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The Failure of Imagination — Part 1

Image credit: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Up until a warm sunny afternoon in May 2019 I had what I would call a rather ordinary concept of the future. I was 37 back then with two little devils — masquerading as my sons — a wife and decent job. I didn’t give too much thought to the fate of this civilization, but when I did, I thought that by the time I grow old I would still be living under the same government structure, behind the same borders, would have a car (most probably with a petrol engine), and the usual digital gimmickry— all under the same climate, or maximum a couple of tenths of centigrade warmer than today. In other words: everything would be just like it were in 2019.

Knowing what I know today about this civilization’s trajectory, its resources, overshoot, the climate, the state of our ecosystem and the many other predicaments, I had to realize that the future will be a whole lot different than the present or the recent past.

I had to realize that I was a victim of a failed collective imagination.

The current state of affairs starts to remind more and more scholars to the terminal stage of empires long lost. One of the recurring themes in such ages is the ‘failure of imagination’, not only on the side of the elites, but in the case of commoners too. This civilization too, just like the ones preceding it, seems to have lost the capability to imagine any other future for itself other than the continuation of the present, only ‘greener’. The future we are sold would be only slightly different, but certainly better and a whole lot more sustainable than the past (sic!). The alternatives vary around ‘much more’ and ‘helluva lot more’ technology, capitalism and growth.

Less is not an option.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How I Came To Believe That Civilization Is Unsustainable

Part 2: A Practical Guide To Collapse Awareness

Image credit: Jean Wimmerlin via Unsplash

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Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Four Reasons Civilization Won’t Decline: It Will Collapse

Photograph Source: Studio Incendo – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As modern civilization’s shelf life expires, more scholars have turned their attention to the decline and fall of civilizations past.  Their studies have generated rival explanations of why societies collapse and civilizations die.  Meanwhile, a lucrative market has emerged for post-apocalyptic novels, movies, TV shows, and video games for those who enjoy the vicarious thrill of dark, futuristic disaster and mayhem from the comfort of their cozy couch.  Of course, surviving the real thing will become a much different story.

The latent fear that civilization is living on borrowed time has also spawned a counter-market of “happily ever after” optimists who desperately cling to their belief in endless progress.  Popular Pollyannas, like cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, provide this anxious crowd with soothing assurances that the titanic ship of progress is unsinkable.  Pinker’s publications have made him the high priest of progress.[1] While civilization circles the drain, his ardent audiences find comfort in lectures and books brimming with cherry-picked evidence to prove that life is better than ever, and will surely keep improving.  Yet, when questioned, Pinker himself admits, “It’s incorrect to extrapolate that the fact that we’ve made progress is a prediction that we’re guaranteed to make progress.”[2]

Pinker’s rosy statistics cleverly disguise the fatal flaw in his argument.  The progress of the past was built by sacrificing the future—and the future is upon us.  All the happy facts he cites about living standards, life expectancy, and economic growth are the product of an industrial civilization that has pillaged and polluted the planet to produce temporary progress for a growing middle class—and enormous profits and power for a tiny elite.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Top picture: Civilization; Pikeville, Kentucky
Bottom picture: Nature; Birch Knob, Virginia

So, what is it about civilization being unsustainable that people do not understand? I often wonder why this is and have come up with the idea that it is mostly cultural programming and indoctrination by industry that technology is good and more of it is better. Perhaps a lack of critical thought by most of society as to what is required for technology to exist and what is required in order for technology to continue to be used is to blame for the reasons as to why people simply most often do not realize that civilization is unsustainable. Another distinct possibility is the power of the denial of reality that humans frequently use when faced with uncomfortable truths which don’t fit into a person’s worldview.

Before I continue, I want to make mention that I was rather surprised by some of the comments on my last article which I published on Wednesday. My first recommendation is to visit the very first article I posted here a year ago and read this part, quote:

We often see people bring out certain ideas that they claim are some sort of “solution” or that “they work” and I want to try to explain why (once again) these ideas are nothing more than ideas and not “solutions” of any sort. One of the things I most would like to get others to see is the bigger picture. Many people focus on reductionist ideas such as non-renewable “renewable” energy, or alternative energy ideas such as hydrogen, or technological ideas; but fail to see how those ideas don’t really change anything and only allow for continued environmental destruction (and consolidate capital in the hands of the elite) instead.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Elon Musk: “Civilization Is Going To Crumble”

Elon Musk: “Civilization Is Going To Crumble”

Even billionaires like Elon Musk can see that the current state of affairs is completely and utterly unsustainable.  If we stay on the path that we are on, and there are absolutely no indications that we plan to reverse course, societal collapse is inevitable.  In fact, as I detail on a regular basis, societal collapse has already begun all around us.  Unfortunately, most people still can’t bring themselves to admit that it is actually happening.

I don’t always agree with everything that Elon Musk does or says, but he is certainly a very interesting guy.

He is not afraid to anger the establishment, and he often expresses opinions which run counter to the dominant narratives of our day.

For example, he just told the Wall Street Journal that our declining birth rates are “one of the biggest risks to civilization”

“There are not enough people,” Musk told a Wall Street Journal event Monday. “I can’t emphasize this enough, there are not enough people,” he said.

The tech billionaire said low and rapidly declining birth rates are “one of the biggest risks to civilization.”

Without a doubt, birth rates are certainly dropping quite precipitously.

In fact, here in the United States the birth rate is at an all-time record low, and every single U.S. state has now dropped below replacement level.

In other words, if birth rates do not start rising we will soon see our population steadily shrink.

We are witnessing similar trends all over the globe right now, and this deeply alarms Musk.  He believes that if birth rates do not start going back up, “civilization is going to crumble”

Musk added that too many “good, smart people” think there are too many people in the world and that the population is growing out of control.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What is The Venus Project and Why Can It Never Be Attained?

What is The Venus Project and Why Can It Never Be Attained?

Something which is difficult to get away from when it comes to the predicament of ecological overshoot and all of its offshoots such as climate change is the wide array of different plans for so-called “solutions” for these predicaments. Perhaps, ironically, the most humorous part is that predicaments don’t have solutions, so each one of these ideas can be quickly unpacked and debunked. I’ve made quite the habit of finding these ideas and then researching how effective (or the lack thereof) each one is at tackling the issue it is supposed to solve.

One idea in particular which has come up time and again over the years is The Venus Project. I had thought that this idea had faded into irrelevancy, but noticed that the idea popped up in conversation in a thread a couple weeks ago. The RationalWiki page gives this description, quote:

The Venus Project is a communist cult that promotes architect Jacque Fresco‘s vision of the future, which involves an economic structure known as a “resource-based economy.” Basically it’s stock-standard central planning, except with computers!

There are still many people who believe in the Venus Project (TVP), but because of the core beliefs of the actual plans, one can very easily see that the so-called “plan” is unsustainable due to its reliance on civilization (unsustainable) and technology (unsustainable). Even before actually getting into details, the very first paragraph of this section tells the story, quote:

It is far more efficient to build new cities as self-contained systems from the ground up than to restore and retrofit old ones. New cities can take advantage of the latest technologies and be clean, safe, and desirable places to live. In many instances, a circular arrangement will be utilized.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who Would Survive the Collapse of Civilization?

Who Would Survive the Collapse of Civilization?

The Fall of Civilizations

The Fall of Civilizations

Roman Britain

The Bronze Age Collapse

The Mayans

The Greenland Vikings

The Khmer Rouge

Easter Island

The Songhai Empire

The Sumerians

The Aztecs

The Han Dynasty




Civilization and its Rise and Fall

CIA Confirms RussiaGate Made up by Hillary | Armstrong Economics

QUESTION: Concerning 911, you said the people in Guantanamo Bay are innocent so they never bring them to trial. Was that the break which set in motion the decline of our civilization?


ANSWER: That is certainly possible. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was the terrorist they put on trial in New York and was supposed to be their best case. On November 17, 2010, a US jury in New York found him guilty of one count of conspiracy but acquitted him of 284 other charges including all murder counts. Basically, the jury found he may have “agreed” with the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but that he did NOT participate himself. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge Lewis Kaplan for the one count when he was acquitted of any murders. Under US law, the judge has “discretion” to sentence you to whatever he desires, for he is not nullifying the jury’s decision, but increas[ing] his sentence because of the manner in which he committed the crime of conviction.”

They put him on trial in NYC, assuming the people would give him the death penalty. When they acquitted him of 284 charges, they could no longer put people on trial, for he was their BEST case. The others have languished in prison with no trial because they are not guilty. If they had the evidence of anything, they would have put them on trial for the publicity. When the government lost 284 counts, they would not dare put anyone else on trial and face a jury who might acquit them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Deconstructing Civilization

Deconstructing Civilization

Old paper mill, Oregon City, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

“Our confidence in our ability to direct the course of events has been severely eroded by the experiences of the twentieth century. Several disastrous wars have occurred, against all efforts to prevent them, and even the United Nations has been almost totally unsuccessful in achieving the peaceful world that was its founding vision. We seem powerless to control crime, urban deterioration, overpopulation, the arms race, and nuclear proliferation. These experiences suggest that there is a grand dynamic in history that goes largely where it will and is highly resistant to efforts made to redirect it.”

Muddling Toward Frugality, Warren Johnson, 1979

It’s hard not to like George Orwell. And it’s hard not to admire Arnold J. Toynbee. But I didn’t expect to find myself disagreeing with both of them on an issue (let’s call it, thanks to Warren Johnson, a “grand dynamic in history”) that both Orwell and Toynbee clearly agree on.

Well, maybe I suspected that point of disagreement with Toynbee, the famous world historian. But not with Orwell, the fighter for Spanish democracy and the author of 1984.

It’s been over thirty years since I first read Toynbee’s Civilization on Trial, published in 1948. And one couldn’t help but feel—not just Toynbee’s accrued historical erudition—but the Nazi death camps and the American atom bombs behind the urgency of his writing.

In his book, Toynbee says explicitly that the “two congenital diseases of civilization” are “War and Class.” He goes on to say that “recent technological inventions of the modern Western middle class” have now made “Class . . . capable of irrevocably disintegrating Society, and War of annihilating the entire human race.”

Well, nothing to disagree with there.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Will Civilization’s Response to COVID-19 Lead to a More Sustainable, Equitable World?

Will Civilization’s Response to COVID-19 Lead to a More Sustainable, Equitable World?

What better time to shift our thinking and actions away from a hyperconsumptive, inequality-widening, environmentally-detrimental era than the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Having been shaken to our collective core by the COVID19 pandemic, can we muster the will to make major changes in how we rebuild our systems, to truly transform how we function as a society for the betterment of Earth and her inhabitants? What cause is more just, fair, and wise? And what time is better to shift our thinking away from a hyperconsumptive, inequality-widening, environmentally-detrimental era in which we find ourselves – the Anthropocene – than the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the 22nd of April 2020?

A proposition has been coalescing in my mind for years, but drew strength from recent essays by notable thinkers, which I’ll briefly mention for context.

Humanizing Capitalism

Meghan Kallman pleads that “Crises require a radical form of solidarity.” as she questions whether a capitalist system can address the looming threats of climate change, and more importantly prioritize social relationships above the search for wealth. Her perspectives on how these relationships germinate best at the community level are encouraging.

Darren Walker summarizes the August 2019 statement emanating from 181 CEOs of the Business Roundtable:  “…leading the way toward a more equitable, humane, and democratic economic system…” (because in the U.S.) “…the three richest Americans collectively own about as much as the bottom half of the population combined…” This group is attempting to redefine the purpose of a corporation, committing to “…lead[ing] their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.”

Nate Hagens writes that COVID-19 “exposes economic, cultural, environmental fallacies” of our existence, suggesting we all become more compassionate in our work, play, and interactions. I applaud his many suggestions for individual action.

Reallocating Resources

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How sand transformed civilization

How sand transformed civilization

Preface. No wonder we’re reaching peak sand. We use more of this natural resource than of any other except water. Civilization consumes nearly 50 billion tons of sand & gravel a year, enough to build a concrete wall 88 feet (27 m) high and 88 feet wide right around the equator.    

* * *

Vince Beiser. 2018. The World in a Grain. The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization. Riverhead Books.

Riverbeds and beaches around the world are being stripped bare of their precious grains. Farmlands and forests are being torn up. And people are being imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. All over sand.

In 1950, some 746 million people—less than one-third of the world’s population—lived in cities. Today, the number is almost 4 billion,

The overwhelming bulk of it goes to make concrete, by far the world’s most important building material. In a typical year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the world uses enough concrete to build a wall 88 feet high and 88 feet wide right around the equator.    

There is such intense need for certain types of construction sand that places like Dubai, which sits on the edge of an enormous desert in the Arabian Peninsula, are importing sand from Australia.

Sand mining tears up wildlife habitat, fouls rivers, and destroys farmland.

Thieves in Jamaica made off with 1,300 feet of white sand from one of the island’s finest beaches in 2008. Smaller-scale beach-sand looting is ongoing in Morocco, Algeria, Russia, and many other places around the world.

The damage being done to beaches is only one facet, and not even the most dangerous one, of the damage being done by sand mining around the world. Sand miners have completely obliterated at least two dozen Indonesian islands since 2005. Hauled off boatload by boatload, the sediment forming those islands ended up mostly in Singapore, which needs titanic amounts of sand to continue its program of artificially adding territory by reclaiming land from the sea.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Plague and Civilization

Plague and Civilization

The plague is a disease that raises its devouring and catastrophic head every so many decades and centuries, especially when humans violently disturb the natural world.

The 2020 plague is one of a variety of pandemic diseases that have afflicted humans for millennia, not necessarily with the same intensity or virulence.

The historical record of plagues is muddled. Like us, past societies under the existential stress of pandemics, failed to keep records, much less accurate records. In many instances, past and present, rulers, medical bureaucrats, and journalists subvert the truth. Political and economic oligarchs fight for survival and supremacy. The picture that survives death is distorted, exactly like the story victors tell after war.

The Plague Among the Greeks

The case of the plague in Greek history may still give us pose for reflection.

The Greeks gave diseases precise names. They called plague loimos (pestilence), nosos (disease, sorrow, suffering), and phthora (destruction, decay, mortality, death).

The plague made its first appearance among the Greeks as a weapon of divine wrath. God Apollo used the pestilence to punish the Greeks for offending his priest.

In the beginning of the first book of the Iliad of Homer, Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greek troops in the Trojan War, insulted the priest of Apollo by refusing to give back his daughter, whom he had captured in a raid. The priest knelt in front of Agamemnon and begged him to release his daughter. But Agamemnon told the priest to get out of his sight as quickly as he could, lest he lost his patience. The frighten priest run away from the Greek camp and went home. He immediately prayed to Apollo to punish the Greeks. He reminded the god he had built a temple to honor and worship him, offering him rich sacrifices. Make the Greeks pay for my tears, he appealed to Apollo.

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Energy storage and our unpredictable future

Energy storage and our unpredictable future

March 4, 2020

A review of Energy Storage and Civilization

It’s a fine spring day and you decide on a whim to go camping. By early afternoon you’ve reached a sheltered clearing in the woods, the sky is clear, and you relax against a tree trunk rejoicing that “The best things in life are free!” as you soak up the abundant warmth of the sun. As the sun goes down, though, the temperature drops to near freezing, you shiver through a long night, and you resolve to be better prepared the next night.

And so by the time the sun sets again you’ve invested in a good down sleeping bag, you sleep through the long night in comfort due to your own carefully retained heat, and then you greet the cold dawn by cheerfully striking a match to the pile of dry sticks you had gathered and stacked the day before.

In this little excursion you’ve coped with variable energy flows, using technologies that allowed you to store energy for use at a later time. In short, you’ve faced the problems that Graham Palmer and Joshua Floyd identify as critical challenges in all human civilizations – and especially in our own future.

Their new book Energy Storage and Civilization: A Systems Approach (Springer, February 2020) is an important contribution to biophysical economics – marvelously clear, deep and detailed where necessary, and remarkably thorough for a work of just over 150 pages.

The most widely appreciated insight of biophysical economics is the concept of Energy Return On Investment – the need for energy technologies to yield significantly more energy than the energy that must be invested in these activities. (If it takes more energy to drill an oil well than the resulting barrels of oil can produce, that project is a bust.) While in no way minimizing the importance of EROI, Palmer and Floyd lay out their book’s purpose succinctly:

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“Every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons” – Interview with Michel Bauwens

“Every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons” – Interview with Michel Bauwens

The commons are nothing new. Historically citizens always came together to pool resources and manage them collectively and autonomously. It is the responsibility of cities and states to identify, connect and support them. Today the commons appear as a choice of society in a world at the end of its lifespan. A society where economic and productive systems will finally be compatible with the major planetary balances.

We increasingly speak of commons. “Common goods”, “creative commons”, “commonalities”…  What exactly are the commons about?

Michel Bauwens: The commons are three things at the same time: a resource (shared), a community (which maintains them) and precise principles of autonomous governance (to regulate them). These are very concrete things, which do not exist naturally but are the result of alliances between several parties. “There is no commons without commoning”. Examples are renewable energy cooperatives,  shared mobility projects, entities of shared knowledge, food cooperatives… 

In fact, we all have and create commons without knowing it, and have always done so… following more or less intense cycles of mutualization.

In fact, we all have and create commons without knowing it, and have always done so… following more or less intense cycles of mutualization.

If commoning follows cycles, where are we today?

M. B. : There are long, civilizational cycles and short, economic cycles. Regarding the former, every time a civilization is in crisis, there is a return of the commons. Because when class societies disintegrate, when resources are overexploited and run out, pooling resources makes more and more sense. Today, we face a global environmental crisis that is giving rise to a resurgence of the commons. Yesterday it was the end of the Roman Empire, the crisis in Japan in the 12th century or in China in the 15th century… 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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