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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Olduvai: Excerpt read by author, Steve Bull

Olduvai: Excerpt read by author, Steve Bull

Today’s Contemplation: The Coming Collapse IX

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Chichen Itza, Mexico (1986) photo by author

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

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

A few thoughts to share for those that believe otherwise.

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

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII

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Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Ha! It’s poetry in motion
Now she’s making love to me
The spheres are in commotion
The elements in harmony
She blinded me with science
(She blinded me with science!)
And hit me with technology
-Thomas Dolby, 1982 (She Blinded Me With Science)

Science, it turns outs, is a process not an answer. And, it usually has many answers from various sciences, each having their own methods and standards. When someone tells you, “the science says,” be skeptical. They are usually being paid to say what they are about to say or at least have been thoroughly indoctrinated by others who are paid. There is never just one answer to any supposedly scientific question.
-Kurt Cobb (Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives)

Unfortunately, there are many other misconceptions about science. One of the most common misconceptions concerns the so-called “scientific proofs.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof…all scientific knowledge is tentative and provisional, and nothing is final. There is no such thing as final proven knowledge in science. The currently accepted theory of a phenomenon is simply the best explanation for it among all available alternatives. Its status as the accepted theory is contingent on what other theories are available and might suddenly change tomorrow if there appears a better theory or new evidence that might challenge the accepted theory. No knowledge or theory (which embodies scientific knowledge) is final.
-Satoshi Kanazawa (Common Misconceptions About Science I: “Scientific Proof”)

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VI

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VI

It’s truly unfortunate that our society pursues such self-evidently egregious exploits on our environment. You can’t continue to pollute your backyard without eventually destroying the complex ecological systems that support you — to say little about the finiteness of most resources we overly depend upon. And, certainly, we can’t continue to allow our sociopolitical ‘leaders’ to pursue such destructive policies and actions.

Yet, the issues and underlying dilemmas are much more complex than just exploitive foreign capital and revenue-seeking politicians. Yes, these are problematic; without a doubt. But they are one piece in a multi-layered puzzle that may or may not have a ‘solution’.

Society’s embracing of several self-destructive behaviours must be undone and reversed. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the pursuit of ‘growth’. Economic. Population. Technological. Et cetera.

We do not live on a planet with infinite resources and the exponential increase of our activities continues to paint us further and further into a corner. While it is unlikely there will be a definitive ‘day of reckoning’ because of our blasting past our natural carrying capacity (since collapse is a process, not an event), the consequences of our actions will be felt as surely as day follows night.

In fact, it could be argued that we are already and have been experiencing the fallout of our expanding and increasingly complex activities for some time now. Decimated species required for food crop pollination. Expanding geopolitical tensions over resources, especially fossil fuels and water. Supply chain interruptions. Environmental disasters. Increasingly authoritarian government policies and edicts to control populations. Currency debasement. Global pandemics. And on and on.

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh

As I approach my 7th decade on this planet, I have reached the conclusion that we all interpret the world through mythical narratives; some of our own creation, many (most?) others ‘imposed’ upon us. The ruling class of society conditions us in numerous ways to accept stories that, for the most part, support and prolong their position of power and control.

From hereditary chieftains/monarchs to ‘democratic’ leadership, the ‘elite’ of society maintain a hold over the ‘tribe’ so as to ensure their revenue streams and wealth (some would argue this is a parasitic arrangement since this class returns little in the way of productive value to the system). They use the various tools at their disposal (e.g., education system, media, etc.) to inculcate/predispose us to accepting this arrangement and continuing to control and expand the wealth-generating/extraction systems that arise from everyday human economic interactions.

Power and wealth is concentrated significantly at the top of the pyramid; yet we are constantly exposed to narratives that we not only have agency, but that the ‘elite’ put our needs at the forefront of their policies and decision-making. I strongly believe these are false and propagated to influence/manipulate our thinking and beliefs.

Just like our financial institutions (especially the big banks) who knowingly engage in criminal activity and then receive raps on the wrist with minimal fines when caught (making their brazen thievery well worth it), the ruling class is more than willing to break ‘rules/laws’ (in fact, I would argue they are constantly doing so) because the ‘price’ for doing so is negligible (with the occasional sacrifice made to appease the masses).

I don’t believe there is a ‘solution’ to any of this (unlike most who do because, you know, hope–and reduction of cognitive dissonance) aside from complete sociopolitical collapse–which I would argue will eventually happen as it has for every complex society that has preceded ours. My response to this has been to accept it, and try and remove myself from the Matrix as much as is possible and prepare accordingly.

The world is not as we have been conditioned to believe by the narrative managers who weave the various storylines (read Edward Bernays book Propaganda for interesting insight on this). Awareness of this is a first step towards a better understanding of how messed up this world truly is and, possibly, doing something for your family/community to make it more resilient as the system inevitably declines/collapses.

Covid-19 and Our Competing Narratives

Covid-19 and Our Competing Narratives

It’s fascinating to watch the competing narratives regarding Covid-19 and risk assessment duke it out across the media universe (from social to mainstream to alternate media). As I’ve increasingly come to believe, we all believe what we want to believe. The continuum of beliefs seems to be that: we have faith in the complex systems we live within, our ‘leaders’ have things under control, everything will work itself out in some optimistic fashion, and life will return to ‘normal’ after a while; to the opposite belief that all hell is about to, or is, breaking loose and life will never return to where it was as sociocultural collapse is dead ahead.

‘Facts’ seem to make little difference to our belief systems. It is as author Robert Heinlein mused some years ago: We are rationalizing animals, not rational. We are not only not ‘objective’, but we are prone to using all sorts of cognitive/logical distortions to justify and confirm our beliefs and personal biases; because, after all, reducing our cognitive dissonance is a hugely powerful motivator. Our minds experience significant stress when ‘evidence’ opposes our belief system so we ignore or dismiss it and actively seek confirming information.

Science is not necessarily helpful here, although it is used as the ultimate arbiter by many. But one of the observations I made while attending university and shifting through different faculties as I sought a path to follow in those crazy formative years of mine in the 1980s was that the exact same ‘facts’ could be used for what were essentially diametrically-opposed ‘interpretations’. What one scientist saw as evidence supporting their paradigm was used by a colleague to justify their particular, and often very different, worldview.

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

It Just Doesn’t Matter

It Just Doesn’t Matter

When an avalanche is about to descend upon you, does it really matter which snowflake was the penultimate cause?

While it’s interesting (in a mental masturbation kind of way) to debate the genesis of a pending market collapse, environmental chaos, or energy cliff, in the end, it really doesn’t matter–unless, of course, we are able to curtail the impending crises by correctly identifying the variable(s) involved and mitigating the consequences, but the likelihood of that outcome is looking increasingly unlikely as systems are prone to overshoot and collapse.

One of the ‘insights’ I’ve had over the past several months as I read the competing narratives that are floating about the globe and attempting to ‘explain’ why the dilemmas we are facing are happening is that we really don’t understand complex systems and the way they behave, so we are bound to cling to simple explanations that support our personal biases and reduce the cognitive dissonance that results when our belief system is challenged.

A large part of the problem, I believe, in discerning which variable(s) play(s) the most impactful role in creating a crisis is the tendency for various interest groups to spin the ‘facts’ to support their particular narrative.

For example, whether the cause of the oil/commodity price collapse is the role of central banks in manipulating the economic system, the limits to growth, overproduction (by Saudi Arabia? US shale? Canadian oil sands?), and/or economic contraction (global? Europe? China? emerging markets?), the result is a loss of thousands of jobs, domestic unrest, and increasing geopolitical tension as nations try to counter the deflationary collapse that appears to be resulting. Many Western politicians and journalists are pointing the finger at the production levels of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, and their ‘refusal’ to cut production, but data from the past decade shows that supply has increased significantly because of US shale and Canadian oil sands extraction rather than that of Saudi/ME. It strikes me that this ‘spin’ is simply a means of avoiding looking in the mirror and deflecting attention–blaming ‘others’ for our woes is a common means of reducing cognitive dissonance, focusing citizen outrage away from their ‘leaders’, and justifying particular actions/decisions.

In the end, however, the ’cause’ is not that important to the families crushed by a sudden loss of income. And that brings me to the conclusion of this little diatribe: being prepared for whatever comes our way is the only thing that might really matter. Whether at an individual, family, or local community level–I don’t believe it’s possible or prudent to worry much beyond these–being resilient and resourceful in the coming months/years is what is going to make a difference as to how ‘successful’ one can deal with the coming dilemmas.

Best of luck to everyone. I think we’re going to need it.

Steve


In the 1979 comedy, Meatballs, actor Bill Murray provides a ‘motivational’ speech to his fellow summer camp counsellors and campers who are getting soundly beaten in a ‘friendly’ competition by a neighbouring camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UZvIZAHjlY. In the end, the speech is seen not as motivational but as a message that, in the bigger picture, the competition really doesn’t matter–(SPOILER ALERT) all the good-looking girls are going to go out with the other camp’s counsellors anyways because they have all the money!

Rissa-A Short Story

Rissa-A Short Story

Prompted by John Michael Greer’s latest short story contest and invitation to “…Fling yourself into the far future, far enough that today’s crises are matters for the history books, or tales out of ancient myth, or forgotten as completely as the crises and achievements of the Neanderthal people are today, and tell a story about human beings (or, potentially, post-human beings) confronting the challenges of their own time in their own way.”…I offer the following short story based on a chapter from a fledgling ‘book’ I began writing years ago when I was in my third year of teaching (1993) and demonstrating for my grade eight students how one would write ‘science fiction’–NOTE: I still have a copy of that compendium of the students’ short stories that resulted sitting on the bookshelf behind me.

I hope my offering has met the criteria set by JMG:

  • Stories should be between 2500 and 7500 words in length;
  • They should be entirely the work of their author or authors, and should not borrow characters or setting from someone else’s work;
  • They should be in English, with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation;
  • They should be stories—narratives with a plot and characters—and not simply a guided tour of some corner of the future as the author imagines it;
  • They should be set in our future, not in an alternate history or on some other planet;
  • They should be works of realistic fiction or science fiction, not magical or supernatural fantasy—that is, the setting and story should follow the laws of nature as those are presently understood;
  • They should take place in settings subject to thermodynamic, ecological, and economic limits to growth; and as before,
  • They must not rely on “alien space bats”—that is, dei ex machina inserted to allow humanity to dodge the consequences of the limits to growth.

For those wishing to offer feedback, please feel free to submit a comment on this short story where a young girl searches for meaning in her life but encounters something completely unexpected, altering her view of the world and her possible future in it:

Rissa

 

CBC and the Control of Narratives, A Rant

During the CBC’s Ontario Today show (July 10) the theme was one of cheerleading the Pan-Am games taking place in the Greater Toronto Area and sharing plans for those games. I called to share a contrarian perspective, basically that it was another example of a massive misallocation of diminishing resources and energy (not meant as a slight to anyone involved who are caught up in trends and behaviours long regarded as positive).

Getting through on my first attempt surprised me, perhaps as much as the person on the other end when I shared my thoughts. She assured me that I would be on shortly and to wait patiently. After fifteen minutes she returned to the line to inform me that I was the next caller. I was not. After another fifteen minutes, and listening to continual gushing about the event, I was informed that there was a ‘timing mishap’ and that there would likely not be the time for me to share but they would take my phone number ‘just in case’ (I was not surprised as this has happened to me before when I called with a non-supportive viewpoint).

I view this as yet another example of media manipulation of perspectives, of controlling the narrative. Being one of the ‘official’ media outlets of the games, the CBC has a vested interest in portraying primarily positive support for this event. Yes, there has been some coverage of the ‘inconvenience’ to drivers but little else in terms of ‘negative’ publicity.

I am not surprised, just disappointed (again) with our national broadcaster at not offering a wider perspective and/or challenging the mainstream narrative.

My view, if anyone cares, is that the event is a great distraction from the various crises exploding on the globe. Most ‘humourously’, Ontario has just completed a conference on climate change (with the leaders from the Pan-Am countries…what a coincidence) with a major ‘insight’ that it is transportation that is contributing significantly to anthropogenic climate change and changes must be made to alter this. Consider, then, the amount of transportation fuels burnt just for this one event; from the travel to/from for all the participants and spectators, to the movement to/from the widely-spaced venues during the games.

We can’t speak about caring for the environment and reducing our role in climate change and continue to pursue policies and actions that are the anti-thesis. Well, I suppose we can, but that just makes us hypocrites.

Stouffville Corner

A new section of my site, Stouffville Corner, aims to provide a variety of write-ups on topics I consider to be of primary importance/ interest. The aim was to have my local paper, Stouffville Tribune, publish them on a weekly/bi-weekly basis to bring the issues to the consciousness of my local community (thus the name). While the paper no longer accepts op-ed pieces due to its limited publication schedule (use to be published twice a week but now only once), I will still be offering the articles on a weekly/bi-weekly basis on my site beginning today with the introductory piece that has been accepted as a letter-to-the-editor.

Cheers…
Steve

RESOURCE CRISIS: The Olduvai cliff: are the lights going out already?

RESOURCE CRISIS: The Olduvai cliff: are the lights going out already?.

 

 

Image from Li and Li, “international journal of remote sensing.” h/t Colonel Cassad“. The image shows the nighttime light pattern in Syria three years ago (a) and today (b).

Those among us who are diehard catastrophists surely remember the “Olduvai Scenario” proposed by Richard Duncan in 1989. The theory is a version of the peak oil idea, but focused on electricity production. It says that the gradual depletion of fossil fuels and mineral resources will gradually lead us back to the stone age (“Olduvai” from the area inhabited by our australopithecine ancestors). According to Duncan’s update of his theory, the start of the precipitous decline (“Seneca style“) might have started around 2012.


Clearly, we are not there, yet, and the new stone age still seems to be far away. But, there are some ominous symptoms that something bad this way comes. I stumbled into pictures of Syria now and three years ago, and they are impressive. The lights are going out there, already. And note that it was obvious from the beginning that the decline was to be accompanied by wars and internecine strife; just as what’s happening in Syria. Surely, two pictures don’t mean that the catastrophists are right; but surely they provide food for thought.

…click on the above link to see the original article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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