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You’re Not Going to Homestead Through Collapse

No matter how self-sufficient you become

Photo by Roger Darnell on Unsplash

“By collapse, I mean a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social complexity over a considerable area, for an extended time.” — Jared Diamond in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005)

People who criticize billionaires for foolishly building underground bunkers believe they can survive the impending doom of climate change by hunkering down on a homestead.

Both groups are attempting to escape the realities of collapse. It’s a race that most humans will likely lose. It’s now a question of whether the species can survive extinction.

On one hand the survivalists (rightfully) poo-poo plans for colonizing Mars as too difficult on a “dead planet” while simultaneously clinging to the belief that for all their beans and bullets, gardens and wells —the hoarded supplies of a prepper will see them through the sixth mass extinction on a dying Earth. It’s the poor-man’s version of an Elysium space station.

The cognitive dissonance must physically hurt.

And let’s admit what no one is saying out loud. The carefully made plans for some sort of Neo-Thoreau lifestyle is more about surviving the collapse of civilization in relative safety and comfort than reducing a carbon footprint — the same attitude that put us in this predicament in the first place.

Here are just a few of the reasons this fantasy won’t work.

Collapse will be everywhere but not all at once.

The central idea of catabolic collapse is that human societies pretty consistently tend to produce more stuff than they can afford to maintain…

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

Problems, Predicaments, and Technology

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

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that climate change (and most of the topics in our files) is a predicament. A predicament has an outcome, not a solution or answer. Solutions and answers are reserved for PROBLEMS. Many people get these two mixed up and tend to see predicaments as problems. Wikipedia calls a predicament a “wicked problem” but this doesn’t change the simple fact that predicaments or dilemmas do not have solutions.

One of the first things I constantly harp about is technology. Technology has been great for those of us who can afford to use it, but it came at a huge cost to the environment AND to us over the long haul. It is our use of technology which CONTINUES the exponential expansion of the predicaments we face and it is our insistence upon not only using existing technology but on developing NEW technology to “solve” the predicaments technology caused to begin with that is itself one of the biggest parts of our predicaments.

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

The show is over.

Climate strike in Lausanne

Tomorrow 150 weeks will have passed since we started to school strike for the climate. During this time more and more people around the world have woken up to the climate- and ecological crisis, putting more and more pressure on you — the people in power.

Eventually the public pressure was too much, you had the world’s eyes on you. So you started to act. Not acting as in taking climate action. But acting as in roleplaying. Playing politics, playing with words, playing with our future.

Pretending to take responsibility. Acting as saviors as you tried to convince us that things are being taken care of, meanwhile the gap between your rhetoric and reality keeps growing wider and wider. And since the level of awareness is so low you almost get away with it.

But let’s be clear — what you are doing is not about climate action or responding to an emergency. It never was. This is communication tactics disguised as politics. You — especially leaders from high income nations — are pretending to change and listen to the young people while you continue pretty much exactly like before.

Pretending to take science seriously by saying “science is back” while holding climate summits without even inviting a single climate scientist as speaker. Pretending to wage war against fossil fuels while opening up brand new coal-mines, oilfields and pipelines. You don’t only continue business as usual as before, in many cases you are even speeding and scaling up the process.

Pretending to have the most ambitious climate policies while granting new oil licenses, exploring future oilfields. Bragging about your so-called ambitious climate commitments, which if you look holistically are vastly insufficient, and then get caught not even trying to reach those targets.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXV

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

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’.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Today’s thought was motivated by another Tyee article that carries on the notion of ‘clean energy’ and the ‘magical thinking’ needed to buy into such narratives.

*    *     *

As long as language is being manipulated (e.g., ‘clean energy’ is a gargantuan oxymoron), magical thinking employed (e.g., ‘green hydrogen’ or some iteration of it has been on the books for 2+ centuries and is still far, far away, if ever, given the physical and economic hurdles/roadblocks), and fundamental causes of our dilemmas conveniently ignored (e.g., our pursuit of the infinite growth chalice on a finite planet), the ‘solutions’ we so desperately seek will always elude us (if they even exist).

Despite relatively general recognition of humanity’s impending ‘challenges’, we continue to follow the ‘Business-As-Usual’ (BAU) scenario painted for us by Meadows et al. in their 1972 Limits to Growth. Our ‘leaders’ talk a good talk but the reality (given the obvious lack of ‘progress’ in mitigating our issues and their increasingly probable negative consequences) is that we have painted ourselves into a corner from which we apparently cannot extricate ourselves (except through some very convoluted narrative creations).

There is overwhelming and increasing evidence that there is a significant reckoning in terms of energy decline (and various other resources) in our future, regardless of our wishes, ingenuity, and technology. The complexities of our globalised, just-in-time, and highly resource-dependent industrialised societies are losing their support systems in terms of the resources they require. We have encountered significant diminishing returns on our investments and can no longer ‘afford’ them. All the talk of ‘solutions’ is, at this point, seemingly reflective of the first four stages of grief outlined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXII

Knossos, Greece (1993) Photo by author

A personal view of the ‘Net-Zero’ policy being implemented by governments around the world, particularly those of the ‘West’.

As happens so often (always?), the ruling elite are manipulating what is possibly one of our more (most?) existential dilemmas so as to have their cake and eat it too. The chicanery that takes place within statistical calculations is widespread and occurs in virtually everything they touch but of course gives the impression of ‘objectivity’ and ‘transparency’ because figures can’t lie (although liars can figure, simply take a look at the statistical manipulations that take place in determining a nation’s consumer price index). The trickery goes far beyond numbers, however, for the use of statistics is just one of many narrative control mechanisms used to support the stories they want citizens to believe.

They have leveraged carbon emissions as THE most pressing environmental/ecological issue (even though it is only one of many predicaments resulting from humanity overshooting its natural carrying capacity on a finite planet) and have presented a variety of ‘solutions’ from carbon taxes to widespread ‘electrification’ of society to ‘net-zero’ policies. I would argue all of these ‘solutions’ derive from their primary motivation: the control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. From ever-increasing taxation to capital reallocation towards ‘green/clean’ technology to increasing curtailment of once-expected liberties and mass surveillance, the ruling elite are enhancing and consolidating their grip on wealth and power but marketing it as a necessary societal shift to ‘save’ humanity from itself.

There is certainly a grain of truth in all of the efforts to shift society away from fossil fuels…

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XX

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XX

Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Today’s contemplation is once again generated by way of an article from the online media site The Tyee. It’s topic is the city of Vancouver’s (British Columbia, Canada) attempts to require ‘electrification’ of all new buildings as part of their Climate Emergency Action Plan and the pushback by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating.

My first comment below was to bring to the surface the Overton Window that most media articles tend to display when discussing climate change actions and associated issues, particularly that it is only via ‘electrification’ of our society that we can adequately sustain our complexities and wean ourselves from the energy provided by fossil fuels; and thus ‘save our planet’.

The comment that follows is in response to another who responded to my comment with the tendency of some to buy into false (magical?) ‘solutions’. We tend to do this for any number of reasons, most (all?) of which are bio-psychological in nature.

The Overton Window established around policies/actions to address our ecological/environmental dilemmas is on full display here.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Andrew Nikiforuk is an author and contributing editor of the online media site The Tyee. He has been writing about the oil and gas industry for close to 20 years. In his most recent article he writes about the lies being told by the Canadian government regarding its attempts to reduce carbon emissions. The Canadian government is certainly not alone in its misinformation (propaganda?) and one of the issues I believe is contributing to the lies is a (purposeful?) misidentification of our planet’s fundamental existential dilemma. Below is my comment on Andrew’s excellent discussion.

Thank you, Andrew. You’ve laid out the case for some very, very difficult decisions/choices/discussions that lay ahead of us.

I’m not convinced we will make what I consider to be the correct choices or even engage in some meaningful and productive dialogue since the changes that I believe are needed (degrowth) would be viewed as exceedingly painful to many as it challenges not only some core beliefs but what could be considered rights/entitlements/expectations regarding living standards (and it doesn’t help that we are genetically predisposed to avoid pain and seek pleasure). The brakes that need to be applied to some social practices/policies (perhaps most? all?) would also be challenged by some because I would contend the fundamental dilemma we are having to address is not necessarily carbon emissions, which I would argue is one of the consequences of the underlying issue, which is ecological overshoot.

The finite, one-time cache of easy-to-retrieve and cheap-to-access energy provided by fossil fuels has ‘fuelled’ an explosion in human numbers and sociopolitical/cultural/economic complexities unlike any other time in human pre/history. With this energy resource at our disposal we have constructed a complex, global, and industrialised world with technological wonders that would certainly appear magical to past generations.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IV

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Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

My comment on an article in The Tyee about our federal government’s latest throne speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/09/24/Throne-Speech-Stew/).

_____

The idea that a sovereign nation can never run into trouble financially because it can create its own currency is certainly the dominant narrative amongst government and ‘mainstream’ economists/bankers. After all, who benefits the most from this storyline?

But is it in fact true?

Scratching below the surface of this ‘experiment’ suggests it is not.

If printing one’s own money were a panacea, then nations like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or the German Weimar Republic (and countless other nations throughout history) would never have experienced the hyperinflation that they have. They would be the richest nations ever to have existed.

One could counter that this is because they had to use their debased currency to import goods. True, but if one is debauching one’s currency through exponential ‘printing’, then this may be true for any nation dependent upon imports, which almost every nation is in our globalised, industrial world.

The solution that nations have rested upon given this reality is that the central banks collude to all print at relatively the same rate, so currencies don’t fall/rise too drastically compared to their trading partners.

Fine, but what does endless money/credit creation due to the purchasing power of this fiat currency created from thin air?

Previous trials in this approach indicate that it totally debases/debauches the currency, significantly reducing the ‘wealth’ of the people holding/using it because of the inflation that it creates.
Here’s what John Maynard Keynes had to say about this: “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh II

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Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author.

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

Cogs in the climate machine

Cogs in the climate machine

A short course in planetary time, for planetary survival

This is less of a blog post, and more of a howl.

The planetary climate clock, in human time

Let’s start by some human and planetary timescales. I don’t know why we don’t learn them in grade school (I never learned them at all). But they matter. And let’s represent them visually, in a stark, plain way.

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King Canute and Queen Aelfgifu, date circa 1020, from the register of Hyde Abbey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“_” : this is our unit of time, and it’s 1000 years long.

_ is 10 long human lifespans, 40 generations, the time separating us from the first millennium and the Middle Ages in European history, when Canute of Denmark ruled Britain, before Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road. It’s a long time by any human account: twice the duration of the Roman Empire.

_____ is 5’000 years. It’s the age of the oldest known living tree, Methuselah, in the Californian White Mountains.

____________ is 12’000 years. It’s the time span separating us from the last ice age. This time is the time during which humans slowly selected plants, developed agriculture, cities, writing: anything we would call civilization. It is the time when humans thrived, cultures multiplied, our population grew. This clement and stable climate interval, which sheltered us and the plants we depend upon to live so well, is known as the Holocene. Gaze upon that interval fondly, for it is already in our past.

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Figure 1.2 from the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees, showing that we have already left the temperature range of the Holocene.

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

Fooled.

Fooled.

How Gullible Politicians Promoted the Destruction of the Global Economy and Threw Us into the Abyss of Serfdom

https://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7157997/everyone-is-selfish-when-it-comes-to-politics

Anyone with some basic knowledge in mathematical modeling who had taken a look at the structure of the “Imperial College”-model would have noted the faults of this approach and its exaggerations. The model’s prognosis that the United Kingdom would have to count with more than half a million deaths and a complete overload of its health system reversedthe British government’s earlier decision to use prudential surveillance and specifically targeted intervention and to shift to the full-control strategy, which required massive intervention into the public and private life of the nation. The leaders of other countries that were somewhat still in doubt jumped on the bandwagon and the march into a tyrannical State was programmed.

It was too late when the authors of the model finally revised their original estimate from 500 thousand to 20 thousand and later on lowered this number even more. The governments had already set into motion their emergency plans.

After declaring the coronavirus a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), agendas that had been prepared years ago were set into motion and the state agencies followed the procedures that were prescribed by the International Health Regulations (IHR) as the international legal instrument that is binding on 196 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of WHO.

Even now, months after the outbreak of the virus, the true size of the threat remains unclear. The quantitative basis is still too small to make a reliable projection.

If the modelers and the responsible government bodies had looked at the basic numbers instead of elaborating an apparently sophisticated model, they would have noticed that there has been no noticeable rise of the death rate.

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

Three Ways to Regenerate Bioregions

Three Ways to Regenerate Bioregions

There are many “edges” of intact ecosystems waiting to regenerate degraded lands.

Is it even possible for humanity to safeguard its future? Are we bound to a fate of extinction… a still-birth on the way to becoming a planetary species? Or might we evolve our diverse cultures toward the regeneration of landscapes and ecosystems — making it possible to continue existing?

These are not idle questions. Humanity is currently in overshoot-and-collapse. We are causing a Mass Extinction Event that will take us down with it if it really takes off. Simply look at the Earth from space and you will see how much we have degraded the mountain ranges and valleys, flood plains and coastlines, tropical forests and high plateaus, all over the planet. The human impact is impossible to miss and largely destructive at present.

But what if we learned how to regenerate landscapes at increasing scales? Might we learn how to organize our economies around regenerative principles that turn all of this around? It just so happens that there might be a way to save ourselves.

We need to organize our societies (and all of their material flows) around bioregions. Only then might we learn how to function as regenerative economies that restore ecosystems and heal the Earth.This is what my colleagues and I are supporting at the Regenerative Communities Network. We are mobilizing a growing number of existing efforts to create bioregional economies into a peer-to-peer learning network that shares tools and knowledge to speed up all our efforts.

In this article, I would like to share three ways that we are observing in our network of communities for how to design the regeneration of an entire bioregion. These are patterns of emergence we have observed arising on their own in each collaborative effort. And each is now a focused work stream for how we consciously evolve the global network.

#1 :: Regenerative Education and Transformational Leadership

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

Nurturing vital diversity & resilience: Scaling out, rather than scaling-up!

Photo: NASA

Nurturing vital diversity & resilience: Scaling out, rather than scaling-up!

There is an unfortunate knee-jerk response programmed into many people in leadership positions to want to ask: “How do we scale it up?” every time they hear a seemingly good idea. To a larger or lesser extent, many of the people who have this response have contracted the virus of neoliberal economic indoctrination. Once infected you do not question the economic growth imperative, its hidden subsidies and externalities, the inadequacy of GDP as a measure of positive progress, nor the implied assumption that bigger is better or more efficient and effective. Very often it is not!

Of course we need to find a way that regenerative practice and careful restoration of healthy ecosystems functions spreads from community to community and bioregion to bioregion to reach global impact as quickly as possible. We need to reach scale, but not by scaling-up!

Many regenerative solutions will no longer be regenerative if they are simply scaled up into a mega-project or replicated in a cut & paste (cookie cutter) fashion. Such expansionist approaches tends to loose touch with the necessity for solutions to be born out of the cultural and ecological uniqueness of a place — its people and its bioregion. We can learn from the patterns of natural system how to design as nature, create place-sourced solutions and create conditions conducive to life.

In general natural systems do not keep growing exponentially in quantity and size. They tend to follow a logistic curve of growing to a certain point and then changing and maturing in qualities, relationships and interconnections without continuing to grow quantitatively in size or numbers. Just reflect on your own development from childhood to adulthood, if you want an example for that pattern. Our species has long passed the point where we should have switched from quantitative growth to qualitative growth, from more and bigger, to better and more appropriate.

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

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

Greta Thunberg appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on September 18, 2019, based upon a photo by Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

In her testimony to the US Congress, Greta Thunberg did not prepare a statement for submission to the record. Instead, she submitted the most recent scientific report, issued by the IPCC three weeks earlier. She said simply, “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you.”

Alden Meyer, an elder statesman of environmental advocacy that I have been running into at every climate meeting since Rio in 1992, called it the shortest and most powerful testimony he has heard anyone give in Congress during his decades in Washington.

This week another headline blazed across newspapers and social media sites: World Scientists Warn of Climate Emergency.

Reading this newest installment in ecologist William Ripple’s series was a mixed experience for me. On the one hand, I was delighted that he and Chris Wolf at Oregon State, Tom Newsome at the University of Sydney, Phoebe Barnard at Conservation Biology Institute and the University of Capetown, and Bill Moomaw at Tufts were able to enlist 11,258 co-signatories from 153 countries for their paper published in BioScience on November 5th.

The first such warning, organized by Alden Meyer and the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992, had 1,575 prominent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates, co-sign. The second, by Ripple, Wolf, et al in BioScience in 2017, had 15,364 signatories from 184 countries, which begs the question: Why fewer this year?

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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