with biogeophysical constraints, and what can/cannot be accomplished with respect to ongoing growth and ‘progress’. Exponential growth of any species beyond the natural carrying capacity of its environment always leads to ecological overshoot and eventually collapse of the population. And there is ample evidence that humans are well into overshoot and have been for some time eating our seed corn (and creating self-congratulatory narratives) to avoid this truth.

Homo sapiens are no different from any other species in this regard. Except that we have a ruling caste that is leveraging the various symptom predicaments of overshoot (via ‘solutions’ to predicaments that have none, or to justify/rationalise invasion and occupation of resource-rich lands) in order to keep padding their offshore bank accounts and control their respective populations; and all the while they are helping to expedite the collapse of our complex societies and ecological systems in the process — mostly by drawing down finite resources to keep the mythos of perpetual growth/progress alive just a bit longer.

Yes, the vast majority of ‘solutions’ being marketed to address ‘climate change’ are mostly (if not totally) rackets being perpetrated upon society (e.g., ‘green/clean’ energy production, carbon capture and storage, Net Zero, electrification of everything) and the threats of our overarching predicament of overshoot (i.e., biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, atmospheric overloading, chemical pollutants, etc.) are getting lost in the kerfuffle — mostly through denial and bargaining.

And, yes, as diminishing returns on our investments continues to pick up speed with our exponential drawing down of resources, it is likely that the threat of ‘climate change’ or ‘war’ will be used to rationalise the need for massive ‘austerity’ (except of course for the ‘privileged’ minority) as our ruling caste attempts to protect and insulate themselves.

In fact, there’s a good argument that this approach has actually been occurring for a century+ and reality has simply been ‘papered over’ through massive currency devaluation and debt (hundreds of trillions of interest-bearing debt to date), and the increase of resource theft from regions outside the centre and not already overexploited (especially of hydrocarbons, the lifeblood of our societal complexities — there’s a reason the Middle East has been a quagmire for decades and the dominant nation coming out of World War 2 created the Petrodollar System).

But as William Yeats reminded us in The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”. The fall/decline of complex societies is a recurrent theme in human pre/history regardless of the policies of the ruling caste and the best technologies of the time. Diminishing returns on investments in complexity along with the predicament of ecological overshoot is resulting in this cyclical phenomenon shifting from regional collapse to being global in nature.

How this proceeds exactly this time around is anyone’s guess, but the process cannot be avoided…and without recognising the actual predicament of overshoot and its inevitable consequences our approaches to what is unfolding will continue to be misguided and simply make Nature’s correction all the more devastating.

And our political systems and ruling caste members are likely the very last place we should be looking for guidance on all of this given their primary motivation/goal requires doing the exact opposite of what our species needs to be pursuing: rapid and significant degrowth.

The Future for Fiat

The Future for Fiat

The day of reckoning for unproductive credit is in sight.

With G7 national finances spiraling out of control, debt traps are being sprung on all of them, with the sole exception of Germany.

Malinvestments of the last fifty years are being exposed by the rise in interest rates, increases which are driven by a combination of declining faith in the value of major currencies and contracting bank credit. The rise in interest rates is becoming unstoppable.

Do not be surprised to see a US Government deficit exceeding $3 trillion this fiscal year, half of which will be interest payments. And in the run-up to a presidential election, there’s every sign of deficit spending increasing even further.

We now face America and her allies being dragged into another expensive conflict in the Middle East, likely to drive oil and natural gas prices higher; far higher if Iran becomes a target. With the Muslim world united against Western imperialism more than ever before, do not discount the closure of Hormuz, and even Suez, with unimaginable consequences for energy prices.

The era of interest rate suppression is over. G7 central banks are all deeply in negative equity, in other words technically bankrupt, a situation which can only be addressed by issuing yet more unproductive credit. These are the institutions tasked with ensuring the integrity of the entire system of bank credit.

This is not a good background for a dollar-based global credit system that is staring into the black hole of its own extinction.

The end for the dollar is nigh

There are a number of events coming together that suggest we are about to undergo a major upheaval in world economic, financial, and monetary affairs…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVI–Is it Too Late For Pessimism?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVI

Knossos, Greece (1993), Photo by author

Is it Too Late For Pessimism?

Today’s ‘contemplation’ has been prompted by a question posed to me by a fellow commenter, puppyg, via an article we were both commenting upon. Taking advantage of a rainy day, I have prepared a rather extensive answer.

Question: Tonight I watched a stunning 12-yr.-old documentary (HOME) on the impact of human enterprise on Earth — the horrific toll on nature, fossil-fuel insanity, ticking food and population time-bombs, climate change, sea-level rise imperilling billions, extinction rates to the sky, all with gorgeous photography (and with an extraordinary array of financial backers). It ended on the notes, “It is too late for pessimism” and “We have ten years to…”, along with beautiful panoramas of our planet and a sampler account of projects that offer solutions and hope.

Finally, there was the invitation to, “Come and join us” at www.ourgoodplanet.org. I went there, but found… “Site cannot be reached”.

So, is it too late for pessimism? What do you think?

Response: The statement that “It is too late to for pessimism” has been attributed to motivational speaker Les Brown and implies that we need optimism rather than pessimism. That we need ‘solutions’ not more talk about the ‘problems’. That if we try hard enough, we can accomplish anything regardless of limitations.

I am not so convinced these motivational thoughts are true or relevant for the challenges humanity is increasingly having to confront due to life on a finite planet. Imagining a ‘better’ world is much, much easier than actually creating one, especially if there are biophysical limits to what can be accomplished or that have been vastly breached — let alone reaching ‘consensus’ on what is ‘better’. The ‘positive’ thoughts such hopeful beliefs can instil may lead people to feel better but they can also lead to inaction or clinging to misleading ‘solutions’; both of which I would argue are occurring to some extent and perhaps holding us back from discussing more appropriate responses that may result in ‘better’ outcomes.

I would suggest there are two other perspectives in viewing our impending dilemmas that need to be considered. First, perhaps what we are facing are not problems that have solutions but predicaments that we cannot avoid and the best we can do is mitigate to a certain extent the consequences of. Second, if these are problems with solutions, it becomes even more problematic if the solutions we pursue are wrong or misguided for our solutions may be painting us further into a corner we cannot extricate ourselves from and then end up as predicaments without solutions.

Given these alternatives there is no simple answer to your question as there are so many complexities and intertwined issues that could be raised and I could certainly respond with a very long essay, which this may end up being. I will try to be relatively concise in my response, although I’m sure to go off on a variety of tangents. It’s taken some time to respond as I wanted to watch the documentary first (and it helps that it’s raining and I can avoid getting to some outdoor work in my gardens; I typically just spend an hour or two first thing in the morning on my computer as I’m enjoying a couple of cups of coffee before moving into my ‘chores’, and then occasionally sit back down for a few moments here and there through the day to give my aging body a bit of a rest from the physical labour of maintaining and expanding our fruit/vegetable gardens and, unfortunately, I am not getting any younger).

While I don’t disagree with the vast majority of the analyses regarding humanity’s dilemmas presented in the documentary, there are some issues in its conclusion that I will elaborate on below. There is certainly much to be pessimistic about given its content, but one could just as easily be optimistic depending on one’s focus and interpretation so let’s try to avoid such ‘emotional’ descriptors for now and focus on what’s ‘real’ as much as I’m loathe to use such a term for what is ‘real’ to one person is not necessarily to another and almost everything is open to debate.

The assertion that humanity has no more than ten years to reverse the trend of runaway global warming (with the release of methane locked in northern permafrost) due to carbon emissions so we have to abandon fossil fuels posthaste seems to have been an ill-advised one to make. The timeline presented has passed so given we have not halted such emissions but seen them expand (see here) as humanity’s energy demands have continued to increase, and outpaced any energy so-called non-carbon emitting sources can provide, one could say it is too late to be pessimistic but also too late to be optimistic; we are in deep trouble as we missed the window of opportunity to correct our behaviour if that assertion is correct.

These type of catastrophic predictions are I believe somewhat problematic as it provides opportunities for critics to highlight faulty assertions when the timeline passes. Could it be runaway global warming will take place sometime in the future due to positive feedback loops? Sure, maybe. Only time will allow us to say for sure, and only in retrospect. More general and probabilistic ‘warnings’ or even various possible scenarios as presented in The Limits to Growth might be better at persuading people to alter behaviour; I don’t know, although it doesn’t appear either approach has been overly effective in slowing our exploitation of fossil fuels or any other finite resource for that matter.

What I do believe, however, is that no one, absolutely no one can predict the future with any accuracy. The significant trends being discussed may possibly continue but life has a way of going sideways sometimes so projecting patterns forward and providing such timelines almost always end up being quite wrong. Complex systems with their nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena can neither be predicted or controlled, and just the tiniest error in underlying assumptions can result in significantly different pathways being followed and eventual outcomes being quite changed from predictions.

After more than an hour and twenty minutes (the vast majority of the film) of laying out the dilemmas humanity faces due to its expansion and overexploitation of limited and finite resources, the documentary presents its ‘solutions’. Many are cherry-picked examples of small scale shifts that ignore the significant countervailing forces and system momentum that limit their widespread application. Some are experimental approaches with little to no chance of adoption due to their economic/resource ‘costs’ with little benefit, if any, in return.

The most problematic one, I would contend, is the idea that fossil fuels can be replaced by ‘alternatives’ that are misleadingly termed ‘renewable’ and, for the most part, business as usual can proceed — especially for so-called ‘advanced’ societies. Sure, some minor tweaks here and there by ‘thinking’ about what is consumed but little else.

This energetic shift ignores the hard biophysical limits that exist on a finite planet and the negative consequences of ‘renewable’ energy production, maintenance, and after-use disposal issues — to say little about the energy storage issues. It’s one thing to suggest we simply transition from fossil fuels to ‘renewables’, it’s quite another to acknowledge the: dependency of such ‘renewables’ on fossil fuels in perpetuity (especially the mining and industrial processes required) and other finite resources (particularly rare-earth minerals); energy storage limits; ecological destruction generated in the construction/storage/disposal processes; intermittency of power produced and thus need for fossil fuel or nuclear backup systems; significantly lower energy-return-on-energy-invested; etc.. ‘Renewables’, in my opinion, are no solution and their use as one is primarily a comforting story that conveniently avoids the difficulties (impossibilities?) of their widespread adoption.

In fact, I find it immensely interesting that the documentary lays out a great argument for our fundamental dilemma, ecological overshoot, and the most probable best ‘solution’, degrowth, but fails to raise either issue at all. Instead it focuses its proposed ‘solutions’ on human ingenuity, creativity, education, and technology — the mainstream ‘answers’ that I would argue are wrong because these tend to be or are significantly dependent upon energy-intensive processes and finite resources (especially the technological ones). And I’m tending to believe these ‘solutions’ are pursued because they promise little disruption, provide hope (which people prefer over despair, even if it’s false hope), and serve to enrich those that control the resources, production processes, and the financial capital that would be required to fund them.

Despite there being limits to projecting trends into the future with much if any accuracy, there are some patterns to human complex societies that do seem recurrent; at least with all the experiments in them for the past 10 millennia or so. All our complex societies to date have blossomed in complexity, peaked, and then reverted to a far more simple form (what some would call ‘collapse’).

Archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues this is primarily due to the economic phenomenon of diminishing returns on investments in complexity. As problem-solving organisations, complex societies address problems via increasing investments in complexity that are supported via resource surpluses. But resources, being finite in nature, encounter diminishing returns themselves on their procurement; that is, more and more ‘investment’ (in terms of energy, labour, and resources) must be made to increase or sustain them because of our tendency to access and exploit the easiest-to-retrieve and easiest-to-transport ones first, moving one to the harder-to-retrieve and transport ones later. As the resources become more difficult to procure, surpluses begin to shrink and are increasingly needed to meet everyday needs. If surpluses disappear, their lack of availability and support during a time of stress, that might otherwise have been dealt with quite well, can overwhelm a society and lead to its ‘collapse’ (an economic choice by its people to stop supporting its complexities, especially in the sociopolitical realm, and choose a more simple lifestyle due to the cost/benefit ratio dropping significantly).

It may indeed be ‘pessimistic’ to take this thesis and apply it to today’s global, industrial complex society that is almost entirely dependent upon fossil fuels. Combine this idea with the concept of ecological overshoot (which is really at the root of all our dilemmas) and one can’t help but feel despondent.

I have come to believe the only ‘solution’ to these dilemmas is to embrace degrowth as quickly as we can. A return to ‘simpler’ living ways that do not depend on long distance supply chains and are far, far less energy intensive is very likely in the books for us regardless of whether we wish it or not. So, rather than attempt to waste what remaining resources we have in what I would argue are cognitive dissonance-reducing narratives that serve primarily to comfort us and keep us in denial, and would probably be a final blow-off top of finite resource exploitation pushing us completely over the impending cliff, we should dedicate our labour and resources to relocalising the most important things: potable water procurement, food production, and shelter needs. And we need to do it in a way that makes our local communities resilient and minimises (to zero if possible) the necessity of long distance supply chains and finite resources.

The fact that our lifestyle would require significant sacrifices (especially for those of us in so-called ‘advanced’ economies) of the many technological conveniences we currently have and much more manual labour is probably why most people rail against it, either via denial (the first stage of grief) or crafting of more comforting narratives such as transitioning to alternative forms of energy to support our current ways (the third stage of grief, bargaining). What we need is a tipping point of people to move through the grief stages as quickly as possible to the final one, acceptance, and embrace the idea that we need a whole new approach to how we live. And that approach, as far as I can see, is to embrace a more simple living arrangement as soon as possible, especially for ‘advanced’ economies whose relatively small populations consume and depend upon the vast majority of finite resources, and become as self-sufficient as possible (the ideal would be complete self-sufficiency).

Again, this interpretation of our complexities may be viewed as pessimistic by those who would rather cling to the hope of humanity being able to solve our dilemmas. We are a relatively ‘smart’ and ‘creative’ species but all of pre/history would suggest there are hard limits to what we can do. Having constructed an intertwined and global complex society almost exclusively dependent upon a finite resource that has encountered increasing diminishing returns, and having no true replacement that can address some of the knock-on, negative consequences of our burgeoning expansion and exploitation, I would contend we cannot ‘science’ our way out of this. Believing otherwise is, in my opinion, about our predisposition to avoid ‘pain’ and seek ‘pleasure’. We don’t want to confront the difficulties (pain) ahead so we craft narratives that paint a more ‘pleasurable’ outcome and people are far more likely to cling to the ‘optimistic’ story (even if it’s wrong/misleading) than the ‘pessimistic’ one as a result.

Do I know what is going to happen in the future? Absolutely not.

From where I sit ‘collapse’ would seem to be virtually guaranteed sometime in the future. This return to simpler ways of living may be just around the corner or it could be decades/centuries from now; no one knows, certainly not me. And how it all unfolds is anybody’s guess, but when it occurs it may do so relatively quickly especially if our power grids fail and our technologies become virtually useless.

And I haven’t even delved into the economic aspects of our upside down world. The hundreds of trillions of dollars of leveraged bets and debt bouncing around the Ponzi-type structure of our economic/financial/monetary systems. The fact that most of the ‘growth’ of the past few decades has been built almost entirely on debt which could be viewed as ‘borrowing’ from the future; a future with highly uncertain prospects and certainly less resources to pay back this debt. Or the geopolitical instabilities that seem to be increasing as nation states compete for control over limited and dwindling resources and remaining market share wealth.

I know a lot of people believe they can affect positive change via our political systems but I am not one of them. I have no faith in the systems nor hold the view that citizens have any real agency via the ballot box. Pre/history suggests to me that our sociopolitical systems, that tend to always reflect what the ‘ruling class/elite’ want, are part and parcel of the problem. The ‘elite’ of any society are primarily motivated by a wish to control/expand the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. Their attempts to solve social problems always put their primary motivation at the forefront. All other concerns are at best secondary/tertiary.

Pessimistic? Maybe, but like most I like to believe I am being ‘realistic’. I spend more and more of my time and energies building resiliency and self-sufficiency into my living arrangements so that as society’s ‘solutions’ to problems falter (and likely make things worse), my family (and hopefully community — but I’m not holding out much hope for my town as its council has been chasing and continues to chase the perpetual growth chalice with increasing fervour it would seem, having increased its population and footprint some 300% in the 25 years I have lived here — growing from 18,000 to almost 50,000 and still going) will be able to weather the coming ‘disruptions’.

I interpret my approach as actually somewhat ‘optimistic’ and focused on what I personally can control because if we are being honest with ourselves, most of what is occurring is well beyond our personal control, and probably even collective control. And if we’re dealing with ‘emotional’ responses to our social and physical environments, the only thing we can control is our reaction. Ultimately we all see what we want to see, we all hear what we want to hear, and we all believe what we want to believe.

Although we like to believe otherwise, ‘facts’ (if we can even agree on what these are) rarely, if ever, play a role. And even though I often phrase my comments/thoughts as definitive assertions, I, like everyone else, really don’t know what the future holds. I can only guess based on the evidence before me and through all the biases I carry with me that impact my interpretation/processing of it. Mine is a story/narrative like any other that serves to try to make sense of an exceedingly complex universe and world. So, don’t necessarily take my word for what is occurring or what might happen in the next few years/decades/centuries but do your own research and evaluation of the evidence.

There is more I could ramble on about but this is already much longer than I intended as I warned might happen.

Here are a handful of useful sites/blogs/books/notes to peruse (presented in alphabetical order of link title):

Mike Stasse’s Damn the Matrix
Alice Friedemann’s Energy Skeptic
Dan Gardner’s Future Babble
Charles Hugh Smith’s Of Two Minds
Gail Tverberg’s Our Finite World
Dr. William Catton Jr.’s Overshoot
Dr. Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity
Erik Michaels’ Problems, Predicaments, and Technology
Kurt Cobb’s Resource Insights
Dr. Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies
Dr. Ugo Bardi’s The Seneca Effect
Dr. Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems
Cognitive Dissonance’s Two Ice Floes

You can get many more links to resources and sites via my own website: Olduvai.

The Cycle of Evil


We are on the inevitable road to perdition for the world economy & financial system, ending in a potential global conflict of uncontrollable proportions. 

Evil begets evil as The Cycle of Evil hits countries at the end of an uncontrollable debt expansion.

The pattern throughout history has always been the same – countries and empires, without fail, become victims of their own success -failure, whether it was the Mongols, Ottomans or the British.

As real growth ceases, a country starts to finance expansion with debt until it cannot even afford the interest on the debt, never mind the capital which it has no intention to repay.

At some point, the people, fearing a war or terrorist attack will approve of the leader’s fear mongering by supporting unlimited debt issuance. This is now happening in the US with regard to Ukraine and Israel.

Neither the US nor Europe is taking a single step to remedy the situation. Both are now in the Cycle of Evil of more deficits, more debt, higher interest costs, leading to more deficits, more debt higher interest costs, leading to ……………..

The Cycle of Evil is also accompanied by decadence and moral decline where leaders invent problems that are not real such as climate change, ESG (environmental, social and governance), forced vaccines and incarcerations, 25 new genders and other woke issues etc. 

Few Americans understand that the next stage of the Cycle of Evil is about to hit them. 

And even fewer Europeans have a clue that they will be dragged down into the same debt collapse quagmire.

The next stage will involve many banks failing, more than the FDIC or government can afford to save without destroying both the Currency and the Bond Market,

A collapsing currency and sovereign debt paper that no investor wants to touch with a bargepole is hardly the right climate for massive debt issuance. 

…click on the above link to read the rest…

German Defense Chief Says Public Must Get Used To Possibility Of ‘War In Europe’

German Defense Chief Says Public Must Get Used To Possibility Of ‘War In Europe’

Starting last month, top Ukrainian officials began pushing an alarmist narrative that “world war 3 has already begun” – as the head Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Aleksey Danilov had claimed in early September. The words were spoken after it became clear that Ukraine’s military was losing, and now Time magazine has confirmed the military doesn’t have the manpower to fight off the Russians. Naturally, Kiev must find new ways to draw in more direct support of key European powers.

“If somebody thinks that World War III hasn’t started then it’s a huge mistake. It has already begun. It had been underway in a hybrid period for some time and has now entered an active phase,” Danilov said before the Kiev Security Forum at the time (early Sept). More than a month later, some European leaders have begun to echo the same warning.

Significantly, this week Germany Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a media interview that German residents must start getting used to the idea of the specter of war in Europe.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, via dpa/picture alliance

“We have to get used to the idea that there may be a threat of war in Europe,” he said in the national broadcast interview. “Germany must be able to defend itself. We must be prepared for war.”

He was responding to questions related to Germany being slow to rearmament itself in the wake of the Russian war in Ukraine, and now with the prospect of the Gaza-Israel conflict spilling over into broader Mideast regional war:

He believes that the conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s war against Ukraine shall have consequences for German society. In particular, Germany must be able to defend itself, and this applies to both the Bundeswehr and society.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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