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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXX–Ecological Overshoot and Political Responses

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXX

September 21, 2021

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Ecological Overshoot and Political Responses

Today’s post has been prompted by some thoughts regarding the inability of our political systems to respond in a timely manner to our plight of ecological overshoot penned by Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace, and posted by Alice Friedemann of energyskeptic.com.

I agree with virtually everything Rex argues, especially the role of self-interest by our political class for their apparent rejection of the notion of ecological overshoot and what needs to be done to address the negative impacts this predicament will have on our societies (we can’t avoid these impacts but we might be capable of mitigating their worst outcomes somewhat). My experience with government (I spent many years involved with unions/federations/councils and their political action committees, including chairing some and being directly involved in negotiating contracts, thus having to deal directly with senior administrators and politicians) and readings pertaining to various sociocultural areas (e.g., economics, geopolitics, political systems, pre/history, etc.) have solidified for me the notion that our sociopolitical institutions are for a variety of reasons the last place we should be looking to ‘correct our course’ and attempt to confront the many complex issues of our overshoot and that are beginning to become more obvious. In fact, it is likely (I believe guaranteed) that our ‘ruling class’ will continue to do the exact opposite of what is needed.

Government systems appear to be a means to an end for maintaining the power (and thus wealth) structures within our complex societies. The ‘elite’ of society uses the various governmental bureaucracies/institutions/agencies (as well as other areas they tend to control such as media, education, entertainment, etc.) to meet their primary objective: the control and/or expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams. Everything they do more or less is to help meet that end. And, yes, they do throw some bones to the masses periodically if only to keep them mollified, distracted, and less likely to rebel (as Noam Chomsky has argued so well, control of the people is one of the most important concerns of those who hold power and privilege); one of the more ‘effective’ means in my view is the theatrical performance we refer to as ‘elections’ — convincing the masses in ‘representative democracies’ that they have agency via the ballot box is perhaps one of the most successful scams the ruling class has accomplished for as Johann von Goethe observed: the easiest slave is the one who believes he is free.

Growth, the very antithesis of addressing ecological overshoot, is promoted by government to help in their pursuit of both wealth and power. But it also addresses the unfortunate consequence of the way we have sustained growth the last few decades: exponentially-exploding debt (somewhat north of 200 trillion U.S. dollars at present for the globe, and the larger the debt the larger and more sustained the payments to the ‘lenders/creators’ of the world’s various currencies — the financial institutions that seem to work hand-in-glove with our governments). This debt has not only turned our financial/economic/monetary systems into gargantuan Ponzi schemes, it has necessitated the continuation of growth in perpetuity to help pay off the debt (significant revenue for the financiers) and keep the Ponzi schemes from collapsing.

Of course, such infinite growth is a tad difficult on a finite planet so the other options of addressing our financial dilemmas is to increase taxes and/or inflate away the debt. Our feckless ‘leaders’ are attempting all three of these approaches to keep things from collapsing. They cheerlead and encourage growth, telling the masses it has only beneficial properties and minimising, ignoring, or denying the negative aspects. Taxes are expanded continually and applied to increasing numbers of economic interactions, although the wealthy have an almost infinite number of ways to minimise their tax obligations, unlike the masses. Inflation (which in its original form refers to ever-increasing money/credit printing but eventually results in price inflation which is what most people think of) is, in perfect Orwellian language use, said to be a positive force for our economy while it actually debases our currency which serves the purposes of the large debtors (governments and large corporations) but harms the masses because of the debauching of their ‘money’ as is becoming increasingly obvious as wealth inequality continues to explode.

For all of these reasons (and more) it is unlikely (I would actually put the likelihood at zero) our political systems would ever intentionally curtail the pursuit of growth for it is their seed corn. They will pursue and cheerlead it right up until collapse can no longer be denied, and then attempt to push it some more as they tell those experiencing precipitous decline to stop believing their lying eyes; and/or blame our failing societies on some foreign/domestic bogeymen, but certainly not them and their policies.

The government, as with the rest of the ruling class and unfortunately most people, will not hear the arguments about ecological overshoot at all. It matters not how much ‘science’, data, or evidence is thrown at them. Almost everyone but especially the elite are in total denial (or at least feigning it, perhaps just to reduce their cognitive dissonance). This is why I have abandoned any ‘hope’ that our ‘leaders’ will in any way address ecological overshoot even if they do admit it exists — if they do, it will likely be leveraged to pursue activities that not only enrich the ruling class further but make our overshoot worse, such as ‘clean’ energy which is anything but clean and certainly not sustainable as sold. And, unfortunately, the political systems (at least in so-called ‘representative’ democracies) have morphed into out-promising the other parties for what ‘goodies’ they will provide freely to citizens. More. More. More. Which, again, is the opposite of what is needed to counter our going even further into overshoot…not that it may matter much at this point given how far we are likely already past the most important tipping points.

As Rex argues, the ‘solutions’ that will matter most to people will be at the local level. Relocalistion of as much production and distribution of goods as possible (but especially potable water, food, and shelter needs — including that which is needed to deal with local weather/climate, such as wood for winter heating) is the best approach to be taking to help one’s community mitigate as much as possible the coming storm. It’s likely to get ugly and ‘government’ will be nowhere to be found to turn to; you will need to depend upon immediate family, friends, and community members so cultivate those relationships and work on getting them to understand our predicament and begin making your local community as self-sufficient and resilient as possible.

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 IX–Hear, Speak, See No Evil: Sociopolitical Collapse

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IX

Chichen Itza, Mexico (1986) photo by author

Hear, Speak, See No Evil: Sociopolitical Collapse

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.

And the supposed importance of elections and sanctity of voting are two of those narratives (the ones that this article goes to great lengths to further). And these are very, very important social narratives for several reasons. First, the political class overseeing society need legitimization. They need the citizens to believe with all their hearts and minds that the ruling class has a ‘right’ to be making the decisions they are making and enacting the policies they are enacting with the support and blessings of the people. Without this legitimization they would not only run into significant difficulty with social ‘order’, they would lose control of the wealth-generating systems that supply their revenue streams (their primary motivation). This right to govern supposedly derives from the choices made via the ballot box; we quite often hear leaders claim they have a mandate from the people to justify (rationalise?) their actions.

Second, people want to believe they actually have agency in the way their society is managed. Believing you have agency in your life is a fundamental need. So, people want to believe they can significantly impact the political process by voting. And we are socialised almost from birth to believe this story. Our public schools initiate us into the dominant narrative, teaching children the importance of our political system and how we need to support it. We are told it is a civic duty to vote. That if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. That major wars have been fought to protect our freedoms and the right to vote. People do not want to confront the possibility that it is all just theatre; that it is a story to keep us mollified, well behaved, and compliant; that the real power may lay well beyond their reach or influence (or as George Carlin opined: it’s a big club and you ain’t in it). The people do not want to face the idea that their leaders do not have the interests of the masses as their primary motivation; that would just create far too much cognitive dissonance.

For these two reasons alone the majority of people and certainly almost all the ruling class (and this includes academics, media, politicians, corporations) will refuse to see or acknowledge the flaws when exposed. Evidence is memory-holed. Whistleblowers are vilified (or worse). The believers and those benefiting from the dominant storyline will fight tooth and nail to defend the system. The narrative must be protected. Just read up on the various inquisitions of the Catholic Church to see how narratives that support the powerful are protected.

I truly do want to thank those who challenge my thinking in a constructive manner. It forces me to rethink and reflect on my own biases and blindspots. For those who fall back on the ad hominem fallacy of attacking me or calling me names, please grow up.

One of the arguments made by Dmitry Orlov in his book The Five Stages of Collapse is that there exist a number of tipping points as it were that indicate a complex society is on the verge of collapse. He states these “Serve as mental milestones…[and each breaches] a specific level of trust or faith in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift.”

His five stages are:

  1. Financial collapse where faith in risk assessment and financial guarantees is lost.
  2. Commercial collapse that witnesses a breakdown in trade and widespread shortages of necessities.
  3. Political collapse through a loss of political class relevance and legitimacy.
  4. Social collapse in which social institutions that could provide resources fail.
  5. Cultural collapse that is exhibited by the disbanding of families into individuals competing for scarce resources.

As I suggest in a review and commentary on his book: “all that is needed for political collapse is for more citizens to come to the realization that the status quo is no longer working for the benefit of all but for the benefit of the elite. When the masses finally come to better understand the corruption and malfeasance that percolates throughout the political world, collapse of the political class will occur.”

This is perhaps what we are witnessing with greater frequency in the U.S. and elsewhere, suggesting sociopolitical collapse may not be too far off in the future. And with sociopolitical collapse comes some pretty serious knock-on effects that will upset the complex systems we all rely upon, especially long-distance supply chains and social ‘order’.

As I have argued in other places, when it comes to politics we seem to be chickens arguing over which fox will guard us while the henhouse is burning down in the background.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII–Science: It May Not Be All You Think It Is

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh VII

Oct 12, 2020
Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Science: It May Not Be All You Think It Is

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”)

In short, we can never be 100% that our perception of reality is accurate, and scientific experiments are virtually impossible to totally and completely control. Further, science often uses inductive logic, and it relies on probabilities to draw conclusions. All of this prevents science from ever proving anything with absolute certainty. That does not, however, mean that science is untrustworthy, or that you can reject it whenever you like. Science tells us what is most likely true given the current evidence, but it is a skeptical process that always acknowledges the possibility of being wrong.
-Fallacy Man (Science doesn’t prove anything, and that’s a good thing)

The answers you get depend on the questions you ask…What man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conception experience has taught him to see…Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time…Because scientists are reasonable men, one or another argument will ultimately persuade many of them. But there is no single argument that can or should persuade them all. Rather than a single group conversion, what occurs is an increasing shift in the distribution of professional allegiances…The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs.
-Thomas S. Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions)

Science! That is the refrain from some to argue for what IS and what IS NOT ‘true’ or ‘factual’ in this world of social media edicts and memes (and associated self-created echo chambers), especially regarding fake news, climate change/global warming, pandemics, politics, and life in general.

The idea that science provides us with ‘objective proof’ about issues is a common error I’ve encountered time and time again. It is held for many reasons, primary among them may be the ‘politicisation’ of the notion; that is, the use of ‘science’ by politicians and others to reinforce what are for all intents and purposes desired goals/policies/actions/narratives/etc., and their insistence about science providing definitive support. We are certainly seeing this more and more with competing narratives regarding Covid-19 and what should and should not be done to address certain concerns.

My enlightenment, as it were, regarding scientific ‘proof’ and associated beliefs came in two parts during my university education. First was a poignant discussion with a professor providing feedback on a paper I had written and used the idea of science proving something to support my conclusion. He stated rather bluntly that “‘proof’ is only relevant in mathematics and jurisprudence, not science.” He then went on to explain the concept in greater detail, but it was that short statement that has stuck with me and altered my view of ‘objective science’ as ‘proof’ of various beliefs.

The second tipping point for me was during a presentation on human intelligence by the psychology department of the university (I had become interested in the subject as I explored human evolution via physical anthropology classes and sat in on a presentation by a guest speaker). As I recall, the visiting professor asked somewhat rhetorically what was the definition of intelligence we could use to explore the concept. After entertaining a few responses (all of which were different) he stressed that if we were to ask 100 psychologists such a question, we would get back 100 different answers: there was no agreed upon definition. One’s particular perspective ‘coloured’ what was important and observed.

There were also a handful of texts I read that impacted my beliefs. Some of the most pertinent ones were: The Structure of Scientific RevolutionsThe Mismeasure of ManEver Since DarwinThe Interpretation of Cultures.

The two experiences described above and the books I read impacted my interests at the time and I set off exploring other ideas and perspectives, getting into deconstructivismphilologyhermeneuticsdialecticsepistemologyobjectivity versus subjectivity, and skepticism. More recently I’ve explored the somewhat related subjects of complexity and cognition.

All of these ‘colour’ my belief system and my arguments regarding ‘collapse’. Do I know for certain some of the things I pontificate about. Absolutely not. And I hope I couch my rhetoric in words such as ‘likely’, ‘evidence’, ‘probably’, etc. to demonstrate my uncertainty. Because when we get right down to it, not one of us can be certain about the future and our beliefs about it. As several people have been credited with stating: It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. We live within complex systems made up of complex systems that, because of the nonlinear feedback loops that exist and emergent phenomena that arise from them, can neither be predicted nor controlled. Of this, I am fairly certain.

Do I believe ‘collapse’ of our current globalised, industrial world will occur? Yes. The evidence, to me, seems overwhelming; particularly all the experiments involving complex societies that have been carried out before us and ended with decline/collapse (see Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies and Diamond’s Collapse) and the ‘fact’ that we live on a world with finite resources but are pursuing perpetual growth (see Meadows et al’s The Limits to Growth and Catton’s Overshoot).

Will, as some argue, our technology and human ingenuity save us in this current trial in complex societies? I’m doubtful; in fact, I’m fairly certain these things will simply expedite the fall as we rush into them to try and solve the problems we have created, bumping up against the real biophysical limits imposed by a finite world in the process and creating even more problems and dilemmas.

Of course, because I cannot predict the future with certainty, only time will tell…

Doug Casey on How Economic Witch Doctors Convince Everyone They’re Neurosurgeons

Doug Casey on How Economic Witch Doctors Convince Everyone They’re Neurosurgeons

Economic Witch Doctors

International Man: The average person doesn’t care about economics. But to the extent that he does, he only reads mainstream publications like The Economist and editorials in The New York Times.

In these publications, the average person will find so-called economists advocating upside-down and destructive concepts like negative interest rates, banning cash, debt-fueled consumption, government spending, and rampant money printing as the cures to economic ailments.

And if those methods don’t work—or inflict damage—the establishment economists’ response is to simply call for more money printing, more debt, and even lower interest rates.

What’s your take on conventional economic thinking and methods?

Doug Casey: Frankly, most “economists” today are only political apologists masquerading as economists.

An economist is somebody that describes the way the world works—how people go about producing, consuming, buying, selling, and living their lives. That’s not, however, what most of today’s PhD economists do. Instead, they prescribe the way they would like the world to work and tailor theories to help politicians demonstrate the virtue and necessity of their quest for more power.

As a result, legitimate economics barely exists today. What passes for economics has a very bad reputation, and it’s well deserved. Economics has become degraded. It’s not quite a laughingstock like gender studies, but it’s on a level with political science—which isn’t a science at all.

Every individual has vastly differing likes and dislikes and wants and needs. But these so-called economists like to treat people as if they were standardized atoms. They think they can manipulate people as if they were chemicals and treat the economy as something they can heat up or cool down. And they’re the ones who decide what the masses need.

Economics has become an excuse for central planning, and economists have become social engineers.

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The Performance is Over

The Performance is Over

Even if the artists don’t realise it.

Note: Last week’s comments got sidetracked into bad-tempered exchanges on climate change, which was not what the essay was about. I had several requests to delete comments that some people found offensive. I let them pass on that occasion, but as from now I will start deleting abusive comments. Discussion here has always been very civilised. Let’s keep it that way.

A reminder that Spanish versions of my essays are now available here. and some Italian versions of my essays are available here. Many thanks to the translators. Now on to the main feature.

Last week, I argued that the kind of crises that we can expect over the next few years will be beyond the ability of our enfeebled governments to tackle, and that in any case their room for manoeuvre to tackle them will be very limited. (If you think climate change is not a problem, fine, you can substitute any other of a long list of potentially ruinous events.) This week, I want to take the next logical step, of trying to begin to imagine what a society in which government could no longer deal with major problems would be like, and what the implications would be.

I want to discuss it via a consideration of the nature of Power. Now in English, “power” has generally-negative connotations, not helped by its incessant use by IdiotPol pundits, who are obsessed with it and see it everywhere. But “power” is derived from the medieval Anglo-French pouair with its roots in the Vulgar Latin potere, meaning “to be able to do something.” This is essentially the principal meaning of pouvoir in modern French: a good translation would be ‘capability.” (Foucault, who wrote about pouvoir a lot, was essentially interested in how things got done.)…

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What If There Are No Politically Feasible Answers?

What If There Are No Politically Feasible Answers?

Political Realism vs Ecological Realism

At times, we are confronted with choices that demand us to pick between two undesirable alternatives, often known as a dilemma. The annals of history are brimming with such instances. When Hitler ascended to power in Germany and commenced his invasions across Europe, we were presented with the dire decision of either passively observing country after country succumb to Germany’s might or intervening in the war to halt him by force. There was no solution that could be deemed politically feasible, at least not in the traditionally peaceful democratic sense. Sometimes, circumstances unfold just like that.

It appears we find ourselves in the grip of a similar quandary at present. We’re forced to select from a set of distressing options. Some would present it as a decision between climate change causing widespread avian fatalities, or in their judgement, causing fewer with the installation of wind turbines and transmission lines and thwarting the climate crisis.

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L.A. Times journalist Sammy Roth penned an article exploring the Audubon Society’s endorsement of wind turbines and transmission lines, notwithstanding the escalating tally of bird deaths attributed to these structures. Roth expressed via Twitter that while the loss of birds may not be the optimal outcome, it could be a required sacrifice for the broader objective of addressing climate change.

The Audubon Society and many others, including Roth, perceive our options as a choice between renewable energy and climate change. However, in my view, they overlook a critical component that they, along with the majority, are reluctant to contemplate.

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The Rise Of Totalitarianism: Banks Denying Services Based On Political Views

The Rise Of Totalitarianism: Banks Denying Services Based On Political Views

Then British Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks during a visit at Dover harbour, in Dover, Britain, on Aug. 12, 2020. (Matthew Childs/Reuters)

When the Berlin Wall fell, I naively supposed that freedom was now secure, that never again would the spectre of totalitarianism return to Europe. I failed to take into account what I should have known, that the thirst for power is at least as great as that for freedom. Freedom and power are forever locked into a kind of Manichaean struggle, as are good and evil, and the thirst for power is perfectly capable of making an instrument of supposed good causes.

History doesn’t repeat itself, at least not in precisely the same way. The new totalitarianism doesn’t resort to thugs in the street and the midnight knock on the door. It’s somewhat more subtle than that, but nonetheless ruthless and dangerous for all its subtlety.

In Britain, a well-known politician, Nigel Farage, has had his bank account closed by a bank called Coutts that specializes in rich clients. It’s owned by the much larger National Westminster Bank, whose largest single shareholder by far, since the banking crisis of 2008, is the British government.

Mr. Farage is a well-known figure, the scourge of the Euro-federalists, and probably more responsible than any other single person for the referendum vote in 2016 for Britain to leave the European Union. Like most public figures with both strong opinions and a strong personality, Mr. Farage is both widely admired and widely detested. If you ask someone about him, he’s unlikely to answer, “On the one hand, on the other …”

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The Fed Is a Purely Political Institution, and It’s Definitely Not a Bank.

The Fed Is a Purely Political Institution, and It’s Definitely Not a Bank.


Those who know Wall Street lore sometimes recall that Fed chairman William Miller—Paul Volcker’s immediate predecessor—joked that most Americans believed the Federal Reserve was either an Indian reservation, a wildlife preserve, or a brand of whiskey. The Fed, of course, is none of those things, but there’s also one other thing the Federal Reserve is not: an actual bank. It is simply a government agency that does bank-like things.

It’s easy to see why many people might think it is a bank. “Bank” is right there in the name of the twelve regional banks that make up the system: for example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The Fed also enjoys many titles that make it sound like a bank. It’s sometimes called the “lender of last resort.” Or it is sometimes called “a banker’s bank.” Moreover, many people often call the Fed “the central bank.” That phrase is useful enough, but not quite true.

Moreover, even critics of the bank often repeat the myth that the Federal Reserve is “a private bank,” as if that were the main problem with the Federal Reserve. And then there are the economists who like to spread fairy tales about how the Fed is “independent” from the political system and makes decisions based primarily on economic theory as interpreted by wise economists.

The de facto reality of the Federal Reserve is that it is a government agency, run by government technocrats, that enjoys the benefits of being subject to very little oversight from Congress. It is no more “private” than the Environmental Protection Agency, and it is no more a “bank” than the US Department of the Treasury.

It’s a Purely Political Institution

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Politics, climate conspire as Tigris and Euphrates dwindle

DAWWAYAH, Iraq and ILISU DAM, Turkey (AP) — Next year, the water will come. The pipes have been laid to Ata Yigit’s sprawling farm in Turkey’s southeast connecting it to a dam on the Euphrates River. A dream, soon to become a reality, he says.

He’s already grown a small corn patch on some of the water. The golden stalks are tall and abundant. “The kernels are big,” he says, proudly. Soon he’ll be able to water all his fields.

Over 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) downstream in southern Iraq, nothing grows anymore in Obeid Hafez’s wheat farm. The water stopped coming a year ago, the 95-year-old said, straining to speak.

“The last time we planted the seed, it went green, then suddenly it died,” he said.

Water levels in the Chibayish marshes of southern Iraq are declining and fishermen say certain water-ways are no longer accessible by boat, in Dhi Qar province, Iraq, Friday Sept. 2, 2022. The Tigris-Euphrates river flows have fallen by 40% the past four decades as the states along its length - Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq pursue rapid, unilateral development of the waters' use. (AP Photo/Anmal Khalil)

Water levels in the Chibayish marshes of southern Iraq are declining and fishermen say certain water-ways are no longer accessible by boat, in Dhi Qar province, Iraq, Sept. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Anmal Khalil)

The starkly different realities are playing out along the length of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin, one of the world’s most vulnerable watersheds. River flows have fallen by 40% in the past four decades as the states along its length — Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq — pursue rapid, unilateral development of the waters’ use.

The drop is projected to worsen as temperatures rise from climate change. Both Turkey and Iraq, the two biggest consumers, acknowledge they must cooperate to preserve the river system that some 60 million people rely on to sustain their lives.

But political failures and intransigence conspire to prevent a deal sharing the rivers.

The Associated Press conducted more than a dozen interviews in both countries, from top water envoys and senior officials to local farmers, and gained exclusive visits to controversial dam projects…

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The Rise of Public Health and ‘Green’ Police: Securitization Theory

The Rise of Public Health and ‘Green’ Police: Securitization Theory

Policing has come a long way since the days of good ole boy Barney Fife.

Once upon a time, cops were tasked primarily with things like catching murderers and rapists and protecting property.

They were always used, of course, whenever necessary, to protect state interests – but, then again, the state’s interests weren’t always so obviously nefarious and illegitimate as they are today.

Law enforcement’s purview expansion is explained in large part by securitization theory.

As a result of the this process, peculiar new breeds of law enforcement – Public Health© officers and green police – have sprung up throughout the West.

Securitization theory: the advent of new security threats

The basic premise of securitization theory in political science is that, given the opportunity, a state will endlessly concoct new security “threats” as a justification to exercise greater power outside of the constraints of the normal political process:

“Securitisation theory shows us that national security policy is not a natural given, but carefully designated by politicians and decision-makers. According to securitisation theory, political issues are constituted as extreme security issues to be dealt with urgently when they have been labelled as ‘dangerous’… by a ‘securitising actor’ who has the social and institutional power to move the issue ‘beyond politics’.”

The process, in a nutshell, works like this:

  • The government identifies a new existential “threat,” either legitimate or overblown, either naturally occurring or cynically engineered by the state itself.
  • The corporate media and corporate state stoke fear about the threat into the hearts and minds of a gullible public
  • In the fog of panic, the state slyly provisions itself with new authority and resources to combat the threat, thereby increasing its power

The threats change, but whether “domestic terrorism,” COVID-19, or climate change, the process largely remains the same.

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The Failure of Central Banking: Politics

The Failure of Central Banking: Politics

The view was generally held that centralization of banking would inevitably result in one of two alternatives: either complete government control, which meant politics in banking, or control by ‘Wall Street,’ which meant banking in politics.

– Paul Warburg, 1930

The idea of the central bank was born in the Middle Ages, when failures of the largest merchant banks of that era, founded by the Bardi and Peruzzi families, shocked the Italian City-State of Florence in 1343 and 1346. These financial crises gave birth to the idea that the commercial banking sector would need a “liquidity backstop,” i.e., an entity that could lend to private financial institutions in trouble. This was the original aim of central banks: to act as piggy banks for solvent commercial banks with temporary liquidity problems.

The first central bank that resembled the modern ones emerged in 1609, when the Dutch empire created an exchange bank, Wisselbank, to convert foreign coins into domestic currency. The central bank of Sweden, the Riksbanken, was created in 1668, and the Bank of England (BoE) in 1694. These were mostly servants of rulers and governments. But the really big twist came in 1914, when the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank was created. Its creation was mired with worries that it might socialize the economy.

To calm these fears, the power of the Fed to issue legal tender (currency) was restricted by both the “real bills doctrine” and the gold standard. The real bills doctrine stated that the Fed could only extend credit and thus increase the supply of money against collateral that already had established value through a “commercial transaction.” This meant that the value of the collateral could not be in the future effectively banning, e.g., the monetization of the federal debt…

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Politics Is Dead, Here’s What Killed It

Politics Is Dead, Here’s What Killed It

Here’s “politics” in America now: come with mega-millions or don’t even bother to show up.

Representational democracy–a.k.a. politics as a solution to social and economic problems–has passed away. It did not die a natural death. Politics developed a cancer very early in life (circa the early 1800s), caused by wealth outweighing public opinion. This cancer spread slowly but metastasized in the past few decades, spreading to every nook and cranny of our society and economy as “democracy” devolved into an invitation-only auction of elections and political favors.

Politics might have had a fighting chance but three forces betrayed the nation and its citizenry.

1. The Federal Reserve transferred trillions of dollars of unearned wealth into the feeding troughs of the super-wealthy and corporations, vastly increasing the wealth the top 0.01% had to buy elections and favors. The Federal Reserve cloaked its treachery with jargon– quantitative easing, stimulus, etc.–and then stabbed the nation’s representational democracy in the back.

2. The Supreme Court betrayed the nation’s representative democracy by labeling corporations buying elections and political favors a form of “free speech.” (Please don’t hurt yourself laughing too hard.) The Supreme Court’s equating wealth buying elections and favors with individual citizens’ sacrosanct right of free speech was a knife in the back of the nation and its citizenry.

3. The two political parties betrayed their traditional voter bases to kneel at the altar of corporate / elite wealth, wealth which bought elections and political favors. The Democrats, traditional champions of the workforce in the 20th century, abandoned workers in favor of serving their corporate masters, masking their betrayal with fine-sounding phrases.

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The End Of Venezuela’s Oil Era

The End Of Venezuela’s Oil Era

Venezuela, once Latin America’s largest oil producer and a founding member of OPEC, has seen its economically vital oil industry collapse triggering one of the worst economic and humanitarian crises of the century. The pain is far from over for Venezuela’s people and the country’s failing economy. Before 1920, Venezuela was a poor agricultural country facing many of the developmental issues plaguing Latin America. The country’s journey to becoming a crude oil superpower, leading petroleum state, and founding OPEC member began in 1914 with the drilling of the Zumaque well in the Mene Grande field on the eastern shores of Lake Maracaibo. This was Venezuela’s first commercial oil well and it launched a monumental oil boom that transformed the country and by 1950 saw it become the world’s fourth wealthiest nation per capita. Venezuela was not only heralded as Latin America’s richest nation but also its most developed. By the 1970s, the country, which is now a socialist dictatorship, was lauded as Latin America’s most stable democracy at a time when most nations in the region were ruled by military dictatorships. By the 1980s, Venezuela’s democracy was unraveling because of a global recession and sharply weaker oil prices. These events weighed heavily on the economy, and government spending, causing the country to spiral into debt. By the late-1980s Caracas had turned to the International Monetary Fund for help. The IMF recommended market-oriented neoliberal economic reforms including savage budget cuts, primarily impacting social programs such as public health and education. When these reforms were implemented by Caracas, they triggered considerable civil unrest. The reforms also sparked runaway inflation which only worsened the suffering of every-day Venezuelans. Those events illustrated the substantial dependence of Venezuela’s economy on oil and the country’s vulnerability to weaker prices…

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Super Serious News Reporting: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Super Serious News Reporting: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Listen to a reading of this article:

Hi I’m a very serious news reporter. The Russians are controlling our thoughts with Facebook memes and scrambling our brains with invisible ray gun attacks. In other news, capitalism is working fine and our wars defend freedom and democracy. The government never lies. Here’s Bob with the weather.

It’s hilarious that people still think the Democratic Party cares about winning elections. That’s not its job, children. That’s not why the Democratic Party exists. The Democratic Party exists to kill leftward progress in the world’s most powerful nation. That’s all it cares about doing.

The Democratic Party doesn’t care about winning elections. The Democratic Party doesn’t care about promoting popular policies. The Democratic Party doesn’t care about passing legislation. The Democratic Party only cares about doing things like this:

They were always going to blame Biden’s failures on the left.

“The political spectrum has moved too far to the left. I believe this because I was told to by a millionaire with a vested interest in stifling support for socialism. Also I think ‘left’ means having pink hair and using words like ‘polycule’ in casual conversation.”

So mad at American leftists for forcing the Democratic Party to be a right wing imperialist oligarch front who nobody wants to vote for.

US troops are four times more likely to die by their own hand than in combat. They’ve figured out how to protect US military personnel from enemy fire, but not from the psychological consequences of working for the US military.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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