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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIX–Are We Being Duped Regarding Global Warming?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIX

August 17, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Are We Being Duped Regarding Global Warming?

Today’s contemplation was prompted by an email my mum sent me. As she closes in on 80, I find that she’s becoming a bit more open-minded about things but remains somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to global warming/anthropogenic climate change. We periodically share thoughts on the state of the world, especially politics, and I think I’ve almost got her convinced to abandon her faith/trust in government…

Anyways, here is the comment about global warming she forwarded to me and my relatively quick response (typed up while I was engaged in replacing a floor/foundation for one of our greenhouses — I never considered a decade ago when I installed the first greenhouse, of three, that the mini-garden ties I was using to terrace our backyard would decay/rot so quickly so I am replacing them with concrete blocks and putting in a patio stone floor so that my eldest daughter who has taken over the greenhouse can have many years of use with it, hopefully). I have added some minor supplemental thoughts (in italics) and supporting links to a few sources (see endnotes).


With global warming having become as much a political issue as a scientific inquiry, I went from wondering whether mankind might really be influencing the climate to someone questioning a science I do not understand. I am now worried we are being duped by people with an agenda, like keep the money gravy train running. No one has yet explained to my satisfaction the big ice age followed by warming then a mini-ice age, followed by warming, all before mankind was a significant presence on earth and did nothing but have a few campfires.


That human activity has an impact on our environment and ecological systems, I have little doubt. How could almost eight billion of us and our resource demands not? Especially the so-called ‘advanced’ economies[i]. There is growing evidence that shows that our industrial civilisation has surpassed several planetary biophysical limits and likely overloaded a number of the planet’s compensatory sinks due to the vast amounts of waste material produced in its quest to procure the minerals and energy that our tools require for their manufacture and pollutants produced through their use.[ii]

The issue with the focus on global warming/climate change/carbon emissions is multi-faceted —such stories are never as simple as we’re led to believe. Geologic history shows pretty clearly that the planet’s climate changes and probably most significantly as a result of the sun’s cycles.[iii]

Is human activity exacerbating natural cycles? Quite possibly[iv]. Is it as catastrophic as painted by some?[v] Only time can truly tell since modelling of complex systems is fraught with difficulties.[vi] One minor variation of one of many variables that are used to create future predictions can shift the eventual outcome significantly.[vii] Of course, humans don’t like uncertainty (which is really all that can be provided about the future — probabilistic scenarios that may or may not occur — no matter how complex one’s predictive model is) so we cling to and tend to believe forecasts that are at their root uncertain; their potential accuracy matters not.[viii]

One of the other complications of the narrative is that our ruling class always leverages crises to their advantage. Always. I have little doubt that the hyper focus on climate and carbon emissions is being used to pursue the ruling class’s primary motivation: control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams.[ix]

The ‘problem’ of climate change is always presented with ‘solutions’ but those ‘solutions’ do not address carbon emissions in the least; in fact, there’s a good argument to be made that they actually increase them.[x] Much as the ruling class manufactures consent for any policy that the masses might question/reject (almost always via significant propaganda campaigns), they have created a narrative that is designed to persuade people to believe something that is increasingly being shown to be completely false and little more than marketing/sloganeering.[xi]

These ‘solutions’ also, conveniently, increase the revenue streams of the ruling class via taxes and complete replacement/overhaul of virtually all important technology (e.g., ‘renewable’ energy, electric vehicles, etc.). Scratch even gently below the surface of the ‘clean/green’ energy story and you discover it’s all basically bullshit.[xii] These technologies not only are not sustainable because of their dependence upon finite resources (including very much on the fossil fuel platform itself), but their production is hugely ecologically destructive. We are being sold a load of crap on various fronts so that the sociopaths that ‘control’ our world can profit. This being said, we do face some significant environmental and resource depletion challenges.

Probably the most dire predicament we face is ecological overshoot — too damn many people (especially living in ‘advanced’ economies) for a planet with finite resources.[xiii] The constant push for growth (which really is just to prolong/support the gargantuan Ponzi that our financial/economic/monetary systems have become) is the exact opposite of what we likely need to be doing; as is the push to ‘electrify’ everything.[xiv] The unfortunate thing for the future is that any species that overshoots its natural carrying capacity has only one way to be rebalanced: a massive die-off.[xv] When that occurs (and how it unfolds) is anybody’s guess…

As much as we tend to believe we understand our world and its complexities, I would contend we do not; at least, not very well. To compensate for this uncertainty we have developed all sorts of psychological mechanisms that lead us to believe particular narratives with some ‘certainty’. The beginning of a recent paper that challenges the mainstream story surrounding ‘renewable’ energy (that has been presented as a panacea for reducing carbon emissions; although I would argue Peak Oil is a more troubling issue in the energy needs of industrial civilisation[xvi]) is pertinent to this idea: “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.”[xvii]

[i] https://archive.globalpolicy.org/social-and-economic-policy/the-environment/general-analysis-on-the-environment/45393-how-much-of-the-worlds-resource-consumption-occurs-in-rich-countries.html; https://www.livescience.com/20308-greedy-nations-top-resource-users-earth.html

[ii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921800914001323; https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/1259855.full; https://ideas.ted.com/the-9-limits-of-our-planet-and-how-weve-raced-past-4-of-them/; https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2015-01-15-planetary-boundaries—an-update.html

[iii] https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/how-does-sun-affect-our-climate; https://phys.org/news/2017-03-sun-impact-climate-quantified.html

[iv] https://sciencing.com/what-human-activities-affect-the-carbon-cycle-12083853.html; https://www.e-education.psu.edu/earth103/node/680; https://phys.org/news/2010-12-human-affect-carbon.html

[v] https://www.populationconnectionaction.org/2021/08/12/ipcc-catastrophic-climate-change-is-coming/; https://www.npr.org/2021/08/09/1025898341/major-report-warns-climate-change-is-accelerating-and-humans-must-cut-emissions-; https://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/deepadaptation.pdf

[vi] https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/complexsystems/introduction.html; https://wtf.tw/ref/meadows.pdf

[vii] https://issues.org/climate-change-scenarios-lost-touch-reality-pielke-ritchie/?fbclid=IwAR1dbpSNqPXWr9QyfC-fDzlWrvfswO3LLZKj08szexcCb_7h7uRW2j7Qv54

[viii] https://www.amazon.com/Future-Babble-Pundits-Hedgehogs-Foxes/dp/0452297575

[ix] https://www.counterpunch.org/20 , 15/10/06/yes-there-is-an-imperialist-ruling-class/; https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_globalelite07.htm

[x] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/jan/09/wind-turbines-increasing-carbon-emissions; https://www.amazon.com/Life-after-Fossil-Fuels-Alternative/dp/3030703347; https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/opinion/mondaycop22-lower-co2-emissions-with-lower-carbon-solar-energy/

[xi] https://www.amazon.com/Manufacturing-Consent-Political-Economy-Media/dp/0375714499; https://www.amazon.com/Propaganda-Edward-Bernays/dp/0970312598; https://planetofthehumans.com; https://www.brightgreenlies.com

[xii] https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/environmental-impacts-renewable-energy-technologies; https://www.e-education.psu.edu/eme807/node/715https://www.nap.edu/read/12619/chapter/7; https://www.altenergymag.com/article/2015/08/the-dark-side-of-renewable-energy-negative-impacts-of-renewables-on-the-environment/20963/; https://www.routledge.com/Environmental-Impacts-of-Renewable-Energy/Spellman/p/book/9781482249460; https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/the-environmental-impact-of-lithium-batteries/

[xiii] https://www.pnas.org/content/99/14/9266; https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/319810.Overshoot

[xiv] https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/our-economy-is-a-ponzi-scheme-8fc56b9e594f; https://eand.co/how-the-economy-became-one-giant-ponzi-scheme-4ac84bf18738; https://moneyweek.com/economy/global-economy/601657/why-our-economy-is-a-giant-ponzi-scheme

[xv] https://thesenecaeffect.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/humans-in-ecological-overshoot-collapse-now-to-avoid-a-larger-catastrophe/; https://www.earthovershoot.org/who-we-are/frequent-questions.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overshoot_(population)

[xvi] https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/29458/peak-oil-decline-coronavirus-economy/; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-peak-oil-already-happened/; http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2014/ph240/liegl1/

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

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

More Greenwashing: ‘Sustainable’ Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XV–Finite Energy, ‘Renewables’, and the Ruling Elite

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XV

May 21, 2021

Rome, Italy (1984) Photo by author

Finite Energy, ‘Renewables’, and the Ruling Elite

Energy. It’s at the core of everything we do. Everything. Yet we take it for granted and rarely think about it and what the finiteness of our various energy sources means for us.

As Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World concludes in a recent thought-provoking article that should be read widely: “Needless to say, the powers that be do not want the general population to hear about issues of these kinds. We find ourselves with narrower and narrower news reports that provide only the version of the truth that politicians and news media want us to read.”

Instead of having a complex and very necessary discussion about the unsustainable path we are on (especially as it pertains to chasing the perpetual growth chalice) and attempting to mitigate the consequences of our choices, we are told all is well, that ‘science’, ‘human ingenuity’, and ‘technology’ will save the day, and we can maintain business-as-usual with just some minor ‘tweaks’ and/or a ‘green/clean’ energy transition. Pre/history, physics, and biology would suggest otherwise.

Here is my relatively long comment on a Tyee article discussing the International Energy Agency’s recent report that calls on all future fossil fuel projects to be abandoned and drastic reductions in demand in order to avoid irreparable climate change damage to our planet. The answer, however, will not be found in ‘renewable’ energy and related technologies as many contend because the underlying and fundamental issue of overshoot has been conveniently left out of the story.

Having followed the ‘energy’ dilemma for more than a decade I’ve come to better understand the complexities, nuances, and scheming that it entails; not all mind you, not by a long shot, but certainly better than the mainstream narratives provide. I have no incentive to cling to a particular storyline, none. I have discovered the following information through continued reading and questioning. My perspective on almost everything has shifted dramatically as a result — one cannot unlearn certain things once they’ve been exposed to them.

One has to ask oneself a few questions and keep in mind a number of facts when putting the puzzle together as to what exactly is going on; and energy applies to many, many issues in our world far, far beyond climate change because it is the fundamental basis of life and all this entails. I won’t/can’t post everything since it would involve a massive text, but here are a few pertinent issues to consider in the energy story and our fossil-fuel future.

First, fossil fuels are indeed a finite resource so their coming decline in use was inevitable. This is not only because they are finite but because of falling energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI). Given our tendency to exploit the low-hanging fruit first (use up the easy-to-access and cheapest-to-retrieve), the law of declining marginal utility (also known as diminishing returns) was destined to occur and our use of them diminish significantly. We now have to rely upon oil sands, tight oil, and deep-sea drilling to sustain or just barely improve extraction rates. This is not only not economical because of the complexities involved, but uses up increasing amounts of the energy extracted (to say little of the environmental impacts).

The energy industry and governments have known about this predicament for decades. It is not a surprise at all (several ‘research’ reports by government agencies/bureaucrats over the years are available that discuss the issue; to say little about the ‘academic’ discussions). Geophysicist Marion King Hubbert projected this situation while working for the Shell Oil Company in the mid-1900s and developed the Peak Oil Theory, which has more-or-less been quite accurate in its predictions, especially for conventional crude oil production. Given that the largest and most profitable conventional crude oil reserves have all been found and exploited, and the increasing costs and diminishing returns of alternative methods of extracting oil and gas, it’s really not surprising that the industry has greatly reduced capital expenditures in exploration and instead ventured into alternatives; there is little additional profit to be made in oil and gas — better to move to other energy sources and market them as a panacea that will not only address climate change but support our energy-intensive living standards. This dilemma is also outlined in the 1972 text Limits to Growth that used emerging computer simulations to explore various scenarios given the fact that we live on a planet with finite resources. Of the various models generated, we seem to be tracking most closely the Business-As-Usual one that projected problems arising for humanity as we entered this century (and peaking around 2050); problems/dilemmas due to a variety things, not least among them the consequences of population overshoot.

Second, transitioning to alternative sources of energy is not a simple nor straightforward shift; not even close. We have created a complex, interlinked world almost entirely dependent upon fossil fuels. This one-time, finite cache of energy reserves has underpinned virtually our entire ‘modern’ way of living. From the ability to create a complex energy-averaging system via globalised, long-distance trade routes to industrial agriculture that feeds our billions (some quite well, others not so much), oil and gas makes it possible. There are no alternatives that can replace fossil fuels for a number of reasons but mostly because many of our necessary industrial and extraction processes must use fossil fuels since alternatives are inadequate — and alternatives all rely upon these processes for their production, distribution, and maintenance. Rather than acknowledge this dilemma, we have crafted a narrative that such a transition is not only possible but will more or less be forced upon humanity for its own good (more on why I believe this is so below).

Much of our geopolitical and economic chaos over the past number of decades can be tied directly to our energy issues as well. Maneuvering by various nation states, in the Middle East especially, has a link to the massive fossil fuel reserves that have been discovered around the planet. Alliances with questionable governments and proxy wars with competing nations has been the storyline for some years now as access to and control of oil and gas reserves (among other important resources) has been paramount. The untethering of our currency to physical commodities (i.e., gold and silver) in the late 1960s and early 1970s (especially the abrogation of the Bretton Woods Agreement by the United States), and subsequent ever-increasing debasement of it, can be said to be one of the consequences of diminishing returns on our most important energy sources and attempts to counteract the energy decline — especially in the US where oil and gas production peaked about this time. Geopolitics is mostly if not always about control of resources, not about freeing a nation’s citizens from its tyrannical government and bringing ‘democracy’ to them — we chose which ‘tyrants’ we support and which we vilify (even within our own ‘democracies’).

Finally (although I could ramble on forever), the ruling class/oligarchs/elite (whatever you wish to term the power brokers and wealthy in society) have one primary motivation that drives them: the control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams — this has been the story of the ruling classes throughout pre/history. All other concerns either serve this first one or are secondary/tertiary. Energy is one of the most profitable of the various wealth-generating systems (control of the creation and distribution of fiat currency perhaps the most; along with taxing powers). What better way to ensure continued wealth generation than convincing everyone that a shift to alternative energy sources is necessary to save ourselves and planet, even if such a shift is impossible and untenable.

We cannot mitigate, let alone solve, the issues at hand for humanity and the planet if we do not correctly identify the cause(s). Clinging to a narrative that is primarily marketing propaganda might help to reduce the cognitive dissonance created by holding two or more beliefs that conflict with each other, but it does zero in addressing our needs. Holding on to the hope that we can continue to live as we have because ‘someone’ will solve these conundrums is in my opinion misplaced faith.

Our major dilemma is overshoot, defined simply as the point where a species has placed more demand on its environment/ecology than that system can naturally regenerate and sustain the population. The one-time cache of fossil fuels has allowed our species to proliferate (and helped to provide amazing wonders) well beyond the natural carrying capacity of our planet. And now that it is in terminal decline nature is sure to bring our species’ population back into alignment. Those at the top of society’s power structures are well aware of these issues for they have driven most of their actions and policies for decades. It is far better for them, however, if the masses are focused elsewhere and their use of propaganda to do this has a long history as well. We are being sold a comforting narrative about ‘clean/green’ energy while the underlying reality of what is occurring is being purposely ignored or dismissed, often as conjecture or conspiracy. The idea that we need to reduce our fossil fuel use to save the planet is convenient cover for the truth that fossil fuels are becoming too expensive to retrieve because the cheap-to-access and easy-to-retrieve reserves are quickly running out.

I’m increasingly doubtful we are going to face the ultimately very difficult decisions that need to be made (in fact, needed to be made decades ago) and we will continue to stumble along hoping and praying that all will work out just fine, thank you. Only time will tell how this all plays out for none of us can accurately predict the future but the path of decline/collapse seems fairly certain. Every complex society that has existed up to this point in history has experienced it and we are not significantly different when push comes to shove. If archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s thesis in his monograph The Collapse of Complex Societies is accurate, complex societies ‘collapse’ due to the inability to deal with stress surges because they have been experiencing diminishing returns on their investments in complexity; and this is exactly the situation with humanity’s investments in fossil fuels.

This is what I have been able to cobble together in the couple of hours of a few household chores and while enjoying my morning coffee. Now I will prepare to spend my usual day out and about our yard enhancing our fruit/vegetable gardens, and attempting to make our household a tad more resilient in light of the decline that is most assuredly upon us. You may or may not agree with my interpretation of things but I would implore you to explore the issues and certainly step outside of your comfort zone and consider a different paradigm because the ones pushed by the ruling class are not in your best interest.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIV–Reducing Population: Degrowth or Enrich Everyone?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIV

Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Reducing Population: Degrowth or Enrich Everyone?

Part of an ongoing conversation with another regarding globalisation and whether it is a beneficial or detrimental endeavour of humanity. You can find the entire back and forth here.

The notion that to address our overshoot dilemma by bringing the impoverished up to the level of the so-called ‘advanced’ economies so that population levels out or decreases (eventually) requires some significant magical thinking.

As I stated, the primary reason for ‘advanced’ economy riches is the exploitation of a finite resource; a finite resource that is already in its death throes due to the law of declining marginal utility (to say little about all the other resources that are similarly experiencing diminishing returns and requiring greater and greater amounts of energy to even maintain or slightly increase extraction levels).

There are not the resources remaining to bring the entire world up to the level supposedly necessary to lead to smaller families. What resources remain would be best used in helping everyone relocalise which is going to be most difficult for those caught in the trap of globalisation: dependence upon long-distance supply chains, especially for food.

Then there are the environmental/ecological consequences of attempting to enrich the majority of the world that continues to increase global population, resulting in even more stress on the various complex systems that ‘sustain’ humanity (and many other species). In fact, there are many who would argue our resource exploitations have already resulted in irreparable harm and must be halted immediately, not doubled- or tripled-down as you suggest to provide ‘riches’ for everyone.

I think you’ve got it completely backward; in fact, your suggestion would likely expedite the impending ‘collapse’ of our complex and energy-intensive, industrialised world. The ‘advanced’ economies are going to have to become far, far less ‘rich’ and as I said, either we choose how this might be done before we fall over the impending energy cliff or nature WILL do it for us; and nature doesn’t give one single iota of care or concern about how populations are brought back into balance with an area’s environmental carrying capacity. There are many who suggest a massive die-off of humans is the most likely scenario for the planet.

And I won’t even get into the fact that our current complex systems have been continuing only because of the economic Ponzi that the ruling class has created through flooding of the world with (increasingly debased) fiat currency and debt (hundreds of trillions of dollars). This is a monetary/financial/economic system that could ‘collapse’ at any moment, especially if people lose faith in the system.

I would suggest investigating the dilemma of Peak Oil, maybe start with Gail Tverberg (https://ourfiniteworld.com), Alice Friedemann (http://energyskeptic.com), Peak Prosperity’s The Crash Course (https://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse/), and the late Michael Ruppert’s Collapse (https://youtu.be/0Lx2dfK7H9E). Then also watch the following clips with William Catton (author of Overshoot): https://youtu.be/jNuRZuaw0_U, the late Dr. Albert Bartlett on our conundrum: https://youtu.be/O133ppiVnWY, and archaeologist Dr. Joseph Tainter (author of The Collapse of Complex Societies): https://youtu.be/G0R09YzyuCI.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XI–Fiat Currency, Infinite Growth, Finite Resources: A Recipe For Collapse

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XI

Knossos, Crete (1993) Photo by author

Fiat Currency, Infinite Growth, Finite Resources: A Recipe For Collapse

Yet another in an increasing collection of comments I have posted to the online media site The Tyee. This time it is a commentary on an article that reviews a book arguing in favour of the implementation of Universal Basic Income.

“No stone is left unturned in their thorough and convincing argument…”

I’m not so sure this is true. My personal focus for the past decade+ has been on the unsustainability of our complex society, particularly as it is impacted by our propensity to chase growth — especially population and economic, for these both have a significant connection to our ever-increasing drawdown of finite resources and ecological destruction of our planet. If we are not correcting this tendency to ‘grow’ in any way, shape, or form, then we are just creating more ways to kick-the-can-down-the-road of our wasteful and ruinous path; and place the significant burden of our misinformed ways on future generations.

One of the key arguments of archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s thesis regarding societal collapse as presented in his text The Collapse of Complex Societies is that a society becomes increasingly susceptible to collapse once it encounters diminishing returns on its investments in complexity. It is not a stretch at all to argue that we have been on the path of such decline for decades, particularly once we began creating a purely fiat currency that has allowed an explosion in debt/credit. If one looks at the ‘growth’ of our world since the late 1960s when central banks/governments shifted the world to a monetary system that creates money from thin air with no connection to physical commodities that could constrain our growth somewhat, it is almost all predicated on debt/credit expansion; a conundrum since debt repayment necessitates the growth imperative to continue (yes, basically a gargantuan Ponzi scheme).

Why is this connection to fiat currency important? Primarily because money is basically a claim on future resources and such resources are in terminal decline. So, the more money we ‘print’ (regardless of the reason for its printing), the more claims there are on future resources; resources that not only are disappearing quickly and getting more costly to access (because we always retrieve the easiest and cheapest to get to first), but whose retrieval results in monumental ecological destruction.

And on top of all this is the whole overshoot conundrum we have led ourselves into because of the above. Again, it is not difficult to argue that we have far surpassed the natural carrying capacity of our environment and only been able to ‘sustain’ our population by increasing our drawdown of resources through technology, energy-averaging systems (based on trade/geopolitical conquests), and this explosion of debt.

So, if we want to support our most vulnerable in society in a world that must pursue degrowth (the antithesis of our current pursuits and its expansion of debt/credit), then we need a much more complex discussion of how to do this. I see zero mentions of these complexities in the article. Just creating more money to distribute to a portion of our society is not a solution. In fact, the creation of more and more fiat is likely to have the negative consequence of our ruling class pursuing (more than they already do) increasing and significant price inflation, something that tends to hurt the majority of society more so than the elite at the top of the monetary/financial/economic system.

A Mirage of Abundance

Mirage. Image source

“Truth is like poetry.
And most people fucking hate poetry.”

Adam McKay, The Big Short

— We will never run out of minerals, or petroleum for that matter. There is an ample amount of these resources in Earth’s crust, actually more than we could ever extract.

— Phew! Are we saved then?

— Well, this was the truth part. Now it’s time for some poetry.

Inorder to have a better understanding of our world and to have at least a chance at gaining an insight into our future, we must understand some simple facts pertaining to the basis of our modern high tech civilization. How, and thanks to what technology, can we feed 8 billion people? How can 1 billion of us live so decently, surrounded by all the bells and whistles this civilization has to offer? Is this going to last forever? Can it last forever…?

Let’s start with a basic fact of life: we live off of what we pull out of the ground. Literally. From potatoes to microchips, everything we touch, eat, use and burn comes from under the ground. Plants take up nutrients like nitrates, potassium and phosphorus from the soil and turn them into edible food. Drilling rigs bore holes thousands of feet deep to bring up oil and natural gas to the surface. Excavators tear up the ground and haul rocks to a truck, which carries them into a refinery or a smelter. There they magically turn into clean metal sheets and slabs, Portland cement, glass or silicon monocrystals. Machines, equipment, building materials, consumer goods are then get built and manufactured from these raw materials.

Everything we touch, eat, wear, use then throw away has its origins under our feet. No exceptions.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Finite Feeding Frenzy

Finite Feeding Frenzy

Image by ariesjay castillo from Pixabay

You may be aware that our food industry is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to the point that it takes about 10 kcal of energy input to deliver 1 kcal of consumed food. The enormous energy multiplier is due to extensively mechanized plowing, harvesting, processing, and delivery of food; fossil-fueled fertilization (via methane feedstock); refrigeration and preparation; then of course food waste. In olden times, when all agricultural energy came from muscle power that needed to be fed, the system would collapse (i.e., starve and fail) if energy inputs exceeded energy ingested.

Some have phrased our current practice as “eating fossil fuels,” and in fact a 2006 book by Dale Allen Pfeiffer had this title. So what? More power to us—literally.

The problem, people, is that fossil fuels are finite. We have already consumed a fair fraction (roughly half?) of the accessible allotment. And before concluding that we therefore have a century or so before needing to worry about the consequences, realize that the inflection point happens around the halfway mark, wherein decreasing ease of access tends to result in ever-decreasing output rates in the second-half of the resource. We see this behavior in individual oil fields and in regional (country-scale) aggregations. The low-hanging fruit is taken first, sensibly, so that what’s left is more stubborn.

Because human population has been substantially boosted by fossil fuel input, we have put ourselves into a vulnerable position. What happens when fossil fuels begin to give out on us?

It’s been a while since I did any, you know, math for this blog, as I seem to be living my own worst nightmare and turning into an armchair philosopher (oh the shame). In this post, I return to something closer to math..

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Future of Electricity

Image credit: Mark Eder via Unsplash

Things do not bode well for the future of electricity, especially in the ‘developed’ world, while the ‘developing’ countries are already experiencing serious issues. Sri Lanka. Pakistan. China. The world does not seem to be able to move enough electrons to satisfy demand. Surprising? Well, not in a finite world.

Where do we get electricity from?

I tell you no big secret: electricity is not coming from the socket in the wall, or the wires above your street. Electricity is generated mainly in huge power plants which provide a stable baseload for the grid. This makes sure that you always get power at a standard voltage and frequency whenever you plug in your washing machine or hair dryer, no matter where you live in the country.

Should any of these two parameters deteriorate, your device could easily malfunction, catch fire or cause an electric shock. Solar roofs and other intermittent (i.e. unstable) sources of electricity are nice additions to power plants, but can never generate the high quality energy required by the myriads of technological devices from water pumps, to street lighting, intensive care units and refrigeration. With the addition of batteries, inverters and converters ‘renewables’ are indeed able to simulate a stable grid frequency and voltage, but as always: there is a catch. More on that later.

All these technicalities would be of no concern to you in a fairy-tale world of infinite resources, where coal, gas, oil, minerals, forests never deplete, and which could take up an unlimited amount of pollution as a bonus feature. Sorry to disappoint you, but none of this is true to our world: resources are depleting fast, while pollution kills life on this planet at an alarming pace.

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

What If It Breaks?

What If It Breaks?

Making your entire economy a Landfill Economy dependent on the fantasy of infinite replacements and substitutions is the height of hubris and folly.

Very few people ask: what if it breaks? It’s a question we can ask of a great many things: touchscreens, motherboards, tools, vehicles, supply chains and entire systems: what if it breaks?

The first thing we notice is the great number of things which can’t be repaired, they can only be replaced. Good luck repairing the touchscreen or motherboard in your vehicle. Oops, the puncture in your tire is in the sidewall, no repair possible, buy a new tire.

The entire economic system assumes two things: 1) there will always be replacements for everything that can’t be repaired and 2) there will always be substitutes for everything we want. Beef too expensive? Then buy fake-meat. If that’s too expensive, substitute chicken. And so on: there will always be a substitute that can scale globally that will get cheaper as it scales.

Unfortunately, both assumptions are false. There are no replacements for oil and fertilizers. What we have are ifs: if we build 1,000 nuclear reactors, then we can convert this electricity into hydrogen which will be the fuel of the future. And so on. If, if, if. Nice, but getting beyond if is non-trivial: oops, we need hydrocarbon energy to build the 1,000 nuclear reactors and all the complex equipment to convert seawater into hydrogen on a scale large enough to matter.

Not only are there no substitutes for many things, there are no replacement parts, either. Too bad about your entire Smart Home system going down. The vendor of the do-hickey that’s connected to your hub went out of business and so there’s no replacement parts or software upgrades….

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

When Renewables Are Not Renewable

Sure the wind and sun are renewable, but the collectors we build are not

Wind Turbines


Solar panels must be replaced every 30 to 40 years because solar panels degrade efficiency by about 1% per year. If we covered the entire state of Arizona with solar panels, they would produce enough electricity to power the world at our current level of demand — but they would have to be replaced every 30–40 years.


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

The value of a degrowth economy: Our planet would be richer for it

The value of a degrowth economy: Our planet would be richer for it

(Cartoon by Mark David | @MDavidCartoons)

Decades of economic expansion have come at the expense of developing nations and a tremendous cost to the planet. Degrowth is a healthier future option, writes Erin Remblance.

THE THOUGHT of a degrowth economy can be scary. We’ve all grown up in a society where growth is good and not growing – recession – is bad.

Recession means unemployment, financial hardship and increasing poverty. Why would anyone choose that? But degrowth doesn’t mean recession. Degrowth is a conscious set of policies designed to optimise human and planetary well-being while minimising inequality, poverty and environmental harm. It is recognition that “more” doesn’t mean better and that, despite decades of economic growth, on average we aren’t happier.

Degrowth acknowledges that economic growth in predominately western nations has come at the expense of developing nations and at a tremendous cost to the planet and its ability to sustain life — and now we are on the brink of an unimaginable catastrophe.


So, what could a world not obsessed with gross domestic product (GDP) growth look like? In his book, Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save The WorldJason Hickel advocates for many policies, including:

  • ending planned obsolescence on products such as household appliances, technological devices, furniture, houses, cars, etcetera;
  • cutting advertising;
  • shifting from ownership to “usership” — think of all of the “stuff” we own that spends most of the year idle, especially cars;
  • ending food waste;

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

The Energy Transition Show: No Limits

The Energy Transition Show: No Limits

Are there fundamental limits to the energy transition that will slow it down, or prevent us from decarbonizing our energy systems? Critics and skeptics of the energy transition have pointed to issues like the problems of producing key minerals, or the costs of renewable energy, or path dependency in emerging economies. Some have questioned whether renewables resources even exist in sufficient quantities to displace the existing energy system, or whether there is enough land to site the requisite new wind and solar capacity.

In this show, we tackle these questions one by one, and explain why there are no fundamental limits that will bring the energy transition to a hard stop in the decades ahead. Quite the opposite, in fact. The safest assumption now is that renewables will continue to grow exponentially, and we should be thinking about the implications of that, rather than asking how the current system can struggle to persist. We’ll also explain why the transition will actually encourage economic growth, rather than restrict it.

Our guide for this discussion is Kingsmill Bond of the Carbon Tracker clean energy think tank based in London. We review several recent reports that he and his colleagues at Carbon Tracker have produced which specifically address these questions, and show how incredibly large our resources of renewable energy and key minerals really are. We’ll also discuss why emerging economies are more likely to leapfrog over the older conventional energy systems and go straight for the new technologies of the transition.

Finally, we share a number of exciting announcements about the future direction of this show and some new features we’re making available to annual subscribers!

Guest:Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era…

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

The century of the limits

The century of the limits


We know much better some slogans that sell us that everything is possible, than the laws of thermodynamics, which govern our own nature and the limits that bound it. And so it goes. This is our frame of thought and from it derives some of our worst contradictions.

There is a story that is very interesting to share in order to talk about all this and that hides many clues about where we are now. In 1972, shortly before the first oil crisis and while computers were living their own prehistory, the Club of Rome -a recently founded scientific and cultural avant-garde organisation, which later has been key in the advancement of science and political ecology- commissioned a report from MIT in Massachusetts on the state of resources and the key variables to sustain our civilisation. System dynamics methodology had just begun to take its first steps, and its founder, Jay Forrester, developed several modesl to analyse the enviornment, resources, economy and population.

Almost five decades later, the incredible accuracy of the forecasts of the World3 model – a computer simulation programme – are an unparalleled milestone in terms of scientific anticipation.

It must be kept in mind that in reality there are an infinite number of interrelated variables that are impossible to take into account – such as the cultural/anthropological variables of a civilisation – and a complexity that no model can calibrate. However, in one of the many reviews that have been made of the MIT work, such as Graham Turner’s review in 2014, it was confirmed that this is probably one of the most impressive scientific works in the history of mankind. A few months ago, another review has reaffirmed its predictions.

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

Myth #22: Nate Hagens discredits claim “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money”

Myth #22: Nate Hagens discredits claim “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money”

We can create money, but we cannot create energy, only extract what exists — FASTER.”

“We can create money, but we cannot create energy, only extract what exists — FASTER. And importantly, when money is created the interest is not. This creates a growth imperative for our economy to be able to pay interest in the future. Whenever we’ve encountered resource or energy limits – for example, the 1970s – we started to use the social construct of credit to overcome the near-term economic pain. In every single year since 1965, the United States and the world have grown their total debt more than they’ve grown their economies.”  —Nate Hagens, from his Myth #22

My transcript of this repost focuses on Nate’s 2:55-minute crash course in economics – a valiant attempt to explain to the untutored (like myself) the relationship between money and resources. Without fully understanding his explanation, I’ll just accept at face value that he effectively discredits Myth #22: “We Can Always Get More Resources If We Have More Money.” Myth #22 is one of 33 myths Nate covered in his May 21st Earth Day talk titled, Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality. The beauty of his 2hr, 52min long, information-rich Earth Day talk is that it is more of an indexed reference tool for recurrent consultation than a lecture meant to be assimilated in one sitting.

At the bottom of this post is a complete time-stamped list of the titles of all of Hagens’ 33 myths, plus his opening Introduction and closing Interventions (and Wild Ideas). The myths can be watched in any order — but, as Hagens mentions, the order decided on seems logical.

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

Cramming cities full of electric vehicles means we’re still depending on cars — and that’s a huge problem

This week, the NSW government announced almost A$500 million towards boosting the uptake of electric vehicles. In its new electric vehicle strategy, the government will waive stamp duty for cars under $78,000, develop more charging infrastructure, offer rebates to 25,000 drivers, and more.

Given the transport sector is Australia’s second-largest polluter, it’s a good thing Australian governments are starting to plan for a transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

But transitioning from cities full of petrol-guzzling vehicles to cities full of electric ones won’t address all of the environmental and social problems associated with car dependence and mass manufacturing.

So, let’s look at these problems in more detail, and why public transport really is the best way forward.

EVs do have environmental advantages over conventional vehicles. In particular, they generate less carbon emissions during their lifetime. Of course, much of the emissions reductions will depend on how much electricity comes from renewable sources.

But carbon emissions are only one of the many problems associated with the dominance of private cars as a form of mobility in cities.

Let’s start with a few of the social issues. This includes the huge amount of space devoted to car driving and parking in our neighbourhoods. This can crowd out other forms of land use, including other more sustainable forms of mobility such as walking and cycling.

Men stand around a car

NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean inspects an electric car following major budget announcements on electric vehicles. AAP Image/Joel Carrett

There are the financial and mental health costs of congestion, as well, with Australian city workers spending, on average, 66 minutes getting to and from work each day. Injuries and fatalities on roads are also increasing, and inactivity and isolation associated with driving can impact our physical health.

…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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