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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LIII–Cognition and Belief Systems: Part Four — Cognitive Dissonance

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LIII

June 11, 2022 (original posting date)

Santorini, Greece (1984). Photo by author.

Cognition and Belief Systems: Part Four — Cognitive Dissonance

This contemplation is the fourth part of a look at several psychological mechanisms at play in our thinking about ecological overshoot and the accompanying societal ‘collapse’ that will eventually result.

In Part One, I briefly summarised four psychological mechanisms I’ve been reflecting upon in the context of ecological overshoot and in particular the collapse of our global, industrialised complex societies that will (or, as some argue, has already begun to) accompany this overshoot; you can read it here. In Part Two, I began elaborating my thoughts on the first mechanism in my list: Obedience/Deference to Authority; you can find it here. Part three comprises some thoughts about the phenomenon of Groupthink and can be found here.

One of the primary considerations in understanding how our cognitions and thus our beliefs and behaviours are going to be affected by the unfolding of the consequences of ecological overshoot and the concomitant ‘collapse’ of our societies is the anxiety/stress that such a future (and present) is going to have (is having) upon us; personally, on a familial level, and on the broader societal scale. Contemplating an unknowable future that is unlikely to provide many of the energetic conveniences most currently depend upon and/or that will challenge our complex systems to the breaking point because of extreme weather events, or supply chain disruptions/breakdowns (especially food, water, energy), etc. can be exceedingly anxiety-provoking.

Mix these (and many other) psychological mechanisms in with Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect — that postulates all animals have an innate motivation to avoid pain/seek pleasure[1] — and you have an animal whose sense-making abilities are leveraged by its mind to deny/ignore away evidence that challenges them and can cause painful, anxiety-provoking emotions (in fact, there appears to be neuroscientific support for this[2]). In response, we appear to employ all sorts of biases/rationalisations to support our belief systems (a ‘pleasurable’ sensation) regardless of disconfirming evidence (that can lead to painful/stressful emotions).

Hastening back to the summary I wrote on cognitive dissonance in the first part of this series, recall that it is fundamentally “…the idea that humans experience negative emotions when they hold conflicting or inconsistent cognitions[3]. The resulting state of discomfort leads us to become motivated to align our cognitive knowledge, and the more discomfort or anxiety we feel from such conflicting cognition the more we struggle to reduce the resulting tension. It is during such efforts to reduce the dissonance we are feeling that we engage in significant rationalisation that can convince us to accept knowledge that we might otherwise not agree with.”

The anxiety one may experience in holding conflicting beliefs varies since some people are not as impacted by such internal conflict as they have a higher tolerance for it. In fact, there are some who are quite comfortable with holding beliefs that conflict with each other so their dissonance-reducing efforts are not as impactful as for those who do encounter such internal stress.

For those who do suffer from anxiety-provoking emotions caused by conflicting beliefs, if the beliefs one holds are more personal or valued in nature (or the disparity between them is great), even more dissonance may be experienced than may be typical if the beliefs are not personally valued. This can bring about heightened efforts to reduce the dissonance. These efforts may also be increased if beliefs are challenged by others, leading to even further entrenchment/defense of one’s beliefs and concomitant dissonance-reducing attempts.

Further, if our behaviours do not align with our beliefs we may find that we actually alter our beliefs to become consistent with our behaviours[4]. There appears to exist a feedback loop between our beliefs and actions, with each affecting the other in ongoing attempts to minimise personal anxiety (i.e., psychological ‘pain’).

Another complexity in this entire process is that a person’s comfort with uncertainty may also critical to how much dissonance may be experienced[5].

Research on human reactions to uncertainty is, of course, important to the issue of overshoot and collapse given the nature of the predicament and what we do in attempting to understand how it will impact us and the planet. We are, for all intents and purposes, making ‘guesses’ about our future and as physicist Niels Bohr has been credited with stating (and several others): “Predictions are difficult, especially if they’re about the future”.

We can’t help but be anything but uncertain about our future and this feeling of uncertainty intensifies emotional reactions; sometimes positively but most of the time negatively because humans desire certainty (which is why we sometimes are prone to misleading narratives, especially if communicated in a convincing manner that offers assurances). And the greater the uncertainty, the stronger the affective reaction. Most people experience anxiety with uncertainty[6] and seek ways to reduce this.[7]

One of the ways our brains reduce uncertainty is to simplify our understanding of the world. We engage biases and heuristics to do this[8], and in the process we tend to see patterns that don‘t exist and treat random events as meaningful[9]. By simplifying an exceedingly complex reality we can reduce our uncertainty and thus our anxiety about the future.

So, here we are, an animal existing in an exceedingly complex world with relatively remarkable cognitive abilities attempting to understand the flood of information our senses are experiencing. We also find ourselves within a hierarchical social environment where our tendency is to defer to those ‘above’ us in social status. If they can influence or create the worldview through which we interpret the world, we tend to do this.

Then comes along some disruptive technologies such as the printing press and, more recently, the internet to allow for the dissemination of competing narratives for how we view the world. The variety of interpretive lenses that are created by this can lead to ever-growing dissonance[10]. We are exposed repeatedly to the stories that our elite are pushing[11], but we are also aware of competing ones. We tend to defer to those communicated by our authority figures (be it politicians, the media, academics, etc.), but not always. We do occasionally get exposed to conflicting messages and evidence.

How do we alleviate the resulting anxiety? We employ our mind to filter out the incoming information in a way that reduces the stress we are experiencing. It matters little what we experience with our own senses or the data we are exposed to. We simplify, alter our perspective/interpretation, and create a narrative that we can filter evidence through. We also seek out self-reinforcing echo chambers of like-minded individuals/groups. Confirming information is amplified and reinforces our story while disconfirming information is ignored, denied, or rationalised away. In essence, we believe what our minds want us to believe; ‘facts’ be damned. And if we are challenged and begin to experience dissonance, we grab a hold of our fundamental beliefs even harder.

Obviously, it’s not quite as simple as this and some are more prone to the anxiety-reducing mechanisms than others, but for the most part we are ‘guided’ to beliefs that may not align with ‘reality’ but that reduce our ‘pain’ (i.e., anxiety) while increasing our ‘pleasure’ (e.g., dopamine surges appear to be one result when we encounter the pleasurable sensation of ‘confirmation’ of our beliefs[12]). We take increasing comfort in narratives that can reduce our anxiety, often regardless of any evidence that challenges them.

Depend significantly on industrial civilisation and all the conveniences it offers? Then you can be sure to either ignore/deny the narratives and accompanying evidence that point to its probable demise[13], and/or take increasing comfort in the stories that human ingenuity and our technological prowess will ‘solve’ our predicament[14] of ecological overshoot and its accompanying collapse. It seems we create our own ‘reality’.

Finally, keep in mind the statement attributed to author Robert Heinlein: “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal”. We ‘rationalise/justify’ what we believe and do so constantly, which will be looked at in the next piece that reviews The Justification Hypothesis.

[1] https://www.simplypsychology.org/edward-thorndike.html

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/202001/the-neuroscience-seeking-pleasure-and-avoiding-pain

[3] https://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/social-psychology-theories/cognitive-dissonance-theory/

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mortal-rituals/201306/behavior-over-belief; https://www.verywellmind.com/attitudes-how-they-form-change-shape-behavior-2795897; https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-dissonance-2795012

[5] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326738#overview

[6] This feeling appears to be context dependent as some activities with uncertainty may actually produce positive emotions, such as watching sports or a mystery movie, or gambling.

[7] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-mindset/202002/why-uncertainty-freaks-you-out; https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3153298/Gilbert_FeelingUncertaintyIntensifies.pdf;

[8] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/heuristics; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3864559/;

[9] See Dan Gardner’s Future Babble for a great overview of this phenomenon: https://www.dangardner.ca/publication/future-babble.

[10] Perhaps this explains the seemingly ever-growing number of people in so-called ‘advanced’ economies that have been identified with an anxiety disorder and, for some, become reliant on anti-anxiety medication. https://www.anxietycentre.com/statistics/anxiety-disorder-statistics-facts/

[11] As I have argued previously, we have a ruling elite who sit at the top of our power/wealth social structures and are motivated by a drive to sustain their privilege. Part of what they do to meet this imperative is that they create narratives that help to legitimise their positions — from being directly descended from God/the gods to chosen ‘freely’ by the masses as their representatives (or worked exceptionally ‘hard’ to deserve their privilege). This class of people also tend to be susceptible to the vagaries of groupthink due to their increasing isolation from the hoi polloi.

[12] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201802/the-dopamine-seeking-reward-loop; https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Confirmation-Bias-What-is-it-How-it-affects-You-and-How-to-Deal-With-It; https://www.healthline.com/health/dopamine-effects#drugs-dopamine; https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(19)30013-0;

[13] I say ‘probable’ given the self-evident fact (at least, to me) that not one of us can predict the future with much accuracy. Evidence appears to be accumulating that the endgame of ‘collapse’ is unavoidable but in truth only time will tell if and how this all plays out.

[14] I am of the opinion that this is a predicament without solution; it can possibly, at best, be mitigated somewhat and in some places better than others.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV–More Greenwashing: ‘Sustainable’ Development

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

More Greenwashing: ‘Sustainable’ Development

This contemplation was prompted by an article regarding an ‘independent’ think tank’s report that presented the argument that government funding of the oil and gas industry needed to be shifted towards ‘green/clean’ alternatives. I’ve included a few hyperlinks to sites that expand upon the concepts/issues discussed.

Context, it’s always important. This ‘independent’ think tank, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, is part and parcel of the corporate/business ‘greenwashing’ of our world and ‘solutions’ to its various dilemmas. It’s primary mission is ‘sustainable’ development/growth, a gargantuan oxymoron on a finite planet. Infinite growth. Finite planet. What could possibly go wrong?

In fact, the perpetuation of this continued pursuit of perpetual growth is seen quite clearly in the absence of any discussion about curtailing our growth but rather finding ways to ‘sustain’ it, and the misuse of language (that has become endemic in the environmental movement) and the simplified ‘solution’ offered by arguing that government funds need to be directed away from the climate change-causing oil and gas industry and towards the ‘clean’ energy alternatives of ‘renewables’.

Left out of this discussion to shift funds to what the think tank argues is more ‘sustainable’ (and one has to wonder how much funding is derived for the think tank’s activities from individuals and businesses seeking to profit from increased funding for widespread adoption of alternative energy) is the increasing evidence that ‘green’ alternatives to fossil fuels are neither ‘green’ (because of their ongoing dependence on fossil fuels and environmentally-destructive upstream industrial processes and downstream waste disposal issues) nor actually ‘renewable’ (because of their ongoing dependence upon finite resources, especially fossil fuels and rare-earth minerals). These are, of course, quite inconvenient facts regarding all energy sources: they are ecologically destructive and depend upon finite resources. The only source that is truly ‘renewable’ is biomass but it would be required in such massive quantities for our current world population and global complexities that it must be considered finite and environmentally problematic.

Nowhere is the non-mainstream idea of degrowth proposed. Instead, we are led to believe that business as usual (continued growth) is entirely feasible and infinitely sustainable by adjusting where our resources in terms of money and labour are directed: away from the oil and gas industry and towards energy alternatives. Devastating climate change will then be averted (as well as all the other negative consequences of exploiting and using fossil fuels) and life can continue uninterrupted as we all live happily ever after.

Until and unless we confront the very idea of continued growth and, in almost all cases, reverse this trend there is zero chance of us stopping, let alone mitigating, the various existential dilemmas we have created as a consequence of our expansion and its concomitant exploitation of finite resources. I believe it’s fair to argue we have significantly overshot the planet’s natural environmental carrying capacity, have blown past several important biophysical limits that exist on a finite planet, and have just the collapse that always accompanies such situations to experience in the future.

Many will continue to deny this predicament we find ourselves in. They will firmly believe in the comforting and cognitive dissonance-reducing narratives that individuals and groups, like the International Institute for Sustainable Development, are leveraging to direct resources to particular industries. This is quite normal for anyone beginning to grieve a significant loss which is what we are facing: the imminent demise of our globalised, industrial world and its many complexities and conveniences. We (particularly those in so-called ‘advanced’ economies that consume the vast majority of finite resources and rely upon the exploitative industries that leverage these resources to create the many conveniences to feed and house us) would rather believe in fantasies, myths, and fairy tales than recognise and confront the impending challenges of a life without most (all?) of our complex and energy-intensive tools.

Life without these conveniences is fast approaching it would appear. We have encountered diminishing returns on our investments in such complexities. We have soiled vast regions of our planet with the waste products of our expansion and exploitive endeavours. We have very likely reached a peak in global complexity and will begin our reversion to the norm of much more simplified ways.

Some of the negative consequences of our expansion and increasing complexity have been acknowledged. Instead of slowing our march towards the cliff ahead, however, the vast majority (all?) of our ‘ruling class’ (whose primary motivation, I would argue, is the control and expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams), as they so often (always?) do is leverage the increasingly obvious crises to enrich themselves. They use narrative control mechanisms (particularly their influence over the mainstream media and governments) to craft stories extolling solutions and salvation that not only preserve their revenue streams but expand them in a kind of final blow off top of resource extraction and use; ignoring, of course, the environmental fallout of this.

The more obvious ‘solution’ of reversing the growth imperative is avoided at all costs. Marketing ‘sustainable’ growth via ‘green/clean’ energy alternatives is preferred. Humanity cannot only have its cake and eat it, but it can do so in a vastly improved world of technological wizardry and infinite improvements. Ignore that pesky fact about living on a finite planet over there, it’s a distraction from our ingenuity and creativity. Do not raise skepticism about our ability to overcome challenges. Life is much more happily viewed from inside the Matrix.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IX–Hear, Speak, See No Evil: Sociopolitical Collapse

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IX

Chichen Itza, Mexico (1986) photo by author

Hear, Speak, See No Evil: Sociopolitical Collapse

Once more a comment posted in the Tyee in response to ongoing ‘debate’ with others in regard to the 2020 U.S. presidential election and some of the accusations of irregularities surrounding the process. While not obviously related to ‘collapse’ I will add some context to draw it into my ongoing thesis afterwards.

For the sake of argument, let’s say some of these [a list of supposed election irregularities] are fabricated and/or misinterpretation of events (which is what the video of the polling clerk filling out ballots is being explained away as — they were filling out ‘damaged’ ballots). That does not mean they all are and should just be summarily dismissed. They merit further scrutiny and investigation. Conspiracies (that is, an agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act) are common in politics (in fact, perhaps far too common).

A few thoughts to share for those that believe otherwise.

The fact that the sources are not mainstream should not lead to their immediate dismissal as many suggest. All one has to do is look at how many mainstream sources are deliberately suppressing the whole Julian Assange debacle or the Hunter Biden laptop evidence that suggests pay-to-play shenanigans involving his father. Or Glenn Greenwald deciding to resign from the media company he founded because fellow editors refused to publish an article unless he removed all criticism of Joe Biden. These examples (and there are many, many more — a pertinent one is how many mainstream media accepted the Bush administration’s declaration that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and then basically ran PR for the government’s invasion) should show that mainstream media is quite biased and often does not perform due diligence in its reporting, suppresses stories, or primarily runs opinion-editorials and passes them off as investigative journalism, especially if one is questioning the dominant narratives that they tend to support quite adamantly. It is often, unfortunately, only those outside of the mainstream that question the stories told by the-powers-that-be and challenge them.

And the supposed importance of elections and sanctity of voting are two of those narratives (the ones that this article goes to great lengths to further). And these are very, very important social narratives for several reasons. First, the political class overseeing society need legitimization. They need the citizens to believe with all their hearts and minds that the ruling class has a ‘right’ to be making the decisions they are making and enacting the policies they are enacting with the support and blessings of the people. Without this legitimization they would not only run into significant difficulty with social ‘order’, they would lose control of the wealth-generating systems that supply their revenue streams (their primary motivation). This right to govern supposedly derives from the choices made via the ballot box; we quite often hear leaders claim they have a mandate from the people to justify (rationalise?) their actions.

Second, people want to believe they actually have agency in the way their society is managed. Believing you have agency in your life is a fundamental need. So, people want to believe they can significantly impact the political process by voting. And we are socialised almost from birth to believe this story. Our public schools initiate us into the dominant narrative, teaching children the importance of our political system and how we need to support it. We are told it is a civic duty to vote. That if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. That major wars have been fought to protect our freedoms and the right to vote. People do not want to confront the possibility that it is all just theatre; that it is a story to keep us mollified, well behaved, and compliant; that the real power may lay well beyond their reach or influence (or as George Carlin opined: it’s a big club and you ain’t in it). The people do not want to face the idea that their leaders do not have the interests of the masses as their primary motivation; that would just create far too much cognitive dissonance.

For these two reasons alone the majority of people and certainly almost all the ruling class (and this includes academics, media, politicians, corporations) will refuse to see or acknowledge the flaws when exposed. Evidence is memory-holed. Whistleblowers are vilified (or worse). The believers and those benefiting from the dominant storyline will fight tooth and nail to defend the system. The narrative must be protected. Just read up on the various inquisitions of the Catholic Church to see how narratives that support the powerful are protected.

I truly do want to thank those who challenge my thinking in a constructive manner. It forces me to rethink and reflect on my own biases and blindspots. For those who fall back on the ad hominem fallacy of attacking me or calling me names, please grow up.

One of the arguments made by Dmitry Orlov in his book The Five Stages of Collapse is that there exist a number of tipping points as it were that indicate a complex society is on the verge of collapse. He states these “Serve as mental milestones…[and each breaches] a specific level of trust or faith in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift.”

His five stages are:

  1. Financial collapse where faith in risk assessment and financial guarantees is lost.
  2. Commercial collapse that witnesses a breakdown in trade and widespread shortages of necessities.
  3. Political collapse through a loss of political class relevance and legitimacy.
  4. Social collapse in which social institutions that could provide resources fail.
  5. Cultural collapse that is exhibited by the disbanding of families into individuals competing for scarce resources.

As I suggest in a review and commentary on his book: “all that is needed for political collapse is for more citizens to come to the realization that the status quo is no longer working for the benefit of all but for the benefit of the elite. When the masses finally come to better understand the corruption and malfeasance that percolates throughout the political world, collapse of the political class will occur.”

This is perhaps what we are witnessing with greater frequency in the U.S. and elsewhere, suggesting sociopolitical collapse may not be too far off in the future. And with sociopolitical collapse comes some pretty serious knock-on effects that will upset the complex systems we all rely upon, especially long-distance supply chains and social ‘order’.

As I have argued in other places, when it comes to politics we seem to be chickens arguing over which fox will guard us while the henhouse is burning down in the background.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh V–Electrify Everything: The Wrong ‘Solution’

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh V

Oct 2, 2020
Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Electrify Everything: The Wrong ‘Solution’

Yet another of my comments for an article on The Tyee regarding energy and how we should approach our coming dilemmas. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/10/02/BC-Needs-Wartime-Approach-Climate-Emergency/


While I certainly appreciate the need to ‘correct’ our global industrial civilization’s path from its current trajectory there is an obvious ‘problem’ with the argument presented here: forcing the wrong ‘solution’ upon society is a recipe for an expedited collapse.

As in the movie/series Snowpiercer (where an attempt to ‘correct’ global warming ended up leading to a frozen planet), the human need to ‘do something’ often leads to negative, unintended consequences and, quite frequently, the opposite of what was desired.

A great example of how the above ‘solution’ would likely bring about more quickly the opposite of what is desired is found in this statement: “We must conduct an inventory, determining how many heat pumps, solar arrays, wind farms, electric buses, etc., we will need to electrify virtually everything and end our reliance on fossil fuels.”

To me, this shows quite clearly that the ‘solution’ is not to address the dilemmas created by chasing infinite growth, as our ‘modern’ world does, but maintaining business as usual by trying to have our cake and eat it too. It proposes maintaining all the technological, industrial, and energy-intensive baubles/conveniences that fossil fuels have brought us without realising the price that must be paid to do this (in fact, I would argue the impossibility of doing this).

As I have argued several times on these pages, renewable are NOT the panacea they are marketed as. The energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) is markedly lower than fossil fuels resulting in significantly less energy available for end use.

They all rely on environmentally-destructive processes for their material input. They depend upon industrial processes in their manufacture that cannot be done without fossil fuels. They use finite resources, some of which are already experience diminishing returns. They cannot replace fossil fuels.

Then there is the issue of absolute government tyranny/authoritarianism being proposed here. The political class, being what it is — a caste in society whose primary motive is to control, protect, and expand the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue stream — will jump at this kind of power grab and most certainly market it as the best thing since sliced bread for society; and look, it’s been proposed by ‘expert’ academics, so, ‘Science!’ And, of course, nothing could ever go wrong with a government that has such power.

We cannot, nor should we, be trying to ‘electrify everything’ and forcing such a misguided solution down the throats of people. What we need to be doing is having a very frank discussion about what is ‘needed’ in our world (not ‘wanted’) and how we can support a calm and equitable ‘degrowth’ of it.

Attempting to maintain our current iteration of society is not only a fool’s errand but one that will simply speed the exploitation of finite resources and bring about all the negative consequences of such a flurry of activity.

An energy descent is in our future whether we wish it or not. We can go through the ‘collapse’ that always accompanies a species that has overshot its environmental carrying capacity in a relatively dignified way by addressing the dilemma head on, or we can spend our last breath attempting to sustain the unsustainable and go out with a bang.

I’d like to believe we could do the former but my bet is on the latter for humans very much engage in behaviour that reduces their cognitive dissonance to avoid reality and, unfortunately, the foxes are firmly in charge of the henhouse and seldom, if ever, allow a good crisis to go to waste…

It Isn’t Cognitive Dissonance. It’s Doublethink

It Isn’t Cognitive Dissonance. It’s Doublethink

Certum est, quia impossibile.

Cognitive dissonance is when people feel discomfort due to discrepancies in their own thoughts or beliefs. As an example, someone who takes pride in being honest, feels such discomfort when he tells a lie.

Another example of cognitive dissonance is the discomfort felt by members of a cult when they seek to explain how the end of the world was postponed, as their apocalyptic prophecy did not come true. The term was in fact coined by psychologist Leon Festinger in his studies of such cults in the 1950s.

The opposite of cognitive dissonance is doublethink, a word that first appeared in George Orwell’s 1984. Doublethink is the ability to accept two contradictory beliefs at the same time, while being totally unaware of the contradiction. In Orwell’s own words:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word—doublethink—involved the use of doublethink.

This morning I saw an excellent example of this on someone’s Facebook wall (translated by FB from the Icelandic, so not perfect):

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Of Heroes and Dragons

Image credit: Kent Pilcher via Unsplash

The following read might incite serious levels of cognitive dissonance and result in anger, disbelief and an irresistible urge to trash the author. Unfortunately I cannot take responsibility for your actions, so proceed at your own risk from here on.

During my journey, discovering the predicament of our civilization, I’ve met quite a few different views and perspectives on how we should proceed from where we are as a global community. I listened to countless stories on how technology, or the ‘inevitable’ awakening of a ‘collective human consciousness’ will ‘solve’ every ‘problem’ we have and how we only need the money or simply the ‘will’ to save ourselves. However, there was always a fly in that magic ointment.

I had to realize that in order to promote and to keep on believing in the continuation of this high tech civilization, one has to embark on a mental journey into fantasy land, populated with heroes and cruel dragons.

(Hey, I warned you, it’s still not too late to stop reading!)

Every fantastic story, no matter how unrealistic it is, always has an element of truth to it, but there is also a typical pattern of thinking required to wholeheartedly believe in them.

It usually starts with accepting a small subset of predicaments (discussed on these pages), but only by mentally reducing them into a ‘problem’ with a ‘solution’ — which they are definitely not. The next step requires dismissing the rest of the predicaments altogether — either because of a lack of knowledge or care — or, as I often warn my readers, because of rampant magical thinking; believing that as a boon to implementing the ‘master plan’ these ‘problems’ would be sorted out automatically.

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

Coming Up For Air


“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” – Originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but the actual author is now in question.

 “That’s another (fine) mess you’ve gotten me into.” – Laurel & Hardy catchphrase.

Even though I’ve written about our collective insanity for well over 10 years now, to actually witness it’s metamorphosis from slow burn to raging wildfire is both frightening and breathtaking in scope and intensity. Unfortunately, we have many miles to go before some semblance of sanity returns, both collectively and individually. We are truly living in interesting times.

Those who still struggle to maintain some sense of sanity during these times are at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with raw unfiltered insanity. “We the Somewhat Sane” rely upon clearly defined rules of social, political and emotional decorum. We call this civilization, with a strong emphasis on being civil.

But we are severely (self) constrained when dealing with others out of a debilitating belief in the right of all to their own beliefs and self-determination. And expect others do the same with us. Normally this works reasonably well, at least in a civil society where the lunatics aren’t running the insane asylum. Or at least the transgressions are kept down to a dull roar, as my mother used to say.

We who are reasonably sane are self-constrained, those who are not are not. And to be perfectly frank, the unconstrained are quite alarming when witnessed up close and personal. It’s a proximity thing. A bear seen in the distance is an entirely different animal than one seen loping through the front lawn while you’re lounging on the porch. Or worse, you round the corner and find yourself between mama bear and her cubs.

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

Coming Up For Air


“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” – Originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but the actual author is now in question.

 “That’s another (fine) mess you’ve gotten me into.” – Laurel & Hardy catchphrase.

Even though I’ve written about our collective insanity for well over 10 years now, to actually witness it’s metamorphosis from slow burn to raging wildfire is both frightening and breathtaking in scope and intensity. Unfortunately, we have many miles to go before some semblance of sanity returns, both collectively and individually. We are truly living in interesting times.

Those who still struggle to maintain some sense of sanity during these times are at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with raw unfiltered insanity. “We the Somewhat Sane” rely upon clearly defined rules of social, political and emotional decorum. We call this civilization, with a strong emphasis on being civil.

But we are severely (self) constrained when dealing with others out of a debilitating belief in the right of all to their own beliefs and self-determination. And expect others do the same with us. Normally this works reasonably well, at least in a civil society where the lunatics aren’t running the insane asylum. Or at least the transgressions are kept down to a dull roar, as my mother used to say.

We who are reasonably sane are self-constrained, those who are not are not. And to be perfectly frank, the unconstrained are quite alarming when witnessed up close and personal. It’s a proximity thing. A bear seen in the distance is an entirely different animal than one seen loping through the front lawn while you’re lounging on the porch. Or worse, you round the corner and find yourself between mama bear and her cubs.

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

Cognitive Dissonance and Outright Lies at the Edge of Extinction

Cognitive Dissonance and Outright Lies at the Edge of Extinction

In recent weeks and months I have been amazed at the general public and most scientists ability to ignore the blatant evidence that we are in early stage, non-linear runaway warming. From individual activists, to the donation soaked and addicted corporate NGO’s, who are literally dependent on “Business as Usual” to maintain their cash flows, they ignore the elephant in the room, squandering vital time to prepare for the already unfolding collapse.
On an individual basis the decision to deny the severity of the situation is up to each persons conscience and/or courage to accept the predicament we find ourselves in but when it comes to research universities and their tenured scientists, governments and the large NGO’s it’s a ‘Dereliction of Duty’ for them not to be ‘completely frank’. That for me is abject dishonesty, especially toward the youth. I’ve previously singled out Dr Michael E Mann, the corporate media’s ‘Go To Mann’, for this dishonesty.
Below I will lay out just a few examples showing that we are in the runaway phase of this extinction event.
This fire season alone, “Australia’s wildfires have destroyed more than a fifth of the country’s forests, making the blazes “globally unprecedented” following a years-long drought linked to climate change, researchers said Monday.” Bushfires burned a fifth of Australia’s forest: Bushfires burned a fifth of Australia’s forest: study   Remember this is not an El Nino year, the next El Nino, if we have one, will be brutal and will put this event on steroids. The double feedback from these fires is that the forests were formerly carbon sinks so that has been lost and all the carbon that has ben released will accentuate the predicament.

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

More Cognitive Dissonance, Part Two

More Cognitive Dissonance, Part Two

It is truly saddening to see so many articles which proclaim complete nonsense. The worst part is that so many people are culturally indoctrinated to the point where they cannot see through these false claims. In this particular one, the claim is made that we need to protect nature (true), quote:

Our five breakthroughs for nature echo and expand upon those same themes, emphasizing the urgent need to transform our relationship to the natural world on which we ultimately all depend. In a nutshell, here is the handful of headline actions that we are advocating:

  • We need to put nature at the heart of decision-making, with governments and the private sector held accountable for making nature a global priority.
  • An annual investment of US$500 billion to protect and restore nature is a minimum requirement, with funding diverted from environmentally harmful activities into nature-positive initiatives.
  • The communities and local organizations working on the front line of conservation are the ones best placed to address the interrelated biodiversity and climate crises through action at local level, but they need far more support.
  • Safeguarding nature is crucial to climate stability and human health, and we need to redouble our efforts to halt the destruction and degradation of these vital life-support systems.
  • For far too long, advances in technology have worked to the detriment of nature, but they have enormous untapped potential to support its conservation. Technological innovation is not a silver bullet—and needs to go hand in hand with drastic emissions cuts—but it’s a vital weapon in our armory.
The first four ideas I really liked. They make good sense and would definitely help if put into action. The trouble is that the last idea completely wipes out the entire list…

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

More Cognitive Dissonance

More Cognitive Dissonance

In my last post, I expressed my concerns regarding methane emissions along with the growing speed which our collective predicaments appear to be gaining. Then I explained precisely why we have thus far not made any real progress on these predicaments based upon our collective denial, which has a considerable amount to do with our basic human psychology. In conclusion, the reality is that very few people are actually paying an ounce of real attention. What they are paying attention to are all the distractions – the hype, advertising, marketing, and propaganda.

Today I bring more evidence of the increasing speed of these predicaments as I recall some of my articles which I had privately hoped might be a long way off into the future. I’m not one to try to evade uncomforting news. If I was, I most certainly wouldn’t be reading and watching these articles, reports, studies, videos, and other media to try to understand and comprehend fully where we are and where we’re headed. I focus on the trajectory and while I do read the hopium “success” stories about how great we are and all of the stupendous progress we’ve made, the trajectory does not show this – it shows instead our collective denial.

Attempting to bring sanity to what is essentially insane can be difficult, for sure. I wrote this article about hydrogen sulfide four months ago with the thought that the likelihood of ever seeing these effects in my lifetime were remote. Then, last week I saw this article which describes the scenario, quote:

We are passing a tipping point,” said Goes. “The food chain has been turned upside down.”
The changes are trouble for the people of the Middle East, eastern Africa, and southern Asia…

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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

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.

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A Few Bananas Short of a Bunch


“You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.” – Morpheus

“How did you go (morally) bankrupt?” Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” ― With abject apologies to Ernest Hemingway and his “The Sun Also Rises”

I reject your reality and substitute my own.” – Adam Savage from Mythbusters

I have this short-on-specifics, long-on-emotion memory of being young, around 9 or 10 years old, and in grade school during the mid 60’s. I was an introvert and thirsty for any knowledge that could help me better understand what to me was nothing less than insanity.

Even back then I instinctively knew the secret, though no one in their ‘right’ mind believed me when I voiced my concern. I was living in an insane asylum, populated by humans reasonably well adapted to close quarters and authoritarian rule. At least that’s the way it was in my house and just about every other home within walking distance.

Of course, the grand global collective, as diverse and culturally mixed as it claimed to be, pretty much followed similar directives. It did then, and in fact still does today. While it may be carefully concealed behind grand consensual governing concepts such as parliamentary rule, democracy or a representative republic, they couldn’t fool me. Whether by closed fist or pointed gun, it was pretty obvious to me the authoritarian few always ruled over the collective many.

I gravitated towards history (which at the time I believed was factual) and dove straight into the deep end head first. The good news was I wasn’t fully and properly indoctrinated yet, so there was a chance my young mind would survive somewhat intact now that some self-awareness was beginning to peek through.

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You Only Have One Inalienable Right


At what point are we solely and personally responsible for everything and anything that’s going on in our lives? As far as I’m concerned that’s the only question we must ask, and answer, if we are to begin to break the chains that bind us to our socioeconomic co-dependence and psychological victim hood.

What’s that you say? You aren’t a victim or codependent? Most of us who feel we are put out, encumbered or even assaulted don’t see our condition as self imposed other than possibly, maybe, somewhat incidentally. Rather, we perceive ourselves as clear thinking innocent bystanders being trampled and imposed upon by outside forces through no fault of our own.

The one and only inalienable right we have in this screwed up world, this mess of a hell hole, is the right to be curious, probing, inquisitive, to crave knowing more, to posses the desire to learn, to grow, to mature, to move forward rather than just tread water or sink silently beneath the surface and into the abyss.

To be perfectly frank I am a bit tired of hearing the futile bleating of the captured slave mind as it bemoans its sorry state of affairs. I didn’t know, no one told me, how was I supposed to know, it’s not my fault, I wasn’t taught, you made me (fill in the blank), you didn’t do your part so why should I do mine etc. This is the cry of the confined cranium, the deaf, dumb and blind, the sole surveyor of the empty space of our terminally closed minds.

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cognitive dissonance, two ice floes, slavery, consent, freedom,

Getting Out of Dodge


Recently I received an email from a reader who asked for some feedback regarding a decision he was about to make. He’s in his early 50’s, single with an adult child and is considering resigning from his well paid and secure job in order to gain access to his substantial pension fund, which represents at least two thirds of his total wealth.

Why would he do such a crazy thing? Well, when he considers the growing financial, political, social, environmental and resource disruptions, he feels it may make sense to retrieve his pension now before the dollar devaluation accelerates and his pension fund loses significant purchasing power or is substantially lost to government decree and Wall Street greed.

He has talked to friends and acquaintances about what’s going on in the world these days and his thoughts about getting out and moving on with his life in a more prudent and thoughtful manner. All believe he’s nuts. Gone round the bend in fact.

So, he turned to me for some feedback (an “informed perspective” he said, though I’m not too sure about the informed part) carefully explaining he understands this is his decision alone and he’s responsible for any and all consequences of any action he may pursue.

Wow! Someone who is actually considering a radical life change and is already burning his get-out-of-jail-free victim card. What a refreshingly rare and responsible point of view. He actually led with that in his email and I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice.

Clearly this person warranted a detailed and in-depth response from me, if for no other reason than to show respect for his maturity and forthrightness. What follows below is a much expanded and edited version of my thoughts, which I promptly emailed back to him.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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