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New Developments and Accepting Our Predicaments Without Blame

New Developments and Accepting Our Predicaments Without Blame

Forest clear cut along Chattooga Ridge Rd. in South Carolina

Today’s eclectic article has to do with new developments that have popped up recently, reiterating issues I have brought up previously, sometimes repeatedly. One of these things has to do with who and what we are as a species. This differs from us individually, as is demonstrated by the Maximum Power Principle (MPP). Still, violence within the confines of civilization is well-documented even if most individuals do not practice violence themselves. I have brought up the violence our closest cousins, chimpanzees, mete out within their tribes on numerous occasions to point out that this tendency (violence) is in our genes. Through many arguments over the past couple of years, it was pointed out to me that this is due to our patriarchal society rather than a strictly genetic basis and that having a matriarchal society resembling our second-closest cousins, the bonobos, would resolve this. I actually believed that up until now, when a new study has shown that this is not the case. There’s an argument to made that in fact, there are two types of aggression in human violence and that there is a goodness paradox in which we have become more domesticated, meaning we have become both less violent and more violent. In any case, we don’t have a matriarchal society at this point in time, and I highly doubt (but cannot rule out) that attempting such a society would have much effect on our set of predicaments being caused by our extreme overshoot condition.

I have also repeatedly pointed out how assigning blame really accomplishes very little if anything at all. I continue to see different documentaries which are absolutely laughable as they point the finger to different parts of the overall equation, many of which (like this one)…

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

Feathers Fall, Humanity Falters: An Indictment of Our War on Wildlife

Feathers Fall, Humanity Falters: An Indictment of Our War on Wildlife

In the Shadows of our Progress, the Pelicans of California Starve—A Harrowing Testament to the Devouring Maw of Industrial Greed

In the face of nature’s grim scene on the California coast, where the corpses and struggling forms of brown pelicans accumulate against a backdrop of society’s indifference, we are handed a stark revelation: our civilization is not just faltering, it is actively dismantling the very web of life that sustains it. Here lie the pelicans—emaciated, entangled in our refuse, discarded like the wrappers and cans we so carelessly toss aside—victims not just of an immediate crisis but of a deep, systemic failure that gnaws at the marrow of our environmental ethics.

We, the industrious apes, the oil-blooded, growth-addicted shapers of the Anthropocene, are watching the slow-motion collapse of biological networks that have thrived for millennia, and yet, what do we do? We turn away, obsess over technological fixes and market-based ‘solutions’ that further entrench the very causes of the ecological carnage we witness. Our oceans are not just water bodies; they are vast, pulsing entities, life-giving and life-taking, now bearing the brunt of our chemical effusions and thermal greed.

The pelicans—those majestic beings who should soar with the coastal winds—are instead plummeting in droves. Starvation? In a sea that teams with fish? It’s not just a natural anomaly; it’s a consequence of human actions. Fishing lines and hooks, remnants of our insatiable consumption, strangle and maim these birds, symbols of a planet under siege. Yet, as these creatures lay dying on our shores, the pervasive response is to shuffle paperwork, to make tepid gestures towards conservation, and then to continue the drilling, the fishing, the relentless extraction that underpins our very mode of life.

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

Earth Day 2024: Unveiling the Ecological Toll of War and Genocide

As Earth Day approaches, prepare for the annual spectacle of U.S. lawmakers donning their environmentalist hats, waxing poetic about their love for the planet while disregarding the devastation their actions wreak. The harsh reality is that alongside their hollow pledges lies a trail of destruction fueled by military aggression and imperial ambitions, all under the guise of national security.

Take Gaza, for instance. Its once-fertile farmland now lies barren, its water sources poisoned by conflict and neglect. The grim statistics speak volumes: 97% of Gaza’s water is unfit for human consumption, leading to a staggering 26% of illnesses, particularly among vulnerable children.

Israel’s decades-long colonial settler project and ethnic cleansing of Palestine have caused irrefutable damage to the land, air, and water, consequently contributing to the climate crisis. In fact, in the first two months of the current genocide campaign in Gaza, Israel’s murderous bombardment, which has killed nearly 35,000 people, has also generated more planet-warming emissions than the annual carbon footprint of the world’s top 20 climate-vulnerable nations. Yet, despite these dire circumstances, U.S. lawmakers persist in funneling weapons to Israel, perpetuating a cycle of violence and environmental degradation.

The ripple effects of militarism extend far beyond Gaza’s borders. In Ukraine, the Russia-Ukraine War has left a staggering $56.4 billion environmental bill, with widespread contamination of air, water, and soil. Landmines and unexploded ordnance left litter 30% of the country, posing long-term risks to both the environment and human health. The United States’ answer to all this has been to reject diplomacy and fuel a long, protracted war with a seamingling endless supply of weapons and military support. A war that most experts will tell you is not a winnable war. The proxy war the United States is funding not only leaves Ukrainians at risk of never achieving peace but also significantly contributes to the ever-growing climate crisis.

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

Humans: the Movie

Humans: the Movie

What follows is a story involving a movie watched by animals. The pacing of the movie to be described might seem like a very odd choice, but it simply mirrors the pacing of human life on the planet. A vivid visual imagination on your part will help to bring the story to life. So, put on your creative cap and let’s dive in!

Picture a small-town movie theater on a street so quiet and unimposing that the surrounding prairie and forest sidle right up to the back of the theater. The marquee advertises a feature film called The Human Saga.

As the afternoon shadows lengthen, a trickle of woodland creatures start to emerge from the forest, mosey up to the theater, pay for tickets, and go in. You notice rabbits, a fox, a group of turkeys, a band of raccoons, some stoats, newts, a skunk (who will be lucky enough to sit next to it?), a hoppy group of frogs, some chittering squirrels, a family of porcupines, a pair of doves, an ancient looking tortoise, a doe and her two fawns, and even a mama bear with cubs. They and many others have all come to absorb a tale of what these humans are all about. It’s a long movie: almost three hours chronicling the almost 3 million years of humans on Earth. But it’s fine: no one is in a big hurry.

The animals amicably settle into their seats, enjoying candy, popcorn, and a hot dog here and there. They’re relaxed, but wide-eyed with excitement for this special treat.

Opening Scene

The curtains rise, and the opening scene dazzles the crowd, bathing them in orange light as a bright sunrise radiates from the screen…

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXII–Government: Constantly Forsaking Our Ecological Systems to Chase the Perpetual Growth Chalice

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXII

December 7, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Government: Constantly Forsaking Our Ecological Systems to Chase the Perpetual Growth Chalice

Todays’ contemplation has been prompted by the usual shenanigans of government. In this case, the government of my home province of Ontario, Canada.

As regular readers of my posts are acutely aware, I have a strong belief that the primary guiding principle/motivation of our ruling caste is the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Everything they touch is leveraged towards this goal.

Not surprisingly, the political elite within this caste always twist/market their actions/policies that serve to meet the above principle as a social service for the masses because regardless of their power/influence they continue to require the ‘support’ of the hoi polloi so as to avoid revolution/overthrow (they are, after all, hugely outnumbered and depend upon the non-elite for their labour and taxes). If the masses were ever to come to the realisation that our governments are, for all intents and purposes, little more than criminal organisations using their positions and power to funnel wealth from national ‘treasuries’ to their families and ‘friends’, and create legislation that strengthens this corruption, the reaction could be, well, who knows…history suggests it doesn’t end well for some of the elite.

As archaeologist Joseph Tainter points out in The Collapse of Complex Societies, the activities surrounding legitimising the status quo power/wealth structures is common in any society in order for the political system to survive. While coercion can ensure some compliance, it is a more costly approach than moral validity. States tend to focus on a symbolic and scared ‘centre’ (necessarily independent of its various territorial parts), which is why they always have an official religion, linking leadership to the supernatural (which helps unify different groups/regions). This need for such religious integration, however, recedes — although not the sense of the scared — once other avenues for retaining power exist. In modern nation states, this ‘sacred’ has become ‘government’; an organisational structure whose existence and necessity is rarely questioned.

It is for the reason of enhancing/maintaining government legitimacy that domestic populations are constantly exposed to persuasive narratives that paint its sociopolitical ‘leaders’ as beneficent servants of the people — thank you narrative control managers (especially the legacy media) for this. This recurring phenomenon rings true throughout time and regardless of the form of government.

Back to the target of this contemplation…

My provincial government has recently opened up a bit of a hornet’s nest around the expansion of housing upon significantly ecologically-sensitive lands of the Oak Ridges Moraine[1] that had been ‘protected’ from such exploitation since 2005 by a legislative act of our provincial parliament[2]. The narratives around the ‘protection’ of this area are interesting to peruse[3].

There has been a flurry of media articles and social media posts revealing the cronyism between the current government and certain landowners that stand to profit handsomely from this policy shift[4] — many of whom purchased the land in question in just the past few years. And while these revelations are interesting and serve to confirm my bias regarding the ruling caste, this is not what I wish to focus upon.

I want to talk a bit about the Overton Window[5] or ‘controlled opposition[6]’ that I have noticed in my province around this issue and the related notion of growth, especially population growth and its concomitant impact on the environment and ecological systems.

Virtually every article and citizen comment I’ve read around this issue responds in a relatively tightly closed worldview that assumes a few things, particularly that growth is not only beneficial but must and will occur. Since it is good and will continue, the ‘debate’ becomes one of urban sprawl verses densification.

It would be best, the argument goes, for the environment and ecological systems if we were avoid expanding into this ‘Greenbelt’ and to contain our growth within tightly-packed urban centres. This perspective is heralded far and wide but especially by so-called environmentally-minded groups/individuals.

For example, the Greenbelt Foundation — an “organization solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous” — argues that “Growing in more compact ways, relying more on intensifying existing urban areas and creating dense, mixed-use new communities can reduce long-term financial commitments and ensure better fiscal health now and for generations to come.”[7]

None realise that increasing density does not necessarily equate to environmental soundness since it is the numbers of people that leads to the most significant drawdown of finite resources, not necessarily how they are distributed — particularly in ‘advanced’ economies where consumption is significantly higher than other economies. Yes, small and walkable communities do tend to show a decrease in certain resource needs but one cannot keep packing more and more people into tight spaces and argue the environment and ecological systems are ‘saved’ in such a scenario.

The many cons of densification are ignored. Such as the ‘heat island effect’ that increases energy consumption, the increased economic activity and consumption that tends to accompany dense urban centres, and traffic congestion that can cause emissions increases — to say little about the social pathologies and negative health impacts found in higher density settlements, such as the increased prevalence of anxiety/depression or the speed with which epidemics can spread[8].

Nowhere does one read a challenge to the very foundation of this interpretive lens that growth is good and inevitable. Nowhere is a discussion of halting growth or, God forbid, reversing it (i.e., degrowth). Growth MUST continue, and this pertains to both economic and population growth.

Growth is of course a leverage point for our ruling caste. It is used, in my opinion, to continue to expand the wealth-generation and -extractions systems but also, and perhaps more importantly, to maintain the Ponzi-like nature of our financial/economic systems. It is, however, as are all policies/actions, marketed as the means to ensure our prosperity.

Here I am reminded of a passage from Donella Meadows’s text Thinking in Systems: A Primer (2008):

…a clear leverage point: growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits, and we typically don’t count the costs — among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on — the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth, and in some cases no growth or negative growth. The world leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction. …leverage points frequently are not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve.”

The thinking outlined above by Meadows regarding negative growth and pushing in the wrong direction is completely foreign to the discussions I am witnessing on the expansion into Ontario’s ‘Greenbelt’. None dare challenge the mythical narrative that growth is good and inevitable. Such out-of-the-box thinking is not allowed. If such a thought is shared, the speaker is marginalised or ignored by most.

This is particularly so if one enters the kryptonite-like morass that is population growth in ‘advanced’ economies where such growth is ensured by skimming people from other countries — spun as a social service to the world’s needy — but is really about keeping the financial/economic Ponzi from collapsing because domestic populations are not reproducing fast enough[9].

And here I am reminded of another text passage, this time by Noam Chomsky in The Common Good (1998)[10]:

“In general, the mainstream media [everyone] all make certain basic assumptions, like the necessity of maintaining a welfare state for the rich. Within that framework, there’s some room for differences of opinion, and it’s entirely possible that the major media are toward the liberal end of that range. In fact, in a well-designed propaganda system, that’s exactly where they should be. The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” ~Noam Chomsky

This appears to be the crux of the matter when it comes to many issues. The ruling caste, with the help of the mainstream media and others, circumscribe the range of the debate. This provides cover for the ultimate endgame — in the issue over the Greenbelt expansion it is the accommodation of population expansion through the construction of millions of homes (and it matters not whether these are on ecologically-sensitive lands or not in the long run) from which the ruling caste will undoubtedly make billions of dollars in profits…while the finite resources necessary to support this growth become more rare and costly to extract/process, and the environment and ecological systems upon which we depend continue to experience disruption and destruction.

We are continually fed a mythical narrative about growth and then set to debate and argue each other over how to accommodate it while ignoring the only way that might help to mitigate — at least marginally — our ecological overshoot predicament: degrowth.

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

[2] See this.

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

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

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

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

[7] See this.

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

[9] See this, this, this,

[10] Hat tip to Erik Michaels who reminded me of this passage in his latest writing, that I highly recommend.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLII–Criticising ‘Renewables’ is Not a Sin

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLII

March 1, 2022 (original posting date)

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Criticising ‘Renewables’ is Not a Sin

The following ‘contemplation’ follows on the heels of a discussion I began with another within a Facebook group I am a member of. The post and dialogue can be found here. Suffice it to say, I was, as has happened numerous times, criticised for a comment that challenged an argument for accelerating our shift from fossil fuels to ‘renewable’ technologies.

What follows is my response to their response to my comment that suggested we need to simplify our existence and not accelerate our pursuit of environmentally-/ecologically-destructive and complex technologies.

Let me respond to each of your paragraphs:

First, indeed humans have harnessed wind and water power for millennia but using far, far less complex and resource-intensive technologies and for far, far fewer humans so their impact on the environment has been multiple times less, and during times when numerous biophysical limits had yet to be broached or nearing such overshoot. You then create a straw man implying I am arguing to return to the ‘Stone Age’, which I did not[1]. I left open the nature of any type of ‘simplicity’ that we should be aiming for but there’s a good argument to be made that ‘simple’ windmills/waterwheels for far fewer humans than currently exist may be the only ‘sustainable’ option[2]. What I did argue is that we need to NOT seek complex technologies that continue the destruction of the planet as our ‘modern’ harnessing of wind/solar/water do; facts you have completely glossed over[3].

Second, to point out the significant issues with non-renewable renewables (NRRs), does not necessarily feed into the ‘climate change denial, fossil fuel fundamentalism’ you accuse me of[4]. This is another straw man based upon a complete lack of contextual interpretation of my comment, and continued ignorance of the environmental destructiveness issue I raise; to say little of the reality that a massive push to accelerate the processes needed to produce NRRs would require massive fossil fuel inputs (and lots of other finite resources; thus the reason they are non-renewable). I am as concerned about continued fossil fuel extraction and its impacts as I am about all the other resource extractions we continue to rely upon (and expand as diminishing returns increase in severity).

Third, I would argue we are not where we are primarily because of fossil fuels (although they have likely sped up our predicament) but because of our propensity to expand and create complex societies based upon a number of finite resources. Humanity has shown its complex societies have been ‘unsustainable’ from the very first ones, long before fossil fuels ever came into the picture — every complex society that has ever existed has eventually ‘collapsed’ due to diminishing returns on investments in complexity[5], and accelerating an adoption of NRRs fits into this perfectly; they require significantly increased inputs compared to outputs (while continuing to destroy our biosphere[6]).

Keep in mind that resource ‘wars’ far, far predate our past few decades of fighting over oil and gas (resources that, unfortunately, underpin our current massive global complexities and footprint). Fossil fuels have simply expedited our propensity to overshoot our local carrying capacity and taken it global in nature. It is this, ecological overshoot, that is our predicament; the consequences of which we increasingly appear to be unable to avoid because we’re misdiagnosing/misinterpreting it (and have been for some decades). I would argue that there is nothing that is ‘sustainable’ for close to 8 billion humans. Nothing, probably not even ‘Stone Age’ hunting-and-gathering.

By all means, let’s transition away from fossil fuels but let’s not exacerbate our predicament by chasing the wrong path that is increasingly being shown to be just as detrimental to our species and all the other ones we depend upon. If we are not talking significant degrowth and simplification, then we are just creating comforting narratives to reduce our cognitive dissonance[7].

Having said all this, however, I am convinced we will attempt the push into NRRs that you advocate as we slide down the Seneca cliff of resource/energy availability. For, after all, the ruling class[8] that controls/influences the mainstream narratives (and what most people think/believe) stand to profit handsomely from the effort for they also control/influence all the industries and financial institutions that are required to pursue such a path. The result will surely be a trajectory further into ecological overshoot and thus a more massive ‘collapse’ (which always accompanies a species overshooting its environment). Nature always bats last and we continue to deny this and end up putting ourselves in greater danger. And, unfortunately, it would seem even a lot of the most well-intentioned individuals and groups are cheerleading us along the wrong path.

[1] While I did not suggest we would return to the ‘Stone Age’ that may indeed be the endgame of our unknowable future. In fact, some of humanity may be ‘lucky’ to make it through the bottleneck we have created and actually live in a ‘Stone Age’ type way. Time will tell.

[2] What might be ‘sustainable’ depends upon a host of factors, most importantly the number of humans and the nature of their living standards. More resource-dependent living standards necessarily means far fewer humans can be supported.

[3] The industrial processes necessary to create and produce the current technologies to harness wind, water, and solar energy are highly finite resource-dependent (including fossil fuels) and require significant mining, transportation, refining, and construction processes that result in concomitant waste production; both toxic and non-toxic in nature.

[4] It seems any criticism of ‘renewables’ is immediately construed by many as being in favour of continued fossil fuel extraction and use. This seems to me to be more of an instantaneous emotional reaction than a considered interpretation of the context in which such criticism is made. Such dichotomous thinking, while a common defense mechanism, prevents one from seeing the complexities and nuances of situations and distorts perceptions.

[5] See archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies.

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



[7] My discussion here doesn’t even begin to elaborate on all the additional ‘headwinds’ we are bumping up against besides resource limits and overloading of planetary sinks, a significant one being the massive ‘debt’ that currently exists. With debt being, more or less, a claim on future energy we are in substantially more dire straits than it appears on the surface due to significant debt obligations and the Ponzi-like nature of our financial/monetary/economic systems. Most, if not all, economic activity could find itself collapsing completely with the implosion of the debt bubbles that exist far before resource limits bring it all crashing down; to say little about the impact of geopolitical stressors.

[8] I use the term ‘ruling class’ as a catch-all for those individuals/families/groups that sit atop a complex society’s power and wealth structures; and whose prime motivation is the expansion/control of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems which they tend to control/own/influence.

The Price of Green Energy

The Price of Green Energy


Betting the Earth on a Game of Wrap-Cut-Smash

Betting the Earth on a Game of Wrap-Cut-Smash

Photo by Kevin Gill | CC BY 2.0

The Earth is having to deal with continuous, largely unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases, along with soil degradation, mass extinction of species, destruction of ecosystems, and disruption of nitrogen, phosphorous, and water cycles. Meanwhile, efforts to head off the planet-wide ecological crisis remain trapped in a game of rock-paper-scissors. [1]

Let’s start with the “paper,” which represents the kinds of paper exercises purporting to show that prosperous “green growth” can carry humanity and the Earth together through a better and better future. These include, for example, the 2015 “Ecomodernist Manifesto” [2] and a series of “100% renewable wind, water, and sunlight energy roadmaps” [3] published in recent years. Such cornucopian analyses undergird the mainstream climate movement’s vision of a smooth transition to a greener, happier, more prosperous world.

The paper, however, is cut up by the “scissors”— the restraints on resource exploitation and consequent cutbacks in production of goods and services, along with other human activities, that will be necessary if ecological catastrophe is to be avoided. Rooted in the knowledge that infinite growth is impossible and efficiency a chimera, the idea that economic activity must be restrained was developed early on by the ecological economists Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and Herman Daly [4] and has long been urged by the Post-Carbon Institute [5], “peak oil” campaigners [6], Tim Jackson, Ted Trainer, and various proposals for firm ceilings on energy consumption, with business and household quotas [7].

The scissors argument for the necessity of cutting throughput and pulling back within ecological limits is unassailable. However, most such analyses are focused on the world’s high-production, high-consumption economies, with few specific recommendations for how the billions of people in both rich and poor economies who already lack adequate access to resources can achieve material sufficiency.

…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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