Home » Posts tagged 'overshoot'

Tag Archives: overshoot

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXVII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Discussing ‘renewable’ energy and its shortcomings with those who hold on to the belief that they offer us a ‘solution’ to the predicaments humanity faces is always ‘challenging’. Today’s contemplation is based on a recent dialogue I have had with a few people who seek to hold on to the belief that we can completely abandon fossil fuels and simply shift support for society’s complexities over to ‘renewables, and my response to someone who complimented my viewpoint (an unusual occurrence on the pages of the online media site (The Tyee) I frequent, whose writers/editors/commenters mostly support ‘renewables’ and the promises the proponents of them make). The story is not so straightforward and most don’t want to hear that. You can check out the conversation here.

Thank you. The root cause of our problem appears to be ecological overshoot brought on, primarily, by our exploitation of a one-time energy cache (fossil fuels) that has helped to ‘power’ amazing technological tools and processes that, in turn, have allowed us to exploit the planet and its resources substantially. This has led to a number of positive feedback loops, particularly exponential increases in population, waste (including greenhouse gases), and the speed at which we use these finite resources.

The crowd that insists ‘renewable’ energy (and it’s not truly ‘renewable’ given its dependency on finite resources, and certainly not ‘green/clean’ based on the processes necessary to produce them) can ‘sustain’ our energy-intensive complexities tend to be willfully ignorant of their negative consequences and deficiencies. In fact, my guess is that many have little experience with or knowledge of them (see Alice Friedemann’s work at Energy Skeptic and especially her most recent Springer Energy Series publication, Life After Fossil Fuels) and are grasping for solutions to our predicaments.

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

What is Ecological Overshoot?

What is Ecological Overshoot?

What is ecological overshoot and why is it important? Is it a more important predicament than climate change? What about energy and resource decline – more important than it? The answer to the latter two questions is YES and ecological overshoot is important because it is the predicament which is causing all the other predicaments such as climate change, pollution loading, energy and resource decline, and the list of files included in this post. Practically every article I’ve written here is about ecological overshoot in one way or another. Put simply, ecological overshoot is the collection of predicaments that our unsustainable lifestyles have brought forth. Collectively, humans globally use far more energy and resources than the planet can provide in a given unit of time and we produce toxic wastes that the planet cannot process within that same unit of time – that is ecological overshoot.

Because of ecological overshoot, each predicament we face exacerbates the other ones. For instance, this article points out how agriculture and food security threaten environmental sustainability, and both amplify other predicaments such as water security, GHG emissions, aerosols, land use changes, species and biodiversity decline, and on down the list.

This article points out how the climate system is much more sensitive than previously thought, making us much closer to tipping points; some of which have already been passed. This shouldn’t surprise too many people considering how many articles are constantly laden with the “faster than expected” and “more than previously thought” phrases, but many of these types of articles tend to focus on one or two specific predicaments rather than explaining the interactions and multiplying and cascading effects these predicaments have with each other…

…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…

Four Scenarios for a Catastrophic Future: Part III (final)

Four Scenarios for a Catastrophic Future: Part III (final)

This is the third and final part of Rutilius Namatianus’ (RN) reassessment of some scenarios for the future originally proposed by David Holmgren. RN takes a position that goes against the standard interpretation that sees our problems originating mainly by climate change. Instead, RN believes that climate change didn’t do much damage to humankind, so far, and so it will remain a minor component of humankind’s trajectory, at least for the coming years, perhaps a couple of decades. What we are seeing, instead, is the crunch created by the gradually reduced availability of natural resources, coupled with increasing population and consumption levels. As a result, the services and the goods previously granted to nearly all social layers are becoming impossible to maintain and that is eroding the basic pact that keeps society together. Consistently, the Elites are developing a totalitarian grip on all sectors of society in such a way to funnel all the remaining resources for themselves and leave nothing to the commoners. And that’s where we stand now. Of course, there is much that is debatable in RN’s theses, but there is no doubt that he is identifying some real elements of what’s happening nowadays. (UB)

2021 – Future Scenarios Revisited

In Part 1 and Part 2, I re-examined Holmgren’s Future Scenarios ten years after they had been proposed, and where we had moved since then in the scenario state space. I also considered a new state-space that could be more pertinent to a question that must be high on many peoples’ priorities these days: we observe two trends, racing against each other: the trend of centralized power structures (however we call it, we never did get a single really good name for the great steamroller!) to conquer every last thing, consolidate power over every last place, the trend toward ever-increasing power, the logical continuation of the ‘stupid’ strategies we might say- to refer to a recent post- against the counter-trend of depletion, environmental degradation, exhaustion of resources, diminishing returns on complexity, and generally the whole picture we sum up with the word ‘collapse’…

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

How Energy Transition Models Go Wrong

How Energy Transition Models Go Wrong

I have written many posts relating to the fact that we live in a finite world. At some point, our ability to extract resources becomes constrained. At the same time, population keeps increasing. The usual outcome when population is too high for resources is “overshoot and collapse.” But this is not a topic that the politicians or central bankers or oligarchs who attend the World Economic Forum dare to talk about.

Instead, world leaders find a different problem, namely climate change, to emphasize above other problems. Conveniently, climate change seems to have some of the same solutions as “running out of fossil fuels.” So, a person might think that an energy transition designed to try to fix climate change would work equally well to try to fix running out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the way it works.

In this post, I will lay out some of the issues involved.

[1] There are many different constraints that new energy sources need to conform to.

These are a few of the constraints I see:

  • Should be inexpensive to produce
  • Should work with the current portfolio of existing devices
  • Should be available in the quantities required, in the timeframe needed
  • Should not pollute the environment, either when created or at the end of their lifetimes
  • Should not add CO2 to the atmosphere
  • Should not distort ecosystems
  • Should be easily stored, or should be easily ramped up and down to precisely match energy timing needs
  • Cannot overuse fresh water or scarce minerals
  • Cannot require a new infrastructure of its own, unless the huge cost in terms of delayed timing and greater materials use is considered.

…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 XVI

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XVI

Knossos, Greece (1993) Photo by author

Another quick thought on our impending energy cliff situation and comment on an article suggesting overconsumption is our greatest threat and that we can be happy without it.

The threats humanity faces are never simple and always multifaceted and intertwined. Overconsumption by a relatively small percentage of our world’s population is certainly one of the contributing factors. As is the way we create and distribute ‘money’ and our sociopolitical systems, to mention just two.

Underpinning all of these complexities is energy and the one-time, finite cache of energy provided by fossil fuels has provided a boost to human exploitation of the planet unlike any other time in humanity’s 100,000+ years of existence. In the waning days of this phenomenal energy surplus (be it due to supply constraints because of diminishing returns or some recognition of the negative consequences of its use — which are many and go far beyond the production of greenhouse gases), scaling back ‘advanced’ economies’ overconsumption tendencies could help forestall the energy decline we have begun to experience. It is unlikely, however, to prevent it — I would argue it is mostly magical thinking to hold on to the idea that some ‘clean’, ‘renewable’, and ‘sustainable’ energy source will suddenly appear and save us; a ‘solution’ that would not in any way address the mountain of other dilemmas we face, such as lack of arable lands and fertile soils, biodiversity loss, the negative repercussions of our past several centuries of expansion and exploitation, and numerous other biophysical limits imposed by a finite planet.

In fact, I would argue there are many reasons a pullback in our consumer-(profit-)driven societies is unlikely to happen, not least of which is the ruling class’s motivation to expand/control the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue stream and the societal repercussions that always seem to arise when a people’s living standards (expectations? entitlements?) are threatened.

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

Blip

Blip

Chris Clugston on Overshoot:

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIV

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIV

Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

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.

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

Irreversible Collapse: Accepting Reality, Avoiding Evil

Irreversible Collapse: Accepting Reality, Avoiding Evil

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales

Advertisement from the mid-20th century

I have often used this expression (the title) to describe many things people tend to think of as solutions for one thing or another that either are not solutions or are unrealistic at best in terms of actually solving something. For anyone just joining these articles, this post will help get you started so as to be able to comprehend what this article is about.

As I have expressed before, my deep passion is to help explain where we are (as a species), how we got here, why we are in this mess, and what can and/or cannot be done to “solve” these predicaments. My very first post explained the difference between problems with answers or solutions and predicaments (or dilemmas) with outcomes. In it, we discovered that predicaments don’t have solutions, and that every solution proffered for a predicament winds up causing new problems and/or predicaments or comes with unacceptable costs or just simply doesn’t solve anything.

The reason these explanations are necessary is because a very large portion of society is completely ignorant to these facts and tends to buy into industry hype, marketing, advertising, and propaganda. Why does this happen? Because culturally, this is what society has been doing for the last several centuries AT LEAST. In order to sell an item or service, the seller needs to market and advertise the product or service. Making it attractive to the purchaser and making the purchaser feel good about buying it is key to getting the target audience to bring demand for said product or service. Whether the product or service is actually necessary or does more than make the purchaser feel good is often irrelevant in the grand scheme of things…

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

Overshoot Doubt? Chris Clugston Kills It

Overshoot Doubt? Chris Clugston Kills It

Thanks to Sam Hopkins for bringing my attention to the work of Chris Clugston.

I’m pretty well read in the overshoot space and I thought I knew all the important contributors. Somehow I missed Chris Clugston.

Clugston has written two books: Scarcity in 2012, and Blip in 2019.

His unique contribution is to research our consumption of depleting non-renewable resources. All 100+ of them, not just fossil energy.

For many people, fossil energy depletion is a fuzzy threat because it’s complicated and there are so many cheerleaders of false beliefs. Ditto for the climate change threat with its promoters of green growth and carbon capture machines.

Clugston presents so many tangible non-negotiable threats to modern civilization that after absorbing his work there is no room for doubt and no where to hide.

His conclusion is bleak. Clugston calculates modern civilization will be done by 2050, with or without climate change, with or without peak oil, and with or without any green new deal idea.

Harsh yes, but real, and honest, and helpful for those still trying to make the future less bad, because his work shows that the best path is democratically supported rapid population reduction policies.

Clugston’s visibility on the internet is low. I don’t know it that’s by choice, or because of the unpleasantness of his message. I’d like to see that fixed so the people working to make the future less bad can use his work as ammunition.

https://www.readblip.com/

What we do to enable our existence simultaneously undermines our existence…

Our enormous and ever-increasing utilization of NNRs (nonrenewable natural resources) – the finite and non-replenishing fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our industrial existence – is causing:

– Increasingly pervasive global NNR scarcity, which is causing

– Faltering global human prosperity, which is causing

– Increasing global political instability, economic fragility, and societal unrest.

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

The fat-takers cross the oceans

The fat-takers cross the oceans

Ecological overshoot is a global crisis today, but the problem did not begin with the fossil fuel age. From its beginnings more than five centuries ago, European colonization has been based on an unsustainable exploitation of resources.

In Seeker of Visions, John (Fire) Lame Deer says “The Sioux have a name for white men. They call them wasicun – fat-takers. It is a good name, because you have taken the fat of the land.”

The term, often also written as “wasi’chu”, has engendered discussion as to what the words originally meant in the Lakota language.1 In any case, the phrase “fat-takers” seemed fitting to Lame Deer, it caught on quite widely – and it took literal meaning to me as I learned more about the history of European colonization.

When I wrote a newspaper review of a then-new book by Farley Mowat in the 1980s, I couldn’t help but recall Lame Deer’s words. Nearly thirty years later, I’ve come to regard Mowat’s book, Sea of Slaughter, as a foundational study in biophysical economic history.

Here, Canadians may ask incredulously, “Since when was Farley Mowat a biophysical economist?” And readers from everywhere else are likely to ask “Farley who?” A brief bit of biography is in order.

Farley Mowat (1921 – 2014)  was one of the most successful Canadian writers of all time, author of dozens of best-selling books beginning in 1952 and continuing into the twenty-first century. He wrote in a popular style about his own experiences in Canada’s far north, the maritime provinces, travels in Siberia, and his life-long love of the natural world. Never shying from controversy, Mowat became a hero to many Canadians when he was banned from entering the US, and he was vilified by many for his support of the direct-action Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which named two of its ships in his honour…

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

canada, farley mowat, an outside chance,

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase