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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCIX–Energy Future, Part 4: Economic Manipulation

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCIX

February 9, 2023 (original posting date)

Monte Alban, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Energy Future, Part 4: Economic Manipulation

In Part 1, I argue that energy underpins everything, including human complex societies. In Part 2, I suggest that the increasing need for diminishing resources, especially finite or limited ‘renewable’ ones, invariably leads to geopolitical tension between competing polities. Part 3 further posits that this geopolitical competition creates internal societal stresses that are met with rising authoritarianism and attempts at sociobehavioural control of domestic populations by the ruling elite.

Economic manipulation — mostly through the financial/monetary systems of a society, that the ruling caste controls — is part and parcel of addressing the societal stresses that arise as things become more complex (as a result of the problem-solving aspects of a society), competition with other polities increases, resources become more dear, and control of the population takes on greater urgency.

All of the activities to sustain a society require resources, primarily energy but also material ones whose retrieval and processing require energy of some nature. Any non-renewable resource, but also limited renewable ones, must be acquired to not only maintain human life (i.e., procurement of potable water, food production, regional shelter needs) but to support any and all activities — be they physical- or service-based.

The various production and resource-allocation/distribution systems are what constitute an economic system[1]. While there are differing opinions about the number and variety of economic systems, the common thread tends to be that it is a means of distributing goods/services to the members of a group/society.

Economic anthropology[2] for the most part is the study of the mechanism of exchange within a human society, be it a more ‘simple’ band or ‘complex’ state.

In less complex societies where little to no division of labour or occupational differentiation exists and production surpluses are minimal to non-existent, economic activities tend to take place within a framework of reciprocal exchange[3]. I will provide you with some of my current surplus knowing that at some point in the future you will reciprocate this behaviour. Relationships in such groups are primarily impacted by kinship ties and a sense of reciprocal obligation, and not economic ones as occurs in larger, more complex societies.

A complex society[4] tends to have a more complicated/multi-layered economic system, the basis of which is a financial/monetary system[5] that likely came into existence as a population exceeded Dunbar’s number[6] and as a means of helping to track the increasing number of reciprocal obligations that arose[7]. The ruling caste of a society tends to control the monetary/financial systems and evidence strongly suggests that they manipulate them, as they tend to with everything they touch, to their advantage in order to meet their primary goal: the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige.

While there is much written about the shift from a system of reciprocity-based[8] exchange to one of credit-/debt-based fiat currency[9], it is without doubt that the implementation of a fiat money system opened the door to the possibility of significant manipulation by those who control it [10]. I say significant because even with a commodity-based currency (e.g., precious metals), manipulation (i.e., debasement, rehypothecation) has been common[11].

Joseph Tainter’s thesis in The Collapse of Complex Societies[12] is basically based upon economics. He posits that as a problem-solving organisation, a society endeavours to solve the problems that arise in the course of meeting needs. These problems are addressed via organisational adaptations but also very much through material acquisition and redistribution. This is accomplished in the most economically-efficient way by accessing the easiest- and cheapest-to-retrieve resources first and foremost. This provides the highest energy-return-on-energy-invested[13].

Eventually, however, as a society’s demands/requirements increase due to growth and increasing complexity, the harder- and more-expensive-to-retrieve resources must be pursued. This results in diminishing returns[14] on the energy/resource investments made and the surpluses that existed during the early days are whittled away until eventually a society encounters a point where more and more people opt out of supporting the various systems as they are having to invest greater and greater amounts of personal energy/resources but getting back fewer and fewer benefits.

Diminishing returns eat into surpluses in order to maintain/expand complexities. With falling surpluses, there is less room for a government elite to fund their various projects, be they military expansion and/or legitimisation activities to assert domestic control — to say little of the wealth directed towards maintaining the elite’s living standards. One of the approaches by the ruling caste to offset the negative consequences of diminishing returns and deterioration of societal surpluses is through a manipulation of the economic system. Perhaps the primary means of such manipulation is to debase the currency with the intent to make it ‘go further’ and ensure the elite maintain/expand their portion of a shrinking pie. If this is done at a relatively slow pace, very few if any of the populace take note of the impacts — but they are there nonetheless.

One of the best documented and analysed instances of such manipulation has been during the history of the Roman Empire, where debasement of the Roman currency over time has been observed. This manipulation had many negative societal impacts and was one of the many contributing factors leading to the empire’s eventual collapse according to a number of analysts/historians[15].

Of course, such ‘money creation/printing’ invariably results in price inflation — and many times to hyperinflation — as more currency is chasing the same or more slowly expanding amount of goods/services[16]. This price inflation/currency debasement has a more deleterious impact upon the masses than it does those closest to the monetary creation/distribution system. In particular, consider the Cantillon Effect[17] where the ruling caste/insiders who first have access to the ‘newly-minted currency’ can use it prior to inflationary impacts[18]. But is also benefits the state in other ways, particularly the ability to ‘hide’ taxes within it[19] and allowing debtors (government being amongst if not the largest) to pay off debts more easily[20].

There have been a number of examples of more recent currency debasements, some hidden (i.e., coordinated efforts by numerous central banks to debase their currencies in unison[21]) and some quite obvious[22]. For the current world’s primary reserve currency (the U.S. dollar), there has been the gold confiscation during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency[23], President Richard Nixon’s abrogation of the Bretton Woods Agreement[24], and, most recently, the phenomenon referred to as Quantitative Easing[25].

It’s not simply an exponential increase in the physical stock of ‘money’ that contributes to currency debasement and it negative impacts since government-minted currency makes up only a small fraction of the money creation, but it is the ever-expanding supply of credit-/debt-instruments. With the shift to a purely fiat currency free from any limitations to infinite expansion, the degree of manipulation possible is, well, limitless…except for one rather important impediment: physical resource finiteness.

So, as we circle back to the implications for our fundamental resource, energy, one must consider the observation that money/currency is when all is said and done a potential claim upon energy (even other resources require energy to be accessed and distributed). And, as energy analyst Art Berman notes in the tweet below, all the debt that we have created (currently several quadrillion at this juncture in time) is a “lien on future energy”.

And the conundrum we face as resource extraction and processing encounter diminishing returns — and the elite attempt to counter this with ever-increasing credit/debt instruments — is perhaps best captured by the late Michael Ruppert’s simple statement in the documentary Collapse: “Infinite money growth collides with finite energy.”

With an significant exponentially-increasing amount of claims upon finite resources we seem to be left with the options of attempting to pursue perpetual growth to meet these claims, a debt jubilee or reset of the systems, or monetary/financial/economic collapse. Any or all of these choices are likely to be attempted to some degree or another; in fact, some argue this is already and has been happening.

Basically our economic system has become a gargantuan and complex Ponzi scheme[26] established by our ruling elite and upon which are all involved and dependent upon.

As I commented on a Nate Hagens video post: Our economy is for all intents and purposes a gargantuan, complex Ponzi scheme that we are all a part of and dependent upon to a great if not complete extent. We all (for the most part) wish it to continue, including the ruling caste for their power and prestige comes from sitting atop the pyramid. Given our cognitive abilities and biases, we are adept at all sorts of denial and bargaining to see it otherwise, and/or to craft comforting narratives as to how it can be transitioned to something sustainable and equitable. But, as with all such complex systems — especially one dependent upon perpetual growth upon a finite planet — it is fragile and will, given enough time, eventually collapse. There is no other path at this particular point given how far into ecological overshoot we are. When, however, is the unanswerable question. Human complex societies can go on for a long time before it recognises that things have changed significantly enough to be considered ‘collapsed’…

Given gdp’s (a proxy for economic ‘growth’ and thus living standards — not a perfect proxy, of course, given the perpetual changes in calculation and increasing financialization of the economy) almost perfect correlation with energy production[27], and that our future is certainly going to be one of declining energy resources, there should be little doubt that falling living standards is before us — particularly for those in so-called ‘advanced’ economies.

Our ‘advanced’ economies have a long way to fall to reach the level of many emerging ones and it is likely that we will continue to see energy/resources ‘stolen’ from the periphery to support the core — perhaps allowing time for the core to mitigate their decline somewhat, or perhaps as a means to sustain the core for a short time more before a sudden, Seneca-style fall appears as a Black Swan event. Only time will tell…

Please note, I have done my best to wrap my head around and understand this topic/issue. This has been one of the more difficult subjects to write about with any sense of confidence (and I am certain I have misunderstood/misinterpreted a number of things). I am neither schooled in nor worked within the economic realm. Despite this paucity of ‘training’, I do believe the warning of Henry Ford when he paraphrased U.S. Congressman Charles Binderup that “It is perhaps well enough that the people of the nation do not know or understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Perhaps it has been purposely designed to be excessively complex and incomprehensible, or this labyrinthian structure is simply the epiphenomenon of the ongoing attempts to ‘solve’ societal issues as they arise over time; and then become leveraged by some (many? most? in leadership positions) to take advantage of loopholes that are in turn addressed through changes and legislation, that leads to further complexity and the cycle continues with the original purpose/solution becoming ever more complex and serpentine… Suffice it to say, the system(s) are increasingly becoming more convoluted and fragile as a result with nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena arising leading to increasing risk since these can neither be predicted nor controlled — only reacted to after the fact.

My growing sense is that if some unforeseen Black Swan event or geopolitical ‘accident’ doesn’t bring on a rapid decline in social complexity, then it will likely be a ‘mistake’ in the economic realm as it tends to impact significantly the various subsystems of trade, transportation, communication, etc. that the global, industrialised world depends upon for everything from potable water procurement to regional shelter need construction to food production and distribution, and everything in between.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers). Encouraging others to read my work is also much appreciated.

[1] See this, this, and/or this.

[2] See this.

[3] See this.

[4] See this.

[5] See this and/or this.

[6] See this and/or this.

[7] See this.

[8] See this, this, and/or this.

[9] See this.

[10] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[11] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[12] See this.

[13] See this and/or this.

[14] See this and/or this.

[15] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[16] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[17] See this.

[18] Keep in mind that currency/money comes into existence in a number of ways; in our modern economic world it is primarily ‘created’ via the debt-/credit-disbursement activities of various financial institutions, especially the banking and shadow banking industry. It has been estimated that around 95% of our increasing money supply is created from nothing by financial institutions.

[19] See this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[20] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[21] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[22] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[23] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[24] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[25] See this, this, this, this, this, this and/or this.

[26] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[27] See this, this, this, this, and/or this.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCVIII–‘Inevitable’ Growth: Helping To Keep the Profiteer Gravy Train Pumping

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCVIII

February 7, 2023 (original posting date)

Monte Alban, Mexico. (1988) Photo by author.

‘Inevitable’ Growth: Helping To Keep the Profiteer Gravy Train Pumping

The following are two brief comments (followed by a couple of shorter responses to others) I put out on one of my town’s FB pages regarding the ongoing conversation/debate around a proposed 18-story apartment complex along our main street. This is a very controversial plan given the fact that buildings have been limited to 6 floors for decades and brings to the surface the insane speed with which development has been occurring in our once small town with the moniker ‘Country close to the city’ — which most laugh at now given the ongoing loss of ‘ruralness’ once felt/observed. This community on the edge of the Greater Toronto Area has grown from around 13,000 in 1995 (when my wife, newborn, and I moved to a spot overlooking a kettle lake 10 minutes north of the built-up centre) to close to 50,000 presently with plans to continue expanding at a 5–10% per annum clip for as long as possible. For anyone who has ever seen the television series Schitt’s Creek, several of the buildings seen in the show exist along our main street (e.g., the veterinary clinic) and the main buildings are located in the town of Goodwood ten minutes east of us.

Everybody keeps going on and on about how we need to increase significantly the supply of housing to keep prices affordable but this is not at the root of this issue. That rather facile explanation is the one being leveraged and marketed by the profiteers (especially developers and banks, and facilitated by politicians eager to look like they’re doing something ‘positive’) to expand their cash cow of ever-expanding ‘development’ — regardless of environmental impacts and finiteness of resources.

These unaffordable prices are primarily the result of gargantuan money creation (i.e., credit/debt) by financial institutions (banking and shadow banking) to support (at least for a bit longer) the Ponzi nature of our monetary/financial/economic systems.

Much of this newly created ‘money’ is sloshing around in the system looking for assets with the best returns and what better avenue than parking it in housing — much of which is being bought up by the rentier class (especially the ‘investment’ industry who suck up most of the supply).

Take a look some time at the enormous exponential increase in debt/credit instruments over the past few decades — all of which are potential claims on future resources (particularly energy) that have encountered significant diminishing returns.

This will not end well…

The ‘growth is inevitable’ narrative that some are repeating here must be challenged. Pursuing growth is a conscious choice and one being made and repeatedly propagated by those who stand to profit the most from it: the ruling caste of society who market it as purely beneficial and ignore or rationalise away the negative aspects. This creates an Overton Window that limits our thinking and thereby beliefs.

Limits to growth and the significant negative consequences of such growth (e.g., ecological overshoot) are real. While such repercussions can be ignored/denied/bargained with, the very real biophysical impacts continue on and compound regardless of our beliefs or wishes.

The speed with which growth overwhelms systems is not something to wave away via denial or bargaining through magical thinking (i.e., some as-yet-to-be-hatched technology will ‘solve’ our resource woes and toxic legacies). While growth can be perceived to have some good intentions, as the saying goes “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

We are putting at risk not just the overburdened planetary sinks that help to absorb and cleanse the pollutants created by our expanding industrial processes, but also the finite resource stocks — especially energy — that we depend upon for everything. Perhaps more importantly to sustaining a livable environment is the destruction of ecological systems in the wake of our growth. Biodiversity loss (mostly due to land system changes) over the past century or more has been off the charts and puts all species, including homo sapiens, in jeopardy.

And ‘building up’ to densify areas and prevent expansion onto farmland or environmentally-sensitive lands does absolutely nothing to eliminate the above issues. The sinks and stocks continue to be affected at almost the exact same rate. It is the continued growth that is the problem, not how we accommodate such growth.

For any that continue to believe growth in inevitable and can go on indefinitely (or, at least, for a lot longer before we must confront it), you need to watch the following presentation by the late Dr. Albert Bartlett, a physics professor from Colorado University, on the reality of exponential growth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI1C9DyIi_8.

You have fallen prey to the mythical narrative the governments, banks, and developers have created around supply and demand impacting house prices. This is not the primary reason. The fundamental reason is all the credit/debt ‘money’ created by the financial institutions and government (mostly financial institutions). This newly created money seeks return and gets funnelled into popular assets, sometimes good ones but oftentimes not (think Non-fungible Tokens, cryptocurrency, or many stocks). Housing is one of the very popular targets for all this ‘money’, most of it in the hands of the ruling elite/caste that buy up the housing stock and then rent it out. When well-off individuals/families and/or investment firms (what some have referred to as the rentier class) have millions/billions of dollars at hand to soak up assets, they sink much in real estate and land thereby driving up the price of these assets. The developers, banks, and other profiteers, however, leverage the rising prices to argue for more of their cash cow: development. They need more land, hence opening up the Greenbelt. They need to build more houses, thus the push to build ‘millions’ of residences. Despite the building binge that has been going on for decades around Toronto, prices have shot through the roof. It’s not about supply and demand.

Disagree completely. Growth is happening to keep our Ponzi economic system going for as long as possible…a bit of a misguided strategy on a planet with finite resources, especially energy. We need to be pushing degrowth, not growth.

Shaving it off at zero would be best. The idea that ‘growth’ is inevitable is another of those notions that needs to be challenged. ‘Growth’ is a choice and one being made by our ‘leaders’ (mostly because the ruling caste profits immensely from it). It is neither inevitable nor beneficial past a particular tipping point when it begins to encounter diminishing returns — to say little about the negative impact any and all growth has on ecological systems.

While ‘printing’ money is a tad inaccurate (the vast majority of new money is loaned into existence by banks and shadow-banking institutions), the primary reason housing costs have ballooned is certainty related to this as you suggest: newly created money is flowing into certain hard assets such as housing. If one includes the derivatives nightmare and other debt-liabilities, the world is drowning in quadrillions of dollars of interesting-bearing obligations. The issue around housing costs is multifaceted and supply/demand is but a very small aspect…but one leveraged as THE one by those who stand to profit from ever-expanding development; mostly the banks and developers. I am reminded of what industrialist Henry Ford stated (paraphrasing US Congressman Charles Binderup):”It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCII–Ecological Overshoot and Collapse: Rearranging the Deck Chairs On the Titanic

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCII

January 22, 2023 (original posting date)

Monte Alban, Mexico. (1988) Photo by author.

Ecological Overshoot and Collapse: Rearranging the Deck Chairs On the Titanic

My comments prompted by two recent articles by The Honest Sorcerer (whose writing I highly recommend).

January 13 post:

I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head about the underlying motives behind the geopolitical morass our globe’s ruling elite are creating (and consequential fallout for the hoi polloi): a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Ecological overshoot and peak resources (especially energy) have the socio/psychopathic ruling caste fighting amongst themselves for the vestiges of an ever-shrinking economic pie.

Emboldened and blinded by their ‘successes’ in the past (when there existed much in the way of surplus net energy), they are proceeding full steam ahead with a final blow-off top of resource extraction/exploitation, all-in attempt to consolidate and expand their ‘winnings’; first with the far-off ‘other’, then their domestic political ‘enemies’, and finally with their out-group citizens before they begin to cannibalise their own.

As I have been arguing for some time, the primary motivation of our ruling caste (as has been evidenced throughout pre/history of complex societies) is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. None of us are safe from the machinations of these people; nor is our environment and the very important ecological systems that serve to support the essentials of life.

Everything will be sacrificed to serve the ends of the ruling caste…bet on it. And things are likely to get much, much worse before the impact of significant diminishing returns — to say little about ecological overshoot — puts a final nail in the coffin of such misguided and insane behaviour.

January 18 post:

It’s most interesting how cyclical human pre/history is. Perhaps that’s because of the truism that those who don’t study history are destined to repeat it; either that, or humans simply don’t learn from their mistakes. We are after all a very intelligent species, just not too wise — despite our self-proclaimed taxonomic nomenclature.

Complex societies, empires, civilisations all come and go. They reach a peak of complexity then invariably ‘collapse’. It may take centuries or it may only take a handful or less of generations for this decline, but it always occurs. As Joseph Tainter points out, a population can actually ‘put up with’ significantly diminishing returns on their ‘investments’ in supporting the-powers-that-be for a long time.

The other point Tainter makes, that I believe is relevant to your narrative here, is the aspect of competing polities in this ‘Grand Chessboard’ of geopolitics.

As he argues, such polities tend to get caught up in spiralling competitive investments as they seek to outmaneuver others and evolve greater complexity together. The polities caught up in this competition increasingly experience declining marginal returns and must invest ever-increasing amounts leading to greater economic weakness.

Withdrawing from this spiral or collapsing is not an option without risking being subsumed by a competitor. It is this trap of competition that will continue to drive the pursuit of complexity regardless of human/environmental costs.

Incentives and economic reserves can support this situation for a lengthy period as witnessed by the Roman and Mayan experiences where centuries of diminishing returns were endured.

Ever-increasing costs and ever-decreasing marginal returns typify peer polities in competition. This ends in either domination by one state and a new energy subsidy or collapse of all.

As he concludes: “Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole. Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner.”

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXII–Government: Constantly Forsaking Our Ecological Systems to Chase the Perpetual Growth Chalice

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXII

December 7, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Government: Constantly Forsaking Our Ecological Systems to Chase the Perpetual Growth Chalice

Todays’ contemplation has been prompted by the usual shenanigans of government. In this case, the government of my home province of Ontario, Canada.

As regular readers of my posts are acutely aware, I have a strong belief that the primary guiding principle/motivation of our ruling caste is the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Everything they touch is leveraged towards this goal.

Not surprisingly, the political elite within this caste always twist/market their actions/policies that serve to meet the above principle as a social service for the masses because regardless of their power/influence they continue to require the ‘support’ of the hoi polloi so as to avoid revolution/overthrow (they are, after all, hugely outnumbered and depend upon the non-elite for their labour and taxes). If the masses were ever to come to the realisation that our governments are, for all intents and purposes, little more than criminal organisations using their positions and power to funnel wealth from national ‘treasuries’ to their families and ‘friends’, and create legislation that strengthens this corruption, the reaction could be, well, who knows…history suggests it doesn’t end well for some of the elite.

As archaeologist Joseph Tainter points out in The Collapse of Complex Societies, the activities surrounding legitimising the status quo power/wealth structures is common in any society in order for the political system to survive. While coercion can ensure some compliance, it is a more costly approach than moral validity. States tend to focus on a symbolic and scared ‘centre’ (necessarily independent of its various territorial parts), which is why they always have an official religion, linking leadership to the supernatural (which helps unify different groups/regions). This need for such religious integration, however, recedes — although not the sense of the scared — once other avenues for retaining power exist. In modern nation states, this ‘sacred’ has become ‘government’; an organisational structure whose existence and necessity is rarely questioned.

It is for the reason of enhancing/maintaining government legitimacy that domestic populations are constantly exposed to persuasive narratives that paint its sociopolitical ‘leaders’ as beneficent servants of the people — thank you narrative control managers (especially the legacy media) for this. This recurring phenomenon rings true throughout time and regardless of the form of government.

Back to the target of this contemplation…

My provincial government has recently opened up a bit of a hornet’s nest around the expansion of housing upon significantly ecologically-sensitive lands of the Oak Ridges Moraine[1] that had been ‘protected’ from such exploitation since 2005 by a legislative act of our provincial parliament[2]. The narratives around the ‘protection’ of this area are interesting to peruse[3].

There has been a flurry of media articles and social media posts revealing the cronyism between the current government and certain landowners that stand to profit handsomely from this policy shift[4] — many of whom purchased the land in question in just the past few years. And while these revelations are interesting and serve to confirm my bias regarding the ruling caste, this is not what I wish to focus upon.

I want to talk a bit about the Overton Window[5] or ‘controlled opposition[6]’ that I have noticed in my province around this issue and the related notion of growth, especially population growth and its concomitant impact on the environment and ecological systems.

Virtually every article and citizen comment I’ve read around this issue responds in a relatively tightly closed worldview that assumes a few things, particularly that growth is not only beneficial but must and will occur. Since it is good and will continue, the ‘debate’ becomes one of urban sprawl verses densification.

It would be best, the argument goes, for the environment and ecological systems if we were avoid expanding into this ‘Greenbelt’ and to contain our growth within tightly-packed urban centres. This perspective is heralded far and wide but especially by so-called environmentally-minded groups/individuals.

For example, the Greenbelt Foundation — an “organization solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous” — argues that “Growing in more compact ways, relying more on intensifying existing urban areas and creating dense, mixed-use new communities can reduce long-term financial commitments and ensure better fiscal health now and for generations to come.”[7]

None realise that increasing density does not necessarily equate to environmental soundness since it is the numbers of people that leads to the most significant drawdown of finite resources, not necessarily how they are distributed — particularly in ‘advanced’ economies where consumption is significantly higher than other economies. Yes, small and walkable communities do tend to show a decrease in certain resource needs but one cannot keep packing more and more people into tight spaces and argue the environment and ecological systems are ‘saved’ in such a scenario.

The many cons of densification are ignored. Such as the ‘heat island effect’ that increases energy consumption, the increased economic activity and consumption that tends to accompany dense urban centres, and traffic congestion that can cause emissions increases — to say little about the social pathologies and negative health impacts found in higher density settlements, such as the increased prevalence of anxiety/depression or the speed with which epidemics can spread[8].

Nowhere does one read a challenge to the very foundation of this interpretive lens that growth is good and inevitable. Nowhere is a discussion of halting growth or, God forbid, reversing it (i.e., degrowth). Growth MUST continue, and this pertains to both economic and population growth.

Growth is of course a leverage point for our ruling caste. It is used, in my opinion, to continue to expand the wealth-generation and -extractions systems but also, and perhaps more importantly, to maintain the Ponzi-like nature of our financial/economic systems. It is, however, as are all policies/actions, marketed as the means to ensure our prosperity.

Here I am reminded of a passage from Donella Meadows’s text Thinking in Systems: A Primer (2008):

…a clear leverage point: growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits, and we typically don’t count the costs — among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on — the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth, and in some cases no growth or negative growth. The world leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction. …leverage points frequently are not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve.”

The thinking outlined above by Meadows regarding negative growth and pushing in the wrong direction is completely foreign to the discussions I am witnessing on the expansion into Ontario’s ‘Greenbelt’. None dare challenge the mythical narrative that growth is good and inevitable. Such out-of-the-box thinking is not allowed. If such a thought is shared, the speaker is marginalised or ignored by most.

This is particularly so if one enters the kryptonite-like morass that is population growth in ‘advanced’ economies where such growth is ensured by skimming people from other countries — spun as a social service to the world’s needy — but is really about keeping the financial/economic Ponzi from collapsing because domestic populations are not reproducing fast enough[9].

And here I am reminded of another text passage, this time by Noam Chomsky in The Common Good (1998)[10]:

“In general, the mainstream media [everyone] all make certain basic assumptions, like the necessity of maintaining a welfare state for the rich. Within that framework, there’s some room for differences of opinion, and it’s entirely possible that the major media are toward the liberal end of that range. In fact, in a well-designed propaganda system, that’s exactly where they should be. The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” ~Noam Chomsky

This appears to be the crux of the matter when it comes to many issues. The ruling caste, with the help of the mainstream media and others, circumscribe the range of the debate. This provides cover for the ultimate endgame — in the issue over the Greenbelt expansion it is the accommodation of population expansion through the construction of millions of homes (and it matters not whether these are on ecologically-sensitive lands or not in the long run) from which the ruling caste will undoubtedly make billions of dollars in profits…while the finite resources necessary to support this growth become more rare and costly to extract/process, and the environment and ecological systems upon which we depend continue to experience disruption and destruction.

We are continually fed a mythical narrative about growth and then set to debate and argue each other over how to accommodate it while ignoring the only way that might help to mitigate — at least marginally — our ecological overshoot predicament: degrowth.

[1] See this, this, this, and/or this.

[2] See this.

[3] See this, this, and/or this.

[4] See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and/or this.

[5] See this, this, and/or this.

[6] See this, this, and/or this.

[7] See this.

[8] See this, this, and/or this.

[9] See this, this, this,

[10] Hat tip to Erik Michaels who reminded me of this passage in his latest writing, that I highly recommend.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXIV–Our Ruling Class: Always Pushing In the Wrong Direction

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXIV

November 7, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico (1986). Photo by author.

Our Ruling Class: Always Pushing In the Wrong Direction

A very brief contemplation that is a comment I posted on the Honest Sorcerer’s latest piece of writing.

It’s pretty self-evident (at least to everyone outside of the hypnotic manipulation of US propaganda) that the American ruling caste cares little (if at all) for any other group of people or nation — not even their own domestic population (or some in their own ranks). Of course, it’s also not hard to argue that this is true of any society’s ruling caste. Their primary motivation is the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Everything else is secondary/tertiary and even these are leveraged to help the primary goal.

While the endgame of all the machinations of our elite seems fairly obvious (complete and devastating global collapse of industrial civilisation — perhaps even worse — given how deeply into ecological overshoot our species is), it’s frustrating (to say the least) for those of us who view the world through the complexities that go beyond geo/politics and economics (i.e., include ecology, biology, physics, psychology, etc.) and understand the need for global leadership that differs significantly from that being shown by the sociopaths that do wield ‘power’ in our world.

Throw in the divisions that even exist within those circles that understand our overshoot predicament and how best to address this (I think of those who beat the drum about sustaining our complexities via some magical ‘clean’ energy transition — which is being leveraged by the elite to pillage national treasuries and peoples even further), and that endgame I mention above seems baked in at this juncture.

Attempting to make one’s local community as self-sufficient as possible in these crazy times seems the only sane course of action. Getting people on board with such a pursuit when society’s ‘leaders’ are pushing with all their might in the exact opposite direction[1] is, however, a task in and of itself — particularly when those who question mainstream narratives are increasingly being censored, vilified, deplatformed, ostracised, and even criminalised.

[1] Example of this insanity by my province’s government here.

“If You Want To Control People, You Have To Control The CO2”

“If You Want To Control People, You Have To Control The CO2”

As farmer protests rage across Europe, Dutch MP Rob Roos sits down with The HighWire’s Del Bigtree to discuss the climate scam pushed by radical globalist elites in the Western world to seize more power and control.

“They [elites] go against family values. They go against natural food. They go against freedom – because if you have to buy an electric car. They’re almost twice as expensive – and people cannot buy that – it’s not about the car – it’s about you can’t go anywhere and must depend on public transportation,” Roos explained.

He said, “It’s also digitalization – what we see is the digital identity and central bank digital currency – this is all about a new form of communism.”

“If you want to control the people, you have to control the CO2 – because everything we do in life, breathing, living, traveling, eating, and everything we do in life leads to CO2 emissions. And if you can control the CO2, you can control the people,” Roos said.

He further explained that the ultimate control comes when globalists connect people’s digital identities to the central bank’s digital currency.

Bigtree responded: “So much of this [globalist takeover of the West] was really fast-tracked during Covid.” He pointed out that WEF branded the Covid era as the “Great Reset.”

We have cited 1,600 scientists, including two Nobel laureates, who have stated in a letter: “There is no climate emergency.” But under the guise of an imminent climate disaster, globalist elites, NGOs, governments, politicians, mega-corporations, and, of course, legacy media outlets push climate fear to usher in a reset of society.

The most critical line to remember from Roos’ interview is: “If you can control the CO2, you can control the people. ”

So, the next time you find yourself concerned about radical progressive politicians and rogue billionaires, like Bill Gates, advocating for ‘green’ policies, consider asking yourself: Are these new policies resulting in any loss of freedoms?

*   *   *

Watch the full interview on Rumble: 

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLIV–The Ruling Class: Chasing Growth Regardless Of the Consequences

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLIV

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

The Ruling Class: Chasing Growth Regardless Of the Consequences

Today’s contemplation is in response to an article by the Honest Sorcerer whose writings I discovered not long ago and have enjoyed for their insight and clarity. I recommend reading them[1].

If only the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine would be a catalyst for our ‘leaders’ to highlight our existential vulnerabilities to the complex systems we have come to expand and depend significantly upon but, alas, I fear this crisis, as always seems to happen, is being leveraged by our ruling class[2] to benefit themselves primarily, not the vast majority of people. A few of the items this latest geopolitical event is being used to rationalise/justify include: the creation of more fiat currency and government spending (most of which will find its way into their investment portfolios); the expansion of the surveillance state (especially focused on those who question or challenge government diktats); as a foil to blame increasing economic and social woes upon (so as to keep their policies and behaviours that have contributed to these problems out of the light of day); as a reason to expand significantly and speed up tremendously our transition to ‘clean’ technologies, or the opposite — the expansion of legacy energy extraction (both of which whose necessary financial and industrial processes are owned/controlled by them); as rationale to expand narrative control/censorship (particularly of viewpoints/perspective that challenge or question the mainstream storyline); etc..[3]

I have zero faith that our governments at any level have solid plans to reduce or even mitigate the chaos of overshoot beyond attempts to keep the various Ponzis they preside over going as long as and in whatever manner they can. More than likely their approach will be to persuade the populace in the name of ‘patriotism’ and other such emotional trigger points to make increasing ‘sacrifices’, mostly in the form of increased taxes[4] but also in terms of weakened or diminished expectations as far as the ‘benefits’ that might accrue from further investments in complexity[5].

I’ve come to believe that the ruling class’s primary motivation is the expansion/control of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems from which they derive their revenue streams, and thus their power and prestige. Everything they do, from policy to legislation to censorship, first and foremost serves to meet this primary catalyst. Everything. It is all marketed differently (in fact, the opposite most of the time) but ultimately it supports or extends upon their primary consideration.

While the future is impossible to predict, the past suggests that as we fall down the Seneca Cliff of resource availability we will witness a continuation (perhaps even speeding up) of the flow of declining resources up the power and wealth structures inherent in our complex societies rather than down them as the ruling class purports to be pursuing. This will, however, be spun (as it has been throughout history), and increasingly so, in true Orwellian fashion as beneficial for the masses and necessary to keep our complex systems functioning. I suppose in a sense it is true that growth must continue to be pursued but this is primarily because of the Ponzi-like structure of our financial and monetary systems[6].

I see this very clearly in my home region north of Toronto where expansive growth is being not only cheered on by our ruling class but increasingly marketed as the only real means of addressing our various predicaments, especially economic expansion. Growth is progress and only beneficial is the common refrain. We need to expand in order to increase revenues and ensure equity. We can grow sustainably[7] without negatively impacting the environment. We have strong and unfaltering supply chains.

There is zero recognition of resource limits or they are waved away as environmental neuroses and/or doomsday conspiracies. Whatever issues might arise can be countered via more growth. The fact that our population of close to 15 million relies upon around 80+% of its food needs via fragile, long-distance supply chains while we continue to pave over our limited arable lands matters not[8]. ‘Sustainable’ growth ensures our prosperity and must be pursued.

As long as we have a ruling class that holds to the historical tendencies to place their interests above that of their constituents, then we have a situation where mitigation/adaptation will only be prevalent in the narratives spun, not the actual actions taken. I see this so clearly in the attempts to sustain the unsustainable via stories about ‘net zero’ growth and a post-carbon transition to ‘clean’ energy. The ruling class profits immensely from these narratives as they own/control the financial institutions and industries needed to fund and produce these technologies. It doesn’t matter that they do not in any way, shape, or form do what they are marketed as being able to accomplish.

Infinite growth (even sustaining our current world complexities) is not possible on a finite planet. Never has been. Never will be. Techno-cornucopian ‘solutions’ only serve to make the rich richer and the coming collapse from ecological overshoot all the more spectacular.

Readers are encouraged to focus on relocalising the basic aspects of living (i.e., potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter needs) as much as possible and reconnect with community members who will be your primary supports as things go increasingly sideways. Do not put your faith in our so-called political ‘leaders’. Despite their propaganda, they do not have your best interests at the top of their agendas; if such an incentive even makes the agenda except perhaps around election time when the marketing of more, more, more really blossoms. Because, you know, more is in your best interest…only it’s not.

[1] Full disclosure: the articles align very much with my own thinking and so serve to confirm my own interpretive biases.

[2] It’s not just our ruling class that is using the situation to benefit from. There are numerous grifters leveraging it as well.

[3] These are a continuation of trends that have been taking place for decades (centuries), most recently with the coronavirus pandemic.

[4] Especially in terms of that ‘hidden’ tax, price inflation — that will be blamed on everything, particularly the ‘enemy’, but their expansion of debt-/credit-based fiat currency and diminishing returns on our resource-dependent complexities; and I expect intensified manipulation of the reported statistics pertaining to price inflation as part of the narrative control taking place, even more than the current obscene and increasing levels.

[5] I highly recommend reading archaeologist Joseph Tainter’s book The Collapse of Complex Societies to get insight into how diminishing returns on investments in complexity seems to be the underlying cause of a complex society ‘collapsing’. You can access my personal summary notes to this and a handful of other books here.

[6] Very, very few people want to destroy the illusion that our financial/monetary systems are robust and NOT Ponzi-like in nature as we are all embroiled in it. But once confidence in such schemes is lost it is only a matter of moments before the entire edifice collapses. I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue once a tipping point of people come to realise that these systems are held together by duct tape and prayer (and A LOT of lies).

[7] The idea of ‘sustainable’ growth is one of those oxymorons that drive me crazy–’clean’ or ‘green’ energy being another. Such language manipulation is quite purposeful as a narrative control mechanism and needs to be highlighted every time it occurs. It significantly distorts one’s perceptions of what is and what is not possible on a finite planet.

[8] The overwhelming majority of Ontario’s prime agricultural land is dedicated to modern industrial agriculture in order to grow corn and soybean for products that do not, for the most part, feed its population.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLIII–War. What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XLIII

Teotihuacan, Mexico (1988) Photo by author

War. What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

Today’s ‘contemplation’ is derived from a conversation on a Facebook Group post I was recently involved with[1]. I’ve been reluctant to write anything regarding the current Russian/Ukraine conflict due to the extreme polemic and emotional aspects such events create, especially in the early moments when people are reacting rather than reflecting[2], and the propaganda on all sides has been ramped up to warp speed. Nonetheless, here it is:

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

So the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong song goes[3], and this is especially true in times of overshoot given the drain on resources (which have for some time been encountering significant diminishing returns) that modern warfare entails. It is self-evident that military adventurism is heavily resource dependent, and a World War or even a significant increase in a ‘Cold War’ between geopolitical rivals will expedite the coming collapse of our global, industrialised societies as assuredly as a gargantuan ramping up of the industrial processes required to try and replace our fossil fuel-intensive energy needs with non-renewable, renewables[4] that many, even well-intentioned ‘environmentalists’, advocate for[5].

But depending upon one’s perspective, war can be quite good. In fact, fantastic. It is one of the longest lasting means throughout pre/history for a complex society’s ruling elite to maintain and expand power, gain access to resources, and with our current debt-/credit-based fiat currency monetary system and concentration of industrial/corporate ownership ensure gargantuan profits for a select few[6].

Many in the West have jumped upon the patriotic bandwagon to vilify Russian/Putin ‘aggression’ (conveniently ignoring/denying the ongoing aggression of their own elite over the years). This is not surprising given the slanted narratives they are provided by our politicians and their media mouthpieces on a regular basis to garner our support[7]. We are fed lies constantly through both omission and commission. Propaganda is everywhere, all the time[8].

There is a very good argument to be made (based upon history and context) that it has been the West’s ever-expanding encroachment towards Russian borders that has precipitated much of this[9]; to say little about the US-orchestrated coup[10] that led to the current West-leaning Ukrainian regime. And, quite naturally, there has been a full court press on to counter these arguments from US/NATO advocates[11]. The idea that it is unpatriotic to criticise or counter war ‘efforts’ is rampant. The ‘you are with us or against us’ mentality is everywhere. Of course it is nothing new to leverage our ‘natural’ tendency (what some refer to as tribal instincts) of patriotic feelings towards our nation state and her allies; it occurs both in and out of war time[12].

Is Russia innocent in any of this? Absolutely not; they are a nation-state based upon a ruling elite whose primary motivation is the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems to maintain their revenue streams and power/prestige like every other. The West’s elite (who are driven by the same motivation) have challenged the East’s elite and many innocents (the vast majority of the rest of us) are caught in the middle of this power play.

These people don’t give a shit about you or me except in terms of extracting labour and wealth to support them. But on some level they also need our consent to participate in such actions given how significantly outnumbered they are. This consent is, for the most part, manufactured by leveraging our fear of the ‘other’ and our sense of ‘patriotism’ — in this vein, we are sold all sorts of emotional narratives about ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘liberty’, ‘duty’, ‘evil’, ‘tyranny’, etc..

It’s all bullshit but because of our tendency to defer to authority[13] and to identify with the elite we imagine it is ‘us’, the ‘average person’, that the ‘other’ hates and wants to fight[14]. We end up standing with our elite ruling class and support/cheerlead their pillaging of the nation’s treasury (both ‘wealth’ and natural resources) to engage in war…while it is them who are profiting given they own the industries and financial institutions that have to provide the ‘loans’ and armaments. It’s all based on lies and manipulation. It is a racket, plain and simple, just as US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler argued[15].

In the meantime, it pushes us further into overshoot through its significant resource drawdowns and sink overloading — to say little about the environmental impacts should this go nuclear.

The best thing the vast, vast majority of us could do is not choose a ‘side’ but walk away from this insanity by not supporting it at all. Refuse to participate. Refuse to repeat their propaganda. Refuse their lies and manipulation. Don’t be a pawn in their game. Reduce drastically your consumption. Reduce your dependency upon long-distance supply chains. Relocalise as much as possible. Build your community’s self-sufficiency and -resiliency. Grow your own food. Trade with your neighbours. Support each other, not the ruling class whose interests and motivations have nothing to do with you, your family, or your local community (unless of course its sitting on natural resources they want).

Refuse to remain in the Matrix as much as possible.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/groups/460086781192413/posts/1213941985806885/

[2] Not that discussing cornucopian techno-fixes to our dependency upon fossil fuels with some is not — it can be very contentious, especially when one is attacked for being a fossil fuel shill/cheerleader for simply highlighting the problems that arise with alternative energy sources to fossil fuels.

[3] Although originally sung by The Temptations in 1969 and then rerecorded in 1970 featuring Edwin Starr, I personally was introduced to the song during my formative years of the 1980s and know it as a Frankie Goes to Hollywood one.

[4] Non-renewable, renewables is a term I have seen increasingly used by people to describe more accurately our energy harnessing technologies of solar photovoltaic, wind, and wave energy. The natural sources we are attempting to harness energy from are, for all intents and purposes, ‘renewable’ but the technologies used to harness and convert this energy to something humanity can use are not given their reliance upon finite resources, particularly the fossil fuel platform but also the many earth-based minerals that go into the components.

[5] From mining to mineral processing to transportation to reclamation and/or waste disposal, these complex energy-harvesting technologies require much in the way of finite resources and energy inputs, and add significantly to the overloading of our planetary sinks.

[6] See especially US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket (https://ia802605.us.archive.org/29/items/WarIsARacket/WarIsARacket.pdf); but also https://www.nber.org/digest/jan05/economics-world-war-i; https://www.visionofhumanity.org/surprising-economic-benefits-peace/; https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/war-profiteering/; https://wri-irg.org/en/war-profiteering-and-co

[7] See Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (https://archive.org/details/HegemonyOrSurvivalAmericasQuestForGlobalDominance/Hegemony%20Or%20Survival%20-%20America%27s%20Quest%20For%20Global%20Dominance/) and his book with Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (https://archive.org/details/pdfy-NekqfnoWIEuYgdZl).

[8] For an insightful, early look at the role of propaganda in the modern State, I would refer readers to Edward Bernays’s Propaganda (https://archive.org/details/BernaysPropaganda).

[9] https://www.vox.com/22900113/nato-ukraine-russia-crisis-clinton-expansion

[10] https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/06/03/how-why-us-government-perpetrated-2014-coup-ukraine/

[11] Claims and counter-claims about history and context, justifications and criticisms of events is common in such times.

[12] See ‘Patriotism’ and Manipulation of it by the State, that I wrote some years ago on the subject:

[13] Refer to social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiments on deference to authority: https://nature.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article35.htm.

[14] Here I recommend Murray Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State for some insight: (https://cdn.mises.org/Anatomy%20of%20the%20State_3.pdf).

[15] War is a Racket (https://ia802605.us.archive.org/29/items/WarIsARacket/WarIsARacket.pdf)

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LV–Expediting ‘Collapse’: Financialisation of Our Economic System

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LV

Rome, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

Expediting ‘Collapse’: Financialisation of Our Economic System

A very short contemplation that deviates from the ‘series’ I’ve been writing on several psychological mechanisms that impact our cognitions regarding overshoot and collapse. This is a brief comment (with a slight edit) on an article by The Honest Sorcerer whose writing I discovered a few months ago and have found to be quite excellent (probably because I get positive, confirmatory ‘feedback’ in the sense that their philosophy/analysis aligns with a lot of my own thinking; in fact, some commenter has actually accused me of being The Honest Sorcerer) — I highly recommend reading their work.

Apart from the inevitability of diminishing returns on investments in resource extraction (particularly energy-related ones) that you highlight brilliantly, I have to wonder about the role of some other phenomena in our complex global industrial civilisation that are leading us quickly towards ‘collapse’ (to say nothing really about our fundamental predicament of ecological overshoot).

In particular, I look at the extreme financialisation of our economies — especially via interest-bearing credit/debt expansion — that has led to pulling resources from the future that necessitates the pursuit of the perpetual growth chalice (and, as you point out, this is a pointless endeavour given the harsh reality of physical limits on a finite planet).

The financial industry (central, private, and shadow banks particularly), along with the complicity of our political class, has allowed/cheerlead the explosion of debt instruments that I would contend does not only allow us to avoid reality for some time but also contributes to price inflation as we have gargantuan amounts of ‘wealth’ chasing decreasing resources.

The real kicker I agree is our bumping into physical limits that not just dampen our pursuit of growth — that is required to keep the gargantuan Ponzi scheme that is our economy from expanding — but very likely is the pin that has burst the biggest economic bubble in our relatively short history on this planet. Ponzi schemes have a tendency to collapse when they can no longer expand and physical limits on a finite planet ensure the one we’ve created to ‘sustain’ our global economy is on its way to implosion.

Of course, overshooting limits (be they biological in nature or economic) can carry on for some time before the actual ‘pain’ is felt — the human penchant to deny reality helps here in the extreme. This is perhaps why Black Swan events are the ones that create the greatest impact on us; in our denial (and our inability to assess risk very well), we fail to prepare for possibilities that increase our anxiety — like collapse. Better to live in a fantasy world of human ingenuity and technology always being there to rescue us than accept that we are simply walking, talking apes that don’t understand complex systems and how our tinkering with them always, eventually backfires.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXIII–Primary Motivation For Society’s Elite

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXIII

August 11, 2022 (original posting date)

Athens, Greece (1984). Photo by author.

Primary Motivation For Society’s Elite

It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently (for years to be honest) on the ever-present belief by most people that our governments/political class/ruling elite can lead the way to ‘solving’ our various crises, be it the ‘climate emergency’, ‘energy crisis’, ‘inflation’, ‘inequality’, ‘geopolitical disagreements’, etc.. I note such a perspective virtually every day be it in personal comments people make in social media posts and/or by journalists/contributors in the media (both mainstream and ‘alternative’); and it is particularly strong and echoed by almost everyone around election times or perceived ‘crises’.

Add to this belief the ‘bargaining/denial’ arguments that tend to suggest that the only reason the ‘problems’ have not been addressed/solved/mitigated is because we simply have not had the ‘right’ individuals or ‘party’ in power; once the ‘right’ people get chosen by the public, all will be well again — if the new government can overcome the disastrous policies/actions of the previous one or current political opposition[2].

I lost that perspective some decades ago[3]. I have increasingly come to view our world/nation state/regional ‘leaders’ (aka ruling elite/class) as part and parcel of our growing problems/predicament. In fact, more often than not I see their actions/policies as resulting in even worse situations — eventually[4] — yet they are often (always?) marketed to the public as optimal and beneficial for all (or may result in some slight, short-term pain, but most certainly will result in longer-term prosperity for all — think of the current narratives developing around the ‘austerity’ and ‘sacrifices’ required to support the war efforts in Ukraine[5]).

I have come to interpret our societal elites’ behaviour as primarily motivated by a never-ending drive to control/maintain/expand the wealth-generating/-extracting systems that provide their revenue streams and thus their power/wealth/prestige/privilege[6]. That some portion of the wealth they appropriate gets funnelled back into the public sphere is simply ‘the cost of doing business’; just as the number of financial institutions that knowingly ‘bend the rules’ to obtain obscene profits set aside a portion of that ill-begotten wealth to pay the eventual fines should they get publicly prosecuted for their shenanigans[7].

Perhaps the most egregious (but purposeful) ‘error’ our elite make is their chasing and cheerleading of the perpetual growth chalice (particularly economic growth[8], but they do also encourage population growth[9]). The common refrain/narrative is that growth is primarily — if not ‘solely’ — a benefit to human ‘progress’ and well-being, any negative impacts being discounted or rationalised away demonstrating a poor if not conveniently purposeful ignorance of the way complex systems behave.

It is as Donella Meadows argues in Thinking in Systems: A Primer[10]:

…a clear leverage point: growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits, and we typically don’t count the costs — among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on — the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth, and in some cases no growth or negative growth. The world leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction. …leverage points frequently are not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve.

It seems self-evident to me that this pursuit of perpetual growth runs into some fairly heavy obstacles in the sense of biophysical limits on a finite planet, despite arguments to the contrary — especially by most economists who argue for infinite substitutability as the ultimate solution to such limits, or the ever-expanding ‘printing’ of money.

There is not just the issue of resource limits and diminishing returns on extraction/exploitation of the necessary resources for our ever-increasing societal complexities (especially energy-producing ones) but the predicament of ecological overshoot that occurs when a species exceeds its environmental carrying capacity[11].

It’s instructive at this juncture to revisit what archaeologist Joseph Tainter points out in The Collapse of Complex Societies[12] given that his analysis and thesis rests primarily upon ‘collapse’ in the sociopolitical sphere (which then has serious repercussions in pretty well everything else for human societies).

Tainter argues that ”[c]omplex societies are problem-solving organizations, in which more parts, different kinds of parts, more social differentiation, more inequality, and more kinds of centralization and control emerge as circumstances require.”[13] They are maintained almost exclusively through organisational control and specialisation.

Growth of complexity refers to size, distinctiveness and number of parts, variety of social roles, distinctiveness of social personalities, and a variety of mechanisms to organize parts into a whole.

Where more complex political differentiation exists: permanent positions of authority/rank can exist in an ‘office’ that can be hereditary in nature; inequality becomes more pervasive; groups tend to be larger and more densely populated; political organisation is larger, extending beyond local community; a political economy arises with rank having authority to direct labour and economic surpluses; and, with greater size comes a need for more social organisation that is less dependent upon kinship relations, and the constraint that kin-ties had on individual political ambitions is lost.

States, perhaps the most complex of human societies, are characterized by: their territorial organisation (i.e. membership determined by place of birth/residence); a ruling authority that monopolizes sovereignty and delegates all power — with the ruling class being non-kinship-based professionals that hold a monopoly on force within the territory (e.g. taxes, laws, draft) and is validated by a state-wide ideology; maintenance of territorial integrity is stressed; and, greater stratification and specialisation, particularly with regard to occupation, develops.

Complex states, like their simpler societies, must divert resources and activities to legitimising authority in order for the political system to survive. While coercion can ensure some compliance, it is a more costly approach than moral validity.

To ensure moral validity amongst the populace, states tend to focus on a symbolic and scared ‘centre’ (necessarily independent of its various territorial parts) which is why they always have an official religion, linking leadership to the supernatural (which helps unify different groups/regions). As the need for such religious integration recedes — although not the sense of the scared — once other avenues for retaining power exist.

In summary, organisational structures that arise in complex societies[14], especially as they grow larger and even more complex[15], concomitantly see the development of ‘power’ structures[16] that lead to outsized influence/power over others by a controlling elite that then creates and fosters legitimisation narratives, and/or coercive policies, to ensure these structures are maintained/expanded.

In addition, Tainter maintains that support, be it via legitimisation or coercion, also requires a material base. This support, however, can decline when output failure (political and/or material) ensues. As this process is ongoing, it necessitates resource mobilisation in perpetuity — a significant impossibility on a finite planet where such exploitation encounters diminishing returns due to our proclivity to extract the easiest- and cheapest-to-retrieve resources first. The tendency by the elite to deal with output failure is to begin pulling in resources from other spheres and/or increase coerciveness to maintain their priorities — be it using domestic reserves and/or surpluses, and/or exploitation of other societies.

Given the above, it is not a stretch to see that the primary motivation of the elite conflicts quite significantly with any policy/action/belief that would contend that growth cannot and should not be pursued in perpetuity. Throw in the evidence that we are in ecological overshoot and the predicament for humanity multiplies several-fold.

Then we encounter all the psychological and biological/physiological mechanisms that affect human beliefs and actions, and our situational predicament explodes. Cognitive dissonance reduction. Deference to authority. Desire to believe one has agency. Groupthink. Optimism bias. Confirmation bias. Avoidance of pain and seeking of pleasure. Rationalisation/justification of behaviours that conflict with certain beliefs. Overarching propensity to deny reality.

This all adds up to a tendency to believe in comforting lies and avoid harsh realities. We want to believe the propaganda of the elite and their promises to address and ‘solve’ our crises. We want to believe we have significant impact on society and agency via the ballot box. We want to avoid looking in the mirror. We want to continue with our lives unencumbered by existential worries and let others, our ‘leaders’, ‘solve’ our ‘problems’.

What we have instead, I tend to believe, are elite confabs that result in grandiose promises to benefit society at large while in actuality end up funneling wealth to the owners of the industries and financial institutions required to produce and fund the actions/directives sold to us as ‘solutions’. A mainstream media (again, owned by the elite) that parrots the elitist rhetoric and provides a widely dispersed platform for the marketing and misleading propaganda of the ruling class, especially legitimisation narratives. An ever-expanding potpourri of racketeering, such as the ‘green/clean’ energy narrative, ‘equitable/beneficial’ creation/distribution of fiat currency, the necessary expansion of ‘war’ and government, etc..

The world is not as it appears to most. What most of us believe in is, in my opinion, a tightly controlled illusion that benefits a minority primarily at the expense of the majority.

There are no ‘solutions’ to our predicament of ecological overshoot and the inevitable collapse that is awaiting us (if not already begun). There is, at best, a ‘hope’ for some to come out the other side of the bottleneck we’ve created (primarily via our leveraging of technology to overexploit our planet and expand the human experiment).

But as I shared with someone who commented on my last contemplation: “Hope is very much a two-edged sword. It can indeed foster denial and bargaining so as to avoid the stress of cognitive dissonance and provide pleasure while avoiding pain. It can, depending upon how one’s energies are focused with some ‘hope’, serve to provide direction and impetus to acting in ‘better’ ways. As I see it, however, the problem is that our ‘elite’ (and feckless others) pedal and leverage it for purely self-serving purposes, and most soak their version of it up because comforting lies are much more enjoyable than harsh realities.”

Seeing beyond the grand illusion that has been constructed over the ages by the elite is, again in my opinion, what is necessary to understand what can and should be accomplished to salvage some of our human experiment. It is, as I have argued before, most important to attempt to relocalise as much as is possible potable water procurement, food production, and regional shelter requirements. It is not to give over responsibility to others who do not have your best interests but theirs in mind. And it is not to believe in their ‘solutions’ — that way surely leads to ruin.

A handful of readings that support the notion that the elite’s primary motivation is the control/expansion of the wealth-generating/extracting systems that provide their wealth/power/prestige/privilege:



[1] Often credited to humourist Mark Twain, research suggests this ‘just ain’t so’ (see: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2018/11/18/know-trouble/).

[2] I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that really changes after an election is the narrative we tell ourselves and others: If my ‘team’ wins, all will be right with the world soon enough; if the other ‘team’ wins, the world will soon go to hell in a handbasket.

[3] Through the years I have been involved in the ‘political’ sphere in a number of roles. During some of my post-secondary years, I chaired a university department’s students’ ‘union’ and got to witness academic ‘politics’ first-hand. Perhaps the most eye-opening experience, however, were the years I spent as the chair of a political action committee for a relatively large teachers’ federation/union. After that, I spent a number of years as one of the chief negotiators for the region’s school administrators.

[4] The time lag that often occurs between an action/policy and the negative consequences can sometimes be quite long, causing a connection between them to be mostly unseen. However, very visible (and always highlighted) ‘benefits’ can occur quickly — think of infrastructure construction here where the project is clearly visible and can be laid before the public but the ecological/resource consequences are externalised and/or temporally far-off allowing them to be ignored/discounted.

[5] https://www.axios.com/2022/03/12/democrats-gas-prices-russia-ukraine; https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/how-much-are-we-prepared-to-sacrifice?s=w; https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/more-escalations-in-online-censorship?s=w;

[6] I have reached this perspective through personal experience, observation of current events, and lots of reading. A handful of examples of relevant readings will be included at the end of this contemplation.

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/business/dealbook/guilty-pleas-and-heavy-fines-seem-to-be-cost-of-business-for-wall-st.html; https://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/11-billion-fine-just-cost-doing-business-jpmorgan-175948500.html; https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/faculty_scholarship/2147/; https://www.reporterherald.com/2013/01/16/bank-fines-just-a-cost-of-business/

[8] https://www.businesstoday.com.my/2022/07/09/encouraging-gdp-growth-will-strengthen-economy-in-q2/; https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/4d723-minister-donohoe-notes-strong-growth-in-gdp-and-encouraging-indicators-for-the-domestic-economy/; https://www.businessinsider.com/tech-industry-growth-midsize-us-cities-recession-economic-recovery-2020-10; https://www.forbes.com/sites/garyshapiro/2013/01/23/six-ways-to-create-economic-growth/?sh=220ee7017e32; https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/economic-growth-causes-benefits-and-current-limits;

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51118616; https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/europe/italy-births-fertility-europe.html; https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-economy-population/japan-targets-boosting-birth-rate-to-increase-growth-idUSKCN0T113A20151112; https://southeusummit.com/europe/france/migration-creates-net-positive-population-growth-france/

[10] Meadows, D.. Thinking In Systems: A Primer. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008. (ISBN 978–1–60358–055–7)

[11] Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1980. (ISBN 978–0–252–00988–4)

[12] Tainter, J.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978–0–521–38673–9)

[13] Ibid. P. 37

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_society; https://anthropology.iresearchnet.com/complex-societies/

[15] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228384313_Organizational_complexity; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3367695/; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286533126_The_emergence_of_social_complexity_Why_more_than_population_size_matters;

[16] https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-structure/Theories-of-class-and-power

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIX–Fiat Currency Devaluation: A Ruling Elite ‘Solution’ to Growth Limits

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXIX

Teotihuacan, Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Fiat Currency Devaluation: A Ruling Elite ‘Solution’ to Growth Limits

Today’s post is my comment on the latest Honest Sorcerer’s piece regarding the misuse of the term ‘inflation’ and how currency devaluation and the coming energy squeeze overlap.

Another well-articulated summary of yet a further aspect of our species’ predicament brought about by a society’s attempts to pursue infinite growth on a finite planet and how our ruling class attempts to keep the party going for a tad longer (mostly for them and their ilk) as we bump up against and try to ignore the planet’s biogeophysical limits to growth.

Debauching a currency as a society continues to expand but encounters diminishing returns on its investments in complexity has a long and storied history. In fact, the ‘strategy’ of economic machinations of this type to kick-the-can-down-the-road as it were has been around for about as long as complex societies and their currencies have been. The most famous (at least for those schooled in Western cultures) is that of the multi-generational devaluation of the Roman denarius[1].

By Nicolas Perrault III — Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67224989

I penned a rather lengthy Contemplation on the economic manipulation we will experience increasingly as part of a series on our energy future. In this fourth and final installment (that aligns with your piece) I begin with this:

“In Part 1, I argue that energy underpins everything, including human complex societies. In Part 2, I suggest that the increasing need for diminishing resources, especially finite or limited ‘renewable’ ones, invariably leads to geopolitical tension between competing polities. Part 3 further posits that this geopolitical competition creates internal societal stresses that are met with rising authoritarianism and attempts at sociobehavioural control of domestic populations by the ruling elite.

Economic manipulation — mostly through the financial/monetary systems of a society, that the ruling caste controls — is part and parcel of addressing the societal stresses that arise as things become more complex (as a result of the problem-solving aspects of a society), competition with other polities increases, resources become more dear, and control of the population takes on greater urgency.”

Pre/history has witnessed this story play out countless times in a rather predictable fashion. First, a society addresses its various problems using the least expensive and easiest-to-achieve ‘solutions’. The surpluses that result from this approach allow for a society to continue expanding (hydrocarbons having strapped powerful rockets to this recurrent tendency). Eventually, however, diminishing returns on these ‘solutions’ are encountered. More expensive and harder-to-achieve ‘solutions’ are then pursued.

Surpluses can stave off having to abandon growth for a while but eventually a point is reached where the masses begin to bear the brunt of the economic contraction that accompanies expansion or even just to maintain the status quo — the elite finding ways to insulate themselves for as long as possible. In a society with a complex economic/monetary system, manipulation via currency devaluation is one of the go-to ‘solutions’ since it can disguise responsibility for the inevitable decline in living standards that are experienced from it while benefitting a few at the top of the power and wealth structures that exist in large, complex societies.

On the surface this approach can appear to be effective, and certainly the narrative managers that work on behalf of the ruling class to steer beliefs amongst the masses stress this to be the case. In reality, however, this currency devaluation is like eating one’s seed corn: it always ends badly, for everyone since it is stealing from the future…

I provide some further thoughts on this phenomena in these posts: Collapse Cometh IV; Collapse Cometh XI; Collapse Cometh XXXII; Collapse Cometh CXII.

Financing the End of Modernity

Financing the End of Modernity

How financialization heralds the end of the industrial age

That didn’t worked out as intended… Who would’ve thought? Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Western neoliberal economies are on the brink of a steep economic decline. Barring an energy / productivity miracle a prolonged and deep recession is clearly on the horizon. While mainstream pundits keep “informing” the public how GDP was actually growing in the past decades (except for a few brief moments), and how the G7 is still the top economic power block, the real economy of goods and services tells a completely different story. Growth — in the sense of real economic output — has stopped 18 years ago in the West, and conditions are now ripe for a rapid contraction. A sobering assessment of the real economy — in which your humble blogger is still actively involved — has become due. Buckle up.

As long time readers might already know by heart: money is not the economy, energy is. Money is but a claim on energy and resources. Everything we mine, grow, manufacture and consume takes energy to produce. No energy, no production, no services. The more we produce / consume the more energy is used up. And while it may seem like that rich countries have somehow decoupled their economies from energy use (ie managed to grow GDP much faster than energy consumption), in fact the opposite is true. All they did was send their high energy intensity manufacturing and mining abroad, then imported all they needed using their overvalued currencies, thus becoming more independent on foreign trade than ever.

The public, together with it’s ruling elite, was led down the primrose path with GDP, and now a reckoning is in short order.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLIX–Ruling Elite Rackets Everywhere…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLIX

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Ruling Elite Rackets Everywhere…

My very brief comment on The Honest Sorcerer’s latest article:

Throw on top of our energy predicament the overarching predicament of ecological overshoot and the situation is even more explosive.

And I can’t help but think that since everything in our world has become a racket for our ruling sociopaths in one way or another, the dominoes will fall even more quickly — especially for the masses of non-elite in our world.

I expect even more expansive surveillance, narrative management/control, authoritariansim, ‘othering’, price inflation , ‘austerity’, divisive politics, civil disobedience, denial/bargaining, breakdown of rule of law, sociobehavioural control, economic manipulation, geopolitical manoeuvring and clashes, etc., etc., as the-powers-that-be scramble to maintain their tenuous grip on control and sustain the various wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus power and prestige.

Homo sapiens have learned nothing from all the previous trials in large, complex societies and will indubitably repeat the same failed approaches to holding the centre that so-called ‘leaders’ have attempted repeatedly before our current experiment. What will be will be with respect to the insane and suicidal actions/policies of the ruling elite.

Intelligent creatures, just not too wise.

Personal/community ‘energies’ are best directed towards relocalising as much as possible in the limited time available to us, but especially food production, potable water procurement, and regional shelter needs. Any steps towards self-sufficiency in these basic needs will help (marginally) to mitigate the ‘collapse’ for some.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLV–Planetary Boundaries, Narrative Management, and Technology

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLV

October 23, 2023

Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Planetary Boundaries, Narrative Management, and Technology

As I continue to work on Part 4 of my multipart Contemplation regarding energy blindness (see: Part 1 Medium, Part 2 Medium, Part 3 Blog Medium), I offer a handful of recent comments I shared on a variety of posts I’ve been reading:

One posted to a Degrowth Group I am a member of:

AP: It is the carbon risk that is existential. All the others are nice to have after you have reduced the carbon risk. Don’t allow this sort of propaganda to divert or dilute the required focus.

CS: obviously emissions are a significant threat but when we focus on climate change as the most significant we end up, as the majority currently do, looking to technology for solutions. Ecological overshoot is the master predicament. This means degrowth in energy and material consumption (less technology) and population reduction should be the key ways forward.

I highly recommend this talk by Bill Rees of Ecological Footprint fame. Cheers


MK: William R. Catton…

SE: Economic and then the following fertilizer/ pumped water/ food availability collapse as energy and materials slip away will tend to hurt us first. Many countries are already in the early stages of collapse. Lebanon, Argentina, Pakistan, etc.

Me: There are a number of planetary boundaries that have been broached because of our ecological overshoot. They all pose an existential risk and a number have been identified as being worse off than carbon emissions…the focus needs to be on all of them.

There’s this one on an oilprice.com article posted in the Peak Oil Facebook Group I am a member of:

Me: I have to wonder about the ‘accuracy’ of the article and its ‘conclusions’ (well, actually, prognostications as it’s about possibilities, not actualities). Bloomberg and Reuters, the two mainstream media outlets cited, are both extremely Western-biased. And we know the West would love to see cracks in the BRICS growing alliance so why not float the ‘news’ that such divisions are appearing based, naturally, on unnamed/anonymous sources. If we have learned anything from the recent decades of mainstream media reporting, it is that it has become little more than a propaganda arm for our ruling elite…

And this one in the same group:

Me: Just as fracking was, the profit-makers/-takers have spun several narratives to entice investments — both capital and retail. Believers have, once again, trusted the untrustworthy and fallen for the con failing to understand that our energy-intensive living has never been sustainable on a finite planet regardless of our ingenuity and technological prowess. All we’re doing by chasing the unicorn of ‘renewables’ is expediting our journey over the energy cliff while contributing evermore to our ecological overshoot. Sad on so many levels.

LM: totally agree with that. The question is…what’s next

Me: Economic collapse. Rise of authoritarian/totalitarian government. War. Increasingly degraded ecological systems. Destitution for more and more people. See these: https://stevebull-4168.medium.com/todays-contemplation-collapse-cometh-lix-800413db180a; and, https://stevebull-4168.medium.com/todays-contemplation-collapse-cometh-lxxxv-ffe437ffd811.

My question posted in this group:

Wonder how long it will take for the discussions about Peak Oil to go fully mainstream once the Strait of Hormuz is closed off???


SH: I expect the many manifestations of natural limits will likely end up being used as vehicles for scapegoating, to promote non-sequitur ideological agendas, and with examples of Overshoot being seen as isolated phenomenon, rather than part of a broader problem. People are already seeing global climate that way, so it stands to reason that Peak Oil will just give them one more thing regarding which they can petition governments and big corporations to solve for them. I have yet to encounter a climate activist who has seriously considered what people can do to address the problem by way of changing personal behaviors, as opposed to technological fixes and policy changes offering a “plug and play” solution. The notion of a wicked problem in which mitigation might involve a paradigm shift in collective behaviors and expectations is not on anyone’s radar.

Me: Yes, I agree that all sorts of narratives will be constructed — especially by the ruling elite and associated profit-makers/-takers — to leverage our energy fall/descent in advantageous ways to their goals. They will certainly be a lot of ‘othering’ going forward as our ‘leadership’ attempts to deflect blame/responsibility/focus on them and their wayward ways.

LM: predicament

DI: We blame the symptoms not the disease.

Me: True enough. A lot will be blamed on those ‘undemocratic/despotic’ regimes that are keeping us from their hydrocarbons…you know, because they ‘hate our freedom’.

SMK: It will never go mainstream. Anything but it will be blamed for conserving of remaining reserves: climate change [sic], unfolding warfare in Middle East, Biden falling down some steps, Swift and Kelce, whatever…NEVER peak oil.

Me: Perhaps. There are and have been a growing number attempting to raise the concept and implications of Peak Oil but as will likely continue to be the case the ‘influential’ narrative managers of society (those that work on behalf of the world’s elite and can shout through our politicians and mainstream media outlets) will continue to weave their competing stories, especially those flaunting human ingenuity and technological ‘solutions to our dilemma. That is, until the truth of PO and the insanity of chasing infinite growth on a finite planet are eventually so obvious that they can no longer be pushed to the margins and the saner voices of warning begin to turn more and more heads; not all, probably not even a lot, but I wager to guess at least increasing numbers.

I don’t believe our ruling elite will ever admit to PO and the inadvisability of chasing the perpetual growth chalice or turn towards degrowing our existence for that would mean removing the gravy train that provides their revenue streams and thus positions of power/influence and prestige. No, they will likely insist on the path of exacerbating our Overshoot while getting their propagandists to double/triple down on the tales of a technologically-based transition to a ‘clean/green’ utopia.

I think we can see part of the narrative plan going forward is to highlight the concept of Peak Demand as opposed to Peak Supply. Demand for hydrocarbons has peaked because everyone is already transitioning to the ‘Electrification of Everything Plan’ with their electric vehicle purchases and investments in non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies…only the reality indicates that this tale is nonsense and hydrocarbon extraction and use is increasing along with these technologies resulting in an exacerbation of our overshoot predicament.

Throw our currently increasing morass of geopolitical gamesmanship on top of an already deadly dead-end trajectory and that jump off the Seneca Cliff of energy decline seems further and further in the rear-view mirror — along with all the ecological systems destruction we can’t help but compound in our desire to control our destiny.

But, yeah, let’s all go see the Taylor Swift movie to deny the death of our world just a bit longer and sing along, holding hands as gravity takes hold. Such is the way of these story-telling apes who will do and believe almost any and everything to avoid/deny reality and the anxiety-provoking thoughts it raises.

The System Isn’t Designed to Help You

The System Isn’t Designed to Help You

If climate change doesn’t kill you, it will bankrupt you.

It’s been about two months since the Lahaina fire, and the long term nature of their recovery is just starting to set in — for some at least. I know from first-hand experience that it takes months for some people to emerge enough from the fog of trauma to even start thinking about recovery.

Personally, I don’t like the word “recovery”.

It makes it sound like things can — and do — go back to the way they were before the fire (or the hurricane or the flood — pick your own mass climate disaster).

But they don’t. They can’t. Lahaina is gone. Forever.

Sure, something will come back — probably cookie-cutter multi-million dollar condos that the former residents can’t even dream of affording. But Lahaina is gone. Its residents can move forward, but they can’t “recover”. There is no going back.

And “moving forward” itself a long and cruelly painful process, and one during which I personally came to understand that the “system” — everything from FEMA to insurance companies to the tax system to banks to the government to the legal system — isn’t designed to help you, the disaster victim.

It isn’t that the system doesn’t work. It works exactly as designed.

But it’s just not designed to help you.

It helps others, or maybe no one at all, but if you manage to get what you need from the system, it’s almost by accident, or unintentional, or a byproduct of helping someone else.

I know a lot of people reading this will say, “you’re overreacting” or “you just had a bad experience”. I know that because I’ve been told this before by people who have never been through a climate disaster and who are just repeating the reassuring platitudes that we’re all programmed to repeat.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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