Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLIX
Sometimes People Don’t Want to Hear the Truth
Today’s Contemplation has been prompted by a request to engage someone in ‘an academic lesson’ regarding the maladaptation of pursuing complex technologies in an attempt to ‘solve’ our ‘problem’ of climate change.
As Frederick Nietzsche has been credited with arguing: “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”
‘Facts/truth’ (such as the ecological destructiveness of pursuing non-renewable renewables, or that climate change is a symptom of the predicament of ecological overshoot and not a separate problem that can be ‘solved’ using maladaptive strategies that exacerbate overshoot) mean next to nothing to those captured by the fanatical belief that more technology and human ingenuity can reverse the negative consequences of almost all our technologies and the unprecedented growth they have supported. Such a belief system is difficult if not impossible to change for it is supported by powerful psychological mechanisms that prevent humans from confronting anxiety-provoking thoughts (e.g., the denial/bargaining stages of grieving a significant loss) or that serve to rationalize destructive behaviours (usually to avoid/deflect guilt).
Until someone is ready and/or willing to look in the mirror and honestly deconstruct their core beliefs — and face the evidence/possibility that what they are arguing for is actually the opposite of what is likely required of humanity — attempting to ‘school’ them is very likely pointless, and usually serves to motivate them to ‘double-down’ on their rationalisations/justifications (this is especially true if their career/income/self-image/-worth is tied up with their perspective). It also does not help in the least that there are powerful monied interests pushing the non-renewable renewable narrative at every opportunity and have captured many well-intentioned groups/individuals, or that relatively recent human history can be argued to demonstrate unending ‘progress’ in certain areas (depending upon one’s interpretation) that is ‘guaranteed’ to continue.
Examples of such behaviours abound. Academics/economists who rationalise the creation and distribution of fiat currency by a small cabal of elite, arguing that the infinite growth paradigm is not only possible on a finite planet but that it is the only way to ensure prosperity and equality for all — ignoring or denigrating countervailing evidence that such an approach is not only resource-/energy-/ecologically-blind, but guarantees our own destruction and that of most of the rest of the planet’s inhabitants; and most certainly ignores the inflationary price consequences of their actions and the inequality it creates, or the impossibility of controlling/predicting complex systems. Mainstream media that parrots without much self-reflection or critical evaluation the narratives of governments — ostracising, censoring, or eradicating those who challenge the ruling class’s edicts/machinations (think Julian Assange or Edward Snowden). An education system (and pretty well every societal institution) that continues to market the narrative that electoral systems of representative democracies provide important agency/input into sociopolitical decision-making (rather than serving to provide cover to those at the top of our power/wealth structures and their overwhelming and significant influences). Challenges/counterfactual evidence to these narratives are never the result of the ruling class’s policies/actions, instead the finger is always pointed elsewhere/anywhere.
I could go on but the point is as the Nietzsche quote I opened this contemplation with shows, we humans are story-telling primates that create our own ‘reality’ through complex belief systems that avoid strongly the evidence that runs contrary to our perspectives.
As this article on ecological overshoot and the impediments to a future of non-renewable renewables by Megan Seibert and William E. Rees points out: “We begin with a reminder that humans are storytellers by nature. We socially construct complex sets of facts, beliefs, and values that guide how we operate in the world. Indeed, humans act out of their socially constructed narratives as if they were real. All political ideologies, religious doctrines, economic paradigms, cultural narratives — even scientific theories — are socially constructed “stories” that may or may not accurately reflect any aspect of reality they purport to represent. Once a particular construct has taken hold, its adherents are likely to treat it more seriously than opposing evidence from an alternate conceptual framework.”
I am becoming less inclined to engage in a discussion with someone that exists in an alternate belief system surrounding our existential predicament as I am increasingly perceiving it is a waste of my time and energy (and can too often make one the focus of ad hominem rhetoric, or worse) — something that is quickly becoming more dear to me as I age and get closer to the end of my journey on this planet.
As I have outlined in the last couple of my contemplations, I am choosing to focus my diminishing energy/time on activities to help my family (and eventually community) increase its self-reliance/-resilience, and less time engaged in social media and its increasing divisiveness.
I am more motivated nowadays by: the seedlings I experimented with in a hydroponic system for the first time growing in a far more robust fashion than any of my attempts in the past at starting plants from seeds; the peas and lettuce seeds I put in the ground a couple of weeks ago beginning to pop up through the winter leaf cover; and the progress I am making in replacing rotting garden ties with concrete block terraces in our growing food gardens.
These personally gratifying things will do nothing to change the perspective of a true believer in human ingenuity and technological ‘advancement’, but neither likely will my sharing counterfactual evidence. We all believe what we want to believe, ‘facts/truth’ be damned.
If you’re still ‘on the fence’ with respect to our plight, I suggest the following texts to broaden your knowledge. Read some/all and then decide where your time/energy should be focused.
Propaganda. iG Publishing, 1928. (ISBN 0–9703125–9–8).
Catton, Jr., W.R..
Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1980. (ISBN 978–0–252–00988–4)
Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. Anansi Press, 2003. (ISBN 978–0–88784–574–1)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books, 2005/2011. (ISBN 978–0–14–311700–1)
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. New Society Publishers, 2008. (ISBN 978–0–86571–609–4)
The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve, 4th Edition. American Media, 2002. (ISBN 978–0–912986–39–5)
Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. New Society Publishers, 2010. (ISBN 978–0–86571–645–2)
Kunstler, J. H..
The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Grove Press, 2009/2006/2005. (ISBN 978–0–8021–4249–8)
The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. 2011. (ISBN 978–0–470–92764–9)
Thinking In Systems: A Primer. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008. (ISBN 978–1–60358–055–7)
Meadows, D., J. Randers, & D. Meadows.
Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004. (ISBN 978–1–931498–58–6)
The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit. New Society Publishers, 2013. (ISBN 978–0–86571–736–7)
Anatomy of the State. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009. (ISBN 978–80–87888–43–8)
Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. Vintage Canada, 2009. (ISBN 978–0–307–35752–6)
Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Oil World. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009. (ISBN 978–1–60358–164–3)
Energy Myths and Realities: Brining Science to the Energy Policy Debate. AEI Press, 2010. (ISBN 98–0–8447–4328–3)
The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978–0–521–38673–9)
 It is not lost on me as a retired educator that one of the more important tasks of a teacher is to help students evaluate and rethink faulty beliefs. This is, of course, a much easier thing to do with those in the early stages of developing belief systems than with those that have entrenched ones that are entwined with other aspects of their life, like careers/salary.
 Apparently, challenges to our monetary/financial systems, media narratives, and democracy are all the fault of Vladimir Putin at the moment…