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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXV–Capitalism: One of Several Predicament Catalysts

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXV

Tulum, Mexico (1986). Photo by author.

Capitalism: One of Several Predicament Catalysts

Today’s contemplation is prompted by an article posted recently in a Degrowth Facebook group I am a member of. The author presents the argument that capitalism and the greed it inspires is the root of our inability to address climate change appropriately. While I don’t agree fully with the perspective presented, it is a great article that goes into much detail far beyond climate concerns and I recommend reading it.

Where I found myself reflecting on its content were the assertions that it is primarily, if not solely, the fault of capitalism for our existential crisis of climate change and the suggestion that it’s possible through degrowth strategies to achieve a utopian-like world with “…universal education and healthcare, and at least 5,000–15,000 km of mobility in various modes per person per year. It offers fairer and better lives for the vast majority of people…” (perhaps up to 10 billion) should the world have the wherewithal to ensure the ‘right’ things be done — particularly the idea that we need to avoid elite panic in responding to our crises (that leads to leveraging of situations to protect their ‘booty’) and adopt the non-elite tendency to ‘sacrifice’ for one’s community.

While I have great respect for the degrowth movement and its underlying philosophy that holds humanity needs to live within the biophysical limits of a finite planet[1], the bargaining/denial I sense from many that support it is where I diverge a tad in my thinking about our plight and future ‘potential’.

While I have come to the firm belief that our ruling elite are primarily driven by a desire to control/expand the wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide their revenue streams and thus wealth/power/prestige/privilege (leading them to encourage/cheerlead the chasing of the perpetual growth chalice that supports the power/wealth structures inherent in any complex society, and certainly leverage crises to their advantage to help meet their motivation), I’m not so convinced that capitalism’s role in our predicament (ecological overshoot) is much more than a leverage-point (of several) in perhaps speeding up the pre/historical and biological/ecological processes which will eventually bring our global, industrial society to its knees.

Long before ‘capitalism’ took hold of our elite, there were complex societies that ‘collapsed’ due to what archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues are diminishing returns on investments in complexity[2]. Our human societies’ problem-solving proclivity to exploit/extract the easy-to-retrieve and cheap-to-access resources first leads to eventual ‘cost’ increases (particularly in terms of energy) that require the use of society’s surpluses/reserves to maintain/sustain political, economic, and organisational structures (as well as technologies) that serve as our ‘solutions’ to perceived ‘problems’.

Once these surpluses/reserves are unavailable due to their exhaustion and ‘society’ can no longer provide the benefits of participation in it, people ‘opt out’ and withdraw their support — usually by packing up and leaving. This ‘abandonment’ by increasing numbers of people undermines the necessary human, and thus material, inputs that support the structures that hold a complex society together and it eventually ‘collapses’.

Obviously, such a withdrawal of support is virtually impossible in today’s world for a variety of reasons; not least of which are the inability to ‘escape’ the elite’s reach in most nation states — at least for the time being — and a lack of skills/knowledge to survive for very long without the energy slaves/conveniences of ‘modern’ society, keeping people virtually trapped and incapable of opting out. In addition, the ruling elite need their citizens for labour and/or taxes and will go to virtually any length to prevent such withdrawal from the various entrapments of today’s world.

This is not to ignore the knock-on effects of ways in which ‘support’ is being undermined by political, social, and economic policies of the ruling elite. More and more people are questioning the directives issued from upon high and challenging them.

For example, there seems to be growing concern that the gargantuan expansion of credit/debt is quite problematic. For some this is an approach that expedites the drawing down of fundamental resources (especially energy) — ‘stealing from the future’ for lack of a better term. A good argument can also be made that much (most?) of this debt/credit is being created to fund geopolitical competition and siphon wealth from national treasuries into the ‘holdings’ of the elite. This is not to dismiss that a portion is being directed to the population, but I would contend that this is to help provide cover for the inequity that is resulting from the massive expansion of fiat currency — particularly in that ‘hidden tax’ of price inflation that always impacts the disadvantaged disproportionately to the wealthy elite — and to sustain the Ponzi scheme that our economic/financial/monetary systems have become.

I sense we are likely to experience (already are experiencing?) a doubling-down of efforts to control the hoi polloi by our ‘leaders’ as our systems begin to decline in perceived benefits. Tyranny comes in many guises, from narrative management and mass surveillance to incarceration and violence.

Our fundamental predicament is unfortunately overlooked in the somewhat reductionist approach that focuses exclusively on capitalism and climate change/carbon emissions. The following graphic illustrates this perspective with respect to the simplification that can occur when one focuses upon a single variable when complex systems necessarily consist of many intertwined ones with nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena.

Carbon Tunnel Vision

Eliminating capitalism has become the clarion call for many but I’m viewing this increasingly as part of the denial/bargaining that is expanding in our ‘hope’ to find a ‘solution’ to our various crises. In relatively simplistic terms, the view holds that if we eliminate the greed inherent in capitalism and the waste it leads to, humanity can continue to have a technological, global-spanning society where everyone can live happily-ever-after — for example, we could direct our ‘wealth’ to the ‘right’ technology (think ‘green/clean’ energy production and electrified gadgets) and thus sustain our complexities with nary a hiccup.

Unfortunately, I would argue, such rhetoric is not only dividing some very well-intentioned groups/individuals, but causing our fundamental predicament to be overlooked and thus any possible mitigation of it to be mostly dismissed — primarily because the issue is exceedingly complex and in all likelihood has no simple and all-encompassing ‘solution’, but rather a difficult and unnerving shift in thinking and approaches where perhaps just a handful of humans carry on in a ‘sustainable’ fashion[3].

This appears to be even worse than a ‘wicked problem’[4], for these still hold out ‘hope’ for a ‘solution’ should every variable line up ‘correctly’ to help ‘solve’ it. This possibility, as remote as it is for wicked problems, opens the door to all sorts of denial and bargaining — a strong human tendency to help avoid anxiety-provoking thoughts.

I’m increasingly leaning towards the conclusion that the ecological bottleneck our human experiment has created by its vast overshooting of the planet’s natural carrying capacity is far too small for the growing number of us to get through. No amount of denial or bargaining (elimination of capitalism; wealth redistribution; ‘green/clean’ energy) is likely to change that[5].

And then there’s the issue of peak resources, most problematic being that of oil. The ideas promulgated in the article and by supporters of degrowth seem to be somewhat energy/resource blind[6]. The significant (and I mean VERY significant) role played by oil and other fossil fuels in creating an explosion in human resource exploitation and population cannot be stressed enough. It has not only allowed us to access previously inaccessible resources to support our growth but has done so to the point where many of these supportive materials have now encountered significant diminishing returns and, for some, begun to encounter increasing scarcity placing continued use more in the rear-view mirror than some techno-cornucopian future[7].

I continue to believe that personal/group attempts to relocalise as much as possible the fundamentals of living can increase the probability of a region getting through to the other side of the coming transition. Potable water, food production, and shelter needs for the climate should be a focus; not bargaining with our sociopolitical and socioeconomic systems since this can unnecessarily divert energy and resources from the actions that will probably foster greater self-sufficiency and -resiliency — perhaps enough to get through the impending ecological bottleneck.

I believe we have never lived in an ideal world, nor ever will. The constant and repetitive rise and fall of complex societies has demonstrated our experimentations have failed, despite having the best technologies and thinkers of the time. We cannot help ourselves, it would seem. We keep making the same mistakes again and again and again…only this time we have leveraged a one-time cache of ancient carbon energy to create a globalised, industrial world and put the entire species into ecological overshoot while destroying many of any competing species and much of the planet in the process.

The likelihood of everything going ‘just right’ for us, as the ‘bargainers’ hope, is probably even more remote than this Canadian senior ending up playing in the National Hockey League (a childhood fantasy[8]) in the not too distant future.

This article was brought to my attention yesterday and is also well worth the read. It echoes many of my own thoughts about our plight.

[1] See: https://degrowth.info/degrowth

[2] Tainter, J.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978–0–521–38673–9). There are competing theories as to why and how complex societies decline/collapse, but I have found Tainter’s to be the most compelling.

[3] In no way am I advocating a sudden ‘die-off’ to achieve this; such an event is increasingly looking to happen via the ‘natural’ collapse that accompanies a species overshooting its environmental carrying capacity, regardless of our wishes otherwise.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

[5] I realise that stating ‘likely’ also opens the door to such bargaining but I attempt to be careful in declarations that suggest certitude. Few, if any, of our stories about our understanding of the world and prognostications about its future are certain — some just more probable than others.

[6] See Nate Hagens animated series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdc087VsWiC7xAS3YTykoRRi1gmNtGZVG

[7] See the work of Geological Survey of Finland’s Simon Michaux, especially:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354067356_Assessment_of_the_Extra_Capacity_Required_of_Alternative_Energy_Electrical_Power_Systems_to_Completely_Replace_Fossil_Fuels; a

[8] As a Canadian born at the start of the 1960s in a relatively smallish city (182,000 the year I was born), I was introduced to playing hockey at age four. I have played almost every year since (took a few years off when my children were young) and continue to play regularly. I have played alongside some who have been drafted by NHL teams but never made the next step, and I can attest to the fact that despite my wishes my skill set has never been even close to being capable of playing professionally. I am still struggling to pull off a ‘saucer pass’ or ‘toe drag’ regularly and continue to practise them almost every time I play.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLVIII–We Are Not Prepared For Shutting Down the Fossil Fuel Industry

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLVIII

Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author

We Are Not Prepared For Shutting Down the Fossil Fuel Industry

To be or not to be, that is the question…

Prince Hamlet’s well-known soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is apropos to a question I have been pondering: should we shut down immediately the world’s fossil fuel industries, as a seemingly increasing number of individuals and groups are advocating, or not?

Why have I been thinking about this? Mostly because I would argue it is suicide for our global, industrialised society and its vast array of complexities that the overwhelming majority of humans have come to depend upon, especially if it is without well-considered alternatives to support the loss of such an immense energy source.

In fact, without the energy provided by fossil fuels there would be no ‘transition’ to a ‘cleaner’ world that these same cheerleaders of fossil fuel’s immediate death suggest is ‘just around the corner’ — certainly, not a smooth and non-chaotic one. Without fossil fuels our various complexities that sustain us would collapse in short order and a massive die-off would occur[1]. Of this I have little doubt[2].

As far as a post-carbon transition based upon well-considered alternatives, I’m not speaking of so-called ‘green/clean’ energy substitutes for our fossil fuel-powered world in order to continue keeping on keeping on with our high energy-reliant complexities in some idealistic seamless shift. There is far too much evidence that that narrative is a lie and is being pushed by those that stand to profit from it and by well-intentioned but misguided others who believe the propaganda that such a shift is feasible and must be pursued with all haste[3]. Alternative energy-harvesting and -producing technologies are so dependent upon the fossil fuel platform that they cannot be constructed or sustained without significant fossil fuel inputs — to say little of the continued and significant environmental/ecological destruction necessary in both the upstream and downstream processes needed in their construction, maintenance, and after-life disposal/reclamation, and the lack of actual physical resources to build out a replacement for fossil fuels.

I’m speaking of a concerted ‘degrowth’ agenda that may need to be extremely radical in its undertaking if we are to minimise the most negative impacts of our ecological overshoot and perhaps ensure more of us are to make it out the other side of the ecological bottleneck we have created for our species (and many others)[4]. I have my own ideas about what this should and should not look like.

The very first order of business needs to be a discontinuation of the pursuit of the infinite growth chalice. This includes population growth but especially refers to economic growth, particularly for the so-called ‘advanced’ economies that are responsible for the lion’s share of resource use and abuse[5]. Without this our fundamental predicament of ecological overshoot simply grows in severity, leading to a more monumental collapse.

Given that the ruling class in particular but certainly a sizable portion of the citizens of advanced economies benefit immensely from the status quo systems and their continuation, I’m doubtful in the extreme that they would willingly admit and contemplate such a shift. As I expounded upon in my last contemplation, our ‘leaders’ are not in this for the masses as they pretend to be; they are in this for power and/or wealth[6]. As such, we will continue to be exposed to narratives that growth is not only beneficial for everyone but necessary to counteract the obvious dilemmas we are experiencing (but are, in fact, directly caused by our growth). Don’t, whatever you do, believe your lying eyes as the reality of resource shortages bite; continue to believe in human ingenuity and our technological prowess. Ignore the machinations going on behind that curtain over there.

Frankly, there are some difficult if not impossible decisions to be made that will and do challenge virtually everything the vast majority of us hold as near and dear to our hearts and our perception of what it means to be human; especially for those that live in ‘advanced’ economies where the transition necessarily puts everything on the table for discussion as to whether it can or should be maintained. Everything.

Many if not most of the cherished ideals that have been developed during a period of monumental surplus energy due to fossil fuel’s energy density, transportability, relative ease of extraction, and quantities are likely to be lost as our energy contraction speeds up. It may be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to maintain our ‘humanity’ in the face of this. Black Swan events, which is what this is going to be for the vast majority of people, have by far the largest impact on societies when they occur[7].

One of my ‘hopes’ as it were as we stumble into an unknown and unknowable future is that the dangerous complexities we have created (e.g., nuclear power plants, biosafety labs, chemical production and storage facilities) are dismantled and their dangers safely ‘contained/neutralised’ before we lose the energy capacity and related resources necessary to do this. I see zero progress currently on this front; in fact, there are increased demands to do the exact opposite.

And then there’s the whole economic-energy nexus where our monetary/financial systems are predicated upon credit/debt growth that is for all intents and purposes a potential claim on future energy and related resource use and its exponential growth[8]. If that energy is not there (and it’s not in a finite world), the entire Ponzi-like structure of these human-contrived systems collapses completely; and some argue this has actually already started and has been ‘papered’ over by manipulations that include accounting shenanigans and narrative control.

It is the glaring impediments (and the growing denial of these[9]) to the dreams of a ‘sustainable’ and ‘green/clean’ transition that increasingly lead me to conclude that we are totally and completely fubar. There is no saving our complexities that support our current ways. Does this necessitate losing ‘hope’? Well, hope as I’ve come to realise is a wish for something to happen over which we really have zero agency.

So, what do you have agency over? I would argue primarily one’s own actions, particularly at the local, community level[10].

Relocalising as much as possible now is paramount but especially in terms of potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter needs. To do this an awful lot of learning and work needs to be accomplished, quickly. There is no time to waste when exponential factors are at play and a Seneca cliff of energy contraction just ahead[11].

Starting your journey to self-sufficiency yesterday would have been prudent but starting today is better than tomorrow. Do what you can, even if it seems minimal. Plants a few pots of beans or tomatoes. Read a book on composting or seed saving. Find some like-minded neighbours and begin a community garden.

I’ve been busy prepping our raised beds for the seedlings we started indoors a few weeks ago. One of our greenhouses is almost cleaned up and ready to host a few dozen grow bags for our potatoes (discovered they do better in a greenhouse than the mostly shaded backyard areas I’ve tried in previous years). Some seeds of cool-weather plants are already in — lettuce, kale, sugar peas. Half of our compliment of twenty, 200 litre rain barrels are hooked up[12]. The two-compartment, concrete-block compost bin I built last summer has been extended higher and better pest screening added[13]. Almost all the fruit trees have been pruned. Mature compost has begun to be added to the various rows of raspberry and blackberry canes. Been sidelined today because of a mid-April snowstorm but another few dozen chores await, especially the replacement of rotting garden ties, that were used a decade ago to create foundations for our three greenhouses and form terraces on our side hill, with concrete blocks.

I close by repeating what I argued in my last post: “don’t depend upon your government/ruling class for salvation from the coming collapse of current complexities. Such ‘faith’ is significantly misplaced and will be deeply disappointing if not disastrous for those that maintain it. It is personal, familial, and community resilience and preparedness that will ease the decline; pursue this rather than believing you have significant agency via the ballot box and who might hold the reins of sociopolitical power.”

Please consider visiting my website and supporting my continuation of it via a purchase of my ‘fictional’ novel trilogy.

[1] There are some that argue this is exactly what we should do to ensure the survival of other species and not worry too much about humans. That is not me; at least not yet.

[2] Do not mistake this perspective of mine as one of supporting the expansion of fossil fuel extraction or our myriad of systemic complexities (especially technological) that have ‘evolved’ as a result of the growth brought about by this extraction. It is what it is and we need to consider it in its historical context and the dependencies it has led to. Given I believe that our fundamental predicament is ecological overshoot brought about by our increasing use of technologies, especially those that allowed us to extract ever-increasing amounts of fossil energy, I am all for curtailing such use; but it needs to be done thoughtfully and with targeted precision as our energy use contracts significantly.

[3] See this: https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/14/15/4508/htm?fbclid=IwAR2ISt5shfV4wpFEc8jxbQnrrxyllyvZP-xDnoHhWrjGTQRIqUNfk3hOK1g

[4] An ecological/population bottleneck is where a significant majority of a species dies off due to a significant shift in environmental conditions. See William Catton Jr.’s Bottleneck: Humanity Impending Impasse.

[5] My current region has been on the forefront of both these growth frontiers within Ontario, Canada and as a result I have witnessed seemingly unending expansion of suburban residential housing at the expense of very limited arable land. The local politicians parrot the narrative that such growth is only beneficial and any seemingly negative consequences (most of which are dismissed/ignored) can be fully and completely mitigated. Apparently the supply chains that supply most of our food needs are guaranteed…forever and always, Amen.

[6] This may not be so for very small, local governments (and I mean very small, where ‘leaders’ socialise regularly with their constituents as neighbour, friend, or acquaintance) but it is increasingly so as governments get larger and the ‘leadership’ is removed from ‘normal’ societal participation and interactions, tending to fraternise within very closed peer groups that have little in common with the ‘average’ citizen.

[7] See Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

[8] And we’re not talking small numbers here. We are looking at hundreds of trillions of U.S. dollars in global debt. See: https://blogs.imf.org/2021/12/15/global-debt-reaches-a-record-226-trillion/. This doesn’t even account for unfunded liabilities (e.g., pension plans) that would put the ‘true’ level multiple times higher.

[9] Refer to Erik Micheal’s Problems, Predicaments, and Technology site for more on this.

[10] To be honest, I am finding this difficult as well due to the widespread belief that growth only has beneficial aspects and a local town council that pushes this narrative at every opportunity.

[11] See: https://peakoil.com/generalideas/the-seneca-cliff-how-the-concept-evolved.

[12] We live on a hill with a basement walkout so I’ve utilised the grade to connect 15 of our rain barrels with each higher one feeding into the next lower one, and because of our very cold winters I unhook them all and flip them over every fall to prevent damage to the hoses and taps

[13] Damned chipmunks chewed through the metal insect screening I had wrapped around the outside and began pulling un-composted matter into the yard — concrete blocks are on their sides so the openings allow air into the pile to help with the decomposition of organic matter.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLVI–Preparing For Collapse

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLVI

April 4, 2022 (original posting date)

Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author

Preparing For Collapse

A contemplation prompted by a couple of posts I read early this morning. One was a list of actionable ideas for preparing for Peak Oil and the other an article on the mainstreaming of ‘Doomsday Prepping’.

I’ve written several times about the importance of energy. Of paramount importance to our complex, global and industrialised societies is the finite energy resource of fossil fuels, particularly oil[1]. Fossil fuels underpin almost everything we depend upon[2] and there is no adequate replacement. None. In fact, all those marketed as ‘renewable’ substitutes and promising a seamless transition away from fossil fuels leave out the very important and inconvenient fact that they rely quite substantially upon fossil fuels from the mining and refinement of the resources needed to produce them to their after-life reclamation or disposal — they are non-renewable energy-harvesting technologies that cannot exist without fossil fuels, and are only truly ‘renewable’ in the sense of the energy source they attempt to harness[3].

Unfortunately for our energy-intensive and -dependent complex societies, fossil fuel extraction has encountered significant diminishing returns and will eventually cease to be available; not because we’ve run out of them but because it will require increasing amounts of energy to retrieve and transport them than we get back in return. And despite all the narratives surrounding a ‘voluntary’ cessation of fossil fuel extraction in order to address anthropogenic climate change[4], this will not happen by our conscious endeavours for a variety of reasons but primarily because of the thermodynamic, biophysical, and economic properties inherent in our exploitation of a finite resource.

The tremendous surplus of energy we’ve been leveraging to sustain our phenomenal growth and technological wonders over the past century or more has disappeared. We’ve been able to avoid the negative consequences of this physical reality for the last few decades mostly through some technological tweaks and monetary/financial manipulations[5]. However, it is increasingly looking like our attempts to kick-the-can-down-the-road have reached a tipping point — there’s no more hiding the fact that infinite growth on a finite planet was never a sustainable thing. Ever. It’s only been possible in our imaginations and we’ve crafted some fairly comforting narratives to help us believe it was an entirely plausible scenario, particularly because of our ingenuity and technology; and we have some very strong psychological mechanisms in play to help us deny the anxiety-producing reality that this would all end someday.

It seems that the narratives that we can continue to chase the infinite growth chalice and that we can easily transition to some alternative energy source (that is miraculously ‘clean/green’) are appearing to be coming under significant pressure. Reliance upon finite resources in somebody else’s backyard is being exposed as problematic for self-sufficiency[6]. Supply chains and the just-in-time delivery systems are increasingly showing their fragility[7]. Price inflation (as a result of money/credit expansion) in almost everything is placing more and more people in precarious economic straits, while those at the top of our power and wealth structures are accumulating more and more. The ruling class is beginning to voice the idea that global ‘austerity’ may be more than just a ‘transitory’ phenomenon — naturally they’re blaming this on everything but finite resources, and their chasing perpetual growth and other related economic/geopolitical ambitions.

The jig is up. The scams are being exposed. Increasing numbers of people are catching on to the various frauds and propaganda. The faulty and purposely fanciful stories are being interpreted for what they are: attempts to keep the unsustainable sustained just a bit longer[8].

Degrowth or ‘collapse’ is coming whether we wish it or not.

While I often refer to ‘collapse’ of our complex societies, I tend to do this in the context of archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s definition of it[9]. As he argues, collapse manifests itself as: less stratification and social differentiation; less economic and occupational specialisation; less centralised control (i.e., less regulation by elites); less behavioural control and regimentation; less investment in the epiphenomena of complexity (e.g., monumental architecture); less flow of information between a central authority and its periphery; less trading (i.e., more localisation); less coordination of groups; a smaller territory.

Most of that, quite frankly, doesn’t sound too bad.

So, what to do about all this?

I believe it would be in people’s best interest to recognise this and prepare for it .

I would argue there are at minimum three things we as individuals/local communities need to be ensuring: procurement of potable water, local food production, regional/climate-based shelter needs. Everything else is ‘gravy’ and can be considered after the aforementioned are procured. Do not put your faith in our sociopolitical systems or the complex technologies they cheerlead. Both of these are unsustainable and actually work against one’s preparatory interests. No matter how much propaganda there exists about having choice and ‘control’ in a democratic society, there is actually very little if any with respect to the large societal trends. I, personally, lost the belief that voters have any real agency via a ballot box decades ago. As I’ve written previously, the ruling class’s primary motivation is the control and/or expansion of the wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide their revenue streams; it is not you or I except in terms of labour and tax generation.

More and more I personally am focusing upon the ‘actionable’ part of preparing rather than the ‘cerebral/academic/economic/political’ aspects of what’s happening. I can’t control what happens much outside of my own little ‘world’ so why worry about it and/or the reasons for what is happening.

And when push comes to shove it doesn’t matter the reason for our ‘collapse’, what matters is the re-learning of ‘lost’ skills/knowledge for self-sufficiency (especially for those of us enculturated in the ‘modern’ complex societies that have oriented towards a future of techno-cornucopianism that always had a relatively short lifespan on a finite planet). The last three books I have read are about composting, seed saving, and first aid/CPR. The one I just started is about mini-farming. You can find my personal summary notes of these books here (along with a couple of others, including Tainter’s).

And while my aging body may not be quite ready for the continuing work I have planned in our ever-increasing home food-production gardens, I am looking forward immensely to the coming transition to warmer weather for my northern climate and the time away from the distractions of the internet. My days will be spent outside with nature working on some specific projects requiring lots of physical labour and problem solving while I listen to some of my favourite music and get the exercise I need to be able to continue doing this work for as long as I’m physically capable.

Please consider visiting my website and purchasing my fictional novel trilogy, Olduvai, to help support my continuing online work. Less than $10 Canadian gets you the entire trilogy in PDF format.

[1] Virtually all of our other important energy sources are derived from and/or dependent upon fossil fuels in one way or another; especially the mining, refining, and transporting of minerals for nuclear plants, dams, solar panels, wind turbines, etc.. Steel and concrete production in particular cannot be done without fossil fuels.

[2] Of particular importance are resource extraction and refining, transportation, modern agriculture, long-distance supply chains, and ‘money’ (that is basically a potential claim on future energy).

[3] The narrative around ‘renewable energy’ being a solution to our fossil fuel use is a huge distraction from our underlying predicament of ecological overshoot. All the ‘clean/green’ energy in the world can’t save us from the ‘collapse’ that always accompanies a species overshooting its environmental carrying capacity and, in fact, the production and use of such energy-harvesting technologies will simply serve to put us further into overshoot.

[4] I am constantly confounded by the number of people/institutions that demand we cease our extraction of fossil fuels immediately without the slightest foresight as to what this would entail for our world, especially considering their associated call for a wholesale transition to ‘renewable’ energy. Their thinking is entirely magical in nature because it discounts entirely the reality of how non-renewable renewables are produced.

[5] Money/credit expansion and fraudulent accounting have been the primary avenues pursued.

[6] The current explanations for this are being warped by politics and economics that tends to take precedent over the biological and physical ones. But biology and physics always trumps human constructs in the end.

[7] I’ve long argued with my local politicians that dependence upon long-distance supply chains over which we have zero control is a recipe for disaster as they cheerlead the ever-increasing paving over of our limited arable lands to expand housing/industry. My Canadian province of Ontario depends upon these supply chains for 80+% of its food to feed its almost 15 million inhabitants.

[8] To consolidate more wealth at the top of the power/wealth structures in my opinion.

[9] See The Collapse of Complex Societies.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLV–Chasing Maladaptive Strategies

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLV

March 24, 2022 (original posting date)

Knossos, Greece (1988) Photo by author

Chasing Maladaptive Strategies

Today’s very short contemplation was in response to a post I was asked to comment upon that calls for sociopolitical ‘leadership’ to ‘tackle’ natural disasters that have been linked to the climate crisis.

I believe that most still don’t understand that the existential predicaments we are experiencing are but symptoms of the over-arching predicament of ecological overshoot[1]. Until and unless we acknowledge our overshoot we seem to be chasing maladaptive strategies in attempts to deal with its catastrophic symptoms and, in my opinion, asking the wrong people to address the situation.

For example, most people, in their well-intentioned desire to confront the effects of climate change, believe that if we abandon fossil fuel use and transition to some alternative (that has been mislabeled ‘green/clean’ and ‘sustainable’), we can maintain our energy-intensive complexities. Understanding that energy-harvesting technologies (e.g., solar, wind, wave, nuclear) not only depend upon the fossil fuel platform but upon finite resources that require a continuation of environmentally-/ecologically-destructive processes to retrieve and refine radically alters how one should perceive our path forward.

We need to be pursuing radical degrowth in all its iterations, from population to economics. Modern living standards of advanced economies (even of ‘emerging’ economies) are not in any way shape or form sustainable on a finite planet. If we cannot accept this and acknowledge that this needs to guide our responses and actions, then we are in all likelihood destined (some argue it is all but guaranteed) to experience the collapse that always accompanies overshoot. And such collapse will only increase in severity when it eventually occurs if we continue to chase misguided ‘solutions’ that further reduce the natural carrying capacity of the planet.

Given that our sociopolitical systems are built on power/wealth structures that for some time now have come to rely almost exclusively upon chasing the perpetual growth chalice, it seems to me that looking to them to correct our path is completely misplaced and increasingly more destructive in the end. Their tendency is to talk a good talk about addressing issues but when push comes to shove they almost always leverage such crises to their own advantage in one way or another to expand upon and prolong the Ponzi schemes they preside over[2].

As I argued in a recent article[3], people: “are encouraged to focus on relocalising the basic aspects of living (i.e., potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter needs) as much as possible and reconnect with community members who will be your primary supports as things go increasingly sideways. Do not put your faith in our so-called political ‘leaders’. Despite their propaganda, they do not have your best interests at the top of their agendas; if such an incentive even makes the agenda except perhaps around election time when the marketing of more, more, more really blossoms. Because, you know, more is in your best interest…only it’s not.”

Yes, we need to shut down our fossil fuel industry but we also need to realise there is no ‘replacement’ for the significant energy it supplies society. The post-carbon world will be radically, and I mean radically, different than today. The illusion of a modern utopia with electric vehicles and all the accoutrements painted by the techno-cornucopian snake oil salesmen (that are little more than grifters lining their pockets) must be abandoned if we are to have any hope of getting through the bottleneck we have created for our species and most others on this planet.

Please consider visiting my website and helping to support its continuation through the purchase of my ‘fictional’ collapse trilogy: Olduvai.

[1] If you have yet to read William Catton Jr.’s Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, I highly recommend it. It is fundamental to understanding overshoot. You can find my personal summary notes here.

[2] I use the term Ponzi scheme intentionally given the fact that such contrivances require continual growth to keep from collapsing and that they are, for all intents and purposes, rackets that benefit a few at the expense of the many participants.

[3] https://stevebull-4168.medium.com/todays-contemplation-collapse-cometh-xliv-b81abc961f4c

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.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLVIII–Most People Don’t Want Their Illusions Destroyed

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLVIII

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Most People Don’t Want Their Illusions Destroyed

Another one of those conversations with someone at the Degrowth Facebook Group I am a member of…

I’ve just had a lengthy debate with good-willed people who are serious proponents of a rapid transition to renewables. People actually do understand how far beyond carrying capacity we are and why but they do not accept their own understanding. When I suggest that humanity must live within the photosynthetic energy budget of the current biological cycle, the reaction is repulsion, anger, and ridicule. That reaction is a visceral understanding of the carrying capacity of Earth’s systems and that the only reason society exists beyond that capacity is the infusion of energy. The response is that renewables can supply plenty of ‘clean energy’ to support ‘society’. People see and are unwilling to relinquish the societal upside of our energy subsidy, and argue that the ecological downside can be managed, but do have an unacknowledged understanding of how far past carrying capacity we are.

I start to think we need to start from arguing that we have less than half a century of oil left — and explicitly accept the ‘right-wing’ argument that our wealth has been built on fossil fuels. We had a single planetary shot at using fossil fuels well, and we are in the final stages of squandering it. After the oil is gone, there will be no more rubber, bitumen or plastic. There will be no paint; there will be no drugs. There will be no way to make or transport the solar panels or wind turbines. If we insist on burning our chemical stocks for things that do not address essential human needs, we will run out of ways to address those needs. The issue is not ‘energy’ per se: it is resources more broadly — clean air and water; a functioning ecosystem, including fertile soils; raw materials for manufacture. You can’t make a tyre for a Tesla out of nuclear power…

AD, Throw on top of all this those dangerous complexities we’ve got scattered about the planet that require large amounts of hydrocarbons to maintain: nuclear power plants and their waste products; chemical production and storage facilities; and, biosafety labs. Interesting times ahead…

SB, I’m talking more about ‘how do we convince people’, though.

AD, It’s next to impossible to ‘convince’ others. Most people don’t want their illusions destroyed.

SB, Ultimately, the only reason I’m on a group like this is because my hope is to see degrowth achieved, which will require convincing people. What are your reasons for being on the group?

AD, To learn and share my learning/understandings. And degrowth/simplification is coming, it’s just a matter of how that’s still up in the air. Pre/historical precedents and biological principles suggest it won’t be ‘managed’.

SB, Which biological principles are those?

AD, Those associated with ecological overshoot primarily.

SB, I think you are talking through your hat.

AD, Then I suggest you read Meadows et al’s The Limits to Growth, Tainter’s The Collapse of Complexity Societies, and Catton’s Overshoot to better understand.

SB, asked you why you thought people couldn’t be convinced of a need to change. You replied, ‘because ecological overshoot’. That’s the non-sequitur that I called you on.


My final response:

AD, Your comments/responses do not make it clear that you asked ‘why people couldn’t be convinced’; you asked why I was in the Degrowth group. Regardless, not sure if you’ve ever studied psychology (especially social psychology) but there are strong tendencies to protect oneself from anxiety-provoking thoughts — and the notions of collapse, overshoot, etc. are certainly those. So, I don’t know if it’s possible to convince/persuade many others of the need to change fundamental aspects of their behaviour unless they are willing to challenge many of their core beliefs and expectations; and most people, quite frankly, are not. And, I would argue, that tends to be human nature.

From attempts to reduce cognitive dissonance (see Festinger’s work), to the grieving stages outlined by Kubler-Ross (particularly denial and bargaining), to beliefs about agency (we have little, if any), tendencies towards deference to authority/expertise (see Milgram’s work), going along to get along and groupthink (see Janis’s work), to a potpourri of biases (especially confirmation and optimism bias) and heuristics that lead us to overly-simplify complex phenomena, Homo sapiens tend to ‘believe what they want to believe’; reality often plays a minor role in it, if at all.

As an article on the faulty beliefs about ‘renewables’, co-written by Dr. Bill Rees (of ecological footprint fame), argues: “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.”

Given these psychological mechanisms, our story-telling ways of communicating and developing belief systems, recent historical trends, energy blindness, and the huge role of propaganda/narrative management by our ‘ruling elite (see Bernays’ work) we tend to get overwhelmed by counter-narratives to our core beliefs and gravitate towards those that reinforce our own — regardless of how wrong or counterproductive they may be.

We very much rail against evidence that do not confirm the beliefs we hold. We deny. We ignore. We craft bargaining narratives to rationalise away ‘facts’ that don’t support our thinking; i.e., if only this happened…if we did this…yeah, but….

It is for these reasons above (along with others) that the quote “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed” arose (often attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche). And it is for these reasons that the overwhelming majority of people will not and cannot be convinced to give up what they perceive as ‘modernity’ (i.e., all the hydrocarbon-based complexities we have established over the past century+).

We, especially in the West, like to believe we are rational and objective but the overwhelming evidence would suggest otherwise. We are story-telling apes that have a strong tendency to craft tales to support our belief systems rather than develop belief systems based upon objective observations. Humans are exceedingly subjective.

Perhaps this is why author Robert Heinlein quipped that “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalising animal” in opposition to Aristotle’s definition that humans are a rational animal.

And it’s not simply enough to come up with a factual, persuasive argument but to have to overcome the massive counter narratives being fed to everyone by our ruling elite who benefit greatly from the status quo…

My personal experience strongly supports the observation that the significant majority of people do not want to be convinced that just like all living organisms, societies have an expiration date, and we can no more persuade everyone to ‘do what’s right’ than we can ‘science our way out of overshoot’.

Not only do we have a strong urge to deny our own mortality, we have a strong (perhaps even stronger) one to deny the mortality of our society and the living standards/expectations it holds for virtually all within it.

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…

Critics of ‘degrowth’ economics say it’s unworkable – but from an ecologist’s perspective, it’s inevitable

You may not have noticed, but earlier this month we passed Earth overshoot day, when humanity’s demands for ecological resources and services exceeded what our planet can regenerate annually.

Many economists criticising the developing degrowth movement fail to appreciate this critical point of Earth’s biophysical limits.

Ecologists on the other hand see the human economy as a subset of the biosphere. Their perspective highlights the urgency with which we need to reduce our demands on the biosphere to avoid a disastrous ecological collapse, with consequences for us and all other species.

Many degrowth scholars (as well as critics) focus on features of capitalism as the cause of this ecological overshoot. But while capitalism may be problematic, many civilisations destroyed ecosystems to the point of collapse long before it became our dominant economic model.

Capitalism, powered by the availability of cheap and abundant fossil energy, has indeed resulted in unprecedented and global biosphere disruption. But the direct cause remains the excessive volume and speed with which resources are extracted and wastes returned to the environment.

From an ecologist’s perspective, degrowth is inevitable on our current trajectory.

Carrying capacity

Ecology tells us that many species overshoot their environment’s carrying capacity if they have temporary access to an unusually high level of resources. Overshoot declines when those resources return to more stable levels. This often involves large-scale starvation and die-offs as populations adjust.

Access to fossil fuels has allowed us to temporarily overshoot biophysical limits. This lifted our population and demands on the biosphere past the level it can safely absorb. Barring a planned reduction of those biosphere demands, we will experience the same “adjustments” as other species.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Feedback Loops and Unsustainable Systems

Feedback Loops and Unsustainable Systems

Mountains as seen from Tennessee Welcome Center

I have brought up feedback loops (both positive and negative) many times in this space. I’ve also brought up unsustainable systems in one way or another in practically every article, since they are endemic in human society and at the root of every predicament. It would be very simple for me to tell you that if we just eliminated every unsustainable system and replaced them with sustainable ones that most all our troubles would be resolved. Aaahhh, if only it were that simple. While there is much truth to that statement, the physical realities of replacing these systems would be a massive transformation that is prevented by the Limits to Growth – not enough energy and resources to accomplish the job due to self-reinforcing positive feedback loops which would only add fuel to the fire of the existing ecological overshoot that we are already in. Understanding how we got to this point is key in comprehending why
options on dealing with overshoot are so limited. Several different ideas revolve around the same concept of creating a “new civilization” that humans could embark on to reduce overshoot and live happily ever after. I’ve pointed out one concept known as The Venus Project which is really nothing more than pure hopium. I’ve spent the last several articles detailing the Degrowth Movement and why degrowth in and of itself isn’t enough to actually accomplish much, mainly due to a lack of acceptance from corporations and governments, which would suffer greatly as a result. Of course, we’re all going to suffer from the implications of overshoot anyway, which makes that fact more or less irrelevant in the first place. I’ve pointed out why the MEER concept is unrealistic and more fantasy than reality…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Bargaining and Degrowth

Bargaining and Degrowth

Gazebo at Fort Macon, North Carolina

Once again, new material forces me to write a new article to disclose the new information (OK, honestly, I chose to write this article, but you already knew that). I often simply add updates (both marked and unmarked) to previous articles, but this particular scenario needed its own post as it combines more than just one topic. As is typical with the energy sector, denial of reality and optimism bias is often key as to why people can’t seem to see the writing on the wall that the idea of fossil fuel-derived devices that require the fossil fuel platform in order to continue to be maintained are not items that can exist without the fossil fuel platform; so they do not and can not replace fossil fuels; nor do they accomplish anything to reduce ecological overshoot as Steve Bull points out.

While the typical discussion regarding non-renewable “renewables” continues amassing more evidence that the entire scheme has been nothing more than about money, new material about other angles of the so-called “solutions” typically brought forth are also getting a more critical look from scholars. This is now making it clear that the ideas being marketed to the general public don’t actually solve anything but provide more money to those who will benefit from such ideas in the first place. Chris Hedges discusses some of this with Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith in this video.

I have covered some of the papers and provided videos from Simon Michaux in the past, and many of these same papers have been criticized, promulgating Michaux to provide a new paper going over these criticisms and his response to those claims (spoiler alert: those claims against his papers are proven to be without merit)…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

What is Degrowth?

What is Degrowth?

C.R. “Doodle” White Overlook, Hampton, Tennessee

I’m going to start this article with a song from Billy Joel. Those outside the United States might find the song somewhat difficult to understand. When the song came out, even I didn’t fully comprehend the implications the song brings to the forefront. The song is basically lamenting the de-industrialization that occurred in the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of this was caused by degrowth stemming from the peak conventional oil reached here in the US in 1970-71 (the US has since reached a new peak, but this was only achieved with the new technology of fracking). Another factor was environmental laws and the economics surrounding inflation and the necessity of wages to increase to meet the rising cost of living. Manufacturers started realizing that they could save money by moving operations elsewhere and avoiding environmental regulations and expensive labor costs. The US began a transition from a manufacturing behemoth to a more service-oriented economy.

Billy Joel’s song pointed to several social issues above and beyond the disappearing factory jobs, such as high school education here in the US being designed more for how to do certain jobs rather than how to think critically and how to solve problems. Another issue mentioned is the lack of coal (resource decline), having mined it all out locally. Still, it is a rather bold statement regarding the times back then, not to mention what a great song it is (number 43 on Billboard’s Top 100 year end chart for 1983).

With so much talk recently about supply chain issues, inflation, the job market, the cost of groceries, cars, and houses skyrocketing, it seems that many people are finally beginning to realize that there is a serious issue going on…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Jason Hickel: Degrowth and Ecosocialism

Jason Hickel: Degrowth and Ecosocialism

Give progress a chance: Embrace degrowth

Give progress a chance: Embrace degrowth

Continuing to prioritise economic growth is not a recipe for being a good ancestor. Nor is it a recipe for human progress, writes Jack Santa Barbara.

A large and growing number of scholars from many disciplines, are advocating for a reorientation of our social and political priorities by abandoning economic growth as our overriding priority.

Even some progressive economists are making these arguments. This degrowth movement argues for prioritising genuine progress in terms of both human wellbeing and ecological sustainability.  Indeed, these scholars argue that abandoning economic growth is essential for achieving these more important objectives.

While recognising the need for social and economic change, others, mostly economists and business leaders, argue that economic growth is essential to achieve human wellbeing and ecological sustainability. They cite examples of green growth with clean technologies as pointing the way forward.

Obviously, both groups cannot be right; their views are mutually exclusive. Green growth and degrowth cannot both provide a guiding framework for a just and sustainable future. Which is most likely to be helpful?

Given the extent of our disruption of natural systems at a planetary level, our rapidly worsening social and political problems, and the growing investments in green growth technologies, this seems an important question.

Are we basically on course with the green growth, technology-driven initiatives that most major governments have embraced? Or do we need a radical rethink of our priorities and how we organise our economies and societies, as degrowth advocates argue?

Green growth is a more comforting option, as it implies we can continue pretty much as we are, and largely rely on technology to do the heavy lifting to clean up our environment, and deliver wellbeing in all its guises.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The degrowth propaganda squad

What degrowth thinkers can learn from free market economist Friedrich Hayek and the father of public relations, Edward Bernays.

‘There is no alternative.’ The infamous slogan used by Margaret Thatcher would often be flung in your face, explicitly or implicitly, whenever you tried, in recent decades, to resist the dominant economic system.

You were opposed to ‘capitalism’ because of its colonial roots, because it was a productivity machine that generated extreme social inequality and that was disrupting the climate and the environment at an ever-growing pace.

Readers interested in how knowledge of economics and public relations can assist in environmental activism can contact the newly formed Degrowth Propaganda Squad by emailing rydrawong@protonmail.com.

You were a part of that ‘system’, however, and, for some of us, we were also white middle-class Westerners, and we reaped some of its benefits. You only really stammered when you tried to describe that ‘alternative’.


Jason Hickel’s bestselling Less is More (2021) at least frees us from this sense of discomfort. In it, Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, not only shows irrefutably that capitalism – driven by the creation of profit and the reinvestment of that profit and thus by the idea of seemingly infinite growth – is an impossible path for the future.

In purely material terms, the planet on which and off which we live has put up several hard ecological boundaries. Crossing those boundaries, it has become increasingly clear, has extremely destructive consequences.

Drawing on indisputable data, Hickel shows that, as a new way forward, ‘green growth’ – growth decoupled from an excessive energy and material footprint – is just as likely to lead to a dead end and that technological innovation is not going to magically solve the problems.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The planetary emergency we must avoid (spoiler alert: it’s not climate change)

The planetary emergency we must avoid (spoiler alert: it’s not climate change)

Rather than expanding our renewable electricity production and developing an EV fleet, a degrowth approach would be to initiate a massive energy conservation programme and investing in cities where we can live, work and play within 15 minutes’ walking or biking

Opinion: Purchasing an EV is something more people are doing to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. EVs are attractive and increasingly convenient.

But is this reaction to the climate crisis an example of the wrong solution to the wrong problem? Is climate change, as serious as it is, even the most important problem to address?

Climate change is certainly an existential threat and more needs to be done to mitigate its worst impacts. Yet even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, we would still face a range of environmental existential threats.

Part of the problem is we haven’t defined the problem correctly. Rather than trying to deal with specific issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and so on, there is an underlying cause that connects these threats. Understanding the cause could provide a new approach to dealing with many of these challenges.

First let’s step back and try to understand just what the threat is. As far as we know Earth is the only planet in the universe with complex living systems, with a biosphere covering its surface.

The biosphere is an intricately balanced network of living and non-living systems interacting with each other in a self-regulatory manner. This rare web of life provides for us physically, economically, aesthetically and spiritually.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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